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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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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.


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.


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.


  • Yes, for two or more years


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


  • Yes


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.


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.


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 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)?


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.


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.


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

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? 


Photo of Babajide Oluwase

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.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Babajide,

Below is some feedback from our experts. We look forward to reading your responses!

You should definitely think through the substitution costs of switching to the briquettes. There also needs to be a clearer statement of how community members will be approached to first start the project and how materials will be gathered/processed (with an acknowledgement of any health issues that may be there with handling such materials). I think this sounds like a good project -- and one that will hopefully be funded/succeed.

It would be great to understand a bit more about how this would work, i.e. what materials are going to be used? Are there production facilities or are the briquettes to be produced at home? Will help be provided to the women to market/sell these briquettes? are there any health concerns with handling such waste that the participants need to be educated about? Do the briquettes give the same amount of burning power as charcoal/fuel -- and will they be as cheap if not cheaper than the alternatives (this is key!)?

You mention connecting with the community and learning that their major concern is flooding, though is PET and flooding are connected to clean energy, specifically this idea?

Photo of Babajide Oluwase

Hi Chioma,

Thank you for the feedbacks.

In approaching the community, we intend to collaborate with an established Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that has initiated one or more community-based project(s) in the area. We will leverage on their existing relationship with the community members, to inform the people about our project, our mission, and how it will sustainably improve their livelihoods. At the long run, we hope this excites them to participate. With the support of the community heads, a team will be formed amongst the community members to serve as link between us and the people.

In the community identified for this project, the major raw material needed is sawdust, and it is abundantly available as waste around the community. The sawdust will be gathered and transferred by our team members and participating community members to areas it will be processed. To make the material gathering and transfer efficient, the sawdust will be packed in sacks (large bag of strong material).

Our approach is to put the community members at the center of the project. We believe that the people who face a particular problem are the ones who hold the key to their answers. The human-centered approach will give room for collective participation and encourage the people to take full ownership of the project.

The heaps of sawdust collected will be processed into briquette form, by using portable 'Fabricated Briquette Press', majorly made from steel. The Press will be designed and fabricated by local welders in the community under the supervision of our amiable team members. And in the course of gathering materials needed for briquette-making, there is no significant health issues attached. Though safety measures will be constantly ensured to protect any one involved from dust and injuries.

From the project inception, the briquette will be processed in an area that is central to the community members. This will enable our team educate and guide the beneficiaries on the nitty-gritty of the project. After comprehensive understanding of the processes involved in briquette-making, the people can start producing in their various homes.

Supposedly, marketing the product will not really be an issue for the women and youth in the community, because we believe they understand their people and the terrain better, and they know what their people will like to hear. Though support will be ensured in form of trainings on 'effective marketing strategies' and maybe provision of required business tools/skills.

As regards the burning power of our product, we are certain that this is where its unique strength lies. RenewDrive has a higher burning power when compared to charcoal/wood fuel, it is cleaner, and above all, it is cheaper than other alternatives because it's made from waste.

Lastly, on the flooding issues and widespread of PET plastic bottles in the community visited, our team identified the phenomena as major environmental challenges in the area. Hopefully, we will someday come up with a sustainable solution to address the issue.

On behalf of the RenewDrive team, I say 'Thank You' for the insightful feedbacks. We really look forward to bringing this project to life.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Hi Babajide,
Thank you for your detailed response! I'm interested to know whether you have a group of people working on this idea - are you a company or organization? Is RenewDrive a name for briquettes exclusively made of sawdust, or are there other materials that could be used?

Do you have a sense about why community members would be interested in participating in making and selling briquettes? What other activities would they be forgoing doing if they were part of this initiative?

It's great that you believe so strongly in collaboration - we want all of our contributors to think of how they are connected to others in their community. Do you have specific NGOs in mind that you might like to partner with?

Photo of Babajide Oluwase

RenewDrive is an initiative that is in the process of becoming a social enterprise. Currently, it involves a four-man team of professionals from Environmental and Engineering fields, who have at different times steered the planning and implementation of various youth-led initiatives. The name RenewDrive was coined from the term 'renewable fuel', and this is simply because the product can be made from various combustible agricultural waste. These include but not limited to dry shrubs, sugarcane bagasse, rice husk, sawdust, corncob, and peanut shells.

Participating in the briquette-making program will help community members make cheaper and more efficient cooking fuel from combustible waste as against the usual charcoal/wood fuel in circulation. Meaning that, when it comes to household cooking energy, they can pay less and cook more. This will in turn enable them to save more. And the other vital benefit is that selling the product can serve as a source of income for unemployed women and youth, and as passive income for those that are employed/self-employed. After all, nothing is wrong with having more than one source of livelihood. They might not necessarily forgo any activity, because the briquette-making program in each community will be as flexible as possible, and to better cover a large section of each community, we will adopt the ‘train-the-trainer’ approach within the community. This will enable the community members to train themselves while we are not there.

As regards the specific NGOs we are likely to partner with to implement the project, we can work with LEAP Africa and YMCA of Lagos because they have an established working relationship with most communities in the region.

Photo of Chioma Ume

Thanks Babajide!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this being today's Featured Contribution!

Photo of Babajide Oluwase

Thank you @openIDEO

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on making it to the Feedback Phase Babajide! We would love it if you can take some time to answer the new Refinement questions that we've added to your original idea submission form. To answer the new questions, hit the Edit Contribution button at the top of your post. Scroll down to the entry fields of the new Refinement questions. Hit Save when you are done editing.

Also, here's a useful tip: When you update the content of your post, it'd be helpful to indicate this in your idea title by adding an extension. For example, you can add the extension " - Update: Experience Maps 11/16" to you idea title. This will be a good way to keep people informed about how your idea is progressing!