What if you never had to go to the store to buy one of those unwieldy propane tanks again? Better yet, what if you could make your own clean-burning fuel? San Francisco-based microfinance firm Kiva partnered with Costa Rica’s Viogaz in April to help people do just that.
The partnership aims to help rural Costa Ricans finance the switch from fossil fuel-based energy to biodigesters, devices that generate clean-burning methane from organic waste, like cow manure. The gas can be used to generate electricity, power hot water heaters and fuel cooking stoves.
“In addition to reducing energy costs, farmers will have solutions for waste management, for reducing odors and emissions of greenhouse gases,” Viogaz program coordinator Jesús Jiménez said.
Biodigesters use bacteria to break down organic matter and capture methane in a process called anaerobic fermentation. Anaerobic means the micro-organisms digest the matter in the absence of oxygen.
The methane, the main chemical in natural gas, is collected and stored in large inflatable bladders and can be burned to generate electricity for lighting, cooking and other household needs, as well as for heating livestock pens. The leftover organic solid waste can be used as fertilizer or further composted.
The biodigester financing program is open to anyone in Costa Rican, including expats, but the company is specifically geared toward people who do not have access to typical banking services.
Viogaz program coordinator Jesús Jiménez said the company will offer credits up to $2,500 to those who qualify for a loan. Credits are granted in periods ranging from nine to 24 months with a fixed interest rate of 10 percent.
After applicants submit their proposal, Viogaz evaluates the project from a technical and socio-economic perspective to assess its feasibility. If the project checks out, the microfinance firm Kiva creates a profile on its online platform and promotes the project for 30 days to raise the funds. Interested individuals can lend small amounts of money to the project and get paid back over time.
Since 2005, Kiva has lent more than $850 million to over 1 million applicants in 84 countries, according to a company statement. The firm has 1.4 million lenders and a repayment rate of 98.3 percent.
Those interested in applying for a loan can contact Viogaz by phone at: (506) 4702-0574 or by email at: [email protected] English-speaking staff is available.
Watch a video of a biodigester, courtesy of Viogaz.