The ubiquitous sacks of ‘amakara’ that are floating around Kigali and Rwanda at large-on people’s heads, at the backs of bicycles,etc-are a grim reminder of the domestic energy challenge we face as well as what we are doing to our environment.
As we clear our forests, deforestation (leading to drought and desertification) seems ever more likely, not to mention thehitch of limited supply of wood, which causes price hikes.
I can’t help but mention the harm that charcoal smoke poses to regular users; millions succumb to smoke related deaths in poorly ventilated homes every year).
Access to energy is paramount for development and as wood is becoming harder to find, there is the looming problem that no real alternatives for firewood and charcoal have been readily adopted.
It therefore comes as good news that a Brazilian company, Pro-Natura, has figured out a means to fabricate green charcoal from recuperated agricultural residues or renewable biomass (that cannot be valorised); this concept has massive potential in our agro-based economy and is especially good news for our dwindling forests.
The agro residue is carbonised to fabricate green charcoal that can be used in the same way as wood charcoal; the production is based on the continuous carbonisation of renewable biomass-coffee husks, bamboo, weeds,etc.-that can all be used (It is fascinating that wood that is carbonised as sawdust has a yield that is three times higher than the classical process).
Pro-natura designed a Pyro-7 machine for this purpose that allows the production of between 4-5 tons of green charcoal per day; in addition the reactor functions without any greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide recycled during regeneration of renewable biomass.
The concept of this fuel has me dancing in circles because on top of creating jobs for ‘green charcoal makers’, this has great potential in the fight against climate change by avoiding pressure on forests and eliminating methane emissions from traditional carbonisation-leading to reduction of green house gases.
To shoot down any doubts, the caloric power of green charcoal is actually comparable to traditional wood and if that is not enough, the fertilisation of soil using this stuff increases agricultural productivity by facilitating fixation of water and nutrients leading to the development of microorganisms and the improved growth and resistance of plants. Now, if this does not blow you away, I don’t know what will!
Pro-natura is not the only company that has designed a means to utilise agricultural residues; it is paramount that we adopt the principle and the concept to suit our energy needs in our homes.
KIST has developed a number of alternate energy sources but since we are still stirring soup at our wood charcoal stoves I like to think promotion and penetration of this technology has taken the backseat.
It will be a while before we see sacks of green charcoal-or another efficient form of energy- sold in markets but until then, does anyone know if the myth about charcoal being able to whiten teeth is true?