Both fertilizer and firewood are increasingly expensive in the country and biogas has a potentially important future. And so, triggered by the burden of the rising cost of energy, the Biogas Project was identified as a future project for 2008 by the Environment Team of the Foundation of Goodness (FoG).
This is the account of volunteer Pedro Sousa from Portugal, who worked on this project.
Arriving in Seenigama in January 2008 as a volunteer of the Foundation of Goodness (FoG) my attention was drawn to the possibility of such a project, as I had been involved with some biogas projects in India.
Installing the first biogas project in Udumulla, Hikkaduwa
In the beginning, the work was to carry out a feasibility study in order to identify the benefits and to ascertain if implementing a biogas project in Seenigama and its surrounding regions, was viable.
Let me first explain what a biogas project is … While the cost of carbon-based fuel is rising, cattle manure is free for families that have animals or other sources of organic waste. The process is simple. An on-farm biogas plant collects cattle dung from specially adapted cattle sheds. This is then mixed with water and channeled into a fermentation pit. The resulting gas is collected in a simple storage tank from where it is piped directly to households and provides energy for cooking, and lighting.
Cheap energy for households
The benefits of biogas are many. The technology is easy to implement and provides a free and sustainable alternative source of power all year round - and a better income for farmers. The women, who are normally in charge of wood collection and disposing animal waste, are now left with some free time which can be used in other activities or even to generate additional income. Biogas plants also produce a rich organic waste, which is dried and used as fertilizer. There are a number of environmental benefits too like reduced methane emissions and less deforestation.
The second step was to visit other projects done in the area and understand their results as well as to contact other organisations that have similar projects. It was then quickly understood, with whom we should associate in order to create a successful program in Udumulla.
The first complete biogas unit in Udumulla, Hikkaduwa
After identifying our target family, in February, we had our kick off meeting with the Government Southern Province Development Entity based in Galle visiting the target location and planning the timing for the construction of the biogas unit and delivery of the gas. Everything went according to plan and by end March, the gas was piped to a kitchen for the first meal to be cooked.
The first family selected owned a few pigs and two calves and produced plenty of food waste. They had previously cooked using firewood. Mr. Kushil Gunasekera founder/trustee of the Foundation of Goodness who has a good knowledge of the families in the area identified this as a good and responsible family to start the biogas project with. Aftercare and the ability to maintain the project after installation is an essential factor that has to be taken into consideration.
As author Frank Tibolt says “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Acion always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”
“Doing good is the only certainly
happy action of a man's life”