Jack of Two Trades…..and a Master of Both!

When Matar Sylla arrives back in Dakar, he will not only be inspecting biogas plants construction to ensure they meet structural specifications, but he will  be advising biogas promoters on new marketing tips. Going back to Senegal from a visit to East Africa – Uganda and Kenya, the biogas engineer under the PNB-SN has learnt important lessons from these two countries. “The level of technological and organizational advancement in these two countries is quite remarkable” he says, “We have a lot to learn and replicate in Senegal.”

Implementation of biogas technology in Senegal started in January 2010 but production of biogas plants only started six months later, June. With initial training from Rwanda, the programme is gradually gaining footing with local capacity now fully in place.

Matar Sylla, Biogas engineer from Senegal

Contrasting the Senegalese experience with Kenyan, Sylla believes the community approach through existing and new groups at the grassroots level is worth replication in Senegal. “Our approach has been too much focused on the individual farmers, but in Kenya the group approach seems to be working extremely well, and we’ll need to have our farmers organize themselves into practical groups,” he observed.

The PNB-SN has also been conducting research on effective ways of reducing costs of the biogas plants. By maximizing on use of locally produced materials, the programme was able to bring down costs of installation by about 40%, and new techniques of using locally assembled bricks is expected to further reduce costs and increase uptake. So far, PNB-SN has around 200 biogas plants functioning, and many others are at several stages of construction.

During the visit to several farmers and partners in the biogas industry in the south and central Rift Valley in Kenya, the engineer had an opportunity to share experiences with Kenyan biogas masons and contractors on emerging innovations to make the technology more efficient to farmers. Mr. Syllla was accompanied by a biogas technician from Senegal, Abdoulaye Faye, who was equally impressed with the two countries’ progress, “we have learnt valuable lessons from this exchange trip; from Uganda with their locally assembled bricks and appliances, to Kenya with her organized farmer networks that make implementation smooth.”

While acknowledging the slow development of the market in Senegal, the duo was optimistic that lessons drawn from the visits will add a fresh impetus to the market in Senegal. “What is not in doubt is that we will try and reinvigorate our programme by consulting with all relevant stakeholders by sharing the experiences to make our programme perform to expectations. It will happen,” Sylla concluded as he prepared to go back to Dakar hoping to stimulate the local biogas sector into more fulfilling results.