31 Aug 2023
  • Eva Sibanda | Communications Officer, Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen

East Hararghe, Ethiopia - The lives of migrants who have returned to Ethiopia are being transformed, and many are being deterred from taking dangerous migration journeys, thanks to new project. Migrants are being taught how to transform waste from khat, a popular plant in the region, consumed by chewing, into charcoal. The charcoal is used as burning fuel for cooking and heating.  

The process involves collecting and using the waste from khat, which people normally throw away and is then dumped in an identified locations.  The team currently use manual burning machines to burn the sticks. The carbonized or burnt remains from burning the sticks are ground into a powder and sieved into a finer powder. That fine powder is then mixed with clay or cement into a sticky consistency.  The wet mixture is then transferred into the molding machine which produces the charcoal bricks. After 2 days in good sun the briquettes are dry and ready for use and the charcoal is used for cooking.  

The migrants and the people in the community then sell the charcoal to burn for cooking purposes. The sales give them an income and livelihood they never had, which enables migrants who have returned to reintegrate better into the community.  Returnee migrants also receive management, business skills and leadership training.  

PAD is currently training over 120 migrants over a 9-month project in Harar (a city in the Eastern Ethiopia). Since production started two months ago returnee migrants and host communities have produced over 2,000 kilograms of charcoal. 

The project is being implemented by Positive Action for Development (PAD),a non-governmental, humanitarian and development organization supported by IOM in Ethiopia.  

The finished product charcoal briquettes produced by the host community and migrant beneficiaries (Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023)

“The goal is to produce 500 kilograms per day,” Lensa Yusuf shared. 

One of the beneficiaries of this economic empowerment project is Lensa Yusuf, a 20-year-old member of the host community.  She heard about this PAD opportunity through the government job creation bureau. Lensa went to school up until the third grade but discontinued due to financial burdens. Lensa comes to this site to work every day and shared:  “I have learned waste management skills from this project it gives me work and income opportunity.” 

When asked whether she’s been tempted to migrate along the Eastern Route Lensa said: “I am not sure if this would bring anything good for me, I don’t intend to but who knows in future if an opportunity comes.” 

Her friend and co-worker Zam Zam, also 20 years old, shared that she heard of this opportunity in the same way. After dropping out of school, she was seeking ways in which to support her family. Zam Zam’s cooperative group is a mix of host and returnee migrant community. When asked how they blend Zam Zam said: “We work together well, we communicate in the same language.” 

Lensa (one of the host community beneficiaries of the PAD project) stands before the large dump site of khat sticks (Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023)

Heightened efforts to improve the economic situation for the host community in migration hotspots will reduce the push to migrate irregularly. The main reasons people move continue to be economical, therefore economic empowerment, livelihoods, training, education and community stabilization are key. PAD supports with equipment to transport waste in liaison with the government.   

Zam-Zam (one of the host community beneficiaries of the PAD project) stands before the large dump site of khat sticks (Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023)

This community-based reintegration initiative is carried out by Positive Action for Development (PAD), a local Ethiopian NGO under the umbrella framework of the route-based Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen. The implementation for this specific activity is in East Hararghe Region, Ethiopia. This initiative is supported by funding from the French Government.  


For more information contact: Eva Sibanda (MRP Communications Officer, IOM Regional Office in Nairobi) at +254795424202 

SDG 1 - No Poverty