History of Biogas in Tanzania

Domestic biogas was introduced by SIDO in 1975. A number of other NGOs joined in the promotion of the technology. However, involvement CAMARTEC, later in cooperation with GTZ accelerated awareness and dissemination, particularly in the northern regions of the country. Out of the total production, some 1900 installations are expected to be in operation. Through its involvement, CAMARTEC established itself as a reputable knowledge centre on biogas in Tanzania as well as internationally.

After withdrawal of GTZ from the domestic biogas programme, government support for the parastatal CAMARTEC gradually reduced. NGO’s -in particular MIGESADO and, to a lesser extent, FIDE- filled the gap to some extent and although CAMARTEC remains well reputed, it has lost its leading role in biogas dissemination in Tanzania.

The reputation of CAMARTEC is closely linked to the robust design of their fixed dome biogas model and its derivates. Also MIGESADO supports the fixed dome design, but of Indian origin. The more traditional floating drum design has been piloted in Tanzania only during the early years; high costs of construction and maintenance have made this model obsolete. Experiments with “plastic bag” biogas plants, attractive for their very low investment costs, have not resulted in acceptance of this technology, mainly because of their low reliability and limited lifetime.

As part of the formulation mission, SNV commissioned in cooperation with the Tanzania Biogas Task Force an assessment of the currently used technologies. The assessment mission reported that even with little training to masons and minimum supervision, the general quality of construction and workmanship has been good, resulting in the majority of the users being satisfied with the performance of their biogas plants. In contrast with the good workmanship shown in the civil structure, however, the efficiency of biogas appliances and the quality of fitting works left ample room for improvement.

The report further mentions that households require more training in the optimizing the benefits their installations, in particular regarding the proper application of bio-slurry.

Standing out in the technical assessment report are the high investment costs of most of the installations. For biogas installations to be affordable for a larger share of the (rural) population there is need to assess cost reduction methodologies without compromising the quality. The high investment costs can be attributed to a large extent to biogas plants being over-sized. The actual feeding, as compared with the designed feeding rate, ranged from 15 to 90%. The resulting low plant efficiency, based on plant-sizing, ranged from 12 to 50%, clearly indicating that farmers –on average- could have done easily with installations smaller then half their actual size.

The technical assessment mission resulted in development of the “Modified CAMARTEC Design”, combining strong points of the original CAMARTEC plant with those of the MIGESADO model. Addressing proper sizing of biogas installations, the programme proposes a plant size range of 4, 6, 9 and 13 m3 total plant volume.

Tanzania’s (international) reputation as a pioneer of domestic biogas contrasts with its hampering large-scale dissemination. The feasibility report identifies as main barriers: the high investment costs; the limited availability of appropriate credit facilities; the centralistic, (N)GO lead dissemination approach; the limited availability of the technology, and; corresponding limited awareness of costs and benefits of the technology; the declining financial support of the Government of Tanzania; the limited coordination between sector-actors, and; the limited availability of process water.

Efforts to revive a domestic biogas programme in Tanzania started with the “Biogas for a Better Life: an African Initiative” conference in May 2007 in Nairobi. From there, a small Tanzania Biogas Stakeholders Group paved the way for the Tanzania Domestic Biogas Programme (TDBP), started in the last quarter of 2008. In order to operationalise TDBP, SNV offered to finance the start of the programme from its “Special Core Funds”, whilst awaiting the final agreement with the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP). On the 1st of October 2009 the Partnership Agreement on the TDBP was signed between Hivos, ABPP’s fund manager, and CAMARTEC, TDBP’s National Implementing Agency (NIA).

The ABPP is a partnership between the Netherlands’ Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS), Hivos and SNV whereby DGIS provides financial support, Hivos is responsible for fund management and SNV for technical assistance.

The aim of the ABPP is to support the establishment of commercially viable domestic biogas sectors in six selected countries in Africa, aiming to construct 70,000 biogas installations up to the end of 2013. For that purpose, DGIS made available a (co-) financing facility to the amount of approx. € 30 million.

ABPP Countries