Animal Waste as Renewable Fuel

It’s time to get back to writing!

I spent part of this summer studying abroad in the lush, verdant country of Costa Rica.  And it was there, at a women’s cooperative in a little village called Hone Creek, that I discovered that pigs can power a kitchen.

a Senora sweeping the pig waste into the capture area


Happy Pigs

…Or at least their manure can fuel a gas stove.  How did I not know about this before?

Oh sure, sure, I know about cow patties standing in as fire wood, a practice that goes way way way back.  But animal biomass being converted into biofuel (or, more specifically, biogas) was a new one on me.

My friend Johanna and I took the weekend off from studying español to visit the women’s co-op, called El Yue, (pronounced “el jway”) which is located on the Caribbean coast, about an hour northwest of Puerto Viejo.  It’s a place that is difficult to describe.  Small yet endless, simple yet immensely diverse… walking into El Yue is like walking into a magic jungle.

The early-morning stillness gets you first.  Like a big, quiet space… until you notice that everything is moving.  Tiny creatures dart and fly and twitch and crawl… leaf-cutter ants, poison dart frogs, toucans, howler monkeys, some kind of crazy blue lizards… and there is a coating of dew on all the green life that sparkles in the sun and makes you feel like you are walking in some kind of dream.  Then you get 17 mosquito bites on your right leg and walk face-first into a spider web and remember that you are here to document what some incredible women are doing in this village out in the middle of no where.

Johanna on the property - El Yue


The women of El Yue are an anomaly in Costa Rica.  Seemingly the only women’s co-op in the country, El Yue is a mini oasis of female brilliance amid a male-dominated society.  They have an organic medicinal herb garden, a school room, a library, a kitchen and lodging, and soon will also have a functioning arts and crafts building.  And of course they have those pigs.  Two adorable pigs, which provide the fuel for the community kitchen.


So how do they do it? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.  What I know is that one of the women sweeps the dung from the piglets into a catch, and then the gas is captured in a sort of plastic tube, and piped into the kitchen.

A great link if you want to learn more about it: Animal Waste:  Future energy or just hot air?


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