Tanjila Khatun standing next to a Shobuj Shakti biodigester. | Credit: ACDI/VOCA

Achieving a Climate-Smart Bangladesh, One Biodigester at a Time

By Muhammad Nurul Amin Siddiquee

Today’s youth around the world are facing the climate crisis head on. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Abrar Nayeem, a livestock service provider and third-year honors student at Government Hazi Muhammad Mohsin College in the Kotyakali village, is helping transform his surrounding area through climate-smart agriculture. He’s doing so by using his impressive network to help connect ATEC, an Australian biodigester company, to a customer base of smallholder farmers in his region. Their uptake of biodigesters is helping them reduce toxic air pollution and methane emissions, create better farm management practices for better productivity and output, and adapt to climate conditions.

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Man posing for camera holding large grass-like plant
Abrar Nayeem, a livestock service provider in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, who is a user and seller of biodigester technology.
What is an ATEC Biodigester?

A biodigester is a machine that digests organic waste products and converts them into byproducts, such as biogas and fertilizer. In Bangladesh’s agricultural sector, biodigesters are mainly fed manure, which prevents its disposal in and the contamination of local waterways. The biogas byproduct is then typically connected to a gas burner for indoor cooking. Not only is this more convenient than cooking with wood, but the gas stoves are cleaner burning, less toxic, and help prevent deforestation. 

The ATEC biodigesters made for Bangladesh, aptly named Shobuj Shakti (“Green Strength”), are a pioneering model. Unlike traditional models, they are made of modern materials (linear, low-density polyethylene) to protect them from water damage during monsoon season. They are also small and movable, allowing for more flexibility.

Reaching a Powerful Customer Base—Local Farmers

Through a partnership with the Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock and Nutrition Activity, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, ATEC introduced Shobuj Shakti to a wide market of prospective buyers. By partnering with USAID, ATEC was able to contract in-person agents like Abrar Nayeem to lead on-the-ground marketing campaigns. ATEC recruited 10 agents, including livestock service providers and smallholder farmers who already had valuable networks. These agents made sales, handled installation, and earned a commission from ATEC. ATEC, in turn, achieved its business goal of reaching 10 new rural areas.

Household Health and Savings Benefits

Households with biodigesters are seeing the health and savings benefits. These households are also spending less on cooking fuel and expensive fertilizer, leaving more funds for household goods.

Us women, we cook every day. Now, with the absence of smoke in the house, it's undeniably a breath of fresh air! None of the women with biodigesters, nor their husbands, dispute this.

Lima Akhtar, a local farmer and ATEC customer.

Nayeem has started his own farm with four cattle and 20 goats of rare breeds. As an ATEC agent, he makes five to six sales a month, earning installation fees for each unit. Because the units take three to four hours to install, it can be a significant challenge for farmers to ensure the process is done correctly without support. Abrar makes himself available to assist customers after the installation is complete to review the installation. He uses his social media and networking skills to reach farmers and explain the benefits of Shobuj Shakti. “This is something everyone wants to move into,” Abrar said. “There is no argument about that.”

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Woman sitting and cooking with pot on a single burner
Tanjila Khatun can now cook safely for her household thanks to the biodigester.
Environmental Impact

As a result of partnering with USAID, ATEC sold 122 biodigesters, offsetting roughly 9,109 kilograms of methane from entering the atmosphere by reducing the burning of 1,512 kilograms of firewood. The company expects this growth to continue, as it has generated more than 1,700 leads through social media marketing campaigns.

Next Steps Toward a Climate-Smart Bangladesh

In 2024, USAID plans to work with ATEC to take the sales agent model to scale by onboarding 300 agents and creating Shobuj Shakti villages in the Feed the Future Zone. USAID also plans to hold meetings with biogas industry stakeholders and partner with at least two more private companies to collect manure from farmers to make biofertilizers. By partnering with credible institutions to set targets for how much methane can be released, and experimenting with anti-methanogenic additives, USAID and its partners can help decrease the amount of methane gas that is emitted into the atmosphere. 

This climate-smart, wallet-friendly development could be a major boon for efforts to improve food security. Partnerships will be key in connecting private sector companies to the farmers who drive the agricultural sector.

Country
Bangladesh
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation
Topics
Agriculture, Climate-Resilient Agriculture, Carbon, Emissions, Gender and Social Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Private Sector Engagement
Region
Asia

Muhammad Nurul Amin Siddiquee

Muhammad Nurul Amin Siddiquee is the Chief of Party of the Feed the Future Bangladesh Livestock and Nutrition Activity, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA. He also serves as ACDI/VOCA’s country representative in Bangladesh.

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