Biogas enterprises can generate business in rural areas

June 30, 2016

In an effort to combat deforestation and boost access to green energy services such as clean cooking and lighting, the government of Ethiopia has recently scaled up the use of biogas in rural communities.

Through the National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia (NBPE), 1539 masons have been trained on business development to establish bio-digester construction enterprises. One of the key groups that have benefitted from this training are the youth. They now realise that bio-digester technologies can pave the way to self-employment, setting up profitable businesses, and more broadly, can benefit their communities economically while preserving the environment.

However, the growth of Ethiopia’s biogas market from urban to rural areas is challenged by perceptions of affordability, as biogas is largely viewed as a commercial product. This can be an inhibitor in establishing a vibrant market. To counter this perception, NPBE conducted training on bio-digester construction in the rural East Shewa zone of Oromia, Regional State.

36-year-old mason Tamirat Zerifu is amongst the youth who benefitted from the business development training. After completing the course, he established and registered a biogas enterprise in East Shewa to promote clean cooking amongst rural communities. Then Tamirat embarked on bio-digester construction in the region.

To date, the father of five has installed more than 200 bio-digesters that are currently supplying biogas to cafes, restaurants and households in Oromia region. He also supplies biogas lamps and mantles. In a good month, his business generates up to $180 (equivalent to 3,492 Ethiopian Birr). It has also created employment opportunities for fellow youth who assist him in construction.

Good sales have enabled Tamirat to purchase a vehicle and open a new office that will oversee the daily operations of the business.

“I am now called ‘Tamirat Biogas’ because my enterprise has earned accolades for promoting the use of biogas. Local government officials have offered good support to expand this venture, and now with my new vehicle I can transport customers to visit bio-digesters that we have installed,’’ said Tamirat.

To ensure sustainability of his business, Tamirat has delegated the technical aspects of the bio-digester construction to his three assistants. He believes by delegating he can follow up on other duties such as government payments. He further encourages new users to promote the benefits of clean cooking using biogas to their neighbours.

Tamirat is an example of how biogas is impacting lives positively in Ethiopia. The National Biogas Programme has installed 13,584 biogas plants in Ethiopia to date, thus benefitting up to 70,000 people.

With smart initiatives like the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme that offer clean technologies, Hivos has demonstrated that green energy is not just an alternative but the best choice in ensuring citizens have access to clean cooking and reducing carbon emissions.