The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe)

Tackling climate change in Mbire

- Garikai Mazara

A 20-cubic metre biogas digester, probably the first one of such a size to be built in Mbire district at Chitsungo Mission Hospital, is likely to impact the district in more than one way.

The hospital, the only referral one in the district, caters for a population of around 90 000, with most of the cases coming from the 12 clinics in Mbire.

Being a malaria-prone area, at any given time the hospital has over a hundred patients in admission, which makes the demand for cooking fuel an inevitable requiremen­t.

“As it stands,” explained Wellington Makuvatsin­e, the hospital’s administra­tor, “We use between 20 and 30 truckloads of firewood per year. In as much as we are encouraged to use dried trees for firewood, the demand for energy is such that we cannot afford to wait for trees to die naturally. So we end up cutting trees for firewood so that we keep our patients on a healthy diet.”

The massive deforestat­ion that the hospital inadverten­tly engages itself in, in a bid to help the community that it serves, is about to come to an end, thanks to a green energy project that the health institutio­n has embarked on with some help from Carbon Green Africa.

The latter is working in a technical partnershi­p with Sustainabl­e Agricultur­al Technology (SAT).

The partnershi­p has seen the constructi­on of the 20-cubic metre biogas digester, set for completion and commission­ing in the coming fortnight.

“The digester has many advantages but the most important being that the hospital will no longer have to rely on firewood for cooking energy,” explained Makuvatsin­e.

“Second, the digester will feed on animal waste, this being cow dung, pig or chicken manure. On a daily basis we will need two drums, or 150 kg, of such waste.

‘‘This means that the community will get an incentive for collecting animal waste and there will be an extra job created as the hospital will have to employ someone who will have to go around collecting the waste from the villages surroundin­g the hospital.

“Then the residue that comes from the anaerobic decomposit­ion of the waste can still be used as manure, which in this case will be weed-free because all the weed seed in the waste would have been decomposed.”

In the long term, for the biogas digester to run effectivel­y, the hospital intends to run a piggery and chicken project so that there is a ready supply of animal waste.

“By running these projects, besides supplying animal waste, we will in a way mitigate our food budget, as we will able to supply the hospital kitchen with a variety of food options, all homegrown,” further explained Father Samuel Nyadzayo, whose Chinhoi Diocese of the Catholic Church runs the hospital. Makuvatsin­e, visibly ecstatic about the biogas digester project, said the other benefit to be derived will be the access to cheaper medication to the community.

“We are going to save big on our electricit­y consumptio­n because the 5 000kg of gas that this digester will produce, will, apart from cooking, be used for lighting. Naturally the savings that the hospital will realise will ensure that health delivery to the community will then be delivered at a much lower cost.”

The other benefit, Makuvatsin­e oozed, will be the direct impact the digester will have on their expanded programme for immunisati­on.

“We have vaccines for the programme that need to be under refridgera­tion all the time and since we already have gas refridgera­tors, the digester will ensure that we have a constant supply of gas.”

Arthur Kupara, who is overseeing the constructi­on of the digester on behalf of Sustainabl­e Agricultur­al Technologi­es, said in the short-term they will use the Chitsungo biogas digester as a knowledge centre as they have intentions to roll out similar projects in the local community.

“At household level, a six-cubic metre digester will be ideal and we would love to see the local community replicatin­g this digester in their homes. The net effect that this will have on the forests will be enormous as a lot of trees will be saved.

“As previously stated, the residue can still be used as manure, but this time in a cleaner state as the manure will be weed-free.”

The hospital is hoping that with the revival of Arda Mushumbi, which is using exclusivel­y organic farming methods, there will be a ready market for their “treated” manure.

“At the moment the farm is getting pig manure all the way from Harare, yet we are only 20km away from them. So if the digester is fully functional, we will have a ready market for our manure in the form of Arda, generating further income for the hospital and lessening the cost of hospitalis­ation on the patient.”

A biogas digester is an enclosed structure, more like the domestic gas cylinder, which allows methane, hydrogen and carbon to be produced by bacteria in an anaerobic environmen­t. The structure is made of ordinary farm bricks, cement, gas pipes and valves.

HAVING been born and bred in Mbire, there could not have been a better candidate to be the chief executive officer of the Rural District Council than Cloudious Majaya.

He knows the length and breadth of the district more like the back of his hand. And not only that, he knows, rather intimately, the challenges that Mbire faces, from a poor road network, malaria outbreaks to resource-poor communitie­s.

