In a move to combat deforestation of the Virunga rain forest which is home to about 450 endangered mountain gorillas, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP), has established briquette making technology as a sustainable energy alternative to replace charcoal.
So far over 20 residents of the areas bordering the forest have been trained in the technology and are expected to start reaping economic benefits from briquette making which has already started replacing charcoal as the source of fuel.
“Deforestation from the charcoal trade is a threat to the mountain gorilla habitat in Rwanda, DRC, and Uganda, and the use of charcoal causes respiratory illness in the human population, which can be passed on to gorillas.”
“When we saw the success of briquette program in Congo, we thought it was vital to bring the technology to Rwanda,” said John Huston, MGVP’s Agriculture Project Coordinator in a written statement sent to The New Times.
Fuel briquettes are made from recycled materials like simple wooden presses, recycled paper and discarded plant materials like rice sheaves, which are cheaper and enable cleaner-burning.
“Although we use charcoal now, we know we need to use a different kind of fuel because we need the forest to produce rain for our crops and clean air to keep us healthy,” said Cecile Nyirabahutu, a Kinigi community leader.
“Briquette making will also help our community earn money so we can take better care of our families.” She added.
Charcoal, a fuel that requires the burning of large quantities of trees to produce, is presently the primary fuel source used by the communities near the Virunga forest in the trans-boundary area between Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).