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AS Zambia and the rest of Africa is becoming more aware about climate change and its effects, a number of innovative ways are being initiated and undertaken to mitigate it devastating effects on the environment.

One such is the recycling of sawdust into wood briquette, which has a higher energy value than the same quantity of firewood it comes from.

The briquette, which almost takes on the burning behaviour of coal, can be used instead of coal or wood in domestic solid-fuel stoves as well as in industrial furnaces like those in the mines.

In developed countries, it is being recycled and is seen as a way of reducing the volume of waste to save on storage and haulage costs.

Sawdust is considered a waste material in Zambia, which is why there are heaps and heaps of it where timber companies operate across the country.

However, not all waste is non beneficial and one waste management company Daj-oy Manufactures in Ndola is recycling sawdust. It is run by environmental passionate family youths who are trying to mitigate the effects of climate change in Zambia.

Eighteen year old deputy director and United Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) trained climate change ambassador Jack Kafwanka explains the sawdust waste management programme and its relevance in terms of preserving the environment.

He explains that the role of his company is to manage sawdust from saw millers and adding value to it so as to enable it contribute to environmental sustainability in view of the advocacy against climate change due to the alarming rate of deforestation specifically by charcoal burners who cut down trees for charcoal in this part of the world.

The destruction left behind is frightening but we are conscious also that even as we cry about charcoal, the charcoal burners are getting something to meet their livelihoods. The question is how do we replace charcoal and still sustain their livelihoods?

This is where our project comes in, charcoal burners divert into a more productive livelihood by working for the environment (through us) they have for so long suffered making up for the wrong they did to Mother Nature. They will be entitled to tree planting as part of their employment package.

He notes that the initiative was started because over the years there has been a good balance which has allowed flourishing of human and other forms of life on this planet but that balance is now being disturbed due to greenhouse gases being accumulated in the atmosphere.

These gases trap the outgoing radiation from the earth which results in global warming leading to catastrophic climate imbalances. All this is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, petroleum, coal which upon burning give out carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxides and accumulate in the atmosphere giving rise to this problem. Deforestation is where we felt the healing of our planet can begin just by saving one tree at a time will make the biggest difference. How? you might ask… by adding value to sawdust and making charcoal saving trees from being cut down hence providing an eco-friendly alternative fuel which advocates for aforestation, green environment and pollution control.

The initiate is a family business as Mr Kafwanka notes. “My siblings hold posts in management. My brother Travis who was responsible for acquiring the loan is the chief executive officer; the Youth Investment Trust of Zambia (YAPYA) being our funders and UNICEF is coming on board to provide support too,” he explains.

The company’s main products are wood briquette, charcoal briquette and bio-fuel and that it produces about six tones plus per eight hour shift. The products are used as fuels to provide energy. The wood briquette is used by industries, mines, hospitality businesses to heat boilers, furnaces and stoves etc as well as barbeques for flame grilled meat, whereas the charcoal briquette is used for household cooking, heating etc with an added advantage which is they last longer, burn with lots of energy and the best part of it all it produces no smoke or fumes and the ash content is minimal-can be used as lime.

The process of recycling saw dust is that when it is collected from sawmills it is brought to the plant for processing which is sieving then its dried to reach the favorable moisture content then its heated and compressed into a wood briquette. Stage two, after the manufacture of the wood briquette its then put in a carbonization kiln for a specific time to carbonize into charcoal.

How then is the project helping in mitigating climate change in Zambia? Mr Kafwanka explains that first of all through the initiative, trees would be saved which means there would no carbon emissions to be emitted into the atmosphere meaning global warming shall also cease. This action will entail that the rainfall patterns would be on schedule and the agriculture sector being a cornerstone of Zambia’s economy would greatly improve and in turn stabilize the economy. With a stabilised economy, poverty levels would be reduced and more jobs would be created thereby equipping citizens with purchasing power. Therefore the sky is the limit to what this project would unfold through the mitigation of climate change in Zambia. His company collects its saw dust from timber and wood processors who are the saw-millers.

The market base for the company include households, hospitality businesses, mines and industries using furnaces’, wood stoves and coal boilers.

How serious then is the issue of climate change in Zambia? Climate change affects regions differently. For Zambia its impacts include increased intensity and frequency of floods and droughts, declining agricultural productivity, reduced hydropower potential altered ecosystems and the spread of vector diseases such as malaria to new areas.

The country is already experiencing some of these impacts as seen from increased flooding and droughts in certain parts the country resulting in damage of agricultural crops, infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and displacements of people with loss of their homes, belongings and livelihoods.

Climate change can thus reverse many of the gains made in various sectors of the national economy, especially efforts aimed at reducing poverty and hunger. It is estimated that by 2015 300,000 poor Zambians would be affected by climate change pushing them far below the poverty datum-line.

Maize being Zambia’s staple food, any slight change in temperatures affects the crop gets and the impact on the lives of the people is so grave. If severe weather conditions continue, it will affect one of Zambia’s most critical economic sectors, tourism which spots Zambia’s famous natural wonder; the mighty Victoria Falls which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is estimated that if extreme weather changes continue going unabated in about 50 years all that will remain of this revered sight will be an empty raven of rock.

It is also sad to note that Zambia ranks 2nd as the most deforested country in the world taking position among the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change.

As Climate Ambassador, Mr Kafwanka said such a role has drawn him close to where the problem begins. With it he says he wields the power to change the course of things relating to climate change because he now understands where deforestation comes from, what it leads to and what damage it can cause to the environment. “I am presented with an opportunity to do something to change the fate of our planet by securing the life of trees and making sure that our product is manufactured and put on the market to replace the major cause of deforestation (charcoal),” he said.

He said that the Unite for Climate Initiative has redefined everything he knew about climate change and has provided him a dynamic perspective of how to approach climate change issues with facts and effective sensitisation methods. He has the knowledge on how to mitigate as well as adapt to climate change and that he is able to teach upcoming ambassadors what he has learnt and also share what he was doing through his company.

The relevance of the initiative to mitigating effects of climate change cannot be overemphasized. The project is cleaning up sawdust in terms of waste management which if dumped and burned produces methane a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. The project would save trees from being cut down for charcoal by charcoal burners by employing them to work with us and uphold the goal to save and plant trees.

Mr Kafwanka notes that the vision of his company is to expand, conduct extensive research on alternative clean energy to better its product by adding value to it so that it goes far and wide in touching many lives in Zambia and earth at large.

The initiative is of course without challenges; among them is the lack of support from the Government to meet the project half way in its needs in order for it to sail swiftly in the rough waters of the corporate world and behavioral change awareness programmes from environmental bodies to assist in discouraging the use of coal, charcoal and firewood.

The youths have therefore began one of the most enterprising businesses which, will boost Zambia’s economy and change the countrys’ image to the world at large being the third world and developing country. With an initial capital of U$150,000, Mr Kafwanka hopes to replicate the initiative by establishing briquetting manufacturing plants in all the nine provinces of Zambia. The company also intends to penetrate the export market through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) to neighboring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for the Eastern and Southern African (COMESA) regions and beyond. With the strides made by the local company in fighting the effects of climate change, it is only befitting that the Government and other stakeholders encourage such initiatives if the natural looming catastrophe is to be overcome.