A visit to biogas project supported by SNV

Sustainable development is a global challenge. According to The Conversation (https://theconversation.com/is-it-possible-for-everyone-to-live-a-good-life-within-our-planets-limits-91421), there isn’t any country in the world meet the requirements of sustainable development. Vietnam, however, surprisingly, is the country closest to the requirements. (Whoever we had shared this information with couldn’t believe it).

This draws attention of NRC Handelsblad – a Dutch newspaper. Coming to Hanoi to attend the World Economic Forum, Anne carried an additional assignment from the newspaper. It’s to find a reliable story about this in Vietnam.

Anne asked my help on this and translation in the visit, and we’ve both checked and contacted various resources and channels. In which, we’ve selected two stories to visit/interview. However, in following content, I’ll only share about our visit to Vietnam Biogas Programme by SNV: http://www.snv.org/project/vietnam-biogas-programme

We were so fortunate to receive great support from SNV. They helped us to:

  • select and identify best/nearest place to visit

  • process the permit with Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and local police office at the area we would visit (Gia Lam district)

  • arrange the visit for us for free

In this visit, we received direct supports from:

  • Mr. Bastiaan Teune – Energy Sector Leader at SNV Vietnam

  • Ms. Ha Nguyen – Renewable Energy Consultant at SNV Vietnam

  • Mr. Duc Le – Leader at Biogas Project Vietnam

Accompanied us in the visit in the afternoon of Sep 13, 2018, there were Bastiaan and Ha. They invited us to visit their office and gave us a brief demonstration about the project. We then continued our conversation in the car to the project site. And Bastiaan was so open and willing to answer any question we had. When I asked him about what are their biggest challenges in biogas project, his answers were: 1) the biggest challenge is the meat price decreased, this made the farmers not much profitable and made them less interested in building a biogas tank; 2) training the older farmers to use their app for biogas project on smart phone – but this one is more fixable.

They also invited Mr. Tan – the chief mason who had done a lot of biogas tank construction projects supported by SNV. Mr. Tam drove his motorbike for a distance of 55km from his place at Soc Son district to the place we visited: Co Giang village, Le Chi commune, Gia Lam district.

We visited 4 families here: 3 already have biogas tanks and 1 is about to build it.

The 1st family has two mother pigs and two cows. They are among the first ones have the biogas tank installed in this village 3 years ago. How did they hear about it? At that time the speaker system of the village announced about the “Biogas Program for the Animal Husbandry Sector in Vietnam”, in which each family would be funded 1 million VND and a gas stove after the construction is finished and tested if they would join the program. The total investment to build a 18m3 biogas tank was 20 million VND. It means his family still need to pay for 19 million VND remaining. Though for a farmer’s family it was a big amount, they still invested for it. And then for them, it was well worth it.

C, the head of the family said: “Before the biogas tank was built, it took us lots of time for cooking. We had to collect the wood and burning them to cook. They were corn plant or anything we could find on the field. After having the biogas tank, we didn’t have to spend time for it anymore. We just need to open the stove to use the gas. The gas is enough for us to cook for whole day. It’s clean, save us money and effort”.

At the 2nd family, we met K. Her husband passed away 9 years ago, leaving her raising 2 children on her own. That was the reason she couldn’t afford to build the biogas tank earlier. It was built on Oct 2017, together with other facilities such as kitchen and pigsty. As the person in charge of the Women’s Union of the village, she is the one usually come to other families to campaign about building biogas tank, but it didn’t make sense when she herself hadn’t done it. The biogas tank had solved for her 2 major problems. Before she trashed the pig shit to the trench along the road of the village, it was both consuming her time and affected to cleanliness of the village, and people complained about it. It also took her lots of time for cooking, she usually cooked by burning rice husks. To cook a pot of food for the pigs, she need to come back from time to time to check and putting more rice husks. Having the biogas tank, she doesn’t have to trash the pig shit anymore, and when cook the food for the pigs, she just need to come back to check after 30 minutes, unlike before.

The 3rd family is the one who about to build the biogas tank. Q – head of the family, was convinced by the Farmer’s Union about benefits of having biogas tank, as well as seeing example of his neighbor – K, he had decided they would construct the biogas tank in the next couple of days.

At the 4th location, we met a farmer at the age of 27. The farm he is taking care of belong to his parents, who live at a different house. He stays at the farm whole day to take care of a garden planting fruits, 50 pigs and more than 100 chickens. It was a fascinating experience when we stepped into the garden to check the outlet of the biogas tank, we were immediately welcomed by 100 chickens. H – the farmer – showed us a small signboard stating that this construction was done by construction workers who were certificated by “Biogas Program for the Animal Husbandry Sector in Vietnam”.

Vietnam currently has around 4 million households raising pigs, 2.5 million households raising cows. However, there are total of only around 500,000 households have biogas tank installed, it is still a long way to go. We wish that there will be more and more effort and investment in installing biogas tank to reduce emission of carbon dioxide and protect the environment.

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