A semi-literate 68-year-old farmer living in a rural village in Kenya, from Machakos County, Martha Kimuyu is not your typical pioneering eco-entrepreneur. And yet she has launched a profitable ‘green fuel’ business which has multiplied her income by a factor of five.
When Martha was widowed some years ago, she decided to take up a business to help to support herself. Coca Cola were offering loans to set up drinks kiosks and Martha seized the opportunity in the roadside market near her home. Although she managed to gradually pay off the credit, and diversify the range of drinks she sold , the income from the kiosk stagnated for many years at around 2,700 Kenyan shillings (KES) a month – around US$ 30, barely enough to survive on, let alone support the two orphaned grandchildren who came to live with her.
When Hand in Hand Eastern Africa Eastern Africa came to the area in 2011, Martha signed up her group for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa Eastern Africa business training. A session on green, sustainable business opportunities triggered a bold idea in Martha’s mind: on a visit to her daughter, living in the Nairobi slum of Kawangware, she saw her daughter cooking with charcoal dust briquettes. Charcoal briquettes are made by mixing charcoal dust – which remains after the charcoal has been burnt – with water and soil as binding agents. The briquettes, invented ten years ago by some of Nairobi’s lowest income residents, are regarded as an exciting development by renewable energy experts. They typically reduce cooking-fuel costs by 90%, save trees and dramatically reduce the air pollution caused by cooking with charcoal.