Charcoal briquetting in Nairobi relieves poverty, environmental stresses

Youth group member from Kahawa-Soweto in Nairobi making briquettes in a metal press. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

Youth group member from Kahawa-Soweto in Nairobi making briquettes in a metal press. Photo by Sherry Odeyo/ICRAF

Over ten years ago when the poorest residents of Nairobi started making briquettes out of charcoal dust, they were trying to solve an immediate household problem of unaffordable fuel. Today, their work is helping overcome some of Kenya’s capital city’s most intractable headaches—poverty, unemployment, and poor waste management—and contributing to the country’s sustainable development aspirations, too.

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, or moulded in wooden or metal presses into fist-sized units, which are then air-dried. Women and youth make up the majority of those employed in this informal industry.

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Daisy Ouya

Daisy Ouya is a science writer and communications specialist with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). Over the past 15 years she has been packaging and disseminating scientific knowledge in the fields of entomology, agriculture, health, HIV/AIDS research, and marine science. Daisy is a Board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences (bels.org) and has a Masters’ degree in chemistry from the University of Connecticut, USA. Her BSc is from the University of Nairobi in her native Kenya. She has worked as a journal editor, science writer, publisher, and communications strategist with various organizations. She joined ICRAF in July 2012. Twitter: @daisyouya

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