The financial and economic feasibility of biodigester use and biogas production for rural households.
Smith, Michael Trevor.
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In South Africa, sustainable development is set in the context of two separate economies. The second of these economies consists of the rural population and is characterised by poverty and stagnant development. Sustainable development is an increasingly topical concept which highlights the need for development to proceed in a manner that does not deplete natural resources. In addition to narrowing the gaps between the various classes (layers) in an economy, the key ‘ingredients’ of sustainable economic development include “natural resource management, food, water, and energy access, provision and security” (Blignaut, 2009: cited in Blignaut and van der Elst, 2009: 14). A biodigester is a potential solution to some of the difficulties faced by remote rural populations. Biodigester systems are submerged tanks capable of producing a nutrient rich fertiliser and combustible gas when consistently fed with organic matter and water. A biodigester may be one simple answer to the key ingredient needs of sustainable development – reducing the depletion of natural resources, providing clean burning energy for cooking and fertiliser for growing food. The potential is clear for biodigesters to aid in the process of sustainable development. The question to be analysed is whether this technology would be financially and economically feasible for installation and use in rural households. This thesis focuses on a typically remote and rural community in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, in order to assess the potential feasibility of a biodigester system. The appraisal takes the form of a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) and aims to establish whether or not this technology is financially feasible for individual rural households and/or economically beneficial to society.