The 14X Bioenergy Project team has arrived to Tanzania! We got to the bustling city of Arusha in northern Tanzania only three short days ago. We were very warmly welcomed and picked up at Kilimanjaro Airport by Didas, the head of EMORG in Arusha. He took us to the volunteer house, where we are staying for the rest of our time here (approximately 4 weeks in Arusha). It is very homey place to come back to after a long day of working – complete with a TV to catch up on World Cup games, Dvij’s acoustic guitar, and two adorable little puppies. Betty has cooked so many delicious meals for us. The group favorite thus far has been “chapati”, a Tanzanian crêpe, and “pilau”, a deliciously tasty rice dish. We have been graciously accompanied around town by three incredible guides: Filbert, Jennifer, and Lalashi. We are so grateful to EMORG to have them with us to show us around and help us settle in.
We’ve only been here three days, and yet we have hit the ground running. We’ve been figuring out how to get from point A to point B in Arusha, learning Kiswahili, and setting up meetings with partner organizations. Through this blog we plan to give updates on the progress we make in our work over the course of our stay, provide some insight into the things we learn, and share some tidbits about our adventures and the people we meet.
Today, the team had its first meeting with EMORG in the Kisongo region of Arusha. EMORG is an NGO that supports the local community with a beautiful library space and school. EMORG also has a powerful women’s group that creates briquettes (wood or lump charcoal alternatives) and other goods for sale, with whom we will be working this June and July. We met the women’s group, and their leader Mama Nuru, and participated in a briquetting session with them.
We were able to see the exact process that the women’s group uses to produce briquettes. First, they collect small bits of charcoal fines from the market which they can get for free. They grind this in a contraption that somewhat resembles a big spice grinder. A wooden bowl is filled with the charcoal bits and then those bits are smashed into a powder by large wooden staff. This powder is then mixed with a binder. The binder that the women’s group uses is a porridge-like mixture of hot water and cassava flour. The black paste of charcoal powder and binder is then pressed into disk-shaped briquette molds using gear modeled by DHE. These are then laid out to dry on a tin sheet in the sun. Once they are dry (takes approximately 3 days), the briquettes are sold in the local Kisongo market at a price of 1 kilo (22 briquettes) for 1000 TSH shillings (about 60 US cents). The women estimate that they make about 18-20 kilos of briquettes per week.
The biggest issue facing the women’s group at present is that they are running out of charcoal chips to use. This comes down to two primary reasons. The first is that the government is beginning to restrict deforestation, meaning that less wood and thus less charcoal is being used nationally, meaning fewer fines available to collect at the market. The second is that due to recent, climate change-induced inclement weather many leftover chips have gotten wet in the markets or blown away. So the women are in need of a different briquette process. In times past, the women used the bottom-lit updraft (BLSD) kiln that the 13X team built. However rains and harsh weather have destroyed this kiln. The 14X team is now planning on building an educational, small-scale top-lit updraft (TLUD) to demonstrate for the women’s group, which has the advantage of being portable in case of harsh weather and also is able to take advantage of different feedstock sources – sawdust, corn husks, coffee husks, etc. The women’s group found that corn husks were not particularly effective, so we are planning to test the TLUD with sawdust which costs 2000 shillings per 100 kilos in the Arusha market and possibly kahawa or coffee husks.
Tonight we spoke to Didas about this plan, and he has helped us execute a strategy for finding materials and building an educational TLUD. He has machine equipment at his office in Arusha that we can use. If all goes well, we plan on building this TLUD by Thursday which is the next time that the women’s group meets. If it is not done in time, they also meet on Saturday.
So the plan until Thursday is to build the TLUD. Simultaneously, we also have plans to meet with previous partners from Vision 4 Youth and Lulu Vicoba. Stay tuned for more…
Baadaye (Until next time!)
Here’s a bit more about the team!
