“Little things can make a big difference.”
Sure, but how can a fuel briquette help save the Malawian forest and provide economic opportunities to the local community?
Alongside protecting Malawi’s wildlife and helping animals in need, LWT also emphasizes the importance of community projects. The Fuel Briquette Project is one such example and the Outreach and Education Manager, Clement Manjaalera, explains more about it:
“Ever since 2011, the LWT Outreach and Education team has gone to area 23 each week to assist the local women in making fuel-briquettes. Using shredded waste paper donated by offices, water and sawdust, they pound them into a gluey mixture. After waiting for it to dry for 24 hours, there you have the compact brick-like fuel-briquette. The ingredients are not complicated. However, when the project first started, the women needed to put the mixture into a pot and press by hand to push the water out; a lengthy and difficult way. However, as the project has grown, the community was donated a briquette presser which means that they can now produce 12 briquettes at a time.”
The majority of Malawians have no electricity, with over 70% of the local population still dependent on firewood and charcoal. Deforestation is a major environmental problem, destroying the natural habitat of numerous species and increasing the devastation of flooding in rainy season. Therefore, the briquette is a great source of energy for local communities. “Compared to charcoal, briquettes are cheaper and can be used to cook for a family of five to six. It also generates less emissions, which means a healthier way of cooking” Clement explains.
The production and usage of briquettes also generates income for the community. The women are taught to do business and sell at a ground level and the project has even expanded into local schools. Children can take the products back to their families and encourage more people to use them. According to Clement around 1,000 briquettes are produced weekly and more than half are sold. Returning customers are at both a wholesale and retail level, including both foreign expats in town and locals that come to LWC. The briquette is getting popular especially during the rainy season when firewood is insufficient. However, there are challenges: “to motivate local consumption of briquettes, we need more pressers and to increase our production. We also want to increase selling points in local grocery stores. As we run out of stock sometimes, it discourages local purchases.”
LWT also works in partnership with local schools and over 20,000 trees have been planted to reforest areas in Lilongwe over the last few years. Combined with the fuel-briquette project, LWT hopes to bring the next generation of Malawians a greener future.