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Poo power: fuelling schools and teaching students a lesson

| March 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

At Kasiisi Nursery and Primary School in Kabarole, Uganda, children are learning about sustainability and recycling through all sorts of projects.

Recently, the school set up a biogas digester that harnesses energy contained in human faeces. It’s a simple set-up: a large brick-lined vessel was installed in a pit beneath the latrine. Here, the waste is mixed with cow dung to aid the process of breaking down the organic materials into methane, carbon dioxide gas and nutrient-rich fertiliser.

Founder of the Kasiisi Project, which runs the school, Elizabeth Ross, realised that communities living near the school and near the famous Kibale National Park were stripping the trees for wood to burn fires to cook food. In an attempt to lower the carbon footprint of the community and to sustain the school’s famous Porridge Programme, Ross organised the bio-digester. Now each child gets a meal at school every day, cooked using methane.

Ross hopes it will spark in children new thoughts on how to create fuel sources. She’s already surprised by how happy the students are to have more time to play instead of collecting daily firewood – a time-consuming traditional practice.

Poo power is spreading. When Leroy Mwasaru’s Maseno School in western Kenya faced a sewage problem in 2015, he was determined to do something about it.

Construction work on a new dormitory led to a leakage in the latrine system, and sewage flowed in the local water source. At the same time, school cooks were complaining about the smoke that damaged their eyes and lungs.

Mwasaru and his team built their own prototypes, which impressed aid organisation Innovate Kenya enough to buy the school a digester. Now gas is filtered through a pipe into the
kitchen, and used on the stoves to cook food.

Some say such ideas need more research. Methane gas still affects the ozone layer, and working with faeces is not pleasant. But the system works (refinements are pending). In Rwanda, it is been put into place in Nsinda prison. A rural school in Thailand is putting elephant dung to use to create energy, and some water companies in the UK are using sewage to make gas for heating and cooking.

Category: Autumn 2016

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