Project overview

This project aims to offer a sustainable and affordable alternative cooking fuel in South Sudan by providing training to communities in the production, usage, and marketing of briquettes made from the abundant and invasive water hyacinth plant. Water hyacinth briquettes are a cost-effective and safe alternative to firewood and charcoal, with a production process that is easy to learn and uses local materials and capacities. The ultimate objective  is to establish water hyacinth-based energy as the preferred cooking fuel, enabling women in South Sudan to have a safer and better future.

The Problem

Communities in South Sudan face a cooking fuel shortage due to the unavailability of firewood and the high cost of charcoal in markets. This issue disproportionately affects women and girls as they are typically responsible for travelling long distances to collect firewood, exposing them to significant protection risks including gender-based violence. 

The water hyacinth, often referred to as the world’s world’s worst water weed, is an aggressively spreading aquatic plant that blankets many of South Sudan’s swamps. Despite its status as an invasive pest with detrimental effects on the environment and society - disrupting waterways and aquatic food systems, and exacerbating flooding - it possesses properties that render it a viable alternative to firewood for producing cooking fuel. This project not only addresses the environmental challenges stemming from the weed’s rampant  growth but also tackles the issue of deforestation resulting from firewood collection.

South Sudan. Nyayuit Gol drying water hyacinth in her house.
Nyayuit Gol drying water hyacinth in her house in South Sudan. Photo: WFP/Eulalia Berlanga
The Solution

The project involves training communities in a market-based approach for producing and using briquettes made from water hyacinth. These briquettes are easily crafted using readily available local materials and tools. Community members can produce these briquettes for personal use or for sale to others. Notably, this product is more affordable than market prices of charcoal, offers increased safety, and is easier to produce compared to gathering firewood. Moreover, it saves both time and money, reduces the risk of violence against women who often travel long distances, and presents income-generating opportunities. 

The production process is easy to learn, cost-effective, and leverages local resources and expertise, ensuring the project’s sustainability and the natural adoption of the briquettes in the market.

South Sudan. Women filling a metal oil barrel with dry water hyacinth.
Women filling a metal oil barrel with dry water hyacinth. Photo: WFP/Eulalia Berlanga
The Results

The production process for creating briquettes from water hyacinth was successfully developed in collaboration with the local community. The necessary tools were designed with affordability in mind, using local materials and services such as those provided by local blacksmiths. Production and utilization of water hyacinth briquettes were successfully initiated, and continuous product improvement efforts were made. 

Sustainable Fuel for Cooking has trained more than 1,100 people in the production and use of water hyacinth briquettes, thereby increasing access to energy for more than 7,200 individuals and ensuring food security. Currently, the team is preparing the scale-up plan with a market-based approach to impact over 200,000 people in South Sudan.

95 percent of households using the innovation reported that the provided training was useful and that they continue applying skills learned on briquettes production. In addition, 98 percent of households indicated that they would recommend the use of water hyacinth briquettes to other community members.

Last updated: 14/03/2024