Network of Biodigesters for Latin America and the Caribbean (RedBioLAC)
RedBioLAC is a consolidated and very active network of individuals and organisations involved in applied research, implementation and advocacy on biodigesters. Their aim is to contribute to the proper management of natural resources while promoting socio-economic wellbeing in Latin American and Caribbean.
Improving livelihood family farmers through biodigester technology
News from WISIONS posted on June 15th, 2021
Costa Rica is known to have a strong agricultural sector largely constituted by small and medium-sized farms run by family farmers (appr. 55% of all registered agricultural enterprises), providing employment and income. Additionally, biodigesters have been promoted substantially by different stakeholders during the last two decades as renewable energy sources for those family farmers to tackle environmental and economic challenges. In particular during the COVID-19 pandemic those family farmers have been identified as a major factor in the latest economic development plan of the government to build-up economic and social resilience. However, in case of the biodigesters, maintenance became an increasing issue. Hence, many biodigesters became abandoned or not fully active recently.
The Costa Rican biogas association (Asobiogas) is seeking to address this problem. Asobiogas organised a workshop in July 2019 and came to the conclusion that family farmers significantly represent important actors to reestablish these biodigesters again. Five key points have been identified as necessary for rebuilding family farmers’ trust in biodigester technology and for ensuring the adoption of sustainable energy solutions in this important agricultural sector. Additionally, the adoption of a multistakeholder approach combining the successful use of biodigesters by family farmers with support from biogas researchers, local energy practitioners and other local actors will create a knowledge exchange platform. This will support the revitalisation of the use of biogas technology among other family farmers. The main goals are to develop and implement successful strategies for biogas application and to provide other family farmers with the opportunity of adopting the technology.
WISIONS supports this core project as it accentuates the importance of local knowledge among family farmers for establishing the sustainable transition to renewable energy access. A series of exchanges between the different stakeholders – with a focus on family farmers – will be facilitated and the insights gained will lead to a best case example of how local knowledge can build up resilience and capacity for sustainable energy access in the Global South.
The core project will be facilitated in collaboration with our local partner Asobiogas and also members of the RedBioLAC, which has been working with us already in the past for the further consolidation of biodigesters technology and biomass gasification. The resource and project management of the RedbioLAC is carried out by our US-based partner Green Empowerment.
Biodigesters can help to improve the livelihoods of rural households in the Global South in different ways. They allow treating flows of organic waste, thereby improving the in-farm management of soil. The by-product of the treatment is biogas, a combustible gas which can replace other unsustainable fuels. Additionally the effluent and sludge produced by the process are of great value as organic fertilizer. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there is a long history of initiatives which have adapted, tested and further developed small and medium-sized biogas technologies. However, back in 2009, avenues for exchanging experiences were almost non-existent, especially for practitioners active in the field.
RedBioLAC came into existence in 2009, following a WISIONS SEPS project (Biogas Digester Innovations In Latin America), which focused on sharing experiences on the use of biodigesters in Latin America. This first exchange gave impetus to the idea of establishing a network to promote knowledge sharing between research, development and advocacy groups involved with biogas technologies in Latin America and the Caribbean. The network was formalised at a meeting in 2010 in Costa Rica.
RedBioLAC’s vision is to become the leading organisation providing research, development, implementation and advocacy in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) for the use of biodigesters to stimulate the sustainable management of natural resources and promote people’s socioeconomic wellbeing in LAC.
RedBioLAC’s brings together institutions related to applied research and the dissemination of anaerobic biodigestion to achieve the following objectives:
- Exchange information, knowledge and experiences among participating institutions
- Identify and overcome technical, environmental, social and economic barriers in the field of biogas
- Propose projects, mechanisms and ideas to disseminate biodigester technology within LAC
- Generate alliances that facilitate the adoption of biodigester technology
- Systematise research and disseminate findings among partners, and share insights with related fields including health, financing, policy, education, industry and marketing
- Promote the inclusion of other organisations, institutions and researchers in the field of biodigesters
- Promote actions to advocate and influence policies related to biodigesters
RedBioLAC is a very active platform for knowledge exchange, development and dissemination. This is achieved via diverse methods and activities, specifically through the annual conference, annual magazine, e-learning, online library and forum. Additionally, two areas of activity fostering knowledge creation and dissemination have emerged recently: working groups and a student internship programme. Find more about these activities below.
Annual Event and magazine
The annual conference provides a dynamic opportunity for interaction between experts, relevant stakeholders and interested audiences in general. The conference format entails not only presentations and discussions about the latest developments, but also training courses on basic biogas technologies and field visits.
2018 marked the 10th Annual RedBioLAC Conference, which took place from 17 – 21 September 2018 in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil. A video summarising the conference is available on Facebook, along with photos of the event.Since 2017 the network has published an annual magazine to showcase academic research, case studies, scientific groups, technical factsheets and advertise projects, programmes, companies, and services on biogas.
Online Platform and Library
Of the network's online tools, the discussion forum is the liveliest area for interaction, with more than 900 participating subscribers. Almost 500 topics are available on the forum, providing a rich source of knowledge on anaerobic digestion as applied in the region
A broad variety of publications on a number of topics can be found in the online library.
Topic-specific working groups aim to involve network members in the development of collaborative projects in order to address specific knowledge gaps (e.g. technical issues, management monitoring and impact assessment) or to strengthen collaboration at sub-regional levels (e.g. the ‘southern cone’, the ‘Andean countries’, the Caribbean states and Central America).
The student internship programme aims to facilitate and support applied research on topics relevant to network members by involving students at the advanced stage of their studies. This serves to address knowledge gaps, while simultaneously contributing to international knowledge-sharing and capacity-building of the next generation of experts and decision-makers.
The network's secretariat is run by the organisation