Coconut husks. Photo courtecy.
A company at the coast is cashing in on the tones of discarded coconut husks and shells and turning them into briquettes, as it trains its eyes on other counties with a view to turning the eyesore that is waste into sources of energy.
A visit to an old lady’s house two years ago by the CEO of Kencoco Ltd, acronym for Kenya Coconut, inspired Mr. Said Twahir into turning coconut waste to briquettes. “We were in Kilifi and were visiting this old lady. It was heart breaking to see despite her old age and poor health, there was so much smoke covering her house. I imagined how tough it must have been for her. I knew something could be done and somehow deep inside at that moment I felt I was the person to do it,” Twahir said.
20 per cent of all waste in Mombasa is from coconut, with coconut being a bigger eyesore due to its slow rate of decay compared to other biodegradable materials. Majority of the residents of the coastal regions especially in Kilifi and Kwale county where most of the waste is found depend on firewood for cooking. This has taken a toll on forest cover and the water sources in the area.
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This is the situation Kencoco has to correct. Working with farmers from the two counties, the company gets the residents, mostly women, to gather the coconut husks and shells which the company then picks at designated areas every week. It has been a journey that has seen the company grow from just producing 100 kilos of briquettes to now 1 tonne currently.
Upon delivery of the husks, they are crushed into a machine and carbonized to turn them into charcoal dust. Through a machine called the charcoal extruder the dust is then heated at high temperatures before turning the dust into the final product.
For every 100 kilos of the coconut husks, the company is able to extract 30 kilos of the charcoal. “We are still using a mediocre technology but we are importing a modern variety that can get us up to 70 kilos for every 100,” Twahir said.
His customers range from households, institutions to major supermarkets at the coast. The briquettes are packaged into one, three, five, ten and 25 kilos. A kilo goes for Sh30. “Briquettes cook faster than the normal firewood and they last longer also. The impact this is having on local communities, easing pressure on our forests and removing the waste from the counties is tremendous,” said Twahir.
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Inspired by the growth of the business and the market response, Kencoco Ltd now plans to replicate the model into other counties in the country where farmers are struggling with waste. The company is exploring opening a plant in Western and Kisumu area to tap into bagasse, the waste from sugarcane, and in Baringo targeting the vilified Mathenge plant. “We are also exploring investment in Machakos county to tap into the animal waste especially from the Kenchic plant in Athi River. We are also keen on the investment incentives extended by the Machakos governor Dr. Alfred Mutua,” said Twahir.
Kencoco’s investment comes at a time when numerous studies have hailed the recycling of waste as a pivotal means of providing thousands of poor households with low cost and sustainable sources of energy while protecting the environment.
According to the United Nations Environment Progamme, UNEP, use of briquettes as a source of energy for rural communities is enough can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change by up to 60 per cent, as they offer viable alternatives to the traditional firewood which has led to massive deforestation.
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In Kenya wood fuel contribute to 70 per cent of the national energy demand with approximately 90 per cent of rural households using wood fuel as either firewood or charcoal.
The UN further indicate that about 14,300 women in Kenya die every year from inhaling toxic gases from wood fuel.
For more information contact:
CEO Kencoco Ltd Mombasa