Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Alternative to Charcoal is a Roaring Success - Part 1

Friends of Shimoni Forest (FSF) are a community-based organization that is the main working partner on GVI’s Terrestrial Research Programme in Kenya. All of the data that GVI collect are for FSF to assist them in achieving their aims; continued conservation monitoring, conservation of biodiversity, community awareness and reforestation. One of the initiatives that GVI and FSF have been working very closely on is that of alternative charcoal.

Charcoal burning is a serious threat to Shimoni forest, and is a form of resource use that is rife across the entire area. The problem is that 98% of all residents use either firewood or charcoal to cook with, and at present, there is no other alternative. In previous meetings between charcoal burners and FSF, they have admitted that they dislike charcoal burning – it is back breaking work, it is illegal, and it is obvious that it is doing irreversible damage to the forest. The question they asked – “what else can we do? I have a family to feed.”

-- Earth mound kiln charcoal pit--

All it took was a few minutes of research to discover that there are a countless number of ways to make alternative charcoal from many different materials, and loads of different methods. After some hard work, endless research and extensive e-mailing from some of the GVI folk, a professional briquette trainer with eleven years of experience was located and booked to come down! Now all we needed to do was convince as many charcoal burners as possible to come to the training.

After several meetings, we managed to convince approximately 15 of the core charcoal burners from the village of Anziwani (the worst area for charcoal production) to attend the training. Isaiah, the briquette trainer came down from Nairobi for 8 days to conduct the training, and turned out to be a legend – full of wisdom and experience – who gained the respect of all present.

-- Isaiah – the briquette trainer --

The first couple of days of the training covered the theory and ideas behind alternative charcoal and briquetting, and then moved on to the all important preparation stage, where all the raw materials are conditioned for briquetting. It turns out you can use almost anything for charcoal (leaves, sawdust, coconut shells, sugarcane waste, banana peels etc) as long as it is prepared correctly. This is where the knowledge and experience of Isaiah became truly apparent! See our next blog for the outcome of the week's training!

--Isaiah teaching theory--