An innovative new project in The Gambia is using groundnut shells, a waste by-product from peanut farming, to produce eco-friendly fuel briquettes that can be used in households, restaurants and industries for cooking and heating – as an alternative to firewood and charcoal. Anthony Tabbal and Lenja Guenther of GreenTech Environmental Solutions, established this private company initiative just over a year ago, which has already been awarded the coveted SEED Award in 2011 for innovative small-scale and locally driven entrepreneurships.
The inspiration for GreenTech’s groundnut briquettes was the fact that deforestation and inefficient wood and charcoal burning fires in The Gambia threaten energy security, health, ecosystem services and climate resilience. According to the MDG Indicators, 95% of Gambia’s population uses solid fuels for cooking and other uses, with a large percentage of that being wood from Gambia’s forests.
As the conversion of the shells into valuable fuel briquettes is an effective form of waste management, GreenTech Company Ltd has free access to the dumping site. Thus, GreenTech is able to keep the price of their eco-briquettes low so that they compete with charcoal and firewood prices – making them a viable cooking and heating fuel option.
GreenTech’s energy efficient cookers: household energy saving tool
In addition to providing an eco friendly and alternative cooking fuel, Green Tech is also promoting the sale of fuel-efficient stoves for cooking in households and canteens in the country – reducing cooking costs, emissions and the exploitation of forests. The energy efficient stoves are being made by local welders from recycled metal and GreenTech has estimated that when used in combination with briquettes, a stove can be paid off in less than one month for a 10-member household that switches from traditional charcoal cooking practices.
Having established itself just over a year ago, GreenTech is still in its start-up phase and has been providing many free samples and training sessions to promote their briquettes and energy efficient stoves. They have produced roughly 120 tons over the last 12 months and are selling approximately 250 kilograms of briquettes a week to regular customers. GreenTech has also undertaken research into the total savings from converting from using charcoal to eco briquettes and estimate that 2/3rds of a family’s fuel costs can be saved through this transition. GreenTech offers a tour of their production plant in Senegambia, Kololi, and a practical demonstration on how to use the briquettes and Rockefier cookstoves every Wednesday at 11am.
Eco accelerator program: fueling energy security in The Gambia
GreenTech have also recently established an innovative eco accelerator program, whereby private donors can contribute just under 15 Euros for an eco efficient stove, briquettes and a tree given to women groups who then select the most needy member to receive the donation. GreenTech then arranges an official handing-over event and publishes photographs on their website. GreenTech is also planning larger scale development projects for entire communities.
Photographs: official handing over events of cookstoves and briquettes, organised by GreenTech Environmental Solutions. All images courtesy of GreenTech.