Notes to broadcasters on biogas

    | September 26, 2011

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    Biogas refers to the gas, made up mostly of methane, produced when animal manure breaks down in anaerobic conditions – in other words, when oxygen is not present. Biogas can be used as energy for light and cooking in rural homes. It is a renewable energy and makes good use of locally available resources. Biogas burns more cleanly than firewood or charcoal, and lessens dependence on these resources. However, it’s important to have a sufficient supply of raw materials, usually animal manure. It is therefore usually suitable only for households with a minimum of two cattle or seven pigs. Biogas systems come in many designs and sizes. But the initial cost of installing a biogas system can be too high for many small-scale farmers.

    For more detailed explanations of how biogas systems work, visit:


    One person’s experiences with biogas in Senegal:

    Biogas systems can be found in other countries in West Africa. See descriptions and photos of projects in Mauritania, for example:

    A recent story from Farm Radio Weekly on biogas:

    Rwanda: Powering homes with cow dung (FRW 160, June 2011).

    We hope this week’s story inspires you to look at the potential of biogas in your broadcast region. You could begin to research the topic by finding out if there are any organizations or government departments that promote biogas locally. They may be able to direct you to farmers who have installed and are using biogas systems. Here are some questions you could ask farmers or support organizations:

    -What are the technical requirements for a domestic biogas system? For example, how much space is needed and what quantity of raw materials is needed each day? What type of materials can be used?

    -What is the total cost of installation? How does this cost break down? Is there any way of reducing the cost by using alternative materials or family labour? Are subsidies or grants available?

    -How has the biogas system changed the family’s life? Have there been any negative impacts?

    -Briefly outline the advantages and challenges of a domestic biogas system.