Many Ugandans are not familiar with the SDGs, and those that have heard of them picture a complex, international project meant only for those in the United Nations or government to implement. This was the case too for the youth we work with before they became engaged in our Waste to Energy Youth Project. It is our aim to change this lack of knowledge and to deliver action at the community level.
I came to fully understand the concept of the SDGs during a youth-focused conference called the International Student Energy Summit 2015, which took place in Bali when I was just 20 years old. It was an energy summit and therefore most of the emphasis was on SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 13 (Climate Action), but the interaction with other goals was clearly apparent from the outset. I attended a couple of intriguing sessions on bio-energy, which sparked an idea about how I could contribute to the clean energy movement. Upon returning to Uganda, I started my research on fuel briquette production from organic waste and appropriate stove technologies. Two years later, I am running the Waste to Energy Youth Project and WEYE Clean Energy Company.
WEYE stands for Waste to Energy Youth Enterprise because the company produces carbonized fuel briquettes from agricultural waste materials, and municipal organic waste from households and food markets. This company is not the first to make briquettes, but what is unique is that we produce our briquettes from organic waste materials and we supply our products to institutions. Institutions use 80% of firewood harvested in Uganda, and with our new institutional briquette stove technology using our quality briquettes, these institutions can now use briquettes, thus reducing demand for firewood and consequently reducing deforestation in Uganda. I feel it is my duty to do anything in my ability to promote affordable and clean energy access for all (SDG 7) and these institutions make up the majority share of Uganda that had no access to clean energy.
These institutions, including schools, universities, vocational institutions, hospitals and many more, lacked the appropriate stove technology to enable them to use clean cooking briquettes as an alternative to firewood. Despite the presence of solar, hydro power and gas as alternative sources of cooking energy, fuel briquettes are the most affordable and efficient alternatives for these institutions at this point in time. The new stove and our briquettes enable institutions to transition from firewood to clean smokeless briquettes, reducing deforestation for firewood and the respiratory complications faced by cooks from burning firewood.
During the pilot study, the results from St. Kizito High School – the first school to adopt our technology – were amazing. The school registered an annual financial saving of over US$2500, a 40% reduction in cooking time and increased job satisfaction among the cooking staff due to the healthy, clean and smokeless cooking conditions.
Our project uses organic waste from farmers and food markets such as maize combs, banana peelings and many others, which were considered useless. We offer the farmers and waste collectors monetary value for this organic waste and give them a new avenue to generate income, boosting the agricultural and waste management sectors. If this business is expanded, it has a potential to open up new entrepreneurial opportunities in organic waste collection and sorting for briquette production. Apart from the profit to the owner, with a minimum of five customers, this business has the potential of directly and indirectly employing over 40 individuals in waste collection, sorting, production, marketing, distribution and finance. With a potential market of over 20,000 institutions, the company runs a training program to train youth and women with the skills in briquette making to take advantage of the government youth fund to start up their own briquette companies, because the market is too big for one company to satisfy. This 20,000 institution potential market has the potential to create over 80,000 new jobs for youth and women. Apart from the income generation and employment benefits, we also have the environment (forests and shrubs) preservation aspect.
The project is mainly aimed to contribute to achieving SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), but also greatly contributes to SDG 8 (Decent work and Economic growth) by providing an alternative economic activity and source of income for youth. SDG 5 (Gender Equality) is a key focus because our training programs have women as a key target market, as well as youth. SDG 15 (Life on Land) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) are also addressed, by providing an alternative to wood fuel, thus saving forests and their inhabitants.
We all can affect SDG implementation on not just one but multiple goals if we start with what we have. By focusing on our communities and the solutions that lie within, we can achieve the SDGs.
To learn more about this project visit https://weyiuganda.wordpress.com/
References: International Institute for Sustainable Development. (2018). Retrieved from http://sdg.iisd.org/commentary/generation-2030/youth-taking-on-sdg-implementation-in-uganda/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2018-01-18%20-%20SDG%20Update%20AE&utm_content=2018-01-18%20-%20SDG%20Update%20AE%20CID_f005912d15a188348e6667aa28821ed1&utm_source=cm&utm_term=Youth%20Taking%20on%20SDG%20Implementation%20in%20Uganda