Enterprise : Earning from grass and papyrus
Posted Tuesday, January 29 2013 at 02:00
The turn around. From the confines of the Kitchen, Lungs has made a product that would turn around the life of Uganda’s households.
Like many other secondary school students, he didn’t know what shape his career path would take. At one point he thought he would be a medical doctor yet at the same time he would picture himself as an agriculturalist. But as it would turn out later Bernard Lungs is neither a doctor nor an agriculturalist.
Today he is a young, promising, and innovative entrepreneur. “As a student in high school, I never thought about how I would turn out professionally. However, I ended up at Makerere University Business School, studying business management,” says Lungs with a sense of ambition in his voice.
“This in a way was a blessing in disguise; given that in business school, is where I curved out a career path that I believe suits my interests while at the same time allows me to build on my science background acquired throughout my secondary education.”
Armed with both technical and business knowledge, it was a matter of time before he started putting his talent to good use.
“In 2010, I embarked on a research into grasses from the confine of my parent’s kitchen in Naalya with the aim of breaking down the higher sugars in grasses into glucose and then fermenting it into ethanol.”
“The grass residue is what I used later on to invent Charcolite Fire starter.” Charcolite is a fire starter made out of grass and papyrus.
It is an alternative to the newspapers or polythene paper commonly used in most households to start fire in charcoal briquettes. And for those who use paraffin to start fire, they now have a better and safer option.
The mass production of the 31-year old product is likely to begin this month with the purchase of a crushing machine which is needed for large scale production.
It is forecasted to make sales revenue in the range of Shs2.8 million on a monthly basis after its launch planned for this month.
Three years ago, with the support of the then GTZ and now GIZ, Charcolite was tested at the Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation at the Faculty of Technology, Makerere University. It was found that the product was effective and environmentally friendly.
In the same year - 2010, Mr Lungs showcased Charcolite during the UMA international trade fair at Lugogo at the invitation of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development. He has also exhibited in Gulu with Uganda National Council for Science and Technology during the National Science week.
Like many promising young entrepreneurs, Mr Lungs has made the best of his mentors, including Mr Suma Kirowa, the Rwenzori Bottling Company managing director, and Mr Arinaitwe Rugyendo, a marketer and a journalist.
He was introduced and attached to the two business minds during a mentorship programme run and managed by Mara.
It was through his participation in the Mara (entrepreneurship) programme, that he was selected as the first beneficiary of the Mara launch Uganda fund late last year.
With the Shs8 million grand prize for his charcolite innovation, Mr Lungs is now the proud owner of Charcolite Fire Starter, a company that was recently announced as the Mara Launch Fund’s first investment.
In 2010 he started his business with an interesting idea to turn the naturally occurring sugar in grass into ethanol.
Although this idea did not materialise, it mutated into another ingenious idea - creating a fire starter that he named charcolite, given that more than 80 per cent of Ugandans depend on wood fuel.
He is also working around expanding his ideas to produce clean and effective cooking briquettes as well.