SNV and Wageningen University collaborate on biogas subsidy research

SNV is proud to announce the signing of a collaboration agreement with Wageningen University (WU) in the Netherlands for the implementation of a biogas research project. The overall objective of the collaboration is to test the effect of subsidy levels on the purchase of biogas digesters by households at different socio-economic levels. The two-year project kicked off in January 2013, and will take place in the Adamaoua Region of Cameroon, an area renowned for its cattle.

SNV decided to co-fund this project as we seek to contribute to understanding of the impact of development programs on end-users of new technology projects. While the socio-economic and environmental benefits of biogas installations have been widely proven and our programmes have received several international awards, an issue that has received less attention is the influence of subsidies on the purchase of biogas digesters.
 
In most SNV-supported biogas programmes, a 30% subsidy is provided to households investing in their own plant. The goal is to accelerate uptake and make the digesters more accessible to poorer households. It has been assumed that lowering the purchase price encourages poorer households to invest in biogas plants. It is these households that the programmes would like to reach.  However, whether subsidies actually enable access by the poor has never been thoroughly investigated and proven. As part of the expansion of biogas programmes in Africa, SNV now seeks to investigate these assumptions more precisely in order to inform its programme choices and direct funds in the most efficient manner. 

For this experimental research SNV join hands with the department of Development Economics of Wageningen University. They will help to apply the so called ‘experimental methods’ to test in reality how people react to different subsidy levels and how does this influences the purchase of biodigesters. Specifically, this proposal aims to understand the effects of subsidies on adoption behaviour of different income groups and on the subsequent local scaling up of bio-digester roll-out programmes.  The chosen methodology is relevant in the context of a recent interest in experimental approaches in the development sector, fed amongst others by the work of Esther Duflo (Harvard/J-PAL) and of the Operations Evaluation Department (IOB), the independent evaluation body of the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation.
 
The programme runs for two years. A first phase of six months is starting now and includes local surveys and auctions to determine people’s responses to prices. Wageningen PhD candidate Niccoló Meriggi and a local researcher, who will be selected in coordination with SNV, will execute the first phase of the project. Research supervision is by Professor Erwin Bulte from Wageningen.
 
For more information on this research, please contact Jan Ubels, jubels@snvworld.org.

Learn more about SNV's work in Domestic Biogas here.

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