Nolbert Muhumuza is making it possible to use clean cooking stoves in Uganda. He tells Amos Ngwomoya how his enterprise, Awamu Biomass Energy Ltd, is replacing traditional cook stoves that use charcoal with energy efficient ones called gasifier stoves.
Behind Baskon Hostel on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road is Awamu Biomass Energy Ltd, a social and environmental enterprise that manufactures Top-Lit Updraft (TLUD) gasifier stoves and biomass fuels.
As you approach St Noah Church of Uganda, a workshop with these biomass stoves called Quad Gasifier stoves greets you.
Workers are busy hitting scrap metal into various parts of the stoves while clients walk in and out of the shed.
According to Mr Nolbert Muhumuza, the president of this company, the project is a spin-off from a World-Bank funded BEIA project that was implemented by the Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC) in 2011 to creat awareness on TLUD gasifier stoves in Uganda.
The company is co-found by reknown micro-gasification expert Dr Paul S. Anderson, who was also technical adviser to the BEIA project.
The genesis of Awamu Biomass Energy can be traced way back in 2009 when Mr Muhumuza first met Anderson at CREEC and began developing various prototypes for TLUD stoves suited for the Ugandan market and later carried out pilot studies on their stove designs.
However, the company was formed in October 2012 to build on the BEIA project which created market for the TLUD stoves.
They faced challenges like any other start-up including securing working space. Mr Muhumuza utilised the relations with St Noah Church of Uganda, Makerere which allowed them to use their Sunday school space since it was idle during week days.
Awamu, however, was asked to construct a better shed that could serve as a children’s church every Sunday morning.
Awamu Biomas Energy Ltd manufactures and distributes clean burning and gasifier cook stoves that turn dry biomass fuels into charcoal.
How it works
The innovative cook stove burns less biomass fuel and cooks faster than most stoves, thus, saving on cooking time and costs. It has less smoke, resulting in reduced indoor air pollution and can burn a wide variety of agricultural biomass products such as twigs, maize combs, crop stems, seed pods and wood residue that are usually seen as waste.
The stoves not only reduce pressure on the diminishing forest cover in Uganda, but also reduce carbon emissions released into the atmosphere through traditional cooking practices and during charcoal production.
They can also burn un-carbonised briquettes made from waste such as sawdust, paper and other agricultural residue. The stoves make their own charcoal that can be used for further cooking or applied into agricultural fields as Bio char for soil amendment.
Awamu manufactures their stoves in flat-packs to allow for easy transportation to rural communities which are usually inaccessible. The stoves are produced using the tab and slot technique to allow for an easy assembling at local distribution points with minimal tinsmith experience.
The TLUD gasifier stoves are targeted for households and small and medium enterprises, especially those already using firewood for cooking. The company works with local businesses, grassroots organisations and local groups are their distribution agents all around Uganda.
According to Mr Muhumuza, the stove is made from locally available materials such as galvanised sheets, scrap metal and have wooden handles for safety while cooking.
“Our stove suits both the rural and peri-urban populations because they can all access wood. It saves up to 30 per cent of cooking energy and costs,” he adds.
Awamu currently has six full-time employees who are trained for different roles in production, sales and administration in the company. They sell six stoves on a daily average and each goes for Shs35,000.
Their stoves are sold in Nakawa, Bugolobi and Luzira markets in Kampala with other distributors around Uganda. The local community has been supportive in buying their stoves because they cook better.
“People appreciate our stoves because of their unique advantages over those they have been used to. We have daily orders from individuals and institutions, especially NGOs,” says Mr Muhumuza.
How unique it is
The innovative cook stove burns less biomass fuel and cooks faster than most stoves; thus, saving on cooking time and costs.
It has less smoke, resulting in reduced indoor air pollution and can burn a wide variety of agricultural biomass products such as twigs, maize cons, crop stems, seed pods and wood residue that are usually seen as waste.