Action in the field lifts the lid off developmental jargon
02 Jun 2015
In my previous post I promised to tell you what activities we delved into during the SkillsFAST project planning visit on Vikuruti farm. In this post I will elaborate on the hands-on energy solutions that were designed, developed and piloted.
At the moment I am sitting in the dark with my head torch on writing this post since the power has been off for two hours. This is one of the things I have grown into, since most days in Dar es Salaam include power outages. This is a problem also on Vikuruti farm since the main power supply is from the central grid, which is government regulated. In order to keep the production running even in the case of a power cut, the farm needs to become self-sufficient in producing energy. A steady supply of energy is also the key enabler for intensifying production, creating business opportunities and building up the capacity of the farm to take in more rehabilitees.
Vikuruti farm has a biogas reactor, which has been dormant for the last few years until it was repaired and upgraded by SkillsFAST project in 2014. The reactor works with cow dung produced by the cattle, and therefore provides a sustainable and inexpensive source of energy for cooking at the farm. When the Finnish team arrived at the farm, the lid of the biogas reactor was leaking. This implies that Vikuruti is producing biogas over its current needs, which has caused too much pressure inside the digester. Therefore, we started planning ways to store the excess biogas. Our handyman Pirkka assembled together a pilot storage system out of an inner tube of a truck, which was filled with biogas and connected to a burner stove. This system was displayed at a local pub and elicited immediate interest from the locals. Therefore, it is planned to be developed further and also expanded for other uses such as a biogas powered fridge to store farm produce.
So how does the biogas reactor work? The cow dung is channeled into a fermentation pit underground, which starts a process that produces methane, carbon dioxide and small amounts of other gases. The resulting biogas is fed directly to the kitchen through a plastic pipe to provide energy for cooking.
The biogas reactor also produces organic waste, which is directed into a pool on the farm. The resulting slurry is high in nutrients and can be used as manure on the farm or sold as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. However, the slurry needs to be dried and packaged before it is sold. Therefore, a drying system was planned during our visit. The idea is to direct excess water from the slurry pool (in the picture below) to a collector well through a drain system. The nutritious water can be used in the garden for irrigation and the remaining slurry will be shoveled up to dry in the sun before it is neatly packaged. The construction of the system is set to start in July 2015, which will be my next challenge on Vikuruti.
During the planning visit, we concentrated on upgrading and developing technical solutions, because they enable all other activities related to sustainable agriculture. Changes in production, for example switching into organic farming and agro-forestry, need to be gradual in order to give Vikuruti farm enough time to adapt and acquire requisite knowledge.
To support the expanding production, also other technical solutions related to water resources and waste management need to be introduced. These technologies will be uncovered in the future. Hopefully by my next post I will be able to tell you that something new and exciting has started to happen on Vikuruti!