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Economics graduate now a charcoal trader

RIFT VALLEY
By Charles Ngeno | January 28th 2015
George Mochu Ngari with his employee Patrick Mukhwana at the site where he makes environmental friendly charcoal briquettes.

As thousands of young people throng urban centres to seek employment, one graduate from Majengo Estate in Narok has put away his Bachelors of  Economics degree and ventured into a totally unrelated field - making environmentally-friendly charcoal briquettes.

After tarmacking for one and a half years looking for a white-colour job, the 26-year-old graduate from Kenyatta University, George Ngari, decided to put aside his academic papers and rolled up his sleeves to start a charcoal manufacturing business.

And five months into the business, the young entrepreneur says he is not ready to leave his charcoal business for any other job.

Mr Ngari says he uses locally-available biotic products ranging from saw dust, maize cobs and stalks as well as wheat straws as raw materials to make the briquettes.

"My charcoal does not require cutting down of trees and therefore is not a threat to our forests and other water catchment areas. It is also odourless and does not produce any smoke. Also, your cooking is comfortable and faster and the briquettes last three times longer than normal charcoal," says Ngari.

Took loan

He reveals that he got the idea from the Internet courtesy of an article written by a retired military officer.

Ngari says he immediately borrowed a Sh150,000 loan, which he used to buy compressor machine, and started rolling out the idea.

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He says he ventured into the business not just to earn a living, but also to make his contribution towards environmental conservation.

And making of the briquettes is not a complex process. The raw materials are first mixed and burnt until they turn black. The mixture is then sieved and more water and a little soil added to it to give it a smooth texture.

The mixture is then poured into the compressor for further mixing and compression before having a final product of cylinder-shaped briquettes.

"The briquettes are usually wet and we therefore have to dry them in the sun for two to three days depending on the weather. Afterwards, we break them into smaller pieces that can be packaged in 50kg bags" he said.

Ngari has employed two people who assist him with production of the briquettes and says currently they manufacture up to 15 bags of the eco-friendly charcoal daily.

He says he sells up to then bags of the products every day, with a bag going for Sh450.

"From my earnings, I am able to pay my employees as well as service my loan. In fact, I have already paid half of the loan in less than five months.

Positive feedback

The Economics graduate now says he wants to expand the business and employ more people.

He currently sells his products on a retail and wholesale basis, and the positive feedback from his clients, he says, has encouraged him produce more and look for bigger markets.

Ngari believes adoption of the technology is the surest way of protecting the country's forests and water catchment areas and calls on the Government to come up with capacity building programmes to promote adoption of the technology. 

He says he is more than willing to train many young people on how to make the briquettes to create more job opportunities countrywide.

One of his employees, Patrick Mukhwana, also advises young people not to be open-minded when selecting their means of earning a living. He also calls on them not to be fixated with white-colour jobs.

"I earn a decent living and am able to take care of my family," he said.

Valentine Komen who has been Mochu's ardent customer for the last two months, is full of praise for the charcoal.

"I have a six month-old baby and I love using this charcoal because I dont have to worry all the time about my baby suffocating. It also last longer than the other charcoal," said Komen.

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