BY JOHN KASOZI
AS JOHN Najoma squats down to check what is wrong with his rice huller blower, he shakes his head. The rice huller and a maize mill plant, h tels me, had made him look for money allover to repair them, in vain.
â€œThe two machines would still not be working, Najoma says, if the briquette training programme of Appropriate Rural Technology Institute (ARTI) was not extended to Buwenge sub-county in Jinja.â€
â€œWhen Muzeyi Ismail Kavuma, the ARTI executive director, was registering the youth for training, I begged to be included on the list,â€ says Najoma, a resident of Igombe-Busige village, Magamaga parish in Kagoma county.
That was the beginning of Najomaâ€™s connection with briquettes.
â€œI was included and in July 2009, we had a five day training session on how to burn the crop wastes into powder form (char) and converting them into fuel briquettes,â€ recalls Najoma.
In September of the same year, he started burning char using the portable modern kiln after ARTI gave him about one million shillings which he used to repair and service the plants.
â€œI have never looked back since then. My two plants have been repaired and are minting money and burning coal,â€ he adds.
â€œI used to burn, on average,five bags of char each weighing 30 kilos daily. But in recent months, the rainy season has slowed down the production of char and briquettes,â€says Najoma.
â€œNow the crop residues and briquettes take long to dry. The briquette drying racks are also not enough to allow an increase in production,â€ he adds. Najoma sells his char to ARTI at sh150 per kilo earning between sh300, 000 and sh500, 000 per month,â€ explains Najoma.
Arafat Twesigye, a trainer at ARTI, says that from 30 kilos of char, he makes 20 to 25 kilos of briquettes after mixing the char with a binding solution (Enkwaso).
â€œOur electric extruder rolls 250 briquettes per hour. But the lengthy wet season has forced us to make around 15 bags of 20 kilos per day.â€
It takes 15 minutes for the new and portable kiln to burn 20 kilos crop waste into eight to 10 kilos of char, depending on the crop type. The old kiln on the otherhand, takes 45 minutes to burn 30 kilos of waste into 12 kilos of char. But it is big and heavy.
Najoma says he currently uses maize wastes to make char. â€œBut soon, I will also make char from sugarcane, rice and beans crop wastes.â€
ARTI offers three types of briquette making machines; the manual one that produces 100kg of charred briquettes per day, which costs sh250, 000. The second, a locally-made electric machine, produces between 80 to 100kg per hour.
And the third is a 2HP motor-powered machine that produces between 200 to 250kg per hour. All the machines have low cost maintenance.
A kilo of briquette goes for sh700 while a bag is sold at sh14, 000. The Ugastove uses 300 grammes of ARTI briquettes to prepare a family meal of meat or beans.
Najoma, a father of six, says apart from repairing his two plants, the revenue from char has helped him start a piggery and poultry farm. â€œI have three mature pigs, eight piglets and 30 local chickens.â€
He has also spiced his banana plantation with clonal coffee seedlings and nitrogen fixing trees like Grevillea robusta, Markhaemia Lutea and Musizi.
â€œWhat remains now, is a helpful hand from the Government for a three-wheeled motorcycle that can ease my business,â€ Najoma says.
Since the beginning of 2009, ARTI has been carrying out briquette training programmes, sponsored by the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology. The Uganda National Farmers Federation mobilises the farmers. If you are interested in starting a small commercial briquette business, you will need an extruder that will cost sh300,000, a kiln at sh180,000, binding solution at sh25 per kilo and training fees at sh160,000, says Kavuma.
Name: Najoma John
Location of farm: Igombe-Busige village, Kagoma county, Jinja
Enterprises: Char and briquette making, poultry keeping and piggery
Contact: c/o APRT / Ismail Kavuma - 0777-613-783, 0414-666-841
Najoma mints money from crop wastes by making briquettes