SimGas makes biogas accessible for East Africans

SimGas makes biogas accessible for East AfricansIn 2009, Mirik and his brother Sanne Castro launched ‘SimGas’, incepted to make biogas systems fit for domestic application. Early summer 2012 SimGas opened doors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, quickly followed by Nairobi, Kenya in January of this year. “We bring affordable biogas solutions to small farmers in tropical and subtropical climates.”

“Biogas itself isn’t new,” Mirik Castro admits. But the approach that SimGas takes to it, is. “In countries where we operate, biogas systems conventionally take on the shape and size of an igloo; making them expensive and cumbersome to build. SimGas introduced a both small-scale and scalable system, pre-manufactured and adapted for households. The installation, carried out by one of our fifty service staff, takes one day, compared to six weeks for a conventional system.”

According to Mirik, internationally, markets for biogas are well-established. But in East Africa only well-known as a solution. Which makes both Tanzania and Kenya prone to innovations like that of SimGas. Together, these countries hold 2.5 million families that own at least one piece of cattle. It’s the potential clientele of SimGas. “But we’re not limited to Tanzania and Kenya alone. Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia and Rwanda are soon to follow.”

Cost-effectiveness

The system, once configured and its users trained by SimGas, produces gas reserves sufficient to cook three times a day. “Manure and organic waste are deposited and through a fermentation process, by bacteria converted into methane gas. Methane gas is fit for cooking and lighting, and a by-product can be used for fertilisation. Moreover, our system’s cost-effectiveness is twofold – it’s affordable because it is small, and a family’s supply of waste is indefinite and free of charge.”

And plainly put, money is what clients of SimGas are in need of: “The lower a family’s income is, the more is spent on fuel in relative terms. The lowest income levels spend as much as 30 – 40 per cent of their disposable income on fuel. Because of our extensive cooperation with farmers’ cooperatives and Micro Finance Institutions, lower income groups take out a loan to purchase our system. Their gain from not having to buy fuel, exceeds the repayment of principal plus interest. Thus allowing the farmer to reinvest and effect growth.”

Eliminating Africa’s 1 cause of death

But more than just delivering an affordable product, SimGas impacts families far beyond their financial constraints: “Most people are unaware that cooking on charcoal and wood is the number-one cause of death in Africa, even before HIV/AIDS and malaria. Mostly women and children are victims of toxic gasses inhaled when burning fires indoors.” Deforestation, then, driven by a high demand for wood, cuts down on Africa’s forests by 1 – 2 per cent per year. And CO2 emission caused by traditional cooking methods, aggravates the greenhouse effect as felt around the world. “Our biogas system eliminates these threats.”

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