Large quantities of wood and charcoal are used by households and businesses in Uganda for cooking and processing. This contributes to the serious problem of deforestation, directly threatening some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in Africa.
Kampala Jellitone Suppliers Ltd (KJS) produces briquettes from agricultural residues to replace wood, and installs efficient cooking stoves to use with them.
Now that we use briquettes our cooks can start work at 6am instead of 3am as they used to, and there is less smoke in the kitchen.
Brother Musisi Charles, Mugwanya Catholic School
Uganda is largely a rural economy. For many people, the main source of income is farming while others are employed in the food processing factories. The lush countryside in the south of Uganda supports a wide range of crops. Wood and charcoal are the main fuels used for cooking. This has contributed to serious problems of deforestation and environmental damage. Forest loss is directly threatening some of the highest concentrations of biodiversity in Africa.
The processing of commercial crops generates large volumes of biomass residues including rice husks, coffee pulp and maize stalks. These, along with sawdust from sawmills, often go to waste. Kampala Jellitone Suppliers (KJS), a business based in the suburbs of Kampala, was looking for an alternative fuel to LPG for roasting coffee, and recognised the potential for converting this biomass ‘waste’ into a clean fuel.
KJS was founded by Mr Abasi Musisi in 1976 to produce cosmetic products from petroleum jelly. The business diversified into coffee processing and baking, using LPG as the fuel. In 1992 Mr Musisi started to look for cheaper alternative fuels, and experimented with using loose biomass residues, but found that these burned too quickly. The Danish Embassy funded a feasibility study on biomass briquetting, with funding provided through DANIDA to buy the first briquetting machine and set up production.
The company has been financed by its founder and its own income, the grant from DANIDA (US$100,000) and a United States African Development Foundation grant (US$ 85,000) for developing business plans and staff training. In 2008/9, KJS had a turnover of US$160,000 and employed 43 staff.
How does it work?
Biomass residues are produced by factories such as rice mills, coffee mills and furniture factories, mostly in the south west of Uganda. Residues are usually simply dumped in large heaps which are then burned to dispose of them. KJS has contracted a local agent to collect and bag the waste and transport it to the KJS factory near Kampala. The mixed biomass is fed into the briquetting machine, which compresses it into a rod. The rod is then cooled and broken up into sticks. KJS has also designed an efficient briquette-burning stove, for institutions such as schools and colleges, and for food processing industries.
When we were using charcoal, the fumes used to make us cough and many times we would end up ill. But ever since we switched to briquettes, we haven’t had any trouble because there is no smoke given off. We no longer feel sick the way we used to.
Nakabuye Nulu, kitchen supervisor
How much does it cost and how do users pay?
US$1 = 2142 USh (Uganda Shillings) [April 2009]
The price for briquettes is typically US$16 (35,000 USh)/tonne. This compares with around US$14 (30,000 USh)/tonne for firewood and US$29 (62,000 USh)/tonne for charcoal.
Institutional stoves cost around US$740 (1.6 million USh). About 65% of customers pay KJS for the stove in instalments, others pay the full cost at the time of installation.
How is it manufactured, promoted and maintained?
The supplier of the first briquetting machine gave KJS staff some maintenance training. Briquette manufacturing causes considerable wear in the machines due to the pressures involved, and the pistons and dies have to be changed regularly.
Staff from KJS train users to operate the stoves, so they have a direct relationship with each customer. KJS would like to improve the quality and design of their large stoves, and also to develop a portable stove for householders.
KJS can produce about 2,000 tonnes/year of briquettes, with one-shift working on the two existing briquetting machines. In 2008, total production was 1,530 tonnes, or about 130 tonnes/month.
1,309 stoves had been installed by March 2009, for 36 different organisations. Most are in public institutions like the halls of residence of schools, colleges and the University of Makerere. Five businesses also have a total of 50 stoves and baking ovens. These businesses include coffee roasting, baking and brewing. Nine domestic stoves have been installed, on a trial basis.
Several thousand cooks benefit directly from improved working conditions.
The KJS briquette stoves replace firewood or charcoal. A study by the University of Makerere estimated that one tonne of briquettes, used in an efficient KJS stove, replaces on average 1.2 tonnes of firewood and 0.3 tonnes of charcoal. Based on these estimates, an average of 6.1 tonnes of CO2 is saved per tonne of briquettes used. The 1,530 tonnes of briquettes produced and sold in 2008 therefore save about 9,300 tonnes/year of CO2.
Use of the briquettes reduces the pressure on wood resources and thus reduces deforestation. In addition, the agricultural residues used to make briquettes were previously burned as they were regarded as waste creating a fire hazard. The smoke and particulates generated from this incomplete combustion are dangerous for health, especially for people suffering from respiratory complaints.
The main advantage for users of the KJS institutional stove is convenience, in obtaining the fuel, storing it and using the stove. Briquettes are delivered on time and are ready to use directly from the sack. They need very little space for storage, although it is essential to keep them dry. Briquette stores can be locked to reduce theft.
Before we used to use charcoal. Really we would prepare food and it takes alot of time. But this time, half past eleven, the food is already being served. That is how we know that these briquettes are really faster. It used to be very hot. Ever since we started using the briquette stoves, the heat reduced. So now we find the heat is just like a normal room, like you’re in the office, so you just enjoy preparing food.
Wanzala Patrick , Victorious Primary School
Cooks are very enthusiastic about using briquettes, because the kitchens are so much cleaner, and the briquettes cook much faster. Less smoke is produced using briquettes than using wood, and it is removed by the stove chimney. The higher efficiency of the stove means that more of the heat goes into cooking the food and less escapes to overheat the kitchen. Users know how much fuel they will need because each briquette gives a standard amount of energy.
Economic and employment benefits
Cooking using briquettes costs about the same as using firewood – the higher cost per tonne of briquettes is balanced by the higher energy density and stove efficiency. However, the convenience of the briquettes makes them very popular, in particular with cooks. One Headmaster faced a protest from cooks when he suggested that the school might go back to using wood.
The financial savings are significant where charcoal has been used in the past. One primary school now spends US$24 (51,000 USh) per day on briquettes, instead of about US$32 (69,000 USh) per day on charcoal.
KJS currently employs 43 staff at the factory, and also uses contractor to collect the residues from the agricultural processors and sawmills and other haulage companies to deliver briquettes to customers.
The residue producers are paid between US$3 and $14 (6,000 and 30,000 USh) per tonne of residue, and so now earn extra income from something that was once regarded as waste.
Potential for growth and replication
Customers like the stoves and briquettes, and KJS has demand from more customers than it can currently supply, mainly because of limited drying capacity. The company is in the process of moving to a new and larger factory, to increase production.
Briquettes are more widely used in India and China, but the potential demand within Uganda and elsewhere in Africa is significant. In Uganda, there are 180,000 schools and a wide range of agricultural and food processing businesses that could use briquettes. Domestic users are also keen to try briquettes, once a suitable stove becomes available.