The African Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) builds a commercial biogas sector in six African countries. Since its start in 2009, it has realized the construction of 15,000 biogas installations that provide households with clean energy, organic fertilizer, and a safer and healthier living environment.
Africa Follows Asian Successes
The ABPP builds on SNV’s successful work in Nepal, where 250.000 domestic biogas plants have been installed in the past 20 years, and with national biogas programmes in other Asian countries, like Vietnam (123,000 plants), Cambodia (15,000 plants), and Bangladesh (20,000 plants). In 2009, SNV, Hivos, and DGIS started a partnership programme to introduce a similar programmatic approach to the development of national biogas markets in six African countries.
The ABPP aims at constructing 70,000 biogas plants in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and Burkina Faso. An equally important goal is to create a viable biogas sector, where it is commercially attractive for local companies to sell, build and maintain biogas plants.
In each country, a local partner (Ministry, semi-governmental organization, or NGO) is supported to implement the programme at the national level. This model is replicated at the local level where local “implementing partners” promote the programme and the benefits of domestic biogas in the rural areas. Their payment is output based: the number of biogas digesters built determines their payment. Hivos acts as international fund manager from the office in Nairobi. SNV provides technical assistance and capacity building services in the six countries. DGIS contributes € 30 million to the ABPP for the period 2009 to 2014.
Apart from providing as many domestic biogas plants as possible, the programme at the same time focuses on creating the enabling environment for the biogas sector to flourish. Training is provided for private companies and local organisations, national and local programme coordinators are enrolled in management and leadership programmes. The programme supports local vocational training, adding a course on biogas to the curriculum. Local banks or micro-finance institutions are engaged to provide loans for biogas installations and for the masons or contractors. Training is also provided to local development organisations on the application of the bio-slurry in agriculture. And last but not least, the potential users of the plants receive awareness training about the benefits of this entirely new solution for them. Once they invest in a plant, they get a simple training on how to operate and use it. In most countries, half or more of the users trained are women.
The Benefits of Biogas Systems
Domestic biogas plants convert animal manure and human excrement, through a microbiological process, into combustible methane gas. This biogas can be used in gas stoves in a clean and modern kitchen. Cooking on biogas is smokeless and much less risky for the health of women and children than cooking on firewood as there is less indoor air pollution. It can also be used for lighting. The availability of biogas relieves women and children from spending hours a day collecting fuel wood. The effluent of the conversion process, bio-slurry, is more fertile than the manure that went into the installation. It is easy to collect and can boost the farmer’s agricultural productivity.
In Africa, the price of domestic biogas systems is between US$ 600 – 1000. In Kenya an installation is as expensive as two heads of beef cattle. To support the farmers in buying the biogas plants, the ABPP provides subsidies from 25% to a maximum one third of the total cost. Higher subsidies are known to distort the market. Because the plants are a serious investment for the farmers, the ABPP supports the creation of credit facilities via banks, micro finance organisations or cooperatives.
The programme has so far been quite successful in five out of the six countries: Ethiopia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Tanzania. In Senegal, the programme did not get off the ground properly. Overall, the performance of ABPP is good, although a little slower than expected. In Africa, the biogas plants are much more expensive than in Asia because farmers live more remotely and the costs to bring equipment and builders are relatively high. The programme finds that the small-scale construction sector in most African countries is poorly developed, and government procedures tend to take relatively long.