Through the Developing Energy Enterprises Project (DEEP) East Africa, GVEP International along with partner organizations in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are looking at various ways of supporting the entrepreneurs who want to start, strengthen, or diversify into a briquette business.
The briquettes, similar in appearance to regular charcoal, are made from clay, water and the small pieces of charcoal which are normally considered unusable and would have previously been considered waste.
Now a small group of entrepreneurs in Rongo are proving that there is a very healthy market for this alternative fuel, with locals queuing up to buy bags of the briquettes which could potentially sell for far less than the charcoal from which they are made.
The possibility for the wide spread use of briquettes is a strong one, the current use of charcoal and firewood is contributing to wide-scale deforestation in Kenya, and due to the transportation costs charcoal is generally expensive. Although the making of briquettes relies on the production of charcoal, it is still a cheap and ingenious use of a potential fuel that would otherwise go to waste. In the short term, briquettes made from charcoal dust provide an efficient use of the wasted resources and is competitive in price as well as usage.
These entrepreneurs are also looking into carbonising the ‘bagasse’ waste from sugar cane, a locally abundant resource that would cut out the importing of charcoal, making for cheaper, more environmentally friendly briquettes.
How cheap this fuel could become, and how environmentally friendly it has the potential to be depends on the development of the production process, its costs and methods, and whether with further research it can extend beyond household use. With the right level of support these small enterprises could, on a larger scale provide localised and economically viable alternatives to the current fuels available to rural communities in Kenya.