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.

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.

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!

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.


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!

Meet the 14W Travel Team

The 14W Tanzania Travel Team has been working together since October 2013 and has done a lot to get to this point.  We are all so excited to have the opportunity to travel to Tanzania to continue the work on DHE’s Bioenergy project.  While in Tanzania, we hope to help share information with our partners while simultaneously learning from them.  We also plan to help establish connections between our different partners in order to form a briquetting association and support network.  Finally, we hope to be able to interview and speak with our partners in order to learn and measure the impact that DHE has had in the Arusha region.  Past travel teams have done great work before us, and we hope to help the project progress even further.

Our team is so excited for this trip and we hope to reflect that in this blog.  We will be writing about our work in Arusha as well as our adventures, the people we meet, the places we see and of course, the many things that we will learn!



Anna Miller

Anna is a sophomore mechanical engineering student from Anchorage, Alaska. In DHE, she loves being able to experience the real-world application of engineering skills, particularly human centered design. She is incredibly excited to learn from and work with DHE’s partners in Tanzania, and discover how knowledge gained on campus translates into local implementation. She also really, really wants to see a giraffe, a gerenuk, and a baobab tree. Outside of DHE, Anna loves to read, play contact sports, and explore outside.


Frank Zhang

Frank (class of 2015) is a chemistry/economics double major from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  He became involved with DHE during his freshman year working to improve the loose biomass stove through principles motivated by human centered design.  Since then, he has continued to work with the Bioenergy Project, whose current focus on fuel briquetting borrows aspects from its spiritual ancestor in regards to the carbonization process.  Though more accustomed to studying biological systems, he is very excited to have the opportunity to work with the current travel team to investigate the more technical aspects of a briquetting operation, such as the flow of mass and energy and its economic feasibility.  The hope is to share DHE’s knowledge with other like-minded Tanzanians to promote energy security and environmental sustainability.  Outside of DHE, Frank spends his time as a research assistant and enjoys drawing.


Peter Lobel

Peter is a ’16 and an engineering major from Albany, New York.  As the finance and capacity building leader for the travel team this winter, he looks forward to collaborating with our partners in Tanzania and learning how to best share information across cultures.  Peter was lured to the Bioenergy project because of its focus on working with real people in a personal way to improve lives in their community; you don’t get that experience in the physics classroom.  Peter also certainly won’t be complaining about the 90-degree temperature swing from Hanover to Arusha!


Sammie Weaver

Sammie is a ’16 from Bowie, Maryland who is majoring in Sociology with an International Studies minor.  She has only recently been involved with DHE (since 13F) and was attracted to the humanitarian work.  However, she has enjoyed learning so much about the engineering side as well.  She has worked with an international development group as well as an environmental group before and is excited to be working on a project with similar goals.  In the group, she is the lead for Communications and Impact Analysis and looks forward to learning more about the operations that DHE’s Tanzanian partners are running and the progress they have made.  Sammie loves adventures and loves to travel and is so excited for this great opportunity to go somewhere new and learn!



Reflecting on a fabulous summer

The team has spent these last few days facilitating final capacity building sessions and wishing the groups the best before completing our work this summer in Arusha. While we are nostalgic about leaving a place we have grown so fond of and many people who have welcomed us so warmly, we look back on an incredible experience and are satisfied with our work. We made significant progress in capacity building, technical development, and impact analysis and are encouraged by the groups’ interest in continuing their relationship with DHE. We look forward to continuing our relationships with the groups and are highly encouraged by the briquette entreprenuer’s enthusiasm and dedication.

This final week has been a push to complete our final meetings, briquette production and evaluation, and guide/report writing. On Monday, the team headed out to Kisongo to conduct a kiln burn demonstration with EMORG. After doing some minor repairs to the kiln, we walked through step-by-step how to operate the kiln to produce charcoal. The staff at EMORG and the four Kisongo community members at the meeting were very engaged and enthusiastic, especially when the kiln began to the burn so well. After about 10 minutes the emissions from the kiln turned clear, the kiln became very hot after about twenty minutes, and we noticed minimal gas-leakage from the kiln. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a high charcoal yield! As an interesting side-note, one of the reasons why EMORG was interested in having a kiln is to gather the community and involve them at EMORG, which moved to Kisongo this past March. And sure enough, as the meeting progressed more and more people started to join training; by the end of the meeting the group of six people had grown to about thirteen!

