Home News Northern Uganda: Gulu residents unite to promote green charcoal in Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda: Gulu residents unite to promote green charcoal in Northern Uganda


Northern Uganda has recently turned its attention to environmental degradation, especially as a result of the widespread cutting of trees to produce charcoal. It is estimated that 40 percent of the charcoal supplied in urban Uganda is from the region. Central and local government authorities have tried bans in an attempt to reverse the trend but the demand for charcoal, as a source of energy for cooking, especially in urban areas, and a quest for income for local people, continues to drive the felling of trees.  

Researchers at Gulu University, with their colleagues at Aalborg University and the University Copenhagen in Denmark, are working with local communities in northern Uganda to turn agricultural residues into charcoal which the local people can use at home and also sell. It comes in the form of briquettes. It is called green charcoal.

The researchers say that green charcoal is cleaner. It poses fewer health risks than black charcoal. They add that it can help with climate change mitigation by acting as an alternative to black charcoal (charcoal from trees). The more agricultural residues are used to produce green charcoal for energy, the more trees are spared.

Through the Unlocking the Potential of Green Charcoal Innovations to Mitigate Climate Change in Northern Uganda (UPCHAIN) project, the researchers on May 8, 2023, held a workshop with a select people mainly from Gulu City, at Takataka Plastic-Zodongo, in Gulu, to discuss the different issues surrounding black and green charcoal. The theme of the workshop was: How can citizens in Gulu City and northern Uganda be the first movers on the use and production of green charcoal? The participants included producers of agricultural residues (including millers), users of charcoal (including restaurant owners), producers of briquettes, as well as NGOs involved in the promotion of energy-saving techniques and technologies.

Conducted mostly in the local language, Luo, the workshop discussed environmental degradation, laws, rules, regulations and their implementation, the quality and cost of briquettes as compared to black charcoal, as well as cultural perceptions when it comes to cooking.

Dr. Geoffrey Tabo, one of the organisers of the workshop, said the objective of the workshop was to champion the use of green charcoal in Gulu City.

“We are setting the base in changing practices from using black charcoal to using green charcoal,” Dr. Tabo said.

“We are experiencing extreme weather events – floods, landslides, fires. This project [UPCHAIN] comes at a time when the whole world is saying we have to do something – calling for climate action. We come together and discuss experiences, and then we try to find different ways by asking questions. For example, green charcoal has been with us. Why have we not been using it,” added Prof. Elizabeth Opiyo, the head of the Research Capacity Building and Organization component of UPCHAIN.

At the end of the workshop, the participants formed a group, or a community of practice, through which they will work together to promote green charcoal production and use. The group will work in collaboration with Gulu University.

“We have started this journey to save the environment. And we want to move together on this journey. The community of practice we have formed will advance charcoal innovations in Uganda,” said Dr. Collins Okello, the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment (FAE), Gulu University, and Co-Principal Investigator of UPCHAIN.

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