Forty percent of the world population still relies on biomass for cooking, lighting, and heating, according to the 2014 World Health Organization data. This has significantly burdened the resources on the planet and those living on it.
Unsustainable biomass collection depletes forests and contributes to soil erosion and loss of watersheds, placing additional pressure on agricultural productivity and food security.
In Uganda, hundreds of thousands of people are continuously migrating from the rural to the urban setting, and this has made the slums of Kampala to be flooded with settlements.
The slum dwellers do not have enough money that enables them to afford other sources of energy to use such as electric or gas cookers. During this time, the population primarily uses the three stones methods to cook, adopting firewood and charcoal, which is both dangerous and costly to the environment. To date, slums in Kampala City and the nearby district of Wakiso host about 1,700,000 dwellers.
In response to this situation, the youth in Kireka, a suburb located in the Wakiso district under their Community-Based Organization registered with names of United Innovations Development Centre, has started to provide clean energy in Uganda. For example, cooking alternatives to dwellers in Kampala City and nearby towns of Wakiso.
The organization creates cooking baskets and clean cookstoves that use briquettes. Not only are these methods cheap, but they are also environment-friendly, healthy, and locally sourced.
Naomi Namaganda, a 27-year-old mother of two who lives in Kireka, expressed her joy and excitement for having chanced on an opportunity to cook using clean energy methods.
“I prefer using briquettes because of the time I spend. I used to cook using about a basin full of charcoal in a week, but not anymore because just seven briquettes are enough for a whole week,” said Namaganda.
According to Sovereign Hashaya, the project coordinator, the raw materials used for making these briquettes are readily available, including banana fiber, potato peels, groundnut husks, grasses, maize corps, and many other typical household materials.
Briquettes go for about 1,000 Ugandan shillings (about $0.27) per kilogram in the City suburbs but also dwellers who cannot afford this amount can bring biomass and exchange this material for briquettes.
Godfrey Atuhaire, the director of the United Innovations Development Centre, said that most youths have been impacted through pieces of training that enabled them to make the cooking stoves, briquettes, and paper bags themselves.
“We looked for a potential business that is friendly to the environment and we arrived at the idea of making briquettes and paper bags,” said Atuhaire.
He added that “instead of charcoal, which involves cutting of trees and environmental destruction, we realized that when you are using the briquettes, they are as well cheaper and easy to use compared to charcoal.”
So far, the organization has trained more than 200 people in Kampala City on how to make the briquettes and paper bags that are environmentally friendly.
Briquettes are cheaper than charcoal and are a cost-effective, environmental-friendly solution to other traditional biomass such as charcoal or firewood, as they are made out of charcoal waste, agricultural residues or sawdust – normally considered unusable waste.
In East Africa, they are mainly used for cooking and heating. However, despite their benefits, product awareness and demand remains low.
Ms Akurut Violet Adome, a legislature in the Parliament of Uganda, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Association of Climate Change, said that people should embrace the use of clean energy in Uganda, especially for household use.
“Every time a tree is cut, the environment bleeds. It does not matter how small or big a tree is: alternative energy sources should be embraced for use,” said Akurut.
Reports from the World Health Organization reveal that the health risks of household air pollution are substantial. As the primary managers of household energy, women are disproportionately at risk for harmful emissions exposure every day.
Recent global health estimates show that household air pollution leads to over 4 million deaths annually, while millions more suffer from cancer, pneumonia, heart and lung disease, blindness, and burns. Approximately 300,000 deaths, 88% of which are women, are attributed to burns resulting from traditional cooking fires.