SOME 17,500 rural households will be equipped with eco-friendly biodigesters, which convert agricultural waste into cooking gas, in order to meet the country's growing energy needs under a new Dutch-funded program, government officials said .
"We hope this biodigester will benefit not only households, but the agricultural sector as a whole because it can help reduce the rate of deforestation, and the waste left over ... will be used for natural fertiliser," Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun said.
The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), began the National Biodigester Program in 2005 but has so far installed only 3,633 of planned biodigesters.
FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Co) via Prasac Microfinance Institution has provided US$2 million for low-interest loans for farmers to build biodigester plants, which cost between $200 and $1,000.
The plants require about 20 to 40 kilograms of animal dung daily and can supply energy for five to six hours of cooking and 12 to 15 hours of lighting every day.
Biodigesters can last more than 20 years, allowing farmers to recover their costs of construction in 16 to 24 months, based on similar programs in central Asia.
Some 22,000 people in Cambodia already benefit from biodigester plants, program officials say, with Takeo province leading with 1,126 devices now in use.