The MREAP Strategic Energy Project in Mchinji involved installing Biogas Digesters at 10 households and 1 Orphan Care Centre. The project was led by TCRET at Mzuzu University. Biogas is produced when animal manure decomposes in a controlled environment and can be burned to produce heat for cooking [see our previous post). In Malawi, demand on local biomass for energy use results in deforestation, so replacing three-stone cook stoves with a biogas plant reduces the need for wood fuel. Of course, there is a requirement have to have enough cows to produce enough manure to feed the digester for it work properly. For the 3 cubic meter digesters installed in the project, they require about 10 cows (+ or – minus depending on how many are dairy cows vs. local varieties).
A training programme was implemented alongside the installation of the digesters. An experienced trainer from Mzuzu University, Odinga Mwamlowe, trained up 9 local bricklayers to build and maintain the digester design. The new skill allows them to construct digesters at their own homes supports local markets for the technology. As one trainee commented:
“We want to learn this because we know how to build a house, but we don’t know how to build a biogas plant. So we are interested so we can build a biogas on our own. If someone comes to ask us: ‘Can you build one for us?’… that’s good, we can build for business so we can bring in money for our living and our families”
During our visit at the Orphan Care Centre we spoke with community members included the Village Group Headman, the head Caretaker, the Trainer.