Biogas Digester Pilot Study

  • Jorge Moreno
  • Kean Ng
  • Songqiao Yao
  • Taskeen  Adam

The team seeks to utilise off-grid electricity to implement a pilot project in Sierra Leone aimed at improving the livelihoods and incomes of small scale farmers by processing fresh tomatoes into canned tomato paste, a high value added product in the country. With a population of more than 6 million people, Sierra Leone is one of the poorest regions in the world and 56 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line (World Bank, 2015). High post-harvest food losses remain a chronic problem in the country. This project aims to contribute towards improving food security by utilising a household renewable energy powered processing system.

The system that the team is proposing to pilot comprises of a solar dehydrator along with a biogas powered processing and packaging machine. Installing low cost solar driers or dehydrators can transform perishable foods into shelf-stable products. A low energy intensive canning machine can produce canned tomato paste that meets market demand and helps resource poor farmers improve their position in the value chain. Rice husks and other natural organic waste from farmers will be utilised as feedstock for a bio-digester, where microorganisms will convert waste material into biogas to deliver electricity. The innovative processing technology that we need is readily available in Africa but needs to be adapted for off-grid communities.

With the help of Mountain Lion Agriculture (MLA) a local agribusiness firm with a strong social ethos, the team will deploy a processing system in one partner village and train farmers. The project also aims to test market responses by marketing canned tomato paste in the local market by capitalising on MLA’s existing rice distribution networks. MLA’s substantial prior experience of working with smallholder farmers in the country allows the team to monitor and evaluate the project effectively.

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