Hello again! Wow, it feels like a while since I’ve written here and it certainly feels like a lot has happened. Before I dive into the more official updates I would like to mention that my dad and my brother took advantage of my stay here in Arusha to come visit and see a bit of what exactly what we at DHE do. It has been wonderful to have them around and they both put in hours with us making briquettes. With them around decided to take four days off from our funded responsibilities and take some time visiting Tanzania’s national parks and conservation areas. Nice to get away from briquettes for a bit.
That said, our workshop is constant making improvements and exploring better production components and processing methods. We recently discovered a much more effective means of using cassava flour as binder. As opposed to making porridge and mixing in in with the charcoal dust we have begun mixing the dust and the flour first, and then adding boiling water. Doing so spreads the starch fibers much more thoroughly through the mixture. We have also added two new briquette presses to our arsenal: a wooden compound lever press (which was used extensively last year) and something called a Farmer Jack. We are preferring these designs to the hammer press because they are a bit easier on the molds/plungers and also produce very dense briquettes.
On Monday, Rachel and Emily made a very exciting visit to a group that last summer’s team spent a lot of time working with, the Lulu vicoba (vicoba = community bank). We were very excited to find out that they still are regularly making briquettes for internal consumption. They are still using the same wooden compound lever press and donut mold as DHE had originally supplied and though they are not producing their own charcoal, they were able to find a source of waste charcoal fines which are being incorporating into their mixtures. The groups seems very happy with their current operation and we plan to more thoroughly document the financial and production systems they have set up.
Yesterday was quite the busy day. The team split so we could run two different capacity building sessions, both on brick kiln construction. Tucker and I, with the help of my Dad and bro, headed out to Kisongo to meet with a group of women affiliated with EMORG (Educational Model ORGanizaton). We spent the morning session talking with them about briquetting and how biomass is carbonized into charcoal. The women had no experience with making briquettes and were very interested in it from an entrepreneurial perspective. EMORG sees briquetting as potentially being their first vocational training trade and as a means to fuel an in house kitchen. In the afternoon we got our hands dirty and constructed a charcoal kiln for local waste. And Emily and Rachel went to work with Vision for Youth, the group based out of Arusha town who are starting their own business. They are very eager to start selling soon and so were very excited to have built their first kiln!
And today, bright and early, we are flying out to Kigoma where we will be having meetings with some representatives from the Jane Goodall Institute. DHE has a rich history working with JGI and I hope we can set up plans so the Bioenergy Project’s next two trips in Tanzania include more collaboration with them. JGI has expressed interest in briquettes as a reliable alternative cooking fuel and we hope that going forward we can help them put together a capacity building program for the Kigoma region. We will be sure to write again soon and thanks for checking in!