Nabahya Food Institute is Starting a Fire in the DRC: Briquettes for a Cleaner Environment   

Nabahya Food Institute (NFI) believes that we are more powerful together than as individuals. That’s why their organization, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) brings local farmers to work in cooperatives, mitigating the cycle of poverty, starvation, and climate change. Their work promotes access to clean energy and resilient food systems with a commitment to tackling the dual challenge of increasing food production while protecting natural resources and the environment.

NFI has organized their work across four different categories: regenerative agriculture, clean energy, reforestation and conservation, and rural women empowerment. At the core of their organization, and what sets them apart from others, is their unique approach to addressing the aforementioned dual challenge of producing food while healing the planet. The main way they do this is by starting a fire — literally. NFI produces briquettes from crop residues, biomass, palm shells, coconut shells, and maize stalks, which are carbonized, mixed with a liquid binder, and compressed into briquettes. They buy raw materials from small-scale farmers, who are in turn paid in either cash or briquettes.

photo by NFI

In the DRC, through NFI, briquettes are becoming a common way to heat and cook. NFI’s product reduces household cooking energy expenses, boosts food productivity, avoids air pollution, protects natural resources and the environment, empowers women, and helps consumers save time and money. Moreover, their product also helps enhance farmers’ yields through the production of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides.

photo by NFI

In the eastern part of the DRC where NFI operates, the majority of small-scale farmers and those who use briquettes are women. To educate and empower these women, NFI has set up Farmer-Field Schools. Currently, their education process focuses on recycling and intercropping, to avoid dependence on chemical fertilizers, protect the local environment, and increase food yields.

With the briquettes, women are trained to mix the ashes with rabbit urine, manure, Tithonia diversifolia and biochar to create their own bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides. According to the organization, this boosts crop yields at around 150 percent (p ≤ 0.05), compared to local agricultural practice (soil without biochar) at 60.4 percent. NFI farmers follow an intercropping approach, an age-old practice of growing two or more crops together, by using fodder trees and fruit trees. The organization focuses on tree species intercropping. According to NFI, trees native to the DRC deposit abundant quantities of organic fertilizer, thereby increasing yields, as leaves and pods fall onto the food crops and release nutrients. Native trees also provide forage for livestock and bees.

Learn more about the NFI.


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