It was a day of joy for the rural community of Rije in Kuje area council of the FCT, when Ajima Farms launched the biogas digester off-grid energy project, which provided the people whose community has never seen electricity with 20kws of biogas of electrification. Ruth Tene Natsa writes.
Rije community with a population of about 550 persons from 29 households has been without light since its existence as a community in the Kuje area council of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Their fate was in spite of all the cries and efforts of the residents to make government bring electricity to them.
Community members who spoke to our correspondent said that prior to the project, darkness was all the community knew and grappled with several security issues at night, and not even power to charge their phones was available. All these have now abruptly changed as Ajima Farms has provided the community with 20kws, through its biogas digester off-grid energy project.
The people lamented that prior to the completion of the project they depended on bush lanterns, touch lights and bonfires to wade of the darkness, disclosing that only one shop in the community had a generator to which community members who have mobile phones throng to pay N40 to recharge the batteries on a daily basis.
Expressing his appreciations, the community head of Rije (Sarkin Rije), Ibrahim Kuyagwa said “We have been crying for electricity in this community, going up and down asking government to give us light to no avail. There was a high tension cable that passed through the community to the Capital Science School, but it was all to no avail, until Ajima Farms came and developed this project.”
The Ajima Farm mini grid project is an initiative of the Power Africa Initiative, funded by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) at a cost of $150,000 grant for the construction of Rije and Kuwizhi biogas plants, through the conversion of bio-waste, sourced from Ajima Farms and other surrounding poultry farms into biogas. The technology has a meter system that is independent of that of the power distribution companies, which allows the community members to pay only for what they pay consume.
Speaking on her inspiration for the project, coordinator of Ajima Farms and a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, Fatima Oyiza, Ademoh said “I think I am someone that likes solving problems. We owned a farm and we were confronted with two problems, which included agricultural waste disposal and also surrounded by communities like Rije that were not connected to the national Grid and as such had no access to electricity.”
She said they started looking at how they could solve the two issues, which led to the birth of the biogas technology, to convert the farm waste to power.
On her next project, she said “We are in Kuwizhi already, 10 minutes away from Rije where we have a project under construction to be completed within the next two months. It is also a biogas to power system for 10kws. Upon completion, over 30 households and 10 small businesses will be connected to the mini grid.
“We intend replicating these models across all communities that have the potentials for waste and also adopting other forms of biomass technology, adding that “if we go to a community and it is a river they have we can do a mini hydro system; if it is solar we can use solar; and if it is waste, we can use the biogas,” she said.
On the sourcing of their waste materials, Ademoh said “We get waste from commercial farms and we also have bins in communities that also help us get waste from the community which the youths bring on site, so the whole operation is organised by youths within the community and they also help operate the biogas tractor.”
She said one of the biggest challenges to the success of the project is that of logistics as the community has poor access roads that makes it expensive to operate from there. “Currently we have about 45 per cent of Nigerians not connected to the national grid and a lot of these are rural communities like Rije, so most cities are connected, except that they have epileptic power supply, so we are concerned more with the communities that are not having access to power.
“Biogas is a clean energy and Nigeria has the potential because of the sheer waste we generate,” she said. The government can partner with private companies through public private partnerships (PPP) to deploy this at a larger scale. Recalling that during her fellowship in California, USA, she had seen one-three mega watts of biogas supplying power to and that Nigeria can replicate that.
On the registration of the project she said “Because the project is less than a 100mws we do not need to get a license from government but then two weeks ago the government passed the mini grid regulation which had different options for projects like ours to register and we will be exploring those options.”
Ademoh assured that the project had no side effects because the farm followed all the conventions in terms of siting. “Our approach is using the biogas technology, which is basically converting agricultural and communal waste from within the vicinity to biogas, and that biogas is then cleaned and powers biogas generators aimed at increasing access to affordable off grid electricity in the community.
“As proven large volume of agricultural and other organic waste is extremely dangerous for the environment and also for the people within the vicinity. The composition of this waste leads to the release of methane into the atmosphere which is about 24 times more dangerous than carbon-dioxide,” she said.
Ademoh further stated that “the Waste2Watts Project has three components including energy generation, clean cooking solution (using biogas fuels for cooking instead of firewood) and energy efficiency through the use of energy saver bulbs to reduce the pressure on the system which is also more efficient as compared to the use of conventional bulbs.”
She maintained that some of the social impacts of the W2W are access to social services such as the automated water system, security, poverty alleviation through capacity building and knowledge transfer, employment generation as it leads to small businesses such as barbing salons and a milling plants, education, and also provides an opportunity for the farmers to add value to their products through storage and milling.
Also speaking, regional director, United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF), Tom Coogan who is also responsible for the Power Africa Off-grid Energy and the YALI Youths Special Initiative said projects like the Ajima Farms Biogas Digester Off-grid Energy Project is a part of the US government initiative for power Africa.
He said the Initiative has 12 agencies participating in 9 African countries including Nigeria which is their largest programme.
The development expert said funding for the project came from U.S. tax payers’ dollars. “What we do is fund economic development projects including agriculture, power, off- grid energy and youths entrepreneurship projects.”
Coogan further said that “We have a large project in Nigeria, including the North and Niger-delta and different parts of the country, particularly with power and youth.”
He added that the project was a sustainable enterprise because when it is finished it will be able to generate funds. He said they have been able to give community electricity which has probably up to 99 per cent reliability and can be replicated.
“The USADF policy is that we invest in Africa, ideas for Africa’s solutions.” Noting that the operation of biogas was an idea brought by Ajima Farms, and that the farm designed their project. He thanked Ajima Farms for the idea and concepts and for making the project happen.
Speaking on the project, he described it as “taking agricultural and other waste, separating the gas and using it to run the generators, while the compost can be used for other purposes such as cooking, generator power and electricity”
“Yes there is a cost to running biogas but it is far less than any generator. It can be used not only for household purposes but for productive activities and agricultural processing among others,” he added
Also speaking, an environmentalist, and national coordinator of the African Environmental Action Network, Christiana Aduku congratulated the community and Ajima Farms assuring that similar projects will be carried out elsewhere with a view to having alternatives to the current power from the national grid.
According to her, “The use of waste products will go a long way to help in addressing Nigerian power challenges, noting that instead of throwing out dirts such as kitchen waste, it can be better be used to generate electricity. The biogas technology has little or no effect on the environment.” She said bio-waste it can be used for energy generation and also as fertilizer; while also saving the community members the task of cutting down trees for firewood that lead to climate effects.
“It has come to alleviate the sufferings of the rural women, as they do not have to wake up early in the morning, risking their lives in search of firewood.”
She added that the biogas technology is clean and has no effect on the air, the environment or even get into the eye as firewood does.”