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Makerere Promotes Waragi as Clean Cooking Energy

Scientists at Makerere University say crude waragi distilled in almost every part of the country could serve as a cheaper, sustainable clean cooking energy if home brewers were given better technologies of producing it.
Moto Sawa instant lighting stoves produce flames similar to those produced by gas cookers.

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Scientists at Makerere University say crude waragi distilled in almost every part of the country could serve as a cheaper, sustainable clean cooking energy if home brewers were given better technologies of producing it. 

The Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC), located in the College of Engineering, Design and Technology (CEDAT), says waragi can serve well as a bioethanol cooking fuel and substitute for petroleum. 

CREEC together with Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) have carried out studies on the potential of locally produced as a clean cooking fuel. 

Some rural places in Uganda are known for producing raw alcohol or waragi from sugarcane molasses, cassava and banana. In 2004, Uganda ranked 8th globally ahead of Germany and Australia among the 'World's 10 best-drinking nations'. Crude waragi consumption featured.

According to the World Health Organization, Ugandans consume 23.7 litres of alcohol per capita and 89 percent of this is brewed locally in homes and illegally sold. A 2007 report by the International Chronic Poverty Research Centre reveals that 29 percent of all households in Uganda engage in distilling waragi.

CREEC says brewers could be encouraged to produce ethanol as a source of clean energy that would also save lives.

In Uganda over 97% of the over 37 million population still rely heavily on pollution-producing cook stoves. It is estimated that 13,200 people die annually from indoor smoke inhalation.

Claire Turyahebwa, a Bio-Energy Officer at CREEC says clean ethanol-burning stoves are healthier than traditional charcoal stoves or the traditional three stone fire places.

She says one of the missing links has been the absence of an effective stove which could be used to promote bioethanol. Turyahebwa however says a new effective cook stove of Moto Sawa imported from Kenya is being promoted alongside the bioethanol. It can cook two litres of water in just nine minutes from the blue flame from burning ethanol.

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Sugar factories around the country have already taken interest in producing bioethanol from sugarcane waste like molasses. Kakira Sugar Works in November last year commissioned a 130-billion-shilling distillery that processes and turns molasses, a residue from the sugar milling, into ethanol. The distillery has effectively cut off supply of molasses to local waragi distillers at Wandago and Magamaga in Jinja.  The price of ethanol produced from Kakira goes at 4,500 shillings per litre.

Turyahebwa says the cost of ethanol could go down if locals were taught how to produce it.  

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The cost of Kakira's bioethanol or ENA brand remains high because of the demand from the local beverage industry and big distillers like Uganda Breweries Limited (UBL), the producers of Uganda Waragi and a whole range of whiskies.

Studies by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) have indicated that sugarcane bioethanol is currently the most cost-effective commercial biofuel and has the highest energy balance of all commercial bioethanol.

IRENA projects that the demand for transport fuels from Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa alone will amount to more than 4,100 petajoules by 2030.

It said domestic market for bioethanol is attractive in many cases because fuel prices are high, and demand for fuel in African countries is growing rapidly and that bioethanol replaces lead, which is harmful to the environment.

IRENA however discourages countries like Uganda from using sugarcane for bioethanol production.  It says bioethanol production may not be a priority for countries whose main goal is to meet internal sugar needs but notes that it depends on the opportunity cost of final molasses in the sugarcane industry.

It says Uganda could utilise biomass feedstock from cassava, sorghum, maize and others to produce bioethanol. 

Crops like bananas and cassava have for decades been used in Northern Uganda, and areas of Western Uganda for distilling waragi or bioethanol as the source of income.