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The economic and environmental value of bagasse-briquettes as an alternative source of energy in the lake Victoria Basin: A Case of Using Briquettes as an Alternative Source of Energy to Cure Tobacco

Author: 
Ochola, W. Adede and George Ogendi
Subject Area: 
Life Sciences
Abstract: 

Tobacco production involve curing process which results to continued harvest of indigenous vegetation leading to depletion of forests resources and loss of biodiversity, which have long term negative effects on food security and livelihood of the communities living in the Lake Victoria basin. The continued use of unsustainable practices contributes towards increased environmental degradation leading to increased levels of pollution, fertilization and siltation of Lake Victoria and surrounding water bodies. This study looked at the economic value and environmental benefits of using bagasse-briquettes as an alternative source of energy to the tobacco growing communities. The objective of this study was to find out the economic gains and vegetation cover saved as a result of using bagasse-briquettes as alternative source of energy to cure tobacco. This was achieved by interviewing farmers exposed to briquettes made from bagasse (a sugarcane byproduct) as an alternative source of energy to cure tobacco, to determine the cost and quantity of briquettes, split wood and non-split wood used; source of the materials and their usability. The study then; compared the calorific value of bagasse-briquettes with bagasse pith briquette, bagasse-briquettes with binders, saw dust briquettes, saw dust, county council waste briquettes, coffee husks briquettes, split wood (eucalyptus), and non-split wood (indigenous flora); compared the cost of bagasse-briquette and an equivalent quantity of split wood and non-split wood; conducted a profit margin analysis to determine the cost of using bagasse-briquettes compared to split wood and non-split wood as a source of energy to cure tobacco; quantified woody vegetation cover saved in-terms of hectares by using bagasse-briquettes. A bomb calorimeter was used to find the calorific value of all the materials used as sources of energy. A survey methodology was used to find out the source, cost and quantity fuel materials used to cure one kilogram of tobacco leaves. A cross cut analysis was used to determine woody vegetation cover of different places within the tobacco growing areas in the Lake Victoria basin in-terms of tons per hectares. The woody vegetation cover and quantity of leaves cured using bagasse-briquettes was used to calculate the woody vegetation cover saved in different localities. The study found out that; calorific value of bagasse-briquette was significantly lower than the other sources of energy. However, the quantity of bagasse-briquettes used to cure one kilogram of tobacco leaves was significantly lower than split wood and non-split wood; the cost of one kilogram of bagasse-briquette was lower than an equivalent quantity of split wood and non-split wood, resulting into a reduced cost of curing one kilogram of tobacco leaves hence a higher profit margin to the farmers; tobacco curing is contributing to depletion of woody vegetation cover and loss of biodiversity. The use of bagasse-briquette to cure tobacco was economically and environmentally profitable as opposed to use of wood fuel. The information from this study is of significance to environment practitioners, farmers to improve their profits, policy makers and tobacco processing companies and stakeholders.

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