Success Stories: George Okumu and Charcoal Briquettes, Cooking Stoves, and Carbon Credits from Cell Phones
George Okumu’s innovative idea to turn agricultural waste, like sugarcane stalks, into smokeless charcoal briquettes, use them on energy saving cook stoves and claim the resultant carbon credits using cellphones was not only a 2010 round 3 prize winner, but has also proven to be quite successful. In poor, rural areas, deforestation is often a problem that can lead to further food security issues like soil erosion, reduced nitrogen content in the ground, loss of water, and loss of soil productivity. Charcoal briquettes are an innovative way to take agricultural waste and turn it into a source of fuel without having to cut down trees or use firewood. Additionally, the use of cell phones in rural areas has tremendous impacts on health and agriculture, in large part due to mobile techonology revolutionizing the information that poor, rural farmers have access to regarding crops, weather, markets, prices, farming techniques, and such. Mobile technology is even providing health information to those same farmers and rural people who have traditionally been marginalized without proper access.
"After receiving the Africa Rural Connect seed funding, my two business partners and I bought a mechanical press to make charcoal briquettes. The unique briquettes are cheaper, smokeless, dirt free, and compacted to high density to optimize calorific value per given mass. We are able to produce 50-75 kilograms of green charcoal a day with a work force of just three. Thus, we are selling improved cook stoves through a new collaboration with Envirofit."
Cook stoves are also very important for everyday cooking because daily cooking of meals over a wood fire is more difficult to properly execute. In addition, indoor air pollution from poorly ventilated fires, according to worldwide studies, can cause people to be exposed to too much indoor air pollution. Consequently, roughly 1.6 million premature deaths occur per year from such cooking practices.
When asked about the development of his project, George responded,
"Posting on the Africa Rural Connect site has given us leverage to approach potential partner organizations like the European Gold Standard Voluntary Emission Reduction Market. From these successes, we have recently acquired two acres of land to build a state-of-the-art charcoal briquetting plant."
Keep up the great work, George!
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