Monday, December 21, 2015

Biodigester at the slaughterhouse

This is my last day in office before the end of the year. It is time to post my last post about my Ugandan trip, so that my blog can also serve as report! Remember during that last trip visited the slaughterhouse of Wambizi. As part of their waste management, they recently installed a bio - digester.

A biodigester is like a mechanical stomach. It is fed with organic material, which is broken down (decomposed) by micro-organisms (bacteria) is an oxygen-free (anaerobic) environment to produce a renewable energy called biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) and other material that is mainly used as fertilizer.

What here the stories behind the Wambizi biodigester, how it has been build, how it is working, and how the resulting gas is used for boiling the water for slaughter.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Slaugherhouse visit in Wambizzi

As part of our field trip to understand better the pig value chain in Hoima, Uganda, we also wanted to understand better waste management from the pigs. However in Hoima there is no abattoir yet, as all pigs are slaughtered in backyards (what they call slaughter places) .

 Therefore we visited the Wambizzi abattoir, in the suburb of Kampala. I alwayswonder what i need to imagine when i think of an abattoir in the developing world, and i have seen too many extremes from dirty backyard to super modern infrastructure. Wambizzi was something in between. 

the marabu
There is no asphalt in the place, and so when we arrived, the place was muddy and Marabou's were eating some left over. We first were invited to join for a discussion with the manager and some cooperative members. We learned a lot from them.

pig waiting to be slaughtered
First of all it is a farmer owned cooperative, where farmer can get their pig slaughtered for a fee. Non cooperative member can also get pig slaughtered here, but the fee is higher. If requested the cooperative does also do some marketing, linking the farmer with alive pigs with a buyer of slaughtered meat.

the room where meat is hung after slaughtering
They used to have a cold room, but it was broken during the last war, this is more than 30 years ago... and somehow they have never found the means to reconstruct it. That's why they are slaughtering only in the morning and only pig for which they already have a buyer.

tables where meat gets cuts
The location of the abattoir is quite convenient near to Kampala, but there are competing land use claims and it is now located on the trace for the new highway. The government has asked them to leave the the place and they are looking for a new location. This is also an opportunity to modernize, however the eviction compensation will not be enough to support the emergence of an new slaughterhouse.

We also went on a tour in the slaughterhouse. Lucky me, it was after lunch, so no slaughtering anymore, just cleaning.

alive pig storage
Hot water is needed to take of the hair of the pigs, that's why the room where pigs are slaughtered is next to the one where water is boiled. Up until today water is boiled with water, but they are building a bio digesters which should recycle waste and give them enough energy to replace the wood. We will look at the bio digester in a separate post. 
hot water boiler
When a pig is slaughtered the blood is collected in a pit, where it is mixed with soap that is used to keep the place safe. The combination of blood and soap is not ideal, as soap inhibits the biodigesting process, and therefore the blood is just released into the near by river. Not only this is polluting but it is also a way to spread diseases.

room where the pigs are slaughtered and blood collected

Intestines are kept separately and sold to some people who cleaning them and sell them for dog food. This is an outsourced service that is not managed by the cooperative however it is lowering the waste and provides some job opportunity.
cleaning the intestines
The slaughterhouse does not have a incinerators, so hairs are sometimes burnt but mainly piled up on what is now about a 6 meter high compact mass. Pig hair do not decompose easily.
waste pile
 We have seen that the slaughterhouse is providing good services to its farmers and offers a clean environment for slaughtering pigs. It is challenged with waste management and is going innovative way to address those and their mobile biodigerster is an example of this.
room where the meat is hanging before sales

However, i have been shocked by their begging attitude, "look we are trying our best", "we support smallholder farmers" help us to get money. I know from own experience that meat markets are growing in Africa, and that there is margin in the business to be collected. But where does it go? Why is the slaughterhouse not able to raise at least some profit to develop further? In my discussions with the manager and the head of the cooperative i tried to investigate these questions? My conclusion was, it is simply the lack of entrepreneurship. I had a longer discussion with them about the fact that the new models donors look at are models that include silent capital, meaning no donation but very fair investment capital (with low or zero interest rate). It was an interesting discussion, which led to my very personal conclusion, that the problem here is the lack of entrepreneurship. If they would develop a business plan in which they can show that they have even just a very small return on investment, I am sure that they can win donors ready to donate part and lend part of the necessary capital to develop a new smallholder based slaughterhouse.

the field team Edmund, myself, Grace, Joanne and our driver, the abattoir manager next to Edmund

Both the manager and the cooperative head listened carefully, and i have hope that some of my reflections opened there mind to new models. I still have not figured out how to really support them in their process to become entrepreneurial while remaining on their very innovative waste management approach... Any idea? Then don't hesitate to contact me!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Tobacco production and its challenges for crop modelling

Before the end of the year, I also would like to finish my reporting from this years field trip to Uganda, when we were looking at the pig value chain in Hoima.

We crossed the fields with the aims to understand better how feeds and fodders are produced and try to understand how we can model this best. A first step was to understand rice which i described in an older post. But crossing the fields we discovered another dynamics : tobacco.

the sheds to dry tabbaco
In the landscape you recognize tobacco at the many sheds used for drying the tabacco, but we also saw the trucks picking the dry leaves.

We asked around and discovered that tobacco was a very good business as it would all be contracted. That means, farmers have a guaranteed market for their product and the tobacco gets picked at farm gate. Also they receive on credit all the input beginning of the season and need to pay them with the harvest.

tobacco ready to be picked
This is a very good low risk offer for the smallholder farmer, and therefore could seriously compete with feed and fodder production as the pig value chain intensives.
drying tabbaco
Tobacco only grows during the longer wet season, so the the land can be used for other crops during the short wet season.

Our model will need to reduce the amount of land available for feeds and fodder production, to account for tobacco, also we might need to allow users of our model to define this amount of land, to give opportunities to decision makers to understand trade-offs between to tobacco and the pig value chain.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How does research contribute to mitigation and adaptation in the agricultural sector?

After some break from writing on this blog, I am just in time to contribute to the climate change debate, which i hope to be able discuss it different angles in the up-coming posts. So keep following the climate change tag.

Lots of climate related research we do is sponsored by IFAD, among others the project on pig in Uganda careful reader already know of. IFAD visited the research projects they have sponsored to understand if agricultural research in the developing world does support smallholder farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Wanna know about their conclusions? Check out this movie!