Tendai Tsakiwa Features Writer
IN these days of incessant power outages especially in urban communities in Zimbabwe, the battle for alternative fuel has almost become the inevitable battle for survival, itself. Driven by the ancient rhythm of life to survive, human beings have been forced to have a paradigm shift from
modern fuel consumption anchored on electricity to other sources of power, and as fate would have it, flora has suffered.
While the hunt has cost more than many people would have budgeted for a few years back, people now have to live with the sad reality of the phenomena of shortages at hand and the endless search for alternative sources of power on the other.
Unfortunately, it has been the environment that has largely taken the most battering as wood remains the most readily available, cheapest and most accessible source.
Well, pretty soon, it may no longer be and that the search for alternatives could be a mortal battle.
According to one journal, between 1990 and 2005, Zimbabwe lost 21 percent of its forests and might have no significant primary forest remaining.
Deforestation rates have increased by 16 percent since the end of the 1990s and Zimbabwe was one of the top 10 countries for deforestation between 2000 and 2006.
Last year, Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema, expressed fears that Zimbabwe was on the brink of desertification with reports indicating that the deforestation rate is around 330 000 hectares per year.
Emphasising the importance of preserving forests, Minister Nhema noted that wood energy was the source for over two billion people worldwide and about 90 percent of Zimbabweans.
With the obtaining uncertainty over alternatives, coal dust could provide the answer.
Abandoned mounds of coal waste evidenced around the country’s coalfields can now be easily recycled into an abundant source of energy, clearing the environment for other infrastructural and developmental uses.
This is the discovery of a local company, that has seen the potential of the resource and now have devised a solid fuel stove, they have wittily called “Tatata”.
Tatata is a colloquial term for “living pretty”.
While doubts there can be whether a power-famished country like Zimbabwe can live pretty as of now, the innovation will go a long way in alleviating challenged at household level.
Mrs Kuda Manyepwa, director of the company, is happy with the innovation and believes days of empty stomachs at household level are over.
She had seen a lot and an eye-opening visit to South Africa provided an idea of how coal dust could be used as fuel.
Last year, she approached the Hwange Colliery where she made arrangements to collect coal dust which her company would compress into briquettes that will then be shipped to Harare.
The briquettes are placed into customised stoves, which come in single or multiple plates.
“I used the innovation myself. With these briquettes I no longer had any problems cooking for my family. I then nicknamed my new found solution ‘tatata’,” she
Manyepwa has since started engaging various stakeholders at national level to alleviate energy problems mostly faced by the populace.
“Tatata solid fuel seeks to address deforestation, indoor pollution, save most rural people from using cow dung as an alternative for firewood,” says Manyepwa.
She added: “Apart from avoiding carbon dioxide emissions by reduced wood, kerosene and charcoal consumption, the project contributes to sustainable development in many ways. All three aspects of sustainability are promoted; the environmental, the social and the economic side. As far as environmental sustainability is concerned, the major gain is the avoidance of overexploitation of the forests. Thus the forest resources are protected and biodiversity is conserved. An improvement in social sustainability is a
chieved through reductions in smoke, time saved in collecting fuel and improved access to energy for the poorer members of the community.”
The use of tatata solid fuel is environmentally friendly and cheaper than all fuels, even firewood!
A tatata briquette, weighing 500 grammes, lasts three hours.
This fuel is said to reduce carbon monoxide emission by 80 percent and burns for the three hours without producing smoke (and no soot on the pots, in case that worries those charged with cleaning them).
In addition it produces carbon monoxide for only the first two minutes after lighting.
Carbon emissions notably carbon dioxide are part of a collection of gases that negatively affect the quality of our air and increase the greenhouse effect.
The greenhouse effect refers to a virtual blanket-like cover over the atmosphere that gases form, which prevent carbon monoxide from escaping.
Greenhouse gases have direct influence on the environment, causing extreme weather changes, a global temperature increase, the loss of ecosystems and a
potential hazardous health for people.
The ash from tatata is as good as compound D fertiliser.
The fuel has a reduced risk of fire accidents caused by paraffin, gas and gel.
The Environmental Management Agency has been urging sustainable utilisation and protection of Zimbabwe’s environmental goods and services.
Meanwhile, authorities continue the hunt for alternatives as energy challenges have adversely been affecting the overall performance of the economy.
The manufacturing and agricultural sectors have not been spared by this shortcoming.
Professor Christopher Chetsanga, is on record as saying methane gas from different sources has to be tapped as fossil fuels are soon to deplete while biogas, which is green energy, can be the solution for the country’s power shortages.
The use of biogas also known as mash gas, landfill gas or digester gas, depending on the site it has been produced, can be part of the answer to the country’s perennial energy challenges.
Urban areas have been seriously affected by energy challenges and yet these areas have the potential of producing large amounts of biogas as they have the feedstock for biogas plants in the form of sewage.
Biogas is produced by anaerobic digestion or fermentation of organic matter such as manure, sewage sludge, municipal waste, or bio-degradable waste at temperatures between 3 and 70 degrees Celsius.
With the big sewage treatment plants in the country, especially in large cities like Harare, the production of biogas becomes a more viable project, which the city council and the private sector can invest in.