Some villages in war-torn Yemen still don’t have electricity since the recent conflict started nearly two years ago. So 24-year-old chemical engineering graduate Omer Badokhon invented a micro-scale biogas device to transform trash into fuel to combat indoor pollution and slash energy poverty. He was recently among the winners of the Young Champions of the Earth prize from United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and polymer company Covestro – and he plans to use the $15,000 prize to construct 50 to 80 units.

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Omer Badokhon, Yemen, inventor, chemical engineer, graduate, engineer

Badokhon could tackle multiple issues Yemen faces with his small biogas devices. The country has faced the biggest cholera epidemic the World Health Organization has recorded, and Badokhon connects cholera with organic waste pollution in the country – which has only worsened during the war. He said in a video organic waste is the primary reason for the cholera, but that garbage could be turned into something useful to help the country with another issue: electricity woes.

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Badokhon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “In some villages, electricity has not been restored since the conflict began in 2015. In Mukalla City where I now live, I remember how desperate I felt trying to complete university assignments by candlelight when power shuts down for four to six hours every day.”

Omer Badokhon, Yemen, inventor, chemical engineer, graduate, engineer

More than three million people still cook over open flames in Yemen, according to UNEP, and Badokhon said in another video women and child die each year because of exposure to smoke.

His biogas devices will be built locally with fiberglass or plastic. They “enable the rapid decomposition of domestic organic waste, thereby maximizing the amount of biogas produced,” per UNEP. And the remains of the fermentation process are useful too; Badokhon said in a video they can serve as rich liquid fertilizer. During the upcoming eight months, according to Reuters, the devices will be tested in 1,500 rural houses in Sana’a, Ibb, Aden, Hadhramaut, Shabwa, and Taiz. In addition to the Young Champions of the Earth prize money, Badokhon also received $10,000 for research from Yemeni oil company PetroMasila.

Via Reuters and the United Nations Environment Program (1,2)

Images via the United Nations Environment Program