Congratulations to DHE for having three papers published in Procedia Engineering this September!

Check out and download the papers here:

“Implementing Pico-hydropower Sites in Rural Rwanda”

“Targeting Briquetting as an Alternative Fuel Source in Tanzania”

“SafaPani: A House Electrocoagulation Arsenic Water Filter for Nepal and Other Developing Countries” 

If you’re interested in learning more about Procedia Engineering; the Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems, and Global Impact 2014 (HumTech 2014); and the social impact that DHE’s colleagues are having around the world, check out the entire Volume 78 of Procedia Engineering

Congrats again to all involved and well done DHE!

Doing well and having fun in Kigoma!

Updates since the last blog post…

As it turned out, finding different sizes of barrels in Kigoma was a bit of challenge. The only available barrels were standard full sized barrels. This meant that the Kigoma TLUD would have to take on somewhat of a different design compared to our Arusha TLUD. Instead of using a narrow barrel as a chimney, a sheet of metal would have to be rolled into a chimney.

Along with Max (a JGI intern) as my translator, a JGI driver and his Toyota pickup truck, I went to see a guy working at a metal shop to have the TLUD kiln built (while Dvij was recovering from his bad stomach at the lodge). He said the kiln would take a day or two to finish. Strangely enough, this guy only had his hand tools to make the kiln with. No electric power tools at all! Despite this, after the two days, the kiln was finished. It was the most eloquently built kiln that I’ve seen to date in Tanzania. It has a one meter long chimney, longer than that of our Arusha kiln.

Finding the appropriate feedstock to carbonize in the kiln was an easier endeavor. There is a wood processing district about ten minute drive away from the town center where we managed to buy eight sacks full of saw dust for 1600 tsh each and two sacks of rice husks for even less than that.

Dvij and I found that running our new larger kiln was different to the smaller kilns in Arusha. The wood gas flame was much more vigorous and appeared to be ‘floating’ on top of the feedstock. Furthermore, each runs of the kiln was more consistent in terms of the char yield. We also found out that layering the bottom of the kiln with dry leaves and grass helped the bottom most layer of feedstock to char completely (which was an issue that we faced in Arusha).

Later in that week, we had a chance to visit two villages called Kalinzi and Simbo. Kalinzi was about 45 minutes away by car and Simbo was another 30 minutes by car from Kalinzi. Kalinzi is the region’s prominent producer of coffee while Simbo produces palm oil. We learnt that harvest of coffee occurs between August and October. We arrived just before the harvest season but there still were, literally, a mountain of coffee husks left from the previous year. The husks were free to take and local already used the husks to cook their food with. We realized here that there were big opportunities to run a sustainable briquetting operation. (We also found a rusty carcass of a rocket stove that we suspect is an artifact from previous DHE travel groups!)

In Simbo, we found a few small piles of palm fruit shells and fibers. Apparently, all the shells and fibers are burnt because there is no other use for them. The locals told us that burning these shells and fibers was a dirty process as palm oil does not burn cleanly.

In the following weeks, as the rest of our team members arrived from Arusha, we started doing demonstrations of our kiln and the briquetting process for a number of different communities.


We visited a village called Ilagala which is an hour away by car. Our original plan was to do a demonstration kiln run for a small group of people. However, as we started setting up the kiln, our demonstration run quickly became the subject of interest for the entire village. There were about 80 village elders, teens, and children who joined us in running the kiln and briquetting. Steffi and Max translated for us and handled the bombardment of questions from the villagers exceptionally well. The villagers were very curious about how the kiln worked, what kinds of feedstock could be used, and the performance of the briquettes. There were a few people who explicitly expressed their interests in building the kiln and we left them a copy of our kiln building manual.


We also held a demonstration session for the youths of Kividea (Kigoma Youth Development Association). These youths were high school aged young adults who were interested in production of alternative fuels. As we were showing the youths how to pack the kiln with feedstock, we realized that we did not bring enough of the coarse sawdust but had brought too much dense coffee husks. Initially, we were worried that the kiln might not run as well as because the denser layers would pose a significantly increase fluid resistance for the updraft of air through the feedstock. However, the kiln produced a typical yield of char (and we did not embarrass ourselves in front of all the youths). The youths were amazed by the fact that pressing the mixture of flour porridge and char produced briquettes and were eager to use the molds that we brought to pump out briquettes. The representative from Kividea who helped us to organize the occasion was also very impressed and enthusiastic about the entire process. He promised (yes, promised) us that he would build a kiln in a month or two when the organization had enough money and made us to promise him that we would email him our kiln building guide book.


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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Greetings from Peru!

Greetings from Peru!

Our team arrived in Lima, Peru on Monday evening, and we have been off to a running start. Thus far we have met with four organizations: Practical Action, Turbinas 3HC, Grupo PUCP, and ProSynergy.

A nice view of the Lima coastline
A nice view of the Lima coastline

Practical Action (Soluciones Practicas) is a UK-based international NGO which aims to reduce poverty by improving access to technical systems and knowledge. Rafael Escobar, the manager of their energy projects, introduced us to their work in wind, solar, biomass, and hydro renewable energy technologies. Practical Action has implemented 62 micro-hydro sites ranging in size from 0.5 to 200 kW in Peru. Although the majority of their sites are larger than DHE’s scale, it was informative to learn about their approach to training local site operators and financing projects.

Turbinas 3HC is a local company which manufactures cross-flow and Pelton turbines. Engineer Eusebio Castromonte offered a unique perspective on the major players and incentives for promoting micro-hydropower in Peru due to his experience as both an entrepreneur and a former NGO project manager. If DHE installs a hydropower site in Peru, we may consider purchasing a custom turbine from Turbinas 3HC since a locally-fabricated turbine can be most easily maintained and repaired.

Additionally, we met with Grupo de Apoyo Al Sector Royal at Pontficia Universidad Catolica del Peru. Miguel Hadzich leads this research and implementation group which has developed an impressive array of appropriate technologies for the rural Peruvian population. Enrique Mejia gave us a tour of their technology demonstration center, highlighting hydro technologies including a ramp pump and seesaw and pedal-powered pumps. This tour sparked creative ideas as to how DHE might demonstrate the means of producing electricity via hydropower at ProSynergy’s Yachaywasis. We also started to brainstorm ways we might showcase and prototype our technologies closer to home.

Kevin and Will hard at work pumping water
Kevin and Will hard at work pumping water

Lastly, we met with ProSynergy, the corporate social responsibility arm of SK Innovation. Carlos Guarnizo introduced Pro-Synergy’s two Yachaywasi or eco-technology parks. The Yachaywasis have a social enterprise approach; they introduce local people to a variety of technologies, assist them in constructing a family development plan and business model, and help them to finance such projects via micro-finance. Over 50 appropriate technologies have been installed in each of ProSynergy’s Yachaywasis in Huancano and Pilpichaca. DHE will be spending a week at these two Yachaywasis to assess the potential for installing a hydropower system for demonstration at one of these sites.

At the ProSynergy offices in Lima
At the ProSynergy offices in Lima

We are extremely grateful for the warm Peruvian hospitality we have received our first few days! Now off to Huancano – hasta luego!

Off to Peru!

Tomorrow afternoon, four DHE students will be departing for Peru to assess two potential Hydropower sites, as well as to meet with three possible partners. The trip will last until the 19th of December and is meant to be the club’s introduction to Peru. We will be blogging while in country, and after  – to follow us, please stay tuned to

Embarking on the trip will be DHE’s current president, Julie Ann, its president emeritus, Alison, the hydropower project’s Assistant Project Leader, Will Hickman, and myself. Combined, we have around 12 years of experience working with DHE, attempting to use sustainable technologies to improve the lives of people living in developing countries.

On the trip, the team hopes to accomplish a few objectives. First and foremost, we will be surveying two potential hydro sites for a possible implementation in the summer of 2015. These two sites, located at Yachaywasis (or technology farms) run by ProSynergy, are the focus of our trip to Peru. We hope to determine the physical feasibility of implementation at these sites, as well as the outline for what an agreement between ProSynergy and DHE may look like moving forward. We’ve been working closely with the director of Prosynergy in Peru, Carlos Guarnizo, to organize this trip and lay out our partnership moving forward.

We also plan to meet with other, like-minded groups during our time in Peru to both learn from them and explore possible partnerships that we may be able to form moving forward. Examples of the partners that we will be meeting with include Practical Action, and PUCP Grupo.

We’ll be updating this blog every week or so moving forward, so please stay tuned for more!

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.

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!