Saturday, 26 September 2009

Trees, Charcoal and Rain

Once again I read that Africa is suffering because people are cutting trees for fuel and to produce charcoal. Generally, the charcoal production is illegal, but this can be sorted out with a back-hander - no change there then.

From what I have seen and heard on my trips to Kenya, the solar cooker, which can be made for pennies, are very efficient, but do not fit in with the East African psyche, they take too long to cook a meal. From my observations, it seems that Kenyans like to prepare and eat with little or no gap in between. So they need an instant heat source to cook on, wood, charcoal, kerosene or, if they are modern (and can afford it) butane gas.

So, trees will continue to be decimated until an alternative instant fuel is found, that is acceptable to those who have to use it.

You can read an article on the BBC website here

I have been working on methane collector design for a while now and have come up with a version that is easy and cheap to construct, and easy to use.

My contention is that if butane is acceptable, then so is methane. The difference is that methane occurs naturally, and to collect it is a simple matter. It is FREE!

Looking at its use ecologically, burning methane forms water and CO2, which is a good thing. Why? Because methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, so it is far more acceptable to have CO2 floating around rather than methane, isn't it?

But most people living in rural East Africa are not interested in that, they are too busy surviving.

So, what about the charcoal makers? They will not be happy seeing their livlihood disappearing as people convert to methane for cooking.

So, show them how to make methane collectors, install them and maintain them. Yes, they need maintaining. A 45 gallon methane collector will produce gas for about six months before it needs refurbishing. But, the by-product is fertiliser, just what is needed on a shamba.

So, to recap:

  • Methane is free
  • Using methane saves trees
  • A methane collector produces fertiliser
  • Using methane helps to eliminate a potent greenhouse gas that would normally escape to atmosphere.
  • Methane is a clean fuel, so there are no particulates to irritate and inflame eyes and lungs.
  • Charcoal producers can be easily trained to make, install and maintain methane collectors, so they will not lose their income. In fact, with a little persuasion, maybe they will even promote the use of methane.
Methane can also be used as an alternative to petrol, so it will run a generator or water pump.

What is the next step?

KCIS has produced a working model. We can produce free methane. We are willing to spread the word.

We have contacted various charities and NGOs who are supposed to be interested in saving trees and protecting the water catchment areas. What is their response?


If you are interested in saving trees in Kenya, contact us. We will work with anyone who is serious about making people's lives better in Kenya, or even East Africa.


Simon said...

Hi Dad Mzungu
I realise Nakuru is not so close to Kisii but we are interested in finding income generating schemes and cost saving schemes. We are presently trying to interest community support groups in solar cookers and, hopefully, briquettes made from organic waste. But we would also like to hear more about biogas production. We don't have much in the way of technical skills but from what you say, we and some of the communities we work with, could easily learn. Shall we keep in touch? I can let you know how we get on with the solar cookers and you can let me know more about biogas.

Dad Mzungu said...

Hi Simon
KCIS is happy to share information with other community organisations.

Drop me a line at
david at kcisupport dot plus dot com

and we can exchange notes

Baba Mzungu