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From waste to cooking fuel: An alternative energy source in Addis Ababa

July 03, 2017

Only 27 percent of Ethiopians have access to electricity, according to the World Bank. Even those with electricity face frequent disruptions because of overloads in the power grid. During these power interruptions, people needing to cook food must buy more expensive fuel sources, such as charcoal and kerosene.

Local youth builds the first biodigester unit in Addis Ababa, EthiopiaFHI 360 is responding with an alternative energy project that builds biodigesters that create gas out of waste from septic tanks, livestock manure or household compost and provides people with a sustainable energy source. This gas is stored in biogas backpacks, which are flexible containers that connect to a digester unit and a biogas cookstove.

The project, which is funded by the FHI Foundation through its Catalyst Fund, is working with condominium committees, local youth and small businesses to build septic tanks that will act as digester units at four condominium sites in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These digester units will provide residents with a reliable energy source and help lower their household costs. Using biogas will also conserve electricity, promote clean energy and reduce the health hazards associated with full septic tanks.

In addition to these benefits, the project is creating workforce opportunities. FHI 360 staff are encouraging microcredit lenders to work with youth on developing business plans to sell extra gas, market the backpacks or expand the market for biogas cookstoves.

The project completed the first septic tank digester in March 2017 and expects each digester to begin producing gas after a minimum of 30 days. After the last of four planned units is built, project staff will provide identified residents with formal training on how to maintain the tanks and will hand off ownership of the digesters and backpacks once gas supplies are consistent.

Construction for the second digester will begin soon. The site for the third digester has been approved, and the fourth site is under review. Once these digesters are producing sustainable sources of fuel, FHI 360 hopes the project partners will promote this method as an innovative source of fuel and will encourage local youth to become involved in this new bio industry.

Photo caption: Local youth builds the first biodigester unit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Photo credit: Bezawit Bezabih/FHI 360