Driven by the passion to play a role in the adoption to devastating effects of climate change back home , a highly qualified automobile Zimbabwean Engineer left the comfort of civilization in the United States of America and turned his family medium sized plot into a 100% integrated conservation agriculture farm where through innovation, farm machinery such as tractors, automobiles and generators are powered by bio gas made from pig waste.
Jonah Chimusoro, popularly known as Engineer Chimusoro in his neighborhood retired from his well cherished Mechanical Engineering Job abroad to do what he had always wanted to do in life, “to apply his innovation skills in positively enriching livelihoods” and contribute to community sustainable development.
The fresh air that welcomes as one arrives at his farm would make someone think they could not find anything like piggery .In fact; surely pig pens have never been that clean! , as Eng Chimusoro puts it ; “…here, nothing goes to waste “, waste from the pens generates power for the entire farm and fuels farm vehicles too!
Chicken waste is fed into a 100,000 litre fish tanks where tones of tilapia breed happily. The water from the fish tanks and the waste products from the biogas digesters are used as a fertiliser. His farm is on sandy loam soil where yields for maize should be very low, but just by using organic fertiliser he has developed; his yields are two to three times what farmers on fertile soil are getting.
With projections of global agricultural yield expected to decline by as much as 50% by 2050 due to disasters related to climate change and a country savaged by successive droughts, the engineer-cum farmer could not be faulted for trying, his simple and faceable innovations and environmental friendly organic farming initiatives have set precedence for climate change mitigation, food and nutritional sufficiency.
Mr. Chimusoro has developed a simple formula for separating highly corrosive hydrogen and sulphure components from bio-gas generated from two 5 cubic giant bio-digesters he personally constructed to come out with a clean gas that can safely and effectively power farm implements the same way petroleum works.“When I came back from United States to the farm, I discovered that one of biggest challenge people are facing in Zimbabwean communities was fuel, fuel is not only a top contributor to carbon emissions but is also expensive, so we looked at renewable energy and started to attempt bio gas for fuelling implements, so literally, the pigs are the main source of power on this farm, supplemented by solar energy which is also climate smart and renewable,
“We have also modified the cars and tractor engines by simply modifying the carburetors so that the gas connector is attached at the point where fuel will have been turned into gas and the engine will start to move,
“Fuel never runs engines in liquid form, it is firstly turned into gas hence, what needs to be done is to compress the gas so that it can take you far”, he said.
In biogas, there is methane which is highly flammable; however, methane is not the chemical found in bio gas, there is also sulphure which is very corrosive as well as hydrogen. Engineer Chimusoro says, “These corrosive components are separated by making the gas pass through iron wool which traps the two chemical components to produce clean gas safe and effective for fuelling tractors and automobiles, we have been told that we are one of the few doing this in Africa”
Although bio-gas has been widely used for domestic purposes, this imitative is perhaps one of the few one in Africa where the clean natural gas is compressed and processed to power domestic appliances such as cooling systems, incubators fuel tractor and vehicle engines substituting carbon emitting diesel and petrol.
According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, although biogas is currently one of the top clean energy initiatives, it is crucial to know some facts about how to handle the gas safely and effectively.
“Biogas is a mixture of about 60% Methane (the part that burns) and 40% Carbon Dioxide that doesn’t burn. There will also be some trace gases, especially Hydrogen Sulfide – the stuff that smells and is poisonous if trapped in small enclosed areas – and water vapor.
Ecological Biogas system being applied at Chimusoro farm, credit Penn State College.
If you burn the biogas in an internal combustion engine approximately 30% will be converted to shaft horsepower. If the engine was powering an AC generator, it would produce 226 kWh in a 24 hour day. The rejected heat from the engine cooling water and exhaust can be recovered to heat the digester plus supply hot water for other uses” , reads the Penn State College statement.
The initiatives have not only benefitted his family only, but also the surrounding communities who whose lives have been improved by following these simple climate smart innovations on their own households, to them Engineer Chimusoro has became an inspiration and a source of hope.
Melody Muchinei, a neighbor to Engineer Chimusoro said leaving nearby this plot has opened her eyes and benefited her family in a big way, she has since started the same initiative at a small scale.
“We have benefited a lot from this initiative, we buy organically grown healthy and tasty vegetables at an affordable price from this farm, we have since started our own small biogas project using cow dung”, she said.
Minister of Environment Oppah Muchinguri said such an initiative is key to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Goals SDGs.
“Climate smart agriculture, production of clean sustainable energy are key pillars on which communities can build resilience against climate change and poverty, these initiatives go a long way in the attainment of most UN sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as Goal 1 ‘No hunger’, 2 ‘no poverty’, 7 “Affordable and clean energy”, 11 sustainable cities and communities and 13 which is ‘climate and action”, she said.
On this farm, indeed nothing goes to waste, even sunlight which is so oftenly wasted in Zimbabwe is the source of solar power that runs boreholes and home appliances. Surely if this integrated sustainable development model is followed, then fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Goals nearly achievable.