Saving environment through charcoal briquettes

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Biomass for energy consists of any organic material that can be used as a fuel; including firewood, forest wastes, dung, vegetable matter and agricultural residues. Energy from biomass accounts for 15% of global energy consumption yet in Tanzania it supplies more than 90% of the country’s energy needs. Biomass has historically been a cheap and accessible source of fuel for the country’s population but this is unlikely to continue as a high dependency is raising concerns for the sustainability of the resources as human populations and competing demands increase.

We are manufacturing charcoal briquettes from maize cobs and rice husks that produce clean, smokeless, with a pleasant scent and long lasting charcoals. The scent produced during burning kills mosquitoes instantly; this is an added advantage to our products. Tanzania alone for the last year consumed over 3,800 million tons of wood charcoals. It takes 15 – 20 trees of 10 to 15 years old to produce 1 ton of wood charcoal. To produce 3,800 million tons means a total deforestation. By 2050, it is believed that most of African’s countries will be deserts if necessary measures are not taken. With our charcoal briquettes in place we aim at reducing deforestation by 30% in Tanzania come 2030. 80 – 95% of all families both in urban and rural areas in Tanzania depend on charcoal fuel for their domestic purposes. Climate change has become a threat to mankind.  Fasttrack Entrepreneurs is providing a sound and permanent solution.

Our business requires an investment of US$200,000 and in 3 years’ time we are able to make a huge. Our products come from the machine already dried up for use. There are a number of manufacturing factories that need our products for their boilers. A sack of our product goes at US$10, while the wood charcoals goes at US$25; we are cheaper by more than a half. Other competitors are the natural gas distributors and electricity power supplier. Their prices are still very high compared to our charcoal briquettes. Above all, saving our environment is equal to saving our own dear lives. Over a hundred thousand direct employment opportunities will be created. “A sack of charcoal briquettes in every family in Africa” is our major objective.

Briquette charcoal production in Tanzania

Tanzania is 90% reliant on wood fuels, in particular charcoal in urban areas, and this is contributing to significant forest loss which is pushing the country to the brink of a charcoal crisis. Annually the charcoal sector contributes about US$ 650 million to the economy and employs tens of thousands of rural people who supply an essential energy product to nearly a million urban households and institutions. While charcoal is indispensable to the Tanzanian economy, it is also devastating to the environment. Deforestation results in annual emission of about 9 million tons of carbon dioxide and consumption are rising by nearly 9% annually.

Fasttrack Entrepreneurs Group undertook a feasibility study for the “Transforming Tanzania’s Charcoal Project” which aimed to investigate and support developments in the production and the use of sustainable charcoal and utilization of biomass briquettes as a true alternative to charcoal. The innovative project explored links to the voluntary carbon market to make sustainable forestry more economically attractive across the supply chain.

Fasttrack Entrepreneurs Group is a local registered firm located in Musoma, Mara, Tanzania. The firm initially working on biogas and solar lighting system when it was founded, the company has now expanded into charcoal briquettes from biomass such as coconut shells, maize cobs and rice husks. Fasttrack Entrepreneurs Group is now producing non-wood charcoal briquettes, which are being sold at local markets.

Briquette charcoal

Traditionally, charcoal is made by cutting down a tree, setting fire to the trunk, and covering it with soil. The tree carbonizes (turns into charcoal) over 1-3 weeks. The environmental impact is worsened because hardwood trees (those that grow most slowly) make the highest quality charcoal. Burning charcoal has destroyed most of the forests in Africa leaving it bare resulting in reduced rainfall and environmental degradation. If we do not stop burning trees for charcoal, the whole environment will be destroyed.

Biomass briquettes are a form of solid fuel that can be burned for energy. Worldwide, many different types of briquettes exist for a variety of applications. In industrialized countries briquettes are commonly used as a fuel in industrial boilers and biomass cogeneration plants. In East Africa, where biomass dominates the domestic energy market, briquetting technology is gaining momentum particularly as wood resources become scarcer and the price of regular charcoal increases.

The Fuel from the Fields technology involves filling a metal kiln with agricultural waste like maize cobs, maize stalk, rice husks, sunflower hulls, cotton seeds hulls, tobacco dust, coffee husks. Saw dust, coconut wastes, (the source of carbon.) This waste is ignited, and later sealed, to create anaerobic conditions. After two hours, charcoal is formed. The charcoal dust is mixed with a binder mostly molasses or cassava paste and then put in a briquette machine which produces charcoal briquette or pellets which is very good for cooking as it has less smoke and burns better that charcoal from burnt trees

How charcoal briquettes are made

Briquetting is carried out on raw biomass to improve the density, burn time and other energy characteristics and to turn it into a size and shape to suit its purpose. Raw materials are sometimes carbonized first to produce charcoal, which can then be compacted into a briquette. If the feedstock is not already in powder form, it needs to be ground prior to briquetting. Depending on the material, the pressure and the speed of compaction, additional binders such as starch or clay soil may also be needed to bind the matter together. Fasttrack Entrepreneurs Group Supper Technology will make briquettes on both a small and industrial scale. Although a variety of types and scales of machines and equipment can be used, the main processing steps remain the same.

We are adding value to maize produce by manufacturing charcoal briquettes from maize cobs. Maize farming is done in such a manner that whether rain comes or not farmers must harvest. Maize agribusiness will focus on bringing food to the tables of people who have experienced hunger for a long period of time.  The maize flour will be sold at a half the price of the current market price.  This will enable those who cannot afford the current market prices to have food they deserve.  Cooking Oil and chicken feeds will be sold at 20% lower to the current market prices.

Good farmers are getting over 40 bags per acre by practicing good husbandry, using hybrid seed and fertilizers.  The company will follow these instructions carefully to achieve the results.  We intend to use the hybrid seeds best in the region (E.A). This hybrid maize is specially bred to give higher yields than ordinary maize, but money spent on hybrid seed, and fertilizers will be wasted unless you grow the maize properly.