In Kenya, millions of people depend on charcoal as cooking fuel. This has led to tremendous deforestation in the country, and the government is not happy about it. In 2018, the government of Kenya banned logging for ninety days due to the severe effects of deforestation. While some organizations are coming up with energy-saving stoves such as ‘Jikokoa’ and ‘Cookswell Energy Saving Jikos’, others are looking for alternative methods to curb deforestation. Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (NAWASSCO) is one of them and is using human waste to produce clean household fuel.
This type of fuel is made through a process termed as Carbonisation. The process begins with the collection of excrement from pit latrines and septic tanks around Northwest Nairobi and Nakuru region. This is then transported to the processing plant where the waste is put in drying beds in a greenhouse and allowed to dry for two to three weeks. The heat in the greenhouse reduces moisture, which is about ninety-five per cent of the content to less than twenty per cent, preparing it for the Carbonisation process.
After drying, the waste is put in a kiln where it is heated at temperatures of around seven hundred to eight hundred degrees Celsius. This is done to burn off harmful gases as well as eliminate the smell. It is then broken down into fine particles using a hammer mill and mixed with sawdust carbonized at three hundred degrees Celsius. Molasses are used as a binding agent. To finalize the process, the mixture of sludge and milled sawdust is discharged into a rotating drum machine. Molasses are added progressively until balls of a diameter of about 2.5 centimeters, which are the final products, are formed.
At first, there was a slow uptake of the product since people were not sure about the idea of using poop fuel to cook their favorite dishes. Many thought that the briquettes smell. However, after a few people used them and saw their benefits, the products have gained popularity. The company now operates not only in Nakuru but also in Naivasha and Nairobi.
According to people who have used them, these briquettes perform better than ordinary charcoal. They are easier to light, and they stay lit longer. Due to Carbonisation, they do not smell at all. The molasses, on the other hand, give them a sweet aroma. They are also health-friendly since they produce less smoke. Buying a bag of these briquettes will cost only half of what is used to buy the same amount of charcoal. Considering their advantages, poop briquettes are incredibly cheaper than charcoal.
Apart from reducing the rate at which trees are being cut down, this method is improving sanitation in the affected areas by creating a cleaner environment. The idea has also created jobs for many youths since they are the ones who help collect waste from the latrines and sell the briquettes. The company is now aiming at producing ten tons of the briquettes in a day, as compared to the original two tons in a month.