Firewood dependence for cooking in the developing world has resulted in forests being depleted at a rate of 2.5 to 3% per year. It is here in the poorest parts of the world that villagers spend a good portion of their time gathering wood to cook, heat and make charcoal. To counter this dependence on wood, efforts were made in the early 80’s to come up with alternatives. One such alternative being explored was making fuel briquettes from non-woody biomass for cooking. Dr.Bryant and students at the University of Washington in the USA developed a novel low-cost briquette making process using non-woody agricultural residues, ordinary water and a hand-operated wood press.
“Anyone can make briquettes from their own leaves, grass, straw and paper”
The briquette process was simple and could be established in poor rural communities, requiring little technology and very little money. With a small effort villagers could now create their own fuelwood from agricultural residues. To make a briquette, ordinary leaves, grass and straw would be chopped and mashed into a paste. This paste would then be compressed into round cakes and dried. The resulting briquette would be sold as a fuelwood- and charcoal substitute at the local market. In 1994 the Legacy Foundation, USA, picked up on Bryant’s briquette making process and extended the outreach activities. Today, Legacy Foundation’s training and online media services have spread the briquette technology and process into eleven other countries, such as Haiti, Uganda, Mexico, Nepal, Kenya, Mali and Tanzania. The foundation has also released 8 technical/training manuals on all known aspects of briquette making. Vuthisa acquired the rights to promote and extend this technology into Southern Africa. Note that the Legacy Foundation have now launched their new Ratchet Press. This press is a high pressure, compact, easily assembled, transported operated and maintained briquette press. Using common tools and skills, the Ratchet Press can work for an individual or full time commercial briquette production facility. Though it is compact and portable, it can deliver nearly the same force as their larger Mini Bryant compound level wood press sold through the Legacy Foundation. They have launched 3 Ratchet Press manuals namely; Ratchet Press Construction, -User, and -Marketing manual.
Video of prototype Mini (Ratchet) Press in action: