Transfer and Commercialization of low cost Environmentally Friendly Charcoal Manufacturing Technology

Transfer and Commercialization of low cost Environmentally Friendly Charcoal Manufacturing Technology

Organization type: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Contribute to improved livelihoods, generation of employment and income enhancement through technology transfer to benefit poor farming communities and semi-urban youth. About 80% of people in Uganda live in rural areas and 31% live below the poverty line. The ever increasing demand for traditional wood charcoal and firewood is responsible for the rampant deforestation and soil degradation contributing to climate change manifesting through irregular rainfall patterns, floods and violent storms. This project therefore aims at establishing sustainable business chains for manufacturing charcoal briquettes from agricultural wastes and tree off-cuts while conserving the fragile environment.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The Community that we engage is mainly the Ugandan rural poor farmers. The lack of modern and affordable fuels for domestic use has forced both urban and rural populations to depend entirely on wood charcoal and firewood as a source of cooking fuel. The situation is exacerbated by ever rising costs of the other alternative sources of energy, namely Hydro-electric power, Kerosene and Gas. Women take most burden of looking for firewood in the rural Uganda and have to walk long distances. This does not only reduce on the time required for agricultural production activities but also interferes with the household chores. The result is less production, low incomes and hence food insecurity. Agriculture in the rural areas is mainly subsistence and quite rudimentary, and does not provide the necessary jobs for the rising youthful population. As such many youth tend to migrate to the urban areas in search of jobs which are few and mainly in the service and construction. At pilot stage of this project, women formed between (70-80) percent of the training participants. They formed groups in order to benefit from government credit schemes such as the Savings and Credit Corporative Organizations (SACCO) to promote production of charcoal briquettes as a sustainable business. Two private companies also emerged to take advantage of the opportunities to manufacture charcoal briquettes to supply the supermarkets in Kampala.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The Project is innovative in the following ways; Crop production is the main economic activity of the majority of farmers in the country. Of these crops, sugar cane, maize, sorghum, rice, finger millet, beans, ground nuts and Soya beans provide tones of agricultural waste at harvest time. In addition to these, industrial off-cuts of timber, sawdust, coffee husks, first growing tree species such as eucalyptus, waste grass generated through slashing/mowing compounds and open grounds are other good raw material for manufacturing charcoal briquettes for economic gains and the activities provide employment to many farmers, youth and women in the rural areas thereby reducing the high level of rural-urban migration. Once adopted and in full operation, Charcoal Briquettes making will reduce dependence on wood charcoal and firewood as the main sources of cooking fuel. This technology is innovative in that; it prevents environmental degradation through tree cutting and soil baking since it uses agricultural waste and already made potable kilns for processing. It also has the following merits; it is scientific and researched, it is standardized, reliable and sustainable, it was developed for developing countries, it is environmentally supportive and clean, it is compact and efficient, it is simple and user-friendly, it is low cost and affordable, it is commercially viable and can generate income and it is internationally awarded and acclaimed.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Project activities start with the selection of participants based predetermined criteria; selected participants are then divided into groups of 5-6 persons and work hands-on with Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) trainers for the entire duration of 4 day workshop for maximum transfer of skills and knowledge. Day 1: Assessing participants learning needs, expectations and emphasizing protection of environment. Participants will be guided through the process of kiln fabrication. This includes cutting down the steel drums, welding and assembling. Day 2: Participants will finalize kiln fabrication in the morning and will be introduced to the process of pyrolyzing of agricultural waste for the production of char powder in the afternoon. Day 3: Participants will continue training on the process of pyrolysing agricultural waste for the production of char powder. Participants will then be educated in the use of the charcoal extruder and the manufacturing of charcoal briquettes. Day 4: Participants will be introduced to marketing and business techniques and practices to better enable them to conduct profitable business. The activities are structured to achieve specific objectives of the project.
About You
Uganda National Council for Science and Technology
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name

Uganda National Council for Science and Technology

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

The technology to convert agricultural waste into charcoal briquettes was researched and tested by Dr. Priyadarshini Karve of Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI)-India. In India, annually 800 million tons of agricultural waste is generated and not put to any productive use, but burnt off in open air, for clearing the fields. ARTI then developed a technology for converting this agricultural waste into char briquettes. This technology was then brought to East African region by individuals to promote the innovation and conserve the environment. However, when the Director for the ARTI-Uganda brought the idea to Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) a public agency my current employer, I identified business opportunity to create employment for the rural farming communities. In Uganda, agriculture continues to play an important role in the economy. It contributes about 29.4 % of Uganda’s GDP and employs over 70% of the country’s labour force. This involvement in agriculture notwithstanding, unemployment levels both in the rural and urban areas remain high. This was what inspired the writing of this project.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

