When her husband died, Mary Waiyego’s world crumbled and she couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As she was working as a farm labourer, she joined a women’s group. The group brought her to an eye-opening briquette-making training. She believes that her briquettes can save the environment and have also helped her restart her life.
Mary’s briquettes differ from normal charcoal briquettes because they do not need tree logging. They turn waste material such as charcoal dust, sawdust and coffee husks into an affordable and long-lasting compressed combustible biomass.
Saving trees and empowering
Mary persevered to make briquettes by hand for five years alone until Rainforest Alliance, an IKEA Foundation partner, heard about her through the radio and helped her with capacity building, training and technical support.
She now makes the briquettes with a machine with the help of her two women employees. Her story brought me to tears because I was so touched by her strength and her commitment to lift up the women around her. Not only does she save trees, she also empowers women.
Samuel Kagombe is also one of the briquettes makers that the IKEA Foundation supports. He was a small tea farmer four months ago, but now he is an eco-friendly briquette producer with a machine and four casual laborers. He now sells up to a thousand kilograms of briquettes to the farmers around him.
The IKEA Foundation believes that the steady supply of quality and environmentally-friendly briquettes can help smallholder tea farmers switch to renewable energy sources that will lessen the amount of trees consumed by firewood.