According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Global Forest Resources Assessment (2005) and the State of the World’s Forests (2005, 2003, 2001) between 1990 and 2000, Kenya lost an average of 12,600 hectares of forest per year resulting in 5% of its forest cover. Between 1990 and 2005, 2% of its forest and woodland habitat was lost.Unsurprisingly, much of the logging witnessed in Kenya was as a result of the overreliance on firewood as a source of energy by both industrial and domestic sectors.
Ken Kamau, the Founder and Managing Director at Olkaria Bio Limited, was influenced by the deplorable state in which Kenya’s forest cover was steadily diminishing. This led him to seek alternatives to the use of firewood, a popular source of fuel, especially among the rural folk. He founded the company in 2015 to produce briquettes made from recycling agricultural waste.
The process that goes into the production of the briquettes begins with the collection of the agricultural waste from millers and local farmers. It consists of sugar cane bagasse, sawdust and coffee husks as well as rice husks. The waste is then dried at very high temperatures to less than 8% moisture content. Thereafter it is compressed at very high pressure to form biomass briquettes.
Some of their major clients are Bata Shoes, Kenafric Industries, Kenya Tea Development Agency Holdings Limited, Allpack Industries Limited as well as a host of boarding schools such as Jamhuri High School in Nairobi.
According to the Kenya Briquette Industry Study (2010), briquettes produced from alternative raw materials, which would otherwise have no other use, such as bagasse, coffee and maize residues or saw dust provide a more sustainable alternative to firewood and charcoal. Olkaria’s biomass briquettes are carbon neutral therefore environmental friendly as opposed to firewood which emits a huge amount of carbon resulting in air pollution.
Ken’s explains, “My vision is to promote the adoption of advanced biofuels for energy security and sustainable development of our nation as a climate change solution.”
Olkaria Bio Limited is a client of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre, where they are under the incubation programme. Some of the services they receive are business development, trainings and networking opportunities to potential investors.
Some of the new developments at Olkaria are their recent admission to the membership of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers where they will get free exposure to other manufacturers and therefore potential buyers of biomass briquettes.