Tag Archives: alternative cooking fuel technology

School To Be Charcoal Free?

Hi. Innocent here again with more briquette news.

Recently, AoC held a briquette demonstration at Rushubi Primary School for the school’s staff members. We are trying to convince them to adapt the briquettes as a source of fuel, rather than firewood and/or charcoal which they are currently using. The demonstration began with Cecile and I setting up two stoves, one on which we boiled water, and the other on which we cooked rice.

We had one of the teachers time the stoves, keeping track of how long it took to boil the water/ cook the rice.

Innocent & Cecile at briquette demonstration.  Rushubi Primary School, Kinigi, Rwanda.  Art of Conservation 2011Cecile and I lighting the stoves during the demonstration.

The teachers arrived late and did not look very interested in the demonstration. However, when the stoves were well lit, and the briquettes were burning well with little or no smoke, they stood up to get a closer look. The stoves burned with good efficiency, the water boiled in five minutes! Almost comparable to gas, but definitely better than charcoal.

The rice took about 11 minutes, and it made lunch for one happy teacher.

Rushubi teachers begin to get more interested and ask questions.  Art of Conservation and Cecile briquette demonstration.  2011 RWANDATeachers finally showing a lot of interest in the briquettes, asking questions and a few said they were completely convinced and would buy the briquettes soon. Let’s hope they keep their word.

A few students from the school who were supposed to go home for lunch stayed for the demonstration. Julie taught them a slogan: Stamp out charcoal, use briquettes! We’ll be giving AoC students at the school a briquette demonstration in our ongoing discussion of protecting the environment and the Volcanoes National Park.

Discussion continues after demo between the school's director, teachers, and Cecile. Art of Conservation, 2011.The briquette discussion continues after the demonstration with the school’s director, teachers, and Cecile.

With rumors about schools needing to supply lunches to the students, AoC and Cecile are trying to get ahead of the game by convincing the schools to use fuel briquettes. We will keep you informed on Save the Forests Briquette Initiative.

Save the Forests Briquette Initiative Demonstration at Valerie’s House

We had a very successful demonstration of how briquettes work at Valerie’s house on Sunday (16th January). Valerie had borrowed benches from a nearby church and asked the elders to spread the message to the people in her neighbourhood to come for a demonstration on this alternative source of fuel.

Briquettes are made from sawdust and waste paper, hence recycling paper to save our environment. They are also an alternative to charcoal and if the local community starts using briquettes, it will be quite an achievement in our conservation efforts and a positive step towards protecting our forests.

Valerie, Innocent, Eric, Olivier and I were there to represent AoC. Cecile and Immaculate, who make the briquettes, were there too. The turnout was large and we began by welcoming them and explaining to them what briquettes are and how they are related to the conservation efforts.

Save the Forests Briquette Initiative demonstration in Valerie's village. AoC 2011. Innocent and Valerie explaining about briquettes to an attentive audience.

Once we had the crowd’s attention, we showed them how to light and start a fire using briquettes. We had two stoves, and just as we did on Wednesday we put an equal amount of water in two cooking pots (isafuriya) and let it boil. The crowd (mostly women and a few children) watched as the stoves worked efficiently, comparable to a charcoal stove.

Interested neighbors at Valerie's house for briquette demonstration. AoC 2011.Interested neighbours watch as the stoves are lit.

When the water boiled, rice was put in to cook and they continued explaining to the audience how it all works, patiently answering all their questions.

At the demonstration - a nicely cooked pot of rice. Rwanda AoC 2011.Fully cooked rice, yummy!

At the end of it all was the sale. The initial offering price of a sack of briquettes was Rwandan francs 5000, comparable to a sack of charcoal. To motivate the buyers, a free stove was given if the person bought a sack.

We actually sold all the briquettes we had! And in addition, took orders for more!

Cecile made money - amafaranga!- Sunday's demonstration at Valerie's house. Rwanda AoC 2011.Innocent receiving money from the sale of briquettes while Olivier records the goings-on, including orders for more briquettes.

Testing of Briquette Stoves

Since AoC classes have not yet begun, we have spent this week preparing for the classes and finishing any work pending from last year. You know those annual reports that have to be prepared, and the action plans for the coming year?

The 2010 quarterly reports are coming along nicely and they should be done by next week. They’re interesting to work on, but can also be a bit…er… involving so once in a while I take a break to smile at Ibyiza.

Ibyiza (Biza) & Harriet working on quarterly reports. AoC 2011. Ibyiza and I during the break.

