Strategic shift in Senegal from biogas to organic fertilizer

The Program of Implementation and Dissemination of Biodigesters in Rural Areas of Senegal (PIDB), aims at reducing poverty and improving living conditions through access to biodigesters.

During implementation, the project discovered that a byproduct of the biodigester – organic fertilizer produced of the biogas slurry – was much more commercially interesting than the biogas itself. A new strategy has now been put to action where the beneficiaries repay the construction investment of the biodigester in organic fertilizer sold to companies. Instead of subsidizing the construction of biodigester, the project now offers a financial guarantee to those companies willing to endeavor into this new economic activity in Senegal.

In addition, some of the fertilizer produced can also be reused for personal gardens, increasing the yield of this activity. The arduousness of women’s daily lives is also diminished by the biogas as they can cook faster and no longer need to collect firewood.

The main constraint to produce biogas – and organic fertilizer – is the feeding of the digester. The bacteria cultures need to be fed daily, using a mixture of animal and vegetable waste and 50 liters of water, for the most widespread biodigester model in this project. Access to water and waste is mandatory and it takes time and effort for the household to gather those essential components and keep the digesters running. Here the commercial importance of the fertilizer plays a key role as it turns the activity into an important source of income.

In addition, the lack of grass often forces the peasants in Senegal to move to find pastures, or to leave their animals to the shepherds. Without a direct access to animal waste, there is a risk of killing the bacteria culture in the digester. Solutions still needs to be found but the commercial value of the fertilizer makes that task easier.

If the project succeeds it would entail fewer people moving in the dry season which would allow for a profound change on every aspect of development, starting for example by the education of children now having the possibility to remain in the school all year.

Biogas is not a technology for the poorest households. Nevertheless, there is great potential in villages with access to water and for households with at least 5 head of livestock.