Indonesia: Bio-gas project keeps pig farm waste from going to waste

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Pig farmers in Nias pull a 'waste disappearing act' by converting manure into useable energy.
At one of my trips to Nias, Indonesia, I discovered that a pig pen can actually be so clean without any spot of dirt or waste. It was something I have never imagined after seeing pig farms that have mud (of all kinds all) all over the place. You can imagine what it would look like, right?

The clean pig pen I saw was in the village of Tetehosi, Idanagawo sub-district owned by a farm group with the name Ternak Harapan Maju which means, “Farm Hopes to Progress.” The pen is managed by priest Sabar Markus Lase, not only because he knows about pig farming, but also because the pig pen is in the backyard of the church.

How does father Sabar keep the pen clean? Certainly not tossing waste to the neighbor’s yard. He participates in the bio-gas pilot project managed by the United Nations Development Programme and Austcare, with financing from the Multi Donor Fund for Aceh & Nias (MDF).

The project is one component of an MDF funded project Tsunami Recovery Waste Management in both Aceh and Nias. This bio-gas pilot project is only found in Nias, because Aceh, as a Muslim region, does not allow pig farming – considered prohibited by religion. The project thus finds glory in Nias, because the majority of the population is Christian and most have a pig or two wandering in their front yard. To be able to expand on the pig farm business and also for health reasons, the members of the farm group decided to pool their pigs under one roof.

The Waste Management Project team decided to pilot bio-gas production using pig manure in five sub-districts of Nias; Idanogawo, East Lahewa, Moi, Sitoluori and Gunung Sitoli. In addition, socialization about the benefits of bio-gas is being conducted in other nearby villages.

So, how does this waste disappearing act happen in the bio-gas project?

The conversion is possible by installing a bio-gas reactor, famously called the 'digester'.
Well, it takes about 30 large pigs ranging from 100-250kg of weight, or with a combination of 20 piglets and 20 large pigs, to produce enough droppings to be converted into gas that would light up a stove for approximately 10 hours. Simple isn’t it? The conversion is possible by installing a bio-gas reactor, also famously called the ‘digester’. After waste is collected, it is put inside a drum and would directly process the waste into gas, transferred through a pipe into a container that puffs up like an air mattress.

At this particular village, five families can cook for two hours per day out of the 25-member farm group. This means every five days, they would have their turn to cook again using the stove. Ideally it would be more effective if the group had five stoves, thus all 25 families could cook. But they would need more pigs to be able to cover all five stoves.

Families using the stove save approximately US$10 worth of kerosene per month. It may be small money, but for the families it can help them pay for school uniforms and books. Plus since Nias is very much isolated, kerosene can sometimes be rare or when available too expensive to get.

But this is not the end of the waste process. As the reactor processes manure into gas, it also outputs undigested manure. The output can be used as compost for corn or cassava, and if mixed with feed it can be given to cat fish.

But that made me think, if some waste does go to catfish…as a Muslim, I will not even eat catfish in Nias. I am going veggie.


Nia Sarinastiti

Multi-Donor Fund - Indonesia

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