Energy 101: Making charcoal

In Uganda and Rwanda, charcoal is a main source of heat and power. The process of making charcoal is a labor and environmentally intense one. The photo essay below documents the process of creating charcoal from tree to market in a rural region of Uganda.

Image for post
Image for post
A view of terraced farm land common to this region of Uganda. The fires are likely using charcoal.
A older eucalyptus tree cut down to the base to provide materials for making charcoal. This tree is located in a sort of charcoal-tree-farm that the local community manages specifically for charcoal production.
A larger view of the eucalyptus tree farm. It takes about 22 pounds of wood to make 2 pounds of charcoal according to Triple Pundit.
Image for post
Image for post
Rodgers, a local guide from Entusi Retreat Center, explains the charcoal making process. “Entusi” means eucalyptus.
The above two images show charcoal pits. Wood in manageable sizes is set on fire underground to make charcoal. These two pits were manned by two young brothers. Each had built a pit and were keeping close watch over it.
Image for post
Image for post
Another view of the charcoal pit.
Kilms used by the local community.
Ready to buy charcoal sacks.
Image for post
Image for post
A large truck is piled high with charcoal at the market. Vendors and customers alike come by foot, car and boat.
Image for post
Image for post
A man carries a bag of charcoal and eucalyptus leaves to market.
Image for post
Image for post
Bags of charcoal and eucalyptus leaves packed into the back of a truck for transport to major cities like Kigali, Rwanda.
Image for post
Image for post
Women sell and barter Irish potatoes at a busy market in Uganda where charcoal is also bought and sold. Irish potatoes (similar to russet potatoes) were introduced into Africa in the 20th century, prior to that sweet potatoes were the main crop. The Irish potato grows easily with much less water and in diverse conditions and is a high-yield crop making it an easy choice to grow in the region.
Image for post
Image for post
The Energy Institute and Colorado State University Research team hiking through Uganda to learn about charcoal production.

Photos provided by Joanna L. McWilliams and Dan Zimmerle.

The Energy Institute at Colorado State University

The mission of the Colorado State University Energy…

Energy Institute at CSU

Written by

The CSU Energy Institute works to develop innovative solutions to global energy challenges.

The Energy Institute at Colorado State University

The mission of the Colorado State University Energy Institute is to develop innovative solutions to energy and climate challenges that achieve global impact.

Energy Institute at CSU

Written by

The CSU Energy Institute works to develop innovative solutions to global energy challenges.

The Energy Institute at Colorado State University

The mission of the Colorado State University Energy Institute is to develop innovative solutions to energy and climate challenges that achieve global impact.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store