College of Science, Engineering & Technology

Turning horse poop into power


Prof. Godwell Nhamo (Incumbent: Exxaro Chair in Business and Climate Change, Unisa) (left) with the EARTH Centre, Unisa, SANEDI, and Exxaro teams

EARTH Centre (Equine Assisted Riding, Therapy and Healing) is a non-profit organisation that offers free therapeutic riding to physically and mentally challenged children and young adults who cannot afford it.

Now where there are horses, there is much manure, which is generating a fertile partnership between the centre and Unisa’s Institute for the Development of Energy for African Sustainability (IDEAS). Media co-ordinator Nicole Ras of the EARTH Centre tells eConnect more:

Creating hope through horses

At the EARTH Centre, we are not only committed to helping our beneficiaries to the best of our ability, we are also dedicated to ensuring that our centre becomes sustainable and eco-friendly. We believe that we are stewards of this planet and are thus on a journey to create an environment in which nature, humans and day to day business are in harmony. This, in turn, filters through to the therapy that we provide on horseback—not only do the riders receive the physical, mental, and emotional benefit of riding a horse, they also get to do it in a tranquil and well-balanced environment.

Thus when one of our volunteers, Sandy Naudé, confirmed that the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and Exxaro, together with Unisa’s IDEAS, would like to install a biodigester at our centre, we were beyond ecstatic. A biodigester can be compared to a mechanical stomach. Once it is installed, it can be “fed” with organic waste from various farm animals.

In our case, we just so happen to have an abundance of this coming from the back end of our 20 equine therapists. Once placed into the biodigester, which is an oxygen-free environment, it is decomposed by micro-organisms to produce biogas such as methane and carbon, which can be supplied to buildings as a renewable energy. It also creates fertiliser as a by-product, which can be bagged and sold for additional income.

The ground-breaking ceremony that took place on 5 March 2018 marked the start of the preparations. We are all eager and excited to get this project rolling and we are hoping that it will be the first of many sustainable EARTH Centre projects. We also look forward to working with the above-mentioned partners to install rainwater harvesting systems and solar heating in the future.

A very big “thank you” goes out to SANEDI, Unisa, and Exxaro for the sponsorship, co-ordination, and management of this project.

For more information, contact 011 958 5044 or

*Compiled by Nicole Ras

This article first appeared in the EARTH Centre Newsletter and is used by permission.

Publish date: 2018-05-09 00:00:00.0