Jan 30, 2017

Briquette making proves to be a solution for deforestation

Maa Briquettes has been in operation for the last three years. The founder, George Mochu, an alumnus of Kenyatta University was unable to secure employment after his studies. In an interview at Joyful Women’s Organization, he met the Deputy President’s wife, Rachel Ruto, who challenged him by asking him what initiative he would come up with to help improve the lives of women in Narok County. This is how the briquette making idea was conceived. His innovation was inspired by the need to provide an alternative source of energy to reduce deforestation in the area.

The raw materials include charcoal dust, maize cobs and waste vegetable matter which he uses to make smokeless briquettes which are dried and then sold as fuel. In Narok County, most people earn less than two dollars per day. Maa Briquette therefore seeks to provide an affordable and environmental friendly energy solution.  The briquettes burn three times longer than conventional charcoal and are smoke free thus reducing air pollution. With this alternative source of fuel, women are able to reduce on time spent in collecting firewood, resources in buying charcoal and are able to enjoy a clean environment.

People who initially used firewood are now adapting and prefer the briquettes for fuel. The advantages of briquettes as compared to charcoal is that they last longer and are smokeless.  Briquettes have helped to reduce deforestation significantly, initially 10 trees would be cut daily for fuel. Currently only 1 or 2 are cut per week. George’s hope is that this number comes to zero because the cutting of trees harshly affects the Mau forest which in turn affects the water catchment areas.

In October 2015, Maa Briquettes was able to purchase two machines in the second phase of the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND) Green Innovations Award. The machines compress and cut the briquettes into different shapes as desired by the customer. The solar dryer has a drying capacity of eight tonnes and it takes two days to dry briquettes at 53 degrees Celsius.

So far, the business environment is favourable and the company produces on average 10 bags a day. The company serves well over 500 households who are return customers and seven hotels including the Mara conservancy, Sarova, Sankara, Maji Moto Eco Camp among others.

In 2016, the company benefitted greatly from the six months’ mentorship programme by KCIC. George expressed his enthusiasm on the mentor that he received saying that he was very supportive and hands on. The mentor visited the production site severally giving him business advice on expanding his clientele.

The business has not been without challenges. Marketing and access to markets have been his biggest challenge. KCIC is currently working towards developing a marketing strategy for all clients.

George has been continuously involved in skills transfer through training and mentoring interested parties in briquette making at no cost. He envisions expanding his market to serve clients in other counties. He would also like to brand his packaging for his customers to be able to distinguish his products from the conventional charcoal. He is exploring the option of having a storage facility in Kawangware in order to make the briquettes easily available in Nairobi where there is a growing clientele. This will reduce his transport costs.

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