Solar Mamas currently in residence at our new Senegal training centre are turning waste into sustainable fuel, and into income! 


In rural Senegal, cooking is done over open fires using wood or charcoal from wood. This wood comes from cutting trees, which in turn depletes forests and at current rates, natural forests in Senegal will soon be devoid of trees, and arid regions will suffer the consequences caused by further advancement of the desert. This will lead to even greater problems for the rural areas where these cooking practices are continued.

This practice is widespread where our Solar Mamas are from, and has long been a source of concern for authorities. Over the years, various campaigns have been launched to sensitize rural communities on the need to stop cutting trees and using wood as charcoal, but solutions and alternatives have not been offered.

Barefoot College International in Senegal is proud to address the issue through recycling. We employ a simple and inexpensive technology that turns organic waste (like dried leaves) into charcoal briquettes.

Recently, our team spent weeks in Casamance, Senegal, training mamas to making charcoal from dried leaves, coconut and baobab husks and other waste material.

These organic charcoal briquettes are cheaper and burn more cleanly than natural charcoal, thus helping to solve the issue of deforestation whilst also providing a more environmentally sustainable alternative.

But the benefits don’t stop there! These organic briquettes tackle a number of other key problems faced by rural communities in Senegal:

  • By removing organic waste from the streets, villages become healthier places to live.
  • A stable and sustainable business enterprise can be created, where there was previously none, leading to economic uplift for women and communities.
  • They help reduce pollution and disease, as natural charcoal releases harmful fumes for both the health of the people using them and the planet.

The training means that the Solar Mamas, whose training has been funded by DP World Dakar, can now produce and sell this environmentally cleaner and more safe organic charcoal as an alternative to traditional wood charcoal. Thereby becoming advocates for the protection of the environment and creating a new stream of income for themselves.

This newfound economic opportunity is especially important because, in their landlocked regions, there are few options to generate income and turning waste into organic charcoal allows them to do just that, while perfectly aligning with their new solar engineering role.

Now agents of sustainable change in more ways than one, and with a number of potentially lucrative and diverse income opportunities, the Solar Mamas are able to offer their communities a variety of different options for more sustainable living.

We are proud to empower them with the knowledge and innovative skills to transform their lives and communities.