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Peat brittle to spare the tree cover

Given that many households in Burundi relies on charcoal for energy, ONATOUR’s peat moss provides a suitable substitute for coal and thus offers valuable environmental and sustainable forest stewardship tools.

Wood provides 100% of Burundi’s housing energy needs. It contributes 95% of the overall national breakdown of energy, and each kilogram of charcoal is derived from the charring of 10 kilograms of wood.

Besides leading to deforestation, charcoal is expensive to obtain. For example, in Bujumbura, a sack of charcoal costs about 38,000 to 40,000 Fbu. Nevertheless, it remains sought after because of its proximity to the market. Yet, Burundi has an abundance of millions of tons of peat, a potential fuel to substitute charcoal.

Surveys carried out so far estimate the total yield of economically viable peat resources at 57 million tons, located in the plateau swamps (Gitanga, Gisozi, and Matana) and in the Akanyaru Valley (Buyongwe). Approximately 416,159 tons of peat have already been exploited by the Peats National Authority (ONATOUR) since 1977, or ±0.73% of the reserves.

Data from ONATOUR show that the harvest never went reached 20,000 tons despite the national capacity. (Graph)

According to Ndayiteho, the grounds for this is the fact that this office is constrained by demand. If the request is high, the production increases accordingly.  And that is justified by the customer base of ONATOUR which is still low.

Jinny Ange Ndayiteho, Manager of the Peat Planning and Mining Department at Onatour, says that yearly production is determined by numerous variables, among which is the myth that peat briquettes deteriorate quickly. According to him, the only drawback of these briquettes is the fact that they emit a substantial portion of CO2-containing smoke.

To address this challenge, Emile Ndikuwayo, the Head of Commercial Services at Onatour, said that the latter will soon be manufacturing carbonized peat-based briquettes which are carbon-free and efficient for all cooking: ” We hope to attract more households with this new product and supply them with our output. Today, the company counts a number of clients in collective households (military camps of the Ministry of National Defense and Veterans Affairs-MDNAC) and some Burundian industries.

Estella Benimana, who is in charge of administrative services, said that in the past, some boarding schools and prisons were their loyal customers. However, this demand turned to firewood, which affected the yearly production.

According to the Head of Commercial Services, “Our supply varies depending on the demand and the offer. Should our customers seek more from us, we have to expand our production”.

Until the charcoaled briquette from Onatour is launched, Kage Ltd, which supplies green briquettes derived mainly from maize pods, the company “Bika igiti”, which produces improved stoves, and other environmentalists are trying to develop new products that could curb the misuse of firewood.

Nevertheless, these businesses face the fact that society still judges their costly and inefficient products to be unsustainable, said experts.

Ndayiteho said, however, that ONATOUR is able to satisfy all the demand, because Burundi has millions of tons of peat, a fuel that could validly replace charcoal. But it is clear that it is underused, he added.

According to experts, it is environmentally friendly and could help solve the problem of deforestation the potential it present is well exploited. It [Burundi] has 600 000 000 tons of peats of which only 58 million are estimated to be exploitable. Experts say that 10,000 tons preserve 150ha of forest.

Espoir Iradukunda
Espoir Iradukunda
Data Investigative Journalist


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