Makin’ (Village Community) Bank

With only a week and a half left here in Arusha, we are moving into the final stretch of the trip. We’re working hard, trying to accomplish everything we want to in the limited time that we have left! The rainy season has abated, and we’ve been enjoying five days of dry roads and sunshine.

Sunset over our house
Sunset over our house

On Saturday we visited EMORG to do a session on briquette pressing. We were very impressed by the efficiency of their operation—they speedily pressed out over 200 briquettes! We are helping them to look for a permanent scale that they can use to sell them, and will be returning with them to the market today. Good weather allowing, we should be able to observe the market for longer than we have previously.

Sammie helps to mix charcoal and cassava
Sammie helps to mix charcoal and cassava

Sammie, Frank and I headed out to visit our partner Lulu Vicoba on Monday. It was exciting to be able to see all of the briquettes that they’re making! They showed us the presses and molds that they are using, and demonstrated the traditional three-stone stove for us. They also showed us models of traditional Meru housing, noting that it is difficult for smoke to escape from them because they do not have windows or chimneys. This makes it really important for there to be access to smokeless cook-fuels.

Frank was able to gather many important values on Lulu Vicoba’s briquetting process, and is using them to conduct an economic analysis on their operation. Sammie collected some briquetting anecdotes, overcoming the language barrier with the help of a translator. We also gave three posters on briquetting to Lulu Vicoba. They seemed very excited about them, and eagerly promised to hang them on the walls of their office.
We’d like to thank Didas of EMORG for helping us to find a driver to get us to Lulu Vicoba’s meeting space, and Naomi of EARD-CI for finding our translator.

Yesterday Frank and I trekked out to Njiro to go to Bernard’s workshop. There are still some relics from past DHE trips here, including some rocket stove prototypes! We modified one of the old rocket stoves into a small top lit updraft kiln. It is the largest TLUD that we have made. Initial test burns have been promising, but we are planning to return to the work shop tomorrow to make some additional modifications.

Frank contemplates the new TLUD
Frank contemplates the new TLUD

Kwaheri!

Travel Team Keeps Grinding Away

Wow only 2 weeks left here in Arusha for the travel team! Big things are happening on the regular, and we have a couple things in particular that have happened since Sammie’s last post.

With the help of our friend Bernard and some skillful hands at his workshop, we finished the first prototype of a new charcoal grinder on Wednesday! While it still has room for improvement, it’s a big step toward relieving the women of the back-breaking work of grinding the charcoal with a mortar and pestle. We brought it to both Vision for Youth and EMORG on Thursday, and they were both grateful for its potential to improve the process. EMORG had a carpenter look at the design today and they should have a bigger version of it soon!

Sharing the grinder prototype with Vision for Youth
Sharing the grinder prototype with Vision for Youth

The excitement didn’t stop at the grinder for EMORG and Vision for Youth, though. Yesterday we got the leaders of the two groups to meet for the first time – the first of many we hope! Since we’re only here for another 2 weeks, it’s crucial that knowledge on briquetting can continue to be spread in Arusha after we leave. It’s exciting to see the different briquetting groups start to network in ways that will be mutually beneficial moving forward. The meeting went so well that EMORG invited the Vision for Youth leaders out to their workspace to see how their briquetting operation works. The meeting was in Swahili so we couldn’t understand much (Violet Ayoub from V4Y filled us in on the important things), but at the end I heard an enthusiastic “Karibuni” (welcome) several times from the EMORG chairwomen – always a good sign.

First meeting with Vision for Youth and EMORG together!
First meeting with Vision for Youth and EMORG together!

As for lifestyle updates, I’m basically a local now because I had to ride on the outside of a dala dala the other day – hanging on for dear life. It was a little scary especially because there was so much mud, but at least I had way more space for my head and knees than I usually do on the dala dalas! We’ve enjoyed making friends with the locals as well. Some highlights include the girls politely turning down a few marriage proposals and I got to teach some new friends how to throw a frisbee.

That’s all for now, but stay tuned!

Sammie makes a new friend
Sammie makes a new friend

 

 

Halfway Point!

We are now two and a half weeks into our trip, and thankfully spirits are still high!   It’s been a while since our last blog post (sorry!) and a lot has happened, including two birthdays and a good amount of progress.  We have now had meetings with EMORG, Upendo and have a meeting with Lulu VICOBA tomorrow.

The women’s group at EMORG is doing great work with their briquetting operation.  We have seen a charcoal processing session as well as their final products.  Their briquettes are beautiful and they are able to make them in fairly large quantities (about 400 per week).  We have noticed, though, that the grinding process has been very labor intensive.  They are using a mortar and pestle and it takes about two hours to process their charcoal.  Peter and I tried it out, and it’s pretty hard work (I can’t imagine doing it for two hours!).  They’ve said that a machine would make their charcoal grinding easier and more efficient, so Frank and Peter are working on creating a processing machine for them (as well as for other groups, hopefully).  We will be working with AISE’s founder, Bernard, on this project.

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Anna and I meeting with the women’s group at EMORG (and Didas!)

