Nadejda's farm gives hope for more biogas in Uzbekistan

Aug 26, 2015


The problem of energy is one of the most vital in Uzbekistan, especially in rural areas. Many villages are connected to the centralized gas distribution grid but hardly any gas is supplied during the cold seasons of the year. Those who can afford it buy coal, while most that cannot afford coal rely on wood for heating and cooking, thus contributing to deforestation and releasing CO2 emissions.

An example of this is the case of 60-year-old Nadejda (Russian female name literally translated as "Hope”), who has a farm that is not connected to the national gas grid. The Nadejda farm experienced several harsh winters without constant heating, and unfortunately, a number of calves died from the cold. Electricity, which is highly subsidized in Uzbekistan but still very expensive and not always available, was the only source for heating. Thus, Nadejda and her daughter Irina started to search for a sustainable and affordable energy source and eventually decided that biogas was the most viable solution.

To her surprise, this technology was quite new to Uzbekistan. There were no companies specialized in installing biogas plants in Uzbekistan or experts who could help her build one. However, this unfortunate circumstance did not make Irina give up. Irina is an engineer and her husband is an electrician, so they decided to combine their skills and build the plant themselves using blueprints found online. Those blueprints allowed them to figure out what they needed to buy and how to install the equipment. After Irina and Nadejda learned about the GEF Small Grants Programme, they applied for a grant to pilot test this technology.

In 2009, the GEF SGP National Steering Committee approved a grant for $21.296 to support the project. The primary goals of the project were to demonstrate and raise awareness about this alternative energy technology, as well as to provide wider access to it by training other farmers.

After a year and a half of making all the necessary preparations to the site and installing the equipment, their new self-installed 30m³ biogas plant went into production in 2011. Even though they only use one third of the plant's capacity, the plant provides them with enough gas for heating and cooking animal fodder, as well as sufficient hot water and heating for the house. In addition, the electricity produced from the biogas will be used for pumping water to supply three nearby farms and more than 30 households located around the well.

In addition to pilot testing this technology, the project has also demonstrated that the utilization of the livestock waste also decreases GHG emissions. Usually farmers keep the manure in a pile(s), letting all weed seeds to fire-fang before applying it to their fields. During this storing, methane (CH4) is emitted in atmosphere. It is calculated that this biogas plant alone helps avoid more than 155 tons of CO4 equivalent emissions into the atmosphere annually. Furthermore, the use of biogas has also led them to realize the great use of the "slurry", the waste product produced by the biogas. "Slurry" is an excellent non-polluting bio-fertilizer that alleviates the salinity of the soil. Irina and Nadejda expect to increase their farm's yields by 30 percent.

Though the Nadejda farm is a success story, Irina admits, "if it had not been for the Global Environment Facility's Small Grant Programme, implemented by UNDP, which funded part of the investment, we would not have been able to build the plant. Biogas technology is still new and is making its first steps in Uzbekistan, which means that there are no other mechanisms or bank loans available for investing in this technology".

A feasibility study for investing in biogas is almost ready to be launched. This study will be publicly available to all farmers in Uzbekistan, allowing farmers to input their data into prepared electronic spreadsheets and to apply for financial support from the banks. There is also a preliminary agreement underway with one bank to facilitate the loan application process for farmers.

In addition, the project is currently producing a publication with detailed instructions on how to build biogas plants. Although the publication has not been released yet, all training materials are ready and Irina has trained approximately 200 farmers through peer-to-peer exchanges all across Uzbekistan.

Furthermore, the Nadejda farm has become a demonstration site and receives weekly visitors who wish to understand how gas is produced from animal manure. In fact, the rumors that a woman makes electricity and heat out of manure spread around the community very quickly and the flow of visitors is getting too large for the farm to handle.

The success of this project captured the attention of a UNDP project that works on a Low Emission Development policy for Uzbekistan, and starting in the spring of 2012, the Nadejda farm has been used as a demonstration center for biogas technology. UNDP together with Urgench State University and the support from the GEF SGP will open a new demonstration and training center for biogas technology in the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan, where Irina will provide her expertise.

"We would be really happy if just one of our visitors chose to build a biogas plant after visiting our farm" - Irina says. She further adds that the "family is happy to be part of GEF SGP and UNDP's efforts to inform farmers about the opportunities in biogas."

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