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By Len Garae

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Sept. 28) –Epau Village in East Efate will soon become the first village in Vanuatu to light their homes and cook their food with electricity generated from biogas technology.

This is being made possible through the help of three Chinese experts who are working to set up the Biogas Project with the help of the villagers and 15 participants from the six Provinces, Government Departments and NGOs.

The project is expected to begin operating in about three weeks.

The Chinese are famous for developing biogas technology and have shared their expertise by successfully setting up bio digesters in rural communities throughout Africa.

What it involves is basically collecting vegetable peels or animal dung and fermenting it in a digester for two to three weeks. The period allows bacteria to break down the compost, which finally releases the necessary energy to generate power in the home and a flame for cooking.

The Chinese lecturer has 30 years of expertise behind him. He said his province in China produces 400, 000 bio digesters annually.

Epau villagers have already filled a concrete walled hole with compost next to an empty hole. That is the first phase.

The Director of the Energy Unit, Leo Moli explained to participants that the compost was prepared before the opening of the workshop to allow it to decompose for the next two to three weeks.

In the meantime, the participants are being taken through the technological phases, which will result in producing biogas at the end of the month-long course.

The Minister who is responsiblefor Energy, Charlot Salwai opened the Biogas Project Workshop at Epau before yesterday morning. Epau is to become the "model" for other villages to learn from.

He praised the Chinese Government for the expanding sustainable economic assistance to the country's rural communities saying, his Ministry will do everything to facilitate the implementation of the project to enable the country to enjoy the full benefit of it.

With the rising cost of living in Port Vila and Luganville, the Minister said the costs of benzene; mazut, kerosene and gas are also climbing.

The rapid speed of development and population growth has added to the pressure on the natural resources especially logging and firewood. Even a bundle of firewood, which is sold at the market, is also found on sale in the shops.

Salwai said it is a sign that users of the gas stove are finding it too expensive to buy a bottle and now go for firewood to cook their meals.

However, he warned, "Now the problem is that if we do not find a way to slow down the speed of cutting down trees for firewood then we would eventually sell firewood also in the village".

The Minister said the most sensible way out of the dilemma is for the Government to introduce Biogas Technology in rural communities. Itis a brand new technology, which is why the workshop is taking place at Epau.

The President of Shefa Province, Jack Kalotiti also thanked the Chinese Government for the assistance saying its REDI Program also includes encouraging the setting up of projects using the natural environment including bio gas technology.

While thanking the Energy Unit and the Ministry for facilitating the project, he would like to see the workshop held in other islands of Shefa Province.

He thanked the First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy, Zhang Xinchao for the Chinese Government’s assistance.

September 29, 2004

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