Sistema.bio started off with the whole world in mind. While we installed the first biodigesters in Mexico, we were already dreaming of our future and thinking of ways to escalate our impact around the globe. And day by day that dream becomes more of a reality. Now we have offices in Mexico, Kenya, India and Colombia, and our biogas systems are working for different farms in Canada, Philippines and now, thanks to Comboni Missionaries and Caritas, South Sudan.
This particular adventure started off when Comboni Missionaries invited Sistema.bio Kenya to install three biogas systems in Old Fangak, a small town in South Sudan. Last year a group of our Kenyan technicians flew past the border to meet the Comboni Missionaries in Juba, and from there flew in a bush plane and crossed the Nile river in a boat with all the equipment necessary for the installation of three biodigesters. After meeting the farmers, explaining the concept of biogas and conducting surveys of the farms suggested by the Comboni Missionaries, the farmers were selected and the installation and training begun. Our technicians spent two weeks in the field, camping in the bush and working closely with farmers and volunteers in the village.
Now, after seeing the benefits of the biodigesters and the impact they’ve had on the lives of the farmers, we were asked to return and install another three biogas systems in the village. In this visit we also had the chance to visit the first group of farmers and monitor the biodigesters we installed last year, and we were glad to see that they were all still functioning and that the farmers were very happy with their systems -they have even stepped up their sustainability game by installing rainwater harvesting systems!
Both these ventures were complicated because of the remoteness of Old Fangak, not to mention the logistical and technical issues that arise when moving our heavy equipment through rivers and unpaved roads, but the rewards have been all the more gratifying.
South Sudan is a very hot country with a complicated history and a complex society. It also has a very high level of deforestation, which is one of the reasons we are so interested in working with South Sudanese farmers. Firewood is still the main fuel used for cooking in rural areas, which farmers begin by getting from their own compounds. And when the wood in their compounds runs out, it’s the forests that start suffering. We want to stop that. By replacing solid fuels with biogas, we want to contribute not only to farmer sustainability but to ecosystem protection as well.
When we arrived at Old Fangak, our project was not only very easily introduced but very well received. What’s more, the work done by our technicians was eye-opening for the whole community. In a society where gender roles are still very strict, seeing Veronica, one of our best technicians, do as much of the hard work as the men was very surprising. After the biodigester installation was finished, our technicians stayed for a couple more days to train local farmers in system maintenance, and we were happy to hear that a lot of women joined. Every day we learn a new aspect of the gender sphere of our impact. We know that in rural areas women and girls are in charge of water and firewood collection, and we know that, being the ones in charge of cooking, they are the most affected by indoor pollution caused by smoke. But ventures like this one show us that the work done by our female technicians, sales representatives and maintenance providers also have an impact on the societies we work with. At Sistema.bio, we want to build societies that work for everyone, and we are very excited by the prospect of contributing to a more equal, more sustainable world.
This new partnership resulted in the installation of six Sistema.8 biodigesters, which are just perfect for small farmers with domestic energy demands. Fed daily with manure from up to 3 cows, the system allows for 3 cubic meters of gas, just enough for cooking three meals a day. More importantly, this venture has proved once again that biogas is the perfect technology for farm sustainability, and that it improves lives on several different levels. Since then, a lot more farmers have expressed their interest in the biodigesters, and we hope to find more partners to continue expanding in this and more rural areas around South Sudan.