Farmers: Our model starts with marginalized farmers who are trained for three days and then after the training given kilns made out of old oil drums on a lease-to-own basis. They use these kilns to carbonize their agricultural waste to make a product called char. About 80% of this char is sold directly to EFA and each farmer earns at least $30/month in additional income from selling char to EFA. The average income of farmers in places where we work is $15/month. Therefore, the additional income farmers get by joining our project is double of what they would ordinarily earn. Currently EFA works with 3,500 farmers in Uganda. The char that farmers do not sell to EFA which is about 20% of the char they make, is retained and EFA trains these farmers to mix it with compost to make an organic fertilizer called bio-char which they then put in their farms to increase their agricultural productivity. This has helped over 3,500 farmers in Uganda to increase their food harvests by over 50%. This has also reduced malnutrition and increased food security. Below is how our kiln looks like:
As you can see from the photo above, our kilns are portable. Therefore, farmers can easily carry them on a bicycle to the farm and carbonize their agricultural waste as they also carry out their normal digging. Women can also operate the kilns as they cook or wash clothes at home. Therefore, being part of our project does not interrupt lifestyles of our farmers. It only gives them a chance to earn extra income as they continue with their normal routine and lifestyle. Also, because using our kilns is not physically exhausting, they can easily be used by women and elderly farmers. As a matter of fact, 40% of the farmers (1,400 farmers) in our network are women. This is creating opportunities for marginalized women farmers and empowering communities.
Manufacturing: EFA then turns the char bought from farmers into fuel briquettes which are sold under the brand of “Green Charcoal”. We make fuel briquettes using locally made, easy to use briquetting technology. We tailored our technology to local circumstances to ensure that it can be operated and maintained by local people with no or little formal education. This enables us to employ local people at the base of the pyramid like women with no formal education and no marketable skills and who would ordinarily be unemployable. With basic training, these women and youths are able to use our technology and as a result, we have created sustainable jobs for people that would otherwise not be able to find a job. This is changing lives and empowering communities.
Photo of two female employees of EFA operating briquetting machines.
Creating jobs for women at the base of the pyramid has enabled these women to take care of their families, improved the status of these women in their communities and reduced gender based violence.
Network of Women Distributors: EFA then sells its briquettes back to communities through a network of women micro-retailers. EFA selects these women retailers locally with the help of local leaders. Selected women are trained for 3 days and at the end of the training, EFA builds a kiosk for each of the women which they use as a retail shop to sell EFA’s briquettes in their local communities. Already, EFA has created a network of 2,300 women retailers in Uganda. Each of these women retailers earns at least $152/month. This is lower middle class income in Uganda and is more than what the government of Uganda pays primary school teachers. Below is a photo of one of EFA’s women retailers at her kiosk:
As you can see from the photo above, EFA’s women retailers sell other items like fruits and vegetables in addition to EFA’s briquettes at the kiosks. At the start, the women sell only EFA’s fuel briquettes but with time, they start saving up some money from retailing EFA’s briquettes and use it to diversify their retail business and eventually EFA’s kiosks turn into micro-grocery stores in the village. This is creating market for local farmers. Previously, local farmers could not easily access markets but now, they easily sell their harvests through our women retailers.
Below is a summary of our business model: