Hivos International

Renewable Energy in Practice


Hivos supports people who take action to improve their situation and control their lives. We see that access to energy offers people clear opportunities to do just that: improve living conditions and start businesses. Read more.




Hivos supports those who take action to improve their situation and control their lives, and we see that access to energy offers people clear opportunities to do just that: improve living conditions and start businesses. Decentralised energy systems in particular, which rely more on small-scale generation from renewable energy sources, allowing consumers to become producers themselves, are a driving force for local economic development. So Hivos joins forces with local organisations and entrepreneurs, sharing expertise and undertaking projects, to increase poor and marginalised groups’ access to renewable energy.

Domestic Biogas
Domestic biogas provides a sustainable way for individual households with livestock to reduce dependence on firewood and expensive fossil fuels:  a biogas digester converts the dung into biogas that can be used for cooking and lighting. The slurry left over from this process is also an excellent organic fertiliser that can be used to improve crop yields.  Domestic biogas benefits not only households, but also society at large. People - especially women and children - save time and money by not collecting and cooking with firewood or buying charcoal, fossil fuels and chemical fertilisers. Broader advantages include reduced deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, and improved public health, as indoor air pollution is a major cause of illness and premature deaths.

A market-based biogas sector is needed to make domestic biogas broadly accessible. To create this sector, Hivos manages national multi-stakeholder programmes in several countries, using locally-trained contractors and masons supported by vocational training institutions. Banks and microfinance institutions are encouraged to provide loans to end-users and biogas construction enterprises. The domestic biogas programme offers an investment incentive of around 25%, depending on the country. We employ carbon finance to support this incentive, and a guarantee system protects end-users against faulty construction.

Hivos has biogas programmes running in Africa (African Biogas Partnership Programme), Asia (Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme and National Biogas Programme in Cambodia) and Latin America (Biogas Programme Nicaragua). In all these countries we partner with the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation for technical assistance. We also work closely with the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, national governments and with rural development NGOs to carry out these multi-stakeholder programmes.

The African Biogas Partnership Programme aims to build 70,000 biogas digesters in 6 countries in 6 years (2009-2014), and the Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme 8,000 digesters in 4 years (2009-2012). The National Biogas Programme in Cambodia installed 17,000 digesters from 2006 to mid-2012, and is looking to increase this number to 65,000 by the end of 2018. Although Hivos does not manage the Cambodia programme, we have provided support through carbon finance since 2007.

Clean Cookstoves
Nearly 3 billion people across the globe still cook their food each day over an open fire or on a crude cookstove using solid fuels like wood, coal, crop residues and animal dung. There is a wide range of improved cookstoves with more efficient fuel use and fewer emissions of noxious fumes that cause air pollution. But their efficiency rates, cleanliness and lifetimes vary, as do prices of different designs - from just two dollars to a hundred.

Hivos prefers to support the development and distribution of higher quality cookstoves that are not only more efficient, but also significantly cleaner. For example, in Tanzania Hivos partners with TaTEDO to promote fixed rocket stoves equipped with a chimney. Using carbon finance from the Hivos Climate Fund, 1,200 efficient woodstoves were installed in 20 villages in the Kilimanjaro Region in mid-2012, and the aim is to increase this number to 6,000 in the next years (including other districts and another design).  In Kenya, Hivos supports SCODE and local stove producers to market 24,000 improved woodstoves, including fixed rocket and portable models.

Both programmes use a market-based approach that involves and strengthens local entrepreneurs and institutions because Hivos believes this is the best way to ensure long-lasting and self-sustaining results.


Climate Change
Climate Change threatens the future of the planet and all its inhabitants. But for many people in developing countries, climate change is already here. Over half of the current natural disasters in Africa are related to climate change. The Himalayan glaciers, a source of water for millions of people in China and India, are disappearing at ever higher rates. And if the nocturnal temperature rises by 1°C in South East Asia, the rice yield will drop by 10 per cent.  The emission of greenhouse gases by polluting power plants, transport and industry are among the main contributors to the rapid warming of the earth. The only way to reduce the use of fossil fuels while at the same time guaranteeing the right of access to energy for all citizens is to switch to renewable energy sources.  Poverty

Every day, people in developing countries are faced with the consequences of climate change. Hivos believes this is a violation of their human rights. Of all groups in society, poor people depend the most on the state of their natural environment. A shorter rainy season or greater unpredictability of the weather could potentially wipe out the livelihood of small farmers or nomadic pastoralists. Food prices will soar as a result of poorer harvests. Women make up the majority of poor people and are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. In many countries they are the ones who work the land and are the first to feel the effects of drought or salination. They have to walk further and further from home to collect water or firewood. In short, climate change is inextricably linked to poverty alleviation and economic development.

Energy is a vital driving force for development. Access to energy can alleviate poverty, improve living conditions and propel economic development. However, continuing along the fossil fuel route to harmful climate change will have disastrous effects, especially for developing countries. Hivos therefore would much rather stimulate sustainable development fuelled by clean, renewable energy.

Clean Energy Solutions
Hivos joins forces with local organisations and entrepreneurs and shares its knowledge and expertise. Projects undertaken benefit poor and marginalised groups, giving them more control over their own lives. This is why Hivos prefers small-scale decentralised energy systems. Key to the Hivos approach is equal access for women and men to resources and development, and so also to renewable energy.

