Animal urine proves instrumental in aiding biogas production


Kalchhebesi is seeing many women change makers bringing about behavioural changes in their communities, in the way they farm and in the way they live their lives. Kalchhebesi local Januka Timalsina is a pioneer farmer amongst her peer group of women farmers. She is the first in her village to adopt a combination of animal urine and animal dung as feeder material for her biogas plant.  

Kalchhebesi is a village of about 25 households in Patlekhet village development committee, Kavre district. It lies 22 kilometres south of Dhulikhel, the district headquarters for Kavre. A dirt road connects the village to Arniko Highway, a major route that joins Kathmandu to the Chinese border. Agriculture is the mainstay for livelihoods in Kalchhebesi, and biogas  a major source of energy for cooking. 

Jamuna Timalsina, in front of her improved cowshed (Photo: Roshan Subedi, CEAPRED)

An active member of an all-women farmers’ group, the Shree Shramjivi Mahila Krisak Samuha, Timalsina has been participating in group activities organized under the resilient mountain villages (RMV) pilot in her village. The pilot trains farmer groups in using simple, modular, and climate smart approaches. It is implemented by the Centre for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED), and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). It has been working with 40 farmers’ groups, which include representatives from 1,089 households across eight villages in Kavre district, under the Himalayan Climate change Adaptation Programme (HICAP). Over 80% of the household representatives are women, and many are from marginalized communities.

Timalsina recalls her first interaction with RMV. It was nearly two years ago, at a training and demonstration session on improved cowshed management. At the training, field staff from CEAPRED demonstrated how traditional cowsheds could be improved to collect animal urine via drainage channels in a storage tank. The collected urine could then be used to prepare jholmal – a bio fertilizer and bio pesticide, and also used as a supplement for biogas plants. 

“I discovered that, along with animal dung, animal urine is also a good source of gobar gas (biogas)”, shares Timalsina while pouring urine into her biogas plant. After the training, she constructed a collection tank with a storage capacity of 1,000 litres on her yard, the largest in the village so far. She uses the urine collected to prepare jholmal, and also feed her biogas plant. 

Jamuna Timalsina, pouring urine into her biogas plant (Photo: Roshan Subedi, CEAPRED)

Like her contemporaries, Timalsina used to primarily feed her biogas plant with a slurry of animal dung and water. She started adding urine after finding out that urine increases the production of gas .  She says that her biogas plant now produces a steady supply of cooking gas, enough to cook daily meals for her family of three all year around. A year and a half year ago, things were different.

Timalsina’s observations are backed by science. Many surveys indicate that the addition of certain substances, including urine, increases gas output from cow dung. The pH of cattle urine is favourable for gas production in an anaerobic environment. A study carried out by M Shamsul Haque, and M Naimul Haque in 2006 showed that the same quantity of biogas obtained from 5-6 cows can be obtained from 3-4 cows by adding urine to cow dung in a predefined proportion.

She recalls, “We bought Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and firewood during winter because the plant did not produce enough biogas. Now things are better. We have enough biogas even during the winter. We save the LPG for festivals or ritual functions when there are many guests.” 

Timalsina’s experience has encouraged her neighbours as well. More families are choosing to improve their cowsheds and add animal urine to their biogas plants. 

  • Biogas, a mixture of different gases produced by anaerobic fermentation of organic matter from methanogenic bacteria, mainly constitutes methane (50-65%) and carbon dioxide (25-45%) (Sharma, 2011). 
  • Of the nitrogen excreted by cattle, 60% is found in urine and only 40% in dung.