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Fuel for Forests and People

by Community Forests International on November 15, 2010

From the 9th to the 13th of November CFI's CIDA interns Lisa Hansen and Brennan Daly attended the First East African Briquette Producers Conference to learn the art, science and business of briquette making. Briquettes are an alternative fuel source to firewood and charcoal that can be utilized for small scale household fuel needs as well as for large scale industrial needs. The business of briquette making has provided many people in East Africa (and around the world) with a new opportunity for income generation; many of the participants in briquette making programs include women, AIDS sufferers and disabled individuals.

More than 40 people interested in briquette production from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana and South Africa attended the conference including small, medium and large scale producers, as well as representatives from research institutes, community based organizations and environmental NGOs. Given this conference was the first of its kind in East Africa, it was truly a remarkable learning and networking experience for its attendants. Tools and tricks of the trade were openly shared, along with information about ongoing projects, research and technological developments in Africa and the rest of the world. Sharing of information was accepted as conference protocol and as a result its attendants benefited widely.

Fuel briquettes are made of organic wastes from household, agricultural and commercial activities including weeds, leaves, sawdust, husks, carton board, scrap paper, charcoal dust and manure. By utilizing waste materials it is a cost effective product that recycles materials that would have normally contributed to urban and rural waste systems.

Briquette making also reduces the dependence of local communities on forests for fuel wood enhancing conservation efforts while also eliminating some of the problems associated with wood collection. Wood collection often involves fees for removal (particularly around protected areas) and injuries due to wild animal attacks. Other issues are the distance and time spent traveling to a fuel wood source, which can be particularly troublesome for women if they have to leave the home for several hours.

Briquettes are providing people with new opportunities for income generation while enhancing environmental stewardship. Community based organizations in rural and urban areas of East Africa are adopting briquette making as one of their programs due to the wide benefits of this technology. The Art of Conservation near Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is using briquette making to reduce dependence on the forests of the Mountain Gorilla to protect its vital habitat. The Hut of Orphans of Kenya, Nairobi hopes to reduce their immense problem of urban litter while providing disadvantaged youth with an opportunity for skills training and income generation. Many other initiatives are being developed and similarly, CFI interns will be introducing briquette making to Pemban communities to enhance livelihood opportunities and reduce deforestation.

If you would like to help CFI purchase the briquette making equipment (approximately $250 US for the press, mold, mortar and pestle, buckets and tarps) so that we can provide all 10 of our nurseries with a business opportunity please follow this link and select intern projects in the drop down menu. Thank you to all who have donated to date, we have now raised enough funding for nearly 2 operations!

To learn more about briquette making contact Richard or Joyce Stanley from the Legacy Foundation who can provide you with information and materials on training.

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