International Women’s Day 2012 – Stories of empowerment through briquetting

In the majority of societies, women work longer hours than men, are usually paid less and are more likely to live in poverty. In developing countries, they maintain the household; carrying out such tasks as such as, caregiving, food preparation, carrying water and collecting fuel. This unpaid domestic work places them at the hub of home and community, but their influence on finance, policy, development, governance, at personal, local and national levels, is often neglected.

Briquetting is one activity that gives an opportunity to help remodel the scope of that influence. It can act as a gateway to extending domestic and community responsibility into generation of self-sufficiency through finance, control of community waste management, reforestation and, therefore, family and community health in their area.

 Individuals and groups, such as:

Ruth Githaiga – Alfastar Industries

Perpetual Kamau  - Kenya Briquette

Bernadette Muthoni – Upendo Briquette

Eunice Misoga, Taphrosa Makungu and Lilian Muturi – Nyakio Women’s group

Jacqueline Awuor – Carolina for Kibera

Mary Kavita – Myumbuni Womens Group

Monica Mwangi – Women with a Vision

Aheu Dit Woman Group Southern Sudan

Beatrice Akoth – The Hut of Orphans of Kenya

They participated – co-designing the ‘Roadmap’, exhibiting the produce and demonstrating their production – in the ‘Fuel from Waste 2011’ unConference, have done fantastic work (many trained and supported by the tireless Legacy Foundation over many years, and are part of the ongoing FfW network and plan.


Here are some of their stories:

Bernadette Muthoni is the force behind Upendo Briquettes in Makina in the vast Kibera Estate.  For the middle-aged woman, briquettes have opened a new chapter in her life. “I used charcoal to raise my five children,” she says adding that she was an expert in the trade. “I know it [charcoal burning] like a man.” But this business had its challenges.  “I used to suffer chest pains so most of the money I made used to go to the doctors,” laments Muthoni. She is proud that she not only learnt briquette making but has also made modifications to improve her products from knowledge gained from using them. “Hii ni kazi ya kichwa si ya masomo”, (this is innovative work, not necessary learnt from books), she says describing the modifications she has made on her products.

She is a good marketer, we watch her explain the benefits of the briquette jiko, stove that does not produce black soot that stains the sufuria, pot used to make food. “It will only produce soot if the briquette was made using sub-standard material,” she explains to a visitor at her tent.  “It’s just like gas, if there is a problem with the gas burner, it will also blacken your sufuria but if it is ok, then your sufuria will remain the same,” she adds. For her, a key advantage of using briquettes is that there is absolutely no waste, she uses the ash from her jiko as raw material for making more briquettes.

Muthoni makes stoves that are better suited for briquette using steel rods and clay. At the exhibition, she made brisk business selling the well-displayed stoves. She had two types of stoves, smaller ones going for KSh850 and a bigger design retailing at KSh1200.  But she would not disclose how much she had made from the sales.

She had her briquette making machine imported from Germany at a cost of Kshs 80,000. Not one to keep the new knowledge to herself, Muthoni has attempted to train women and youth in her rural home in Nyeri in this new technology. But she is disappointed that they are not so keen on it.

Eunice Misoga, Taphrosa Makungu and Lillian Muturi are manning a stall with handmade woka.  This is the name given to briquettes in their locale, an informal settlement along Waiyaki Way in Nairobi. None of them can tell the origin of the name but that is what everyone around them calls briquettes. They make them using charcoal dust and red soil. We find Eunice demonstrating how the handmade briquettes are made. She is smartly dressed in a blue top and a matching blue skirt. One cannot help but marvel at how easily she makes the briquettes without worrying that the black mixture might stain her dress. She only pauses to explain “you check if the mixture can form a ball, if not, you add a bit of red soil to harden it.”

The three ladies belong to a chama, a club of about 30 women from their community.  They learnt briquette making in the year 2000 from Eunice who was taught by women in another informal settlement in Nairobi’s industrial area.  Through the groups’ merry-go-round, they contribute KSh150 per week. They raise money for their weekly contributions through the sale of woka. However, they produce the briquettes individually. The briquettes are for domestic use but they also sell them at Ksh2 a piece and a basin for KSh100. They all agree that it is cheaper to buy a basin than pieces but they cannot tell how many briquettes go into a basin. “We’ve never counted them,” perhaps indicating that their concern is more to get a cheaper alternative source of fuel than to make money out of it.  They buy charcoal dust at only KSh150 a bag and sometimes they get small pieces of charcoal in the dust that they use to ignite their briquette stoves.

Sharing marks their interaction with briquettes.  “It would be a waste to make a briquette fire just to make tea in the morning,” says Lillian explaining that the fire can burn for long. So what do you use to make breakfast? “Briquettes,” she answers adding that she has to plan her schedule. “You make tea, boil water for bathing the children, make lunch particularly if it is Githeri (mixture of maize and beans that boils for long), boil drinking water, then you also share the fire with a neighbor who might be needing fuel.  You cannot have the fire go to waste,” she reiterates.

