In “Local Innovation Facilitates Solidarity-Based Biogas Networks in Cuba,” IPS reports on an initiative aiming to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside with biodigesters. See full article at Caribbean 360.
Most of the biodigesters designed by López have been built as part of the Biomás Cuba project, which is coordinated by the state-run Indio Hatuey Experimental Pasture and Forage Station, located in the province of Matanzas, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
This initiative, which seeks to bring about energy sustainability in the Cuban countryside, provides part of the inputs, while the producer provides another part, to build the biodigester, which with fixed-dome technology is expensive because it requires a large volume of building materials but is compensated with distribution and 40 years of durability.
López estimated that his 10-cubic-meter biodigester costs the equivalent of $1,000 in Cuba, but with an efficiency equal to that of a standard 15-cubic-metre biodigester. Less profitable are the polyethylene biodigesters, which cost about 800 dollars, serve just one home and have a useful life of up to 10 years.
So far, 10 biodigesters have been built with this local innovation in four localities of Cabaiguán: El Colorado (two), Ojo de Agua (one), Juan González (six) and La Macuca (one), which supply 102 homes and improved the lives of 600 people, saving 65 per cent of electricity consumption per household.
And the technology was also replicated in Matanzas, although the engineer lamented the lukewarm reception by decision-makers with respect to the biodigester, which could contribute to the national plan for renewable energies to provide 24 per cent of electric power by 2030, compared to just four per cent today.
In well-equipped corrals, Pons keeps between 100 and 150 pigs behind his house as part of an agreement between state companies and private producers that in 2017 produced a record 194,976 tons, which did not, however, meet the demand of the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. And that total was apparently not surpassed in 2018.
“Three years ago I had a big mess with animal waste, until I sought advice and began to make biogas,” recalled the producer, who is supported by Biomás. “We are working on expanding the corrals so that another biodigester can benefit 15 more families, who have already been selected.”
After lighting the gas stove in his kitchen, Diaz, a homemaker, explained that “cooking food like this is faster, it’s wonderful… I used to cook with an electric hotplate and pressure cooker, but they were almost always broken,” she said.
The network reaches the modest home of Denia Santos and her family, who live next door to Pons. “Now I cook with biogas and I also use it to boil (disinfect) towels and bedding, something I did with firewood that I would chop up myself,” said Santos, who takes care of her mentally disabled son.
Other benefits described by families who have biogas are that it is a better way to cook food for their animals and boil water for human consumption, and that it generates a stronger sense of community as everyone is responsible for maintaining the biodigester.
José Antonio Guardado, national coordinator of the Movement of Biogas Users, which emerged in 1983 and today has more than 3,000 members spread throughout almost all of Cuba’s provinces, said he was happy with the trend in Cuban agriculture to create solidarity biogas networks.
Guardado told IPS that there is “greater awareness, political support and participative activities in the context of local development,” although obstacles to distribution persist because “materials in the market are not optimal, sufficient or affordable” and “there is a lack of institutional infrastructure to provide this service in an integrated manner.”
Meanwhile, in El Cano, outside of Havana, the solidarity plans of farmer Hortensia Martínez have come to a halt despite the fact that she used her own resources to build a biodigester with a traditional fixed 22-cubic-meter dome on her La China farm, to supply the farm itself and share with five neighbouring homes.
“Now I plan to give it a boost, but we haven’t been able to implement it because we don’t have the connections to the community’s houses and it has valves, special faucets and a type of hose that makes it possible to bury the network underground,” the farmer, who is well-known for her community projects, especially targeting children, told IPS.