Biomass briquettes are increasingly popular as an alternative fuel to charcoal and firewood in sub-Saharan African households. They are mostly made of green waste and other organic materials and are now commonly used to generate heat for cooking and lighting within households or during agri-processing.
Turning organic waste into clean-burning biomass briquettes not only helps save forests and biodiversity and cuts greenhouse gas emissions, it also reduces the levels of indoor pollution households are exposed to. In Kenya alone, it is estimated that indoor pollution from kerosene, wood and charcoal causes the death of 15,000 women and children annually.
This is why Hivos East Africa, together with the Greening Kenya Initiative, the African Centre for Technology and Practical Action, are collaborating with the Government of Kenya to establish innovative briquette technologies, policies and practices that improve energy access, reduce poverty, improve health and limit deforestation. Hivos is playing the role of fund manager and facilitator.
The resulting multi-stakeholder initiative, the ‘National Biomass Briquette Programme’, seeks to create a complete supply chain, from building briquette-making equipment and training production entrepreneurs to develop standards, to setting up fuel distribution networks and providing consumer education.
To start off the initial phase of the programme, major stakeholders from civil society, research institutions, policymakers, the private sector and government attended a workshop from 26th to 29th January 2016 to map the way forward.
The creation of the National Biomass Briquette Programme also owes much to a feasibility study conducted in 15 counties in (2014) to assess the viability of establishing a vibrant, modern biomass energy sub-sector in Kenya. This study established that biomass energy consumption constitutes 68 percent of primary energy consumption in Kenya, where more than 90 percent of rural households use firewood for cooking and 80 percent of urban households depend on charcoal as a primary source of fuel for cooking.
Speaking during the workshop, Ministry of Energy representative Dickson Kisoa outlined the government’s commitments to investing in low-cost renewable energy systems accessible to rural households. ‘’One of the reasons we have the bulk of national allocation of resources going towards mega electricity projects and almost nothing going into biomass (despite biomass being the most significant resource in the country), is that initiatives like this programme are missing to coordinate the efforts and support the government’s plans,’’ he said.
The National Biomass Briquette Programme ties in with Kenya’s ‘Vision 2030’, which aims to create a low-cost, efficient energy system as well as ensure Sustainable Energy for All. The Programme will further contribute to meeting the carbon reduction targets as espoused in Kenya’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).
Hivos’ Renewable Energy programme focuses on working with like-minded partners to increase the access to modern forms of renewable energy. We do this by making smart and clean technologies, such as biogas-digesters, biomass briquettes or efficient wood stoves, accessible to economically-deprived people in remote areas.
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