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Something is burning at the Coast

The coconut tree is a source of wealth in many fronts. It is now a source of green energy

The coconut tree is seen as the most unique feature of the Kenyan Coast. But to Said Twahir, co founder and CEO Kencoco Limited, a company that produces charcoal briquettes from recycled agricultural coconut waste and charcoal dust, the tree is a source of wealth in a number of ways.

In fact, Twahir believes that no part of the coconut tree should go to waste. “From the coconut tree, we get timber, from the husks, we get mattresses and briquettes, the flesh is for eating and cooking while the leaves are used for making brooms,” he said, adding that today the company makes one tonne of briquettes each day.

Twahir discovered the true value of the coconut tree two years ago when he was researching on the procedures of making coconut oil. “I just went to the Internet to google the tips on how to extract coconut oil from the fruit.

But instead I bumped onto ideas on how to make briquettes from coconut,” he said. At that time, Said used to run Highbridge Computer College in Mombasa. Coconut husks are in plenty at the Coast and Twahir explains how the company he started with his brother and sister is taking advantage of the commodity.

“After someone gets the coconut, you remove the coconut husk and you are left with the milky white coconut, which you either use for cooking or making oil.

The shell is then thrown away. But for us it is the main raw material.” The team then carbonises the coconut shells in a kiln for 10 hours for it to turn into charcoal. The charcoal is in the form of shells, not like charcoal from wood.

“We then crush it using a machine called the mill hammer and then put it in a mixer with a binder. We cook it and mix it with the coconut waste and the end product is the briquettes. It is a continuous process which starts at 7:00 am and every hour, a new cycle starts,” he explains.

Currently, the company collects the husks from individuals whom they pay between Sh50 and Sh100 per bag, depending on how far the individuals are from the factory.

According to the founder, the company is now selling a packet of three kilogrames for Sh100 while a similar amount of wooden charcoal in the area costs Sh120 and has more smoke. The briquettes cook food for a longer time without adding more briquettes.

“We tried it at home. With the previous wood charcoal, it used to take about one and half hours to cook using wood charcoal. With briquettes you just put the food and within 45 minutes the food is already cooked,” he said.

The company based in Kikambala, Kilifi County is now partnering with supermarkets and retail shops to distribute the products. Twahir told PD that the company now has 10 workers, eight of them are women while two are young people aged 19 and 20.

“I am looking for strategic partners, not investors. I’m looking to partner with people like Burn Manufacturing, a company that specialises in making fuel-efficient stoves,” he added.

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