Encourage pellet use to discourage loss of forest

ZAMBIA every year loses 250-300,000 ha of forest, in large part due to the production of charcoal for cooking, Emerging Cooking Solutions (ECS) Zambia Limited has said.

ECS Zambia CEO Mattias Ohlson said the loss of forests contributed to global warming and destruction of ecosystems and habitat.

He said also that a major proportion of the population living in high density areas spend between K100-150 per month on charcoal, it was one of the major household expenses Cooking with charcoal released large amounts of carbon-monoxide, which was detrimental to health, sometimes even fatal.

Mr Ohlson was speaking in Lusaka at Swedish ambassador’s residence where he was launching the benefits of using the SupaMoto pellets.

He said his organisation intended to set up a working group for practical and real solutions to replace charcoal and that finding an alternative to charcoal was not a problem but an opportunity and a possibility of a win-win-win situation for all parties.

He said the event was created to show there was a solution to the charcoal dilemma and the combination of stoves and fuel was cheaper, faster and healthier than charcoal.

“For each household converting from charcoal to pellets, we save six tonnes of forest, reduce cost of cooking fuel with 40% for the users, drastically reduce carbon monoxide indoors and save over 300 hours of time for the person cooking per year. In producing the pellets, we’re taking waste materials such as sawdust, straw and grasses and converting them into high-grade fuel. Zambia no longer has to rely on either its last forests, or foreign fossil fuels for cooking,” he said.

Mr Ohlson said Zambia should learn from countries like Sweden where production of pellets for heating is a big industry with a volume of about 1.3 million tonnes of pellets per year.

“We envision pellets made from renewable biowaste, to a large extent replacing charcoal as cooking fuel in Zambia, and a similar pellet industry to the one in Sweden eventually developing, with many different actors involved. After that, we envision the solution pioneered here in Zambia to be exported to other countries in the region.

“We’ve come a long way since we started this venture in 2011. It’s been a rocky road, involving a lot of uncertainty, insecurity and personal risk. But we are proud to have managed to set up one of Africa’s first and largest pellet factories, in Kitwe, capable of producing 3000 tonnes of pellets per year.

We’ve already exported pellets to Kenya and DRC and have recently gotten requests from other countries as well. We have a range of stoves available for both domestic and industrial settings. The largest stoves are already produced here in Zambia, at SARO Agro. We are being recognized internationally as pioneers in the area of gasifying stoves and pellets,” he said. He said despite embarking on this programme ECS was facing many challenges such as the need for stoves by the people but could not afford them, although the SupaMoto pellets were so much cheaper than charcoal.

He however said that his institution had established a micro-finance solution and through their over 30 resellers in high density areas their stoves and pellets were reaching some of the people.

Mr Ohlson said EMS had worked hand in hand with FINCA, Micro Bankers Trust and KIVA for advice and support and looked forward to a cooperation with BancABC, which was still in the negotiation process.

Mr Ohlson said there was need to reduce the price of the stove to about K100 for them to create real impact and reach a number of people as a way of saving Zambia’s forests and promoting economic development at the very bottom of the pyramid.

He said ECS would like to form partnerships with the Government to facilitate and streamline distribution and to help them set up a factory for manufacturing the domestic stoves in Zambia.

He said this was also the recommendation that the Parliamentary Committee on Lands, Environment and Tourism made to the National Assembly after visiting their pellet factory in the Copperbelt in April this year.

He appealed to the Private Sector to partner with them to help lower the cost of the stoves and looked forward to setting up another pellet factory next year closer to Lusaka after finding a suitable location and a long-term supply of waste biomass, ideally from agriculture.