Jambo from Tanzania! The team has been busy, busy, busy as we spend time meeting with more organizations and building demonstration kilns. On Tuesday, we met with two organizations that DHE has previously worked with: EARD-CI (Enterprise & Rural Development – Community Initiatives) and Vision 4 Youth. At EARD-CI, we met with Naomi, who told us of all the opportunities and struggles that Lulu Vicoba, the community bank of around 30 men and women that the organization oversees, has had in briquette production. When DHE arrived in 2012, they helped to set up a briquette operation. Lulu Vicoba used a mixture of sawdust, paper binder, organic materials and charcoal fines to make the briquettes you see below. Some of the filler materials are not carbonized before being processed and pressed. However, as you can see in the picture, these briquettes are not fully carbonized and are quite ashy, meaning they don’t work very well for cooking. We learned that, naturally, Lulu Vicoba needs to have higher quality briquettes in order to sell them. This is where our team comes in – we’ve been hard at work on different models of TLUD kilns and a more efficient carbonization process that will produce better char which will then produce better briquettes, and produce an income for Lulu Vicoba in the markets. We intend to meet with the group to complete our impact analysis study and to gauge the group’s interest in producing its own char.
We next visited Vision 4 Youth, who is experiencing similar problems. We went to the organization’s new headquarters, which are spacious and lovely. Violet, the organization’s director, told us about Vision 4 Youth’s many entrepreneurship and agricultural activities and history to date with making briquettes. Vision 4 Youth works with young people in the realms of poverty, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and human rights violations, provides professional skill development programs and leads courses at academic institutions in the region. One of their foremost focuses is creating jobs and incomes for adolescents in order to prevent poverty, drug abuse, and street violence. They have a variety of means for doing this: they have a corn farm, a chicken farm, a briquetting operation, and more. In 2012 DHE came and built a BLSD kiln and taught a small group of young people (between ages 15 or 16 and 35) how to make briquettes. This past winter, DHE returned to make a small demo TLUD. The organization is extremely enthusiastic about the prospect of teaching youth how to make and sell briquettes – so enthusiastic, that they are currently taking apart their BLSD kiln brick by brick to rebuild at their new headquarters location. Nevertheless, there are still inefficiencies in the past two kiln models that have made it so that they can not actually make a profit off of the briquettes yet. The BLSD kiln takes 24 hours for a complete run, which poses a lot of problems. Meanwhile, the past TLUD design has been finicky and smoky as well and takes about 4 hours to burn.
Given this information from Vision 4 Youth, EARD-CI, and then EMORG a few days ago, we decided it was in our best interest to really think through a better TLUD model to demonstrate for each organization. We did quite a bit of research, and have been consulting with Takachar, a group successfully operating a TLUD organic waste fuel project in Nairobi, Kenya founded by an MIT PhD student. We’ve settled on two designs for demo kilns, keeping in mind that each better pyrolizes different materials and takes different inputs. The first design is a retort TLUD kiln like the one our team built on campus towards the end of the spring. It has a sealed inside compartment resting inside an outer metal drum, both of which are filled with feedstock. A chimney rests on top, pulling air upwards through the kiln. The sealed compartment is heated by the surrounding feedstock combustion and the inner feedstock is pyrolized. The second design, inspired by a kiln built earlier this spring at Dartmouth and by Takachar models, consists of an outer metal drum that, like the retort kiln, features air holes in its bottom for the entry of natural draft. It has an adapter piece that fits onto the bottom drum and is where combustion takes place. On top of that fits the chimney.
These past few days have been spent buying materials at the market to make these kilns. We found a metal shop with appropriate tools nearby and were able to make the two kilns in just 3 hours for the price of 18,000TSH (about 10 dollars). Today, we are taking data of kiln temperatures, measuring weights of each of our kiln inputs and outputs, and analyzing the quality of the char. We’ve purchased sawdust, collected corn cobs and asked to use the dried organic material of neighbors. We will be going to EMORG this afternoon to do educational test runs. Our ultimate hope is that our kiln designs work better, and that each group we are working with can learn about TLUD carbonization processes and potentially build their own models to turn their briquetting operations into lucrative enterprises.
I, Olivia, have been involved in all of these steps but as Communications Officer have mostly been documenting and reporting on everything that DHE has been doing. We’ve caught a number of great interviews with organization leaders on tape, and we are excited to share the history of DHE’s impact in the region and the story of briquetting successes and challenges encountered by each organization through a final documentary at the end of our trip. We also have helped EMORG to extend its online outreach, creating an EMORG volunteers Facebook group and a blog.
Though most of our days up have been filled to the brim with business matters – from engineering to impact analysis to communications efforts – it hasn’t all been business. The team has been having a truly great time here in Tanzania. Our guide, Phillibert, has been showing us around Arusha and all of its excitement. Our cook, Betha, has made so many tasty Tanzanian dishes though anything involving parachichi (avocado), has without a doubt been #1 on our list of culinary delights. This weekend some of us are going on safari, something that we would likely have never had the chance to do otherwise, while the rest are excited to be exploring some of the closer local attractions and national parks. We are so grateful for this opportunity, and will be back soon with more updates!