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Kakamega women transform waste into smokeless coal briquettes

Western
 A group of women under the New Recada umbrella transforming solid waste into eco-friendly smokeless charcoal briquettes to mitigate the effects of climate change. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

A group of women kneel in a circle, heads bowed on a hot afternoon at the Joyland area, Lurambi constituency, Kakamega County.

They are busy making briquettes charcoal out of paper waste and charcoal dust. New Recada is a group that consists of 20 members blended with young and old women who converge here every day to make smokeless charcoal.

The initial plan was to collect solid waste to  clean the environment but later they started transforming waste into eco-friendly smokeless charcoal briquettes to mitigate the effects of climate change and adopt clean energy.

“We started by collecting paper waste from books in schools and charcoal dust in markets and at charcoal stores,” said Irene Nasimiyu a founder of the group and a student at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

“The idea of making charcoal briquettes came when we started experiencing difficulties in managing the collected waste and how to decompose the solid waste,” she added.

Nasimiyu says the charcoal briquettes are a game-changer in saving the country’s forests and preventing the spread of indoor pollution-related diseases.

“We are making charcoal briquettes to discourage the use of firewood by cutting down trees as a source of energy which for decades had been the primary source of cooking energy leading to environment pollution and health complications emanating from firewood smoke,” said Nasimiyu.

The group of women are now turning the invention into a money-making venture.

 A group of women under the New Recada umbrella transforming solid waste into eco-friendly smokeless charcoal briquettes to mitigate the effects of climate change. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

“We are making a lot of smokeless charcoal for commercial purposes because it is environmentally friendly, long-lasting and it saves money and we have a big market. We sell our product especially in learning institutions and to locals at a small scale level,” said Nasimiyu.

However, the group has moved away from use of charcoal dust and it has since replaced it with bagasse from Sugar mills and this is to completely discourage the use of firewood by cutting down trees to make normal charcoal.

“When we use charcoal in one way we are  encouraging the cutting down of trees and we have replaced it with bagasse to tell people that cutting down trees is dangerous and we can use waste in making friendly charcoal without destroying our environment,” she adds.

 Some of the eco-friendly smokeless charcoal briquettes are being dried. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

According to Nasimiyu charcoal briquettes are made by mixing bagasse dust from sugarcane waste with water then it is mixed with molasses and paper as a binding agent to keep the product strong.

The women use their hands in making the charcoal as opposed to a machine which they said they are planning to purchase costing Sh200,000.

The resultant dough is then pressed into a cylindrical tube in a desired measurement then it is air-dried for two or three days before it is packed and ready for the market.

A sack of charcoal briquettes weighing 90 kilogrammes cost Sh1,300 while one kilogramme of the item goes at Sh70.

Additionally, with a sack of bagasse waste and waste papers costing Sh50, the group makes briquettes out of it and sell for Sh800 to Sh 1,000 per 90 kg bag.

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