Epworth lies just a few kilometres east of the city centre and yet is still to be properly serviced by ZESA. Residents have been forced to innovate around this energy shortage. Have you ever thought of cooking a meal using sawdust?
Mai Duncan of Muguta is a proud user of this innovation. “We used to rely on firewood and paraffin for the job, but because of the cost, we moved to sawdust which is cheaper, even compared to the now available Liquid Petroleum gas (LP),” she said. She added that since sawdust is so cheap and readily available, it saves her both time and money.
To harness this resource, Mai Duncan takes a three litre tin and makes a hole the size of a fist in the bottom of it. She places a bottle inside, tips sawdust into the gap between the bottle and the tin and compresses it into a cake. The bottle is carefully removed so as not to upset the compressed shavings, and a fire is started inside using paper and a piece of wood. Cooking can now start.
Edwin Dandara (26), of Overspill also uses sawdust for cooking. He says that it is fast, and leaves your pot less filthy than firewood does. “This is because once sawdust is burning at full throttle, it emits less smoke than wood,” he explains.
Sawdust dealer, Irene Ncube, says that her husband only works two days a week as a part time gardener in Greendale getting $5 a day. The sale of sawdust has therefore become an important supplement to his meagre income. “Frankly speaking, our lives are hinged on this venture. I don’t know how we were going to pull through were it not for this business,” says Ncube.
Mr Ncube cycles to Msasa on a daily basis, where he pays $1 for a 90kg sack. He sells it for 50c a bucket, earning $5 to $6 per sack.
Jerry Phiri, a supervisor at a factory in Msasa says; “Sawdust is just a waste product for us. We offer it for a small fee to those who are into poultry breeding for use as fowl run bedding.” He adds that selling it to be used as fuel is much better than discarding it into the environment.
Wood dust may contain resin, fatty acids and phenolics which are acutely toxic to fish through leachates if they find their way into water bodies.
Across the border, in Zambia, one company (Daj-oy Manufactures, Ndola) is repurposing sawdust into wood briquettes for burning. According to the manufacturer, these briquettes have a higher energy value gram for gram, than the same quantity of firewood used to make them.
Whilst the efficiencies are considerable, it is worth noting the risks associated with working in sawdust environments. The National Social Security Authority (NSSA) publishes a weekly update on occupational health and safety called ‘Talking Social Security’. In one edition it is written that, “Several types of hardwood are known to adversely affect the respiratory system. Nasal cancer can also be induced by such dust.” Sawdust vendors and their clients are therefore encouraged to take precautions such as the wearing of a mask to avoid adverse health effects.