That’s how Naser Qadous, Anera’s agricultural projects manager, described Natheera Al-Asad’s joy upon witnessing the blue flames emerge from the portable gas burner for the first time. “Natheera was skeptical about the entire project up until that moment,” explains Naser. “The surprise on her face was indescribable.”
The West Bank biogas project is one of Anera’s many agriculture projects that allow for self-sustainability and economic development in marginalized communities. The biogas digesters, designed and implemented by Anera engineers, provide a renewable source of energy at no cost because all that’s required is animal waste. Rural families in Palestine often have livestock that can easily provide the fuel.
The unique project has been introduced into the northern West Bank community of Al Maleh and also into the homes of 15 impoverished families in Gaza.
In Al Maleh, Anera celebrated the project’s success with a refreshing pot of tea in Natheera’s home. All the Bedouin mother of 11 had to do was turn on the gas burner, which is connected to an Anera-designed digester unit that turns animal waste to methane gas.
A Safer, Easier Way to Cook in the West Bank
From dawn to dusk, Natheera, now in her mid-fifties, works relentlessly with her husband churning milk, shepherding livestock, milking, maintaining their tents, cooking, cleaning and spoiling their grandchildren who visit them frequently from a nearby village. The drudgery of making a fire for cooking is something the couple doesn’t look forward to, although it is an everyday necessity.
“The soot is everywhere and the smoke is very thick and harmful,” Natheera explains. “It is also costly for us to buy the wood, so we sometimes forage for twigs and bigger pieces lying around.”
Open-fire fumes are quite harmful and Bedouins traditionally build tents over the fire as a shelter from wind and rain and out of the reach of children. The tents are often used as sleeping areas as well, which is unsafe and unhealthy.
Like other Bedouins, Netheera and her husband sometimes buy gas canisters to make life easier for them, but it is not something they can regularly afford. Now, all she has to do is feed the biogas digester animal waste, which is in plentiful supply from her livestock and free.
Although the digester cannot entirely replace the traditional open fire for a Bedouin, it can decrease its use and harmful effects. Now the couple can use the new biogas unit to quickly and efficiently prepare their early morning cup of Arabic coffee without worrying about soot or smoke dirtying the crisp clean air around them.
An extra bonus: Natheera says she is especially excited now about the ease of cooking her grandchildren’s favorite meals when they visit without exposing them to any harm.