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

Keywords: 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.

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.


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