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Alternative Fuel Initiative, Kenya and Zambia

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Tribal Voice Communication’s alternative fuel project in Kenya received a mention on BBC News today ‘News – Africa – Africa’s burning charcoal problem’. TVC was approached earlier in the year by the Maasai women in the 5 villages we are working with on the ‘Maasai Villages Initiative’ asking if we would work with them to find alternative fuel sources to firewood for their daily cooking and heating needs. Reason for this was two-fold. The women recognised that their use of firewood was becoming unsustainable as it was causing deforestation in the area as evidenced by their daily firewood forays taking them ever greater distances from their villages. Secondly, they were increasingly coming into conflict with elephants whilst collecting firewood.

TVC went away and looked into the issue and our investigations brought us into contact with the Nairobi-based Millennium Fuel Project run up by the now late Dr Christopher Wood. In collaboration with the MFP, and with a small amount of seed funding from the Travel Foundation, TVC had briquette making machines made and trained all women in the 5 villages to make fuel briquettes out of cow dung, waste paper and water. Each Maasai village keeps several hundred cows so there is no shortage of cow dung! The women have also experimented with elephant dung. 6 months later the women in each village are producing circa. 400 briquettes in a morning (5 briquettes are sufficient to cook a meal for a family), and their firewood consumption has reduced by 75% helping reduce deforestation and CO2 emissions, contributing to the fight against climate change. The reduced need for firewood forays also means the women have more time for other activities, including crafting beadwork curios for sale to tourists.

Importantly, in an area where many live in abject poverty, some of the briquettes are also being piloted by the Mara Conservancy and &beyond’s Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp for use by their staff instead of charcoal or firewood, along with heating water for client’s showers. It is hoped that these 2 organisations, and other lodges in the area, will begin to purchase the women’s briquettes creating a valuable source of income for the women.

Funded by the High Five Club, TVC has recently introduced this alternative fuel project to another rural wildlife tourism area, Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, where the same issues of deforestation, human/wildlife conflict and the need for alternative livelihood strategies for the rural poor exist.

In August 28 women in Mnkhanya Chiefdom were trained by TVC to make briquettes out of dried leaves, waste paper and water and together we formed the Malimba Women’s Alternative Fuel Enterprise. The women take 50% of production for their own use with the remaining 50% available for purchase by the safari lodges in the area. The Luangwa Safari Association is firmly behind this initiative and are supplying the waste paper and currently piloting the use of the briquettes in their lodges.

TVC is looking for small amounts of funding to expand this innovative initiative to other rural villages in Kenya and Zambia. If you would like to get involved please contact cheryl@tribal-voice.co.uk

For further information on this initiative view here.

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One thought on “Alternative Fuel Initiative, Kenya and Zambia

  1. Try making fuel out of aquatic weeds such as Typha. You have plenty, and they are one of the driving forces in your water shortages. Typha is that long reed with the brown sausage on top. It is an excellent feedstock for biofuels ranging from charcoal to ethanol (no diesel, at least that I’ve heard of). All over Africa, these weeds cause many troubles. Harvest them for fuel, and win several times over. They are part of the problem in desertification, flooding, malaria and Quelea.

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