By Dr David Fulford, Ashden Assessor
The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Dutch development agency SNV won an Ashden Award in 2010 for their work to create biogas plants using pig manure – so solving the twin problem of huge amounts of untreated animal waste and costly cooking practices. Converting the manure produces clean, reliable energy for cooking and reduces environmental and health problems associated with wood fuels.
I visited Vietnam in June and it’s clear that the project is going well: In 2011, some 23,372 biogas plants were constructed under the programme, bring the total number of plants constructed to 123,714 by the end of the year.
Local people use biogas plants to process the dung from the pigs that they breed in pig sties close to the house. The main benefit is the removal of the smell from the pigs, as the dung is daily washed into the plant. The gas is used for cooking and the almost smell-free effluent is used to fertilise the vegetables growing in the garden.
People claim that they can recover the cost of a plant within two and a half years, mainly because they can fatten more, larger pigs each year, as the smell is so much reduced. The gas replaces either firewood or Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). LPG is expensive and difficult to obtain, while firewood generates smoke and is time consuming to collect and use.
The Vietnam Biogas Association (VBA) was set up in 2011. This includes many more people who are interested in using biogas technology. As well as other government bodies, such as the Department for Energy, groups such as the Vietnam Gardening Association VACVINA are represented. VACVINA was set up to encourage the growing of vegetables so that people would have better nutrition and they see biogas slurry as important to provide fertiliser for gardens.