“Waste is gold” — from Africa to Uawa

by MMC
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Edmund Hillary Fellow and social entrepreneur from Botswana partners with EIT | Te Pūkenga to help the communities of Tairāwhiti and Wairoa clear slash and create business opportunities through a simple scientific method and co-creative design process that has been adopted and adapted in Africa.

Slash For Cash is the brainchild of Thabiso Mashaba, a cultural and environmental economist, who arrived in Uawa in March this year, less than a month after Cyclone Gabrielle ravaged the community, leaving damage and debris in its wake.

“There was an urgent need to fight the cuts, and me coming from a desert, excited to see a beach, and then arriving at the beach and seeing a lot of logs lying around, so I asked people and I I confronted, ‘why don’t they hurry up and clean the beach?’ Everyone was pointing fingers; forestry, the government, this and that.

“I made them understand how we would proceed in Africa, and how we would see an opportunity there. Even if it is a disaster, it is an opportunity to make something out of it, because waste is gold.

The Slash for Cash project’s mission is to clean and remediate regional land in Tairāwhiti and Wairoa by reusing waste wood debris (slash) on forest land, farmland, orchards, beaches, riverbanks and roads and landfills with organic biochar fertilizers and smokeless charcoal briquettes; while creating employment opportunities for local communities on the East Coast.

Tairāwhiti Community Adult Education (ACE) Coordinator Bridget French-Hall says it made sense to offer the skills-building training (Slash For Cash).

Funding from the CAE was used to purchase the tools needed to run the courses and to pay the facilitators to deliver them.

Three ACE courses were delivered, training 42 people in Ruatoria and Tolaga Bay Uawa. As ACE Coordinator, Bridget oversaw classes and hosted a small graduation ceremony on the last day of each class.

“The students learned how to make each of the three products over four full days. They presented their new skills to members of their community, to Whānau and to Gisborne District Council. Throughout the course, students learned how to produce each object on a small scale and discussed how they might work on a much larger scale.

The process involved manufacturing aluminum bucket furnaces to carbonize the slash in an environmentally friendly manner using a simple scientific method known as carbonization.

“It’s a controlled combustion that happens in a closed container, at a low temperature, and it keeps any gases that might rise, go back into the drum and burn, and then ultimately they become part of the carbon and form the charcoal that remains in the drum.

The charcoal could then be loaded with something like animal manure, making it a nutrient-rich fertilizer for the soil.

Briquettes are another option, as they burn without smoke, making them perfect for indoor heating and cooking. Thabiso says they were popular in their home for heating chicken coops in winter.

Bridget says the response has been fantastic.

“We invested a lot in it, but I was always able to see the big picture. And the result was even greater than I imagined. So, I’m really happy that we’re a part of it.

Thabiso is full of praise for the partnership with the EIT | Te Pūkenga.

“What I like about EIT | Te Pūkenga is taking it to the next level. The ACE program, its design and ability to allow us to bring diverse technical skills to the community, is something I cherish greatly.

“Just the entire EIT staff | Te Pūkenga in Ruatoria, in Gisborne, in Wairoa and Bridget herself have been supportive. It’s like having a mother or father who holds your hand when you take your first steps and then watches you grow. That’s how they were with us.

Each student was given the opportunity to join the Slash for Cash team and progress to Stage 2, creating a for-profit social enterprise.

Thabiso is now offering ideas to local councils, government funding agencies and international government agencies, philanthropic organizations, businesses and impact investors to fund machines and ovens to be commercialized and start cleaning beaches , public spaces, private lands and, therefore, forest blocks.

As some community members expressed interest in purchasing products for their gardens, heating and barbecues, they found their first big customer, Charcoal Chicken Gisborne, in Gisborne.

The Uawa team has so far purchased a charcoal briquette dryer; 250 packaging boxes for their smokeless charcoal briquettes; carry out final product and laboratory testing to meet New Zealand food preparation standards; produce more biochar using 44-gallon drums; producing more briquettes and will soon supply 10 boxes of 10 kg cardboard boxes per week to its new customer and its individual customers. Negotiations with other companies are also underway for their biochar fertilizer and smokeless charcoal briquette service.

“If Slash for Cash were mechanized, we could create a thriving business, employ more people and keep our coastline clean and green. »

Separate from this project, they are already in discussions to offer another ACE program to continue teaching grassroots community members basic woodworking skills, basic metalworking skills, basic electrical skills and their co-creative design process to address their community’s livelihood challenges through appropriate products/technologies. and community business solutions.

They also launched a crowdfunding campaign. https://opencollective.com/tolaga/projects/slash-for-cash

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