Our love for the wonderful city of Dar es Salaam has been rivaled by the beautiful views, fresh air, and rural landscape of the Arusha region. We are staying about a twenty minute drive from the Arusha center in the town Leganga, and have been enjoying our new home since our arrival on Saturday. After playing in a soccer game with town locals, eating our favorite lunch at a local restaurant (Chips Mayai, aka French Fry omelets) and seeing some wild monkeys, we feel that Leganga has offered us a warm welcome. And our initial concerns of the small size of Leganga were eased when we learned of the slightly larger town further down the road: Usa. After a ten minute walk along a road bustling with Dala-dalas, motorcycles, and huge trucks, we ventured through Usa’s streets that are lined with shops and street venders selling everything from yard rakes to cooking oil. We were easily able to bargain for and purchase the materials needed to begin our test briquetting operation. Some of our exciting purchases included a small charcoal stove, a rake for collecting grass, and aluminum cooking pots.
This summer, the team will be continuing our partnership with the Enterprise and Rural Development Community Initiatives (EARD-CI). And as a bit of background, EARD-CI is an organization based out of Arusha that has establish small community banks (called VICOBAs) with the purpose of improving the financial stability and health of rural families, as well as improving environmental conservation. EARD-CI generously allows us to meet with the VICOBA groups about the briquetting techniques. On Monday, we had a great meeting with Edith Benzi, the director of EARD-CI. We enjoyed learning about EARD-CI’s work and we also confirmed our ability to use EARD-CI’s yard as a work space. Edith also gave us the contact information for a person in Arusha who has been working to produce charcoal briquettes. Considering that this person’s work is very similar to our initiative this summer, we are very excited to contact this person and learn more about what she has been working on. Edith also offered us an EARD-CI house to rent for the summer, and this house is conveniently located across the street from EARD-CI. Today we moved into our wonderful home and we are already enjoying the comfortable setting.
In addition to meeting with Edith, we also had an informative meeting on Tuesday with Naomie, the Loan Officer for EARD-CI. Naomie has been an awesome person to work with and is very willing to help us out. From Naomie, the team gained some valuable information: that people greatly prefer charcoal briquettes over non-charcoal briquettes. This information— along with our previous understanding that charcoal briquettes have a higher energy density and burn cleaner— has led us to prioritize developing a charcoal kiln that can be used to carbonize biomass. Naomie also requested that before meeting with the VICOBA groups, we demonstrate a successful briquette cooked meal; so our current plan is to spend the next two weeks creating and testing charcoal briquettes. And to hasten the briquette making process, we plan to use cassava flour— which has naturally sticky fibers and requires no decomposition period— as a briquette ingredient.
The team has also been refining our plan for reporting and has decided to compile a collection of guides and reports. The guides are meant to be resources for DHE’s future work, with the intent that they will be updated continuously by both on-campus Bioenergy groups and travel teams in the future. The guides will have corresponding reports for this Summer 13X trip.
We eagerly await these next several days, and look forward to checking in again with you soon!