Heifer International Biogas Project Wins InterAction Award

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (June 28, 2012) – Heifer International’s biogas project in Uganda has received a Best Practice Award from InterAction, a coalition of nonprofit organizations focusing on disaster relief and sustainable development. The biogas program eases the workload of rural women and improves their health by providing a safe, renewable and cheap source of cleaner-burning fuel.

InterAction’s Best Practices and Innovations Initiative technical review committee noted the impressive results achieved by Heifer International Uganda’s biogas project, especially the improvements in living conditions and incomes in rural communities. The committee was also impressed with the project’s promotion of equitable participation by men and women, as well as the strong collaboration between the government, private sector and other stakeholders.

“We at Heifer International are very pleased to receive this award,” said Elizabeth Bintliff, Vice-President of Africa Programs. “It’s a huge credit to the Heifer Uganda program, highlighting one simple innovation that can solve many different problems. We hope InterAction’s recognition will help spread the word about this technique, so that we can share its benefits with many more communities.”

The Uganda biogas project uses cattle and pig waste to produce methane gas for lighting and cooking. The dung is collected in a “digester,” where microbes break it down and release methane, which can be captured in a cylinder or piped straight into the home. The system requires basic materials and simple construction, so it can be built and maintained even in remote areas.

In its current phase, InterAction’s Best Practices and Innovations Initiative focuses on training, and on how to build the capacity of local people and groups to create their own development opportunities. “By fostering local capacity, international organizations can build self-sufficient communities, and ensure that a project’s success outlives an individual program,” noted Samuel A. Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction.

Finding fuel is a significant problem in Uganda. Most people in rural areas, because they don’t have access to electricity, rely on firewood. But the supply of wood and charcoal is being rapidly depleted by deforestation, and costs are rising. Women and children spend hours gathering firewood, tending cook fires and breathing in smoke and soot. 

In addition to easing deforestation, the Heifer International project lowered women and children’s risk of disease from indoor air pollution, and hygiene was improved when animal waste was no longer left close to the homes. A majority of households reported a reduction in health care expenditures.

There were peripheral benefits, also. The bio-slurry removed from the digester at the end of the process could be used as natural fertilizer, resulting in better crop harvests. Children were able to read and study at night with gas-powered lighting, and interestingly, some men began to feel more comfortable preparing light snacks and tea with biogas stoves, as opposed to the traditional firewood stoves tended by women.

The biogas project, which is funded by the Dutch government and implemented in several countries in Africa, began in 2009 and trained both the builders and the users of the biogas plants. The construction businesses currently working with the project include two that are managed by women. The project aims to install 12,000 biogas units by the end of 2013.

About Heifer International:
Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 40 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant.
For more information, visit www.heifer.org or call (800) 696-1918.