Mohammad Zayed carries a bucket of waste to be used in a HomeBioGas portable reactor

Palestinian villagers using Israeli-made biogas generators

Palestinian villagers living in off-grid areas on the West Bank have begun using Israeli-made biogas generators that convert food leftovers and manure into methane.

The gas can be used for cooking and lighting and the portable anaerobic digester can be packed up and taken with families if they relocate, a key benefit for tent dwelling nomadic groups like the Bedouin.

The devices are made by Israeli start-up HomeBioGas and roughly 40 have been set up in a pilot project at the Palestinian village of al-Awja in the central West Bank's Jordan Valley, funded by around €500,000 (£365,000) from the European Union.

"HomeBioGas has invented this simple digester that can easily be assembled and transported," said Palestinian engineer Amer Rabayah, who coordinates installation of the devices.

The devices work by adding bacteria to a mix of water and waste to start a fermentation process that produces the gas. Once the cycle is started, the bacteria then multiply to create a self-perpetuating process.

The digesters also produce rich liquid fertiliser as a byproduct that can be used to boost crop growth for a population that largely relies on agriculture for income, said Oshik Efrati, chief executive officer of HomeBioGas.

Clean-burning methane produced by the device will also help to save many lives in rural areas across the world where smoke from cooking on an open fire causes severe respiratory illness and death, Efrati added.

HomeBioGas estimates that up to 2.7 billion people live in under-served communities with no access to clean energy and waste disposal services, while 4.3 million women and children die each year due to inhaling smoke from indoor open fires.

"This system will be available to everyone that needs it in the developing world. It will eliminate waste, it makes clean gas and there is no need to breathe in any smoke," he said.

A group of Israeli and Palestinian volunteers helped assemble the digesters, facilitated by the Peres Center for Peace, set up by former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

The digesters take about three hours to install and the materials and construction costs amount to a few hundred dollars per unit. It is best suited for use in warm climates, says HomeBioGas

Some digesters have also been provided to Bedouin in Israel in partnership with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, based in the arid Negev desert.

The company aims to expand its production capacity and enlist governments and aid agencies to buy digesters for impoverished communities, Efrati sai, and the company also sees affluent, environmentally aware Western consumers as future clients for its product.

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