BLOCKS of compressed coal dust, mixed with wood chips or biomas, oftenly called briquettes; can deliver around 50 per cent more heat for each dollar spent than wood logs, a chemical engeneering expert says.
Harare Institute of Technology Chemical Engineer, Felix Mapaike says briquetting can be exploited in Zimbabwe to help solve the cooking-energy poverty faced by the poorest households both in rural and urban areas, where fire wood is mainly used for cooking and heating purposes.
“From what I have seen in Kenya, poorest residents of Nairobi started making briquettes out of charcoal dust, trying to solve an immediate household problem of unaffordable fuel.
“Today, their work is helping to overcome some of Kenya’s most intractable head aches such as poverty, unemployment, poor waste management and contributing to the country’s sustainable development goals,” said Engineer Mapaike.
Charcoal briquettes are made by mixing charcoal dust with water and a binding agent such as soil, paper or starch. The resultant ‘dough’ is shaped by hand and moulded in wooden or metal presses into fist-sized units, which are then air dried.
The clean burn of charcoal briquettes dramatically reduces indoor pollution, one of the leading causes of the 400, 000 deaths of respiratory diseases that occur each year in the Sub Saharan Africa.
“Charcoal briquettes are very environmental friendly compared to firewood which releases too much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Briquettes energy is suitable for household cooking and industrial processes. It also reduces respiratory diseases and watery eyes that are caused by soot and other eye cancers.
“In places like Mutare, Chimanimani and Lomagundi where timber is harvested, the wood shavings can be converted into briquettes. Briquettes can deliver up to 50 per cent more heat for each dollar spent than logs,” said Engineer Mapaike.
According to Mapaike, with charcoal briquettes it costs US$0.04 to cook a traditional meal of maize and beans for a standard house hold of 5 people. This is nine times cheaper than cooking the same meal with charcoals priced at USD $3.
The main sources of energy used in Zimbabwe; comprise fuel wood, electricity, petrolium fuels, coal bed methane, coal and solar. The country’s energy needs are met through a combination of : biomas 51 per cent of the total energy supply; liquid fuels 12 per cent; electricity 13 per cent; coal 19 per cent and solar 5 per cent.
According to Tawanda Mazamwese’s 2017 ‘Green Economy‘ and the potential in the energy sector report; an estimated 1.5 million tons of bagasse is produced annually from sugar production waste, in the Lowveld at Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates.
Therefore converting biomas or wood chips into usable heating fuel, can contribute towards Zimbabwe’s national renewable energy development aspirations in many important ways.
An annual yield of wood fuel from natural forests is estimated at 4.6 million tons and an average solar radiation of 3000 hours is availabe for use.Uranium deposits are found in Kanyemba, awaiting exploitation and Geothemal energy resources occur in Hwange and Binga Districts.
Zimbabwe’s sucessful female technoprenuer and Motocharcoal Briquette Limited founder, Dr Mercy Manyuchi, is offering technological, enviromental, economical and social innovation to off grid communities in the country and the Sub Saharan Africa, through selling briquettes in Zimbabwe.
“In Sub-Saharan Africa, close to 50% of population lives off grid, therefore alternative sources of energy are essential. The current energy options available to most people are either expensive, or their use results in environmental concerns such as increased deforestation or indoor pollution.
“I discovered a business gap in the energy sector and I have come up with a company that produces briquettes. Thanks to Total Africa and other players, my business venture is doing well.
“I have sold my briquettes to the rural folks of Mutoko and they are very happy. Many responses from women say they have welcomed the use of briquettes in their village because it relieves them of the pain of carrying fire wood on their backs for several kilometers daily,” said Dr Manyuchi.
According to Engineer Mapaike, the energy shortage in the Sub Saharan Africa is 50 per cent of 800 million people living off grid.
“There is a serious need for renewables to adress issues of climate change in Africa because it has largest deforestation rates in the world.
“There is also poor waste management where about 62 million tons are being generated per annum with 50 per cent of it being degradable and mainly agricultural waste. Rotting waste is a major emitter of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere,” said Mapaike.
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Addressing journalist during a Gender and Renewable Energy workshop in Harare recently, Munyaradzi Kaundikiza, Environment Africa Project Officer said Zimbabwe has the highest, 94 per cent demand for fire wood hence the need for an alternative renewable source of energy.
“Current energy usage statistics show that the country has a national electrification rate of 41.5 per cent. The electricity has reached 83 per cent of the urban household with rural electrification still below 19 per cent.The country has a potential to tap into other forms of energy such as biomas,” said Kaundikiza.
About 60 per cent of the population still dont have access to electricity. Therefore green fuels such as moto charcoals can play a significant to mitigate against deforestation and climate change.
The timber industry is one of the country’s largest foreign currency earners after minerals such as platinum, gold and diamonds and can employ thousands of people.
But the issue of saw dust, a by product of timber processing, has been a thorn in the flesh for producers across Manicaland province for years, with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) taking them to task over proper disposal mechanism.
Enormous heaps of saw dust, particularly around sawmills in Chimanimani, Nyanga and Mutare have become an eye sore with some producers having resorted to burning it.
“As you move along the length and breadth of Mutare at sun set, you are greated by spirelling cloud of smoke emanating from the heaps of saw dust,” says Simbarashe Gore an Environmentalist and resident from Mutare.