On Tuesday, the team visited Vision for Youth’s worksite to demonstrate the use of their metal kiln, compound lever press, and ratchet press. Like the meeting at EMORG, Vision for Youth was enthusiastic about briquetting, and we enjoyed this final meeting with the group. After enjoying a wonderful lunch with Vision for Youth, we wished the group our best and headed back to conduct briquette evaluation back in Leganga.

And speaking of briquette evaluation, we have been conducting thorough evaluation on various briquette recipes. Briquette recipes can differ in the types of binder and filler, and we are interested in determining what recipes produce the superior briquette (essentially one that burns hot, long, and cleanly). There are three tests that we are conducting on the briquettes: the standard water boil test quantifies the energy density and rate of combustion, the drop test determines the durability of the briquette, and the charcoal comparison test helps us understand how well the briquettes work in the cooking setting.

The team also presented at Vision for Youth’s Youth day camp this past Saturday. This three day camp for youth (about ages 13-22) aimed to inspire youth and educate them about opportunities for the future. We spoke for about twenty minutes during the entrepreneurship segment of the program, and discussed briquetting, how it can be used in an entrepreneurship, and what lessons Briquetting can teach for other entrepreneurships. The one-hundred youths at the presentation appeared to be very interested in the opportunities with Briquetting and it was an honor to share our thoughts and knowledge at this event.

We also said our goodbyes to Sossy and delivered a load of about 360 briquettes to him for the Upendo group to test. Sossy and the group are very enthusiastic about continuing their work with charcoal briquettes, and welcomed DHE winter ’14 travel team to continue capacity building.

I am excited to announce the completion of the five Bioenergy Guides and the three 13X trip reports! In many ways, the guides are a culmination of years of DHE work and the 13X trip reports detail the team’s progress this summer. We produced about 160 pages in total, and it is amazing to look through the documents and think about the progress DHE has made on so many fronts.

As one of the last blogs for this summer, I want to share the team’s gratitude for our ability to work here in Tanzania. We are truly honored to be furthering the mission of Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering and to be working with so many people who deeply appreciate our help. We wanted to extend our sincerest thank you to the numerous people who have made this trip possible: fellow DHEers, Dartmouth faculty and staff, and family members of the travel teams. And we’d like to specifically thank Jessica Friedman, Holly Wilkinson, Professor Sullivan, Dean Helble, and Professor Laser.  And finally, thank you for reading our blogs, we whole-heartedly appreciate your interest.

It is like Christmas in Tanzania

With Sarah and Pallavi in Kigoma
With Sarah and Pallavi in Kigoma

Times flies. DHE also flies. Last weekend (define weekend as Thursday to Sunday), we traveled to Kigoma by very shaky airplanes to visit the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI). This summer, Sarah and Pallavi from Dartmouth were working as public relations interns with JGI so we had a nice time catching up with them. For those of you who don’t know, JGI works with chimpanzees, forest conservation, and improving the livelihood of people around conservation areas. Before 2012, DHE had partnered with JGI to work on a variety of projects such as rocket stoves, loose biomass stoves, etc. In 2012, however, DHE moved away from Kigoma and JGI to work in Arusha region on briquetting. The purpose of our trip out to Kigoma was to reconnect with JGI and set up future collaborations.

We arrived in Kigoma on Thursday afternoon. From Sarah and Pallavi, we found out that Thursday is a national holiday and nobody was in the office. No big deal, we can always talk to them on Friday. But wait, Friday is also a national holiday. Up to that moment, we had felt really good flying across the country and showing up at their office. Fortunately, while hanging out around the empty offices, we ran into Kashula (our main contact) by chance. He promised a meeting with us Friday afternoon. So comes Friday afternoon, Kashula was nowhere to be seen. We ran into Mtiti (another contact), who pretty much said that Kashula was not going to show up that afternoon. Mtiti was in charge of setting up and managing internships at JGI, at least we got his blessing to show up again next winter trip.

Emily demonstrating the compound lever press
Emily demonstrating the compound lever press

Kigoma is the major city in Western Tanzania, located next to Lake Tanganyika. If the meeting attempts turned out to be not as successful as expected, at least Kigoma would be a very pretty city for hanging out. But luckily on Saturday we successfully met Kashula for a significant amount of time. He had gone on a tour around Tanzania to see all the different alternative cooking technologies. Soon, he would be holding a workshop inviting people he had met on the tour and then implementing pilot projects in villages. We were very excited about the prospect of working together on the project related to briquetting and sharing our knowledge with JGI.

