indoor air pollution in Burkina FasoIndoor air pollution from burning biomass is one of the 10 most significant threats to public health worldwide. Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries most affected by indoor pollution. The country’s government has rolled out the National Biogas Program as part of its green economy initiative to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Globally, more than three billion people cook with wood or charcoal. Exposure to indoor smoke from burning biomass is linked to pneumonia in children and chronic respiratory diseases in adults.

About 86 percent of Burkina Faso’s energy comes from burning biomass like firewood and charcoal. In rural areas, this percentage is often even higher. Approximately 16,500 deaths per year can be attributed to indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

The National Biogas Program has the potential to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso. The government of Burkina Faso, led by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, is working in tandem with Dutch NGO Hivos and Dutch development organization SNV to install 40,000 biodigesters by 2024. The government of Burkina Faso subsidizes the biodigesters so that the technology is more affordable for poor households. 

Biodigesters are enclosed structures that break down animal dung and food waste into methane gas. The biogas can be piped into a stove for cooking. The nutrient-rich compost left over can be used as fertilizer. So far, 8,000 biodigesters have been installed.

Each biodigester creates 3.62 tons of CO2eq emission reduction per year. Transitioning to biodigesters is particularly impactful for women and children, who often spend hours collecting biomass to burn and who are typically responsible for household cooking. Biodigesters protect this vulnerable group from the harmful health effects of indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Approximately 85 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives in rural areas and works in agriculture. For these agrarian households, biodigesters produce economic benefits. Farmers with biodigesters produce natural, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating the need to buy chemical fertilizer. One 6m3 biodigester produces 20 tons of compost per year. 

Fields fertilized with slurry from biodigesters produce greater yields. The slurry also increases the soil’s capacity to hold rainwater, which is particularly important during droughts. 

Additionally, some regions of Burkina Faso have experienced wood scarcity. Biodigesters protect owners from increasing wood fuel prices.

Biodigesters also create tangible environmental benefits. About 46 percent of Burkina Faso’s territory suffers from soil degradation. Harvesting wood for energy has created a deforestation rate of 105,000 hectares per year. Biodigesters replace wood-burning stoves and thus reduce the amount of wood that must be harvested for energy each year. 

The U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism has issued the first carbon credits in Burkina Faso. The World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) program is now purchasing carbon credits created by the biodigesters. Ci-Dev will purchase 540,000 certified emission reductions through 2024. This revenue stream is used to lower the price of biodigesters and to extend the warranty on the devices. With the numerous benefits of biodigesters, they are sure to have an impact not only on air pollution in Burkina Faso, but on may aspects of its people’s livs.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr