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Why is Biogas not widely used as a household energy option in humanitarian shelter?
Issue 59 of Boiling Point (published by HEDON.info), titled Energy in Conflict and Emergency Relief, makes no significant reference to Biogas despite a growing household fuel crisis.
Given the trend towards a substantial increase in the frequency and magnitude of hydro-meteorological disasters linked to climate change and the corresponding increase in human displacement, it seems imperative that measures should be sought to ensure that transitional settlements are able to meet appropriate habitation standards. Finding a secure and sustainable energy supply is already a key concern.
In addition to the problem of human displacement is the increased risk of conflict as displaced populations move into regions where natural resources, such as water and firewood, are already scarce. An urgent concern with regard to the use of firewood as a household fuel in East African refugee camps are the frequent violent attacks on women who traditionally take responsibility for firewood procurement, a task that becomes increasingly dangerous as diminishing supplies must be sought further afield, often in hostile territory.
Where a refugee camp has no access to firewood the only available fuels are imported, expensive and therefore commit the displaced population to dependency on external aid. Importing fuel poses the additional problem of supply security, which may be impacted by regional conflict or an increase in market prices.
So what are the barriers that prevent the use of biogas in humanitarian aid? Here’s a method of producing cooking fuel that can use human waste as a feedstock solving sanitation problems. A potential energy cycle producing nutrient-rich fertilizer that could be used to enable local food production. Why don’t biogas digesters feature in the kit list of all the major humanitarian relief agencies… Is there simply a lack of information?