The challenges of deforestation, pollution and habitat destruction continue to rise at high speed in majority of the emerging cities of Tanzania. Mainly this is because majority of the population in emerging cities, towns and in the rural areas are facing limited sources of energy especially for cooking and other domestic uses. Reports by the Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) indicates that 90% of energy sources originates from forestry which implies that majority continue to depend on charcoal - as the main source of energy for cooking - which in return they are contributing significantly to deforestation and other environmental issues.
Further reports by Tanzania Tree Seed Agency and the Tanzania Forest Services (TFS) and another report shows that increase in population is claiming around 370,00 - 400,000 hectares of forest per year which is equivalent to 8.5-10% of the total forest cover of the country. This significant loss of forest has many implications to the livelihood of the society who depends on agriculture, livestock keeping and fisheries. It contributes directly to air pollution e.g. emission of carbon dioxide, increased soil erosion, degradation of water sources and disruption of rainfall pattern including inducing draught as can be observed in many parts of Tanzania.
The government has been playing its part by ensuring that it is increasing the access to energy by expanding the network for electricity supply and promoting the use of alternative energy especially for cooking. According to the Rural Energy Agency (REA), until 2017 only 4,395 villages out of the total 12,268 villages in the country had electricity which is equivalent to 36%. Since then (2017) the government started to implement another phase of expanding the network whereby the network is expected to reach 7,934 (65%) by year 2021.
However, these efforts are still not enough to confront the increasing usage of charcoal given the growing population both in rural and urban areas.
Innovators have come up with many cheap alternatives to charcoal whereby one of them are bio briquettes which are recycled from agro and forest waste. The technology of processing these briquettes is not very complicated and if well utilised it can be one of mechanisms for reducing the usage of charcoal(deforestation) and other environmentally unfriendly mechanisms.
In Tanzania, the technology of turning agro and forestry waste into bio briquettes has been imitated, tested and slowly scaling up in cities such as Mwanza.
The UNDP Accelerator Lab Team of Tanzania recently visited one of the companies (Kuni Smart) which are venturing in recycling waste to briquettes. Such companies are not only making money out of such initiatives, but they are solving major environmental challenges facing emerging cities such as Mwanza.
During the visit to Kuni Smart, it was very clear that the technology (the processing machines) been used to recycle waste is very simple, can be manufactured locally and are cheap to run. The next question is if the government is to ban the use of charcoal, is there enough feedstock (waste) for producing these briquettes?
The answer is yes. Given the growing population in emerging cities such as Mwanza, the volume of waste is also growing fast in such it is not matching with the available waste management mechanisms. In that regard, it is important to initiate discussions with different stakeholders, especially the private sector on other sustainable ways of managing waste, and the opportunities that can be created through recycling (Circular Economy) of waste to other products such as bio briquettes, manure, bio gas, etc. This will have many advantages including expanding the life span of the dumping sites, make the cities liveable, reduce deforestation, reduce air and water pollution, etc.
Well, the circular economy is already in Tanzania and it is calling for all stakeholders involved in environmental protection to promote the use of bio briquettes and discourage the use of charcoal and other energy for cooking alternatives which are disturbing the environment. Apart from promotion, stakeholders also need to brainstorm on how we can change such solutions (waste to bio briquettes) to becoming bankable projects that can easily be accelerated country wide.