The pilot phase of this project was successful in that, over 150 farmers were empowered with the knowledge of converting agricultural waste into cooking fuel and to make money. The farmers who benefited from the pilot trainings and those who took this as a business venture have formed groups to supply private companies that identified opportunities in this technology. Currently the success of the project can be measured by the demand created for the product as per the records of a private company engaged in the business. Secondly, UNCST continue to receive requests to train farmers across to country. Thirdly, when this project was submitted to Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Uganda, it received the approval of the development committee and when the ministry submitted it to the Islamic Development Bank for funding, it was approved and a US$ 253,000 Grant was awarded. In July 2011 a training programme targeting over 600 farmers and entrepreneurs in twenty districts will start. At the end of trainings, increased awareness on environmental conservation is expected to increase tree planting among the participants, use and availability of charcoal briquettes from agricultural waste is expected to trickle in the market and a new business chain will develop. The monitoring and evaluation of current and the situation after the training is expect to clearly measure the social impact of this project.

How many people have been impacted by your project?


How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?


How will your project evolve over the next three years?

This project was designed to have two phases: Phase I was the pilot training and introduction of the project idea and products for the first time in the country. This was successfully concluded. Then Phase II is to scale the project country wide from the initial three districts to as many as possible. However, the project won a grant to train 600 participants in 20 districts of Uganda beginning July 2011. With every training concluded in a district and as the products enter the market, this is expected to sustain itself and participants only need marketing skills to capture already available demand from both affluent and rural consumers.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

A part from inadequate logistics (financial) to reach as many farmers as possible, the biggest barrier to this project is the wet season (rain season). This project mainly targets dry agricultural waste and tree off-cuts which have to burn out in open field in specially designed kilns. Project products are solar dried. Since ordinary farmers planting between (2-10) hectares of land are targeted, participants from lower level income bracket will form the majority and the technology is appropriate at this level, electricity is not need. To overcome the natural barrier to the project, the training is designed to take place during the dry seasons which in most cases happen to be harvest times in most rural Uganda and adequate raw materials are available for the project. In order to overcome the financial barrier, farmers will be encouraged to form groups in order to benefit from soft financial support from government institutions such as the micro finance support centre limited to help them access capital to start business.

Tell us about your partnerships

This project has attracted partnership of Government institutions such as the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST) and The Micro Finance Support Centre Ltd, Non Governmental Organizations such as the Appropriate Rural Technology Institute-Uganda (ARTI-UG), Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), District forest and environment management authorities, Community Bases Organizations such as the local councils.

Explain your selections

As regards farmers to be selected for the training, the following criteria are used to select participants; they should be in a group and if not, then they should be from the same neighbourhood. Preferably, they should be from a special interest group or a Saving And Credit Corporative Organization (SACCO) members or any other coherent grouping such as an NGO, Community Based Organization. This will enable them to continue with production of the charcoal briquettes using the equipment that will be handed to them after the training; They should belong to SACCO or be prepared to join one from where they can access financial services to promote the business; The selected farmers should be willing to complete the training and embrace charcoal briquettes making; They should be prepared to participate in the practical elements of the training.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

This project is structured in such a way that environmental conservation takes centre stage. Feedback mechanism designed at the end of the project is expected to provide information farmers may require to strengthen the project within the next three years. The structured stages of the project encourages planting of trees to provide more off-cuts and value addition to the agricultural waste will stop burning of the waste as has been the practice with rural farmers. Additionally, a four step business model is developed and will emerge after the training. These steps are: step 1; waste collection, step 2; char powder production, step 3; charcoal production, and step 4; charcoal sale. At every step of the business model, independent businesses will develop and since the private sector has already taken to producing the equipment, it will be easy to expand along the demand line. Private sector lead expansion is expected to sustain the project as a viable business in the next three years.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Lack of access to information and networks


Lack of visibility and investment

Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Lack of skills/ training, lack of access to information and networks and need for regulatory/ policy support. The project has designed four day practical training for the selected participants. At the end of training, information on the availability of market for the charcoal briquettes will be discussed and farmers will be encouraged to work with the existing infrastructure and institutions to support the growth of the business. The district environmental management authorities will be lobbied to enforce existing regulatory laws to protect the environment and support the growth of the charcoal briquettes making from tonnes of bio-waste readily available in the urban centres and farms.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services


Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Enhancing existing impact through addition of complementary services and influencing other organizations is a current activity. While scaling up the project activities throughout the country, multi country and global is a planned activity

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Technology providers, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

The UNCST is a public institution under the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry helped to link the UNCST with the IDB to provide the funds to scale the training to twenty districts as government provides the counterpart support for the implementation of the project. Technology providers have provided the technical skills through training to the participants. The NGOs have mobilized the farmers and entrepreneurs through their umbrella organization and the profit companies have taken up to produce the equipment