By Vuthisa Our prototype portable camping stove aims to highlight the plight of millions of people cooking on inefficient and unsafe charcoal stoves. It is not available for purchase yet. The camping stove will weigh less than 4 kg and consists of a easy-to-clean powder coated hex-shaped shell, containing a shock-proof low-density ceramic combustion chamber or insulated fire bricks. The top of the stove has a detachable potholder made from stainless steel and will come with an optional padded and waterproof carry bag with extra pockets for charcoal and fire lighters/matches. There will be a multitude of colors to choose from i.e. signal red, deep sky blue to dark gray. The base of the stove is also removable in order to shake out the ash after use. We propose the stove be used to save on electricity costs which are set to sky rocket. In South Africa, ESKOM (State owned power company) has applied to NERSA for a 35% increase per year for the next three years – a 200% increase from current rates in three years time. [***Update***24 February 2010 – The national energy regulator decided to fix electricity tariff hikes at roughly 25 percent annually for the next three years rather than 35 percent.] [***Update***23 March 2015 – A further 12.69% tariff increase will be implemented from 1 April, 2015 onwards.] The cost of operating this stove 4 times a week is estimated at R19 ($1.60)! This is at the current cost of R 48 ($4) per 5 kg bag of charcoal and using 500 grams of charcoal per burn. Of course it would be much cheaper to make charcoal in your own backyard. Please send through your comments to Vuthisa on our Contact Us page or visit the News link from time to time for product updates or visit our Home page.
“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.
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)
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.