Got Biogas?

This is the third in a four-part series on my visit to Heifer International projects in Gicumbi District in Rwanda.  Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute Nourishing the Planet blog.

In addition to milk and income, dairy farmers also get another important resource from their cows--manure. While raw manure can be composted for use on crops, cow dung can also be a source of fuel for households.

Madame Helen Bahikwe, another farmer in Gicumbi District, began working with Heifer International in 2002. She now has five cows--and an excess of manure. With a subsidy from the government as part of the National Biogas Program, Madame Helen built a biogas collection tank, which allows her to use the methane from decomposing manure to cook for her 10 person family. She no longer has to collect or buy firewood, saving both time and money and protecting the environment. The fuel is also cleaner burning, eliminating the smoke that comes from other sources of fuel.

And according to Mukerema Donatilla, another farmer we met, biogas "helps with hygiene" on the farm because they can use hot water to clean cow udders before milking and for cleaning milk containers.

Both Mukerema and Madame Helen had to contribute about $USD 700 for the materials to install their biogas units, while the government contributed about $USD 400. With funding from SNV, a Netherlands-based organization and the Rwanda Ministry of Infrastructure, the government hopes to have 15,000 households in the country collecting and using biogas by 2012.

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Kigoma, Tanzania

I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania excited to catch a flight to Kigoma, a region in the northwestern part of the country to visit a Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania project working with small farmers to promote sustainable agriculture. Unfortunately Precision Air, one of only two airlines that flies to the remote region, has suspended all flights for the next several weeks and  the other airline is all booked. It's the first major hiccup after traveling for the last month, so I really don't have anything to complain about.

I did get a chance, however, to meet with JGI staff here in Dar and learn more about their work not only in Tanzania, but all over the world.

Pancras Ngalason is the Executive Director of JGI Tanzania and he explained how the Institute has evolved since it began in the 1970s. They've gone, according to Ngalason, beyond research to address questions of livelihood.

JGI started as a center to research and protect wild chimpanzee populations in what is now, thanks to their efforts, Gombe National Park. But in the early 1990s JGI realized that if it didn't start addressing the needs of the communities surrounding the park, their efforts to conserve wildlife wouldn't work. JGI first started by planting trees in the region, but soon found that communities cut them down, not because they wanted to, but because they needed them for fuel and for making charcoal. It was at that time, says Ngalason, that we "thought beyond planting trees" and more about community-based conservation.

JGI started working with communities to develop government- mandated land use plans, helping them develop soil erosion prevention practices, agroforestry, and production of value-added products, such as coffee and palm oil. They like to say that their products are "Good for All" --good for farmers by providing income, good for the environment by protecting natural resources, and good for the consumer by providing a healthy product.

They're also working training community health practitioners about reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, educating youth, establishing micro-credit programs, and working with UNICEF and USAID to supply clean water to communities.

"These are services," says Ngalason, "people require in order to appreciate the environment," and ultimately helps not only protect the chimps and other wildlife, but also helps build healthy and economically viable communities.

Stay tuned for more about JGI's Roots and Shoots program.

You can view this post and others at the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet blog.  

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Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle Near Finish of Historic Ride

     On April 3, 2009 at 1:31 PM, the Spirit of DC, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) became the first vehicle of its kind to have visited all 48 states of the contiguous United States of America. "The Spirit of DC became an All American," says "EV Jerry" Asher, the driver and co-chair of the effort. The history making record was set after Asher and the Spirit of DC crossed over the Georgia/Alabama line while on US 78. This is the beginning of the end for the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle All Around America (PHEV3A) Team that is made up mainly from members of the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington, DC (EVA/DC).

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How to Pick Alterantive Energy Winners

Picking the Winners Just because it's green and a good idea, isn't a guarantee it will succeed reaching the marketplace, much less reach commercialization, writes Joseph Lado in an article for EVWorld.com

The picture above is of Apollo 15's astronaut James Irwin with the first lunar rover on the Mare Imbrium. It has been nearly 40 years since man drove an electric vehicle on the moon, much less mined it for Helium 3.

Manufacturing Monday: Price fixing, the big grain crash of '08 and speculators for hire?

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Greetings ladies and gentlemen to the latest episode of Manufacturing Monday. Couple of interesting things to discus today, and some interesting numbers to watch this week.  First we have what appears to be a new take on price fixing by manufacturers.  Next we explore the recent collapse in the price of grains. Our last piece is a story from the Financial Times where companies and groups are hiring the very element that help drive up their costs, speculators, to well...sorta fight speculators.  Kinda reminds me of those old westerns where they hire a gunfighter to take on the baddie.  Finally, as mentioned, there are numbers we're watching, the Producer Price Index being released tomorrow, Jobless claims and the Philadelphia Fed Survey on Thursday.

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