Thursday, December 29, 2011

Forests conservation

Waste to wealth: Saving forests from depletion

By Stella Barozi

By the poor for the rich
Poor communities in the developing world are the hardest hit by climate change and it is projected that they will be affected even more in the coming years. Yet, these countries, poor as they are, have limited resources to deal with climate change related disasters.
However, despite the fact that their contribution in causing climate change is very minimal, poor countries play an active role in reversing the trend. In Dar es Salaam, a non-governmental organisation, Appropriate Rural Technology Institute-Tanzania (ARTI-Tanzania), is playing its part by preaching forest conservation both in words as well as actions.
Studies show that the country’s forests are disappearing at a very fast rate. In Mlandizi for example, there is rampant cutting of trees which has resulted into disappearance of trees and water sources.
Kibaha District Council Acting District forest officer Dastan Kinyenya, says the district’s vegetation has been greatly damaged due to deforestation. This, he says, is prompted by the rapid increase in Dar es Salaam’s population. Most residents of this city depend on charcoal for energy at their homes.
He says there are areas in his district that used to have water sources ten years ago, but now they have disappeared due to wanton tree felling and other uncontrolled human activities in forest reserves.
A World Bank study shows that Dar es Salaam alone consumes half the charcoal produced in the country. One million tonnes of charcoal are produced in the country annually whereby Dar es Salaam alone consumes 500,000 tonnes. More than 30,000 bags of charcoal enter the city daily.

Curbing deforestation
Having assessed the level of deforestation, ARTI decided to contribute towards this area by reducing deforestation. The NGO is doing so by discouraging the cutting down of trees for charcoal making. It offers an alternative to tree-based charcoal by training people on how to manufacture charcoal by using dry biomass.
The raw materials include any waste that can be burnt to get char powder which is then turned into charcoal briquettes. The raw materials for this alternative charcoal are found everywhere: Dry maize stalks, leaves, grass, small branches, coconut and rice husks, saw dust and wood shavings, among others.
The World Bank supported project not only helps reduce deforestation but also creates employment. ARTI has started by providing training to people in Kibaha and Bagamoyo districts on the fabrication of charcoal kilns, pryolizing of dry biomass, briquetting and basic business and marketing skills. The NGO also assists with market linkages.
It offers an alternative to tree-based charcoal by training people on how to manufacture charcoal by using dry biomass.

Nachiket Potnis, ARTI’s executive director says with the help from district forest officers, ARTI selected 12 villages in four districts. The project started in Bagamoyo and Kibaha, as pilot districts where the NGO provided people with equipment for making char powder.
In five villages in Mlandizi, people in the project formed community-based enterprise groups. The groups, commonly known as environmental friendly charcoal making group (KMM), are owned by members of the five village briquette charcoal committees. These are supported by the World Bank which provides them with seed capital to start the business.
“These groups bring in whatever char powder they get. If they bring in 100 kilograms they get the payment for 70 kilograms and 30 kilograms become their contribution towards their KMM groups. We are also trying to teach them entrepreneurship skills - how to maintain their accounts. We intend by March next year to have five KMMs in different locations in Bagamoyo and Kibaha districts,” says Potnis.
The KMM members are mostly people involved in other income generating activities and are doing briquette making as a side business. Potnis says the project was well received by the people for it is cheap and simple to produce.
So far, the World Bank has injected into the project about USD 60,000, equivalent to 90m/- and another USD 70,000, equivalent to 100m/- will be released over the next year.

More jobs coming
Unemployed 20-year-old Habiba Maneno is a member of one of the KMM groups in Mlandizi. Her hope is to be employed in the industry which she hopes will pick up once charcoal users understand the importance of using the charcoal briquettes made from biomass.
She, herself, has used the charcoal and says it is as good as the charcoal manufactured from trees- perhaps this one is much better.
Maneno’s group has already started marketing the charcoal and she says the consumers’ response so far is very positive. “We give our prospective clients samples to try and they really like it after trying,” says Maneno.
Kinyenya, the forest officer, says the alternative charcoal project is very important not only in forest conservation, but also in creating new jobs for women and youths. “We need it more, especially now that the population increase seems to be threatening our forests. Given the high demand for charcoal in Dar es Salaam, young people have been seizing the opportunity by engaging in charcoal business,” says Kinyenya.
According to the officer, unemployed youths have been engaging in wanton tree cutting for economic reasons and thereby depleting the forests. Kinyenya says, the project will reduce deforestation and improve the environment. “If we manage to control random felling of trees, then we shall be able to restore our beautiful environment,” he says.

