Biogas digesters have been installed in the Upper Thukela area in KwaZulu-Natal as part of a natural resource management project to enhance the quality of life of people living there. Greg Austin, a member of the Sustainable Energy Society of South Africa (SESSA), tells the story of some of the community members whose lives changed because of a biogas digester. He says that before her Agama bio-digester was installed, Mama Ethel Khumalo spent R800 of her R1 140 monthly pension on energy.
Today she uses the dung from her five cattle to feed the bio-digester. The gas it produces is used for cooking and the electricity she purchases to light the house. As a result of the digester, the family always has light and Mama Khumalo has cut her Eskom expense to R50 a month and no longer buys wood.
Mama Miya's household is large with three adults, two children out of school and eight school-going children. Before the biogas digester project, she used R200 a month on electricity for lighting and ironing, and spent close to three hours a day collecting wood to use for cooking.
In a nearby valley, Velam Khumalo used to spend R800 of his pension each month to buy wood for cooking. This never lasted the full month, and his wife and children would go out to collect wood and cow dung. With the bio-digester providing all the energy they need for cooking, they don't need to forage for fuel.
These stories provide anecdotal evidence of the benefits of biogas, an alternative energy technology fulfilling all the criteria relating to environmental sustainability, requiring relatively low technological input and being cost-effective to implement.
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