LEGACY FOUNDATION: THE STORY OF BIOMASS FUEL BRIQUETTES
I. PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION
Globally, forests cover nearly four billion hectares, or about 30 percent of the world’s land area, but between 1990 and 2005 the world lost about 3 percent of its total forest area to feed the voracious appetite of wood usage (UN/FAO State of the World’s Forest Report 2005) while unemployment remains a problem in most developing countries (UN Human Development Reports 2005-2007):
1. 76% of wood cut in the developing nations today is used for cooking and heating fuel (National Household Energy Demand Side Strategy Study: SEED, Paris France, 1996) (World Bank, 2001).
2. 2-3% of the forests in developing countries are being decimated yearly. (World Bank, 2005).
3. Women in developing countries provide about 80 % of the calorific energy for daily survival activities. Fuel wood gathering is almost exclusively their charge. (UNICEF, 2006).
4. Income generation is the need most commonly expressed by people in developing countries (UNDP Human Development Index, 2001-2005; personal communications 1974-2007).
5. Petroleum based fuels and electricity are still too expensive for the majority of people and are projected to continue to remain so especially where population growth is strongest, amongst the under educated and disadvantaged populations. (East Africa Technology Conference, Nov. 1999).
6. Even if we were to recycle every wood molecule in use now we will continue to deplete the resource unless we reduce demand. (Turner Grant Information, 2000).
7. Participation in the CREST stoves and Biomass newsgroups, involving hundreds of practitioners, researchers, academicians and development institutions globally, confirm a more dire expansion of the deforestation, unemployment and climate change (Email communications through 2008).
It is now widely recognized that deforestation is occurring at pandemic rates throughout the developing nations. In general, these forests are not being denuded for construction or even industry but rather for fuel wood production/use. The deforestation is so predominant that complete denudation is forecast in terms of the next decades, not the next century. It is also well known that many people earn their income from fuel wood and charcoal production, distribution and lucrative sales, thus ensuring that the forest destruction will continue. A major contribution in world development can be most effectively realized by an intervention which addresses the combined issues of forest destruction and need for income/employment.
II. LEGACY FOUNDATION
Legacy Foundation is a non profit organization which has actively focused on stopping the destruction of forests while increasing local employment and income, by extending and promoting simple and practical technologies which turn non-productive agricultural residues, yard wastes and junk mail into economic and environmentally sound heating and cooking resource in the form of a hollow core fuel briquette. (See www.legacyfound.org for pictures of the briquettes in use). Because these briquettes are produced by micro-enterprises and sold in direct, free-market competition with firewood and charcoal, they provide meaningful, self-sustaining employment to thousands of local entrepreneurs who are otherwise under or unemployed. Briquettes address the root causes of forest degradation, increasing income for local communities, mostly women, while conserving the environment.
Legacy Foundation has, over the past fourteen years, perfected extension and promotion techniques, which efficiently deliver local capacity building and awareness of the fuel briquette technology directly to the area of need, with lasting impact.
In partnership with national NGOs, government and international development institutions, Legacy Foundation has provided demonstrations, training of trainers and awareness/promotion related to briquette technology in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Peru, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mali, Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico, Nepal, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda and the United States. Additionally Legacy Foundation provides online technical assistance to projects in over 40 countries, with the assurance that there is briquette production taking place in at least 20 of these countries. Backup data on the status of briquetting in these countries can be provided.
Local, labor-intensive, micro-enterprise based, hollow core biomass briquette making is an intervention that is making inroads to address deforestation and employment issues. Biomass briquette production and sales have a particular appeal because briquettes are replicable locally, generate income directly and, as the briquettes use mainly agricultural wastes (leaves/grasses/straws/husks etc.), their production is far more sustainable than using woody biomass.
The overall objective of the LF interventions is to reduce, possibly even halt, the rate of deforestation through market demand for sustainably-harvested, agricultural-residue based and locally-produced, biomass briquettes which are sold in direct competition to wood and charcoal. This is accomplished through the establishment of a self-sustaining, income-generating worldwide network of trainers and producers of hollow core biomass briquettes.
III. EXPLANATION OF LEADING EDGE OR BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGY
As far back as 1979, there were discussions about creating fuel wood briquettes from biomass using sawdust, straw or peat. These briquettes were supposed to solve the world’s fuel wood problems. At the same time, those briquette-making machines were expensive, highly technical and required specialized skills and maintenance with a continuous stream of imported spare parts and—ironically, substantial amounts of expensive and unreliable electrical power for their operation. Finally the briquette product was of such low moisture content that it, like cheap chipboard furniture, degraded shortly after production in many tropic/subtropical environments. Attempts to use the early technologies in developing countries generally failed miserably.
