Madame Helen has five cows and uses methane from their manure to cook all her meals with a biogas unit (photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
In addition to milk and income, dairy farmers also get another important resource from their cows—manure. While raw manure can be composted for use on crops, cow dung can also be a source of fuel for households.
Madame Helen Bahikwe, another farmer in Gicumbi District, began working with Heifer International in 2002. She now has five cows—and an excess of manure. With a subsidy from the government as part of the National Biogas Program, Madame Helen built a biogas collection tank, which allows her to use the methane from decomposing manure to cook for her 10 person family. She no longer has to collect or buy firewood, saving both time and money and protecting the environment. The fuel is also cleaner burning, eliminating the smoke that comes from other sources of fuel.
And according to Mukerema Donatilla, another farmer we met, biogas “helps with hygiene” on the farm because they can use hot water to clean cow udders before milking and for cleaning milk containers.
Both Mukerema and Madame Helen had to contribute about $USD 700 for the materials to install their biogas units, while the government contributed about $USD 400. With funding from SNV, a Netherlands-based organization and the Rwanda Ministry of Infrastructure, the government hopes to have 15,000 households in the country collecting and using biogas by 2012.