ARTI with funding from the World Bank’s Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA) and with the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) is working to build the charcoal briquettes value chain in Tanzania. The goal is to transform the existing charcoal industry from a necessary evil to a rewarding sustainable development opportunity by creating “green” jobs in rural areas.
On a practical level the Waste to Wealth project aims to empower rural inhabitants, especially existing charcoal producers with knowledge, through hands-on practical training on how charcoal can be made from agricultural waste and any other dry biomass which is locally available and free.
Rationale & Justification
The rationale and the motivation behind the Waste to Wealth project started in 2006 with the realization that charcoal, however destructive it may be, can never be eliminated from the lives of Africans for the foreseeable future. Hence it was, and still is, pertinent to find reliable ways to mitigate the forest destruction associated with current charcoal production without sacrificing peoples’ incomes and livelihoods.
The increasing demand by the urban population is enticing the neighbouring rural inhabitants to produce wood charcoal unsustainably for small economic benefits, which comes at a high cost to the forests and the larger ecosystem. This can be reduced and even stopped if the rural dwellers are empowered with the knowledge to produce and supply charcoal in a sustainable method by using agricultural waste and any dry biomass which is plentifully available. The socio-economic benefits of this project alone justify its implementation. The environmental consequences of not promoting such sustainable charcoal makes the project imperative.
In 2011 our efforts were boosted with funding through the World Bank’s Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA) which has allowed us to train 720 people in two Districts and equip them with 120 kilns and 120 manual briquette extruders. In 2012 four community based enterprises (CBEs) will be established with the BEIA funding, linking villages and building the production and sales capacity to complete the charcoal briquettes value chain.
How it works
ARTI acts as the innovation broker developing the charcoal briquette value chain through the Waste to Wealth project. The project first focused at the producer level training and equipping villages to fabricate their own kilns, produce charcoal powder from agricultural waste and other dry biomass and making charcoal briquettes.
As villages get trained we link them up into a network of villages to form a community based enterprise, or CBE, focused on briquette production, sensitization and sales. ARTI supports the CBE’s with setting up their production process and developing the enterprise skills. Once a CBE has demonstrated its commitment to the production of charcoal briquettes ARTI supports them with an electrical briquette extruder(s) on loan, which the CBE pays back with briquettes.
In 2012, we will start working more on supporting the CBE’s in branding, marketing and created sales networks for their briquettes.
The Technology Involved
The technology originates from ARTI-India, a research and technology institute based in Pune, India. With the blessing of ARTI-India, ARTI-TZ adopted the technology seeing the huge potential for application in Tanzania.
The kilns we use to produce the char powder are made from used oil drums. Initially we used larger kilns that required 9 drums to produce. We have since changed the type of kiln we use to a smaller one that requires only 2 oil drums to fabricate, which is much cheaper and produces char powder more efficiently. We are constantly trying to improve on the kiln design to have good quality char powder but also at a reasonable cost.
In order to produce the briquettes we modify manual and electrical meat mincers. They have proven to be a cost effective way to produce quality charcoal briquettes with a simple technology.
How has the community benefited
While the Waste to Wealth project is still at the pilot stage it is already proving to be a viable alternative to wood charcoal and a great benefit to communities. People no longer have to go to the forest to cut trees for charcoal. They can earn an income from an activity that is not environmentally destructive.
The District Forest Officers, who are responsible for issuing permits to cut trees for charcoal production, have provided incredible support in terms of time, knowledge and working space.
This support comes from the fact that in the past they had no choice but to issue permits as there was no alternative to wood charcoal. Charcoal briquettes offers that alternatives.
Women have also started to benefit from the charcoal briquette trade, as production can be carried out closer to home and in conjunction with other agricultural activities. Unlike the traditional charcoal trade, charcoal briquette enterprises are proving to be more gender balanced.
What are the challenges and opportunities for expanding the program
The Waste to Wealth project is currently in the pilot stage and the charcoal briquettes supply does not even represent 0.05% of the estimated 650 million USD trade in charcoal annually in Tanzania. In order to reach 1% or even 10% of this industry we must invest heavily in training and equipping rural producers as well as generated market demand for charcoal briquettes through sensitization campaigns and the overall development of the value change. Work also needs to be done on created the policies and incentives to help facilitate the transition from wood charcoal to charcoal briquettes.