Nestled in a deep pocket of forest that lies off Thailand’s electrical grid, villagers in Pa Deng have become early adopters and evangelists for an unusual alternative energy source: poop.
After successfully lighting up their homes with solar panels and stoves fueled by cow dung, the villagers are now clean energy crusaders in a gas-guzzling country that overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels.
It was a friend from Myanmar who first told 44-year-old Wisut Janprapai that faeces could be used to power a cooking stove.
“At first we didn’t believe it,” he told AFP from outside his wooden home, which is surrounded by fruit trees and under the shadow of a mountain range that lines Thailand’s western border with Myanmar.
But with no access to state power lines and plenty of cow manure to go around, Wisut and his neighbours reasoned it was worth a try.
Now nearly 100 families in the rural network have small stoves running on blue bio-gas balloons they crafted after years of experimenting.
The balloons are hulking polyester sacks that fill up with methane gas after microbes break down the animal manure and other organic waste packed inside.
The fuel source is healthier and more sustainable than burning wood, and also saves villagers from having to venture into the forest for kindling.
“It’s nothing complicated, just put the food and waste in,” explained Kosol Saengthong, the leader of the network. “And then the gas will come”.