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Implementation of Biogas Programs

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Overview

For an overview on biogas technology see:

Dissemination of Biogas Technology

Even if today the technical performance of biogas plants no longer constitutes a problem, and even if regions favourable for biogas can be relatively easily identified, the establishing of an efficient and sustainable dissemination structure continues to remain the key problem of numerous biogas projects. In various countries, experiences with the dissemination of agricultural biogas systems exist. To get more informations about this topic, see "The dissemination of biogas systems in various countries".

Depending on the stage of biogas development in a country or region, the structure of a biogas programme reflects the phases of implementation:

A criteria list with excluding, critical and ideal factors for the dissemination shows if, in a concrete case, the building of biogas plant is advisable. Reference information and addresses of organizations concerned with funding, implementation and networking in the field of biogas development can be found under "Organizations and Networks".

Implementation Planning

Dissemination and implementation of biogas technology has to be organized and planned. Biogas projects are usually quite complex as multiple disciplines like construction, agriculture, economics, sociology besides planning and management are involved. It is advisable to create a program of implementation that contains the problem analysis, the objectives, region of dissemination, target groups, the strategy, necessary activities, achieved outputs, required inputs etc.

Regional Level

Biogas projects may have general or specific objectives. In general it has been proven that the energy aspect alone does not justify the cost for biogas technology. The overall objective, to which biogas technology contributes is the environmental amelioration which includes energy-related objectives and the improvement of living conditions (including economical conditions) of biogas users.

The following aspects have to be taken into account at regional level to prepare biogas dissemination:

  • region with the favorable climatic conditions
  • existence of a potential target group
  • private sector involvement
  • informal sector involvement
  • government involvement
  • organizations/networks to cooperate with
  • economic viability on micro- and macro level
  • financing program and the cost of program
  • material requirements
  • technological standards
  • available know-how on planning, management, technician and artisan level
  • the role of subsidies
  • kinds of information, propagation, awareness creation
  • assessment of sustainability


Local Level

The ultimate goals of any biogas program are to make maximum use of the available organic material and to provide benefits of biogas technology to as many families as possible. In particular, measures must be developed for those whose economic situation so far does not allow their participation in the biogas program. Representatives of the local population must be involved in finding the most workable solution. The idea of constructing a community biogas plant should not be forced upon the group concerned, even if only by the power of persuasion.

If a decision is made to attempt a blanket coverage with biogas technology, various organizational measures must be taken at the local level to successfully execute the program:

  • Assignment of a person responsible for the program (frequently, that person will be the promoter himself).
  • Verification of basic data concerning the availability of dung and other suitable substrates, the anticipated gas consumption figures, the size of standard plants and the economic/financial aspects.
  • Assessment of the capacities of local craftsmen, of the limitations of material supplies at the right time and the assignment of any work to be contracted.
  • Training of personnel and organization of maintenance and repair services.
  • Selection of suppliers for accessories and spare parts.
  • Securing of loans and subsidies at the time required.
  • Securing binding pledges for all self-help activities.
  • Stipulation of the sequential order of construction of the individual biogas system as agreed between all parties concerned.
  • Ensuring that all those concerned are willing and able to gather sufficient amounts of substrate.


Factors for a Successful Dissemination

Cost of Investment

An obvious obstacle to the large-scale introduction of biogas technology is the fact that the majority of the rural population cannot afford the cost of investment for a biogas plant. A further difficulty is that the overall social advantages can only take hold for the individual in the case of blanket implementation. This applies in particular to the preservation of forests, the improvement of hygiene, energy access for the poorest groups of the population and to the promotion of artisan business, training systems and service facilities. Such advantages cannot be secured for all through the installation of a few biogas plants that only better-off farmers can afford. The gap between their standard of living and that of the poor would thus become even more apparent. Biogas programs that do not satisfy these conditions can only be materialized by persuasion, political pressure or exaggerated financial assistance.

A successful implementation strategy will require steps within the following fields of activity:



Campaigns

The biogas concept must be promoted at national, regional and communal levels. The basic prerequisite for successful, comprehensive introduction of biogas technology is the effective motivation and mobilization of potential target groups. Motivation and mobilization are the two main pillars of the actual development process. The subsequent factual existence of biogas systems is merely the logical result of that process. Thus, implementation campaigns can only be advanced and materialized in a decentralized manner by those concerned. Information campaigns, in contrast, can be planned and controlled in a centralized manner and carried out with lower participation levels on the part of the target group. A successful PR campaign builds on experience in implementation, on direct contact with the target groups and on the confidence of having developed a sound and appropriate technology. Information transmitted in such a campaign must react to the doubts, limitations, fears of the potential users as they are encountered in the field. Typically, a fully fledged PR campaign starts at the end of a pilot phase and runs throughout the implementation phase of a biogas program.

