Sharing knowledge on biogas

By Mathias Huckert 19 April 2016, 12:00AM

Vietnam was where it all started. 

Usufono Fepuleai had the chance to visit a seminar in Hanoi, where he learnt everything about the principle, the advantages and finally the construction of biogas-systems. 

Having travelled and lived in the Asian continent for more than 25 years, he instantly knew that these systems might be something his home country as well as the rest of the world would benefit from. 

“I understood that this was a gift that they have in Asia and I decided to bring that gift with me when I returned to Samoa,” he said.

That was what he did. According to Fepuleai, it took him five days to learn how the system was built to produce clean and renewable fuel. 

“I came back and immediately started to train seven people on the construction of biogas systems, until we were finally ready to build one on our own.”

 Since this time, the group was able to spread the knowledge about biogas and its advantages to many different countries, including the Solomon Islands and Tonga.

On their base near the town of Apia, along with other members of Y.W.A.M (Youth with a mission), Fepulea’i and the men and women he instructed were able to build five different biogas-systems so far, which are already worth the effort. 

“With these systems, we are capable of running the kitchen here independent from the electric supply system or the gas network.”

But for Usufono Fepuleai, this project is not the end of the line. 

“Our main goal here is that by the end of 2020, we should be able to generate enough energy with the biogas-systems as well as additional solar-systems, to run the complete base on our own.”

To reach this goal, Fepuleai points out that knowledge about the subject is the key to spreading the usage of biogas all over the planet. That is why he, along with his wife Sose Utu Fepuleai, regularly shares his knowledge about biogas-systems in workshops. 

One of them just started and will last for the next six weeks.

“Within this workshop here, our focus is on the educational training about the construction of the systems. The process of construction in itself is not that hard, but the training on how to actually be able to build biogas-systems indeed is. If you want to sustain anything, you have to train first.”

One of the teachers who will explain the building process of biogas-systems to the workshop’s attendees is Mariana Samoauatasi. The 23-year old from Falealupo has been involved in the project for six years.

And with her experience, she will be able to share the knowledge about biogas with the participants of the ongoing workshop, but is also looking forward to a future placement in Africa with the help of Y.W.A.M’s Discipleship Training School. 

“Maybe at the end of the year, I might get the chance to teach to the people in Zambia everything I know about biogas.”


And Ms. Samoauatasi knows a lot about the subject.

“In our system, we use an underground tank to store all the waste from the toilet and the pigs we keep at our base, but also things like the leftover food from our kitchen.” 

Within this tank, which is refilled every morning, both, biogas as well as a high quality fertilizer is produced practically on its own. While the fertilizer then can be used for the base’s plants, the gas is led to the kitchen with the help of a pipe system.

The workshops participants will learn all about this construction. 

“For this workshop in particular, we have about 30 participants and this is the first time they will actually stay here at the base for the whole duration of their workshop,” said Sose Utu Fepuleai.

The range of participants for the workshop includes visitors from overseas, of which two were sent to Samoa by the government of Kazakhstan. 

“Our workshop also features people involved from countries such as Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Indonesia and of course Samoa itself.” Aaron Espe from Colorado, USA hopes to gain enough knowledge about biogas in Samoa to build a system for his University in Indonesia.

One of them is Mr Aaron Espe. Originally from the U.S.-state of Colorado, the American came to Samoa to learn about the construction of biogas-systems with the intention in mind to build them in Indonesia: “I didn’t know anything about biogas, but I stumbled across the subject within the context of my environmental science studies in college.

I had access to a lot of research papers and theories but I never did anything practical. When my wife and I moved to Indonesia, the opportunity was given to me to build my very own biogas-system”.

But according to Espe, this first attempt did not quite work out as he had planned it: “It was badly designed, it was leaking and there should have been gas but there wasn’t. I tried it again with a different construction plan in mind, but unfortunately, this also did not work well because of certain circumstances. So I started searching online for alternative forms concerning the construction-process and when I heard about this project here in Samoa, I realized that this is the only of its kind.”

With the completion of the workshop offered by Usufono Fepuleai, Aaron Espe hopes to transfer his newly gained knowledge to his adopted homeland Indonesia: “I want to build one biogas-system for my campus over there, and I hope that this will be possible with the shared knowledge here in Samoa”.

By Mathias Huckert 19 April 2016, 12:00AM

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