Ci-Dev community Q&A Burkina Faso: A conversation on boosting crop yields and household savings by promoting the use of biodigesters

We had the opportunity to chat with Xavier Bambara, the Coordinator for Burkina Faso’s National Program for Biodigesters (PNB-BF) and Responsible for the activities of the Interim Bureau of the Alliance for Biodigesters in West and Central Africa.

The National Biogas Program of Burkina Faso promotes the use of biodigesters, which convert manure into a clean gas that can be used for cooking and a nutrient rich fertilizer that can be used for agriculture. Carbon revenues from Ci-Dev are being used to support and scale up the program by communicating the benefits of biodigesters for clean cooking and agricultural improvement, training masons on biodigester construction, and conducting quality control measures.

Mr. Bambara has a long history with the Government of Burkina Faso, working for the Ministry of Animal and Fisheries Resources, which implements the program, and Animal Productions. He was kind enough to share his insights on how biodigesters are aiding Burkinabé family farms and Ci-Dev’s contributions to the program.

Q:           Do you think this project offers something unique to the farming community?

A:            Absolutely! By supporting the dissemination of the biodigester, this project facilitates the installation of a plant for the production of high-quality organic fertilizer and clean energy in each household that adopts it. As part of the program, households have produced an average of 25 tons of compost per biodigester per year. Knowing that the average size of a Burkinabé family farm is three hectares, this quantity of compost fully covers domestic needs and creates a surplus that can be marketed to households without a biodigester. In communities that are using biodigesters, there has been a significant drop in the consumption of chemical fertilizers. These savings, approximately $48 per hectare, are in addition to an increase in yields in crop production by 24%.

This is why, from my point of view, the biodigester technology is an essential infrastructure for the well-being of rural populations in the same way as road infrastructure, water supply, etc.

Q:           How are you communicating the benefits that biodigesters offer to rural households and farmers?

A:            When the program started in 2010, we communicated the benefits directly to households and institutions. Beginning in 2011, our implementing partners took on responsibility for local communication. This responsibility was subsequently entirely transferred to Biodigester Construction Enterprises (BCE) which have generated at least 150 direct jobs and operates under a franchise model.

Nowadays, households communicate with each other. Depending on the market penetration of the technology, households organize themselves into a User Club to exchange good usage practices. The program is now only involved in communication at the national level.

Q:           What has the reception been — is there an aspect of the biodigester that people are particularly excited about?

You know, the biodigester is a captivating tool: its benefits and advantages attract support. During the ten years that I worked for the program, people are impressed to see that cow dung allows them to cook on gas without smoke, without blackening utensils, and in a healthy setting. But the flagship product remains the biodigester compost because it drives the demand.

Q:           Do you think that climate finance or results-based finance are uniquely positioned to further the goals of the larger effort on clean cooking?

A:            Of course. These financial instruments can contribute to the development of the biodigester market—which has impacts not only in the field of clean cooking, but also food security, job creation, and revitalization of the countryside. However, the constraint of this mechanism is often the initial investment because it is necessary to pre-finance a certain number of activities before arriving at the results. This is often expensive, and the process is long.

Q:           What is the most important piece of practical advice you would offer to someone starting on their first day in a similar job?

A:            You have to have self-confidence, be patient, constantly evaluate your actions and renew yourself. It is also necessary to invest in building a network of partners from the public, the private sector, NGOs and Producer Organizations. We must constantly work to better integrate biodigester technology into agricultural and environmental programs because the success of a biodigester project requires the mobilization of all these actors.

(A photo of Ms. Rachelle Kabore's biodigester in the Doulogou community in the Centre-Sud of Burkia Faso. Credit: Programme National de Biodigesteurs du Burkina Faso - PNB-BF.)