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AU students working on clean energy

Five Africa University students have completed research on building a biogas digester to produce renewable clean energy for household use in rural communities.

Your support of the Africa University Fund apportionment supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure.

Monalisa Tanatsiwa Chatsama, who is studying Health Services Management, is one of the students working on the biogas digester.

"Working on this project has made me feel like I am so much capable of greatness, and at the same time realizing that I have not been using my potential to the fullest," Chatsama said.

"I am looking forward to presenting this project on more platforms and raising funds for us to construct our first biodigesters," she said.

Yollanda Washaya, innovation hub manager for the United Methodist University, said the digester will be good for the environment since users would recycle waste such as cow dung, human or other waste, which would then be fermented to produce heat for cooking and lighting.

The students, from Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, started building the digester when they returned to the institution this Fall.

"Setting up is costly but the running costs are minimal. The digester substitutes conventional use of firewood and fossil fuel, such as coal, with available waste," Washaya said.

The digester would also produce bio-slurry, which could be used as a natural fertilizer.  "We would be substituting nitrous fertilizers with natural fertilizers," she said.

Once constructed, the biogas digester would be taken to the Clinical Research Centre for product testing.

She said the digester would have many benefits for rural communities as it would provide heating, lighting, create jobs and promote sustainable agriculture.

The biogas digester is being developed in the Africa University i5Hub, a new initiative for the institution that aims to commercialize research done at the school.

"Our research is now more solution-oriented. We should be able to adopt and adapt the research for use in different African countries," she said.

Washaya said AU is the first university in the country to have a 3D printer. It is used for printing physical prototypes of inventions for taking to the market. The i5Hub also consists of graphic designers for branding the finished products.

"By the time a product goes through all processes in our innovation hub, it will be ready to go to market," she said.

The i5Hub, located in the university's Information and Communication Technology department, focuses on five I's – ideation, incubation, innovation, intellectual property and industrialization.

Africa University is also working on an initiative to build its own biogas digester.

Eveline Chikwanah, communicator of the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference.

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Africa University Fund transforms Africa by educating and empowering students from across the continent through Africa University, the first fully accredited, United Methodist-related educational institution on the continent. The Africa University Fund supports the general operating expenses of Africa University including faculty and staff salaries and vital infrastructure. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Africa University Fund at 100 percent.

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