Over the years, the key dynamic factors behind the expansion of the industry have been an accelerating urban growth, agricultural land clearing, and sector profitability, especially for dealers.
Today charcoal is still a key bio-energy resource in Kenya, providing domestic energy for 82% of urban and 34% of rural households. The charcoal industry also creates jobs for wood producers, charcoal producers, transporters and vendors.
The industry reportedly employs almost 1 million people on a part and full-time basis across the value chain. It saves millions of shillings in foreign exchange. And in spite of its significance, the charcoal sector continues to bear a negative image and remains largely informal, thus limiting its potential to attract meaningful investment.
Chardust Ltd. (www.chardust.com) is responsible for seedball production and, some 20 years ago, started what is now a thriving industry in East Africa: manufacturing eco-friendly briquettes from salvaged charcoal vendor's waste. Chardust started coal mining in some of the highest-density and lowest-income urban areas of Nairobi in 1996. Charcoal mining to be precise. Elsen had discovered that beneath every long-established charcoal sales area scattered throughout most of Nairobi there were literally thousands of tons of well-preserved discarded charcoal dust 'waste'- some of it dating back to the early 1900's as evidenced by old coins recovered during 'mining' the sites.
This is where charcoal vendor's waste meets tree seeds to produce seedballs using production techniques developed by Chardust Ltd. (www.chardust.com) who are responsible for seedball production and, some 20 years ago, started what is now a thriving industry in East Africa: Manufacturing eco-friendly briquettes from salvaged charcoal vendor's waste. Chardust started cleaning up the charcoal dust waste from some of the highest-density and lowest-income urban areas of Nairobi in 1996. And now in 2017 there are some 50 briquetting facilities of various sizes and sophistication who have followed Chardust's lead and methods. Chardust Ltd. is happy to see that most of this 'waste' is no longer wasted. VWB- Vendor's Waste Briquettes- are now part of the charcoal value chain.
Elsen, the Director of Chardust Ltd had discovered that beneath every long-established charcoal sales area, scattered throughout most of Nairobi, there were literally thousands of tons of well-preserved discarded charcoal dust 'waste'- some of it dating back to the early 1900's as evidenced by old coins recovered while cleaning up the sites.
Teddy, the Sustainability Manager at Cookswell Jikos Ltd. (www.cookswell.co.ke) had been researching how to lower the cost of dryland reforestation for years.
And now, with their efforts and yours, the seed-to-ash woodfuel circle is complete with the use of salvaged urban biochar to protect and nourish seeds delivered to areas that were, in most cases, deforested years ago creating the charcoal dust that we use.''
Another use for salvaged charcoal waste is Biochar. Charcoal dust and chips have well documented soil improvement characteristics, particularly in acidic tropical soils (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar). This is where charcoal vendor's waste meets tree and grass seeds to produce Seedballs using production techniques developed by Chardust in partnership with Cookswell Jikos. The recycle circle is complete with the use of salvaged urban biochar to protect and nourish seeds delivered to areas that were, in most cases, deforested for fuel.
Helping to clean the environment.
Off loading charcoal dust waste at Chardust.
The Energy and Forestry Policies and Acts have recently legalized sustainable charcoal production, and efforts are underway by government agencies, including the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), and the Ministry of Energy (MoE), to take forward the implementation of this legislation.
At least 750,000 kg of rough unprocessed lump wood charcoal is consumed within Nairobi daily, and of that amount 15% is dust, fines and chips - charcoal vendor's waste. This salvaged charcoal waste is the dust we use to make the seedballs.
''The history of charcoal use in Nairobi goes back over 100 years and since the founding of the ''Green City in the Sun'', charcoal and firewood have been the main energy source used to power its growth.
No one knows exactly when charcoal became a popular household fuel in Kenya. But it seems to have become a common fuel with the advent of urbanization and the arrival of the traditional metal charcoal stove introduced to the Kenyan interior about 90 years ago from India. According to information from charcoal-makers, charcoaling, especially in the coastal and central regions of Kenya, became an income-generating activity as far back as 1915 and was highly commercialized in the 1950s.
In subsequent decades, charcoal-making grew in magnitude and geographical spread, as urbanization accelerated and country roads improved. The trade spread to the Rift Valley, Western Kenya and finally to remote arid and semi-arid zones of the northern region. Until the late 1970s, the raw materials for charcoal seemed inexhaustible, being ubiquitous and available at virtually no cost. Government forest reserves, open rangelands, upland watershed zones, and lowland semi-arid areas became the main sources of the fuel.