Otros Mundos A.C. has always sought fair, decentralized energy alternatives, with critical thinking on how to obtain, store and distribute energy; contrary to the clean or renewable energies proposed by the capitalist model, based on occupying extensions of territories, violating human rights, promoting mining extraction, which Otros Mundos A.C. proclaims as projects of death. This organization is totally against mining companies and megaprojects that accelerate the destruction of biological and cultural diversity in the country and the world. Instead, its philosophy as an association is to support towns, communities and organizations that seek energy alternatives, such as local experiences with solar panels, energy-saving stoves, micro hydroelectric experiences, biodigesters, among others.
With this in mind, in 2020, 32 indigenous and farming families, with the support of the association Otros Mundos A.C., assembled and installed biodigesters on their plots of land to produce biogas and organic fertilizers. In this way, they have been able to confront the respiratory diseases caused by cooking on wood stoves, the high costs of agrochemicals and the deterioration of the soil due to their use. Thus, the Network of Biodigester Users in Chiapas was consolidated, whose families have seen how the biodigesters generate enough biogas to cook and heat water daily, and avoid the purchase of fertilizers produced from fossil fuels.
In this experience, biodigesters have been a device that, when installed in indigenous communities, is easy to use, adapts to the context and its benefits can be seen immediately, since animal manure is used to produce biogas and biofertilizers for crops. In this way, peasant production is ensured, while energy is obtained for cooking food.
Technical characteristics of the proposal
The network of users in Chiapas has been growing and currently there are 32 families with biodigestion equipment installed in two economic regions, V: Tsotsil-Tseltal Highlands and VX: Comiteco-Tojolabal Plateau in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Each unit produces 3 hours of biogas and 100L of biofertilizers daily. The material used for these units is HDPE geomembrane 1 mm thick with a useful life of approximately 20 years.
The maintenance that is given is to add to the biodigester 20L of fresh manure daily that is diluted with 60 to 80L of water, which with this is treating up to a maximum of 40L of manure to produce 2.4m3 of biogas equivalent to 3 hours of burning stove and 100L of biofertilizer that goes directly to the cornfield and other crops or fruit trees, vegetables.
The tools used in the installations are basic and indispensable: a vehicle or truck to transport materials, geomembrane, high-density polyethylene hoses, geotextile for protection and at least three people who work in the installations. Tools include: two cordless drills, jigsaws, screwdrivers, 1-inch pipe cutters for polyducts, hammer, PVC glue, butane gas cans for blowtorch, drill bits of different sizes. As far as hardware is concerned, they are mainly omega clamps, steel nails, pins of different sizes, and anchors. The technical team at Otros Mundos A.C. has specialized devices for extrusion and thermofusion, which will be required for repairs, cracks or any damage to the geomembrane materials.
An important commitment assumed by the families when forming part of the Biodigester Network is to commit to actively participate in training for the handling of the equipment, to carry out civil works for the biodigester and, if necessary, to build a trench or a wall in the form of a cistern to place the geomembrane material. The installation takes five hours if the space and civil works are in optimal conditions, otherwise it can delay the work up to three to four hours more. Being a biodigester installed daily, it takes fifteen days after the biodigester is installed to wait for the system to be activated to start taking advantage of the biogas and biofertilizer.
Productive, community, environmental, or economic processes or activities that were positively impacted by the implementation of the community experience of TEJ.
This network has benefited mainly housewives, children, young people, adults, men and senior citizens by obtaining biogas and biofertilizers. The benefits are reflected in the reduced workload of women and minors in collecting firewood in the forests, which means that they have more time for other activities such as education, agriculture or the care of backyard animals. When the biodigester systems start to produce, families begin to use only biogas for cooking, often expressing the joy they have to obtain and produce their own energy for cooking, heating water and / or productive activities such as small productions such as cheese, jams and other complementary activities to food and economy.
Women’s participation in the TEJ community experience
In the training workshops there are generally more women than men, so in the end, they are the ones in charge of maintaining the systems. Proof of this is a sentence written by engineer Anne Marie Schpoming: “At the beginning of February we held our first meeting of the Network of Biodigester Users in Chiapas. All the families in which we have established a system so far were invited. We were especially pleased with the presence of so many women, girls and boys. In fact, there are as many women as men who work with the systems on a daily basis”(Report by Anne Marie Schpomig, environmental protection and renewable energy technician and engineer, and volunteer at Otros Mundos A. C.). In this way, the Network of Biodigester Users in Chiapas (REDUB) highlights the participation of mostly women and children in the whole process, from the political and environmental awareness workshops, to a lot of participation in the installations. For the highlands region of Chiapas they have worked with indigenous Tsotsil and Tseltal women of different ages, i.e., girls, young women, adults and elderly women who have now improved their quality of life in an unexpected way with the use of biodigesters by obtaining energy that reduces the workload of getting firewood and/or the economic pressure of buying L.P. gas cylinders month after month.