Closing Time

Just kidding! It’s not quite closing time yet – we still have 3 days left! We’re in the wrap-up stages of our work here, but exciting things are still happening. In the last 3 days we’ve been able to meet with each of our 4 partners here; that might be unprecedented efficiency. Let me take you through it.

On Monday we made the trek out to Leganga where Lulu Vicoba is. We were joined by two of the leaders from Vision for Youth (both named Violet), as they continue to show their commitment to meeting the other briquetting groups in the area. This was the first time we got to observe Lulu Vicoba actually pressing briquettes, and they proved to be proficient in the process. It was also great to see the Violets from Vision for Youth being active in both learning about Lulu’s process and also sharing the knowledge they have. This information sharing was continued as Violet and Violet helped us share knowledge about how kilns work to carbonize biomass.

The action only picked up on Tuesday. First we had the privilege of meeting with Professor Karoli Njau at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology. We were thrilled to learn he has worked extensively with our friend Dr Rajabu at University of Dar es Salaam. He shared his knowledge about sources and alternative uses of waste in the area. The value of a type of waste in briquetting is determined by its competing uses. For example, vegetation such as banana leaves are valued here as food for livestock, whereas rice/coffee husks don’t have alternative uses so they can be valuable in charcoal briquetting.

We capped off the day by visiting Upendo. Upendo doesn’t usually briquette during the rainy season because of difficulty in collecting materials. This fact, combined with most of the women’s group being sick, resulted in only having one woman available to show us their process. But we overcame this difficulty and she showed us how they make doughnut shaped briquettes.

Finally, today we returned to EMORG with the intention of making some big sales at the market. But before we could do that, they surprised us with a party put on by our friends Didas and Troy. EMORG has been extremely helpful to us during our time here and we can’t thank them enough, from providing our housing to delivering for us when we’re in dire need of transportation. It was a nice chance to reflect on the last month and share some laughs with new friends. The good times continued when afterwards the women’s group sold over 10 kg of briquettes at the market!

Good Times at EMORG
Good Times at EMORG

(more pictures to come when we have better internet!)

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