BEIT YANAI, Israel, Aug 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
P alestinian villagers living in desolate, off-grid areas in the
West Bank have begun using Israeli-made biogas generators that
supply free, clean energy by gobbling up organic waste.
The portable, household "anaerobic digesters" made by
Israeli start-up company HomeBioGas turn food leftovers and
manure into methane for cooking and lighting.
They can be taken along if people living in ramshackle huts
or tent dwellers, such as local Bedouin, decide to relocate or
"HomeBioGas has invented this simple digester that can
easily be assembled and transported," said Palestinian engineer
Amer Rabayah, who coordinates installation of the devices.
Rural West Bank areas that Palestinians want as part of a
future state with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem have been
left under-developed, while Israel, which captured the territory
in a 1967 Middle East war, has invested in adjacent settlements.
Palestinians - largely left to fend for themselves - have
relied on donations from foreign states and international aid
"(In) this area ... there is no water or electricity. We
have no services," said local resident and digester owner Nayef
Around 40 digesters have been set up in a pilot project at
the Palestinian village of al-Awja in the central West Bank's
The European Union has funded the project to the tune of
some 500,000 euros ($559,750), and the Peres Center for Peace,
set up by former Israeli president Shimon Peres, facilitated
A group of Israeli and Palestinian volunteers helped
assemble the digesters, which take about three hours to install.
Some digesters have also been provided to Bedouin in Israel
in partnership with the Arava Institute for Environmental
Studies, based in the arid Negev desert.
Oshik Efrati, chief executive officer of HomeBioGas, said he
hoped the product would save many lives in rural areas across
the world where smoke from cooking on an open fire causes severe
respiratory illness and death.
Up to 2.7 billion people live in under-served communities
with no access to clean energy and waste disposal services,
HomeBioGas says, while 4.3 million women and children die each
year due to inhaling smoke from indoor open fires.
The company aims to expand its production capacity and
enlist governments and aid agencies to buy digesters for
impoverished communities, but plans are still in their infancy,
"This system will be available to everyone that needs it in
the developing world. It will eliminate waste, it makes clean
gas, and there is no need to breathe in any smoke," he said.
A fermentation process to produce the gas is precipitated
when bacteria is added in powder or liquid form to a mix of
water and waste. The bacteria then multiply to create a
Rich liquid fertiliser, a byproduct of the process, can also
be used to boost crop growth for a population that largely
relies on agriculture for income, Efrati explained.
HomeBioGas declined to discuss a retail price for the
digester, whose materials and construction costs amount to a few
hundred dollars. It is best suited for use in warm climates.
The company also sees affluent, environmentally aware
Western consumers as future clients for its product, which will
be sold to them for profit, marketing director Ami Amir said.
($1 = 0.8933 euros)
(Writing by Ori Lewis; editing by Megan Rowling)