Human waste can be used to generate electricity

Cameroonian schools make electricity from poo

Image credit: Dreamstime

Technology is being installed in Cameroonian schools converting human waste into biogas for electricity generation.

The technology, which uses bio-digesters to break down organic matter from septic tanks, produces bio-methane that can be used subsequently to power small generators to make electricity for appliances, or directly to provide fuel for cooking and heating.

“Many have come to discover the cheap energy in their backyard and are not only embracing the technology but are also learning the transformation process,” said Cedrick Kemajou, coordinator of NGO Bioenergy-Cameroon, which is behind the project.

The NGO has recently installed the system at the University of Buea and several local schools and is training students to be able to service the technology and understand the process.

“Most boarding schools in the Northwest and Southwest regions now use biogas for cooking and lighting produced from human waste, with trained students to manage the process,” said Monique Ntumngia, coordinator of Green Girls, a Cameroonian NGO that trains young women in technology.

The technology has already been installed in 3,000 households in Buea and Bamenda and the project’s proponents say demand is high. The region suffers from frequent blackouts with many areas not connected to the electricity grid at all. Locals thus have to frequently rely on gas cylinders or polluting charcoal. The technology also provides a solution to the problem of dealing with human waste.

“We are glad that this waste can be used to produce energy that will help the residents not only fill the energy gap but also tackle human waste and sewage (management) problems,” said Patrick Ekema, mayor of Buea, adding that the council can now focus on tackling other problems such as the shortage of drinking water.

According to data from the World Bank, only 53 per cent of Cameroon’s population of 23 million have access to electricity.

Bottled cooking gas can be difficult to afford, especially for Cameroon’s poorest. A 12kg cylinder of liquefied petroleum gas costs 6,000 Central African francs (FCFA), or nearly $10, according to the Ministry of Trade.

Families benefiting from the cheap biogas say they are using the money they save for other essentials such as schooling and medical care.

Having a biodigester installed and receiving training to use and maintain it costs 500,000-700,000 FCFA ($800-$1,100), a sum paid by the institution or households that request the service. A group of homes can use a common biodigester to share the expense.

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