1) What is Sistema.bio, and how has your organization worked to address the challenges of poverty, food security, and climate change?

Sistema.bio is a social enterprise that uses innovative technology, capacity building, and inclusive financing to address poverty, food security, and climate change. Sistema.bio manufactures and distributes high-quality, affordable biodigesters that enable farmers around the world to convert waste into energy and fertilizer. By providing flexible, interest-free repayment plans and comprehensive monitoring services, Sistema.bio works with farmers to ensure they become more sustainable, independent, and productive. The company operates globally with the potential to bring clean energy and sustainable agricultural practices to more than a million farmers.

From operational hubs and field offices across five continents, Sistema.bio’s team engages with local farmer networks to promote innovative energy solutions in local languages, with local leaders, under local conditions. The enterprise offers financing, a robust warranty, and after-sales service to ensure that farmers have access to the technology and use it for a lifetime.

2) Tell us a bit about your innovative, affordable biogas system, for which you’ve won an Ashden Award.

Our patented technology takes an innovative approach to waste management, viewing waste as a resource, and creating clean energy and fertilizer in an efficient, cost-effective manner. This new platform for development creates value where once there was none. At the core of our work is the patented Sistema.bio technology, a waste-to-resources platform that converts organic waste into clean, renewable energy and organic fertilizer. By converting waste into renewable natural gas, we create fuel for cooking, heating, running productive agricultural activities, and producing decentralized electricity. Our technological platform can process as little as 20 kg and as much as 2 tons of waste per day, meeting the energy and fertilizer needs of a wide variety of farm types and sizes.

Working with small farmers and indigenous groups, we’ve developed innovative social engagement tools that allow us to adapt and integrate our technological platform with local agricultural systems. We make complex challenges easy to understand through art, storytelling, and demonstrations, and support local leaders through effective educational programming.

Our commercial efforts are also innovative, as we provide even the poorest farmers access to high quality products, services, and financing. We offer world-class service and zero-interest loans to all of our farmers. We also leverage significant low-interest capital through crowdfunding and adjust our payment plans to meet the needs of each farmer and their cash flow challenges across the course of the agricultural cycle.

We believe that, through technology, training, and financing, farmers can be empowered to solve these problems themselves and, as a result, have a significant and lasting impact on the world.

3) What lessons have you learned working in the clean cooking space, and what challenges do you see for the sector in the years ahead?

Sistema.bio is in a position to have a direct impact on rural communities and smallholder farmers, who grow approximately 80% of the food consumed in developing countries yet suffer from a critical lack of climate-smart agricultural technology and training. Most rural households still use woodfuel to meet their energy needs, 30% of which is harvested unsustainably and produces net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Their alternative is to meet their household and farm energy needs with fossil fuels, creating a pathway for further GHG emissions. Chemical fertilizers and other agricultural inputs emit GHGs through their production, transport, and application, locking farmers into a costly and emissions-intensive production cycle. Finally, agricultural wastes and animal manures, managed inefficiently, create significant GHG emissions while also contaminating local watersheds. Smallholder farmers are increasingly exposed to the effects of climate change but lack resiliency strategies to change at the same pace.

Through 10 years of work, we have learned that, though the challenge of providing clean energy is massive, many promising initiatives have been put in place. We all need to work collaboratively to assist the rural populations that have been most affected by polluted air and polluted spaces.

To learn more about Sistema.bio, visit https://sistema.bio/. To find out more about Sistema.bio as the winner of the 2019 Ashden Award for Clean Cooking, visit https://www.ashden.org/winners/sistema-bio.