[Stoves] Charcoal in Gambia

George Riegg Gambia icecool at qanet.gm
Fri Aug 12 00:06:16 PDT 2011

Dear Dr. Larson, Crispin, my good friend Bakari et al

Sometimes I really am baffled readings some of these posts. I see extremely clever and learned people actually spending their time discussing issues which, with all due respect, seem to be way out of their area of  - if not expertise per se - then sure practical experience. Why? Just to prove a point?

I am really glad I joined this list about 4 years ago - I have met some great and passionate people, I have learned alot - one thingh I have NOT learned is to keep my gob shut sometimes - but eh, that's just me. I am just a simple guy here on the ground who is trying to use my brain, energy, learning and organising capacity to do my bit to makke this messed up globe of ours a better place for everybody. Being a dreamer but also practical guy I try to do that right here - in The Gambia. Being a white guy in an African country is not always easy but we all try to respect each other and get along - and learn from each other. As I said before the one thing I probably never will learn - not that i even WANT to - is keep my gob shut. I also am known for being direct - it saves time even if some people think it's not always the polite thing to do.

I've been watching this interesting thread for the last 2 days ever since Cecil talked to Crispin and left after his all to short visit. We all had a very busy and fruitful time and all our brains are totally overloaded - now it's time for sorting and trying to use what we have learned. We still have another 2 or 3 weeks of baseline research to do but we're getting there. Just a few comments below.
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: rongretlarson at comcast.net 
  To: Crispin Pemberton-Pigott 
  Cc: Paul Olivier ; biochar-policy ; Discussion of biomass cooking stoves ; Danny Growald 
  Sent: Friday, August 12, 2011 4:08 AM
  Subject: Re: [Stoves] Charcoal in Gambia

  Crispin etal

    I can't let you off the hook so easily.  My main points in my last message on charcoaling in Gambia were two fold - and you missed commenting on either one.  If charcoal making is so great for the economy - why is production illegal?
  Because I guess most governments actually have figured all by themselves (with the help of some highly paid external consultants I'm sure telling us what we here know anyway) that making charcoal is killing our forests. But saying it's illegal without offering an affordable alternative NOW for ALL who use it doesn't stop it. People got to cook - it's as easy as that

   Second the cost we should be talking about should involve externalities - not just its availability because people have no other employment.  This is to request your thoughts on these several rejoinders.

  I asked   Does anyone know of any African country where char production is considered a plus for the economy?  

  and you replied:  "All over the place. Given the destruction of the domestic food industry by Western countries dumping food below cost, it is one of the only things you can do in a rural are that earns enough money to buy matches, school books, candles and tea.

  I still maintain that Gambia is probably being ruined from people breaking the law.
  Well show me the country where that is different and I'm packing my bags tomorrow.

  And Biochar production in pyrolysis stoves by these same unemployed folk can be accomplished by people like me paying for taking atmospheric carbon out of their (and my atmosphere. 
  Maybe you just found a solution to the global unemployment problem (including the growing one in the USA) I think the last time i looked the little that the US government spends from your hard earned tax bucks possibly don't even cover your own per capita emmissions in the USA - never mind ours. But  could be wrong.....

  One strange reoccuring perception on this list seems to be that the folks here in The Gambia - and most likely other similar countries - have just been waiting for someone to come to tell them that "what? you use your stove for cooking? - don't you realise that you can do all sorts of great stuff with it?"  I know what they tell ME when I actually TALK to them and suggest that they should use a different method then they have all their lives... It's hard to change habits and sometimes people here just can't afford the risk to do something that's new just in case they end up even worth off then they are already

   Partly this can be done locally, but also these same unemployed can plant and manage trees.  They can also prepare wood of the proper type for shipment to cities for use in pyrokyzing stoves (and thosecity  people save in the process).  The same tree used as wood can probably cook for 4 to 5 times as many people (I have seen the number 7).  And the properly managed tree (and its roots) will not be savaged - but rather coppiced.
  Well yes I can say that sitting here to - let's start with Texas. I heard they seem to have alot of spare land available now and because they too have been mismanaging their resources they just have discovered that water actually can be recycled. Not really sure where you got these figures from but i'd be interested to get hold of one of these stoves that increases efficiency of ANY fuel by 700 %!

  There is a good reason for most laws and I hate to see the subject of illegal charcoal making going undiscussed.
  I thought this is a stove discussen forum?

  Thanks for the report below that Bakari has used the phrase  "very big improvement" from Biochar  I hope he can give us more detail.  I don't know whether that is 20% (very big in this country) or 200%.(which I am hearing a lot in Africa).  The difference can start with the rural stove.
  As I said before Bakari is a dear friend of mine and we're both to busy to meet up all that often. He's one of these great guys who can fiddle around with something and can make it work - ask him afterwards how he did it and he looks like I used to when I took my dad's watches apart and put them together again but had some screws left. His activities are on a very local and practical level and i don't think he keeps records of his experimenting. But I will ask him and forward the stuff to Cecil.

  Once we did our baseline summary I am sure i will park it on the stoves site so everyone can see what we found out.
  George from the (ever depleting) jungle



  From: "Crispin Pemberton-Pigott" <crispinpigott at gmail.com>
  To: rongretlarson at comcast.net, "Discussion of biomass cooking stoves" <stoves at lists.bioenergylists.org>
  Cc: "Paul Olivier" <paul.olivier at esrla.com>, "Danny Growald" <dgrowald at gmail.com>, "biochar-policy" <biochar-policy at yahoogroups.com>
  Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2011 12:27:23 AM
  Subject: RE: [Stoves] Charcoal in Gambia

  Dear All
  >   Can you ask Cecil to get a few more price numbers 

  He left today. He has numbers from a variety of things but concentrating on domestic stoves and fuels.

  >   The Gambian prices of about 15 to 20 c/kg  ($150-$200/ tonne) are certainly pretty low.   

  Yes, indicating that it is not in that short a supply.

  >Does anyone know of any African country where char production is considered a plus for the economy?  

  All over the place. Given the destruction of the domestic food industry by Western countries dumping food below cost, it is one of the only things you can do in a rural are that earns enough money to buy matches, school books, candles and tea. That sort of basic necessity. In Mozambique there used to be a huge ($188m/yr) cashew nut trading system in place. Mostly gone now but partly restored. Income is difficult to generate when the main thing available is land for food production.

  >   If the peanut log is 6  Dalasi, your comment below doesn't make sense to me in terms of balancing from the perspective of the user.  

  That is the current commercial price were to sell it. I don’t think anyone will take the product at that price. It is a new business. Too much overhead in equipment if you ask me.

  >   I'll bet the user of a charcoal-making stove can get the cost of cooking a meal down to zero by selling the produced char (of course for putting in the ground)

  ‘Bakari’ (who is German) reads the stoves list. He says he has very big improvements using biochar in sandy soils in Gambia. Cecil interviewed him in his garden.



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