“I only ever heard about briquettes the day I was given some to use by GVEP” says Ruth Odhaimbo, a wife and mother of three living in Kariobangi, Nairobi.
Ruth is a business woman who participated in the recent research we conducted on the suitability of briquettes for use by the household market. Empirical evidence, including findings from a recent assessment of the briquette sector commissioned by GVEP, suggested that challenges exist for briquette adoption in the household market including their ability to meet consumer expectations and the availability of distribution networks. To gain a better understanding of the use of briquettes within households, a briquette suitability assessment study was carried out so as to understand how well briquettes burn in commonly available cook stoves, their suitability to common household cooking tasks and what consumers like and dislike about their use.
Interviews were conducted with stakeholders in the biomass sector including biomass briquette manufacturers, organisations that are running briquette initiatives and households that used the biomass briquettes.
Samples of briquettes were given to households in Kariobangi, a low-income residential estate in northeastern Nairobi, Kenya. It consists of both apartments and slum-type dwellings. Kariobangi area was chosen to be area of study because of the middle – lower class residents that stay there, these families are more likely to use the Portable charcoal stoves as evidenced by the numerous numbers of charcoal vendors in the area. This means that people in the area are paying for fuel and therefore there is a likely market for briquettes in the area.
The households were observed over a six-day period as they used two different types of briquettes provided for the study, that is, ball briquettes and Sausage Briquettes
The women had both positive and negative observations about the use of briquettes as summarized below:
- The briquettes burn for long and therefore last longer
- They have a high heat Intensity
- They have less smoke and hence can be used inside the house
- They do not spark and are thus clean to use in the house
- They are economical and affordable
- Effects to health experienced were less compared to charcoal use that causes coughing and headaches when used in areas of low ventilation.
- The briquettes are hard to light
- They produce a lot of ash
- They are not able to keep the fire going if any more are added during cook time
- Their usage requires more time, thus they are not suitable for quick cooking tasks
The study showed that the most common types of fuel currently used in the households were charcoal and kerosene and the most common cook stove was the Kenya Ceramic Jiko. The briquette technology was not common in the area during the time of the study but the response towards it was positive. Most respondents felt that the positive aspects of the fuel outweighed the negative and they were willing to take up the technology and use it daily. A few individuals were interested in doing a briquette retail business in their neighborhood.
Based on the analysis of the findings, the assessment went on to make the following recommendations:
- If households are to substitute more of their fuel use to briquettes, there needs to be a technological improvement on the kind of stove to be used with briquettes as the fuel. However it remains likely that briquettes will still be used in conjunction with traditional charcoal, so, a stove that burns both fuels efficiently would present the ideal option.
- There needs to be further research to see how briquettes can be made easier to light and have lower ash content.
- There should be improved briquette commercialization such that briquettes are advertised in various residential areas and are made available for purchase and use through the establishment of retail networks. Retail networks such as those being established by organizations like Living Goods could help to make briquettes more available to households.