What was needed was a briquette making process which could address the real rural and urban poor environment. At around the same time, a University of Washington professor and some of his students came up with the idea of using a wet process for making briquettes from agricultural residue. They started with bagasse, the crushed stalks of sugar cane. Later they began to experiment with other residues and found that these worked equally as well. The professor, Ben Bryant, spread the word about the biomass briquette making technology as part of his consulting and teaching activities. But in order for the technology to stick, it became apparent that a more coordinated extension effort, which included training of trainers, was needed to establish sustainable, income producing briquette making ventures.
The Legacy Foundation, with a combined 40 years experience in East Africa, picked up the bio mass briquette making idea in 1994 while on assignment in Malawi. Richard Stanley, as part of his work with the Legacy Foundation, began further testing the hollow core briquette making technology in a rural setting with community members who were desperate for income and alternative sources of fuel to cook their food and build their fires. Richard eventually traveled to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa, working with community groups to spread the needed fuel saving and income producing technology.
The work in Africa led Legacy Foundation to adapt the University of Washington press to local conditions and develop other biomass briquette making technologies including:
• Three other manually operated press designs for specific local applications (these made the presses easier to build and transport under local conditions);
• A portable briquette press; • A hand operated Thresher Masher Machine (TMC1™), to streamline the materials preparation process in the developing nations. (Materials preparation can consume up to 70% of total production effort in such manual production working environments); • A Mechanized press: Owing to increased awareness of biomass briquettes in urban areas in developing countries as well as in rural and suburban areas of the USA, Richard embarked upon the development of a more compact mechanized press. This device termed the ‘One Step Press’ has evolved through several prototypes to a near final working prototype. The ‘One Step Press’ is a compact self-contained mechanism which both processes the raw materials and produces the final product--all in a mechanism smaller and far less complicated than a traditional European top loading washing machine. It requires only a 1.5-kilowatt AC motor (DC for efficient use of solar power or just belt driven to any rotating shaft power, in more remote areas).
LF has also developed various training manuals which it sells online allowing entrepreneurs all over the world to take up the briquetting process.
Overall, Legacy Foundation supports self reliant, self-sustaining, independent briquette training and production units worldwide, which continue to adapt and improve the briquette making process based on local needs, resources and objectives. Reference letters will attest to the Legacy Foundation’s support to other briquette making entrepreneurs as well as Richard’s continued development of new appropriate technologies which have worldwide application.
IV. EVIDENCE OF CONTRIBUTION
Legacy Foundation maintains correspondence with active briquette making groups worldwide. In the case of Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Nepal, Thailand, Haiti and South Africa, Legacy Foundation has visited project sites and observed the growth in the briquetting industry and thus the decrease in the use of wood and charcoal for fuel. In other cases, LF has received feedback from briquette trainers and users that the LF materials and support provided through training manuals or online communications has led to the development of hollow core biomass briquette enterprises. This feedback has been received from Nepal, Peru, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mali, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Gambia, Ghana, Benin and others.
Additionally, LF is now in correspondence with colleagues in approximately 40 countries who are in varied stages of briquette production activities as a result of purchasing the LF Biomass briquette manuals or requesting information through email correspondence.
With this ever growing world wide awareness of, training in and production of biomass briquettes, there is a growing network of locally based trainers for the rural and urban poor segments of the population. With the awareness, however, we are seeing demand arise from the more urban areas of the developing nations as well as the rural and semi urban areas of developed countries. Legacy Foundation, in response to this need, is working towards developing its mechanized press to a useable replicable and easily produced state.
V. PRESENTATION OF MEASURABLE RESULTS
Legacy Foundation is responsible and accountable to every person we have trained, everyone who has purchased one of our manuals and every producer who eventually starts making hollow core biomass briquettes! We use the following techniques to continually measure and document our outcomes and impact:
Measurement of Networking Impact - E-Mail correspondence with fellow briquetters worldwide: • We maintain regular email contact with those we have trained and those who have purchased our construction, user, training and technical manuals. With this lateral approach to the growth of the business of briquette extension, those trained write regularly with ongoing progress reports, questions, advice, contacts and insights which generate a certain ‘lateral integrity’ to growth of the network.
• User Surveys: LF conducts periodic surveys of briquette trainers and users. (Our most recent survey (February 2008) noted that those who purchased our manuals since 2004 were satisfied with the content and support, with 90% of the respondents noting that they were now producing biomass briquettes as a result of using the manuals and receiving technical support).
