Archive for fuel briquettes

Briquette Producers Workshop – Arusha (Tanzania) 2010

By Vuthisa

Vuthisa (South Africa) was invited to participate in the Briquette Producers Workshop held in Arusha, Tanzania between 10 and 14 November, 2010 at Olasiti Garden Lodge. Arusha lies at the base of Mount Meru, one of Africa’s highest and most beautiful volcanoes. Apparently after scaling the summit one is met with stunning views of the Ash Cone lying several thousand feet below in the crater and Kilimanjaro in the background. See map below.

The conference/workshop was facilitated by the Legacy Foundation (Oregon, USA) through funding from the McKnight Foundation of Minnesota. It is part of a three-year project backing environmental conservation in Africa. For more information on Fuel Briquettes, background to the technology and press construction manuals, kindly visit our Fuel Briquettes page. Participants arrived from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Chad, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa and Botswana. The main aim of the conference is to create an African Briquette Producers Network so that new knowledge and improved recipes can be passed on to producers even if they are working in different regions. Over the next couple of weeks we will be highlighting some of the challenges facing briquetting groups, entrepreneurs and organizations alike in achieving successful transference of theoretical knowledge into practical know-how. This is no easy feat as there are many constraints and challenges facing briquette producers, such as obtaining presses or tools, many lack business skills, standardizing of briquette size and quality, packaging and marketing and end-use issues such as briquette combustion techniques.


Our presentation on Thursday (11th) intended to bring participants up to speed with rocket stove technologies as well as discussing air/fuel ratios to effect optimum stove performance. We had two stoves at the conference, namely the StoveTec wood rocket stove and the Vuthisa charcoal gasifying stove. Although the StoveTec was not originally designed to burn briquettes, it coped very well with smaller diameter- or broken up briquettes. The Vuthisa charcoal gasifying stove was lit on the final night of the conference to better showcase the blue flames that can be achieved through the optimal combustion of charcoal. The stove was lit using approximately 450g of lumped charcoal pieces kindly provided by the Olasiti Gardens’ kitchen staff. After approximately 45 minutes of operation, showcasing complete combustion and mesmerizing blue flames, briquettes consisting of agro-residues (and very little charcoal fines) were broken into pieces and inserted into the combustion chamber. The briquettes were quickly pyrolized into char without any smoke and the char-gas burn commenced shortly thereafter. We then donated the StoveTec to a grateful participant.

Below is a collage of photos taken by Peter Stanley, myself as well as other participants. Click on it to go to my Flickr slideshow. The Legacy Foundation will be bringing out their final report and we will be putting a link to it here in the next couple of weeks. Here is a link to press coverage of the conference.

More updates to follow…


Final report by Legacy Foundation:

Download site for training manuals:

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Fuel briquettes saves trees and provides income generation for the poor

By Vuthisa

Vuthisa (South Africa) supports Legacy Foundation’s briquette making process. This page aims to give the reader some background on the road that Legacy Foundation embarked upon in their quest to disseminate briquette making technologies to rural and urban poor all over the world. To date, countless communities in 11 countries have benefited from this technology. Despite all their efforts however the demand far exceeds the capacity of the small network of briquette practitioners to fully respond to the ever-growing problems of deforestation and poverty. Please contact Legacy Foundation on if you want to kick-start a 40 person training event in your area or contact Vuthisa for a training event in South Africa, which can reduce firewood consumption by over 900 tons per year. Training individuals in the art of briquette making is the first step in setting up a project in your area. The Foundation has also released 8 technical/training manuals on all known aspects of briquette making as well as 3 Ratchet Press manuals. For information on these manuals, please scroll down to the bottom of this page. Build your own manually operated hand press and make fuel briquettes from your own garden/yard-; or paper waste.

“Note that the Legacy Foundation have now launched their new Ratchet Press…”

Note that the Legacy Foundation have now launched their new Ratchet Press. This press is a high pressure, compact, easily assembled, transported operated and maintained briquette press. Using common tools and skills, the Ratchet Press can work for an individual or full time commercial briquette production facility. Though it is compact and portable, it can deliver nearly the same force as their larger Mini Bryant compound level wood press sold through the Legacy Foundation. They have launched 3 Ratchet Press manuals namely; Ratchet Press Construction, -User, and -Marketing manual.

Click here to go to view the manuals

Buy any manual and receive a download link to the “Test Briquette Maker Construction and User Manual” or buy it for $19.95 by clicking on the image on the left. With this ingenious device, developed by the Legacy Foundation, you can make your own briquettes with just the “Press Kit” components to familiarize yourself with the concept behind their hand operated wooden and metal, low-pressure briquetting machines.

“The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance…”

Ninety percent of people that buy our manuals never commit themselves to building the actual presses, possibly due to time or money constraints or they lack workshop tools and/or technical know-how. The Test Briquette Maker can be built for under $125 (USD) and requires almost no maintenance, with only basic drilling and welding (10 cm at most) work required. If you’re looking to attract funding to roll out a program using this technology, this press will be most suitable to that end. As mentioned a FREE download link to the “Test Briquette Maker Construction and User Manual” will be supplied with every manual purchased on this site.

South Africa can certainly benefit from this biomass fuel briquette production system as an alternative to fuelwood use. This country has seen an incredible transition to democracy, but poverty, illiteracy and HIV/AIDS continue to dominate the lives of millions of South African households and energy security is a daily struggle here. Firewood is an essential part of life in South Africa, as it is all over the world. This precious resource plays an important role in every rural family’s life. It is here in the poorest part of the world that communities spend a good portion of their time gathering wood to cook and heat. Outside South Africa many indigenous forests are also being plundered to make charcoal. This dependence on wood has a remarkable impact on forests and economics worldwide. Globally, forests are being depleted at a rate of 2.5 to 3% per year. This happens because people need their wood for cooking, and wood today is the most available and economical resource. Destruction of these forests affects the rural poor, making it harder for them to find firewood. It also has a wider effect by contributing to global climate change.

With wood providing the base fuel for over 2 billion people the alternatives will require massive investment beyond what the western world is willing to pay. The fact remains that unless there is a viable alternative nearly 50% of the citizens of this planet will continue to cook their one or two meals per day in a pot resting on 3 rocks and burning fuelwood. The alternative, namely fuelwood plantations, petroleum derived fuels, charcoal, solar and wind energy are proving to be impractical and expensive without subsidies from government, NGO’s or donors.

During our investigations to find an alternative to wood fuel we discovered that globally, there is a concerted effort being made to encourage a self-sustaining network of rural and urban poor to provide themselves and others in their communities with an alternative to wood fuel. These efforts are largely being spearheaded by the Legacy Foundation, USA and the fuel is biomass briquettes.

As far back as 1979 there were attempts to create artificial fuelwood briquettes using sawdust, straw or peat. These briquettes were supposed to solve the world’s fuelwood problems, but the briquette making machines were expensive, highly technical requiring ironically great amounts of electricity. It was not until the briquette process could be altered to address the real urban and rural poor environment that it would succeed. In the early 1980’s Dr. Bryant and students at the University of Washington in the USA developed a novel low-cost briquette-making process using non-woody agricultural residues, ordinary water and a hand-operated wood press. The briquette process was simple and could be established in poor and rural communities, requiring little technology and very little money. With a small effort villagers could now create their own fuelwood from agricultural residues. To make a briquette, ordinary leaves; grass and straw would be chopped and mashed into a paste. This paste would then be compressed into round cakes and dried. The resulting briquette would be sold as a fuelwood and charcoal substitute at the local market. In 1994 the Legacy Foundation picked up on Bryant’s briquette making process and extended the outreach activities. Legacy Foundation adapted the process in Malawi, East Africa, where the first pilot program was launched. The work in Africa led to other briquette extension assignments i.e Cusco, Peru, where the Legacy Foundation with the support of ADRA trained local trainers in the briquette making process leading to practical projects in three communities in the Cusco region of the Andes mountains. In Peru the same process that was used in the establishment in Africa was applied to the local skills and resources. The success of the briquette technology was not only in its simplicity, but in the fact that it offered a sustainable income, generating opportunity. Not only are briquettes easy to make, but they allow the rural and urban poor to make money in the process. By replacing firewood and charcoal with briquettes, producers can increase their income by 20%. Income generation along with saving the environment makes a sustainable solution to poverty reduction. Today, Legacy Foundation’s training and online media services have influenced the spread of the briquette technology and process beyond Malawi and Peru into eleven new countries. Other countries that have had briquette extension programs include Haiti, Uganda, Mexico, Nepal, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania.

To date, countless communities in 11 countries have benefited from this technology. Despite all their efforts however the demand far exceeds the capacity of the small network of briquette practitioners to fully respond to the ever-growing problems of deforestation and poverty. Please contact Legacy Foundation on if you want to kick-start a 40 person training event in your area, which can reduce firewood consumption by over 900 tons per year. Training individuals in the art of briquette making is the first step in setting up a project in your area – OR – order the Legacy Foundation briquette manuals and build your own hand operated briquette press at home to transform your yard waste into fuel-briquettes. Why not build your own briquette-burning stove?  For the latest developments regarding fuel briquette-burning stoves, visit Rok Oblak’s Blog.

Anyone can make briquettes from their own leaves, grass, straw and paper. Most people accumulate sufficient newspaper to heat their homes much of the year. With briquettes, you no longer need to use wood as fuel.

If you are interested in making briquettes or training others in your area, we would recommend our training and technical manuals according to your specific needs. Fifty percent (50%) of the monies received from the sale of these manuals goes back to the Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization, so they can continue with research and development into new briquetting technologies and for initiating briquette extension exercises.  The remaining 50% is used by Vuthisa to train local groups in the art of briquette making; to promote and develop better stoves and for the upkeep of this website. Your help in reducing global poverty while saving the environment is greatly appreciated.

For detailed information on each manual, just click on any of the images below.



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“Investigate and disseminate new and innovative technologies to developing economies.”

Welcome to the official Vuthisa blogging website!

Our journey started back in 1999 on a forestry farm in the beautiful Kamberg valley (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). Our plantation management company was tasked with removing invasive alien vegetation from a once pristine riverbed. We decided to convert the piles of slashed Wattle timber into charcoal. The method we used was to convert obsolete underground diesel tanks into pyrolysing kilns. An archaic and inefficient system that yielded barely enough profit to cover the clearfelling operation. We started supplying peri-urban households with charcoal and discovered a great need for affordable-, good quality charcoal, regardless of the fact that they did not have access to charcoal burning stoves, as in other African countries. We started to investigate more efficient methods of producing and ‘burning’ charcoal culminating in a decade long quest to develop better stoves. We believe in preserving our natural forests and indigenous habitats, reduce indoor air pollution and ultimately minimizing man’s impact on the environment…

… and Vuthisa was born.

Website content

First and foremost please visit our Online Shop launched in 2015.  Or you may still visit our Home page to see some of the products that have caught our eye and we felt needed more exposure. The Blog page contains all our blog posts sent out, covering a range of subjects, including our most popular post How to make charcoal in your own backyard with the use of a Portable Kiln which received more than 21,000 visits thus far. In December 2011 we launched our own charcoal made from invasive alien tree species. We recently moved our Vuthisa Charcoal Stove development page from the Home page to a blog post titled Charcoal Gas Stove. For project updates please visit the News page where announcement are made, for example, that we now promote the fuel-efficient and smokeless StoveTec wood stove. We advocate that fuel briquettes be made from non-woody agro-residue and more information on the Legacy Foundation’s briquette press construction and user manuals can be found here. We have found an excellent source of over 1,500 practical, hands-on books for development workers:  The Development Bookshop (UK) has a wide range of book topics ranging from How-To books, Energy, Finance to Education.The books are delivered to your door anywhere in the world for around £2. Our Bookshop page includes examples of books we found useful. The recently added Biochar page will bring our readers up to speed with the latest research as well as our own findings. In keeping with living off-grid and minimizing our impact on the environment we are happy to announce our new-formed association with Sunfire Solar Solutions in respect of their incredibly powerful and lightweight range of solar cookers and solar desk lamps. The Hippo Water Roller is such a great concept and we felt we needed to bring this great innovation in water collecting to the consciousness of the people of this planet. Lastly we also cater for small farmers or plantation owner requiring a map dawn up without the high costs and time delays usually associated with appointing a draughtsman.