The other exciting news about the women’s group at EMORG is that we went to the market with them and they sold briquettes! They have been making briquettes for a long time, but have not been selling them at the market.  Unfortunately, we were only able to stay for about 15 minutes before the downpour of rain came and ended our market day.  We were able to sell some, though, and that was very encouraging.  It’s great for the women’s group to have briquette-based income so that there are tangible benefits for all of their hard work.

Vision for Youth has also shown promising progress in their briquetting operations.  Anna and I have observed their entire process now and are excited about their continued progress as we work together to increase efficiency.  We are also trying to arrange meetings between Vision for Youth and our other partners.  One of our big goals is to connect these groups together in a way that is beneficial to them, and so we are trying to set up initial meetings.  They all seem very excited to meet with each other and share ideas.

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Initial meeting with UPENDO

We met once with Upendo and enjoyed seeing their space, it was very beautiful.  Unfortunately, due to conflicts, we will not be able to meet with them again until early March.  We hope, at that point, that we are able to connect them with our other partners before we have to say goodbye to Tanzania.

On a more recreational note, we spent last Saturday in Moshi at the hot springs.  They were relaxing and a great break for a day. We swam, ate chipsi mayai, and made some friends!

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Peter, Anna and I in the hot springs in Moshi

Baadaye! See you later!

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The Boys Venture to Dar es Salaam

Jambo friends!

Peter and I traveled to Dar es Salaam this past Tuesday, February 4th. After an hour long taxi ride, we became well acquainted with the city’s traffic-jammed streets filled with vendors weaving between trapped vehicles and peddling everything from peanuts to giant stuffed animals to the unhappy drivers. Eventually, we made it to the Safari Inn, where we established basecamp (and enjoyed the luxury of consistent air conditioning!) for the next three days.

The next day, we got up bright and early to catch our taxi to the University of Dar to meet Dr. Rajabu, a senior lecturer in the energy engineering department and longtime collaborator with DHE since the rocket stove project. There, we also got to meet Christian “Rui” Lohri, a researcher from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, who was serving as a co-advisor for two of Dr. Rajabu’s master students, Adam and Elia.  Despite struggling to find the Engineering College (our taxi driver, Salim, had to ask the local residents for directions), we arrived just in time to sit in on their weekly project meeting.

For their master’s work, both students are focused on developing low-cost processors for the drying and carbonization steps of converting waste biomass into charcoal. Adam’s project is a solar powered biomass dryer that uses a solar collector to heat air being drawn through a drying rack by an electric-powered fan. The solar collector also has an insert for a charcoal stove so that air can be heated during cloudy days. Elia’s project is a carbonizer made of a brick and a rotatable oil drum. Basically the rotating mechanism makes the process more efficient by using the produced pyrolysis gases to make the process self-sustaining.

After the project meeting, we had a quick lunch before we hopped into Dr. Rajabu’s car to take a bumpy road trip through Dar’s mountainous back-roads to visit several of the briquetting sites in the city. The first was a technology farm run by Tatedo (Tanzania Traditional Energy Development and Environment Organization) showcasing several batch carbonizers including dirt mounds and large scale brick-and-oil drum retorts, greenhouse biomass driers, and motorized briquetting processors such as a briquette extruder, and “pillow case” briquette press. Afterwards, we stopped by ARTI (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute) Energy’s Tanzania headquarters, where we got to see their oil drum TLUD carbonizers (essentially big scale versions of the demonstration TLUD on campus), and their hand-powered briquette extruders. To top off the visit, we talked with the executive director, Nachiket W. Potnis, and one of the program officers about their business model. ARTI expects to produce and sell 4000 tons of charcoal by the end of the year! It’s exciting to see at these places how charcoal briquetting can be successful and make an impact at a large scale.

Hujambo from Arusha!

It’s hard to believe that we have only been here in Arusha for three days! The travel team has been keeping very busy. We are picking up some Swahili, and enjoying the heat after Hanover winter. Everyone here is incredibly welcoming and friendly, and we hear “Karibu!” (welcome) everywhere that we go. And the food! I could rant about how amazing the food is for several days. We have a wonderful cook, Nema, who is teaching us about Tanzanian cuisine and Swahili.

Peter and Frank left for Dar es Salaam on Monday. They met with Dr. Rajabu today, and will return on Friday.  Before they left, we had the pleasure of meeting with Miss Ayoub, Violet, and Veda from Vision for Youth. It was wonderful to finally meet everyone after hearing so much about them from the summer team!

Vision for Youth Meeting

Sammie and I were able to meet with Vision for Youth again on Tuesday to observe a burn in their brick kiln. The travel team is using initial meetings with our partners to see what progress they have made since the summer team visited, and we were very impressed with the operation that Vision for Youth has set up. Their knowledge, skill, and ideas for the future were tremendous, and we greatly look forward to working with them further. We plan to meet with them again on Friday, to review posters that the travel team brought with us and meet the rest of their briquetting team.

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We are excited to meet with the women’s group at EMORG tomorrow! Didas and Troy at EMORG have been extremely kind to us, and we are delighted to be able to finally see EMORG and meet the briquetters. We also look forward to meeting with Upendo on Saturday.

I think that’s all for now, and we will update again soon! Kwaheri!