I’m lucky enough to be in Kisumu, Kenya at the moment for some PISCES project meetings (more on that in later posts). Today we went to a small town called Bondo to do some research on the charcoal markets and the challenges involved in producing this vital energy source sustainably.
We met a feisty group of young women who sell charcoal in the town market. During the rainy season, it is harder to make charcoal and transport it to town, so these women can struggle to buy any off the transporters and sell it for profit.
In order to combat this, as well as some of the other ups and downs that go with being self-employed, they have set up the Charcoal Sellers Bondo, a 17 member collective of men and women who transport and sell charcoal in the town. If someone doesn’t have any cash due to a sudden shortfall, then the rest of the group can help out, and they hope to put some money into a storage facility so that they can store charcoal in the dry season and sell it in leaner times.
It’s not rocket science, but helping to organise markets more effectively is so essential to their incomes, and something we work on at Practical Action. We left the ladies with a joke about the fact that many of them are unmarried or divorced, so they look after their charcoal better in the absence of a man- we all agreed the charcoal was probably better behaved anyway!
Just as we were about to head out of town, we saw a touch of genius. A gentleman riding a bike, but rather than heading down the street, he was stationary, and using the mechanical power to spin a stone that he was using to sharpen knives. Judging by this photo, you can see he was a bit of a poser, but I would be more than smug with myself if I had cornered that market. What a simple, brilliant use of an everyday technology.
What a brilliant day. Thanks Bondo!