The world’s rural population surpasses the three billion people mainly located in Africa and Asia; roughly half the global population lives in the countryside. Access to modern fuels is a challenge for rural people compared to their urban counterparts, which can easily access infrastructures and commercial energy. In developing countries rural populations commonly depend on traditional biomass for cooking and heating. A key strategy in tackling the energy needs of those rural populations is to advance their energy ladder from the inefficient, traditional domestic burn of biomass, organic waste, and animal manure. Governments and non-governmental institutions have supported small biogas digesters in rural areas, mainly in Asia, South America, and Africa, over the last 50 years. This chapter reviews the literature to offer an overview of experimental and theoretical evidence regarding the characteristics of design, construction material, feedstock, and operation parameters that made anaerobic digestion in small digesters a valuable source. Small-scale rural biogas digesters can generate environmental, health, and social benefits to rural areas with a net positive impact on energy access. Remarkable improvement in living standards was achieved with small inputs of the methane, produced via anaerobic digestion; however, challenges associated with lack of technical skills, awareness, and education remain and obstruct biogas’ full potential in rural areas, mainly in developing countries.
Part of the book: Anaerobic Digestion in Built Environments