Faustin Lekule, Professor at the SUA University, Morogoro, Tanzania and co-founder of SURUDE
EH/ How and when did you meet SUPERFLEX? What were the circumstances?
FL/ I met SUPERFLEX in Denmark when I was attending a development workers’ seminar at Tune, I think it was 1995/96. They expressed their interest in the biogas technology so we arranged to meet at my hotel. We had further discussions there about the possibility of modifying our plastic bio-digester in order to improve its durability. We agreed that they arrange to come to Tanzania and see our design and to help us develop a more reliable biogas system.
EH/ Did they contact you or was it a chance meeting?
FL/ I believe they had some information about my visit to Tune.
EH/ Tell us something about your own background and about the experiences you bring with you from your work in the past.
FL/ I am a specialist in livestock production and have been heavily involved in research in rural areas which led to my initiation of founding an NGO (SURUDE – Sustainable Rural Organisation) of which I was the first chairman. SURUDE was formed in 1994 and from its formation we have been involved in various activities related to rural development. The technologies promoted revolve around livestock and hence the biogas technology.
EH/ Tell us something about SURUDE and what it has to do with the biogas project.
FL/ SURUDE is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) working to improve the livelihood of rural communities. Biogas was introduced to conserve the environment and get cheap energy from animal waste in rural areas.
EH/ Are you aware that SUPERFLEX is an art group?
EH/ There’s a certain kind of polarity between economy and art; how can this serve the purpose of the biogas pro-ject or be adverse to it?
FL/ Art can be used to disseminate information faster.
EH/ Have you seen SUPERFLEX’s photo series?
FL/ Only some.
EH/ What role do they play in the project from your point of view?
FL/ They could inspire newcomers to the technology.
EH/ Tell us something about the economical, social, anthropological and cultural situation in Tanzania pertaining to the introduction of such biogas plants. About the, no doubt, complex problems.
FL/ Biogas has no social attachment. Economically it is used to reduce expenditure on other energy sources.
EH/ What are the sociological advantages and disadvantages for the biogas project?
FL/ It imparts important knowledge on the need to conserve the environment. After all, SURUDE biogas is just one of the several options for protecting the environment.
It has, however, several limitations like cost, the need for water, need for livestock, complexity of many designs etc.
EH/ What kind of people and/or organisations are interested in a biogas plant by SUPERFLEX?
FL/ There is only one SUPERFLEX plant in Tanzania
EH/ What do its users like about it?
FL/ More durable and easy to transport.
EH/ Could biogas plants be mass-produced in Tanzania?
FL/ The price is what many people cannot afford.
EH/ Would there be a market?
FL/ Better market would be for urban and peri-urban farmers, not rural areas.
EH/ What are your personal interests in cooperation with SUPERFLEX (I mean rather the ideological than the economical side)?
FL/ Eventually come up with a cheap but durable biogas plant.
EH/ What do you think about SUPERFLEX’s working method of discussing everything extensively in the group? Do you enjoy the fact that the talks might not always be entirely serious?
FL/ Good. Yes.
(Following this interview, further questions were e-mailed to Prof. Lekule by Edda Hoefer.)
EH/ We’ve had more talks with SUPERFLEX about the book and there are some more questions we want to ask you. Could you describe how the normal biogas system (the tube digester) which you are using works and what problems it presents.
FL/ The tubular plastic bio-digester works on the principle of continuous flow. Like other biogas systems it uses animal excreta as a substrate and produces biogas.
1) Fragility of plastic, needs to be well protected.
2) Easily damaged by sun: must be protected.
3) Gas production not sufficient for large families.
EH/ Please explain why you are interested in SUPERFLEX's biogas system.
FL/ It is more durable, easy to transport and install.
EH/ How can a farmer finance a biogas system?
FL/ Establishment of a revolving fund. Initiating a heifer in the trust scheme and include a biogas plant in the package.
EH/ What small scale economy models does SURUDE offer to finance for instance a biogas system or a cow?
FL/ Credit scheme as indicated above.
Final update November 2001:
FL/ I am still working with SUPERFLEX. Looking back on those past two years I can say about our work that it has been encouraging, but there is no clear indication on how to sustain it. We are still searching for a more durable but relatively cheap biogas system that can
easily be transported, sold and installed.
For the future I hope for more awareness creation, more institutions promoting the biogas technology, more NGOs dealing with biogas and hence more farmers adopting it. Success will come once the use of biogas has become an integral part of the whole farming system.