Information Material and PR Channels

Magazines, newspapers, films, radio programs, posters, leaflets and manuals are suitable vehicles for the dissemination of information on biogas. It is not always possible to arrive at a clear distinction between information and advertising.

The best publicity effect is achieved by providing a steady stream of information:

  • on the technology per se
  • on the economic effects for the household
  • on the impacts on life quality
  • on the overall economic and ecological impact

Of major importance in that context is the effective use of information vehicles such as local agricultural fairs, roadside billboards, market-square posters and, of course, the ubiquitous "grapevine". It must be regarded as unfortunate that no internationally recognizable biogas symbol or "logo" has been introduced to date; therefore, the development of national symbols is the more important.

Targeting Information

Somewhat simplified, the target groups for information campaigns could be stratified on three levels: The national level, the regional or district level and the local or village level. In supporting or accepting biogas, all these levels play a role but must be approached in different ways. The language of information should always be close to the language of the respective target groups. Those who read the printed information are more likely to be the top-echelon multipliers, not the semi-literate - or illiterate - ultimate consumers. The type of information and the complexity of information will vary from level to level, so does the presentation of information.

National Level

PR work targets government (various ministries), national and international development agencies and companies with commercial interest in biogas. Vehicles for information flow would be high-level meetings like conferences and invitations to project area visits. Articles in the national press, radio programs and TV programs also contribute to create awareness on this level.

Regional or District Level

The campaign targets government authorities on this level, churches and grass-root organizations working in development, environment and appropriate technologies. Suitable approaches are workshops, contribution to agricultural fairs and integration of the program into agricultural and development committees. The media (press, radio, TV) also have an impact on this level. On this level, agricultural colleges and high schools are approached as well. Demonstration plants for communal and industrial use are conceivable.

Local and Village Level

On this level, the end-users of biogas technology are directly approached through demonstration- or pilot plants, public meetings, billboards, leaflets and other means of mass-communication. On the village level, TV and print media are of lesser importance. Radio programs, in contrast target mainly the village level.

Costs of Campaigning

Information campaigns are expensive. While the spread of general information is usually dependent on the availability of public or project funds, the private industry can often be persuaded to promote biogas plants or accessories in their commercial advertising. The media are often committed to developmentally relevant themes. Editorial contributions are not expensive but require a great deal of work. As a rule, the concept for a radio program portraying biogas farmers, for example, must be worked out by the biogas program. The production of posters, leaflets or videos will have to be fully covered by the PR budget of the project. The most efficient, but also the most expensive and time consuming PR activity for biogas is the building of demonstration plants and organizing farmers to visit these plants. As much as possible, demonstration plants should be 'normal' biogas plants operating on a farm to save on building and operation costs. The farmer operating a demonstration plant cannot be expected to be the 'tour guide' for frequent visitors. Some kind of arrangement, e.g. free maintenance and repair, must be offered.

Demonstration Plants

No potential biogas user can be expected to blindly trust in biogas technology, if none of the more respected members of the society has taken that risk before and succeeded. But demonstration plants are risky: any malfunction in a demonstration plant will have negative consequences for the entire program. Thus, demonstration plants are also a last test for the maturity of the technology. Since some demonstration plants serve no other purpose than that of a showpiece, the maintenance aspect is often in danger of being given insufficient attention, an eventual malfunction is practically inevitable. It is therefore highly recommended that several demonstration plants are installed at the same time in different locations, preferably on farms which have a keen interest in operating the plant. Organized maintenance services should be guaranteed for a period of at least the first three years. The cost of personnel, equipment and transportation must be included in the cost calculation for the demonstration plant, and it must ensured that the required funds are actually provided when needed. Past experience has shown that system malfunctions are frequently the result of minor deficiencies requiring no extensive repair work. Consequently, the housewives (and only subsequently their husbands) must from the very start be put in a position to perform minor repairs themselves, whereby the requisite knowledge base can be provided by the maintenance personnel.

Model Farmers

As a rule, the more prosperous farmers need little prodding to install a biogas system, as long as they are provided with adequate information and guaranteed support in case of arising problems. The group that was targeted in early, poverty-oriented biogas programs, namely the less prosperous small farmers, are inherently reluctant in their commitment, because they cannot afford the cost of investment and are afraid that they may not be able to keep up the payments on a loan. In addition, few of them own enough livestock for generating the required amount of substrate. Rich farmers do not act as a model for small-holders, they are known to have connections and funds that a small farmer will never be able to acquire. Experience of the last decade of rural biogas dissemination has closed this gap between the rich model farmer and the poor 'target-farmer'. First, model farmers are selected from the more successful farmers among the potential users. They should be outstanding to some extent, but other farmers should be still able to accept them as a role model. Second, the target group of recent rural biogas programs has shifted upwards. Biogas technology is no longer regarded as a means to alleviate poverty.

Further Information

References