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Clean energy from pig dung

Chea Vannak / Khmer Times Share:
The biogas digester on Sen Vichet’s pig farm in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisei district. KT/Chea Vannak

For months on end, pig farmer Seng Vichet had problems forking out enough money to meet his monthly electricity bill. The cooling system in his farm, in Kampong Speu’s Kong Pisei district, that holds 1,200 pigs per slaughtering cycle used to chalk up a whopping $800 to $1,000 per month power bill.

That however changed last year when Mr Vichet installed biogas digesters that converted pig dung into biogas that could be used for lighting and cooking. The leftover slurry, he found out, was also an excellent organic fertiliser for crops.

“My electricity bill has come down by more than 50 percent and my neighbours have also stopped complaining about the foul-smelling dung from my farm,” Mr Vichet told Khmer Times.

“Now, I save so much. I use the energy generated from the biogas digester to run the cooling system for my pigs.

“I also use the biogas for cooking and the slurry as fertiliser for my crops and also for my neighbours’,” he added.

Mr Vichet’s pig farm is one of the two farms in the National Biodigester Programme (NBP) in Kampong Speu province which has partnered the EU-funded Medium Scale Biodigester Innovation for Small Environments project. The NBP is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in cooperation with the Cambodia Climate Change Alliance and the EU.

“Biogas digesters reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from the pig dung fermentation no longer escapes into the air and is used instead as an energy source,” said Lam Saoleng, programme coordinator at the NBP.

“The leftover slurry does not cause soil degradation as chemical fertilisers and has a higher nutritional value than normal animal manure,” she added.

Despite the environmental and financial benefits of using biogas digesters, Ms Saoleng said that there was still some way to go before they are used widely in pig farms around the country.

“At present, biogas digesters are only feasible for large-scale pig farms because the cost to build one is high – anything from $25,000 upwards,” she pointed out.

“Farmers also lack the understanding to fully comprehend the usefulness of these biogas digesters and financial support is limited. For that reason, we could only convince two pig farms in Kampong Speu to install them.”

But Phuong Dara, NBP’s medium scale biodigester program chairman, is optimistic of the project’s success.

“We are considering a third pig farm in Kampong Speu province to be added to the project,” said Mr Dara.

“Farms need to have between 600 to 1,000 pigs to be eligible to be in the project. There are not many big farms and that is why the number, currently, is small,” he added.

Mr Dara said there were farmers in 14 provinces who were also using biogas digesters but were not in the EU-supported project.

“The NBP is working to educate farmers in communities on the benefits of using the slurry from biogas digesters. There are more than 40 farmers using the slurry from the two project pig farms in Kampong Speu,” he said.

According to Mr Dara, the NBP is also working with cattle farmers and encouraging them to install biogas digesters to generate clean, sustainable energy.

Over a 10-year period from 2006-2016, the NBP has helped install 25,383 biodigesters throughout the country that benefitted about 140,000 farmers.

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