On Thursday morning, we held a test of the briquette stoves at AoC (they’ll be displayed to the rest of the neighbourhood on Sunday). We put an equal amount of water in each of the cooking pots and waited to see which one will boil the water fastest.

Testing stoves at Art of Conservation House, Musanze - Rwanda. 2011.Innocent, Valerie, Olivier and Jan happy with their stoves. Each is betting their stove is the fastest, though Valerie’s (the black stove) was the more efficient one.

This particular stove is one of the many being experimented on so that we can arrive at the most efficient briquette stove.

And yet another alternative cooking fuel stove to experiment with.  AoC 2010 Rwanda A different kind of stove.

Valerie (the other Val, I’d say the white Val but I don’t want to be accused of being a racist :-) ) also brought her rocket stove for the test and it turns out it may need a few more modifications before it can achieve maximum efficiency.

Valerie V. testing out her rocket stove.  Art of Conservation Rwanda 2011. Valerie and her rocket stove.

We hope the local community will realize the importance of using the alternative fuel (briquettes) and we’re hoping to demonstrate that it actually works and may be more efficient than charcoal come Sunday afternoon.

I think the week has been a success and we hope to do more next week.

When Harriet Met Cecile

Hi everyone, it’s Harriet again.

On my second day at work (Wednesday), I got started on some documents and learned that there would be an exhibition of briquettes on Thursday morning. One name that is always mentioned whenever briquettes are uttered is Cecile. Who is Cecile, I wondered? Well, she is the one who makes briquettes.

I was very eager to meet her; I’d already read about her story from earlier blog posts: she attended the briquette’s conference in Tanzania last year with Innocent.

So in the evening, Julie, Innocent and I drove up to her place… it’s on the way to Volcanoes National Park. We were going to pick up sacks of briquettes for the exhibition on Thursday.

Driving on Kinigi Road to Cecile's briquette workshop.

Briquettes are an alternative source of fuel, so instead of using charcoal (which as we all know contributes to deforestation), briquettes are made from recycled paper. Waste paper from industries, institutions etc is all mixed with water, sawdust and then left to cool for a while. (Cool here is used very loosely…more like ferment for a day or two). The mixture looks like this:

The Gooey Mixture that is paper, sawdust and water

The Gooey Mixture that is paper, sawdust and water

From there, it’s pressed into discs (briquettes) and left to dry…then about 250 briquettes are packed into one sack.

Harriet asking tons of questions about briquettes. Art of Conservation - Rwanda. Innocent explaining to me how briquettes are made, with the help of Cecile.

Cecile, Innocent, and Harriet.  Cecile's greenhouse.  Rwanda. Cecile (wearing Kagame’s campaign t-shirt), Innocent and I are very happy with our sacks of briquettes. Can you make out what’s written on the sacks? No? Save the Forest Briquette Initiative. Now look again.

Julie and Innocent - one big sack of briquettes.  Art of Conservation - Rwanda.Julie, Innocent and one sack of briquettes

Cecile has a very beautiful cow, Spotty. Well, that’s not her name but don’t you think it’s fitting? There was this kid there who was playing with a machete, cutting up pieces of banana stems into smaller and smaller parts. It’s a miracle he didn’t cut himself.

Child and Cow.  Art of Conservation - Rwanda 2011.

Innocent in Arusha, Part 4 of Briquette Conference

Hi all, this is Innocent again reporting on the Legacy Foundation’s Biomass Briquette Producers’ Conference that Cecile, Immaculee, Ernest and I recently attended in Tanzania. Today’s blog, Part 4, is the last in a series, but I will continue sharing with you about our briquette initiative.

After listening to everyones presentations and after technology demonstrations we broke into groups to discuss marketing, quality and standardization, and planning for the formation of an Africa wide Briquette Producers Network.
Photo (c) Peter Stanley.Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. Group discussions.

So now, in closing, I want to thank everyone again for the support and information sharing. I especially want to thank Joyce and Richard Stanley, Lisa from Community Forest International, Vicki from Sariko Olasiti Garden Lodge, Ziria, Drannan, Flavia, Paulin, Wazee Maombe and Charles and Ali.

Immaculee, Joyce, and Cecile in Tanzania.  AoC 2010.MGVP’s Immaculee with Joyce and Cecile.

Photo (c) Peter Stanley.Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. The Briquetters!

Innocent in Arusha, Part 2 of Briquette Conference

Upon arrival in Arusha, Cecile and I are ready to meet the other participants attending Legacy Foundation’s First Annual All Africa Biomass Briquette Producers’ Conference. We meet many people from the East African Community – Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and one fellow Rwandan named Paulin Buregeya from EcoMake based in the capital city of Kigali. Also attending are people from South Africa, Sudan, and Botswana.