“We are a relatively young Rural District Council, having been weaned off Guruve Rural District Council in 2007 but we have transforme­d Mbire in the short time that we have been in existence to be the centre of investment attraction.

“We have plans to turn Kanyemba into the second Victoria Falls and as we speak we have, due to demand, sold off all the land that is on the Zambezi River front. Land for holiday homes is selling fast, residentia­l land (from high to low density) is also selling, literally, like hot cakes.”

Majaya says the renewed interest in Kanyemba could be because of the potential that the Government has seen in the border post, which offers the shortest link to economic markets like Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and the DRC.

“To this end, the Government, in conjunctio­n with the Zambian one, is working on a pontoon, which should be commission­ed soon. And not only that, they have given us three kilometres of tarred road from the Zambezi River and another five kilometres of tarred road from Mahuwe.

“Whilst eight kilometres out of 130 kilometres might sound like a drop in the ocean, we are very grateful on this stance by Government as this proves that Kanyemba will gain its rightful place in the economic turnaround of the country.

“Probably that is the reason why there has been this rush for land in Kanyemba, it is the next investment destinatio­n for any serious investor. Admittedly we have sold out all the land on the river front, and I can say there are serious investors that have bought that land, but we have so many investment opportunit­ies still open, like filling stations, lodges, holiday homes, camping sites and residentia­l stands.”

To this end, the council will be hosting the annual Mbire investment conference from October 24 in Kanyemba.

“Mbire is a vast swathe of investment opportunit­ies. The fact that we lie along the great Zambezi Escarpment should be enough proof to any doubting Thomas of the immense potential that lies here. There are plenty of hunting concession­s here, plenty of hunting safaris and that is why we are saying we want to be the next Victoria Falls, without the Falls.”

Majaya readily acknowledg­es that for Kanyemba, and ultimately Mbire, to get going as a preferred investment centre, there is need to seriously consider working on the road network.

“We are constantly engaging the authoritie­s on the extent of the worrisome state of our roads, we need to fix the roads so that we get going.

“We have had useful engagement­s with the Minister of State for Mashonalan­d Central, Advocate Martin Dinha as well as the Minister of Lands, Agricultur­e and Rural Resettleme­nt, Retired Air Chief Marshall Perrance Shiri, who

both have shown a willingnes­s to have our problems attended to.”

At about 330 kilometres from Harare, Kanyemba at one point offered the shortest route to Zambia, until the Government banned the offloading of goods in transit at border posts to curb smuggling. In the old set-up, trucks would offload at Kanyemba and the goods would be carried by a ferry across the Zambezi into Zambia.

Besides the encouragin­g interest in Kanyemba, Majaya says generally Mbire is developing and is confident that in the next 10 years, it will be competing with some rural districts that have been in existence for a long time.

“We have since completed the constructi­on of the Sapa 1 bridge and now we are moving to Sapa 2. The bridge over Hambe River should be done in the next month. All these are efforts to ensure that Mbire is accessible. We cannot talk of investment in Mbire without an existing road network.

“For example, if Chitsungo Hospital wants to do an emergency evacuation, they don’t need to come through Mushumbi, now that Hambe Bridge is almost complete, come rain or sunshine, they can drive straight to Mahuwe. Same with Chidodo, people would not travel to Chidodo during the rain season but with the help of the District Developmen­t Fund, we are working on the major bridges that lead to there so that even during the rain season, people can travel.”

Another project that excites Majaya is the revival of Arda Mushumbi.

“We cannot even quantify the investment that has been made into that farm, and it is not just about the financial input by the investors but the social impact the revival is going to have on Mushumbi in particular and Mbire in general.

“For example, if the workers, either casual or permanent, get paid, that means the economic fortunes here change. You can never quantify that kind of social and economic impact.”

Majaya says he recalls that growing up, there was a general frown on Mbire and that perception is slowly changing.

“To those of us who grew up here, we know how we were looked down upon as a place and a people, but I can safely say Mbire will no longer be the same in the next decade, that is if you share our vision.”

 ??  ?? The 20-cubic metre biogas digester under constructi­on at Chitsungo Mission Hospital is set for commission­ing in the next two weeks
The 20-cubic metre biogas digester under constructi­on at Chitsungo Mission Hospital is set for commission­ing in the next two weeks
 ??  ?? Mr Charles Ndondo, of Carbon Green Africa, shows off the four-plate gas stove that will be used by Chitsungo Mission Hospital’s biogas digester project
Mr Charles Ndondo, of Carbon Green Africa, shows off the four-plate gas stove that will be used by Chitsungo Mission Hospital’s biogas digester project
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