Eco-Fuel Africa Limited
"I was blown away by Moses' story, the environmental and economic impacts, and the commitment and track record of this project. It is beautifully simple, incredibly compelling and truly inspiring”
– Al Harris, 2011 Challenge Winner and 2012 Challenge Juror
Eco-Fuel Africa Limited
WEBSITE: Eco-Fuel Africa
PRESS RELEASE: Eco-Fuel Africa Ltd Press Release
PRESS: Cleaning Up the African Kitchen, The New York Times
Critical Need Being Addressed
Over dependence on fuel-wood is a major cause of deforestation in Africa. As forests disappear, young girls have to drop out of school and spend long hours in the field gathering wood. African farmers also depend on some of the most depleted soils in the world and yet they are too poor to afford fertilizers.
Description of Initiative
80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans depend on wood for fuel. This is a major cause of deforestation. As forests disappear, many young girls in Africa are dropping out of school and spending many hours in the field gathering wood. Also, African farmers depend on some of the most depleted soils in the world and yet they are too poor to afford fertilizers. This is a major cause of malnutrition and starvation in Africa.
As a solution to the above challenges, at Eco-fuel Africa we invented a sustainable method of making clean cooking energy and organic fertilizers from agricultural waste. Our clean cooking energy cooks better, is less smoky and is cheaper than fuel-wood. Our organic fertilizers (biochar) are also environmentally friendly and help to sequester C02 by burying it in the soil where it belongs.
The foundation of our project is the two revolutionary machines that we invented. They include:
1. A low-cost kiln which carbonizes agricultural waste. These kilns are leased to rural farmers who are taught how to use them to carbonize their agricultural waste into biochar. We then buy some of the biochar from the farmers while some is retained by the farmers and used as organic fertilizers. Already 1,000 farmers in Uganda have benefited from these kilns;
2. An energy efficient briquetting machine which is used to turn the biochar into briquettes that can burn in stoves currently used for cooking in Africa. We are already providing over 3,500 families and over 500 small-scale businesses in Uganda with clean cooking fuel using these machines;
However, what is unique about our project is the fact that local communities are involved at every stage of the project. Local farmers are involved as suppliers of biochar; we employ local youths to operate the machines and transport our clean cooking fuel on bicycles to our network of distributors and we also work with local women to bring our clean cooking fuel closer to users in Africa. Our project is also keeping many young girls in school and reducing the problem of indoor air pollution. But that’s not all; a portion of our income is donated to tree planting initiatives in Africa.
BFI Assessment Summary
This budding enterprise, led by a remarkably intelligent, dynamic and skilled young Ugandan entrepreneur, Moses Sanga, is a highly innovative business that leverages simple but ingenious technologies he and his team invented to address multiple, critical social and environmental problems. The project boosts rural incomes, combats deforestation, sequesters CO2, reduces indoor air pollution (a major cause of death and illness in the developing world), enhances the fertility of depleted farming soils, and radically improves overall health and wellbeing, especially by helping keep girls in school (rather than being forced to collect ever scarcer firewood—80 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans depend on wood for fuel, a major cause of deforestation). Dealing in these six of the area’s major problem spaces, Sanga’s project is an excellent example of the trimtab principle.
In a short, Eco-Fuel Africa sells small, affordable, easy-to-use kilns that transform agricultural waste into cheap clean-burning fuel for cooking and bio-char fertilizer. The poor farmers who receive the kilns pay no money down and pay off the kilns as they sell the fuel and organic fertilizer. The payment plan permits them to generate profits immediately and to increase those profits once they have paid off the kiln. So far over 1000 kilns have been distributed and at least 500 farmers have become successful entrepreneurs, usually doubling their incomes. The project helps build local economies, employing many local women and youths to transport and distribute fuel and fertilizer in a fluidly executed supply and distribution chain. In addition to positively affects thousands of rural families and reducing deforestation, a portion of the business’ income is donated to tree-planting initiatives.
The project has received modest funding from the Ugandan government and some private donors and has been expanding rapidly. They are about to build a bigger factory with larger kilns near an industrial source of sugar cane waste to accommodate demand. It is a model that seems eminently replicable in large swaths of Africa and other developing nations where wood is scarce and agricultural waste abundant. With more substantive capitalization it could potentially grow far more rapidly.
The review team was very impressed with Eco-Fuel’s very sound, ingenious, highly sustainable business plan based on a deep understanding of local conditions and by the energy and vision of Moses Sanga. In a short period of time, this project has already demonstrated cascades of positive social, economic impacts (including unverifiable environmental impact). The review team sees significant potential of this model to be widely emulated in Africa and beyond.