Rice husks, a potential source of cooking fuel-Study

A study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Lab in Ghana, in collaboration with an innovator, and local communities in the Northern Region, has shown how rice husks (which are a byproduct from milling rice) can be processed into rice briquettes.

Rice briquettes are an alternative to the charcoal traditionally produced from wood, and could reduce households’ monthly expenditure on cooking fuel by at least 50 percent, a report on the innovation copied the Ghanaian Times said.

The innovator, Cletus Baalongbuoro, told the Ghanaian Times that the rice briquette offered a suitable cooking fuel alternative to charcoal, adding that this would minimise the cutting down of trees particularly in the Northern Region.

Rice briquettecan last up to twice as long as charcoal – for every two kilogrammes of wood charcoal used, only one kilogramme of briquettes is required.

The UNDP awarded a grant to support his idea of producing briquettes in Tamale in the Northern Region, where he demonstrated an experiment how using briquettes instead of charcoal could also reduce the rate at which trees are being cut down to produce charcoal.

To produce briquettes, rice husks are charred in a metal drum, along with a charring agent like cassava starch. After mixing, the husks go into a compacting machine to produce briquettes under high pressure.

Charring, mixing, and compacting machines are made by local artisans. Funding through the UNDP was used to buy a mechanized compacting machine.

In a series of experiments, local women were given rice briquettes, and asked to compare their cooking experience with briquettes to wood charcoal. All rated the briquettes as better in heating and cooking time, leaving less dust/residue on the hands, and generating little, or no smoke. The briquettes are priced to cost less than the equivalent weight of charcoal.

UNDP is working with Cletus to optimise production and explore avenues for scaling up.

“What we see as waste may actually have value, so it is amazing to see Cletus Baalongbuoro working with local communities to turn rice husks into briquettes.” Dr Allen Anie, Head of Experimentation at the UNDP Accelerator Lab, told the Ghanaian Times.

Ghanaian innovators are busily working on home-grown solutions to create value from by-products of agricultural processes. The UNDP Accelerator Lab is helping to map these solutions, test them, and identify partners to help innovators to scale up,” he added.

He said that with more partnerships, rice briquettes could be adopted on large scale, as eco-friendly fuel to help save many trees from being cut for charcoal.

Given the abundance of rice husks, production of briquettes could also become a source of income for youth and women in the Northern Region and throughout Ghana.

By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman

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