Fueling Kibera August 17, 2012 by Carolina For Kibera
Takachar: Partnership with MIT students holds promise for healthy, affordable, sustainable fuel in Kibera
by Jeffrey Okoro, Administrative Assistant
“Takachar” is combination of Swahili and English words. Taka is a Swahili word meaning waste and Char, a solid material that is left after a process of pyrolysis. This summer a group of four students, representing a larger team from MIT called Takachar, have set up camp in Kibera. Partnering with CFK, the team’s goal is to design and test the viability of an alternative fuel source to charcoal that will use locally available organic waste, convert it to charcoal, and provide cheaper cooking fuel for residents of Kibera. The idea started when Kevin Kung, founder of Takachar, saw the untapped potential of household and market waste while traveling in Uganda and Kenya.
Charcoal is currently the primary cooking fuel in Kibera, with about 65% of the population using it as their primary cooking fuel. In Kibera charcoal consumption is estimated to be about 200 tons/day—that is about 200 trees cut down every day! On the household level, charcoal is also quite costly. The average household spends about 45% of their income on cooking fuel. Individually, income is roughly $2/day (although it’s often unreliable day to day) and the amount spent on charcoal in a day is from $0.50 upwards – about 25% of daily income! To make matters worse, the price of charcoal in Kibera has risen about 40% in the last year. In addition, emissions in the form of particulate matter and carbon monoxide, among other things, are very hazardous to health. Such heavy reliance and demand for charcoal, also found throughout the rest of country, contributes to deforestation in Kenya’s rural areas and to global warming by emission of CO2.
The problems of waste management and the heavy reliance on wood charcoal is proving catastrophic to the environment – and Takachar is wholly dedicated to finding a solution that benefits both individuals and the larger community. Earlier this year, Takachar won the Muhammad Yunus Innovation Challenge, making this summer’s pilot project in Kibera possible. With the help of CFK, they have partnered up with a waste sorting youth group—the Zulu Youth—and have been working on creating an appropriate new briquette using waste collected in Kibera.
Working in line with the CFK mission, Takachar is working to catalyze positive change by minimizing adverse side effects to health, managing household organic waste, providing a sustainable alternative fuel that will not damage the environment, and creating income generation opportunities for waste collection groups in Kibera.
Follow Takachar’s progress on their blog: http://takachar.blogspot.com/