Day 7: Design from patterns to details, Busoga high school and Moses Kitimbo homestead

We begin our design process with a morning of theory before heading  out on a site visit to see examples of integrated design and agro forestry in practice. A key partner school for Dolen Ffermio is Busoga high school, a 700 pupil establishment catering for 6-18 year old students in the Kamuli district near to where we are based for our course. It was the first school in the Busoga region established in 1886 and they have been working with Dolen Ffermio from the outset, we saw orchards of citrus established in 202 along with school gardens and their new Matoke (plantain) field, planted by students as part of their studies.

PDC group at Busoga high school

Moses Kitimbo is the member of Dolen Ffermio and a retired teacher in agriculture from Busoga high school. He led on many of the tree planting and the school biogas project, now retired he prioritises his time for Dolen Ffermio.


Mixing the manure is an exacting process, no lumps! It has to be thoroughly mixed

One of the theme for the day’s site visits is Biogas. This is a technology that Dolen Ffermio has invested in, creating a domestic scale example at the Kitimbo home and larger one at the school. Under the watchful eye of the Kitimbo family their system is working well. It integrates with a domestic latrine, which is actually not heavily used and almost exclusively runs on cow manure. It sounds pretty simple, manure enters a chamber, where it ferments anaerobically with a combination of yeast and bacteria breaking it down producing methane and a nutrient rich slurry which can be used as a plant or animal feed. The pressure of the gas building in the chamber pushes the digestate out of an exit chamber as once it has fermented t becomes lighter and separates to the top of the tank.

Inputs, humanure toilet and cow manure mixing trough for the domestic biogas system

All sounds great, and it is an amazing system when opporational, not least because it works well and is highly valued as a result as it displaces so much firewood for cooking and a lot of attention is paid it keeps to make sure

At the school it doesn’t run so smoothly and here there are many lessons to be learned, sometimes things that don’t work so well are the real learning opportunities and seeing the two systems side my side made me understand hem much better. The school system runs mainly on humanure.. from the kids, and this is not really enough to drive the whole fermentation process. Plus, with the long vacation when the school is empty for a month or more the whole system dries up an needs to be dug out and reloaded to get it running again. At a school such as Busoga with great many other concerns than fermenting dung the teachers struggle to make sorting it out a priority on a day by day basis.

Not and integrated system, it’s a good example of an external investment not being quite sustainable unless championed by one or two individuals against all odds. The solution is that it needs regular adition of well stirred cow manure to dirve the fermentation process which ouwl tehn work well with irregular inputs of humanure

This could be a great link project to Llanfyllin high school. They could study the energy imprint of reinvigorating the biomass system as a project and we could develop a design process that might put a maintenance plan in for the Busoga project.

Firewood is huge issue here, and displacing half of their 16 truck fulls a yer with biogas is a good start. The other part of the project w ar really passionate about is the potential to work with biochar and wood gas. Seeing how they cook it is self apparent this is an area for potential innovation.

How inefficient can we go? Smoke and wasted fuel contribute to Uganda’s de-forestation and health problems

Biochar, wood gas and clean cooking using a fraction of the fuel are the potential goals of our design work here, but it is frustratingly hard to break through tradition.

Course participant Paul with the school cooking pots

Course participant Paul with the school cooking pots

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