Photo (c) Peter Stanley 2010.Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. Richard (pictured above) and Joyce Stanley share the Legacy Foundation’s progress report.

Now it is time for Cecile and I, along with MGVP’s Immaculee and Ernest, to present and provide a demonstration using our stove and briquettes.
Photo (c) Peter Stanley.  Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. Ernest, Innocent and colleague translating English to Kiswahili during presentation.

Photo (c) Peter Stanley. 2010.Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. Cecile and Innocent presenting.

Photo (c) Peter Stanley. TZ 2010.Photo courtesy of Peter Stanley. MGVP’s briquette producer partner, Immaculee, presenting.

I appreciate the way that Joyce and Richard established this conference to be a safe learning environment and information sharing venue. The audience easily paid attention to all presenters and everyone offered excellent comments and suggestions. I can safely say for myself, Cecile, Immaculee, and Ernest, that we are so pleased with this opportunity of travel and learning.

Thank you, Peter Stanley, for allowing us to use your wonderful photographs.

Stay tuned…more coming up.

Innocent in Arusha, Part 1 of Briquette Conference

Hi everyone. This is Innocent, Art of Conservation’s teacher, translator, and alternative cooking fuel consultant.

Over the next few days, I will be reporting to you about my recent trip to Arusha, Tanzania for the Briquette Producers’ Conference hosted by the Legacy Foundation. Accompanying me is our organization’s briquette producer, Cecile, and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project‘s briquette producers who work work closely with here in Rwanda. So please join me in this series of blogs relating to the protection of our environment and information sharing.

It is real fun to travel by air especially when you are a briquette producer.
Cecile and Immaculee on the plane to Arusha.  AoC 2010.Cecile, AoC’s briquette producer, and Immaculee, MGVP’s briquette producer, on board Rwanda Air Express on their way to Arusha.

As opposed to land, when you’re traveling by air you can see from the sky a variety of things which are part of the environment: beautiful mountains like Mount Meru, swamps, rivers, lakes, towns and guess what? Forests! So let’s make and use fuel briquettes to save these very important forests.

Looking at Tanzania from above.  Cecile and Innocent on their way to Arusha. AoC 2010.Tanzania as seen from above.

Dar es Salaam from above. AoC 2010.Dar es Salaam as seen from above.

We made it safely to our lodge, Sariko Olasiti Garden Lodge, and begin meeting new friends and colleagues. Much more to come.

Robert Williams Helps Our Briquette Program

Arriving from DRC after conducting intensive training and follow-up on his alternative cooking fuel initiative, Robert Williams graciously shares his expertise with us in Rwanda. Last year, Art of Conservation (AoC), in collaboration with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) and the Congolese Wildlife Authority (ICCN), took the first steps in producing and selling organic fuel briquettes in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Today, Robert visits AoC and MGVP’s partners, Cecile and Immaculee, and gives us indispensable help.

Immaculee's briquette workshop. Briquette-Training-with-Robert-Williams,-25-September-2010.Our first stop is Immaculee’s briquette making workshop. Robert Williams takes a look at the quality of the briquettes as well as adds helpful drying technique advice. Dr. Jan, MGVP’s regional vet manager, is seen in the background observing the great exchange of ideas and information.

The briquette program will contribute toward stopping deforestation and the many risks associated with making and selling charcoal.

Briquette-Training-with-Robert-Williams,-25-September-2010.Robert, with Ernest from MGVP and Innocent, examine Cecile’s briquettes in the afternoon.

Cecile listens carefully to Robert as he explains that making a better mixture – sawdust, recycled paper, and water – will help in producing a better briquette which will produce less smoke and allow for longer burning time.

Cecile's greenhouse. Briquette-Training-with-Robert-Williams, 25 September2010.In Cecile’s greenhouse with Innocent, Cecile, Robert, Moi, and Ernest.

We so appreciate Robert’s help and do not want him to go. After Rwanda, he heads to Tanzania for more alternative cooking fuel work and then back to the US. He assures us all that he is only a phone call, an email, and a Skype call away.

Immaculee and Cecile. Briquette-Training-with-Robert-Williams,-25-September-2010.The two champions of the day, Immaculee and Cecile.

This is a process and not an over-the-night solution, but certainly one worth charging ahead with. We must not sit idle as forests dwindle and animal habitats vanish.

Again, our thanks go out to Robert!

Briquettes by Innocent

Hi, this is Innocent. I am a teacher and translator for the AoC project. I also work closely on our alternative cooking fuel efforts. (Please click here for an earlier blog when we first introduced this new technology.)

