Urban Local Resource: Food Waste for energy

by Rumbidzai Mashavave

With 18 hour power cuts in Zimbabwe, rising costs of LP gas as an alternative source of energy, the high costs of solar energy. We cannot continue to limit the potential of biogas as a renewable source of energy in urban settings using the resource we have in abundance, food waste. This is not limited to Zimbabwe alone, but Africa as a whole, where firewood is still a source of fuel for cooking, which not only is an environmental hazard with concerns of deforestration, but a health issue where continuous or prolonged smoke inhalation may lead to respiratory health problems.

An energy conference hosted by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority in 2017, I attended and raised the issue of biogas to fellow delegates incited comments such as

There is a justified reason why biogas is not being produced in urban settings, it is only applicable in rural settings.

Delegate

It is not a question of ignorance, or lack of knowledge but rather a change in mindset. Once something is thrown away or termed marara it is headed for the waste bin as rightfully so. However, we can fix our waste management, energy and health challenges with marara. While one household may not generate enough waste for biogas production, it can be used for composting in urban agriculture and eliminates organic waste going to the waste bin which ultimately ends up in landfills contributing towards greenhouse gas emissions.

The responsibility lies with citizens. The same way Zimbabweans have to survive in a difficult economy, to meet their daily needs, we can meet our energy needs as well in a more economical way.

I have had the privilege of brushing shoulders with organizations and individuals that see and use food waste as a resource in Harare and Bulawayo. But it would be beneficial to the ordinary citizen and business if more people become aware and involved at household level, where waste separation is crucial, at community level, where joint initiatives can benefit the community as a whole.

While the ultimate goal would be to see this implementation at national level and as part of policy, I am sure waiting on authorities to solve our problems as citizens in Zimbabwe has not gotten us far economically. Change begins with us.

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