Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Coconut Crushing Conundrum

Over the first five weeks of Expo 111 one of the main goals of the forest and conservation program was to re-start the alternative charcoal group. This presented many challenges, first and foremost was actually locating members and finding a suitable location for the press. Then there was the challenge of formulating a recipe that was a suitable competitor to charcoal.

In week three, one of the old members Harold and his son Onyango managed to gather 10 new members who were all well respected within the community. The new members were also attached to some form of academic institution or had practical training which could benefit the group logistically.

The charcoal press has also been moved to its new home in Shimoni. The workshop has shelves for drying and has easy access for transport, which was a particular blessing when it came to transporting the press from the GVI cottage to its new home! Another benefit has been the number of local children who are amazed at what we are doing and are always eager to come and help out, however they can, collecting leaves, coconut shells or sweeping up the floor, they lend themselves to any task!
-GVI team crushing up dried leaves-

A major difficulty has been formulating a set recipe and teaching the method of how to produce the alternative charcoal into briquettes. First there was the issue of finding the correct measurements so that the pre-mix held together and was suitable for pressing. Then there was agreeing on the type of ingredients that should be used. So far the lists of ingredients that have been turned into charcoal have been; leaves, sawdust, palm dust and coconut leaves, along with the usual paper mulch and charcoal dust. All of the briquettes have worked well when burning, giving off very little smoke and giving off heat however, the group has yet to conduct a standardized test to see how competitive they are against charcoal. The general consensus is to experiment with as many ingredients as possible and then test all of the briquettes by boiling the same amount of water simultaneously.

-Harold with a finished experimental briquette-

One issue still under debate is how to exactly crush a coconut shell finely enough to be compressed into alternative charcoal. With very limited resources, hammers, stones, bags and poles and files have so far failed in the mission to find an efficient way to turn a humble shell into dust. This will probably be an on going debate over the next few weeks but it is proving to be a test of everyone’s knowledge and will no doubt be one of the most rewarding things of the expo when a fine dust from coconut shells can be produced in less than 2 hours!

GVI/ Friends of Shimoni Forest