Beyond climatic intervention: The social dimension of a biogas project in Sogwala village, Zimbabwe




climate change, mitigation, poverty, social capital, Zimbabwe


There is now considerable interest to understand how local communities experiencing climatic risks can benefit from climate change responses. As this agenda unfolds, there is need to understand the impact of climate-related interventions from the perspective of local populations targeted by such projects. Existing assessment approaches tend to concentrate on the environmental and economic impacts of projects that minimise greenhouse gas emissions. This study assesses the social aspect of a domestic biogas project that was intended to address the twin challenges of poverty and climate change in Sogwala village, Zimbabwe. A three-tier methodological execution process was adopted, involving field reconnaissance, household survey and key informant interviews. The focus was on measuring the social dimension of the changes brought about by the project, from the experiences of participating households. With a consciousness of assessment challenges associated with community projects, social capital parameters were used to assess the project’s contribution to the social well-being of the villagers. Overall, results show that the biogas project has the potential to facilitate social development through improved trust and social networks. Despite the contested climatic benefits associated with small-scale household biogas digesters, projects of this nature can enhance community relationships and networks, upon which other development interventions can be operationalised.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Nyaradzo Dhliwayo, Nelson Mandela University

Nyaradzo Dhliwayo is doctoral student at Nelson Mandela University. She is researching on citizen science in groundwater monitoring, in particular, developing local capacities to monitor effects of potential shale gas exploration in Cradock, South Africa.


Nelson Chanza, Bindura University of Science Education

Dr Nelson Chanza is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the Bindura University of Science Education in Zimbabwe. Dr Chanza’s research contributions are largely in local knowledge applications in environmental and climate science, in particular, use of community-based knowledge in climate change impact assessment and adaptation and mitigation strategies that are understood and used by local communities. His current research interests are in participatory disaster risk assessment and management. He continues to explore the sustainability science discourse through examining the interface between climate change, disasters and society.

Anton de Wit, Nelson Mandela University

Dr Anton de Wit is the Head of Department, Geosciences at Nelson Mandela University. His research interest are in the area of sustainability science and participatory environmental management.


Adger, W.N. 2003. Social capital, collective action, and adaptation to climate change. Economic Geography 79 (4): 387-404.

Ahlborg, H. and Hammar, L. 2014. Drivers and barriers to rural electrification in Tanzania and Mozambique – Grid-extension, off-grid, and renewable energy technologies. Renewable Energy 61: 117-124.

Amigun, B., Parawira, W., Musango, J.K., Aboyade, A.O. and Badmos, A.S. 2012. Anaerobic biogas generation for rural area energy provision in Africa. In, Biogas, Kumar, S. (ed) IntechOpen, 35-62.

Arthur, R., Baidoo, M.F., Antwi, E. 2011. Biogas as a potential renewable energy source: A Ghanaian case study. Re-newable Energy 36 (5): 1510-1516.

Bekchanov, M., Mondal, M.A.H., de Alwis, A. and Mirzabaev, A. 2019. Why adoption is slow despite promising poten-tial of biogas technology for improving energy security and mitigating climate change in Sri Lanka? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 105: 378-390.

Bhuiyan, S.H. 2011. Social capital and community development: An analysis of two cases from India and Bangladesh. Journal of Asian and African Studies 46 (6): 533-545.

Blanco, H. and Campbell, T. 2006. Social capital of cities: Emerging networks of horizontal assistance. Technology in Society 28 (1-2): 169-181.

Boers, W. 2012. Feasibility of a national domestic biogas programme in Zimbabwe. SNV and Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Boulamanti, A., Maglio, S.D., Giuntoli, J. and Agostini, A. 2013. Influence of different practices on biogas sustainabil-ity. Biomass and Bioenergy 53: 149–161.

Brunckhorst, D.J. 2002. Institutions to sustain ecological and social systems. Ecological Management and Restoration, Technical Report 3 (2): 108-116.

Bruun, S., Jensen, L.S., Vu, V.T.K. and Sommer, S.G. 2014. Small-scale household biogas digesters: An option for global warming mitigation or a potential climate bomb? Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews 33: 736–741.

Chanza, N., Chigona, A., Nyahuye, A., Mataera-Chanza, L., Mundoga, T. and Nondo, N. 2018. Diagnosing barriers to climate change adaptation at community level: Reflections from Silobela, Zimbabwe. GeoJournal 84: 771–783.

