Despite an April 2014 commencement deadline and the availability of funds, the construction of an 800m3 bio-digester in Mbare remains a dream yet to come true.
The project saw City of Harare (CoH) receive a €300,000 (US$411,000) donation from the European Union to be used to construct the digester, but over a year later, construction is yet to start. The bio-digester is supposed to dispose of tonnes of vegetable waste produced by Mbare Musika, Zimbabwe’s top vegetable market, which attracts farmers from across the country.
When Harare News spoke to CoH acting Environmental Regulatory Planner Clifford Muzofa last year, he said his department was waiting for the awarding of a tender by the State Procurement Board to start construction. Muzofa expected construction to start by April last year, at the very latest. In fact, the bio-digester was expected to be fully functional by the end of 2014.
However, an inquiry at Town House this month showed that no progress has been made. CoH principal communications officer Michael Chideme said, “Refer to the information we gave you last year. Construction has not started – I will inform you when we do start.” Chideme did not answer questions previously emailed to him, including whether or not the donated money had been deferred to other uses.
When – and if constructed – the bio-digester will significantly reduce the cost of taking waste to Pomona dump site. It will take in both the agricultural waste from the market and biomass from households within the Mbare community. This will reduce potential breeding grounds for diseases such as cholera and typhoid.
Other benefits of the project include the creation of methane gas, which can generate electricity which will be fed to the national grid, while farmers who contribute their residue will be given organic fertiliser to be produced at the plant. CoH also plans to install heated public showers in Mbare which the public will use for a small fee.
The Mbare bio-digester is not the first in the city, as the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has already constructed plants at Harare Hospital and Roosevelt Girls School. CoH had plans to establish more bio-digesters in different communities, depending on the success of the Mbare project, with Highfields being the second target. All this hangs in balance.