Tinder Eco Fuels, Prosopis and Women’s Empowerment
In Kenya, women and young girls living in marginalised, rural areas are now earning cash incomes through the sale of harvested wood to Tinder Eco Fuels. The wood, exclusively sourced from a highly invasive tree, is used to produce ‘green’ charcoal. It is subsequently sold to urban and rural consumers as a cooking fuel. The business thus empowers women, fights deforestation and contributes to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 5 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals centers around the propulsion of women and young girls, acknowledging that it is only by achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment that all 17 of the goals can be met in an inclusive and sustainable manner. Empowerment can be delivered from a multitude of angles, ranging from the end of violence against women to access and ownership of land.
One angle which is critically linked to the current landscape in sub-Saharan Africa is the recognition and provision of both paid and unpaid work. Women do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work than men. While families, societies and economies depend on this work, for women, it leads to lower earnings and less time to engage in non-work activities (UNwomen.org). In sub-Saharan Africa, unemployment figures are hard to pinpoint, as official figures mask informal market activity. In Kenya, 2017 figures indicate that 11% of the total labour force were unemployed (data.worldbank.org), an admirable figure when compared to global standards. The reality is that perhaps up to 90% of the Kenyan labour force is employed informally, a large majority being women.
While not a long-term, structural solution, monetizing daily activities and thereby creating a source of income can lead to capital accumulation and a chance for communities, especially in rural areas, to lift themselves out of the poverty trap. One such activity found in large swathes in rural Kenya is the harvesting and collection of prosopis Juliflora. As a fast-growing and resilient plant species, prosopis has invaded more than 3 million hectares in Kenya alone and has been deemed an invasive species .The prosopis tree leads to ecological damage by restricting the growth of other plants. its growth has encroached on land for livestock feeding and can lead to the displacement of communities.
The harvesting and collection of prosopis is a necessity as much as it can deliver a fruitful resource. The prosopis tree can be used for the production of wood products, construction elements and honey tapping. It is also used for the production of fuelwood and charcoal, which is where Tinder Ecofuels comes in. Tinder Ecofuels uses prosopis, a sustainable wood source, to produce charcoal in light of national demand: in Kenya approximately 70% of households (6.2m homes) use charcoal as their primary cooking fuel. Using carbonising rigs close to dense pockets of prosopis growth to generate charcoal, Tinder removes the burden of making charcoal without compromising a family's ability to generate income from their own local wood resource.
Local communities collect the wood for charcoal production, which is subsequently sold to Tinder Eco Fuels at fair prices. This has generated substantial demand for labour and income streams for these communities. Women and young girls in particular have benefitted, as they typically conduct large amounts of wood collection and harvesting.
Through its operations, Tinder Eco Fuels contributes towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 (no poverty), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 13 (climate action). Local communities collect the prosopis wood and sell this to Tinder Eco Fuels, generating an income (goals 1 and 8). The prosopis is converted to a clean biofuel (goals 7, 12 and 13), which decreases C02 emissions. As we have seen, Tinder Eco Fuels also contributes towards goal 5 through the high incidence of women and young girls harvesting the prosopis plant. Tinder Eco Fuels thus demonstrates its ability to target multiple goals on both a local and global level, as well as promoting the empowerment of women and young girls .