2012 Study Tour: Alternative energy innovation in Nepal

FoST - The Foundation for Sustainable Technologies Briquette making and other amazing alternative sources with Sanu Kagi

The other day we had the privilege of meeting with Sanu, one of Steph’s friends who lives in Thamel near where we are staying. He is a very wise man who has done lots of studies and traveled around the world teaching his research and methods for alternative energy and recycling initiatives. The work he does in Nepal is absolutely invaluable in providing a cheap and resourceful option for cooking fuel. Sanu is set up as a training workshop and demonstration space, as well as a storage space for all the stuff they make, and they also sell all the products. I even love the set up of the workshop with creative recycling - vases made out of old drink bottles, sings made from cardboard boxes, bags made from plastic bags, and mats woven with straw and recycled rubbish. It gave me lots of creative ideas as to what to with recycling and up-cycling!


A couple of the specialties that Sanu is involved in is solar cookers and cooking briquettes made from waste paper and other recycled materials. Both of these initiatives have been developed from Sanu’s own designs and research on sustainable technologies. After many years being involved in the World Bank in Nepal, he began dabbling in alternative energy and sustainable options as a hobby. He felt it necessary because of the traditional ways of cooking and collecting wood in Nepal; wood is heavy, people have to travel far (especially women and children), the wood burns all day and night and therefore creates a lot of waste, and there is also so much waste available which is useless for anything else.

Solar cookers have served as a great saver of electricity or fuel – not only is this expensive, but also very unreliable. Power and fuel would often be unavailable and therefore limited ability to cook. With solar cookers, being exposed to the sun there would always be enough power saved up to do a family’s daily cooking. Sanu’s wife was one of the first people to trial this out, and although apprehensive about cooking outside on the terrace, after 6 months she was converted and has been more than happy to use a solar cooker where possible ever since! She was also finally convinced that the food tastes even better being cooked this way! They have also been able to sell and spread the use of solar cookers to families and businesses around Nepal.

The briquettes are made from waste paper, saw dust, other packages, leaves and grass. The mixture is soaked in a barrel which is pushed through a little manual machine and pressed down into a cylinder. Each briquette dries in the sun for a day or so and is then ready to use on a stove. It’s an amazing initiative which is much more affordable than other forms of cooking fuel such as LPG and Kerosene. Sanu simply wants to get the training and products out there so more people use it and stray away from traditional methods which are much worse for the environment.

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Dried briquettes

One other thing Sanu has done is develop a natural fertilizer called Biochar made from ash, waste material and leaf litter. It is used to mix in with the soil and it supports germination of the roots and it has no chemicals so it needs less water than other fertilizer and retains carbon and water in the soil much better. It has lots of benefits including increased fertility and moisture content and it also protects the roots. In his greenhouse and pot-plants he uses it and he has shown the difference it makes in producing healthier and bigger crops.

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Greenhouse crops

Sanu’s work is absolutely amazing – it was great to meet him and for him to share with us his work. He is very connected around the world and has demonstrated his ingenuity and appreciation for sustainable and ethical living. I was so glad to have seen what he is doing and I believe it will continue to go far. The more training he provides, the more people will be equipped to make more sustainable choices. The women at the EPSA Seven Women centre have the briquette making training and also have a solar cooker to use at the house. There is an initial plan to set up a little stall at the centre which they can sell the briquettes at and have it working alongside their vegetable and herb garden; utilising the biochar in their gardening and the solar cooker in their cooking! What a beautiful and flourishing relationship (excuse the pun) this has become between Steph and Sanu.

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