• Co-development of new manual technologies, blends, production and extension processes: Colleagues in almost every working environment globally continue to modify the press design to their conditions, improve blends, create better stoves and develop more efficient combustion techniques. These often have relevance to other areas; thus, Legacy Foundation aspires to network between these groups, allowing individual projects to teach us all and move the technology forward collectively. Throughout this process however, we aspire to assure that the groups maintain their own proprietary interests serving their own markets. It’s a case of global information sharing, blended with local privatized ownership and accountability to local markets.
Measurable Research results – Co-publication of emissions and thermal tests and extension efforts with academic organizations: Our colleagues at the Chemistry Department, Southern Oregon University and now Boise State University have tested the briquette for emissions and published results in the Feb. 2001 issue of the American Chemical Society Journal of Chemical Innovations. The article describing the research was titled “A New Approach to Conservation.” The principal investigator was Dr. Owen McDougal. Owen has continued with research and testing of thermal heating efficiencies moving toward applied cooking situations and has published other studies since then. Further, Owen has applied for an EPA grant for extension of the technology to the rural communities around Boise Idaho. It is proposed that this will involve several institutions, faculty members ad students at the university as well as ourselves as lead trainers in the technology and extension approaches.
Intended results of the development of the mechanized ‘One Step Press’: Cooperative working agreements have been signed with some institutions and individuals including Precision Engineering and Hemp Global in London and East Sussex UK, Boise State University and various individuals in the USA. If successful, the result of the collaborations will be several producers around the globe each catering to their own local and regional markets through cooperative working agreements with Legacy Foundation. The problem holding back progress in its development is one of funding to support the completion of the R&D.
Results of Briquette training and extension in the developing nations: The difficulty for Legacy Foundation is that many of the people who we have trained have no access to emails or surveys, much less reliable snail mail. Nor is it easy for us to return physically to some of the countries where we have provided training. We believe though that the following impact analysis provides a solid potential for measuring impact of just one training of trainers. If our users meet only 10 % of this ideal, the impact remains quite positive.
Two Biomass Briquette trainers working as a team in a training service capacity, can train up to 12 persons per week on two presses. Assuming rest and prep and follow up time, two trainings per month projects to 24 trainings per year.
EMPLOYMENT Impact of the two trainers: 288 persons potentially employed directly in briquette production each year.
DEFORESTATION Impact on fuel wood demand reduction: These amounts are based on a widely published figure of 1.2 kg of wood consumed per one person per day over most of the developing world. The demand for fuel wood is reduced using briquettes-- per person, by 438 kgs per year; per family of 6 persons= 2,600kgs per year; per production team reaching 60 families = 157,600 kgs per year; per training team reaching 24 production teams a year = 3,784 tons/yr.
CARBON AND CO2 EMISSIONS Impact of the training activity: These are directly related to the difference in mass of the non-woody biomass briquette fuel (300 gms) consumed to the wood fuel (1200 grams) consumed. With a fixed Carbon of ~ 20 % this relates to 140g Carbon saved, per person per day by using briquettes instead of a wood fuel. (CO2 values are, by mole weight comparison; 3.75 X C): per person per year= 51kg Carbon (191kg CO2) saved per year; per 5-person family the rate is Or 51 x 5 or 255kg Carbon (956kg CO2) saved per year; per press reaching 60 families on a continuous market basis, the figure is 15 tons carbon (57 Tons CO2) saved per year; per production team reaching 60 families = 900 tons Carbon (5,400 tons CO2) saved per year and per training team reaching 24 new production teams per year 22,000 tons Carbon (82.500 CO2) saved, with this much savings added each subsequent year training is active.
These amounts reflect the use of the typical unimproved stove or three stone fire for cooking and heating-- which predominates throughout the developing world’s cooking environment.
This impact assessment is only for the manually operated press employing 6 persons at basic wages reaching 60 families at full capacity and is a theoretical application of a group operating at maximum capacity. In the read world, one could expect a lower production, but still the impact would be substantial for employment and environmental conservation.
The potential for the impact of the ‘One Step Press’ (where electricity or mechanical shaft power is available) would be roughly 5 times the amount of the manual press team.
VI. POTENTIAL NEGATIVE OR UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES (And what LF is doing about it)
One ironic negative consequence Legacy Foundation has experienced is from those who would like to ‘hold on’ to the briquette making technology after receiving the briquette training. In Uganda after a training of trainers, some participants became so possessive of the technology they refused to train others, thinking they would make the most money from being the exclusive briquette makers/sellers in the town. They soon realized that in their fuel-poor area, they could not make enough briquettes to satisfy the market and that they could only become successful by sharing the knowledge and skills and developing other briquette producers. There is still conflict in this area, but it is based more on traditional conflicts than on the briquette issues per se. (Uganda).
