|Biogas facility in Vietnam © MACDI 2014|
According to Minh Thai Dinh Thi, Director of MACDI, the motivation for providing biogas loans has as much do with the economic as the environmental benefits. She explains that “since households do not need to spend money on buying firewood, and for the poorer families the time spent by women and girls gathering firewood, biogas plants simultaneously save money, time and also reduce deforestation”.
Biogas offers other compelling advantages. It promotes better health through eliminating smoke from cooking with firewood. It also reduces harmful pathogens from animal waste that might lead to illnesses (the Asian Development Bank estimates more than 70 million tonnes of animal waste is improperly disposed of each year in Vietnam, contaminating the environment and often finding its way into streams and rivers). Importantly it also converts animal manure into an improved fertiliser, saving farmers money on expensive chemical fertilisers. Many families who have installed biogas plants have also commented that their general environment looks cleaner with less foul odours and flies. While the biogas technology can work in most climatic conditions it seems particularly suitable to countries such as Vietnam with generally warm temperatures and sufficient rainfall.
|Biogas being used for cooking in Vietnam © MACDI 2014|
Most of MACDI’s borrowers are small-scale farmers who grow rice and maize and typically raise livestock and poultry. Whilst previously the pig, cattle and buffalo manure and crop residue was left to rot or burned (wasting valuable plant nutrients), households now feed the manure mixed with water, but also some crop residue and other organic matter, into the biogas plant where it decomposes. Under anaerobic (without air) conditions the rotting matter produces biogas which is pumped into the home, usually the kitchen, and used for cooking, lighting and in the winter months heating as well. The slurry which has a high nutrient content is used as a fertiliser and crop yields of vegetable crops such as potatoes and onions, fruit, sugar cane and rice have reacted particularly favourably. The biogas generally comprises just under 60% methane, almost 40% carbon dioxide and a small fraction of other gases such as hydrogen, nitrogen and hydrogen sulphide. Although methane is a damaging greenhouse gas, since it is burnt the process is essentially ‘carbon negative’.
The potential for biogas in Vietnam is huge, with more than two-thirds of the population earning a living from agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing and most have traditionally relied on wood, agricultural residue and animal dung for their energy needs. Lendwithcare is supporting MACDI to increase the scale and outreach of its green microfinance programme to ensure more rural households in Vietnam are able to install household biogas plants and have access to clean, sustainable and affordable energy.
You can invest in a green loan today by simply visiting the Lendwithcare website www.lendwithcare.org
By Dr Ajaz Ahmed Khan, Lendwithcare Microfinance Advisor