Center for Sustainable Energy Technologies

Center for Sustainable Energy Technologies
Increasing Efficiency and Reducing Deforestation and Waste in Charcoal Production
Monrovia, Republic of Liberia

In Liberia over 90% of the population relies primarily on charcoal for cooking. But with the production and use of charcoal comes devastating and negative impact on health outcomes (disproportionately impacting women and children), the environment, and requires harsh and often dangerous labor conditions. Because the use of charcoal will likely take a generation to eliminate communities are working to create more efficient ways of using charcoal and reduce the amount of deforestation needed to produce the necessary cooking fuel.

Project Concept
In Grand Bassa, County, a peri-Urban area outside of the capital city of Monrovia, the Center for Sustainable Energy Technologies (CSET) was given a grant to pilot the construction of a community kiln (for cooking charcoal) and the creation of a community-based social enterprise. Run by the community, the charcoal yield from the kiln would be sold and the income used for reinvestment in the enterprise and providing much needed social services and community revitalization.

Current Outcomes
After testing and retesting the kiln that was purchased for the project, the engineers found design flaws that ultimately reduced production efficiency and thereby reduced the expected charcoal yield. This resulted in a diminished financial return as well. Instead of dismissing the poor outcomes CSET engineers, with their own resources, designed and built a smaller replica of the kiln, remembering the flaws and shortcomings of the original model. With funding from donors, CSET teamed up with more experienced colleagues from Ghana and Senegal, as well as local experts in charcoal production, and is now building two kilns, with different capacities, to conduct scientifically-based testing around efficiency and yield. Future plans include partnership with two rural communities, and one peri-urban community for education, training and the revival of the social enterprise, but this time in three diverse communities and environments to better determine need, usage, and adaptation.