Uganda is typical of many African countries in that a valuable resource is at risk. According to the ministry of Energy, “close to 100 per cent of rural households and 98 per cent of urban households” depend on firewood and charcoal, respectively, to cook food and heat water.” However today “Uganda’s entire charcoal value chain is characterized by informal and inefficient systems …it is characterized by inadequate enforcement of regulations, poor organization of players, use of inefficient technologies, and lack of standards and unsustainable production practices.”1
What might kingdom minded entrepreneurs do about this, all the while focusing on the quadruple bottom line of profit-making business, job creation, disciple making and creation stewards? Kijani Forestry is doing just that as an agroforestry company that is combating the rapid deforestation in Uganda through sustainable charcoal production. Most experts agree that the country is a long way off from inexpensive fuel and heat alternatives, such as gas and solar.
The business opportunity surfaced when it was documented that in less than thirty years, the forests of Uganda will be depleted without significant intervention. With more than 50% of the forests logged in the past three decades (with no replacement program), and charcoal costs doubling in the past five years, Kijani Forestry is implementing techniques of permaculture such as coppicing, forestry management with species selection, and efficient kiln technology.
In short, they have discovered that acacia trees are resilient and flourish in Uganda and can grow quickly. The coppicing technique yields three times the biomass and the trees can be harvested every three years. While traditional local charcoal production yields 6-10% efficiency, Kijani’s kilns can reach over 35% efficiency. This means between 4 and 7 times fewer trees will be cut down for charcoal production.
While the stewardship issue is highly interesting and valuable, what about profit/sustainability? What about job creation? What about making disciples of Jesus?
The financial projections and current production indicate that the currently owned 528 acres will bring a breakeven point in 22 months with more than a million dollars in revenue by Year 3. The employment impact is 84 full time sustainable jobs and 240 seasonal jobs. Several of these come out of the sex trade, thus involving Kijani in a viable social impact bringing hope and the Gospel of Jesus to those formerly without dignity and love.
It is a privilege for IBEC to share in the coaching of a business like this. Co-founder and CEO, Beau Milliken and his colleagues are committed to the missional dimension – bringing the Gospel to the employees, clients, vendors, and community. Kijani Forestry states clearly on their website, “We believe business has the potential to change lives; to not only create economic stability in a region, but also to work as a conduit through which we can share God’s love. These two goals are our calling, and we treat them with the utmost importance.”
James 2:15-16, says “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
For more details, check out the Kijani Forestry Website.
Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures