Bringing better biodigesters and clean energy to Africa


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In developing countries, biodigesters are becoming an incredibly effective solution to convert manure into biogas. Photo: SimGas

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to suffer from a major energy deficit, with hundreds of millions of people lacking access to electricity and clean cooking fuels. There is a great need for innovative mechanisms that can help families access clean and affordable energy. The Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) is one such mechanism.  
A $125 million fund with a pipeline of 14 pilot projects in Africa, Ci-Dev will help improve living standards and sustainable energy through results-based finance. Along the way, it will generate valuable lessons in how reducing greenhouse gas emissions can generate tangible development benefits for local communities, like cleaner air, improved safety, and financial and time savings.

These lessons can help in the delivery and scale up of innovative climate finance business models.

Today, we signed Ci-Dev’s first emission reductions purchase agreement for a project in East Africa that produces low-carbon, cutting-edge biodigesters. The purchase agreement is with SimGas, a Dutch private company that manufactures plastic-molded biodigesters at a state-of-the-art facility in Tanzania, for sale to rural households in Kenya and elsewhere in the region.

Through mass-manufacturing and lower transportation and installation costs, the project offers high quality and lower cost clean cooking options for households – making these biodigesters cheaper, easier to install and transport to rural areas. The project will provide more than 75,000 families in Kenya with a turnkey solution that includes biogas stoves along with the biodigesters.
SimGas biodigesters convert manure into biogas – a clean cooking fuel – and produce a nutrient-rich bio-slurry that can be used to fertilize fields or kitchen gardens. Families spend less money on fertilizers, traditional fuels like wood, and other energy sources like LPG. It frees up time for women and children who many times are sent out to collect fuel wood. Biogas also eliminates harmful indoor smoke from cooking with wood, reducing respiratory illnesses.
Traditional biodigesters are made of masonry and need an entire team of masons to make them. The advantage of these modern biodigesters is a design that is modular, scalable and manufactured from recycled plastic components that can be easily transported and installed in a single day.
Because the project helps lower greenhouse gasses – specifically carbon dioxide emissions from burning fuel wood – the project will generate emission reductions that will then be sold to Ci-Dev, creating a revenue stream for the project. These results-based payments for carbon will subsidize the retail price of the biodigesters, making them more affordable to poor households, and offer an extended five-year warranty to improve consumer confidence. Hopefully, this will boost early sales of this brand-new technology and help scale up the effort – making these biodigesters available to more people.
In October, we visited villages in rural Kenya where families are using just two or three heads of cattle to fuel the biodigesters with their manure. One woman we spoke with told us that her son had left the tea water boiling and how, in the past, this would have used up an entire LPG gas canister, at great expense. With the biodigester, all she had to do was just wait a few hours for it to generate biogas, and she could start cooking again. And families proudly presented their banana trees, which they claimed produced higher yields than before thanks to the fertilizer generated by the biodigesters.
Other farmers we spoke to told us that their neighbors are seeing how well the biodigesters are working and are now installing them. In fact, we counted that up to five households were picking up the idea from just one user.
These are some of the valuable lessons that we will collect and share over time, for use in other countries by professionals in the energy access and climate finance fields. Ci-Dev will also continue to help streamline the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – by which emission reductions are monitored, verified and certified before being purchased by buyers like Ci-Dev – to make results-based climate finance more accessible to those who need it the most.
Following the Paris Agreement, our experience in helping to simplify the CDM can be even more relevant. Because some of its projects may call for purchases of emission reductions beyond 2020, Ci-Dev can provide lessons learned and help inform the market mechanisms called for in the Paris Agreement.
We are eager to put these to the test in Ci-Dev’s pilot projects and to find out how its results-based payments can contribute to increasing energy access and providing development benefits – starting with better biodigesters to families in Kenya.


Juha Seppala

Carbon Finance Specialist Climate and Carbon Finance Unit, World Bank

January 31, 2016

Biogas is great however the trouble is most of the people in need of this intervention to do have access to manure.
Technology that uses less manure - especially at start up- is needed

Juha Seppala
February 02, 2016

Having a source of dung is critical for most rural models of biodigesters to work, and obtaining the initial dung for the startup can be a challenge. In our case, the interested households are surveyed for dung availability, and to ensure the right size of biodigester is installed. Furthermore, there are digesters available that also operate on kitchen waste or can be connected to a latrine, thus making biodigesters available to more households.

Syed Khursheed Zaidi
February 01, 2016

The development agencies need to launch global program to empower and benefit from this technology through soft loans/grants and get their share through GHG abatement schemes.

Juha Seppala
April 25, 2016

Thank you for your suggestion on the need for a global biodigester program. Indeed, results-based carbon payments for biodigester programs can be used in various ways to lower the cost of the biodigester to consumers (such as in Kenya) or to provide a longer warranty period for the biodigester, for example

Anjana Mahanta
February 02, 2016

This is something great and can be used in Northeast India. Cowdung is available in almost all village households in this part. How to go about Ci-Dev pilot project in this part of India?

Juha Seppala
February 02, 2016

Thank you. Ci-Dev has a mandate by its donors to operate in Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Asia, and thus a biogas project in India would not be eligible for funding through Ci-Dev.

stephen mwangi
March 31, 2016

This is a great initiative and I think it's the solution that Africa continent need. We need to engage our daily farmers and let them realize the importance of clean energy.

Juha Seppala
April 13, 2016

Thank you. The clean energy is of course complemented by environmentally friendly fertilizer produced by the biodigester, which can make a big impact in areas with poor or arid soils.

November 29, 2019

someone to educate them about it

Eric Olson
August 16, 2016

Although Ci-Dev funding will not be available for Latin American nations due to the agreements with your donors (given the focus on Africa and LCD's in Asia), will the digesters themselves be available for purchase elsewhere? I know families in Nicaragua that would benefit from these immediately, and we are considering installing masonry versions. These plastic devices appear easier to work with, any intention to make them available more widely?

Juha Seppala
September 08, 2016

Thank you for your inquiry. These specific biodigesters supported as part of the carbon finance operation are manufactured and sold by SimGas BV and their subsidiaries (, so you may want to contact them directly for details about global sales.

Ronald Mutebi
November 13, 2016

I hav developed a prototype for a cheap biodigester (non masonry) that converts food and animal waste to methane but am lacking advice and funding to scale it across uganda. what advice do you have for me.Thank you

Ssebandeke Ashiraf
February 02, 2017

Thank you for this initiative. How can I access it in Uganda?

August 02, 2017

This is very interesting - in which area of Kenya is are they being distributed? thanks

November 13, 2017

Hi there, i am in love with this innovation, i wanna do research on adoption of biogas technologies among agro-processors in Uganda. Mr. Sepala, does your project support research in Biogas.

Della Wager Wells
November 21, 2018

Mr. Sappala, I am a missionary of The Episcopal Church USA working with my link diocese in the Anglican Church of Tanzania. My link diocese is the Diocese of Western Tanganyika in the Kigoma District of Tanzania, centered in Kasulu. They have a need for a biodigester, primarily for cooking to feed the seminarians and their families, on the campus of the Seminary in the Diocese, where they keep about 20 head of dairy cows. The Tanzanian government has imposed new limitations on the use of charcoal and firewood, which is the sole source of cooking fuel now. Use of biogas would meet Tanzanian regulatory and legal requirements, improve the health and safety of those who prepare food at the seminary (now primarily women and girls), reduce deforestation, increase soil quality for agriculture, and provide a clean, reliable, sustainable source of fuel — as well as fertilizer for the food crops grown on the seminary shamba.
Can you tell me where we could find plans for the most current, affordable, and best design for a biodigester to serve this purpose? And what is the approximate cost? Or perhaps where I could find the information? Thank you, Della Wells

D. Hathiramani
November 29, 2019

I have noted the above blog with interest Juha, however how does one translate this into a reality? For example if I wanted to setup a pilot project producing biogas how we gain assistance in terms of support both technical and funding. In third countries: infrastructure and technical support are both expensive. Please advise.
Thank you.

Teverai Chigogo
November 29, 2019

Am so concerned about our people in Zimbabwe who now have no alternative source.of power, since electricity comes normally from 9pm to 5am.

We.would so as to enable our people have access to alternative and sustainable sources of energy, such as portable biodigessters.

Women and.chidren are.the most affected: as women end up taking anything that burns to see to it that the children have food

Zimbabwe is awash with both dung, chicken manure (which I believe has more viability than ox dung), horticultural waste and waste foods from many government institutions,.hotels and restaurants.
Any leads to don't RS?

bidjanga biloa
March 18, 2020

Our association, GREEN SUN has started producing and training communities in cities and rural cameroon in producing and cooking with biogas from animal manure and food waste. How to benefit from the CI-DEV carbon funding ?

Martin Kailie
March 18, 2020

Dear Juha,
Greetings from Sierra Leone. I am working on a bio-digester project for households and schools in Sierra Leone.
Please any help with some information and the technicalilities? Such as how much biogas per ton of what type of waste?, etc.
whatsApp +232 33 7335 691

jackline mueni
May 17, 2020

I would love to acquire this digester, i am based in Kenya, kisii town. How do I get one. Please guide. Thanks in advance.

peter mutua kimilu
August 27, 2021

Write a response...thankyou madam mueni for your intetest in a biogas system. i construct biogas systems and i would be honoured to construct one for you at your convenience and at pocket friendly pricing, please get in touch.

John Barrett
November 09, 2020

This is interesting. Is there application for human waste? In Narok county SW Kenya, the septic design system is somewhat primitive using seepage pits rather than drain fields (this is standard in Kenya) resulting in need to pump tanks regularly and incomplete digestion of human waste with systems backing up one or two times per year. One city of 80,000 people in this county has been forced by the Kenyan government authority to stop dumping the waste in an abandoned quarry that is now leaching into a neighboring stream. They are now forced to truck the pumped waste to a dumpsite in a neighboring county bringing increased costs and other problems.

Can these systems be used for septic waste in homes and/or small to moderate institutions that might produce waste equivalent to a 3 or 4 bedroom family home?

Susan Dunkley
August 27, 2021

I am looking for assistance, to produce a cleaner farm in Ghana healthcare for animal and worker.My dream is to have a model working farm. Which use all its waste for fuel and fertilizer .and hopefully leftover fuel to support the village.I would like to be considered in any pilot scheme As a can't afford huge startup cost to start my farm Call me to discuss any matter that may concern you I need help to start good working practices for my multi use farm.Telephone Susan Dunkley please leave a message or email me.
Hope to join one of your project
Kind regards
Susan Dunkley

March 15, 2022

How much would it cost if you were to install the system at my home, Siaya in Kenya ?