I recently visited Cecile, the woman who is operating the briquette press, and here is my report.
Cecile. Photo by Molly Feltner. AoC 2010Cecile at our first training on how to make briquettes.

I met with Cecile at her briquette workshop which is located in Kansoro Business Center, Kabeza cell, Nyange sector, Musanze district. When I arrived at her workshop, she was busy mixing up different recycled materials from which briquettes are made. My first question to her was to know how the briquette project is going. She answered me that it’s going smoothly despite some challenges, smoke and quick burning up as compared to other sources of energy, were a few comments.

I also asked her if she wants to pursue the project, and she confidently answered me positively. When I asked her why she is putting so much of her time on a project which is not generating any direct income, she answered that she cares about the future rather than present. She thinks that from a variety of lessons on environment protection she learnt, there is no way for her to give up such an environmentally friendly project before she thoroughly tries it out. She also believes this initiative she knew about thanks to AoC is totally timely.

Innocent & Cecile.mRumangabo Station at DRC. Briquette Training with Jean Bosco Bichamakara (ICCN)Rumangabo Station, DRCWe traveled to Rumangabo Station in Virunga National Park, DRC, to learn more from Jean Bosco Bichamakara of ICCN. I am taking notes and Cecile is watching the woman operate the press.

To answer the question of knowing whether the last meeting held at the AoC office helped her, she said that it was really helpful in that since she can make herself a business plan for her project, she can easily monitor it, particularly in what regards the project income and expenditures. When I asked if she thinks more meetings of that kind can help her, she undoubtedly said yes, and she added that for her, any idea aiming at upgrading her project is more than welcome.

I also wanted to know how the project marketing is going, and she told me it’s going very well in the sense that her project which is considered by local leaders as an innovation is mentioned in every meeting session. Regarding whether the community is getting more interested in the project, she told me that her feeling is that during meetings with leaders, when she is asked to talk about her project, she is always joined by many other community members who help her advocate for that innovation.

Innocent speaking with Cecile at her briquette making workshop. AoC 2010We are in Cecile’s workshop. Cecile is holding briquettes she has made.

Concerning the number of stoves provided by AoC she already sold so far, she told me that the first intake of 10 stoves was distributed to the briquette making association members whereas for the second intake of 10 stoves, 5 of them were distributed to the community members, and she remains with 5 others ready to be sold as well. She, however, added that up to now no money is paid back against all distributed stoves, and she’s still waiting for them to be paid back.

As far as the briquette sale is concerned, she said that from the time she acquired the business plan skills up to now, no briquette sale is made. She now has 1,200 briquettes in her green house ready for sale and she keeps on producing more. In conclusion, she wishes to keep in touch with AoC for more exchange of ideas on this magnificent project.

Rumangabo Station at DRC.  More Briquette Training with Jean Bosco at RumangaboCecile, me, Jean Bosco, and a carpenter after a training at Rumangabo Station, DRC.

Young Gorilla Lovers

Conservation education classes are back! Finally! Rwandan schools run from late-January through November. Since the beginning of the new year, we’ve been busy in the office preparing for classes, hiring a new staff member plus a communications consultant, and working on staff computer skills. We’ve also been pushing forward our briquette initiative with local community members, training them how to make an alternative cooking fuel from recycled material. We’re all lacking a bit of sleep, but that’s the way things go around here.

Meeting New Students
New students at Nyange Primary School.  Photo by Mlly Feltner. Rwanda feltner_aoc_021010_059New students and a gorilla. Photo by Molly Feltner.

We increased our number of days in the field this year by adding an additional class. Monday and Tuesday we return to Rushubi Primary School. Wednesday and Thursday we are at Nyange 1 Primary School.

Conservation Education classes in Rwanda.  Art of Conservation Class 1, Rushubi Primary School.Classroom photo at Rushubi Primary School.

AoC’s methodology includes offering schoolchildren living in the poor rural communities surrounding Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park a year-long intensive conservation education program in partnership with the children’s primary schools.

First day of classes in Rwanda.  Julie Ghrist with Nyange kids.  Photo by Molly Feltner. feltner_aoc_021010_190I look pretty serious even though this is only the introduction. Photo by Molly Feltner.

Have you hugged a gorilla today?  AoC Rwanda 2010.Have you hugged a gorilla today?

My mom bought me – her 44 year old daughter! – this stuffed toy gorilla a few years ago. I finally had room to pack the gorilla in my duffle bag when I returned to Rwanda from my Christmas holiday in the U.S. I am waiting for the kids to come up with a name for him/her. Share your ideas for a name!