Clean and healthy charcoal for my dear mama

Tom Osborn

Tom Osborn is the CEO of GreenChar, a globally recognised company that manufactures and distributes clean and healthy charcoal called Makaa Poa.

As a young man, he disliked lighting fire, but more so, the irritating smoke which got him worried about his mother’s health.

“When we joined Alliance High School, my co-founder Ian and I started working on a smokeless fuel project. We were building on open source research done at Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” Osborn said.

“Through constant innovation as well as support from our teachers, we made a working prototype.”

Osborn added, “We manufacture and distribute clean charcoal briquettes made from recycled sugarcane waste. We also distribute efficient cookstoves to increase the efficiency and performance of Makaa Poa.”

He says that he wanted to make a difference in his mother’s life as well as the lives of over 84 per cent of Kenyans in rural homes who cook with charcoal and/or firewood.

In 2014, GreenChar received a special energy award worth Sh1.023 million ($10,000) from Donors Circle for Africa, for the eco-fuel venture.

The 20-year-old has also been listed by Forbes magazine as one of the 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs in 2015.

GreenChar which works with a team of 16, produces over one tonne of energy-efficient fuel per day.

“Young people have several opportunities and potential to make a difference in their communities. Not only are we young, but also energetic,” Osborn added.

When asked what motivated him, Osborn said, “Last year, 16,000 people died in Kenya as a result of indoor air pollution. Globally, the estimated number is 4.3 million people. We also lost 50,000 hectares of tree cover to firewood and charcoal production. Achieving this has not been a walk in the park for me and my team.”

Lack of enough support and resources to take the venture to the next level has marred the business’ progress.

GreenChar sells its final products to individual consumers and companies from across the country.

According to Osborn, two kilos of the briquettes costs Sh50, while a15-kilo bag goes for Sh300.

The organisation produces up to 20 tonnes of briquettes per month and supplies them to different towns in the country