This week was our second to last week in Tanzania and we have been working frantically to meet all of our promises. On Tuesday, the four of us visited Sossy from Moivaro. We had lunch together, the usual Tanzanian affair, rice and beans. Then we met with the Upendo group of women to hear their feedback on the briquettes we had brought for them to test several weeks ago. The feedback was not very positive, but at least they were honest about the briquettes. They told us that the briquettes did not burn long enough to cook a meal and smoked a lot. These briquettes were made several weeks ago. The  briquettes we made recently are totally awesome and behave much like charcoal—much better that these older versions.

James breathing fire over the metal kiln
James breathing fire over the metal kiln

During this last week, we have been experimenting with recipes and techniques, finally arriving at something we love. The briquettes we produce now cook food to completion, do not smoke, and are just as hard to light as lumped charcoal. Realizing how far we have come this summer, we promised (here we go down the slippery slope of promises) the Upendo group that we would bring briquettes 2.0 for them to test again.

On Thursday, James and Tucker brought a bunch of stuff to EMORG for briquette pressing capacity building session. The women in the group were really excited about the briquettes. Thursday was quite a busy day because Rachel and I returned to the Lulu VICOBA for their weekly briquette making session. After the women situated us on a bench so that we might have the best view of the proceedings, we were rather surprised when, instead of pulling out a briquette press and slurry, the women brought out bags of beaded bowls, tie-dyed fabric, and picture frames of banana leaf landscapes. We learned how to tie-dye a batika and how to peel the banana leaves to make a picture. During this session, it really hit home for us that briquetting is just one piece of their story. They make the briquettes to replace a portion of their firewood or charcoal and they make crafts to sell to a distributor to make money.

Lulu VICOBA member pressing briquettes
Lulu VICOBA member pressing briquettes

After the craft demonstration, the women began pressing their briquettes. Slowly and steadily, their briquette piles grew. Something our group had shared with these women over a year ago had become a part of their story and did they ever rave about the briquettes. One of the women we talked to likes the briquettes because they are good for the environment and decrease deforestation. She had seen briquetting on TV, then she was really excited when DHE showed up last year to teach them how to do it. Another woman talked about how cooking makes her happy when she uses briquettes because there is no smoke. They all expressed the desire to increase production, but complained of not having enough tools to accomplish that. Next week, we are going to surprise them with a couple of new presses and molds. It is stories like this that makes me feel like I am making a real positive impact on people here.

Rachel and the ratchet, trying to press herself up
Rachel and the ratchet, trying to press herself up

Back in Leganga, in the EARD-CI yard, we have taken up more and more space. Naomi said that we have a factory going on. In goes the biomass, out comes charcoal briquettes. Right now, we have a lot more tools and techniques than what we had merely two months ago. In addition to putting in lots of hours at work, we are enjoying the work. On Friday, we had a briquette pressing competition: two teams, first twenty briquettes twenty briquettes that pass the difficult Tim Test (our resident Dutch judge). Friendly competition of course. But I have to say that James and I won. No hard feelings, Rachel and Tucker.

It has been hard thinking of saying goodbye to this place. I am just getting used to traffic on the opposite side of the road, the Mambo! and Jambo! from passerbys, the rice and beans, and many more. For now, I am still in Tanzania and enjoying every moment.

Briquetting both Old and New

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.

Jumping in the Serengeti

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.

The Farmer Jack Press
The Farmer Jack Press

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.

Using the Compound Lever
Using the Compound Lever
A beautiful briquette made by the Lulu Vicoba
A beautiful briquette made by the Lulu Vicoba


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!

The group from EMORG looking at our instructional poster on carbonizing
The group from EMORG looking at our instructional poster on carbonizing
Vision for Youth and their kiln
Vision for Youth and their 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!

Airport photo
Airport photo

DHE Presents to High School Students

Last week, DHE was able to welcome a group of St. Paul’s School summer programs students to campus. The group of students and program coordinators listened to DHE’s summer Hydropower Leader and summer Bioenergy Leader discuss their respective projects and DHE as a whole. After these presentations, Hunter van Adelsberg, the Bioenergy Project Leader, was able to do a brief briquetting presentation with the students.

We were excited to welcome the students to campus and are happy to report that a few of the students have expressed great interest in coming to study engineering at Dartmouth. Please feel free to contact DHE at any point to schedule educational trips like this one!