Rough Guide: How to make sugar-cane charcoal [Pictorial Overview]

Last August around this time, Pete and I were in Haiti with the Amy Smith and the rest of the Ekip Charbon. Here is a roundup of the posts I wrote during the visit, plus a photo-spread of the charcoal making process.

Sugar cane charcoal
Wood charcoal is the primary fuel used for cooking in Haiti. Unfortunately with rampant deforestation, alternative fuel sources are desperately needed. Agricultural wastes, such a sugar cane begasse, can be used to make cooking grade charcoal that works BETTER than wood with lower carbon monoxide, SOX and NOX emissions. Booya.

Corn cobs
A wide variety of wastes can be used to make alternative charcoal. Corn cobs are especially fab as they can be carbonized, then used without further processing. At this year’s IPIDAT conference, we made sugarcane charcoal, then used them to grill veggie burgers.

Making the kiln
The charcoal is made within a kiln. Oil drums are a very nice option for this purpose, as they tend to be easy to find. Here, participants in the charcoal workshop in Cap make air holes in the oil drum.

Sugarcane Bagasse
The bagasse which had been dried in the sun the previous day is inserted into the oil drum.

After you set fire to the bagasse, you will get a thick yellow smoke.

After 10-15 minutes, the smoke will subside and be replaced by fire.

Seal the kiln
Onto the carbonization stage. Time to seal the kiln to cut off air flow. Pop on the lid, then top with sand.

Freshly grated cassava
The binder for the briquettes is a porridge made of grated cassava (picture above).

Mixing the charcoal fines with the cassava porridge
The cassava porridge is mixed into the charcoal.

Making the briquettes
Briquettes are hand made in the handy little press.

The participants at the workshop in Cap Haitien
The participants at the workshop in Cap Haitien

UN Soldier
A UN solider/peacekeeper. Either I or Bill snapped a shot of him while driving back to the Haiti/Dominican border.

Last year’s Haiti trip

If you’re interested in knowing what the trip was like in ridiculous detail:
Ouanaminthe, Haiti
Safe and sound at the Domus
First impressions of Haiti
Results of Water purity testing (Cap-Haitien)
The Pepe Market
A Patch of Blue: In Search of Tarp in Cap Haitien
Appropriate technology and design changes
Final Prep before tomorrow’s charcoal Training
Training Day 1
Ants and Advil
Training Day 2 and Questions about a Charcoal Business
Water purity testing (Part 2)
Bill and the Fishing Cooperative
I’m sick and tired of all these goats on all these boats
Hostellerie du Roi Christophe
Hurricane Ernesto
Presenting the peanut butter maker in Petite Anse
The trip back to Ouamaninthe