The Charcoal Project

The mission of The Charcoal Project is to promote, facilitate, and advocate for the widespread adoption of clean burning technologies, sustainable fuel alternatives, and policies that support energy-poverty alleviation for those who depend on biomass as their primary fuel around the world.
Dec 3, 2013

24 Months after Global Giving Project Launch

Students using the new stoves
Students using the new stoves

Dear Friend-

Two years ago, we set out to raise $30,000 USD to help pay for better fuels and cooking technologies for six schools in southwestern Uganda in desperate need of energy efficiency. As of the writing of this letter, we are $1,000 USD short of the funds needed to complete this phase of the project. But given your track record of support, we’re more than confident we’ll be able to meet the goal! So, again, thank you in advance for your help!

The six schools are part of the Rubaare Education Foundation, a non-profit that provides low-cost, quality education and scholarships to about 1,800 primary and high school students in the semi-urban district of Rubaare.

We began the project because rising wood and transportation costs meant that the school’s principal, Henry Twinemasiko, had to make severe cuts in his budget. Henry had to choose between reducing the number of scholarships on offer, switch to lower quality food, and put off any kind of maintenance and upgrades for the schools.

Working with Henry, we settled on a two-prong strategy:

  1. We agreed to transform the abundant and virtually free agricultural waste in the region into char briquettes, which would serve as a suitable substitute fuel for wood and charcoal.
  2. We also agreed to fundraise to retrofit the school’s cooking stoves to consume less fuel and produce fewer emissions.

Two years and $30,000 USD later, we are pleased to announce that the schools are well on their way to reducing their fuel consumption and cooking cost by almost 50 percent! What’s more, new cookstove technology means the cooking staff does not have to suffer from exposure to toxic emissions.

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of donors like you who helped raise almost a third of the total amount needed. The rest was raised through other private campaigns.

Lessons Learned

A lot of research and testing went into identifying the right briquetting technology and the best cookstoves for the school. We eventually settled on Peterson Press briquette- making technology and institutional stoves manufactured by Ugastove and Green Bio Energy. Our plan is to continue monitoring and testing the technology and its performance over the next two years.

Another lesson we learned is that REF students need access to illumination for studying at night. This is why we are launching a new project to bring solar-powered electricity for illumination at all the REF schools in the next 24 months. Again, despite the abundant solar projects that exist out there, identifying the right solution for the school is not obvious. Our plan is to research and test the right solution before spending any of our donated funds. You’ll be hearing more about this soon!

Our ultimate goal is to create a source of knowledge that can be shared with all the school districts across the region. To this end, we are partnering with other schools in Uganda that are also interested in cutting their energy costs and boosting access to efficient and renewable energy. We know many other school districts in Uganda could benefit from the knowledge gathered and we plan to share that information.

Our goal for the next two years is to raise $30,000 USD to outfit the Rubaare schools with solar lighting, launch a portfolio of income generating opportunities for the school for the upkeep of the investments, test new energy solutions, and share the knowledge we are gathering with other school districts. How’s that for ambition! Together with Henry we believe the REF schools can serve as models for green schools where the student body can develop skills in renewable energy and clean technologies.

Many friends, friends of friends, family, and friends of family have joined to support our efforts in Rubaare over the past two years. We hope you will continue supporting us!

Warm regards,

Sylvia, Henry, and Kim


PS - We want to remind you that 100% of your donations net of bank fees are invested in the programs. No salaries, travel, or hospitality expenses are paid from donations received through Global Giving donations.

PPS - Our project with Henry and the REF schools in Rubaare is linked to a larger program called The Harvest Fuel Initiative (HFI). HFI is a collaboration with D-Lab at MIT. We invite you to find out more about this program by visiting the HFI website

Briquetting Team
Briquetting Team
Solar Lighting
Solar Lighting


Sep 6, 2013

New Stoves for a New School Year

After - new stoves in new cookhouse
After - new stoves in new cookhouse

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Last time we checked in, we were poised to install institutional stoves at the Rubaare Educational Foundation’s main campus.  Well, we are happy to report that the new stoves have been installed and are now operational.  The students are currently on holiday, but when they return to school they will find a smoke-free kitchen, which uses far less fuel than previously. 

As you can see from the before and after photos, the new stoves are a dramatic improvement.  “It was so fantastic with both briquettes and wood,” said Henry Twinemasiko, REF Director, of the combined wood and briquette burning stoves.  None of this could have been done without your financial support as well as the support of the Unitarian Church of Summit, NJ.

Once the REF kitchen is back in full swing, we will be conducting some tests to determine how well the new stoves are working.  As long as the tests go as well as expected, we will install theses stoves in the rest of the REF schools.   Once again, we welcome your support, as we only have enough funds to build new stoves at two of the other schools.  These efficient stoves will reduce REF’s fuel costs and the cost saving will be used for books, supplies and other basic student needs.  Our plan is to bring these efficient stoves to all six of the REF schools by the end of 2014.

Thanks again for all that you have done for the students of Rubaare!

Kind regards,

Kim and Sylvia

Before - old cookhouse
Before - old cookhouse
Jun 10, 2013

Custom Cookstoves for REF Schools in Uganda

Institutional clean cookstove
Institutional clean cookstove

Dear Friends:

Last time we were in touch our friends and partners at the Unitarian Church in Summit New Jersey had successfully raised $7,600 for our Clean Fuels and Clean Cookstoves project in Rubaare, Uganda.  (Thank you again, Unitarians! You are awesome!)

So what did we do with the money? Believe it or not, it’s not as easy as one might think to swap out old, smoky, inefficient stoves in Africa with cleaner burning ones. That’s because we want to make sure that: 1. We invest in the right technology, 2. The stoves can burn the fuels available and achieve the goal of reducing fuel consumption (costs) and emissions (health/climate change), and 3. We can make every dollar work harder by saving on costs like shipping and import duties. That’s why we’ve spent the past couple of months researching and identifying the best stove option for the school.  And we finally did it!

Since the REF schools rely on agricultural waste briquettes and wood for cooking we’ve decided it’s best to build custom stoves that are capable of burning both types of fuel.  This will give REF the flexibility they need in their fuel choices and also allow us to test both types of stoves for combustion efficiency and ease of use.  Based on these results, the other REF schools (there are six in all serving meals to almost 2,000 students) will be outfitted with either new wood stoves, briquette stoves or the wood/briquette combination stove.

Pictured below is the type of stove we will be building in REF’s new cookhouse.  The stove will have a chimney and produce fuel savings of 50-60%, which will result in huge fuel cost savings for REF. We’ll be running various kitchen and water boiling tests (these are international standard testing techniques established to measure efficiency in the clean cookstove world) to determine exactly what efficiency we can expect from these stoves. We’ll report back to you when we have figures.

You have been so generous in the past and Global Giving is offering another opportunity to maximize your donation by matching donations made on June 12th by 30%.  Please continue to give the REF schools your support and help make the clean cookstove installation a reality.

One last thing to mention is that our project with the REF schools is connected to an exciting new initiative we have launched in partnership with MIT’s prestigious D-Lab unit. We call it the Harvest Fuel Initiative. Please check out our new website to learn more!

Warmest regards,

Kim, Sylvia, & Henry Twinemasiko, Director of REF Schools in Rubaare