GFAR blog

YAP proposal #273: Biogas from Municipal Wastes (Edith Malemba, Malawi)

IMG_20160308_012624They 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]

Illustration courtesy of Dr A Sajidas 

 The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.


This post is published as proposal #273 of “YAP” – our “Youth Agripreneur Project”.

The first selection of the winners will be based on the number of comments, likes and views each proposal gets.

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Have a look at the other “YAP” proposals too!

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“YAP” is part of the #GCARD3 process, the third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development.

38 thoughts on “YAP proposal #273: Biogas from Municipal Wastes (Edith Malemba, Malawi)”

  1. This is a good innovation Edith. I am specially inspired by your project which borders around provision of clean energy solutions to communities which are usually not connected to the national grid. Much as you did not mention it, I notice that your project is well aligned with SDG7 and it fits in well within the continuum of the UN championed SE4ALL goal. Add to that, you intend to produce organic manure which will enhance sustainable agricultural production practices. Now, that, is Agripreneurship. Bravo Edith! And all the best.

    1. Thanks Lovemore, I honestly didn’t think about the SDG7 or SE4ALL link until now but it totally works. Wish I’d done a bit more research now but I was mostly thinking of a way to deal with our landfill problem

  2. Nice…very innovative and out of the box thinking. Great way to help with the country’s economy too

    1. Oh it is practical, just needs all the resources to start off. Plus you can help out too

  3. this is very productive and attacking the problems we are having with the youth of today, literally our youth, the leaders of tomorrow require education. without a steady n clean environment they cannot attain there true potential… I support what you have said and wish to hear more on this matter.

    1. Thank you. That’s very true, the right environment is required for proper and effective learning. I hope to give our youth such an environment, or atleast improve on the current one

  4. this is very productive and attacking the problems we are having with the youth of today, literally our youth, the leaders of tomorrow require education. without a steady n clean environment they cannot attain their true potential… I support what you have said and wish to hear more on this matter.

  5. Edith’s proposal is encompassing addressing all critical issues affecting Malawi.
    Environment, education, health, agriculture, child labour and energy. Malawi needs biogas as a solution to these problems.

    1. Thank you for the support. I hope this project will help on paving the way for a better Malawi, with better education, better environment, better agricultural practises

  6. A great idea and is very likey to tackle several problems, on a community and national scale if to be implemented. The materials needed to produce the biogas is increasingly available all around us and so it cannot be costly, this project could eventually help clean up the city as it expands, less children passing time in dump sites and other places rather than being in school.
    It’s quite simple but will benefit society in many ways, good call.

    1. Thanks,, that’s the idea, keep the kids in school while simultaneously improving the economy on a community level going up

  7. I really like our idea miss…indeed your projects can help in dealing with this problem of school going age children who are found at landfills instead of going to school, and also it can help in dealing with various diseases which occur as a result of this landfills.

  8. This sounds like a great idea, not only will it help the children and the environment but also the economy. The amount of new jobs this would create would alow families to send the children to school.

    1. Thanks. Yea, the jobs created would really have an impact on the country’s economy too

  9. miss big up I gat ma fellow classmate who have the same Idea currently at poly he want to produce energy from biomass If I can rink u two together u can rery do some thing this is ma email address

  10. This proposal is informative, self explanatory and has great idealism behind it. Most of the problems faced at both community and national level in Malawi can be dealt with if this is implemented. This concept highlights some of the alternatives that can be implemented using locally available resources to help yield benefits that can spread to the nation as a whole.

    As pointed out in the proposal, fertilizer with high nutritive value will be provided from the process. It is a well known fact that food insecurity is one of the major problems in this country. Even though 90% of the Malawian population practice subsistence farming, most of the farmers lack inputs such as fertilizer needed for the production of food and this in turn limits the generation of income. by implementing this idea we can be assured that some community have the means to get something for their bellies.

    1. Thanks, I really hope the organic fertilizer produced will help, and intend to make it as affordable as possible

  11. Nice work my niece. This is a clearly innovative solution to waste management problem in Malawi. However, I do not think that taking out dump sites will automatically send the children who ‘scavenge’ there to school. Other poverty-reduction focused interventions would be required.

    1. Ofcourse it won’t happen automatically, but it’s just another way of enhancing the already existing measures that were put in place to send the children to school. It can be used together with other measures

  12. Edith that is very innovative! As a child health nurse I am impressed that you have thought of a way to remove a health risk from the children, preventing disease and promoting physical health on one hand as well as their intellectual capacity. This will also empower the communities around in various ways! Great work Edith!!

  13. This project is beneficial to the communities surrounding the damping sites mainly in disease prevention and health promotion. Absentisms among school going children will be reduced and eventually these children will grow up to be productive citizens of Malawi.

  14. Congratulations, Edith Malemba! It’s nice to see someone who is standing out from the crowd. I’m sure you are an inspiration for many young talents like you. Keep up the good work! The waste management is a viral global problem and the planet needs ideas like yours. Hats off and good luck 🙂

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