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Bio-gas pilot project meets energy and safety needs for rural families in Uganda

By Jeremy Green

MOROTO, Uganda, 1 September 2011 – In a village in the remote Karamoja sub-region of Uganda, a mother breaks up pieces of wood to build her fire and prepare a meal. As she does so, she provides a deeper insight into this seemingly mundane daily task.

VIDEO: UNICEF's Tom Walsh reports on a pilot programme that is using alternative bio-gas energy to supply cooking stoves in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda.  Watch in RealPlayer


In this area of the country, the woman explains, villages are prone to bouts of insecurity due to cattle raiding. As a result, leaving home and traveling long distances to find wood can be an unsafe task.

Wood collection is the work of women and young girls here, and some are at risk of being raped during the journey to find it. Because of low forest coverage in some areas, wood is becoming a scare resource; the person collecting firewood can spend hours out of the day to gather a sufficient amount.

That’s time that young girls could spend on schoolwork and other activities.

© UNICEF video
As her child looks on, a mother cooks on a stove using bio-gas generated from cow dung as part of a UNICEF-supported pilot project in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda.

Burning clean fuel

Yet there is an abundant source of fuel in this cattle-raising sub-region that has long been overlooked as an alternative to wood: cow dung.
Today, a UNICEF-supported pilot programme is using the natural waste of cows to fuel cook stoves. The project uses simple and easy-to-use components to generate a clean fuel – known as bio-gas – from raw diluted cow dung.

First, the manure is diluted with water; then it’s fed into two large plastic tubes where the waste generates gas. The gas is transported out of the tubes via a plastic pipe to the cook stove.

So far, nine households here are using the system, which generates enough gas to run a burner for 24 hours.

‘I am much safer’

“It’s better, because I am much safer staying at home – and it’s very simple to make the gas,” said one local woman who usually spends many hours a week finding wood.

The bio-gas programme is still limited in scope, and it’s not without challenges. For instance, many community members were at first suspicious of using cow manure for anything at all, let alone cooking. But as people began to see that the system pumped out clean gas, and that it could run a cook stove for long periods of time, they became more interested.

When they also started to recognize the safety and time-saving benefits to women and children – and other benefits, such as a reduction in harmful cooking smoke from firewood – more people became involved. Eventually, similar bio-gas projects may be launched in more districts.



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