Several months ago one of my neighboring volunteers was in the middle of writing a grant to make a biodigester with a local farmer close to his community. My first reaction to this was, "what the hell is a biodigester?" I had heard about biodigesters vaguely over my time both here and in college, but had no real idea of what they were or how they worked. My friend Jimmy, who has since left Paraguay for a graduate school opportunity in Germany, explained that basically it is a device that can harness methane gas through an anaerobic process which combines a set ratio of manure and water. The gas it creates can be used as cooking fuel, which minus the cost of building the thing is totally sustainable. Typical Paraguayan families who live in the countryside, have cows, pigs, and chickens. Chicken excrement is the most concentrated of the three animals and, therefore, produces higher quantities of the gas, if the appropriate amount is available. You do need a lot of chickens to create the amount of manure necessary to sustain the biodigester, but families normally don’t have the amount of waste necessary from chickens. However, they do often have plenty of pigs or cows whose manure is more commonly utilized in small scale bidigesters. It takes 3-4 pigs or cows to produce the daily amount of manure necessary to create the gas. Jimmy had all but finished the application to receive money from the Environmental Climate-Change Partnership of the Americas, EPCA, when he was accepted to a very well respected graduate program in
. I was at his house one day when he asked if I would be interested in taking over this project when he left. This was prior to receiving the funds for the garbage project, and before we had finished planting all of our trees, so naturally I said sure thinking to myself how hard could it be? Germany
The short answer is I still don’t know. Next Wednesday, the 24th, along with a local farmer, Daniel Rios, and I will be putting on a biodigester workshop to present to members of his committee and the surrounding area. A big part of the application to receive funding from ECPA is to make sure the project isn’t exclusively focused on improving the livelihood of one individual. The idea is to use the money to facilitate an exchange of information using the biodigester as a mechanism to do just that. The most challenging part of the process to this point has been the coordination of everything to get us in position to conduct the workshop.