They say they have no soap to wash their school uniforms, they have no money for schoolbooks, they have no food to eat; they cannot go to school in dirty clothes, with no books and no food in their bellies.
This is what most scavengers of a school-going age at dumpsites will tell you to justify their absence from school. Initiatives have been made to get these children back in school and progress has been made through their identification and raising awareness.
But maybe there is another way to look at the problem; maybe it’s not just about removing the children from the dumpsite; what if we could remove the dumpsite from the children?
My name is Edith Malemba, I am 18 years old and currently live in Bunda on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. I am a third year student at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), pursuing a BSc in Environmental Sciences.
One of the courses I’ve done is Innovation Systems in Environmental Management, and this is where I was first introduced to biogas technology.
The principle is really simple. All you have to do is get the wastes (the fuel) in an airtight container (digester) with water and let anaerobic decomposition take place. Decomposition will produce biogas, which is mostly methane, and an effluent.
The biogas can be collected and used for domestic use such as lighting, heating and cooling. It has also been used for transportation in parts of Asia. The effluent is also important since it can be used as organic manure.
Biogas technology reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces pollution, and, most importantly, provides farmers with an alternative fertilizer source that may be less harmful to the environment. Another important aspect of this technology is the fact that all sorts of organic wastes can be used; from municipal wastes to agricultural wastes.
The first stage would be to run a short term trial that could last for two months or less. This would be done in villages near the LUANAR institution so that wastes from the institution could be used as fuel.
Biogas units would be built locally and assigned to specific households where their performance and maintenance would be monitored throughout the trial period. This would allow for any issues that may arise from the use of the units or the design of the units to be effectively dealt with.
The next stage would be to modify the technology for use on a larger scale, like the Lilongwe city dump site. The main product here would be the effluent which would be sold at affordable prices as organic fertilizer.
The biogas could also be harnessed to provide alternative electricity source to the communities around the dumpsite.
All this would lead to the introduction of a new market of biogas technology and subsequently, organic fertilizer.
And of course, the children from communities around the landfills would be denied a dumpsite as their playground. School would increasingly be viewed as the only viable pass time.
- Purchasing materials for biogas units two weeks, USD 2,300
- Installation/labor two weeks, USD 500
- Fertilizer production throughout trial after installation, USD1,000
- Maintenance throughout operation, USD 1,000
- Data collection throughout operation, USD 200
Biogas technology cannot only save the environment but it also has the potential to save a child from the pits of poverty.
Income generated from fertilizer sells can be used to help the children so they become educated and productful members of society.
Also the cheaper energy source can be used to find a way of generating extra income.
Basically, incorporation of the technology to deal with municipal wastes can prove to be useful in opening up of new markets.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Edith Malemba (Malawi): emalemba30[at]gmail.com
Illustration courtesy of Dr A Sajidas
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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