Firewood and firewood charcoal account for a significant proportion of the fuel used by both households and businesses in many developing contexts – for example in Burkina Faso it is around 80%. At the same time these same contexts can be experiencing high levels of deforestation. This can also mean that people, typically women, spend increasing amounts of their day collecting firewood as sources get more and more scarce and difficult to find.
Charcoal produces more energy than it takes to make. If it is manufactured from agricultural waste then it can also help tackle deforestation by displacing the use of firewood or firewood charcoal as a fuel, as well as reducing the release of greenhouse gases that might otherwise occur as a result of decomposition. It too can be consumed or sold to generate an income.
Cracking the cashew nut waste challenge in Africa
(2016 – present)
Fullwell Transform has developed a low-cost, low-tech solution that allows the manufacture of high quality charcoal from cashew shell waste.
Currently, cashew shell waste is our priority feedstock in carbonising research. Cashew shells are considered as waste by most African SME cashew processing units and can become harmful to the environment when not properly disposed of – as is usually the case in Africa. However, this waste has huge potential to be developed into a number of value-added products, as it contains an interesting phenolic oil called Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) from which brake linings, paints and vulcanizing agents can be developed. It can also be used as a bio-fuel. CNSL is already a green chemical utility worldwide, mainly manufactured in Vietnam and India, where the cashew industry is more developed. However, for most African SME cashew processing units, cashew shell derived products are not a feasible option.
The kiln developed by Fullwell Transform has been designed to also allow for the recovery of CNSL. Fullwell Transform is also exploring the development of all the CNSL by-products mentioned above, along with international research actors like 2iE in Burkina Faso and the University of Zaragova in Spain.
This work is initially being focused on women’s groups in rural Burkina Faso, but the affordability and simplicity of the technology means it has huge potential to be replicated and scaled across Africa in areas where cashews are processed and waste is available. The technology could be designed, as we are doing in Burkina Faso, to benefit both African SME cashew processing units and micro-scale enterprises, which in turn can be focused on women. This is all in addition to the positive environmental impact the technologies have.
We also have interest in extending our carbonising research to other feedstock to reduce deforestation, reduce greenhouse emissions and also help support the livelihoods and lives of women in particular.