Friday, July 7, 2017

Bio-digesters in Wawashang

F2F Volunteer Vance Haugen leading a interactive
lecture on bio-digester design at the Wawashang School
From April 16 to May 1, two Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) volunteers traveled on assignment to Wawashang, a remote community in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. This assignment included the participation of Vance Haugen (a University of Wisconsin Extension professor specializing in biogas production) as well as James Rhode (Director of the 4-H Adventure Project in Crawford County, Wisconsin). Their dual assignment was part of Farmer-to-Farmer’s “Women & Youth in Agriculture” project and was done in partnership with local host FADCANIC (Fundación para la Autonomía y el Desarrollo de la Costa).

Mr. Haugen and Mr. Rohde’s assignment was centered on the implementation of bio-digesters systems for FADCANIC’s Wawashang School. Due to the school’s remote location, the administrators are actively trying to strengthen the institution’s self-sufficiency by generating all the food, energy (e.g. biogas), and agricultural inputs (e.g. fertilizers) it needs to function properly. The rural school currently consists of student dormitories, teacher quarters, classrooms, an administration building, a clinic, a woodworking shop, a set of solar panels, several plant nurseries, as well as a coconut, corn and cacao processing facility. The school also has in place a farm, where goats, pigs, chickens, horses and cows are raised. Currently, these set of farm animals produce significant amounts of manure, much of which is no being utilized. As such, the school requested two F2F volunteers that could assist them in implementing low-cost bio-digester systems that can harness the biogas and organic fertilizer produced from manure. Mr. Haugen and Mr. Rohde were the perfect team for this task.

As part of their assignment in Wawashang, the duo of volunteers conducted a series of lectures and hands-on trainings on how to design, build, operate, and maintain bio-digester systems. This included technical insights into the chemistry of the process, various fuel sources, different types and advantages, output use for fertilizer, as well as the environmental impact and benefits of such systems. In particular, the pair of volunteers identified two benefits that the school would obtain with a bio-digester system: 1) clean and reliable source of fuel for cooking (i.e. replacing wood burning stoves), and 2) the fact that digester effluent can be used as a readily available and nutrient-rich fertilizer. Through these presentations and workshops, a total of 6 FADCANIC teachers and 68 students were trained. In addition to helping to establish a bi-digester system for the school, the objective of these engagements was to incentivize faculty and pupils to duplicate these low-cost technologies in their respective villages and farms.

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