Promoting Renewable Energy through Biogas Units

Promoting Renewable Energy through Biogas Units

Project Duration: Since April 2010

Project Partner(s): AIRBUS Corporate Foundation, Centre for Environment Education (CEE), Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nation Development Program (UNDP), Small Grant Program (SGP)

Project Region: Gudalur Block of the Nilgiri District, Tamil Nadu

Target Group: Low-income tribal people in remote areas, who are still cooking over open fire in their houses

Principal Objective: Providing biogas units and cows to run their own biogas unit, which increases the livelihood of the tribal villages

Having started in April 2010 to promote renewable energy through biogas units, the project keeps going due to the success it has had so far! The project started with many different project partners for example the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF) or AIRBUS, while CTRD and the Centre for Environment Education (CEE) joined hands in hand to take the lead and responsibilities for the project.

The project was initially limited to the period from April 2010 until March 2017. Until then 37 biogas units in 8 villages where installed, cows where given to the communities and trainings where conducted to maintain and handle the biogas units. The cows provide not only the dung needed for each Biogas unit, but also milk and calves which can be sold on local markets and an oversupply of dung serves as fertilizer for the fields. All these efforts enhanced the incomes and quality of life of tribal and marginalized communities whilst directly reducing the impact these communities have on the environment. Due to having biogas no wood needs to be taken out of the forest and no smoke in the kitchen affects the health of the people in the villages anymore.

A biogas unit works by turning animal dung into methane, which is used to fuel cooking stoves in tribal homes. These cooking stoves provide each family with 4 hours of cooking time per day and replaces smoky open fires which pose both a health and safety risk. A biogas unit consists of a digester with a metallic dome lid which acts as a gas holder. In each biogas unit a fermentation process under anaerobic conditions generates biogas of the biomass from the animal dung. The gas is collected and then piped at a constant pressure to the cooking stoves. The environment benefits from this alternative cooking method, as previously a tribal family had to use 30 kg of firewood per day for cooking and purifying water, which contributes significantly to deforestation.

The biogas project has the biggest impact upon tribal women. Collecting firewood, cooking and cleaning are tasks typically conducted by tribal women.

The biogas project enables them to use that saved time to focus on own enterprises to earn money. CTRD has a well-established Self-Help Group project dedicated to empowering women through creating groups of 10 to 15 women, opening a bank account in their name and allowing them to save money and taking small loans to start an own business. The biogas units provide a further opportunity for these micro-credit schemes to flourish.

After the initial project ended in 2013 there were still many villages in the Nilgiris area which were not part of the project and did not benefit from the advantages of having a biogas unit. CTRD together with CEE, Airbus and the other partners decided to continue the project. Until 2017 another 14 biogas units in 4 villages were built in the ongoing project. In total until 2017 nearly 580 mts of firewood were saved and nearly 1043 mts of CO2 emissions were reduced. Without the need to buy wood the biogas partnership also saved 3,4 million rupees, which is now available for the local communities. On top nearly 0,25 million liter of milk were sold, resulting in total earnings of 5,9 million rupees.