Sarah Basemera is a likeable character. She is emotionally intelligent and exudes a certain degree of confidence.
No wonder, she is the team leader of Raising Gabdho Foundation, a social and economic empowerment organisation.
Basemera is a social person and she mixes so easily with other people.
It is through such interactions about two years ago that she had a discussion with some single mothers that she started to understand the effect of depleting forests to harvest firewood.
This gave her several ideas and developed the need to substitute firewood with something that would only protect the environment but also be safe for users.
“From that point onward, I embarked on the journey to design a safe and clean energy solution,” she says.
Basemera, a marketer by profession, came up with a product called honey comb briquette but this was after trying out stick briquette which along the way she substituted with honey comb briquette.
The honey comb briquette, which is made out of charcoal waste and biomass, can burn for nearly nine hours.
“We are using waste from the community, especially biomass and charcoal dusts which we recycle and use to make our products. So as far producing environmentally friendly products in concerned that is not in doubt,” she says.
According to studies, Kampala alone produces not less than 800 kilogrammes of waste every day, most of which is biomass waste, a raw material for the honey comb briquette.
Being a social entrepreneur, welfare of the people she works with is at the heart of her enterprise.
In the beginning, so much effort and energy was injected into the production, but the financial return was dismal and discouraging.
A sack of the briquette would take about a week to be produced but would fetch a paltry Shs40,000.
However, through social networking, she was advised to move from manual production to using machines.
However, with only about Shs10m, the process seemed too expensive but she was determined to push through with her plan.
And after months of trials she hit the perfect code, which has allowed her to expand enough to employs 10 people.
Her plan is to expand further and employ about 100 people, with the majority being women, who according to her are the main target of the Gabdho Foundation, a Somali word meaning a girl-child.
Spreading to other parts
Plans are already underway to launch the product - the honey comb briquettes - in Bidi Bidi, Yumbe in West Nile and will be soon be commissioned in other parts outside Kampala.
In about five years Basemera believes she would be an accomplished social entrepreneur, running a more structured and streamlined enterprise that will have a wider reach.
“It will reach a time when you hear of the word Gabdho and you immediately think of clean energy for cooking,” she says.
Importantly, those who have used the honey comb briquettes have interesting recommendations.
In Rubaga, a division of Kampala, some eatery joints are already trying out the products and their response about the honey comb briquette are a testimony of a good innovation.
Other markets for the honey comb briquettes include selected homesteads in Kampala, poultry farmers, hotels and restaurants, mostly located in and around Kampala.
As for government is concerned, Basemera believes it has a role to play and argues it has a duty to popularise the use of such social products, considering that they minimise deforestation.
At a personal level, she is looking towards branding the product to acceptable standards.
For this she will need about $100,000 (about Shs370m) to have a contribution in directing the social economy of women and the population at large.
Even as a small enterprise, the workshop has the capacity to produce about 50,000 kilogrammes but presently it produces between 20,000 and 30,000 kilogrammes of honey comb briquettes.
At Shs1,500 you can get a two kilokgramme honey comb briquette that burns for between seven and nine hours.