Madagascar Biodigester Project

I have been working at Vort Port International as a Research Engineer for their Madagascar Biodigester Project since November 2011. It’s an amazing nonprofit organization comprised of young and passionate individuals that seeks to implement novel technologies in underdeveloped countries.  

Rural Malagasy children

Vort Port International is a technical and social nonprofit organization that works with underserved communities on projects to improve access to clean energy, a healthier lifestyle, and economic opportunities. This is achieved through the implementation of low-cost and applicable technologies which address basic needs in developing regions around the world. Community members are trained how to manufacture, distribute and sell these technologies, building local capacity and furthering economic development.

The Madagascar Biodigester team is developing biodigester technologies to address issues concerning sanitation, clean energy and economic opportunities in developing countries. The team is developing low-cost but effective biological digesters (ADs), which once developed, will be paired with point-of-source methane distribution networks in poverty-stricken, biodiversity-threatened developing nations such as Madagascar to supply cooking fuel. Community members will be able to use readily available animal and plant waste as the inputs of this system. This will ensure that women and children are not spending several hours each day retrieving wood to use for cooking. The outputs of the system are methane gas, which will be used for cooking, and deactivated sludge, which can be used as fertilizer.

Malagasy house

This technology paired with conservation management and educational programs being developed by Vort Port International make this business a long-term sustainable venture. Vort Port is working closely with nonprofit entities on the ground in Madagascar to ensure that the project is sustainable.  The Biodigester Project will implement prototypes in Madagascar, and once a sustainable model has been established, will expand to other areas with similar needs.

The team of creative designers and engineers are composed of students and professionals from across the United States.  The project’s business work is headquartered in Washington, DC.  The project’s technical hubs are in Ann Arbor, MI; Washington, DC; and Los Angeles, CA.

Project goals

  • Deliver sustainable technology in developing regions of the world to generate clean and renewable energy with a useful byproduct: methane with a nitrogen rich fertilizer.
  • Provide an alternative for cooking fuel, which can save critical ecological habitats by decreasing the need for unsustainable deforestation and the clearing of forests for land-fills.
  • Reduce environmental and human health hazards in a community by providing a means to safely dispose waste.
  • Lower the environmental degradation caused by the use of wood to fuel fires for cooking and heating.
  • Train community members on the production, operation and maintenance of Biodigesters and thus create economic opportunities.

Madagascar is a country rich in biodiversity

The biodigesters will be made using cheap, locally available materials (PVC piping, simple metal pipe fittings, etc.) and will be capable of producing four hours’ worth of cooking fuel per day. This simple technology will be developed employing technology that is appropriate for the local culture, economic conditions, and available technology and knowledge. The plastic-based materials make the digester affordable and durable at only $150/unit, which is less than 5% of a village’s annual income. Over 2012, two teams will travel to Madagascar to implement units and build relationships with communities with the goal of establishing a locally-run business distributing these biodigesters.

The Biodigester Project Team will teach the residents how to assemble and maintain the systems as well as the importance of sanitation and sustainable energy. This knowledge will provide the residents with new economic opportunities and skills that can be shared with other communities.

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