Alternative fuel as an innovative agribusiness

In Uganda, an increasing demand for fuel is leading to deforestation. In other parts of the world, grazing animal dung is a go-to source of fuel. Eva Birungi, a chicken farmer living near Kampala, asks whether chicken dung could be a viable alternative fuel that directly impacts environmental conservation efforts?

Eva Birungi is 28 years old and lives in Wakiso near Kampala. She mainly farms chicken, maize and coffee. In addition to farming, she makes briquettes converted from chicken dung. She produced half a ton per week but labour costs were high and production created a lot of smoke. Moreover, potential buyers did not show much interest in the briquettes. Due to this, Eva would only earn CHF 123 per week.  

In 2019, Eva entered the National Agribusiness Innovation Challenge after reading about it online. CURAD (Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development Ltd.) and Swisscontact hosted the Challenge in order to encourage youth interest in agriculture for employment and enterprise by awarding them for innovative agribusiness ideas.

With her idea to utilise chicken dung rather than the more commonly used cow dung, Eva competed in the 'Best Woman Entrepreneurship' category.

Her concept included adding value through machinery that transforms poultry manure (or any organic biomaterial) into biomass briquettes. This machine would alllow her to produce briquettes that were more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly. It would decrease the need for charcoal and, therefore, reduce deforestation.

After several rounds of selection, Eva and other finalists went through several trainings in topics such as business pitching, record keeping and marketing. Before the training, Eva didn’t keep records diligently, so it wasn’t clear what exactly was happening in her business. Now she is keeping her own records and doesn't need to hire someone to do it.

“We went through a 1-day training in business pitching which I loved so much because it gave me the mindset to mentally align my business problems and ideas with solutions and opportunities.”

The marketing training taught the finalists how to use media to market their businesses. Since then, Eva is utilising Facebook and Instagram to promote her business “My Passion Farm”:

“I realized that because of COVID most businesses now interface with clients through social media. A lot of people now contact me on social media for trainings requests, business advice and opportunities.”

In the end, Eva won 'best woman entrepreneur' and received CHF 737 in farm and business equipment. The prize helped her install two machines to process the briquettes on her farm, which would otherwise have taken 3-5 years of savings to buy.

“It has helped me increase output and cut costs of production. The time saved is now used for marketing.”

Thanks to the machines, she could reduce labour costs and produce briquettes more fuel-efficiently. The process burns less smoke and the briquettes burn hotter, which is exactly what her customers want.

Due to COVID, the price for chicken food went up and the price of eggs dropped. With the returns on investment from briquettes, Eva was able to grow and sustain her business. The money she made from briquettes was used to pay her farm workers and kept the business running.

These successes have also inspired others into briquette making. Several people have contacted Eva and so far she has trained 9 people from different areas such as Wakiso, Mukono and Mityana.

The U-LEARN project is financed by the Mastercard Foundation.