Vuthisa has embarked on a new journey employing 27 workers to eradicate Invasive Alien Plant Species in Kokstad, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa (which has since grown to 70 workers!).  Worker wages are paid for by the Department if Environmental Affairs’ Natural Resource Management Programme. Other projects have been spawned thanks to the creation of free feedstock such as the Vuthisa Biochar Initiative. Biochar as a soil amendment will allow rural folk to improve their subsistence agriculture. Mixing biochar with soil or a good active organic compost before it goes in the soil will soak up its full compliment of water, nutrients and microbes so that it can make those available immediately to the plants as soon as it is added to the soil. We hope to create these eco-fertilizers in the not too distant future.  Watch this space!


On the sidebar you will find a collection of favored links to other websites, PDF file downloads and RSS feeds to the Bioenergylist’s Stove Pages, USAID’s Indoor air Quality (IAQ) Updates and Jean Kim Chaix’s The Charcoal Project. We are also on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Just search for Vuthisa!

Feel free to browse around or to send us a comment.

Kobus Venter (CEO)

Vuthisa Technologies (BEE Rating: Level 4)

Contact Us

Have a green product related to living off-grid? Kindly contact us to discuss it and we’ll consider adding it to our range.

…and a final footnote and a South African perspective on exotic plant alien infestation…

Background to exotic alien plant infestation

South Africa (according to the most recent South Africa Yearbook) is plagued with alien plant infestations totaling more than 10 million hectares, about eight percent (8%) of the country’s land surface area and 2.5 million hectares of Acacia mearnsii (black wattle) has steadily encroached on our indigenous bush and once pristine riverbeds. The fight against invasive alien plants is spearheaded by the Working for Water (WfW) programme, launched in 1995 and administered through the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). This programme works in partnership with local communities, to whom it provides jobs, and also with government departments, research foundations and private companies. The WfW programme is one of the Natural Resources Management Programmes (NRM).  Other programmes include: Working on Fire, Working for Land, Working for Forests and Eco-Furniture Factories.

Although a step in the right direction it has not prevented the further spread of invasive aliens.  The rate of spread is alarming and their numbers are projected to double over the next 15 years. The WfW programme, also aimed at creating employment has been allocated R665,9-million ($83 million USD) in the 2010/11 year, but this amount is not sufficient to contain the problem (Source: CSIR scientists have recently commented: “Although an estimated R6.5 billion was lost every year due to invading alien plants, this would have been an estimated additional R41.7 billion had no control been carried out. This indicates a saving of R35.2 billion every year.”

The main culprit is Acacia mearnsii or black wattle, a hardwood that just so happens to make excellent charcoal. Vuthisa strongly advocates the removal (and stump treatment) of these weeds from riverbanks and open land by converting it to charcoal using our Portable charcoal-making kiln. In Namibia, 26 million hectares of encroachment bush is being converted to charcoal and sold to neighboring South Africa using this method. This kiln is cheap to construct and portable. This will slow the encroachment rate of the invaders and encourage micro-entrepreneurial activity to alleviate the country’s high unemployment rate.

Vuthisa does not advocate charcoal usage over wood, because of the wasteful manner in which charcoal is made and the charcoal trade destroys naturally occurring forests and contributes to global warming. There are signs that governments are trying to regulate the industry by introducing more efficient charcoal-making kilns and establishing plantations to ensure sustainability of the timber source. Vuthisa does advocate the implementation of improved charcoal stoves by low-income households provided the charcoal is derived from the carbonisation of aforesaid Wattle spp. and encroachment bush.

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