Cattle waste helps in the kitchen

Noor Mohammad could not help laughing to himself when he heard that Mission East wanted to produce energy from cow dung.

Text and photos: Dhruva Majagaiyan, Health Coordinator, Mission East, Afghanistan

"What a crazy idea, I thought," says the 50-year-old farmer Noor Mohammad, who did not have high expectations for Mission East’s pilot project. How could his cows’ droppings ever be something of value? Nevertheless, he agreed to be one of the two households in the village that would receive a small biogas plant as a trial for potential replication in future Mission East projects. The biogas plant would turn his farm’s cattle dung into gas that could be used for cooking in the kitchen.

"I am poor and have nothing to lose. If it did not work, I could always remove it again."

This initiative is the first of its kind in the province of Takhar. From the start, the Mission East team was excited to see if they could find the materials they needed locally. In order to operate the plant, they needed a mixing device, a stove, and a few other small components. In the provincial capital they found a shop that could provide the necessary parts.

Could not believe their eyes
When the plant was finished, they waited two months for the dung to be transformed into energy. At first the gas would not burn. The initial gas was only carbon dioxide, water vapours and other incombustible gases. But little by little methane was produced, which is what causes gas to burn. It was an exciting moment for both the Mission East team and the selected families. Noor Mohammad and the rest of the village could hardly believe their eyes when flames began to rise from the stove. The experiment was a success.

"The new plant has helped us in many ways," says Noor Mohammad today.
"Among other things it saves us money now that we no longer need to buy firewood. Later on we built a latrine, which we have also connected to the biogas plant. So now when we go use the toilet we are also producing energy."

February 2009