Christensen, G. and Zindi, C. 1991. Patterns of livestock ownership and distribution in Zimbabwe’s communal areas; AEE Working Paper no.4. Harare, Mt. Pleasant: AEE.

Coleman, J. 1988. Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology 94 (Supplement), S95-S120.

Cornejo, C. and Wilkie, A.C. 2010. Greenhouse gas emissions and biogas potential from livestock in Ecuador. Energy for Sustainable Development 14 (4): 256-266.

Cuéllar, A.D. and Webber, M.E. 2008. Cow power: The energy and emissions benefits of converting manure to bio-gas. Environmental Research Letters 3 (3): Article # 034002.

Dale, A. and Newman, L. 2010. Social capital: A necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community devel-opment? Community Development Journal 45(1): 5-21.

Engbersen, G., Snel, E. and Leerkes, A. 2006. Transitional involvement and social integration. Global Networks, A Journal of Transitional Affairs 6 (3): 285-308.

Field, J. 2008. Social capital. London, UK: Routledge.

Foster, K.A., Pitner, R., Freedman, D.A., Bell, B.A. and Shaw, T.C. 2015. Spatial dimensions of social capital. City and Community 14 (4): 392-409.

Fukuyama, F. 2001. Social capital, civil society and development. Third World Quarterly 22 (1): 7-20.

Gabisa, E.W. and Gheewala, S.H. 2019. Potential, environmental, and socio-economic assessment of biogas produc-tion in Ethiopia: The case of Amhara regional state. Biomass and Bioenergy 122: 446-456.

Gates, R. and Lee, M. 2005. City of Vancouver. Sustainability Group. Policy Report, Social Development. Available at

Grootaert, C. and van Bastelaer, T. 2002. Understanding and measuring social capital: A multidisciplinary tool for practitioners. World Bank, Washington DC. Available at

Hamed, T.A. and Bressler, L. 2019. Energy security in Israel and Jordan: The role of renewable energy sources. Re-newable Energy 135: 378-389.

Hertel, T.W., Burke, M.B. and Lobell, D.B. 2010. The poverty implications of climate-induced crop yield changes by 2030. Global Environmental Change 20 (4), 577-585.

Indraprahasta, G.S. and Alamsyah, P. 2014. Can household-scale biogas support rural Development? Insight from the study in Cibodas village. Rural Research & Planning Group (RRPG), 5th International Conference and Field Study in Malaysia, 26-28 August 2014, INFRA Bangi, Malaysia.

IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. 2014. Summary for Policymakers: Climate Change 2014, Mitiga-tion of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmen-tal Panel on Climate Change. In Edenhofer, O., Pichs-Madruga, R., Sokona, Y., Farahani, E., Kadner, S., Seyboth, K. et al. (eds.). Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson, L. 2016. What is social capital? In Greenberg, A.G., Gullotta, T.P. and Bloom, M. (eds.). Social capital and community well-being. London, UK: Springer: 199-214.

Landi, M., Sovacool, B.K. and Eidsness, J. 2013. Cooking with gas: Policy lessons from Rwanda’s National Domestic Biogas Program (NDBP). Energy for Sustainable Development 17: 347–356.

Lin, N., Cook, K. and Burt, R.S. 2001. Social capital: Theory and research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Malan, S. 2004. Social assessment of the proposed Le Grand George Golf Estate for the scoping phase of environmen-tal assessment, (Draft 2). Available at (ac-cessed 6 June 2020).

Mandelli, S., Barbieri, J., Mereu, R., Colombo, E. 2016. Off-grid systems for rural electrification in developing coun-tries: Definitions, classification and a comprehensive literature review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 58: 1621-1646.

Marambanyika, T., Beckedahl, H. and Ngetar, N.S. 2016. Community strategies to promote sustainable wetland-based food security in rural areas of Zimbabwe. GeoJournal 82: 987–1003.

Masama, E. 2016. Research note: Impact of climate change on livestock production in Zimbabwe. International Open and Distance Learning Journal 2 (1): 47-53.

Mohan, B., Chand, M.B., Upadhyay, B.P., and Maskey, R. 2012. Biogas option for mitigating and adaptation of climate change. Rentech Symposium Compendium 1: 5-9.

