Thursday, October 27, 2011

Biogas Chai

Biogas chai with my coworker, Jamnada, and interviewee, Rupibai

My overall goal for my work at the Foundation for Ecological Security is to expand their sustainable energy initiatives in the rural areas in order to reduce the rural population's dependence on unsustainable resources--in this case, primarily wood for cooking and kerosene for lighting.  FES has already worked toward this goal by installing biogas digesters for about 80 households over the last 5-6 years, so one of my projects is to apply for funding to build even more biogas digesters.  In order to do this, I am completing an impact assessment of the biogas digesters already installed by FES in hopes that the assessment will be positive and be good fodder for grant applications.  After an introductory day in the field and some online research, I wrote a survey that, with the help of my coworker, Jamnada, I will distribute to (hopefully) 30 of the households.  The survey asks a lot of questions about the history of their fuel usage, such as "How much wood did you use for cooking before versus after the installation of the biogas digester?"  The idea is that, after the assessment is complete, we will be able to say that FES's biogas digesters reduce wood use by, say, 60%, save women 30 hours of wood collection labor a month, increase crop yields 205, minimize smoke in the household, etc.

A second project is to start new sustainable energy initiatives with FES, e.g. solar PV, solar cooking, microwind, etc.  In order to get a good sense of the energy needs of the community and what technologies would be most suitable, I also wrote a survey that asks households about their general energy use history--what they use as fuel for cooking and lighting, how they transport water, if they are interested in solar PV, rainwater catchment systems, etc.  It's a fairly long survey.  Of course, Jamnada interviews the family in the tribal language, and then write their answers in Hindi, and then attempts to translate to me in English.  His English is a bit difficult to understand, but we have started to hit our stride.  In total the biogas interviews take about 1.5 hrs and the energy interviews take 2 hrs.  We have been completing 2 of each survey a day, so I get back to Udaipur between 6:30 and 8pm on most days.

To complete the surveys, Jamnada and I bop around to the different households on his motorcycle (don't worry mom, I wear a helmet!).  Around 8am, I catch a public bus out to a smaller city, Gogunda.  From there, I walk to FES's cluster office, which is basically a small apartment that FES's employees use for meetings and staying overnight if they have to while working in the field.  Jamnada has been staying there, so I meet him there and then we head off on his motorcycle for about an hour to get to our project region.  From there, we bike to different households (they are all spread out) to complete the interviews.

Here are some photos to get a sense of what we've seen out there in the field.

Biogas Digester.  Cow dung and water is put in the hole in the front, the dome is the digester where the gas rises and goes through the tube to the stove in the kitchen, and the slurry comes out the rectangular outlet and is used as fertilizer.

The animals are kept very close to the inlet, making it convenient to carry the dung to the inlet.

This is Indrabai cooking wheat chipati on her biogas cookstove.

This is Laxibai cooking with a soil burner (wood stove) on the right and with her biogas stove on the left.  We are obviously trying to get the households to stop using the soil burners altogether.  So, why is she using wood if she has the clean biogas burner?  Many of the households do not like the biogas stove for cooking certain kinds of food, mainly mez (maiz) chipati.  From what I have gathered, it seems that it is partly about flavor and partly that the biogas stove takes too long for cooking the mex chipati, but I need to look into this more.

Here I am enjoyign some biogas chai (tea) with Jamnada and Rupibai (who made the chai!).

The biogas is also used for lighting, although many of the lamps were broken in the houses we visited--something we are going to look into improving.

Another biogas lamp.

Here are examples of two types of kerosene lamps, which we are trying to replace with biogas lamps.

This is a biogas digester that Jamnada is working on.  The tube will be the inlet, the dome is the digester, and the square will connect to the outlet.  We made some progress on it during one of my days in the field.

Laying the cement for the outlet.

I have a bajillion more photos I'd like to share and comment on, but I have to run!  Check out the !ND!A picases album though for more photos (no descriptions though, yet).

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