In the DRC, micro-enterprises collect wood residues to make ecological coal


As reported by the CIFOR, women entrepreneurs are collecting wood waste from the Compagnie Forestière de Transformation (CFT) to produce makala (charcoal). Their goal: provide a sustainable option for cooking meals to the residents of Kisangani, the third largest urban center in the DRC. The Compagnie Forestière de Transformation is a member of the ATIBT.

©Axel Fassio / CIFOR

For nearly ten years, Fatouma Otoke has been running a micro-enterprise that recovers wood waste to produce ecological charcoal. The Compagnie Forestière et de Transformation (CFT), provides her with the necessary raw material. In exchange for a small fee, employees help cut the wood waste into small pieces. Fatouma Otoke only has to collect them and transport them to a nearby field, where she can build a millstone for carbonization. There, organic makala is made: it has the advantage of being an ecological fuel.


Fatouma Otoke's company is well known among consumers, even though the biochar she sells is slightly more expensive than regular makala. She attributes part of her success to her location along the road that connects the airport to the city. In addition, she explains : " the tropical hardwood used in the CFT sawmill produces excellent quality charcoal that burns longer ". Organic makala emits significantly less gas than regular charcoal when cooked.


Like Fatouma Otoke, 20 other women are involved in the same economic activity of collecting wood waste from the sawmill to produce and sell charcoal. While they previously operated as individual producers, since 2020 they have received support from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the European Union to join together in the Association des femmes valorisatrices des déchets de scierie (AFEVADES). The objective is to help them increase their share of the local wood energy market, notably by organizing participatory training. Fatouma Otoke, who was elected president of the association, says that "pooling our resources allows us to become more profitable and to develop our activities”. Members are now saving money by jointly hiring people for the heaviest tasks and renting equipment. With the extra income, they can send their children to school and support their households.


For CFT, reducing waste is part of its corporate social responsibility: "As part of our efforts for long-term sustainability, we started in 2013 to sell our wood waste for a small fee to women, and with this money, we finance other environmental and social activities," explains Karim Ammacha, CFT manager.

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