University of Maryland launches biogas project in Nigeria - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Procurement, GHG Emissions  -  February 26, 2021

University of Maryland launches biogas project in Nigeria

The University of Maryland announced on Feb. 25 that it is participating in a collaborative research and extension project concerning biogas in Nigeria. The goal is to convert an invasive weed — Typha (commonly known in the U.S. as cattail) into biogas fuel. 

Richard Kohn of Animal and Avian Sciences at the University seeks to rid Nigeria of Typha issues by converting it into biogas for clean cooking fuel or animal feed for local livestock. This solution has the potential to create significant improvements for the region and beyond, with positive environmental, human health, and economic impacts.

Kohn said in a statement that Typha is a major problem in Africa. It grows aggressively with over-fertilization, blocking waterways and invading rice and other agricultural fields. Meanwhile, cooking with firewood is contributing to deforestation, climate change and health issues for locals so he thought creating Typha-based biogas could provide an alternative fuel source and animal feed.

“An estimated 95 thousand people are dying each year from the smoke in this region,” he said. “Second, livestock gets very thin in the dry season due to lack of available feed, causing loss in productivity. It also leads to a lot of conflict between herders and crop farmers because livestock end up eating the crops other farmers are trying to grow. We thought maybe we could help solve both of these problems and make the Typha useful.”

While there were obstacles along the way, Typha proved to be a viable source of both feed and biogas for the region while creating economic opportunities, particularly for women. 

Kohn and other collaborators are all looking forward to the benefits this work can bring to the region, across Nigeria, and potentially beyond into other countries as a model for dealing with invasive plant species. 

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