Clean in Different Senses
Domestic Biogas and Clean Cookstoves contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But, first and foremost, they are clean because they reduce indoor air pollution. Worldwide, smoke in the kitchen - or from open fires and rudimentary cookstoves - is one of the major causes of illness and premature deaths. Even more, in fact, than malaria and tuberculosis.

Green Entrepreneurship
Decentralised energy systems trigger local economic development, enabling local small entrepreneurs to start businesses. The construction of domestic biogas digesters and efficient woodstoves is a new market sector that provides qualified employment opportunities and growth areas for small enterprises. Access to electricity from a local micro-hydropower plant, for example, creates new opportunities for micro- and small enterprises. As a result, corn mills become powered by electricity, small shops can refrigerate perishable goods, charging stations for mobile phones appear, and so forth. These are just some examples of what happens when people in disadvantaged areas obtain access to energy.

Facts & Figures

• Since 2008, the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) installed 38,000 biogas digesters.
• Since 2008, the Indonesia Domestic Biogas Programme (BIRU) installed 12,000 biogas digesters.
• Co-funded by: DGIS, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, AEA, EU, national governments.
• Approximately 228,000 people benefited from biogas as a cooking fuel and from using bioslurry (effluent of a biogas digester) as a fertilizer.
• 20,380 women were supplied with sustainable forms of energy in 2013 alone.
• Given the results of the biogas programme, at the end of 2013 the Dutch government decided to co-finance the African programme for €20 million for another four-year period.
• By 2018, Hivos aims to install an additional 100,000 digesters in Africa and 50,000 in Indonesia.
• In Uganda, a small biogas programme run by the Change It Foundation, and supported by Hivos, started making biogas from animal and agricultural waste to produce electricity that charges batteries for indoor lighting, mobile phones and other applications. 
• In southeast Cuba, Hivos partners Cuban Association of Animal Production (ACPA) and Cuba Solar installed various renewable energy technologies in 2012 that have made model farms and processing plants energy self-sufficient and is now extended to more farms. This programme has also created numerous new jobs specifically geared towards women.

Creating a biogas sector: (EN, ES, FR)

The Hivos and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation biogas programme provides entrepreneurial farmers with a useful and affordable tool to produce (clean) energy. With it, these famers save time and money for their business and make their home a healthier place. However, biogas digesters installed as part of the programme stand at the centre of an intricate network that reaches beyond the backyards of farming families.

Farmers do play an important role in this network, but masons, bankers, carbon traders, local producers, contractors and markets play their part as well. All these actors benefit when biogas digesters are installed, but they will also see their surroundings, status and health improve. They exchange money, but also goods, rights, power and knowledge. They are all part of a wheelwork of progress.

This wheelwork of progress can be explored through our interactive infographic (EN). Simply click on one of the actors to view the exchanges and read more about his or her part in the sector. Spanish version. French version.

Please note: the infographic will not work properly in older browsers. Please update your browser if you encounter any problems.


Kenyan farmers happy with their biodigester

Susan Wanjiru Githiri and her husband Simon are your typical small-holder Kenyan farmers. They have lived off the land for the last 30 years. Their five-acre farm is shielded from the busy main highway by verdant alpine trees. This area is fertile and beautiful.  But for many years, deforestation was a major issue here, as Susan and other residents of the area relied on the forest for firewood as their primary source of fuel.

Just over a year ago, there was a drastic change in the Githiri household thanks to the installation of their biodigester (also called a biogas digester).

“We feel young again,” says a beaming Susan when asked how the biodigester has changed her life.   “I don’t have chest problems anymore and I don’t have to wake up early anymore to go and fetch firewood. My health has improved immensely and I feel I a lot more relaxed.” She now uses gas for cooking that is generated from her biodigester. Her days of fetching firewood are long behind her. The old kitchen with its typical three cooking stones and walls covered in soot now acts as a storage area.

The benefits of having a biodigester on the farm for Simon and Susan are not only seen in the kitchen and their improved health, but on their farm as well. They pride themselves in being fully self-sufficient when it comes to feeding themselves. Their three cows provide the core resource (dung) for the biodigester. The slurry, a by-product of the biogas plant, is used as organic fertilizer on their farm. Being a mixture of dung and soil, it is full of nutrients rich and guarantees a rich and robust harvest.  Furthermore, the slurry provides a source of income for the Githiris as they can sell the leftover slurry to neighbouring farms.

“I have forgotten about buying artificial fertilizer. My harvest has improved tremendously. I used to harvest 10 bags of kale per week and now I am harvesting 25 bags a week,” Susan says excitedly.  With the bigger harvest, there has also been more income for the Githiri household.

Close to 200 biogas digesters have been installed in this area, and farmers are being encouraged to turn to biogas as a source of fuel and fertilizer. The Kinale area where Susan and Simon live has been heavily deforested over the years, forcing the government to intervene and turn to biogas as a solution to abet the destruction of the forest. The Githiris were lucky to have received an 80 percent subsidy, which they topped off with money from their own savings to get the biodigester constructed.  The cost of her eight cubic metre plant comes to just under 100 euros and took about two months to construct.

The increase in uptake of biodigesters in Kenya is evidence that more farmers like Susan and Simon are seeing the benefits of biogas, which is a glowing testament for the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP).

ABBP is a partnership between the Dutch government, Hivos and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in support of national programmes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burkina Faso. Hivos acts as fund and programme manager from our regional office in Nairobi, while SNV provides capacity-developing services in the five priority countries and knowledge management at supra-national level.

Susan and Simon consider themselves fortunate: the last year has brought in ‘harvests’ in more ways than one.