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Through technology collaboration, Ecuador’s agricultural sector is finding solutions to reduce harmful emissions and creating new income opportunities

Publication date: 
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Ecuador farms

Worldwide, agricultural livestock contributes 7.1 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases per year. As part of its climate change commitments, Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment aimed to reduce emissions from its agriculture sector but was concerned about preserving the economic and social benefits that this industry provides. Ecuador therefore requested technical assistance from the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) to identify ways to reduce emissions from livestock that might also open up other economic opportunities. The CTCN is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and is co-hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The European Commission, on behalf of the European Union, is the single largest financial supporter of the CTCN’s work.

To meet the needs of countries like Ecuador, as they strive to realize their climate change and sustainable development goals, the CTCN provides expert technology, policy and capacity building support by harnessing the expertise of UNEP and UNIDO, along with a global network of over 500 civil society, finance, private sector, and research institutions.

In response to Ecuador’s request, the CTCN gathered experts from the Spanish-based International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering, along with the Ecuadorian National Institute of Agricultural Research and the National Institute of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to conduct a technological and financial analysis of the country’s agriculture sector.

Based on the findings, these CTCN partners and the Ministry identified anaerobic digestion as a potential means to reduce methane emissions and improve water quality while producing a renewable source of energy and revenue generation. Anaerobic digesters break down organic waste, such as manure, using bacteria that produce methane which can be collected and combusted to generate electricity. Digested manure can be applied to crops as a fertilizer.

A technological analysis of various biodigesters was performed to identify the most relevant options for local conditions, and selected models were installed as part of a pilot programme at small and medium livestock farms. Training was conducted on installation and maintenance as well as monitoring of production and the use of by-products (primarily biogas and biofertilizers). The CTCN partners worked with farmers to calculate net emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from livestock activity, and produce a cost-benefit analysis of the technology and its contribution to income in livestock farming. Based on the positive results, the Ministry of Ecuador is exploring how to support the introduction of biodigesters in the agricultural sector. The International Centre for Numerical Methods in Engineering provided examples from other Latin American countries, including national biogas programmes, through a publication produced in Spanish and English. The document presents the biodigesters (their function, products, types), explains the basis for national biogas programs, and how they function. 

This technology collaboration contributes to Sustainable Development Goals 7 (Affordable & Clean Energy), 9 (Decent work & economic growth), and 13 (Climate Action) and advances Ecuador’s Nationally Determined Contribution to diffuse technology and knowledge in the agriculture and livestock sector at the local level and to raise the proportion of renewable energy in the energy matrix even more until 2025.

The European Commission has provided continuous funding since the CTCN’s launch in 2013 to support technology-related capacity building, knowledge sharing, networking and technical assistance for climate change action.

Read more about this technology collaboration, other CTCN assistance in Ecuador, or more about biodigesters.