Transforming low income earning Malawian households from use of forest wood charcoal to use of charcoal briquettes in order to preserve the natural animal habitats and ecosystem

Published: 07 September 2021
Last edited: 13 September 2021
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We are collecting agricultural residues such as rice husks, groundnut shells, maize cobs and maize stalks from farmers. We add value to them and produce Charcoal briquettes to curtail the cutting down of trees for firewood. Charcoal Briquette is a sustainable and reliable source of energy that helps replace the use of firewood,

By adopting charcoal briquettes made from agricultural residues, fragile forests are protected, the natural habitats for animal species are preserved while still meeting the energy and income needs of the growing populations.

Women and the youth that used to be involved in cutting down trees from the forests are now employed either at production facilities or as retailers of charcoal briquettes.  32,000 hectares of forest cover which Malawi loses every year is left to regenerate preserving natural habitat for different animal and plants species.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Grassland ecosystems
Tropical deciduous forest
Tropical grassland, savanna, shrubland
Forest Management
Indigenous people
Land management
Renewable energies
Waste management
Erratic rainfall
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Physical resource extraction
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 1 – No poverty
SDG 7 – Affordable and clean energy
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Business engagement approach
Indirect through consumers


Mitundu, Lilongwe, Malawi | Mitundu in Lilongwe in Malawi
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Malawi has population of 18.6 million and is expected to double by 2038. Energy shortages still stand out, with about 11.4% of the population having access to electricity. Pushed by this, the population uses forests as sources of cheap cooking energy. This exerts pressure on limited natural resources which has negatively affected the natural habitat for animal and plant species.


Malawi remains one of the poorest countries whose economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and it is vulnerable to climatic shocks  which have forced most of the youth and women get involved in the selling of charcoal and firewood leading to deforestation.


One of the biggest environmental challenges in Malawi is deforestation. Malawi was previously heavily forested with much of the country under forests. Wood is the main fuel in Malawi, and 95% of homes still use wood or charcoal for cooking which contributes to one of the environmental challenges facing Malawi.


Animal and plant species

Local communities (gaining from tourism activities and benefiting from sustained water catchment areas)

Girls and women of local communities

Country  (benefiting from the preservation of rare species)

How do the building blocks interact?

Farmers and sources of raw materials. Our production depends on the availability of agricultural    residues which farmers previously thought that they were useless. If farmers burn these residues, it will be difficult for us to get the raw materials for production.


Transportation and production. Transport plays a major role in the collection of raw materials to the production facilities. It is difficult to reach to scattered areas for raw materials without proper means of transportation.


Production and retailing. It is important that production has to be taking place so that products are available to customers. There is also need for transportation to reach to these outlets.


Community awareness and purchasing. Without community members being aware of the availability of charcoal briquettes and their advantages towards conserving biodiversity, the initiative will not grow.


Labor availability and production. Without availability of labour production of charcoal briquettes is hampered especially in the areas of agricultural residue collection, drying and packaging.


Natural habitat for animal species is preserved. Deforestation directly leads  to biodiversity loss when animal species that live in the trees no longer have their habitat and therefore become extinct and also  leads certain tree species to permanently disappear.


Humans are protected from getting into contact with wildlife animals. The main impacts on biodiversity are from human-wildlife conflicts related to continued human encroachment on fragile ecosystems which  brings humans into ever-greater contact with wildlife.


Loss of water and erosion is contained. The cutting down of trees for mainly charcoal production has caused large area of forests cleared destroying all the water catchment areas casuing scarcity of  water for animals in the forests.


Afforestation of land is encouraged due to population awareness of the  need to satisfy alternative source for energy needs which reduces the pressure on forests contributing to biodiversity conservation.


The solution promotes agro-forestry and tree growing as a business activity.The forests that harbour natural and different animal species tend to attract tourists. Tourism therefore contributes to improving livelihoods of communities



In 1975 many of our parents realized that there were economic opportunities in Lilongwe after it was established as capital city of Malawi.  Many of them settled in all the surrounding areas such as Kawale Biwi, Chinsapo and others.  They depended on firewood that was easily available in the woodland bushes and along the surrounding rivers where different species of creatures were living.The population started growing and the bushes were diminishing pushing away the animals and other creatures away to other areas where they felt protected.


 With the increased population the companies were not able to employ all the people. And with the same increased population, the need for cooking energy increased.  Compounded with these two needs, natural forest reserves became targets for source of employment and source of firewood for cooking energy. As time has gone, the forests are turning into deserts.


Deforestation has contributed towards climate changes in Malawi. Rainfall patterns have changed as the rainfall is not reliable and falls for short periods of time. This has affected the natural environment for the animals and other creatures to face extinction due to lack of food and protection. Deforestation has affected the ecosystem and many forest creatures have lost their natural habitants thereby affecting the whole system. Further, Malawi is an agriculture dependent country and rainfall challenges affect the rate of harvests which later again affect the human population.


MAKALA Charcoal briquettes are the solution providing cheap source of cooking energy, providing sources of income to employees and retailers and deforestation is reduced as trees are not cut down hence preserving the natural habitats for forest creatures.


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