ILLUMINATING THE BIOGAS BUSINESS CASE

LUCRATIVE WINE AND PASSION FRUIT JUICE BUSINESS PROMOTED THROUGH USE OF BIOGAS: ILLUMINATING THE BIOGAS BUSINESS CASE

 Biogas success story-Uganda Domestic Biogas Programme

 BACKGROUND

In Uganda, Biogas technology is currently regarded  as one of the popular renewable energies due to its multiple benefits which include provision of energy (gas) for cooking and lighting, protection of the environment through reduction in cutting down of trees for firewood and charcoal fuels, improvement in household health and sanitation through reduction in indoor air pollution and proper disposal of wastes, promotion of agricultural productivity through use of bio-slurry manure, creation of employment from bio digester construction services and increase in household income due fuel substitution savings, income from bio-gas and slurry supported enterprises.

Unlike many other technologies that provide a direct contribution to household income, contribution by biogas technology is usually indirect through biogas and bio-slurry supported enterprises. For that matter, a biogas business case may not seem very clear to many potential biogas clients and especially to the business connoisseurs. Hence, this may gravely hamper the adoption of the technology.

In this success story, the use of biogas to increase the income of a family through the promotion of wine and passion fruit juice enterprises has been demonstrated.  The experiences and lessons learnt from the success story can enable potential biogas clients and especially credit lending institutions learn about the financial contribution of biogas technology to the users, hence presenting the biogas business case.

FAMILY STATUS BEFORE ACQUISITION OF A BIOGAS DIGESTER

The family of Edward Sebuufu aged 62, married to Rachael and father of eight, is among the early users of biogas technology under the Uganda Domestic Biogas Programme. The family is now reaping the benefits from their biogas digester which they acquired in 2009 with support from Heifer International in partnership with SNV– Netherlands Development Organisation and ABPP – African Biogas Partnership Programme.  The family belongs to Busunju grass root heifer project: formerly supported by Heifer International Uganda (2007-2010) and it benefited by receiving a  in-calf heifer in the year 2008 which multiplied and money from sales of milk were used to buy more cows which today are a core for the bio gas production.

The family is located in Nzu village, Namayumba Sub County in Wakiso district. Edward recalls how hard life was before acquiring a biogas digester. They depended mainly on paraffin for lighting using lanterns and fuel wood for cooking. By then, they had abundance of trees which they could obtain from the nearby forest. Nevertheless, this was not beneficial to the family. It was extremely labour intensive, time wasting, and fetching firewood from the forest was not easy especially during periods of heavy rain. Delays in preparing of food using firewood were a common practice which would most times lead to tensions between himself and his wife. There was usually unnecessary competition for the paraffin lanterns between himself, when he needed to use the light to read newspapers at night and his children who needed the light for reading their books. The lighting in itself was of poor quality and the paraffin lamps used to emit a lot of toxic smoke that was hazardous to their lives. It was also expensive to buy half a liter of paraffin on a weekly basis.

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BIOGAS SUBSTITUTES FIREWOOD AND CHARCOAL USE

In 2003, prior to the acquisition of a biogas digester, the family was engaged in the wine and passion fruit concentrate making enterprises which they were managing with limited profits. The family was using Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and charcoal for production of both wine and the passion fruit juice concentrate. In the production processes, gas or charcoal was used as fuel for boiling water and also sealing bottles during the packaging of the products. A small cylinder of LPG that costs Uganda shillings 55,000 would be used for 3 to 4 months or a sack of charcoal which costs Uganda shillings 39,000 for the same period. For that matter, the acquisition of a biogas digester was a great relief to the family since it removed problems associated with use of firewood and paraffin. Currently, the availability of biogas replaces the use of LPG or charcoal both for domestic and business purposes.

BIOGAS FOR VINIFICATION (Wine Making) AND PASSION FRUIT JUICE ENTERPRISES

Acquisition of biogas has promoted the home based lucrative wine and passion fruit juice business. The family started the business in 2003 on a small scale and the quality of the products was extremely poor due to contamination of the products with smoke from use of firewood or charcoal. He now uses biogas to boil the passion fruit on a large scale and the Smokey taste in the wine and juice has been eliminated ever since, hence the improvement in the quality of the products. They supply the quality products to supermarkets, schools, religious institutions and hospitals. Biogas is used as fuel to boil water and also to seal bottles during the packaging process.

The family business has changed the life of Sebuufu’s family for the better. They now sell the wine to earn a daily income. The business has attracted other partners who have enabled their business to transform to a medium scale enterprise. They have received support from the National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAADS), a government programme in form of a loan worth 2 million Uganda shillings to enable them scale up their enterprises.  The Hunger Project Uganda has also provided them with a platform to showcase and market their products. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has provided technical support in line with approved quality standards.

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 CONCLUSION

Vinification (Wine Making) and making of passion fruit juice concentrate are value addition processes that aim at creating value addition opportunities to the pineapple and passion fruit growing enterprises. In Uganda, though pineapples and passion fruits are mainly grown on small scale in some districts like Kayunga, Luwero and Kasese, both crops have a competitive advantage as they are harvested twice in a year compared to other parts of the world.

Why not spread this message to our farmers or why not venture into such enterprises? Fine decision you have made but do not leave out biogas technology that will provide you with the impetus to reach there with lots of comfort and happiness. The bio digester that the family acquired has been so advantageous to the family and their business. Biogas technology is a game changing initiative that will improve many lives in future.

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