KIBUMBA, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo - In North Kivu, the World Food Programme feeds the hungry but also contributes to the protection of the environment and creates jobs through a recycling project.
Immaculée Buleze (45) is one of the women involved in this initiative. Working with her young daughter on her back, her job is to push a thick paste made of recycled wood and paper into a cylindrical tube. She then takes the tube and places it under a wooden compressor. A young man sets the machine in motion, water is added and the mixture thickens. This operation is repeated twice before the tube is pulled off the machine. The result: several briquettes, each of them separated by a metal ring. They are laid out to dry in the open air for three days and then packed in bags, ready for sale! “The briquettes are a good substitute for charcoal and firewood”, explains Immaculee. “We use them to cook with energy efficient stoves”.
The paper used to make the briquettes mostly comes from used WFP bags collected at two food distribution sites. WFP fabric bags are also recycled and used to pack and transport the briquettes. Some of the fuel is used to cook meals for children in primary schools supported by WFP and the rest is sold at the market in Goma.
The briquette initiative was launched in August 2008 by the Congolese Wildlife Authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature) to create job opportunities and to protect the nearby Virunga National Park. This park, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is home to a wide variety of animals, including rare mountain gorillas. “WFP's support for this project is an outstanding example of how recycling works to halt deforestation and improve livelihoods around the park,” says programme manager Balemba Balagizi.
The project is managed by the Africa Conservation Fund and the work is done by villagers who set up associations and receive training in briquette production. The workers are mainly women previously involved in charcoal making. They work in groups of four and are provided with a press machine. With the exception of the recycled WFP bags, the raw material is collected by the group members.
Lives Changed by the Project
This project has changed the lives of women like Immaculée Buleze. “In the past, I used to walk into the forest to collect firewood and make charcoal”, she said. “That’s how I fed my children and paid for their school fees but going into the forest was risky. Now I do not need to do that anymore because I can meet my family’s needs with the money I earn from the briquettes”.
Since the beginning of the project, managers say charcoal production, which involves cutting and burning trees, has been reduced by about 10 percent. Income generated by the project, as well as the fact that women do not have to spend time looking for firewood, also means that children spend more time with their mothers and have more to eat.