A second negative consequence is that the hollow core briquette makers potentially dis-employ the local charcoal makers and wood sellers. In almost every case however, up to 25% of the sold charcoal product is lost as dust and fines, yet it is a material ideal for blending in the briquette. The dust and fines, as blended in the briquette, can more than double their market—or conversely halve their dependence upon trees and raw charcoal. From experience Legacy Foundation has learned that with awareness training, the charcoal sellers can augment their income while gradually weaning themselves from such heavy dependence upon charcoal per se. Tree cutting, wood chopping and charcoal making easily converts to briquette making as it is more profitable using very local, sustainable agricultural residues and waste paper, than to have to travel to - and haul chopped wood from - increasingly distant sources, especially as this is often carried out illegally.
Before Legacy Foundation does a training in briquette making we evaluate the cost and access to wood as fuel for potential trainees or producers. If government policy is lax or if fuel wood is cheap and easily accessible, briquette making is ruled out as a non-viable economic option. There have been times when we received incorrect information from those who were requesting training and we initiated a training where briquettes were less appropriate in terms of cost effectiveness. In those cases Legacy Foundation increases training on environmental issues to raise awareness of the potential of briquettes for environmental conservation.
VII REPLICATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
The Legacy Foundation biomass briquette work, by its very nature, is prime for replication, expansion and sustainability. As word spreads through the briquette makers network, exposure increases, and new producers and supporting organizations are established. This lesson has already been learned in the relatively short history of biomass briquette popularization over the past fourteen years. When Legacy Foundation began its work, most people had never heard of biomass fuel briquettes. Now there are projects worldwide, most self-started with Legacy Foundation support. The impact is beginning to multiply as new projects re-produce other projects (i.e. Kenya, Uganda, Nepal and Cambodia)
Sustainability will be achieved through the network partner institutions and coordinating organizations in the focus countries. Through increased exposure, technology improvement, increased knowledge and additional opportunities for interaction between the private sector and donors, hollow core, biomass briquette makers will strengthen their capacity to produce and sell briquettes, as has been demonstrated in the current briquette network.
VII SUPPORT FOR LEGACY FOUNDATION AROUND THE WORLD
The Legacy Foundation trainees, associates and technology and manual purchasers have been instrumental in adapting the technologies, training others and continuing the briquette production worldwide. Some of the Legacy Foundation associates include:
• BURKINA FASO: Jake Mueller, Peace Corps Volunteer
• CAMBODIA: Grady Grossman School and Project Enlighten
• CUBA: Universidad Central de las Villas, Facultad de Construcciones: CIDEM Santa Clara Villa Clara
• THE GAMBIA: George Riegg, Paper Recycling Skills Project, Fajikunda.
• GHANA: Joel Chaney, University of Nottingham UK working as a volunteer with local schools. Joel helped to set up the Briquette Net, an Internet discussion group on briquetting.
• HAITI: Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Jane Wynn Foundation, World Concern and ACLAIM
• KENYA: Kangemi Women’s Empowerment Association, Kangemi; Miyumbuni Women’s Association, Miyunbuni; The Wood Family, Lengatta Nairobi; Kisii Briquetters Association; Kasikeu Location Briquette Project; Wild Living Resources Conservancy, Nairobi; Emerging Humanity, Bart Abbott;
• MALAWI: Mchinji Village Association, PAMET, Blantyre; Maula Parish, Lilongwe; Peace Corps, Lilongwe; Nkhomano Center for Development, Ndirande.
• MALI: Enterprise Works Worldwide and USAID, Bamako
• MEXICO: Desmuni and Tenam, Comitan Chiapas State
• NEPAL: Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FOST), Kathmandu.
• PERU: ADRA: Departmente de Cusco
• SOUTH AFRICA: Vuthisa Technologies, Pietermaretsburg, KwaZulu Natal.
• TANZANIA: Chamavita, Economic and Environment Development Institute (EEDI), Lushoto, United African Alliance Community Center (UAACC), Usa River; International School of Tanganyika, Dar es Salaam; Eden Center for Appropriate Technology, Karagwe; • THAILAND: Kareni Refugee Camp in Mai Han Song on the Northwestern Border with Myanmar.
• UGANDA: Uganda Gender Rights Foundation and Uganda United Women’s Association, Mbale; UNICEF, Save the Children Foundation, Gulu, Uganda Industrial Research Institute, Nakawa, Kampala
• USA: Engineers without Borders, UC Boulder Colorado, Sustainable Villages, Boulder CO; Dr. Owen McDougal formerly of Southern Oregon University, Ashland OR, and now an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Idaho, Boise Idaho: EcoVentures, Washington D. C.