January 24, 2022

Charcoal blocks made from waste preserves the environment and creates jobs

Salomon creates charcoal blocks from waste products, which preserves the natural woodland and manages waste. SPARK coached Salomon and co-financed the construction of a processing unit to help him get his affordable product to market. Salomon has created 25 permanent jobs and 9 temporary jobs for young people in his community.

Throughout the African continent, most people rely heavily on wood for cooking, heating homes and powering businesses. Wood is affordable, accessible and versatile, yet much of it is obtained unsustainably, leading to deforestation and land degradation. 

In many of Burundi’s towns and cities, household waste and other refuse litter streets and waterways as there are no waste collection facilities. People also suffer negative health effects from the emissions produced from the burning of wood for fuel. This led entrepreneur, Salomon Ndizeye to search for an alternative fuel source. 

With a background in making charcoal, Salomon found a solution to two major environmental problems in Burundi. Using three basic and common waste products, he has created charcoal briquettes that are cheaper and more fuel efficient than wood. 

Watch SPARK’s film about Salomon that was recently nominated for the High Flyer Award 2021 by the Expertise Centre of Humanitarian Communication

Using vegetable and domestic waste collected from homes and markets, rice husks and carpentry waste, such as sawdust, Salomon has perfected his briquette ‘recipe’ and formed a cooperative called COIEDE: Coopérative pour l’Innovation et Entreprendre pour le Développement.

The group of unemployed, yet skilled youth, that founded COIEDE were able to pool their resources by forming a cooperative. They share knowledge and finances, and it is now easier to access loans from a microfinance institution as a collective.

“I was asked to compare my ventures in terms of profit and the charcoal took the lead.”

29-year-old Salomon initially joined SPARK’s business coaching sessions to improve his first venture: tropical fruit juice processing. “During the coaching sessions,” he says, “I was able to open up about other businesses I had timidly ventured into, including charcoal and chalks. I was asked to compare my ventures in terms of profit and the charcoal took the lead.” 

Salomon was encouraged by the coaches that his charcoal idea was not only innovative but affordable for the local market. In 2019, SPARK co-financed the construction of a processing unit that has enabled COIEDE to increase the level of production to between 400-500kg of briquettes per hour. With support from SPARK, Salomon was able to bring his affordable product to market. Salomon is mainly selling to households and aims to sell to schools in the future. 

Salomon’s briquette-producing cooperative has created 25 permanent jobs and 9 temporary jobs for young people in the community. When asked what inspired his business, he says: “Three main reasons: to protect the environment because in Burundi, and all over the world, the forests are threatened. The second reason is to reduce diseases caused by dirt. The last reason is to reduce cooking expenses for people.”

The market potential of COIEDE’s waste charcoal briquettes is huge. They are more energy-efficient than wood, are light and easy to transport, less harmful for people’s health, have less environmental impact and crucially, they are cheaper. 

Sustainable, green entrepreneurship solutions like Salomon’s are vital to protect from the worsening climate crisis. Wood-dependent populations are growing, yet access to wood is rapidly declining. This circular bioeconomy product is helping to reduce waste and spur on sustainable bioresources.