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A bright and strong flame

A bright and strong flame

“It is such a relief that the air in my kitchen is clean and that I do not have to worry about the horrible wood smoke affecting my children’s health.”

Silver Kamugisha (54 years) and Spezioza (44 years) live on the outskirts of a small village called Ndere in Uganda. They are farmers and have six children; four daughters and two sons. Each morning, Spezioza goes out with the children, in search of firewood for cooking the meals of the day. Firewood is becoming scarce in their area; it takes them more and more time to find enough wood. Often they have to buy expensive charcoal to supplement the firewood. Without it, they would be unable to prepare the family meals.

Halfway through 2015, an employee of Hivos’ implementing partner in Uganda, ‘Uganda Biogas Solutions Ltd’, visited Ndere and spoke about the benefits of biogas to the community at the village square. Both Spezioza and Silver were fascinated by the concept of transforming cow dung into cooking gas. Walking back home, they discussed how wonderful it would be to have a reliable fuel source like biogas.

A single handle does the trick
A neighbouring farmer, a proud owner of a biogas digester, invited the couple to visit her farm and see for themselves what the process to create biogas entails. Spezioza remembers that day clearly: “My neighbour switched the stove on by using a single handle to let the cooking gas flow. That was all! The flame was bright and strong and it had no smell. Nor did it release any smoke like the fires I create with firewood do. What a difference. To think of how much time it takes to get the firewood burning, especially in the rainy season, and how quickly my kitchen gets filled with poisonous smoke once I have got it going, and how long it takes for the kettle to start boiling… Biogas is clean, does not smell and, best of all, you do not need to go out and search for it!”.

Biogas instead of a television?
After this demonstration, the neighbour showed them the impact of slurry on her fields. Slurry is the remains of the cow dung, after the biogas is extracted. This bio slurry is more nutritious and thus more effective than just regular cow dung or commercial fertilizers. Silver and Spezioza saw the fertile fields of their neighbour, where banana trees and coffee plants were prospering. Their neighbour explained that since the fields were fertilized with bio slurry, they yielded surplus crops that became an extra source of income. Now Silver and Spezioza were convinced; they wanted clean cooking gas and better harvests from their fields too. Although Spezioza realised that investing in a biogas digester would mean that they could not buy the sofa she sought nor the television that the children had asked for. “But I was sure that the profits of bigger harvests would give us the opportunity to buy those things at a later stage.”

The plants shine as if they are polished
Since December 2015 the couple proudly owns a biogas digester. Spezioza: “It is a pleasure to prepare meals for my family now. It takes me much less time than before and I no longer need to go in search of firewood with the children. I can light the cooking flame within seconds and the children gather in the kitchen to do homework or have a chat. It is such a relief that the air in my kitchen is clean and that I do not have to worry about the horrible wood smoke affecting their health”.

Since the biogas digester started operating, the couple uses the slurry on their fields. Even within a short time span, they noticed the difference. Silver says: “The leaves of our plants and the crops look greener, they shine as if they are polished”. Time will tell what the couple’s increased income will be as a result of this. It is conceivable that the bio slurry will lead to even more significant positive changes in their lives than the clean cooking gas already did. After all, bigger harvests will offer their family a sure food source as well as a higher income.

People around the world choose Hivos biogas to create healthy kitchens and green fields. Silver and Spezioza’s story is just one of the many examples of the empowering effect of Hivos biogas.

If you compensate your CO2 emissions with Hivos biogas carbon credits, even more people in developing countries can gain access to biogas and thus improve their lives. Contact Hivos hclemens@hivos.org to explore the options for buying carbon credits or a partnership.