Fuel for Thought: Travels in Tanzania

Scientific American

August 5, 2013

By Rachel Margolese

Rachel Margolese
Rachel Margolese '16

Mambo from Tanzania! We’ve been living and working in northern Tanzania for a little over a month now, building a kiln, getting quite muddy, experimenting with traditional Tanzanian cooking, and filling ourselves with Swahili. As I’ve learned, we know just enough Swahili to be dangerous. I successfully navigate the requisite greetings of a conversation and the man I’m speaking to is so surprised and happy that a mzungo can converse in Swahili that he continues in a rather one sided conversation for a bit while I bumble along behind him, understanding bits and pieces and mumbling any words that come to mind. Fortunately our neighbors and acquaintances are thrilled to teach us Swahili and laugh good naturedly at our mistakes.

The four of us are a part of the Bioenergy project of Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering (DHE), living in Tanzania for the summer to continue our work with promoting sustainable and cheap cooking fuel. After a year of working with briquettes, pyrolysis, and all things fuel back on campus, we are putting our knowledge to work in Arusha, Tanzania. We hope to build capacity of local Tanzanians to produce their own cooking fuel. Specifically, we are working on small scale charcoal production and briquetting—creating small fuel bricks out of waste biomass carbonized into charcoal—through our work with several NGOs and local communities.

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