Mshandete, A.M. and Parawira, W. 2009. Biogas technology research in selected sub-Saharan African countries – A review. African Journal of Biotechnology 8 (2): 116-125.

Mugandani, R., Wuta, M., Makarau, A. and Chipindu, B. 2012. Re-classification of agro-ecological regions of Zimba-bwe in conformity with climate variability and change. African Crop Science Journal 20 (s2): 361–369.

Muller, J. and Coetzee, T. 2012. Social capital and socio-economic development in developing political economies. African Journal of Public Affairs 5 (1): 117-131.

Mwirigi, J., Balana, B., Mugisha, J., Walekhwa, P., Melamu, R., Nakami, S. and Makenzi, P. 2014. Socio-economic hur-dles to widespread adoption of small-scale biogas digesters in Sub-Saharan Africa: A review. Biomass and Bioen-ergy XXX: 1-9.

Palit, D. 2013. Solar energy programs for rural electrification: Experiences and lessons from South Asia. Energy for Sustainable Development 17: 270–279.

Pathak, H., Jain, N., Bhatia, A. Mohanty, S. and Gupta, N. 2009. Global warming mitigation potential of biogas plants in India. Environmental Monitoring Assessment 157: 407–418.

Pilloni, M., Hamed, T.A., Joyce, S. 2020. Assessing the success and failure of biogas units in Israel: Social niches, prac-tices, and transitions among Bedouin villages. Energy Research and Social Science 61: 101328.

Pretty, J. 2002. People, livelihoods and collective action in biodiversity management. In: O’Riordan, T. and Stoll-

Kleeman, S. (eds). Biodiversity, sustainability and human communities: Protecting beyond the protected. Cam-bridge, UK: Cambridge University Press: 61-86.

Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowline alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, USA: Simon and Schuster.

Putnam, R.D. 1996. Who killed civic America? Prospect 6: 66-72.

Reed, L.S., Springer, L.C., Dougill, A.J., Perkins, J.S., Atlhopheng, J.R., Mulale, K. and Favretto, N. 2015. Reorienting land degradation towards sustainable land management: Linking sustainable livelihoods with ecosystem services in rangeland systems. Journal of Environmental Management 151: 472-485.

Somanathan, E. and Bluffstone, R. 2015. biogas: clean energy access with low-cost mitigation of climate change. Poli-cy Research Working Papers. World Bank.

Surroop, D., Bundhoo, Z.M.A and Raghoo, P. 2019. Waste to energy through biogas to improve energy security and to transform Africa’s energy landscape. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry 18: 79-83.

Tavirimirwa, B., Mwembe, R., Ngulube, B., Banana, N.Y.D., Nyamushamba, G.B., Ncube, S. and Nkomboni, D. 2013. Communal cattle production in Zimbabwe: A review. Livestock Research for Rural Development 25: Article #217 Available at

Tigabu, A.D, Berkhout, F. and van Beukering, P. 2015. The diffusion of a renewable energy technology and innova-tion system functioning: Comparing bio-digestion in Kenya and Rwanda. Technological Forecasting and Social Change 90: 331–345.

Tol, R.S.J. 2005. Adaptation and mitigation: Trade-offs in substance and methods. Environmental Science & Policy 8: 572–578.

Uphoff, N. and Wijayaratna, C.M. 2000. Demonstrated benefits from social capital: The productivity of farmer organ-isations in Gal Oya, Sri Lanka. World Development 28: 1875–1890.

Yadoo, A. and Cruickshank, H. 2012. The role for low carbon electrification technologies in poverty reduction and climate change strategies: A focus on renewable energy mini-grids with case studies in Nepal, Peru and Kenya. Energy Policy 42: 591-602.

Yasmin, N. and Grundmann, P. 2019. Adoption and diffusion of renewable energy – The case of biogas as alterna-tive fuel for cooking in Pakistan. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 101: 255-264.

ZimStat, 2013. Census 2012: Midlands. Harare: Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZimStat).

Image by ADMC  from Pixabay




How to Cite

Dhliwayo, N., Chanza, N., & de Wit, A. (2020). Beyond climatic intervention: The social dimension of a biogas project in Sogwala village, Zimbabwe. Journal of Energy in Southern Africa, 31(4), 43–56.