Mzuzu University

Choma is an area located 16 km to the east of Mzuzu University. Further east of Choma is Chigwere which is in Nkhatabay district.
These two areas are among the major sources of charcoal for Mzuzu city. The charcoal business has left the areas deforested and women of the areas now travel long distances in search of firewood. This situation wastes the women time which could have been invested in other socio-economic activities.
In addition to the time wasting firewood fetching activity, the reliance on firewood is contributing to the carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere due to the reduction of the carbon sinks, trees, through deforestation.
Fortunately, Choma- Chigwere area is rich with dairy farmers. Diary faming produces a lot of waste in form of cow dung (on average a well fed cow can produce between 8-10 kg of dung per day). Cow dung is good raw material for biogas which can be used for heating, cooking and lighting.
The problem of deforestation and the availability of cow dung in area are some of the factors that made Choma- Chigwere a potential area for biogas production. This is how the place was identified for the biogas project.
The project is being implemented by the Department of Energy Studies with funds from the David Livingstone Fund, through the Malawi British High Commission.
The purpose of the project is to contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide and methane emissions into the atmosphere through the promotion of use of biogas for cooking instead of charcoal and firewood. Biogas is a by-product of the decomposition of organic matter by anaerobic bacteria. It primarily consists of methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and traces of nitrogen, sulphur compounds, volatile organic compounds and ammonia. It has a heat value arising from its methane component and may be used directly for heating or in internal combustion engines.
If biogas were used for cooking instead of firewood and charcoal, a 4m3 biogas plant would reduce deforestation by 37 hectares per year.  The project will therefore reduce the emissions of CO2 and CH4 into the atmosphere by promoting the use of biogas for cooking. Subsequently, the consumption of firewood and charcoal will be reduced and so will be the rate of deforestation. Biogas technologies also reduce CH4 emissions from natural decomposing manure. If more biogas than what is immediately required is produced, it could be bottled and sold in Mzuzu City or elsewhere to replace firewood and charcoal. Biogas technology is therefore an important mitigation measure in the fight against climate change.
Five biogas plants have been constructed and are operational. 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions is being saved by the operational biogas plants. Six biogas plants are under construction, to be completed by mid March 2011.The six plants under construction will assist to save an extra 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Once all the plants are fully operational; it is expected that 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will be saved per annum. The actual emission savings will increase as household members improve in dung collection to maximise use of the plants.
The operational biogas plants are also assisting to save 7 tonnes of fuel wood per year. This will increase to 19 tonnes of fuel wood per annum once the six biogas plants under construction become operational. The project will also save women from walking very long distances fetching for fuel wood and the time saved could be used in other socio-economic activities.

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