National Geographic Society, USAID, GACC Spark Fund, Halloran Philanthropies
2012: Unreasonable Institute Fellowship2012: TED Fellowship2012: Tech Awards Laureate
2013: Community Solutions Fellowship
2014: National Geographic Emerging Explorer
Eco-Fuel Africa empowers communities in Africa to use technology to convert locally sources farm and municipal waste into clean cooking fuel (green charcoal) and organic fertilizers (biochar). This hampers deforestation, reduces indoor air pollution, improves educational opportunities among girls and women by eliminating the need to search for wood, and provides farmers with organic fertilizers.
Low cost char kilns made of recycled oil drums
Tailor-made briquette machines
Green charcoal briquettes
Eco-fuel Africa targets poor Ugandan households in urban and rural areas, which primarily use wood-based fuels for cooking. The enterprise provides cleaner and safer cooking fuel in the form of green briquettes produced from bio-waste.
Despite having a starting budget of $500 in 2010, Eco-Fuel Africa began to cover its costs and generate a profit in 2012.
Most of the enterprise’s revenue comes from the sale of its green charcoal briquettes. A smaller portion comes from the sale of the kilns.
Eco-fuel Africa empowers local communites in Africa to convert farm and municipal waster into clean cooking fuel and organic fertilizers using affordable, proprietary kilns and eco-fuel press machines.
This creates jobs for people at the base of the pyramid, reduces indoor air pollution, and deforestation.
Unlike fuelwood, Eco-fuel Africa’s green briquettes burn cleaner, burn longer, and are 65% cheaper.
Ecofuel Africa’s technology also does not require electricity to operate and can be used by a variety of people, even those who are illiterate and don’t posses any skills.
Over 500 million people in Africa are dependent on fuel wood.
Africa is losing its forests at twice the global average.
500,000 people die annually from exposure to indoor air pollution that is typically 100 times the healthy level established by the WHO.
Up to 40% of household incomes are spent on fuel.
Women and children spend up to 5 hours a day collecting fuel wood.
Where They Are Now
Impact to Date
10,000+ households in Uganda use Eco-Fuel Africa’s clean cooking fuel
4,000+ jobs created
150,000 trees planted in Uganda
2014: Reach 20,000 new households
2015: Expand into two new regions in Uganda and reach 60,000 households
2020: Expand to East and Central Africa
2010: Launched in June with only $500 in capital
2012: Broke even
2013: 2,500 farmers had joined the network
2014: 460 women have become micro-entrepreneurs
2014: $330,000 raised in funding
How They Deliver
The carbonization kilns are purchased at $75 a piece by Eco-Fuel Africa. These are made from recycled oil drums and are given to farmers on a lease-to-own basis.
Farmers use the kilns to turn their agricultural waste into char. The fine powder is sold to Eco-Fuel Africa.
Eco-Fuel Africa focuses on a decentralized distribution model.
It is far easier to transport char than it is to transport agricultural waste.
Char is taken to Eco-Fuel Africa’s production centers either by the farmers themselves or by collection agents in the villages. Farmers are paid cash.
Once the briquettes are made, Eco-Fuel Africa sells them through a network of exclusively female micro-franchisees who are typically marginalized (e.g. widows, single mothers, teenage mothers).
These women sell the briquettes out of a kiosk in villages where Eco-Fuel Africa is not originally operating.
The carbonization kilns are made affordable to farmers through a lease-to-own model whereby they make small, affordable payments to Eco-Fuel Africa until the full price of the kiln has been paid off.
The monthly payments are affordable because the farmers are generating income by selling the char.
The carbonization kilns are made from recycled oil drums that are locally sourced and cheap.
In its early years, Eco-Fuel Africa has relied primarily on grants and donations from organizations such as USAID and National Geographic. The enterprise will continue to seek grants to help expand operations and improve their technologies.
Eco-Fuel Africa is able to cover its costs and generate a profit through the sale of its carbonization kilns and green charcoal briquettes.
Beginning in 2015, Eco-Fuel Africa will seek mainly debt and equity.
Eco-Fuel Africa is looking to expand primarily to new locations
The enterprise will focus exclusively on reaching people in Uganda until 2015.
Between 2016 and 2020, the enterprise intends to scale to East and Central Africa.
Between 2020 and 2030, Eco-Fuel Africa hopes to expand to all of Africa.
Despite having an ambitious scaling plan, Eco-Fuel Africa produces a deep, holistic impact for each of its customers.
Farmers who use the carbonization kilns make money from selling the char dust to Eco-Fuel Africa but also benefit from putting the larger pieces of biochar into their fields. Biochar can augment soils and make farms far more productive.
Not only do the farmers benefit, but impoverished and/or marginalized women are empowered as owners of their own briquette selling microfranchises.