This post was written by GE volunteer Kendra Sterneck.
Much of rural Colombia suffers from a lack of both economic opportunities and public services, including sanitation and electricity. Over 50% of the rural population cooks and/or lights their homes with dangerous biomass fuels that release toxic emissions harmful to human health and the environment. Green Empowerment has partnered with EL COMUN (a local NGO and member of the Colombian Biomass Energy Network [RedBioCol]), to work towards a sustainable solution to these environmental issues in the area of Santander in North-Central Colombia. The goal of this project is to improve rural livelihoods for members of EL COMUN’s rural workers’ associations in six municipalities by introducing 82 “turnkey” (complete and ready-to-use) pig husbandry systems. Installing a system includes providing training for beneficiaries, a pigpen, livestock, feed and biogas digesters (BGD).
As a result, families receiving the systems will be able to breed and raise pigs to sell and increase their income, while also saving money by using the waste gathered from cleaning the pens to produce organic effluent fertilizer (biol) and biogas that minimizes contamination and provides clean cooking fuel. Field days, workshops and agricultural training programs in the rural communities will provide experience to potential future adopters of BGD technology and promote EL COMUN’s sustainable agriculture and energy efforts, increasing the impact of the project even more.
Beneficiaries and their families have been key to the success of this project. Families participated in promotional events, field days, training sessions and their own installations, in addition to supporting workdays to prepare material kits for digester installations at nearby farms. In fact, families contributed unskilled labor and local materials that totaled to almost half of the installation costs.
After the biodigesters are installed, training activities in each municipality take place along with workshops that cover technical issues related to pig husbandry and nutrition and best practices for the use of fertilizer and biogas. To encourage best practices and further promote this technology, a user-friendly manual was distributed to local associations and beneficiaries.
With financial support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Christadelphian Meal-a-Day Fund of the Americas (CMDFA), the project met its goals. By March 2017, 88 families received complete systems and training. Furthermore, thanks to the beneficiaries and the support that EL COMUN has gained, local technicians have installed 18 more biodigesters for families who did not originally participate in the project.
Because of an increase in the price of pork, many families are preparing to expand their operations and raise more generations of pigs. Families have also reported positive outcomes on crop yields as a result of continued use of effluent fertilizers. This project has been a great success, and we look forward to seeing how the community continues to benefit from the use of biogas digesters and pig husbandry.