“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 started to investigate ways and means of preserving our natural forests and indigenous habitats, reduce indoor air pollution and ultimately minimizing man’s impact on the environment…
… and Vuthisa was born.
Kindly visit the 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 6,436 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. We have also added a Digital Solutions division that caters to the needs of companies wanting 3D designs drawn up – or – needs their homes/offices uploaded into the 3D environment of Google Earth, called Geo-modeling. 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.
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.
Feel free to browse around or to send us a comment.
Vuthisa (BEE Rating: Level 4)
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: http://www.environment.co.za/weeds-invaders-alien-vegetation). 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.