Article written

  • on 31.03.2016
  • at 11:27 AM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Benefits of Backpack Biogas 0

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Billions of dollars of aid has been pumped into Africa. Yet effective change too often remains an elusive outcome, leading to a vicious cycle: more needs, more aid but still little change. How to resolve this seemingly intractable dilemma?

Biogas could be one part of the solution. (B)energy is a social business venture offering a clean energy solution that not only solves an energy crisis but a social problem too.

Its (B)pack—a nearly 1.5 metre wide, pillow-shaped inflatable blue bag—is filled with biogas from a special biogas digester, a sealed compost bag. Afterwards, the biogas-filled (B)pack can be hoisted onto a back for carrying to a home where it is hooked up to a biogas cooking stove.

German founder Katrin Puetz, 34, built the company’s business model on the idea of empowering local franchisees to sell mobile biogas technology on themselves. This turns them into biogas producers, so-called (B)entrepreneurs, in the words of Puetz, as each gains an income while promoting clean, affordable and sustainable energy.

One such (B)entrepreneur is 32-year-old Zenebech Alemayehu, a single mother with a 9-year-old son, based in a southern suburb of Addis Ababa.

“I sacrificed a lot for this,” says Zenebech inside a large ramshackle shed as a struck match is held to the end of a metal pipe and a faint blue flame springs into life. “When I see it working I am so happy and more motivated.” She puts her fingertips to her lips then toward the flame, a symbolic kiss for her new biogas-inspired business.

The pipe leads outside the shed connecting with a 5 metre long plastic tank—the digester—that takes anything from waste food to goat droppings or those of a larger human form; Zenebech keeps hers supplied from a giant pile of cow dung inside the shed.

Puetz began the project that led to her business while working for Hohenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany, where she realised its potential in Africa as a clean, cheap alternative to cooking on smoky, polluting fires.

After being contacted by Addis Ababa University and invited to move to Ethiopia to develop the technology, she launched (B)energy in April 2014. She remains determined her enterprise remains self-sufficient, despite her technology being a prime candidate for tempting funding—she has already turned down grants from global charities.

Continue reading on IPS News

by James Jeffrey

Photo Credits: IPS/James Jeffrey

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