Dvij Bajpai is a junior enrolled in the Dual Degree Engineering program with Thayer. Back at Amherst College he is a Mathematics major and he intends to major either in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering at Dartmouth. Apart from Math, Dvij loves Music, Physics, reading and coffee. Last summer Dvij investigated the dynamics of rational functions over p-adic metric spaces with Professor Robert Benedetto of the Math department at Amherst. The summer before that and through sophomore year, Dvij worked on developing a high-resolution temperature control device for laser cavities in Physics Professor David Hanneke’s lab at Amherst. Dvij was born in Mumbai and intends to go back home at some point in his career to work on infrastructure and energy projects.
Jun Bing ’17 graduated from Albany Senior High School in Auckland, New Zealand as a Valedictorian. At Dartmouth, he is pursuing Engineering and Economics double major. He is currently a member of Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering (DHE) and Dartmouth Investment Philanthropy Program (DIPP). He will be serving as an assistant project leader for the Bioenergy group within DHE from the next fall term. During his high school days, he led a science project on carbon dioxide sequestration, which won a place in the semi-finals of the Google Science Fair 2011. He has also published a graphic non-fiction on early New Zealand history.
A proud native of San Francisco, Olivia Evans will graduate from Dartmouth College in 2014 with a B.A. in Romance Languages and minor in International Studies. Passionate about languages as a means for cross-cultural communication and understanding, particularly in an international development context, Olivia speaks French, Spanish, and Italian and is excited to get started on her fifth language, Swahili, with DHE. Olivia was able to put these languages to the test when she worked for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome for her junior year. At UN FAO, Olivia worked as a Communications Intern authoring stories for the Ending Hunger campaign, writing speeches, and getting to meet some of her biggest her role-models, the directors FAO, WFP, and IFAD. After Rome, Olivia went on to work for the UN FAO again her junior summer in Washington D.C. There, she was part of a 3-person team that organized World Food Day events across the United States, pitched stories that ended up in the New York Times, Forbes, and the Huffington Post, and coordinated an essay series with 43 of the foremost thought leaders in food security. After graduation, Olivia will be working for the top global communications firm, Ogilvy & Mather, in New York City. She is thrilled to be joining the DHE team this summer in Tanzania, where she will be conducting impact analysis through a variety of storytelling means.
Bridget Golob ‘14 is pursuing a double major in Geography and Romance Languages and a minor in Government. Bridget spent her sophomore winter in Paris on Dartmouth’s French foreign study program. She served as a Dickey / Dartmouth Center for Healthcare Delivery Science Global Health Initiative Fellow in Lima, Peru during her junior winter researching and developing emergency preparedness and response capabilities with the Hospital Nacional Cayetano Heredia. A main focus of her work was capacity building in the Lima region. Bridget was awarded a Global Health Certificate during her junior spring and spent her junior summer working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on policy development, citizen outreach and mitigation. Bridget spent her senior fall and winter preparing for and working on building clean cook stoves, latrines and a solar-powered water system outside of Siuna, Nicaragua. At Dartmouth, Bridget also serves as a Diversity Peer Advisor, President of the women’s group Link Up, and Director of Chapter Events for Alpha Phi International Fraternity. She is a Rockefeller Center for Public Policy Student Program Assistant and the Dickey Center Global Health Intern. Upon graduation, Bridget hopes to use her background in international health, policy and disaster management to pursue a career in international development and development policy. She will tentatively be attending King’s College in London where she will pursue a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security and Development.
Steffi Olesi Muhanji is a Thayer dual degree student from Vassar College. At Vassar, Steffi is a Physics major with a math and computer science correlate. She plans to major in Electrical Engineering at Thayer School of Engineering with a focus on sustainable energy systems. In her sophomore year and summer Steffi developed a functional labview program that assisted in the study of material properties of semi-conductor thin films using ultra-fast laser experiments for Professor Brian Daly’s lab at Vassar College. In addition to Engineering and Physics, Steffi enjoys dancing, running and an occasional cup of tea. Steffi was born and raised in Kenya.