Unlocking the Potential of Green CHArcoal in Northern Uganda (UPCHAIN)

Project summary

Solid fuel cooking, mainly firewood and charcoal, is a major source of carbon emissions, deforestation and respiratory diseases in sub-Saharan Africa but it’s production is also an important economic activity and a major source of employment. The UPCHAIN project (Unlocking the Potential of Green Charcoal Innovations to Mitigate Climate Change in Northern Uganda) is researching the development of briquettes, or “green charcoal” based on carbonized agricultural residues as an alternative to firewood and black charcoal. Although the production technology and the commercial chains are the same as for producing wooden charcoal, it does not cause deforestation. The char produced is mixed with an organic glue, and briquettes are molded either manually or using semi-mechanized production systems. The comparative advantages of briquettes usage in terms of costs, quality and employment creation can be exploited through research aimed at stopping deforestation, reducing carbon emissions, reducing smoke-induced health issues, while simultaneously creating local employment.
The briquettes production technology is available and can still be further improved, but in order to increase the adoption of this energy solution, there is need to understand more profoundly the cultural barriers and drivers and the contextualised market conditions for the innovations. Through research on the practical experimentations and learning related to the needs and demands from the end-users regarding green charcoal, UPCHAIN will study the transition of cooking traditions in households and schools, with emphasis on livelihood improvements including health, as well as time savings for women and children.
Although the potential of green charcoal as a promising alternative to black charcoal because it is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable has been demonstrated, there is a need for research based knowledge, identifying the right development drivers and incentives to ensure its integration into solid fuel cooking, its contribution towards deforestation reduction, and ultimately mitigation of climate change.


First year report
The objectives
To produce a validated research base that interlinks and integrates the interdependent factors: technical, environmental, cultural, socio-economic, business, learning and livelihood on the adoption of green charcoal by end-users.
To develop locally contextualised green charcoal production and innovation models and roadmaps that can be adopted by private sector and public schools in Uganda.

The status for outputs
Seven WPs have been established, and populated with senior researchers from GU, KU and AAU. Six PhDs and ten (out of 12) master students have been recruited and enrolled. Baseline studies carried out with users, producers and schools. Test lab is being installed at GU and the production units in Pabbo. During the second year the research will move into the experimentation and implementation phase.

Status for partnerships and joint activities
Successful launch engaging stakeholders, partners, university management, teachers and students. The partnership is well established. A robust management, research structure and hybrid/physical format has been adopted. The multidisciplinary research teams are developing a common ground for researching green charcoal innovation. Secondary partners are endorsing the project. Media and artwork are integrated in the project from start.
Awareness of alternatives as green charcoal production and use are raising - a community of practice on green charcoal innovation are under development with the university as driver.

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