Taphrosa has introduced briquettes in her rural home.  “Nowadays, tree cutting is not allowed,” she says citing the government ban on logging. “Getting firewood or even charcoal is difficult as the products are expensive,” she adds.  Through briquette making, their lives have improved, “one cannot lack food, children cannot be sent away from school for lack of fees, one can contribute to daily household expenses,” they each share the benefits of briquette making.


Perpetual Kamau is a poultry farmer who also makes and sells briquettes. The briquettes have added value to her farming as she uses the product to keep her chicks warm. “Compared to electricity, it is so much cheaper. Just one special red bulb for keeping the brooder warm costs KSh1000.” This is before one incorporates the high cost of electricity. Now, all she has to do is light a briquette jiko and replenish the fuel supply once a day. It saves her time, giving her the opportunity to share her knowledge through training women’s groups on the technology.

A visitor to FfW’s thoughts resonate today:

Anthony Ondicho who visited the exhibition and recommended that this forum move out to the regions. “This is timely as we need to look for alternative and sustainable ways to generate fuel that is safe for our environment,” said the young man who was with his mother Pamela.  “This should be targeted at mamas and youth. If you teach mamas and they don’t use the knowledge out there, they’ll use it in the family,” says Mrs Ondicho.

The full report – ‘Turning Waste Into Fuel’ by Winnie Mandi – is on the ‘Reports, Presentations and Outputs page.

FfW 2011 Participant News – ‘Miti Ni Mali’ Multi-dimensional Tree Planting initiative – Coming Soon

The YCCAN (Youths Climate Change Adaptation Network) will soon officially launch a new initiative.

The ‘Miti Ni Mali’ Million Tree Campaign will promote the multipurpose use of trees for peoples livelihood and for environmental conservation.

The aim is to help communities to realize the benefits of standing trees, not just for timber and firewood, working from a perspective of agroforestry and sustainable biomass and solar energy generation.

Full launch and further details coming soon.

Contact George Gituanja - – for any queries, in the meantime.

Fuel from Waste Participant News – Francis Kiilu – Community Waste Management and Briquetting

Kibera garbage - By Chrissy Olsen - used via a Creative Commons licence

This community group works under a church set up by the name “Recovery and Hope Ministries”.

Francis Kiilu, a Fuel from Waste participant and active member of the movement,  is the leader of the ministry and they have five branches in Kenya:

-       Nairobi (Kibera slums)

-       Mt. Elgon

-       Three  eastern province Matuu, Makutano and Machakos towns.

All the branches are involved in community activities. Nairobi (Kibera slums) branch is the youngest and the activities there focus on are the reduction of discarded solid waste into gain and small business enterprises. There is proposed activity of vocational training plus academic school to help to move toward the Kenya Vision 2030

Francis Kiilu explains the plan:


The plans we have are to buy plastic bags and distribute them to few plots surrounding our church. Train the people how to separate waste materials as they pack them in the separated bags supplied. The aim being to sell the materials, which can be recycled, turn into briquette the materials which can burn and sell the food surplus to pigs farms. At the moment we are contributing money towards the purchase of the plastic bags and briquette press machine. The moment we shall be well set for the activity.”

Contact Francis Kiilu at ‘Recovery and Hope Ministries’:

Fuel from Waste News – Aheu Dit Women Group – Southern Sudan

The Aheu Dit Women Group is based at Kan Ajak village, Awiel East County, Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, Southern Sudan. It was established 5 years ago.

The group runs several projects which includes a Nursery and Primary School.

These schools, and all the schools that have got a WFP feeding program, use fire wood. That means that somebody has got to collect that firewood. So, children are instructed to carry a piece of firewood at least twice a week. Failure to abide by the rules leads to punishment, so fear of this means that the children will cut any branch along the way to school.

During early 2012 (January to march) a program to train women how to make briquettes has been set-up and delivered by James Ochieng, who also works with The Hut of Orphans of Kenya

The first step for us is to ban the use of firewood in our school.

A pilot program at the center will train as many Women as possible. This will lead into development of stoves that use briquettes for the schools. Samples were developed in Wao, South Sudan, using high quality dry leaves, which are abundant during the dry season.

The group has an average of 271 registered women in Awiel East County alone.  70% of these women collect firewood for sale at the market. 100% of homes use firewood for cooking. An alternative fuel can provide relief for the women and children and a better income opportunity, while minimizing deforestation effects.

Video of World Women’s Day 2011 with Aheu Dit Women Group -

Follow the project progress on the Aheu Dit blog, above, or keep an eye out on here, for updates.

Fuel from Waste News – Kasarani Scouts – planting and briquetting work

Kasarani scout groups have been working on a planting and briquetting scheme that aims to plant 1.5 million trees and set up a system that supplies briquettes for their schools.

A pilot program will be run at the Baba Ndogo Secondary School.

The work has been supported by the Hut of Orphans of Kenya.

Video – The Scouts raise the Fuel from Waste banner:

A One A We – Briquetting and Waste Management Event at Kiamaiko – report and videos

The event was at Kiamaiko on the 21.01.12 was a great success.

