The future of cooking energy in Uganda

16.07.2018 - Article

Charcoal is a prime source of energy in most African countries and a driving force in their economies. About 90 percent of the Ugandan population uses fuelwood as a main source of energy.

A Ugandan woman baking bread.
A Ugandan woman baking bread.© picture alliance / blickwinkel

During recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the volume of charcoal being produced as fuel for heating and cooking in urban areas. In 2013, annual consumption of charcoal in Uganda was about 800,000 tonnes. According to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development those figures have risen significantly, putting the Uganda’s present annual consumption of charcoal at 1.8 million tonnes.

This steadily increasing reliance on charcoal fuel is greatly contributing to depletion of Uganda’s forest cover, as more and more people use forest products as cooking fuel.  According to a report from the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda has lost half of the unprotected forest cover in the last 25 years. Between 1990 and 2015 the forest estate has shrunk from 24 percent to nine percent of total land area. At this rate, the country will lose all its forest cover within the next 15 years.

German Development Cooperation contributes to steer against these trends by promoting the use of alternative energy. As part of this, the German Development Cooperation supports the Ugandan Ministries of Water and Environment as well as Energy and Mineral Development to promote the production and use of biofuels, i.e. fuels extracted from plants, human and animal waste, and crop residue. These include biogas and briquettes. Use of such fuels is advantageous since it promotes recycling of already available plant, human and animal material. Biofuels are affordable and much less harmful to the environment. Furthermore, these fuels are easily accessible, burn more efficiently and produce less greenhouse gases overall.

In the case of biogas, biogas plants can be built to almost any scale, meaning that individual households can own one as well as institutions such as schools or even villages. These plants facilitate the conversion of bio-wastes into cooking gas, providing a viable alternative for firewood or charcoal. Biogas generation also provides an environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic waste materials which would otherwise be disposed on roads, in public places or landfills.

Biogas technology is already successful in China where almost 90 percent households and institutions use this energy source. It is also being promoted in Kenyan schools through a Government-led initiative to construct cow dung-fired biogas plants for public schools in nearly half of the towns in the country. These plants relieve the schools of the cooking fuel burden incurred in heating water and cooking. Schools can save over 10,000 Kenya Shilling (over 350,000 Uganda Shilling) a month, on fuel.

Ugandian woman is cooking rice on an open fire place
Ugandian woman is cooking rice on an open fire place© picture alliance / blickwinkel

Briquettes can be made from grass, water hyacinth, maize residue, rice and coffee husks, peanut shells, potato and banana peels and treated fecal sludge. Whereas countries such as China or Thailand have fully adopted briquettes into their economic and energy portfolio, its use is already widespread around Africa, with many companies promoting them commercially. Also in Uganda biomass briquettes are gaining popularity. Data provided by the Ugandan Government states that 1.2 million tonnes of agro-waste is available each year and an additional 1,500 tonnes of municipal solid waste are estimated to be produced in Kampala daily. This indicates that there is enough raw material for sustainable briquette production.

Uptake of briquettes and biogas in Uganda has however been slow due to some challenges including perceived high cost of production, seasonal variations in raw materials availability, competing uses for these materials, collection challenges, limited public awareness of the benefits of biofuels, and fragmented/ uncoordinated government policies and programmes.

The German Embassy in cooperation with its implementing partners for German technical and financial cooperation, the German Development Agency GIZ and German Development Bank KfW, invited journalists from key media houses to participate in a two-and-a-half-day media discourse and field trip that started Monday afternoon, July 9, 2018, with a workshop in Kampala, focusing on the promotion of alternative cooking energy sources.
This engagement aims at promoting widespread information and awareness on selected biofuels, their feasible use and associated benefits.
The journalists visit Kansanga Primary School and Kansanga Seed Secondary School, Sustainable Energy Answers Company Limited (SEACO) in Kiteezi, Ndejje University and Kakira Sugar Farm in Jinja.

©German Embassy Uganda

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