Dar key beneficiary
Allan Shaidi, a business man in Dar es Salaam plans to venture into the business. “I think with the rapid population growth, we need to have concerted efforts, including promoting recycling of waste and creating financial opportunities through recycling,” he says, adding:
“When I learnt about this particular project, I liked it simply because it helps in protecting the environment. Most importantly, it creates wealth from waste.”
What he likes about this kind of charcoal is the fact that one can simply collect dry grass or any other waste, carbonate it and make charcoal out of char powder and make the briquettes that create charcoal that burns longer and is cheaper to produce.
When I learnt about this particular project, I liked it simply because it helps in protecting the environment. Most importantly, it creates wealth from waste
For Shaidi, this is an opportunity providing a side income for many people. He has already spoken to people he knows would be interested in the business and he has spoken to entrepreneurs who collect garbage so that as they return with empty vehicles after dumping garbage, they could pick up piles of waste materials or go to where piles of them are dumped to collect some.
Shaidi says as the population grows in their area, there already an increasing concern about deforestation and that this alternative energy source and its use would be a great opportunity for those using charcoal to continue depending on it, but without affecting the environment negatively.

Better energy for homes
Shaidi says the best thing about briquette charcoal is that it can be used inside the house without problems because it has no smoke. The businessman, who has himself tried the charcoal, says it is economical as it burns slowly; and that it is as good as the normal charcoal commonly used in Dar es Salaam households.
He says there is a lot of biomass waste around that people do not know could generate wealth for them. “There is a lot of trash that is not being used.” Shaidi has started researching on the availability of the raw materials in the city and has seen that there is quite a lot.
“You will be surprised…People cut trees and get rid of branches and leaves,” he says, adding that there is a bright future in the business. Shaidi says implementation of the initiative requires a vision and determination, as “anything good doesn’t come easily.”
The fact that this is a new product in the market is what Shaidi sees as being the major challenge. He says efforts should be made to convince and educate the people on the new energy source and its application in their lives.
“I think the government, with its appropriate institutions, could promote this tremendously. They could promote it in the charcoal line,” Shaidi says. According to him, today’s charcoal sellers would be the most appropriate people to start selling the new energy source, as a side business and then replacing the traditional charcoal over time.

Charcoal briquettes unpopular
Tanzania Traditional Energy Development and Environmental Organisation (TaTEDO) programme coordinator Shima Sago agrees charcoal briquettes are still not popular in households. He says some people produce briquettes for institutions.
But how about promoting charcoal briquettes as an alternative source of energy? Sago thinks emphasis should be put on sustainability. This is given that charcoal and firewood are the main sources of energy for 90 per cent of the Tanzanian population and 90 per cent of Dar es Salaam dwellers.
He says all available sources of energy should be used while maintaining ecological balance.
Sago says the problem when it comes to tree-based charcoal production is the fact that most producers use inefficient kilns that consume more wood and produce less charcoal.
Using efficient kilns like TaTEDO’s improved basic earth mound kiln or the half orange kiln saves a lot of trees. These use less wood and produce more charcoal.
“Deforestation can only be addressed using combined efforts. Charcoal producers should not only harvest trees but replace them too. And charcoal users should go for stoves that use less charcoal,” says Sago.
The manager emphases on selective harvesting of trees and the use of different alternative sources of energy or else it will reach a point when charcoal will be scarce.
He points out land use plan as another solution to deforestation where there should be specific areas for agriculture, tree harvesting as well as forest reserves.
Sago calls upon government to control the prices of gas and electricity or even provide subsidies to make these sources of energy affordable to the majority poor.

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