By ZURAH NAKABUGO
The Minister of State for Minerals Mr. Peter Lokeris has called for urgent intervention to reduce the dangerous effects of solid biomass (charcoal and wood) -with traditional wasteful technologies that are associated with indoor air pollution.
“Uganda’s energy sector is characterized by the heavy reliance on solid biomass fuels in the form of firewood and charcoal which contribute over 82 per cent of Uganda’s total consumable energy.. This huge dependence on biomass resources results in destruction of up to 36.2 million tons of wood for energy and other purposes. As such 100,000 – 200,000 hectares of savannah and forestland are cleared annually, which is not sustainable,” the minister observed .
Lokeris further revealed that several studies have linked the search for firewood to gender based violence among women and children, especially in refugee and host communities.
State Minister Lokeris was speaking in Entebbe during the launch of Africa Biogas Component (ABC) project, which aims at boosting access to biogas for circular agriculture and renewable energy.
The project was launched by Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development together with SNV Netherlands Development Organisations (SNV) Uganda. The four-year project running up to 2025, is worth 3.7 million Euros, funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
Implementation of the project is a joint effort by a consortium of SNV, German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Biogas Solution Uganda Limited (BSUL) in co-development support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
The project targets to install at least 8,000 small scale biodigesters across Uganda, providing energy access for at least 40,000 people.
Indoor air pollution is the leading risk factor for premature death in poor countries like Uganda, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report says.
“The burning of such fuels like firewood and charcoal, particularly in poor households, results into air pollution that leads to respiratory diseases which can result in premature death,” Michel Muvule Pinto, the programme director, Biogas solutions Uganda stated .
He said, that according to WHO indoor air pollution is “the world’s largest single environmental health risk. 90 percent of households in Uganda use burning solid fuels like fire wood and charcoal that result into high levels of deadly air pollution.”
Muvule noted that air pollution is a major risk factor for lung cancer and respiratory diseases that lead to more than 18,000 premature deaths a year, in Uganda. The risks mainly occur to the poorest in the world who often do not have access to clean fuels for cooking.
He said 4.1 per cent of global deaths are attributed to indoor air pollution, although the world is making progress from global deaths related to indoor air- pollution which has declined since 1990 due to use of clean energies like biogas and others.
Phomolo Maphosa, the SNV Uganda Country Director said, biogas offers increased benefits in the form of clean energy for cooking, and organic fertilizers for agricultural production, which will reduce the effects of deforestation and soil degradation.
Joost van Ettro, the head of Cooperation at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kampala said, with the current rate of deforestation, in 25 years Uganda would have very few trees left.
“Interventions such as the ABC project are critical if we are to retain our trees,” he said.
ABC Uganda aims to promote the scaling of biogas technology towards agricultural value chains, both tangible in terms of increased agricultural production, and more intangible benefits such as reducing exposure to indoor air pollution, long term soil improvement, water retention capacity and carbon capture.
To achieve this, the ABC project will adopt information and awareness raising, provision of business development support to biodigester companies and strengthen the biogas business model for end users. Biogas can be used as a cooking fuel, avoiding the health impacts of cooking with biomass indoors.
According to indoor air pollution paper- published by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser in 2014 and revised in 2022, indoor air pollution is caused by burning solid fuel sources such as firewood, crop waste and dung for cooking and heating.
Indoor air pollution is a risk factor for several of the world’s leading causes of death, including heart disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes and lung cancer.
WHO estimates 3.8 million deaths globally connected to indoor air pollution especially in low-income countries every year. Mivule said, biogas improves health by eliminating indoor air pollution and saves about. 20,000 Ugandans per year. It helps in high quality organic fertilizer and animal feed supplement which improves crop yields by over 30 percent