Have a look at some video clips from the event:

- Briquetting demonstration using Legacy Foundation manual press

- Advice on marketing briquettes

- Demonstration of how to best use briquettes in cooking

Fuel from Waste Participant News – Dandora White Charcoal Youth Group – Feature in ‘The Standard’ Newspaper

The Standard Newspaper, in Kenya, recently ran a feature highlighting the fantastic work of the Dandora White Charcoal Youth Group. Peter Mwangi and Joseph Ndinya talk abou the genesis of the organisation, their environmental and social mission, their approach to entrepreneurship and their work with charities and NGOs (including Fuel from Waste, through their associates at Kenyatta University) in supporting and extending their mission.

“Eight years ago, Peter Mwangi and Joseph Ndinya stared at death. Mwangi was walking to a football pitch to join his friends in preparation for an upcoming football tournament when the police arrested him.

The policemen, he says, alleged that he was among the gang that terrorised motorists in the area — a claim he denied.

“They pointed a gun at me and I thought I was going to die. I was later released. They didn’t have evidence against me,” Mwangi recalls.

He says police have shot many young men in Dandora on similar allegations, some totally innocent.

The deadly incident completely changed the lives of the two from slum idlers to businessmen.

The duo are members of White Charcoal Youth Group located in Dandora. The youth group makes eco friendly charcoal from waste paper and saw dust.”

The full story can be read via the link above, or you can donwload a pdf version, here: Slum boys’ trade that is a ‘death’ armourDandora News

A One A We – Briquetting and Waste Management Event – 21.01.12 at Kiamaiko, Huruma, Nairobi

Meeting, demonstrations and training by A one a we self-help group 

Location: Kiamaiko sub location/ward, Huruma location, starehe constituency Nairobi.

Date: 21/01/2011 

Time: 9:00am to 3:00pm 


Huruma chapel is located in in Huruma next to the Muslims academy and kariobangi market.

Route numbers 14 from town, 28 through EastLeigh and 26 from Makadara area. Find a simpler connection. Please note that there are always avoidable jams along outer ring roadStart early.

The Event 

“A one A we self-help group is running a door to door campaign for fuel from waste. Its core business is production of briquettes. This involves a lot of waste collection and management.

A problem is that not many people are using briquettes and the demand is already high. Many groups in this location are involved in income generating activities but a very small percentage is using waste to produce fuel.

Production of briquettes also needs a lot of players and a well-coordinated materials collection plan.

A one A we will demonstrate that briquettes production is a viable income generating activity that helps keep the environment clean.

Kia Maiko is a slum area that hosts the largest goat meat market in Nairobi and produces tons of slaughter house waste. Firewood is the main fuel used for domestic and commercial cooking.

We are planning to produce briquettes and stoves to meet the demand in this location. We shall also exhibit a machine that produces 50 briquettes and hour and is operated by one person; we are in the process of making it better.

The event will also be a chance to introduce Fuel from Waste for groups in the neighborhood.

In parallel, we will be running  a Newma/Afenet meeting – our 3rd coordination meeting since the waste management at the Giraffe Center.

We will have representatives from the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, Afenet members and all other associated groups.

We shall demonstrate the processes of briquettes production as a waste management initiative.

We shall also learn other waste management tips from all participants.


Sponsored By: A ONE A WE SELF-HELP GROUP  - Another way of saying togetherness


Ruth Mukuhi”

Contact numbers:

Ruth (+254)0724 753 103   Steve (+254)0720 439 328   Chairperson (+254)0720 736 304

Fuel from Waste 2011 Participant News – World Volunteers Day – Kariobangi News Report

A full news report, from Kenyan TV company GBS (Good news Broadcasting System) based in Nairobi - - on the march, rally and activities on World Volunteers Day, in Kariobangi, Nairobi.

Deficient municipal waste management is causing huge problems with health and resources in many areas of Nairobi.

The volunteer groups, who are mobilising their communities to tackle these problems, led the way on the march and during the activities on the day.

Their focus was the sorting and reusing of waste and tree-planting. Attacking the problem in a pincer movement of recycling and growth.

Watch the full report here:

Fuel from Waste 2011 Participant News – Fuel from Waste Leads World Volunteers Day march in Nairobi

The Hut of Orphans of Kenya, a ‘Fuel from Waste’ network champion, and other associated groups, led the march in World Volunteers Day, in Nairobi.

Have a look at their blog - for more of the initiatives, or at the following links, for clips of the march:

WVD starting off -

WVD being led off by FfW -

FfW leading on… and tumblers :)

Great work by all.

James Ochieng of the Hut of Orphans of Kenya, reflecting on recent initiatives says:

“We here at the Hut of Orphans of Kenya are glad to have been able to use the banner for our Freedom of Information Project. We have been able to talk about briquettes as a sustainable fuel.  We wanted to emphasize the right to information as an indispensable component to the right of a clean and safe enviroment
Most locations as you already know are choking with litter. We believe that the Fuel from Waste Network has already started making impact. There is collection sorting and using of charcoal dust, saw dust etc. We are looking forward to a productive 2012. We shall continue with this work after the festive season. We had a lot of Fun filled days, we met a lot of people, we learnt from them we talked to them about fuel from waste. Most of them have already engaged FfW activity in their own way. ”