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Bio-Digester pilot project launched

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, March 6
Representatives of USAID and the Georgian Government opened a biogas digester in the village of Naoza on Thursday. Construction of the digester started in 2007 at the farm of Dimitri Muzashvili. The bio-digester was installed there as part of a demonstration project funded by USAID’s Rural Energy Programme and implemented by Winrock International.

A bio-digester converts livestock waste and other organic matter into methane gas through environmentally-friendly processes. It can be used to cook, heat and produce dairy products. According to the representatives of USAID’s Rural Energy Programme, the conversion process also produces high-quality fertilizer in addition to methane gas. The digester helps save money on energy by enabling farmers to create their own fertilizer and conserve the environment by reducing the overall production of greenhouse gasses.

The Rural Energy Programme has installed 7 bio-digesters in different regions of Georgia, including Racha, Adjara and Adigheni. Each of the digesters cost about USD 2,500. USAID contributed 80% of the cost of the Naoza bio-digester, the other 20% being contributed by the farmer in labour and in-kind contributions.

The Muzashvili family has 4 cows, 8 pigs and 20 piglets, who emit enough manure to fill a 6 m? digester, which now produces between 1 and 1.5 m? of usable gas daily. The family uses it for cooking and the production of dairy products. Muzashvili said he also uses the fertilizer which is left after digestion of the manure. “Thank you for implementing such a huge and glorious project. It is not only about producing energy, it is about health also. The digester does several things at the same time,” Muzashvili said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony the acting Mission Director Joakim Parker outlined the advantages of the bio-digester. He said the project is important not only for one family but “for Georgia as a state.” He called the project “a patriotic act” which will promote stability and energy security in the country.

“The purpose of the project was to install and test a new design, based on factory-produced bio-digesters, which, as we proved here, actually works very well,” Horst Meinecke, the head of USAID’s Rural Energy Programme, said. Meinecke said bio-digesters contribute greatly to a reduction in wood-fuel use, by harnessing the methane gas contained in animal wastes. “In the process animal and other organic wastes which can pollute the water supply and render it unusable for drinking and cooking are being made harmless through a natural, no-chemicals-added process, and this is how the Muzashvili family not only saves wood for cooking and heating, but uses much cleaner burning gas,” he noted. Meinecke said the owners of the bio-digesters save their money and energy, as well as the environment. “This is a real win-win situation,” he added.

Deputy Energy Minister of Georgia Marika Valishvili, who was also present at the ceremony, said this could become a much bigger project. “I am happy that this project has been implemented so close to Tbilisi. I think it is absolutely necessary that more of these kind of projects are fulfilled in Georgia. Everyone should help develop this project,” Valishvili noted.