Cooking over an open fire is dangerous. Every year, millions of people are killed by toxic smoke, mainly women and children. In Bangladesh and Nepal, biogas stoves help to protect their health.
A small house near the town of Jessore in Bangladesh: "Cooking has become so much easier," says Sheuli Begum and leads us to her kitchen. She turns the stove on and lights the gas; she puts the pan on the heat and then pours oil into it. The gas is produced in the concrete biogas plant behind the house, and the required raw material is provided by the cows grazing there.
"I have to fill the plant once a day with 80 kilos of cow dung and water," says the 26-year-old. This produces enough gas to prepare three warm meals a day. Cooking has become a pleasure.
Before, it used to be a burden: "I had to collect wood and cow dung every day, make the fire and wait for the embers to reach the right heat. And I often sat in the smoke, coughing and with watery eyes," the mother of two children remembers. Her new, efficient stove, however, is clean and soot free.
More victims than through VIH and malaria
As Sheuli Begum used to do in Bangladesh, three billion people around the globe are still preparing their meals on open fires or with inefficient stoves. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 4.3 million people lose their lives every year because of toxic household smoke – these emissions therefore cause more deaths than HIV and Malaria combined.
In addition, women in particular spend thousands of unproductive hours searching for firewood. In many regions, firewood is increasingly hard to find. Finally, the soot of hundreds of millions of cooking fires severely pollutes the air. Efficient stoves, on the other hand, protect the health of women and children in particular, save time and money and reduce the pressure on environment and climate.
For these reasons, KfW Development Bank, acting on behalf of the German Federal Government, promotes the distribution of biogas stoves for cooking in Bangladesh and Nepal. Sheuli Begum's biogas plant is one of in the meantime 35,000 installed plants in Bangladesh; by the end of 2016, this number is to rise to 50,000.
In Bangladesh, KfW cooperates with the local government, World Bank and other development partners. While World Bank provides the loans, KfW subsidises the project with 8.6 million euro. The project-executing agency, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), uses these funds to cover programme costs, a refinancing line for microcredits and construction cost subsidies, which lower the price of biogas plants for the users by 25 to 30 per cent.
At 28,000 taka, around 280 euro, the plant used by Sheuli Begum is still expensive; after all, the monthly household income in rural areas is around 150 euro, says Matthias Schmidt-Rosen, responsible at KfW for the biogas project in Bangladesh.
"A biogas plant is a major investment for our customers.This is why we first have to convince them."
"We made a downpayment of 40 euro and took a loan out for the rest", tells Sheuli Begum. She now also sells bags of slag from her biogas plant as fertilizer to her neighbours, thus earning her own money.
The loan was granted to Sheuli Begum by Grameen Shakti. This is one of around two dozen NGOs commissioned with the distribution of biogas plants by the project partner IDCOL.
The consultants of Grameen Shakti provide the people with information about the advantages of biogas, give loans for the purchase, commission the construction of the plants, oversee the construction and ensure their maintenance.
"A biogas plant is a major investment for our customers. We therefore have to convince them first that it will save them money and time in the long term, and that it will protect the health of the women. Many of our customers find that very abstract at first," says Motiul Islam of Grameen Shakti.
To have the consultant on site is an advantage – also in terms of maintenance. He visits his customers personally to collect the monthly loan payments. "If they have any technical issues, they can ask me directly; and if I don't know what to do, I can contact the biogas plant specialist", says Motiul Islam.
Sheuli Begum used this help when condensed water collected in the pipe. She is now able to resolve the problem herself. "It was very important for us to ensure the customers have access to technical expertise," says Matthias Schmidt-Rosen.
If this technical assistance is not provided, the efficiency and consequently also the acceptance of the technology is negatively affected. An experience KfW made in Nepal, for instance. A biogas project had already been initiated here in 1996, but some regions were difficult to get to for a long time because of the civil war.
"When it was possible to get there again, we found that many plants had not been checked and maintained and were therefore no longer efficient," says Mira Platzöder, responsible at KfW for the biogas project in Nepal.
In the meantime, residual funds were used to rehabilitate plants that are older than ten years. The maintenance of the more recent plants is funded by the Nepalese government via the Clean Development Mechanism.
While plant manufacturers had initially shown little interest in maintenance agreements, they have now discovered them as an additional source of income.
This article has been published in the CHANCEN magazine, "Heat" edition, spring/summer 2015.To German edition
In total, the project-executing agency in Nepal, the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, has already provided around 300,000 plants. "We have reached our objective of promoting the use of clean and climate-friendly biogas stoves in Nepal," says Mira Platzöder.
Published on KfW Stories: Tuesday, 21 March 2017
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Health is the goal, prerequisite and result of sustainable development. Supporting health is a humanitarian requirement – both in developed and developing countries. Around 39 per cent of the worldʼs population lives without health insurance. In poor countries, this amount even exceeds 90 per cent. Many people still die from diseases that are not necessarily fatal with the right treatment, or that could easily be prevented with vaccinations. Strengthening health systems, particularly by making vaccines widely available, can make it possible for us to drive these diseases back and even eradicate them by 2030.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.