May 11th, 2018 – Kisumu, Kenya
Author: Noah Kozminski
Having collected and dried hyacinth samples at Dunga Beach, Green Briq heads to Kibuye Market Waste Management CBO (KMWM) to talk compaction. The goal of the endeavor: Find an innovative way to incorporate the troublesome invasive species into a useful fuel source using local techniques.
The team arrives in sprawling Kibuye Market, a maze of stalls and shops, connecting dirt pathways turned tunnel-like by tarps slung overhead for shade. Cries of hawkers and the roar of traffic from the nearby highway fill the air. Greeted by Harison Otieno, KMWM’s director, the team is led to the headquarters of the organization. A few low buildings stand in a somewhat-secluded plot, where a group of safety-vest clad men are working. The land was given to the organization by the City of Kisumu, explains Otieno, introducing his team. The group cleans the market’s general waste and plant matter for disposal and repurposing into burnable briquettes for home use. Inspired by university research projects in the area, the operation was established in 2014, and is approved by Kenya’s Bureau of Standards.
The focus for Green Briq is the hand-operated compaction machine the workers are standing around. Two men mix coarse paste in a wheelbarrow nearby — Otieno explains their briquettes are made from a variety of components and binders; charcoal dust, clay soil, sawdust, molasses, and others; each with their own qualities. The thick paste, once of satisfactory composition and constitution, is put into a hopper at the top of the compactor, and a handle is hand-cranked to produce a cylindrical briquette. This then needs to be dried before it can be sold locally to heat cooking stoves.
It’s time to test an innovative new component — Green Briq discusses the viability of hyacinth as a component in briquettes, which Otieno and his workers agree shows promise. Mixing in the ground sample of hyacinth brought by the team, several sample briquettes are produced. A few days of drying, and the briquettes will be ready for testing. To evaluate the promise of the project, tests will compare amounts of energy produced by burning briquettes produced with existing techniques and those made with hyacinth.
After making the briquettes, Otieno shows off more of the compound. The waste management group, he says, can produce around a thousand briquettes in six hours, which are sold only to local individuals, not vendors. Otieno displays some samples from partnering organizations —briquettes and small pellets made from human waste, light-colored granular fertilizer made from urine — which the group cannot currently produce, but are looking into for the future. Currently, the operation produces a variety of fast- and slow-burning briquettes for domestic use, as well as animal feed from vegetative waste left by fruit and vegetable vendors in the market.
The Green Briq team, having prepared the next step in testing their project, is planning on returning to burn the hyacinth briquettes and evaluate how effective the invasive species is as a fuel source.