By Oscar Kakande

From April 30 to May 2, 2024, the Young Farmers’ Federation of Uganda (UNYFA) and the German Association of Rural Women (dlv) hosted a final evaluation workshop in Jinja city for 20 rural women who participated in the international exchange programme cohort 2023.

 The event brought together esteemed guests, including UNYFA’s CEO, Denis Kabiito, dlv’s President, Mrs. Petra Bentkämper, the CEO dlv, Mrs Daniela Ruhe and Executive Board Member of dlv Mrs. Heidrun Diekmann, Gina Krebs and Jennifer Kleemann dlv project officers.

The workshop showcased the women’s transfer exchange projects, which they embarked on after returning from Germany. Sandra Nakayenze, a participant from 2023 cohort, shared her inspiring story of starting a briquette making project to empower women in Sironko and Bulambuli districts with support from dlv.

 “We produce a lot of coffee meaning we have a lot of waste in abundance. So, when we wrote our concept which was later on approved by dlv. We went ahead to identify the trainer within our budget and also collected raw materials that would work best.” said Sandra.

A briquette is a small block made from coal dust or peat, used as fuel. She makes the briquette from coffee waste. They have a higher practical thermal value and much lower ash content (2-10% compared to 20-40% in coal). In fact, they are more efficient, as well as hotter and longer lasting than Firewood. This greater efficiency can be attributed to their low moisture and density.

Sandra’s project has achieved remarkable success, including acquiring equipment from stakeholders, producing briquettes for sale, and attracting partners like the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). The project has created employment opportunities for 15 people, increased revenue, and introduced a reliable and durable product to the market. The briquettes project has led to rise of awareness on deforestation in Eastern Uganda and offered a better alternative for household use. It has had a reachability of over 130 rural women compared to the initial planned number of 100 women thus proving more successful.

“We received recognition from the President of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni during the celebration of the international women’s day in 2023. The most motivating part is that, we have introduced a highly reliable and durable product on the market (briquettes) only at UGX 2000 that can cook for over 5 to 6 hours.” Nakayenze emphasized.

Despite facing challenges like fear, isolation, and limited resources, Sandra overcame them through teamwork, budget adjustments and sharing. The project has participated in exhibitions, meeting the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon Betty Amongi Akena. With community support, the brickets have gained a global market, exporting to Korea and Nairobi. They can be recycled as fertilizers and are known for their long cooking hours, mitigating deforestation in the region.

Sandra’s story is a testament to the impact of the international exchange programme and the potential of rural women to drive sustainable development in their communities.