22 October 2013

Tanzania: Biogas Project Benefits Smallholder Farmers

AN affordable, easy-to-use system that converts livestock waste into energy (biogas) has helped Tanzanian smallholder farmers spend less on fuel and yield better crops.

The system, known as GesiShamba (Farm Gas), uses manure and organic waste to produce gas for cooking, while its effluent is used as an organic fertiliser, boosting crop production.

According to Mr Tayeb Noorbhai, the Business Development Manager at SimGasTanzania Ltd, GesiShamba is one of 23 innovations selected out of 800 projects world-wide and now stands the chance of winning a global innovation award.

It is an invention of the Dutch organisation SimGas which has joined forces with a local partner, Silafrica, to produce and distribute the biogas system nationally, he said.

Mr Noorbhai has said that SimGas has been doing pilot testing of the GesiShamba biogas systems with 25 farmers in Pangani, Tanga Region, Mbeya and Arusha since early 2012. They have been working closely with national biogas partners to ensure the product is well received into the market.

"GesiShamba is designed for rural households that own up to just ten cattle and produce some crops for food. Typically, smallholders who keep livestock often do not have access to clean-cooking energy sources, and spend a large proportion of their income on wood or charcoal for fuel," he said.

The company is currently operating in four key zones which are Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi and Tanga where they have 60 customers and they also have plants in Kenya where demand is high as well. GesiShamba is mass-produced which reduces material costs and aides transport and installation processes.

According to Mr Noorbhai, GesiShamba was first introduced in Tanzania about 18 months ago and many smallholder farmers who invested in the innovative biogas system are now reaping huge benefits.

"While biogas systems are available in Tanzania, there are typically expensive, time-consuming, difficult to use and require regular maintenance. The GesiShamba biogas system is made up of segments, can be made bigger or smaller, and is easy to install and maintain.

"There is high demand for innovative, affordable energy solutions in Tanzania. Biogas is a clean, cheap power source and unlike wood and charcoal it does not adversely affect indoor cleanliness and air quality," he said.

Customers receive comprehensive training, are provided with a printed manual that describes the system in pictures and diagrams and there is a customer care centre that helps with questions and problems, he said.

He also said that there is a new near-ready factory in Dar es Salaam that will be locally producing GesiShamba. It will be fully operational in December 2013 and has the capacity to produce 800 to 1000 biogas systems per month. This will help solve the demand for biogas systems in East Africa.

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