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RenewDrive: Alternative clean cooking fuel for urban slum dwellers (Updated: 14/12)

This initiative aims to make clean and affordable cooking energy available and accessible to every household in Nigerian urban slums.

Photo of Babajide Oluwase

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Residents of low-income and informal urban settlements often face challenges relating to the availability and cost of cooking fuel. In Nigeria, millions of households cook with open fires of wood and chemical-based charcoal, which has contributed to the rapid depletion of forest reserves in the country. This practice is poisonous to our planet, community, and health. In order to build the resilience of the urban poor and the country at large, RenewDrive, also known as Renewable Energy, will help transform combustible agricultural/domestic waste to clean and affordable cooking energy for all. It is a local solution that will certainly solve local problems, and also a solution that can be used with existing cooking tools needed, as we try to change people’s culture towards a cleaner and sustainable development for all.

WHO BENEFITS?

The production and use of RenewDrive generate a range of benefits and contribute to low-carbon, climate resilient development, and generally, to sustainable development. Women and youth in the marginalised region, who are our major focus, will be engaged in the RenewDrive-making process. They will make the alternative cooking energy available for their domestic use and also start small businesses by trading the commodity to generate income.

HOW DOES YOUR IDEA TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE CONTEXT OF URBAN SLUMS AND CLIMATE CHANGE?

Through building the collective capacity of people in the urban slums and generating authentic partnerships between communities and local government, RenewDrive will certainly set a stage for a more participatory approach to building urban resilience. We realise the fact that, genuine resilience cannot be designed and achieved by government alone, so the need for active partnership with marginalized rural and urban residents is important. This will help in the definition and assessment of vulnerability, and the development strategies to reduce exposure to hazards, to reduce sensitivity to the impact of climate change, and to strengthen the capacity of the people to cope and adapt. RenewDrive is an energy solution for the urban slums produced by the slum dwellers, flexible, and extends the lifecycle of combustible resources in a clean form.

IN-COUNTRY EXPERIENCE

  • Yes, for two or more years

EXPERTISE

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for at least two years

GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS

  • Yes

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF

We are a group of environmentalists, community developers, and social entrepreneurs committed to building a sustainable environment through climate change advocacy, education as well as development of clean energy for domestic and commercial uses.

IS THIS A NEW OR RECENT IDEA FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION? HOW DOES IT DIFFER FROM WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY DOING?

RenewDrive is a recent idea born out of our passion to create a lasting solution to environmental problems, faced by vulnerable populations in the marginalised communities of Nigeria. We realised that far above advocacy and sensitization around climate change, waste management, as well as access to clean livelihood, it becomes necessary to design and implement tangible solutions that will address various environmental issues affecting majorly the urban poor. This initiative differs from what we have been doing in the past, because it is more of a practical-based approach to adapting to and mitigating various effects of climate change in our communities.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SIMILAR INITIATIVES? WHAT ARE YOU DOING DIFFERENTLY? WHAT UNIQUE ADVANTAGES DO YOU HAVE?

No doubt, there are various initiatives that address challenges related to unsafe household cooking in Nigeria, many of which are either adopting the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Clean Cooking Stoves programme. Unfortunately, the impact of these initiatives have not been really significant, because many of the rural/urban poor cannot afford the product(s). Without much ado, RenewDrive will be embracing human-centered approach, because we believe that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones are solvable. Also, we believe that the people who face those problems every day are the ones who hold the key to their answer. So differently from what other initiatives have been doing, we will involve women and youths living in Nigerian urban slums to design and implement a briquette-making project, from combustible waste generated within and outside the communities. RenewDrive is a solution that can be used with existing tools needed for safe household cooking, as we try to change people’s culture towards a cleaner pathway. These are our unique advantages.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR IDEA?

