The construction of biodigesters has been a male-dominated field, with few women expressing interest or participating in the process of building and installing digesters.
With the poverty rate in rural Zambia still high, women and adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable due to lack of formal education and professional training.
However, this is slowly beginning to change with more women taking up the challenge and training as masons. In Kafue District of Zambia, 8 women were trained as masons during a masons's training course held in August 2021. The women came from various districts to join the training and learn the technical skills to build biodigesters.
The training was facilitated by the Increased Climate Resilience in Energy & Agriculture Systems and Entrepreneurship (INCREASE) Project with some of the participants being youths from the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) Project. To expand the biodigester market, SNV previously mobilised masons to formalise their construction businesses, supporting the development of over 50 biodigester construction enterprises. As the sector continues to evolve and grow, SNV has intensified the training of existing and new masons to ensure high-quality delivery of biodigester installations across the country.
Biodigesters are a decentralised environmentally friendly technology that enables the decomposition of organic matter in the absence of oxygen, a process known as anaerobic digestion. A biodigester is a sealed container or structure specifically built to provide anaerobic conditions at suitable temperatures for the breaking down of organic matter such as, for example, cow manure or household waste, to produce gas and slurry. Biodigesters provide economic, health, environmental and social benefits at household, community, national and global levels.
The benefits of biodigesters are many and include the provision of biogas which is clean renewable energy that offers a lasting solution to household energy needs as it reduces reliance on firewood and charcoal for cooking. Consequently, biodigesters also reduce pressure on forest resources. The use of biogas reduces indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and also helps with waste management of manure and other organic matter. The use of the slurry in farming offers a low-cost, organic alternative to chemical fertilisers and can improve soil quality in the long term.
One of the participants in the training, Lenganji Nawakwi said, ‘I’m very happy to be part of this programme because very few women are masons, and it will also give me an opportunity to generate an income for myself’. She says obtaining such skills should not be left to men alone as women need to be empowered as well.
Written by: Nancy Malama, SNV Zambia Communications Officer