According to the United Nations, between 2010-2015, 12 million hectares of forest were destroyed every year giving a 22.58% decline for 2010-2015. Forests in Africa are being cut down at a rate of more than 4 million hectares per year — twice the world’s deforestation average. A huge contributor to this devastation has been charcoal production, which is an essential source of domestic fuel in Africa.
Trees are nature’s gift to us, they clean the air, improve the soil and are critical for sustaining eco-systems.
Kwizera Pike has identified a less environmentally damaging substitute for trees, the water hyacinth.
In the fall of 2019, he was a part of a Problem Based Learning project organized by Makerere University, Uganda and Alto University, Finland. The goal was recycling grey water using constructed wetlands. In one of the community outreaches on landing site settlements, Nakyaato a member of the local community, highlighted the damage caused by water hyacinth towards the fishing community and the entire transport system. Although harvesting the hyacinth was the first and most obvious solution, this has proven to be costly over the years especially for the municipal communities.
Out of this project, Ehega Energy was born.
Ehega Energy’s model tasks members of these communities to safely harvest, dry and carbonize water hyacinth. Ehega Energy then purchases them, makes briquettes which are then distributed on the market as a more sustainable domestic fuel alternative through a network of women vendors in the communities.
As the vision barrier, Pike is keen on seeing the population move from using charcoal from trees and firewood to cook to briquettes which are a more sustainable fuel source.
What keeps Pike and his team going is the goal to scale production through job creation. The more members of communities they can get to take part in the process, the more they can produce.
Currently Kampala and its surrounding peri urban areas consume over 200,000 tonnes of charcoal per year, most briquetting companies have annual output of 950 tonnes because they rely on residue from charcoal production so it is practically impossible to fully substitute charcoal in the market.
In addition to addressing climate change concerns, Ehega Energy positively impacts the areas of job creation and community empowerment by engineering a more wholistic way to improve the world we live in today.
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