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Cashing in on waste: Charcoal-making yard

The  process begins by sorting out the raw materials [Muriithi Mugo, Standard] 

For 38-year-old Atanasio Njue, her mother's actions to cut down trees at their farm for firewood and charcoal were the most annoying thing in his life.

This forced him to figure out how he could provide his mother and siblings with an alternative at their Gaturi South home.

After clearing high school, Njue joined the Jua Kali sector in Nairobi to try his luck and make ends meet.

He would visit his village home regularly over the weekend and after gaining experience on the job he never knew he would quit the then-lucrative job some years later to become an environment Ambassador championing the conservation of tree cover.

"Whenever I visited my home area I noticed our compound was fast getting exposed as most of the indigenous trees had been felled for charcoal and other uses," Mr Njue recalls 

Upon asking his defensive mother would give the same answer that she felled them for domestic use and his small siblings must eat. 

He employs several youths from around his village [Muriithi Mugo, Standard] 

A thought came to his mind on making Bridget charcoal from waste but the costs could not allow it."I love google and therefore came across a machine from china but it was beyond my means" 

Njue recalls that he tried his skills to make a similar machine using scrap metal and motorbike parts and after several attempts, it bore fruits and would make charcoal of different shapes.

The move was highly appreciated right from his home and later the whole Kairungu village would join in the consumption that helped him become commercial.

He went on and on with second and third machines that were now more efficient and he employed several youths from around his village. 

[Muriithi Mugo, Standard] 

From using charcoal remains and ashes, Mr Njue advanced to use raw materials that had no connection with trees and that's how he ended up using rice husks and macadamia shells that are flammable.

The process begins by sorting out the raw materials and further crushing them to a  fine powder that is mixed with water and cassava powder to enhance glue's purpose.

The solution is further transferred to a mixture machine for compaction, which later spills the solution in different shapes and manually cuts into good sizes.

They are then dried in an open space for two or three days before packaging in different sizes that are also free from dust.

"Women are sensitive and since our charcoal is dustless we also ensure that the packages are dusted off with a blower to a standard that our product can be carried together with other products from a supermarket," Mr Njue added. 

[Muriithi Mugo, Standard] 

Due to the demand, he has increased manpower and now employs about  300 youths across the production chain in  Embu, Meru, Kirinyaga, and  Tharaka-nithi with a focus to employ more than 1000 youths in the future.

His advice to the youths loitering while drunk is to look for self-employment and stop waiting for white-collar jobs. 

The supervisor at the charcoal-making yard Abednego Mutua said he has been able to provide for his family with this job that seems dirty.

"I appeal to youths without a job to look for us and will offer jobs as we are searching for raw materials and manpower to meet the growing demand.


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