Scots target Sahara waste

SCIENTISTS in Scotland are investigating the potential of a renewable energy source that uses organic waste to generate biogas and to determine if it can help communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
The University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute are collaborating on a project using the technology and are being funded by the Department for International Development. The programme involves looking at ways biogas digesters could help livelihoods and the environment in Uganda.
The team hopes captured biogas can be used for cleaner and greener cooking and lighting; cooking in Sub-Saharan Africa is often done in an enclosed space without good ventilation, resulting in a smoky atmosphere that is harmful to human health. Left-over slurry produced by the digester can also be used to fertilise land and in aquaculture.
Nine digesters are being installed in a village near Kampala which is very close to a forest undergoing rapid deforestation.
Dr Jo Smith, reader in soil organic matter and nutrient modelling at the University of Aberdeen, is leading the work. She said: “The aim of this project is to determine the potential of the cheapest design of biogas digester. We want to see what changes are needed in farmers’ attitudes and in the design of farming systems in order for these devices to be used.”
Smith added: “Biogas digesters have really taken off in Asia but that is not the case in many African countries. This project will provide evidence that hopefully starts to reverse this trend, leading to greater use of this cheap, sustainable and clean energy across Africa.”