Biogas- A redeemer of one’s health and wealth
With the installation of electricity in each and every household of Menjey gewog in Lhuentse Dzongkhag since a decade ago, the dependency of people on firewood was expected to drastically drop. While this expectation was somehow reached especially in the reduction of the firewood requirement in lightning, people continued depending on firewood to cook meals, brew local alcohol-ara, warm house and other domestic purposes.
Further, the dependency on firewood, especially in the winter has exerted immense pressure in the community forest. The Report from the Gewog Forest Division states that around 93 standing trees are fell down annually from the Community Forest to use as a firewood by a total of 271 households.
Realizing this strong dependency of people on firewood, biogas, which is seen as an environmentally friendly, economical reliable and socially acceptable substitutes for firewood was introduced in the outskirts of Minjey gewog since 2012 with the support from MAGIP (Market Access and Growth Intensification Project) which is further continued under the support of CARLEP.
Into the milestone
Despite the proven benefits of biogas elsewhere in the country, farmers of Minjey gewog were initially skeptical about the technology. They were reluctant to shift their ancient practice of using firewood to biogas. Further, the lack of adequate cattle and the financial resources coupled up with limited farm labors were another factors limiting the farmers to be hesitant to pick up the technology.
However, to cast light upon one’s reservation, a consultative and a collaborative meeting was organized between the Livestock sector of Lhuentse Dzongkhag and the farmers to create a clear understanding about the pros and cons of biogas.
Consequently, the members of Diary group called ‘Lhamo Norgin Phendhen Detshen’ agreed to construct the biogas with the reason associated with having adequate skills in dairy farm management. The then IFAD-funded project to Bhutan called MAGIP supported with the construction materials of 25 biogas plants with the labor contribution from the beneficiaries themselves.
The Biogas Plant constitutes of Digester Main Chamber, Dome, Main Hole, Outer Chamber, Inlet Tank and Compost Pit. The excavated pit is continued with the filling of cobbles and gravels to construct Digester Main Chamber with inlet pipe installed in Digester. Dome is mounted over main Digester Chamber and Outer Chamber is constructed above the Main hole. Inlet Tank is constructed to mix water and cow dung and then Compost Pit is laid over prior to the layout of pipelines.
At least 14-18 working days were taken to complete the construction of one biogas plant. With the completion of construction, beneficiaries collected about 8 barrels of cow dung. Subsequently, 8 barrels of cow dung and the same ratio of water is poured into the inlet, mixed thoroughly by mixture to create slurry and slurry is emptied towards Biodigester. The slurry is kept for 2 weeks to 3 weeks to ferment by the anaerobic reaction to produce gas.
Into the realization of the benefits of biogas
Soon after the 25 farmers ventured into using the biogas, they realized the benefits of the technology. Mr. Sonam Dorji, one of the beneficiaries from Tongling village has revealed that biogas has sufficed his need for LPG. Unlike in the past where he had to travel almost 4 hours to refill his LPG cylinder once in every three months, it was both laborious and expensive. However, biogas came as a new hope for him and his family. Sonam and his family use biogas to cook meals, brew ara and other domestic functions. Further, Mr. Sonam has revealed that he no longer visits the forest looking for the firewood. Instead, he spends the majority of his time taking care of the cattle which has higher economic returns than spending time in the forest collecting firewood.
Similarly, the other beneficiaries are also on the same view that biogas has improved the hygienic condition. The technology doesn’t produce any smoke like that of burning firewood, thereby, reducing the risk of respiratory infections. Not limiting to this, the beneficiaries expressed that the use of biogas has drastically motivated them to take up more kitchen gardening. They said that the bio-slurry is a great source of organic manure.
Of the total of 271 households in Minjey gewog from which 17 are empty households, a total of 37 households has the operational biogas plant in place. Construction of another 22 plants are in due to be completed by the end of this year. CARLEP is supporting the construction materials of the plant with the labor contribution from the beneficiaries.
The biogas which is one of the modern technology to replace the dependency on fossil fuels (LGP, firewood) for domestic purposes is one of the way towards achieving sustainable development goals. The technology is economically viable with the initial investment not amounting to more than Nu. 32,000 per plant. It is socially acceptable as it doesn’t lead to any social conflicts. Moreover, it is environmentally friendly. The biogas doesn’t produce any harmful gases and wastes that might lead to the respiratory problems of the users. The bio-slurry are a good source of organic manure which has influenced farmers to take up the kitchen gardening. Therefore, CARLEP is in favor of this technology as a part of promoting climate resilient agricultural practices.
-By: Tashi Tshering, Gewog Livestock Extension Officer, Menjey, and Karma Wangmo, GKMO, CARLEP.