How to make a living from charcoal briquettes

A Cross River State-based innovator, Mr Emmanuel Ntiti, is empowering Nigerians to make briquettes out of charcoal dust, solve fuel problem, reduce poverty, unemployment and tackle poor waste management, report.

Frequent power rationing has increased the use of charcoal and firewood by food vendors and other businesses as primary fuel for cooking. The consequence is forest depletion as farmers and rural entrepreneurs search for firewood and charcoal.

To Mr Emmanuel Ntiti, Head of Department, Government Technical School, Mayne Avenue, Calabar, producing charcoal requires wood, which means an increase in deforestation and stress on ecosystems. Burning wood to charcoal leads to emission of large amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2).

To address this, he has been looking for an alternative source of fuel after realising that the use of firewood contributes to the depletion of forests. He then saw a business opportunity in briquettes and started researching the possibilities of making charcoal briquettes to save the forest and create opportunities for Nigerians to make money. Today, he has started a business of making environmentally-friendly charcoal briquettes. The briquettes are made from wastepaper, plants and agricultural wastes that are combustible – including grass, straw, water hyacinths, maize and rice husks, peanut shells and potato and banana peels. They burn longer than wood and the coal are cheaper, safer and cleaner to cook with. The investment is also minimal for small producers and has high returns.

Ntiti ventured into the business not just to earn a living, but to contribute towards environmental conservation. He has also fabricated a machine for producing briquettes for retail and wholesale, and the positive feedbacks have encouraged him to produce more. He is currently looking for a bigger market, and willing to train many youths on how to make briquettes, a biomass fuel and a substitute to charcoal, to create more job opportunities nationwide.

For Ntiti, the market is large and it includes poultry farmers, who need to keep young chickens warm at night, hotels, lodges and tourist camps, which use briquettes for heating outdoor dining areas. The product is also useful for heating water in rooms and tents.

The project, according to Ntiti, will help thousands of micro enterprises across the country, which include off-season vegetable, poultry, goat keeping, pig raising, hog plum, boutique, advanced tailoring, beekeeping, mushroom and herbal distillation which rely on off-grid energy supply.

With his technology, Nigerians can make charcoal briquettes for cooking and heating water and save the money to spend on charcoal.

According to Ntiti, briquettes have a high growth potential in the market with lot of businesses still relying on wood and diesel for fuel. The other advantage, he said, is international funding coming for energy friendly businesses, using options such as briquette for e-processing activities.

Right now, the e-business has had challenges, which include pricing and lack of awareness, but Ntiti is working with like-minded entrepreneurs on ways to get over these hurdles in a variety of ways.

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