|Boiling Point No. 12 - April 1987 (ITDG, 1987, 36 p.)|
By Keith Benne
Some years ago the Gambia Government established a long term commitment to replacing environmentally damaging urban wood consumption with groundnut shell briquettes. Keith Bennett is advising the UNSO Gambia Stove Project on the design of stoves to burn briquettes and wood.
The reports on the present situation as fallows:
'In 1982 a groundnut shell briquetting plant was installed in the GPMB (Gambia Produce Marketing Board) factory at Kaur (200 km up the River Gambia from Banjul ) aiming to substitute wood and charcoal use in the urban areas of the country. The plant, financed by DANIDA, operated by GPMB and supplied by DGSMI, now stands idle and some five years later it is clear that the new fuel has had little impact on domestic fuel users. Over this period sales have been low, and briquettes have only managed to retain a small market amongst higher income groups who have access to private transport and can therefore collect briquettes directly from the GPMB depot near Banejul. The packing, local distribution and marketing of briquettes has not proved to be very attractive economic proposition with relatively cheap and abundant wood available throughout the urban areas. Also, during the original campaign to popularise the briquettes, users had the expectation that briquettes were the 'new charcoal'. This certainly caused disappointments to people who tried briquettes with their traditional coalpots and were dismayed with volumes of acrid smoke issuing from their kitchens.
The UNSO Stoves Project, working under the Department of Community Development, were then successful in developing the Noflie Furno, a wood/briquette burning cook stove that has proven to be an effective briquette burner. In fact the small number of briquette users described above burn their briquettes in the Noflie Furno. Another 10-15,000 families use their Noflie Furnos exclusively with wood, and the stove continues to be energetically marketed by private manufacturers and retailers.
The GPMB insist that they cannot afford to -ill warehouses with briquettes that sell very slowly and have recently indicated that they will not produce briquettes unless they can negotiate supply contracts. Briquette sales, although disappointing in recent years, have not been a complete failure. The small and slowly growing market of domestic users remain and, in addition, the local brick manufacturing company is now trying to negotiate a supply contract with GPMB as briquettes are now cheaper than wood brought from a forest park some 40 km away from the factory. However, GPMB are not interested in what they consider to be an unprofitable sideline. The local domestic market offers little profit and the GPMB have not developed exports or industrial markets to compensate. Hopefully, Government intervention will ensure that GPMB retain a proportion of their loose groundnut shells for briqouetting and then transport briquettes using low cost river transport and sell to domestic consumers and local industries such as the brick plant.
The situation has now been complicated by a strong private initiative to utilize GPMB's loose shells at Kaur. BSLGAMIL (Belgium-Gambian Industries Ltd.) have installed new briquetting plant and associated equipment just 100 metres from the DANIDA plant outside GPMB's factory gates. The company have a commitment from government and GPMB for the supply of loose shells although the price and actual tonnage have yet to be specified. The arrangement would clearly suit GPMB who stand to profit from the sale of loose shells that were previously a disposal problem.
BSLGAMIL claim to have a higher- quality product and we are presently awaiting the first samples to substantiate these claims. BELGAMIL briquettes, with 40% higher density compared with GPMB briquettes should prove more resistant to moisture penetration and attack by insects and rodents. More important however is that the higher density briquettes could produce a charcoal with higher mechanical strength. The problem with GPMB briquettes is that after burning the char tends to disintegrate.
In a reasonable groundnut production season GPMB should have enough shells to ensure that BELGAMIL can operate successfully and to provide,briquettes from their own plant. These briquettes could then be made available at low cost to urban domestic and industrial wood consumers thereby making some progress towards the government's long-term development objective of substituting environmentally damaging urban wood consumption with groundnut shell briquettes.
These recent developments should ensure that we never again witness burning and rotting heaps of groundnut shells in the Gambia, a country facing deforestation and escalating oil import bills. In this respect BELGAMIL should be wished success in their venture to market briquettes in the Senegambia Region, where foreign exchange costs for oil imports place such a heavy burden on national economics."
Keith Bennett also reports that the price of wood in Banjul has increased by 180% in the past year. He has therefore proposed that the stove project establish a retail store in Banjul to sell 10 kg bags of briquettes over the counter and 50 kg bags delivered.