Lilongwe, Malawi … In August of last year, the UBiT fire log program, developed by Dan Brewer, a member of the Malawi Project Board of Directors. passed its initial tests in Malawi. The fire logs, made from empty toilet paper rolls and shredded paper pressed tightly inside, then dipped in candle wax, cooked a meal without the use of trees or limbs. (Malawi is fast losing its forests, and without major action, villages will soon be without trees to cut for cooking fires, washing dishes and clothes and for personal bathing. There are currently few alternatives that can reach the needed goal, before the problem becomes even more serious to the environment and to the life of the village.)

On his first trip to Malawi Dan saw the need firsthand. On his return to the states he set out to find a cost effective solution that could be easy to produce, and something that could be processed in both the U.S. and Malawi. His plan was simple; Empty toilet paper rolls stuffed tightly with shredded paper, and dipped in paraffin, or candle wax.

With the help of churches, friends, neighbors, and the Redwood Montessori School in Lebanon, IN. Dan received an ample supply of empty toilet paper rolls for testing. The program was ready to move to the next stages, (1) tests in Malawi under natural conditions, including windy days when starting a fire could be challenging, (2) tests to determined the exact number of rolls needed  to cook a meal, (3) field tests conducted on site in Malawi villages, and (4) If these proved successful the final hurdle would be the development of some type of production line that would work in both the United States and in Malawi.

This brings us to the present. While the tests in August seemed to indicate three TP rolls could create sufficient heat for the length of time needed to cook a meal, a small problem had been encountered. Though it was minimal it could sidetrack the program if it was left unattended. Outlined in the August report was a notation about the difficulty getting the logs to begin to burn. When the fire was built in the open, and the wind was blowing, even a moderate amount, it was hard to get the fire to catch on.  Over the winter months Dan worked on the problem. He finally concluded he had the answer. The use of more paraffin, or candle wax. It seemed to overcome the problem.

This past week the test was conducted in Malawi, In the open and with the wind blowing. The fire logs started burning with the first match every time. With that question answered in a positive way, it is time for the village test to determine the feasibility and acceptance of the program. Those tests will take place in a Malawi village in coming days with women who have had no previous experience with the UBIT program. (You burn it). They will build their cooking fires and prepare their meals without cutting a single limb. The reaction to this program will be reported through this venue. Stay connected.

Picture: A student from the Redwood Montessori School in Lebanon places another fire starter in the group.

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