Zimbabwe and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, are making efforts to stop deforestation and benefit from waste management in the country’s largest refugee camp. The Tongogara camp near Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique has installed machines for refugees to convert animal waste into biogas, which can be used as fuel for cooking and fertilizer.
Dominic Katumbayi, one of the refugees at the Tongogra refugee camp about 400 kilometers east of Harare, now uses organic fertilizer from animal waste for his plants. He said that life has changed for his garden and farms ever since he started using the product.
“Before this was a problem because compost is what you buy, but it’s free,” he said. “Every day I can produce over 300 liters of fertilizer. Now it’s easy, everyone can come and gather and put it in the garden.”
Fertilizer is a byproduct from animal waste after fermentation in digestion. The biogas produced during fermentation is also free to refugees. Some use it for cooking. Like Katumbayi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Francine Kayamba said she uses biogas because it has the advantage of not producing smoke. If you put a pot on a biogas-burning stove, he said, it stays clean.
The UNHCR’s Water, Sanitation and Sanitation Unit in Zimbabwe said it started the project after it saw refugees struggling to dispose of animal waste in the camp.
“We are thinking about managing it in a good way now and then we are thinking about[of animal waste]as part of managing the biogas from the pig farming,” said Yuhei, a colleague at that unit. Honda said. “And this year, we started with a pilot project of this biogas system.”
The government hopes to receive more funding to expand the project to the refugee camp, which holds about 20,000 people.
“The biogas project is a cost-saving initiative aimed at ensuring that refugees have access to clean energy,” said Johan Mhlanga, administrator of the Tongogara Refugee Camp. “Refugees are integrated into a modern way of having (a) fuel or green energy. So for us it’s a shot in the arm for the population.”
Zimbabwe says the project will help reduce deforestation near the Tongogara camp. According to officials, Zimbabwe is losing 330,000 hectares of forest annually, some of it through deforestation for energy use.