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Camp Fire

Promoting Sustainable and Independent Energy Generation
Bukedea & Kampala, Uganda | Walter Osigai Eteps

Project Overview:

Illegal chopping of forest trees for charcoal provides one of the primary  sources of income for people living around the forests in Bukedea District  and surrounding areas. It is now widely recognized that deforestation is  occurring at pandemic rates throughout the developing nations. In general,  these forests are not being denuded for construction or even industry but  rather for fuel wood production/use. The deforestation is so predominant  that complete denudation is forecast in many areas in the coming decades,  leading to significant health, economic and environmental consequences. It  is also well known that many people earn their income from fuel wood and  charcoal production, distribution and sales. In many nations this  employment constitutes the single largest form of employment in the  informal sector of the national economy. In short, forest destruction will  continue unless an equally attractive employment opportunity is found in  the provision of a sustainable fuel alternative. 

  • Almost 2 million deaths each year are caused by breathing smoke  from indoor cooking fires.

  • Respiratory infections are the leading cause of death of young  children worldwide 

  • An estimated 50 billion hours are spent collecting firewood each year. 

  • In some areas where wood and charcoal are scarce, more than a  quarter of a family’s income is spent on fuel. 


Uganda is predominantly an agricultural country with above 85% of its  people engaged in growing crops and rearing domestic animals. Uganda is  an energy-deficient country, with supply unable to meet demand – for both  domestic and industrial use. About 98% of energy consumption needs of  rural Uganda is met from biomass sources derived from the forest, shrub  land, and animal waste and crop residues with lots of smoke having direct  negative impact on environment and health, especially causing respiratory  and eye diseases; cooking is associated with long hours spent collecting  increasingly scarce wood. The diminishing wood fuel supplies and the  increasing prices of both firewood and charcoal make it difficult for some  households to cook more than one meal a day. 

The market for cooking fuel is increasing year by year. Population growth  in Uganda is 5.6 % per year and the increased demand for cooking fuel is  more or less equal to this figure. If this increased demand is met by  charcoal and firewood. Therefore, an alternative has to be found for  charcoal and firewood. 

Sustainable sources of wood fuel have diminished. Many poor families’  household budgets strain under the dwindling supply and increasing cost of  fuel sources. Deforestation has also become a worldwide epidemic due to  poverty, pressures of population growth, and low innovations in the clean  energy sector. There is an urgent need for substitutes to the production of  charcoal briquettes due to the scarcity of firewood and trees for charcoal making. Charcoal consumption in Bukedea and surrounding areas is  unsustainable. Unless a viable alternative is successfully implemented, the  urban poor in Bukedea and surrounding neighborhoods will suffer an  energy crisis with serious nutritional and health consequences.
Biomass briquettes are a biofuel alternative to coal, charcoal and  wood. Briquettes, made of compressed blocks of coal dust, are commonly  used in the developing world, where alternative cooking fuels are often in  short supply. Biomass briquettes, mostly made of green waste and other  organic materials, provide not only a more eco-friendly alternative to coal  based briquettes and wood, but are manufactured from a readily available,  low-cost fuel source, often disposed of as waste. 

The Bio Briquettes Project, coordinated locally by Marafiki United Green  Youth Initiative, envisions supporting and expanding an existing bio  briquettes cottage industry in Bukedea, Uganda that turns around agro waste products such as maize and cassava bi-products into a source of  fuel. 

Support for bio briquettes production in Bukedea will not only provide local  women an additional fuel source and income stream, but will also positively  impact local initiatives to combat climate change and deforestation. 

