Biogas Digesters for Cambodians: A Multi-Partner National Biodigester Program in Cambodia

Water and sanitation are one of the most pressing issues facing people in rural Cambodia. Of particular difficulty for sanitation advocates in Cambodia is the old habit of open defecation, with the result of exposing human excreta to the environment. This leads to water and soil contamination and to widespread disease outbreaks. The UN estimated that, in 2008, only 23% of rural residents and 82% of urban residents had access to improved sanitation, which means the country still has a long way to go to achieving ‘sanitation for all’. For the many rural Cambodians who work in agriculture – many of whom have no access to electricity, use collected fuelwood for cooking, and rely on expensive fertilizers or risky raw animal manure to fertilize their fields – all of these disparate challenges can be addressed in a single solution: the biogas digester. The biogas digester is a simple, but powerful, sanitation technology option that can simultaneously: process human & animal feces into safe and free fertilizer; reduce groundwater contamination by processing feces instead of having it be discharged untreated; create biogas for use in cooking and household lighting, thus reducing need for fuelwood and allowing more night-time activities; empower women and families by reducing their time spent on fuelwood gathering and cooking; reduce indoor air pollution by reducing the need for fuelwood burning; and help eliminate the need for fossil fuel-based cooking gas and the CO2 emissions created during fermentation of openly-discharged sewage, thereby helping to reduce the threat of climate change and potentially creating carbon offset credits for sale to industrialized countries. Recognizing the power of this technology and its usefulness to rural Cambodians, the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, & Fishery (MAFF) joined with the Netherlands, through the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Asia Biogas Program and their development agency, SNV, and Germany, through their development agency, GIZ, to create a National Biodigester Program for Cambodia, so as to disseminate biodigester technology – using marketing techniques and grant/loan assistance – to farmers in the neediest of the Cambodian provinces.

This teaching case is available here.

Published by Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.