What cost-effective and/or manual approach can be adopted to reduce the effect of wet weather on the quality and density of briquette? What other types of material can be added to combustible agro-waste to give a highly efficient cooking energy (briquette)?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Recent statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that, smoke from indoor air pollution contributes to over 95, 000 deaths every year in Nigeria. This is really worrisome because most of these deaths are avoidable and completely needless. Through our initiative, we desire to ensure the unaffordability of 100% clean cooking energy should not be a barrier to safe cooking, especially for the rural/urban poor.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BASED ON FEEDBACK FROM YOUR COMMUNITY?

Our team realises the importance of adopting an iterative approach to solving problems, because it makes feedback from the people we’re designing for a critical part of how our solution evolves. Based on the feedback from a marginalised community in Lagos, Nigeria, we observed the huge littering of sawdust and PET plastic waste within the community. The poor management of these waste has led to various environmental challenges. The typical challenges identified by the people are poor sanitation and flooding. Going by this feedback, we are more poised to put the available sawdust to judicious use rather than letting it waste away. At the long run, we will consider the conversion of PET plastic waste into useful product for better livelihood of the people. We will continually iterate, refine, and improve our work, we will not relent in having more ideas, trying a variety of approaches, unlocking our creativity, and developing successful solutions for all.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Ultimately, we aim to connect women in urban slums to the alternative clean energy needed for safer cooking at an affordable cost, and at the same time, empowering them economically and teaching behavioural changes towards climate change in our communities. The step considered to achieving this, is to make it a sustainable community-based project.

How does your idea connect to the broader system of the city where you plan to implement?

We believe so much in the power of effective collaboration. We will not hesitate to partner with new and existing initiative working in improving education, health, environment, civic engagement, and so on. By connecting and supporting other initiatives, we are sure of a sustainable societal development.

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Photo of Pascale Leroueil
Team

Hi Babajide,

I had three questions: (1) You mentioned below that you don't have any health concerns regarding the manufacturing of the brickets. However, what about the using of the brickets?  (2) Do the saw-dust brickets require any binder/additional material to keep them together once they have been compressed?  (3) How many brickets can a single press make in one day? Related to this, how many presses would be needed to provide a village with enough brickets to serve their heating needs?; (4) Have you taken into account the opportunity costs associated with women making these brickets?  Do they have 'free time' that they could devote to going to use the press? 

Sincerely,
pascale

Photo of Babajide Oluwase
Team

Hi Pascale,

Thank you for the questions.

Unlike wood charcoal, this briquette fuel is cleaner because it is almost smokeless, and this is as a result of the transformation it has been subjected to during the making process. It is also a means of renewing solid wastes which are usually set aflame and this exposes human health to various hazards. The wide adoption of this initiative will reduce deforestation in our rural communities. Hence, the sustainability of our environmental resources can be achievable at the long run.

Initially, I talked about using sawdust as raw material because it is abundantly available in one of the urban slums that our team visited during the feedback stage. Some other materials like dry shrubs, sugarcane bagasse, rice husk, corncob, and peanut shells can also be used when carbonised. These types of agricultural waste are readily available in virtually every rural community across Nigeria. In addition to the sawdust mixing, an appropriate binder like paper pulp or starch will be added at 15-20% concentration and mixed thoroughly to enhance compactness of the briquettes.

For small-scale producers, a manual briquette machine is appropriate, because it requires less capital and technical know-how to operate and maintain. By using a manual screw briquette press, one can make between 100 to 150 briquettes a day. Therefore, to provide a village with enough briquettes to serve their heating needs, at least, 60 manual briquette presses will be needed for a start. Then subsequently, we will measure the impact and know when to scale up.

Simply put, opportunity costs determine the choice of what we do on daily basis and how we spend our time. For women to get involved in briquette making, they will need to reduce the time spent on existing businesses and maybe forgo their relaxation at leisure hours. However, the access to constant affordable clean cooking energy and considerable profit inherent in the business is encouraging. For the time frame to be devoted to using the press, it will be dependent on individual discretions. Though our team will constantly support them to be committed to the activity so as to meet up with the daily fuel requirements of the people.

On behalf of RenewDrive team, I say thank you for your time.

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