Officials, conservation groups promote green charcoal, made of agricultural waste and clay, to help stop deforestation.


Slowly but steadily, many Ugandans are turning away from cooking over firewood and traditional charcoal, opting instead for green charcoal, a fuel proven to be more environmentally friendly.

Uganda’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. A UNDP-implemented, GEF-funded project seeks to save forests and livelihoods through efficient conversion technologies and sustainable land management practices centered on charcoal production.

Laden with clay or mud, green biomass charcoal does not release the billows of smoke and carbon dioxide that the conventional briquettes emit when burned and is gaining popularity in the East African country, where 80% of residents rely on wood and coal to cook their meals, according to the national statistics bureau.

Spheres or blocks of green charcoal briquettes are made of agricultural waste such as dry banana peels, coffee husks, plant and tree leaves and can be used as an alternative to other fuels such as coal and oil, both in household uses and in heating boilers in factories, among other uses.

“Green charcoal does not emit much smoke like firewood or charcoal made from trees because of the clay in which the agriculture waste is compressed,” said Jack Mugasha, a senior environment official at Uganda’s Water and Environment Ministry.

Listing the advantages of the fuel, Mugasha said it burns cleanly and reduces exposure to smoke that can cause respiratory disease. Further, he said it uses agricultural waste materials and therefore does not contribute to deforestation and can be paired with complementary technologies like fuel-efficient stoves to further reduce fuel consumption.

Women in villages near cities and towns in Uganda have taken up the task of making green charcoal a source of income. Winnie Nakazzi, 39, is one such woman who says she earns her living from making green charcoal.

Green charcoal

“I’ve been making green charcoal for the last three years. I was taught how to make it by a local community-based women’s organization whose main objective is to get people to stop using firewood, (thus) saving forests, and also to empower women to become self-sustaining,” said Nakazzi.

To make the green charcoal, she first collects enough agricultural waste materials, which she dries and crushes into small pieces to mix with the wet clay or mud. She then gives the individual briquettes their round or block-like shapes with her hands, laying them on the ground to dry up for three days.

“I sell each heap of about 15 briquettes at 2,000 Ugandan shillings (roughly $0.50). The market is assured. Many people are turning to use the charcoal we make rather than the traditionally made charcoal because it emits very little smoke if any. It’s also economical because six briquettes can cook beans for 4 people.”

Nakazzi, a single mother, says she uses the money she earns from selling green charcoal to feed and pay for the school fees of her three children.

One of her customers, Yusuf Ogoli, said that ever since he started using green charcoal, he stopped using briquettes made from wood. “It’s far more economical and it’s smokeless. The only disadvantage is that it takes time to catch fire.”


About İsmail Uğural

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