Waste to cakes to cash

Aregesh Asfaw lives in Aleltu, a little town on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa. The landscape around this town is quilted with brown, black and green parcels of land that produce, wheat, sorghum, beans and the country’s indigenous crop, teff. Pine forests outline the hills that nestle this part of the Tigray region in central Ethiopia.

Aregesh like many of the country folk, depend on the land for their livelihood. Aregesh and her husband Tebabu, have been using their four cubic metre digester for the last two years and they have noted that it has helped them cut down the usage of grid electricity giving them additional income to spend on their children’s education.

The couple have chosen an enterprising way to supplement their earnings. Aregesh supplies slurry cakes to other households in her area. Interestingly, her husband, Tebabu Yirgew is one of her customers, as he re-sells the slurry cakes to other households. Their four cows supply them with more cow-dung than they need.

Aregesh also takes pride in her kitchen now it is cleaner and smoke free. Her gas burner is tucked into a corner of the kitchen, surrounded by sauce pans and little plastic containers. This reserved couple are clearly reaping the benefits of the biodigester, as their vegetable patch is fed with slurry from the plant and the excess slurry is used to make slurry cakes.

Aregesh previously used animal dung to make her cakes, but began using the excess slurry for this traditional form of cooking fuel. Despite being smaller in size to the animal dung cakes, the slurry cakes are more fuel efficient and odourless. Aregesh sells over 1500 kilogram’s annually which earns her a modest, 78 dollars, but for her this is additional income that she previously didn’t have. Apart from the additional income, health and energy benefits, Aregesh is grateful that since she installed the digester she now has additional free time which she happily devotes to her children.