This project addresses the greenhouse emissions from both unmanaged  decomposing waste, as well as from deforestation by replacing wood and  charcoal. If the biomass resources are properly utilized through simple  technology in making a cleaner and efficient form of energy, it will bring  many positive changes to the lifestyle and economy of the local people.
This project aims to achieve community driven socio-economic  development in an area where 80% of the population live on less than 1  USD a day, while promoting environmental sustainability in communities  where there is an increasing unmet demand for charcoal. The project will  establish a useful model of waste cycling into alternative low-cost biomass fuel, which is healthier than charcoal through compressing waste materials  such as corn-cobs, charcoal dust, saw-dust and organic household waste in  combination with mill waste or used paper to bind them. The resultant  briquettes are also cost-effective and smokeless, thus being beneficial in  terms of economic, environment and public health. It also provides a new  waste management strategy that reduces environmental pollution. 

The project is directed toward achieving the following objectives: 

  • Add value to agro-waste and household by-products that would  otherwise end-up unused, causing local waste pollution. 

  •  Increase the utilization of biomass resources in developing and  promoting more efficient and cleaner fuel substitutes. 

  • Replace the use of wood and charcoal fuels, which is a major cause  of deforestation and environment degradation.

  •  In addition to the 1000 farmers trained, more 1000 will be trained in  the treatment of biomass as a source of income and the use biomass  briquettes as an alternative heating and cooking fuel

  • Although targeted at women and adolescent mothers, who are  mostly responsible for cooking and heating, training will include  instruction for the entire community to learn of and adopt the use of  biomass briquette as a readily available and dependable fuel source. 

Crops such as maize and cassava are key staple foods in the area,  the cobs and other waste products, which remain are unusable and  thus waste. However, their internal structure makes them ideal for  carbonization through partial oxidation which turns the cobs into  charcoal. To increase the efficiency, the corn cobs will be combined  with charcoal residues, which can be acquired freely through charcoal  sales point clean-up, and organic components of the garbage  collected from households which is dried, ground and compacted.  The mill waste (flour residues) will also be used as the binder in the  briquetting process.

We use a briquettes machine which is hand-cranked and can be  operated by a single person. The machine minimizes transfer of the  charcoal powder from one receptacle to another and deposits  charcoal powder directly into the container where it is mixed with a  wet binder. With only 5% of the rural population having access to  electricity, more than 90% of the country’s total energy needs in  Uganda come from biomass sources. Of this, wood accounts for  80%, charcoal 10% and crop residues at nearly 4%.  

The project has the following key benefits: 

  • Energy demand and supply: Replacement of inefficient  existing “household energy” and improvement of energy  efficiency. New innovation for renewable energy promoting the  switching from fuel-wood to charcoal briquettes from abandoned  agro-wastes. 

  • Livelihood support: new form of skills training for the community creating new jobs and a little supplementary income. 

  • Climate change mitigation: For every ton of biomass charcoal  briquette, about 88 trees with a diameter of about 10 cm is saved  from cutting for firewood and charcoal making, decreasing the rate of  deforestation which will in turn serve as carbon sink; emissions from  transportation of charcoal is of smaller magnitude, and thus ignored.

  • Waste recycling: using the 3 R strategies: reduce, reuse and  recycle, biomass provides a new waste management strategy;  reduces environmental pollution especially in the urban and peri urban areas. This solution makes efficient use of organic waste  because (i) charcoal pyrolysis has a much shorter turnover time  than composting, and (ii) charcoal is in extremely high demand in  urban areas where the waste originates, thereby foregoing the  need for long-distance transport. 

  • Alleviation of urban energy poverty: Charcoal supply from  rural Uganda is becoming scarce, so the production of charcoal  from the urban waste stream can supplement this supply and  thus alleviate this charcoal bottleneck. This can in turn lessen the  economic burden on the urban household (therefore allowing  them to cook 3 meals a day. 

  • Land Use and Forestry: Land degradation prevented by  conserving the trees/ woodlands that otherwise will be cut-down  for fuel-wood and charcoal.

  • Climate Action: this is through capacity building. 

In conclusion, Walter Eseps and Marafiki United Green Youth Initiative need to expand the  project to all parts of Uganda in order to reduce dependence on wood and  manage waste products by 2030. They are seeking for more funding (approximately $20,000) to purchase bigger machines and acquire more space. 



+1 347 653 8176



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