Access To Innovation Project

Fabricating a Briquette Making Machine [briquette machine]


Project Description

The energy needs of over half of Africa’s population is met by firewood and charcoal (wood fuel). This, apart from being inefficient, has a significant impact on the environment and human health. The impact of climate change is evident, especially in northern Uganda, which is severely challenged. In the last decade, temperatures have risen, the weather has become unstable, leading to climate-related poverty. The need for energy will intensify as Uganda’s population is increasing. The most affected are women and children, spending up to 20 hours per week searching for firewood. In northern Uganda, a region recovering from over 20 years of civil unrest and at the same time facing massive influx of refugees from neighbouring countries, the situation is exacerbated by severe ecological consequences, resulting in conflicts with the host communities.

While climate change mitigation often is rather long-range, transition to other energy sources such as green charcoal has the potential of an immediate mitigation effect. The green charcoal we are referring to here are briquettes based on residues from agriculture.  In spite of clear advantages of green charcoal as one of the solutions to sustainable, locally produced and secure energy resources, the adoption as a substitute for firewood and charcoal remains sparse. In northern Uganda approximately 1% of the energy use is based on green charcoal. While the environmental and socio-economic benefits of a large-scale transition to green charcoal are well-described, a systematic analysis of the key socio-cultural, technical and economic barriers and drivers for a local transition is lacking.

In the Northern Uganda Green Charcoal Innovation (NUGCI) we take up this challenge focusing on a specific aspect of the green charcoal value chain transition - the local production, marketing and cultural barriers and drivers for the adoption of briquettes based on agricultural waste. 
Our research will focus on actors, positions and emerging markets, exploring significant ways in which Gulu University resources and local community needs and resources come together to promote this emerging green charcoal value chain, and ultimately, to mitigate the climate impact of cooking and other energy use in a particular social and economic context.
To research into these entangled questions in the context of northern Uganda, a multi-disciplinary research team has been established from Gulu, Aalborg, and Copenhagen Universities, combining technical and environmental; educational and cultural; business and livelihood expertise as well as strong insights into and access to the local context.

Objectives and results expected

The objectives of NUGCI are therefore to:
  1. Create a comprehensive knowledge base that interlinks and integrates the interdependent factors: technological, environmental, cultural, socio-economic, business and livelihood on the adoption of green charcoal by end-users
  2. Develop a locally contextualised green charcoal production model and roadmap that can be adopted by private sector and public schools in Uganda.


NUGCI is founded in “expansive learning” that takes outset in the historical and actual situation of a phenomenon under change, identifying tensions and preparing interventions and trials (“change labs”) in real-life settings as springboards for transitions. The method provides a systemic and multi-voiced framework for understanding a complex transformation process as well as participatory methods for interacting and integrating the various stakeholder and research perspectives through “knot-working”.

The “change lab” is based in the innovative Green Charcoal Production Unit (GCPU) at Gulu University, which has been established with support from Building Stronger Universities programme. The GCPU uses agricultural residues, local manpower and fabrication techniques. The major components of the facility comprise: (1) a portable bio-char retort kiln, (2) a size reduction (grinding) unit, (3) a mixture and (4) a briquette extruder. Further, a research test facility including a thermo gravimetric analyser will be established at the GCPU at GU.

As part of the “change lab” three trials establishing GCPUs will take place in: (1) Paboo (Amuru district), (2) Purongo (Nwoya district) and (3) Gulu City. Paboo and Purongo are fast growing agricultural centres with rapidly increasing businesses emanating from the agriculture sector, producing piles of agricultural wastes. Paboo is mainly inhabited by smallholder farmers while Purongo is dominated by large scale farmers. The Gulu City trial will capture the segmentation of market adoption.

The GCPUs serve as meeting and interactions points for the population and the researchers. Here, documented observations and recorded interaction with entrepreneurs, schools, and households will take place, linking to for example, carbonisation and briquette-making processes, to cooking traditions and fuel use, and to marketability. These interlinkages ensure that we capture and are able to explore changing community experience, which is a central focus of the research.   The fabrication of machines for Gulu City is now complete. We are sourcing funds for fabricating similar machines for Pabo and Purongo sites and additional funds to support the research component of the project.

The NUGCI contributes through research capacity building to Gulu University. Outcomes will be training of five PhDs and 10 masters, revising the curriculum of three masters programmes, developing a green charcoal educational model for entrepreneurship, and engaging with two technical schools in the region to contribute to the green charcoal innovation process.

NUGCI contributes direct to: SDG 13 on climate mitigation at village and city level; SDG 1 on poverty; SDG 7 on provision of clean and affordable energy, SDG 5 on gender; SDG 12 on improved livelihood in communities; SDG 4 on improved quality in education, and SDG 17 on triple-helix partnerships.


2.788030336610342, 32.316860868306385
Building Stronger Universities (BSU)
P.O.Box 166, Gulu (U)
Research Team
  1. Dr. Collins Okello - Faculty of Agriculture and Environment - Team Leader

  2. Eng. Benedict Ebangu Orari - Department of Biosystems Engineering - Electrical

  3. EngineerMr. Peter Mwa Okot -  Department of Biosystems Engineering - Mechanical Engineer

  4. Mr. Fredrick Amanyire - Department of Biosystems Engineering - Renewable Energy Engineer
  5. Dr. Agatha Alidri – BSU Project Coordinator


Building Stronger Universities (BSU)-Gulu is a multifaceted programme aimed at strengthening research capacity at Gulu University in northern Uganda