The Farmer’s Friend Biodigester is an underground construction where biogas is produced from decomposing animal manure under anaerobic conditions. It is then harnessed as a fuel for domestic gas stoves and lamps. It is used in Cambodia and supports poor families so that they don’t need to purchase or cut down wood and then cook with it in smoke-filled rooms.
Thanks to reduced burning of firewood, the improved manure management system and the utilization of biogas, greenhouse gas emissions annually decreases by 5 tons per biodigester. The effluent (digester slurry) is used as an effective organic fertilizer, improving soil quality and production while reducing farmers’ expenditures. The farmer’s friend design is based on the ‘Deenbandhu’ model which has been used in India for over 20 years now . The majority of domestic biodigesters is promoted and constructed by private Biodigester Construction Companies (BCC) which were established and coached by joint NBP-SNV-PIN initiative and support. BCCs are small enterprises providing employment and qualification to over 800 people, predominantly young people living in the rural areas of Cambodia. According to the latest monitoring report, around 2,000 man-years of rural employment were created between 2006-2013.
Background Information and Social Impact
In the rural areas of Cambodia, more than 90% of the population depend on traditional sources of fuel for cooking, contributing to the fact that Cambodia has the third highest deforestation rate in the world. Replacing fuel wood by biogas means saving around 8 kg of wood per household per day, which – based on the existing number of almost 21,000 biogas systems – amounts to annual savings of more than 61,000 tons of trees and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by over 99,000 tons in 2013 alone, roughly equivalent to taking 21,000 American cars off the road annually.
In Cambodia, more than 90% of poor people live in the rural areas. However, the main drivers of growth – clothing, tourism and construction sectors – are based in and around major urban centers, providing limited benefits to remote rural areas. The biodigester market is based in rural areas and provides work to more than 800 people.