During the recent State-of-the-Nation address, the President said he would work with scientists at Makerere University to develop appropriate technology to make briquettes as a substitute to charcoal.
Without waiting for the scientists to agree on the most appropriate technology to use, farmers can right away start making money from charcoal briquettes.
As anyone who has done them before will tell you, briquette making is a simple process that can be done at home, using material generated on the farm. If handled well, the briquette making industry can help restore our environment, which was partly destroyed by charcoal burning.
Here is how it works. A farmer intending to go into briquette making needs to first invest in fast maturing trees such as ficus (bark cloth or mutuba) bamboo, calliandra, lucerne, Moringa, and others whose leaves can be fed to animals, while the wood is used to make briquettes.
These can be planted along the boundaries as live fences or on marginal land.
In a year, an acre of land fenced with bamboo or ficus can generate enough forage to sustain 10 stall raised goats, plus raw materials to make a tonne of charcoal briquettes.
In addition, manure generated by the stall raised goats can be used to make bio-gas and later, fertilisers.
This is called integrated sustainable agriculture.
The farmer also needs to invest in cassava, whose flour can work as cheap glue to mold the charcoal powder into briquettes. Most of the equipment used in briquette making can be fabricated by local artisans using locally available material.
Already, there are several individuals and organisations producing charcoal briquettes in Uganda.
But although they last longer, burn cleaner and are more convenient to transport, Ugandan consumers have not been very enthusiastic about charcoal briquettes, claiming they are very expensive.
However, with the price of charcoal going up everyday, charcoal briquettes are beginning to make financial sense. The current fuel crisis can be solved and as usual the farmer holds the key.
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