Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dr. TLUD and the Coffee Caper

A couple weeks ago I took a break from my kiln work on the Osa to visit a very different sort of biochar undertaking in the coffee country of Costa Rica's Santos region: a women owned and run stove building workshop (APORTES/ Givers) for use by the families of coffee pickers.

The project originated when Arturo Seguro of Sol Colibrí coffees of Costa Rica, on a marketing mission in the Seattle area, happened upon an environmental fair where Art Donnelly of SeaChar (Seattle IBI chapter) was manning a table demonstrating a TLUD biochar-producing cook stove. Arturo saw in the stove a solution to a problem: Coffee pickers are mostly seasonal migrants from Nicaragua and Panama who live in tin-roof shacks, generally without electricity or running water, cooking on smoky open-hearth fires—a notorious source of upper respiratory health problems and driver of habitat destruction from overharvesting wood. This is a big problem, impacting the lives of 10's of thousands of agricultural workers. 

After a couple of design iterations, and the capable guidance of Paul Anderson (aka Dr. TLUD), they had devised a stove based on a 5-gallon pail that would be efficient, smoke-free, and produce biochar in the bargain. Art and Paul were on hand to help Arturo and crew kick-off the workshop. The stoves will sell for around $30. I brought sample back to the Osa with me; judging from the reaction of my Costa Rican colleagues, the TLUD stove may enjoy a much wider reception. Although most area farm families have propane cook stoves, they still do a lot of cooking on wood as well, and the advantages of a high-efficiency smoke-free stove are obvious!

(Unfortunately, the trip was marred by a failed wheel bearing on my truck during our descent back to the coast. Ay caray!)

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