By Mark Kawalya
Divine Bambo, is a Ugandan startup behind the innovative briquette making method that utilizes bamboo as a raw material. Divine Nabaweesei, the founder and CEO of the company, says she wanted to start something that was premised on her passion for nature but would also be an instrument in the global fight against climate change and deforestation.
The firm plants bamboo forests that are harvested to get the raw material for its briquette-making initiative, which in itself is a tool in the fight against deforestation. This is because more than 90% of Uganda’s population still depends on charcoal (which is derived from wood) for their daily cooking needs.
These same bamboo forests are able to regenerate for up to 50 years, providing a continued source of raw material for extended periods. This would also help to fight the lack of access to affordable clean cooking fuels, which is one of Uganda’s biggest environmental challenges.
“It is not enough to just tell people not to cut down trees. People still need a livelihood, they still need to eat, they need to earn an income, so if we can give them an alternative in the form of bamboo, which grows fast, in three years they will be harvesting” says Nabaweesi.
Divine bamboo has plans for producing briquettes that are produced from 100 bamboo when more farmers work with the firm and join the supply chain.
The production process starts when the dry bamboo is harvested, dried, and cut into smaller pieces before being put into a device known as a carbonizer.
“The carbonizer is where bamboo is in a process without oxygen because if you allow oxygen, you will just have ash in the end. So, it is carbonized and then, after that, you have bamboo charcoal basically. But because we are making bamboo briquettes, we then have to crush the bamboo charcoal and mix it with a binder, and then it comes out of a machine called an extruder,” Divine elaborates.
While traditional charcoal is more expensive, in comparison, two kilograms of bamboo briquettes cost half a dollar and have the benefit of burning for a longer duration. Additionally, they are heavier, with a hole through the center that is useful in the lighting process. In estimation, it shouldn’t take more than five minutes to light up bamboo briquettes.
Divine Bamboo proudly runs one of the largest bamboo nurseries in the country that has an annual output of more than 200,000 seedlings. Bamboo forests absorb 30 percent more carbon dioxide than standard hard wood trees, which is an additional benefit to the environment.
“There is a growing number of people who are conscious about the environment, and so they don`t feel comfortable using charcoal anymore, and they are happy if they can find an alternative,” Nabaweesi said in her closing statement.