Four months ago the Charcoal Project asked you to help kickstart their renewable fuels and energy efficiency project in Uganda, successfully collecting almost $6,500 for the project in Rubaare. This following message is their progress report:

"The best way to tell you how far we've come is to actually show you in pictures what we’ve accomplished with our partner, the Rubaare Education Foundation. We’re also including a line item budget so that you can see how the $6,468 were invested. This post concludes with a brief summary of our big plans for 2012. We hope our progress report inspires you to to continue supporting our work.

The View From Rubaare

In early October we were able to get all our funding to purchase the materials necessary and pay the travel expenses of Isaac Iwor, the Kampala-based briquette manufacturer who we retained to conduct the training.

Overall, the good news is that there is an abundance of charcoal fines in the area, which, when mixed with sawdust and a binding agent, make a great combustible, low-smoke briquette. This means that the cooks at the school are already exposed to fewer noxious fumes while cooking. (Henry Twinemasiko, the school director, told me in June that cooks didn’t last long at the school due to the heavy exposure to the smoke.) The second immediate benefit is that the school is already saving money as it don’t need to spend as much purchasing wood.

Here’s what Henry wrote recently, “We have so far tested the briquettes in our school stoves and they (are) really doing well. So far we (have) used 50 briquettes to prepare a posho meal (maiz porridge) for 300 students. This means around 200 briquettes can be used to prepare meal for the day including lunch and supper. It’s the dry beans that take more briquettes. I really hope we’ll use far less briquettes once we’ve switched to modern stoves.”

Nature Throws Us For A Loop

One thing we (The Charcoal Project, the school, and Isaac) didn’t anticipate was the intensity and regularity of the rains that have drenched the region. As a result, the fuel briquettes are taking significantly longer to dry than expected. This is why our next investment is to build a shelter that will house the briquette-making operations. Our plan is to raise $1800 for the construction of this shelter. (We’ve already raised $500!) The shelter is essentially a large warehouse for the manufacturing, drying, and storage of the briquettes. We will add a low cost solar panel that will provide illumination. (There are no lights at the school presently.) The main cost is associated with the material since the shelter must be large enough to house the raw material and the ten presses we have going. (The shelter will be built in on the footprint of the dirt plot visible in Picture 1 in the slideshow.)

It will take us six months to determine how the overall program is faring. Our plan is to sell the excess capacity to local businesses at a price that is lower than what they are currently using. This will generate much needed income for the school. Part of the income will be reinvested in the program. The rest will help subsidize the school’s budget.

If in six months the project shows the tangible economic, environmental, and social benefits we anticipate, it will mean that we’re on the right track.

One of our goals for 2012 is to swap out the old, inefficient stoves for better ones. We’ll let you know how that goes.

So, if you think we’re on the right track and you’d like to help us meet our goal of raising $1800 for a shelter, please consider donating before the end of the year! The Charcoal Project is a 501c3 non-profit registered in New York State, so your donation is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

What is BEEP?

BEEP stands for Biomass Energy Efficiency Program and it is our flagship initiative that delivers renewable sustainable fuels and energy efficient technology across the entire biomass energy supply chain. What this actually means is that we help reduce unsustainable wood consumption and inefficient/toxic combustion by introducing high efficiency cookstoves, and fuels made from truly renewable sources like agricultural waste or well-managed forests. The BEEP concept is being rolled out in Rubaare and will be scaled up to include some 20,000 families that surround the school district. The program will eventually be replicated elsewhere in the country and the region.

About our partner: the REF schools

The six schools that comprise the Rubaare Educational Foundation (REF) provide room and board about 1600 students each day. Most of the children are either orphans or come from very poor families. Due to the reduced availability of wood locally for cooking, REF must spend a greater amount of its budget purchasing wood from increasingly remote locations. This expenditure means less money to support critical school programs. In fact, as the price of wood and gasoline rises, the school must turn away more and more students and faculty.

BEEP as an income generating opportunity for the school.

In addition to reducing its energy costs, REF schools will begin selling their excess briquette production to local businesses, including restaurants and bakeries. This income will allow REF to meet its most pressing priorities.

If you’d like to know more about the project or if you’d like to explore different ways you can help us and our partners, please contact Sylvia Herzog at sherzog at

A last word about The Charcoal Project

Our BEEP project in Rubaare is not the only thing we do at TCP. Over the past six months we’ve been leading a truly global effort that will lay the groundwork for getting sub-Saharan Africa on the path towards the use of Sustainable Charcoal. It’s called the Sustainable Charcoal Initiative. Our partners in this effort include UN agencies (UNIDO, FAO, UNEP, UNDP), the World Bank, the Yale School of Forestry, the International Energy Agency, The Nature Conservancy, the Earth Institute at Columbia University and several other groups, including a number of African experts. You can expect to hear more about this “curve-bending” effort over the coming months, so please stay tuned!"

BEEP by the numbers

Top Level P&L – Rubaare – Dec. YTD 2011 in US $
Student Training – $1,660
10 Peterson Presses – $1,430
Raw Materials & Supplies – $1,838
TCP Travel & Administrative – $1,158
Stove Adaptation – $150

Total Briquette Project Costs – $6,236

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