ARTI-TZ has been selected to participate in the Harvest Fuel Initiative (HFI), a joint project of D-Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass. and The Charcoal Project, headquartered in New York.
HFI enables the deployment of sustainable solid biomass fuels through the dissemination of appropriate technologies and knowledge to small and medium-sized enterprises. D-Lab Scale-Ups provides funding, technology and business support to selected participants. TCP serves as project manager and is responsible for building the infrastructure to sustain the HFI’s mission and activities. ARTI-TZ is one of four social enterprises in East Africa selected for HFI.
HFI will support ARTI’s existing ‘Scaling-Up of Charcoal Briquette Production in Tanzania’ and aims to “enable a fuel switch from unsustainable charcoal to sustainable non-wood charcoal in Tanzania”. The initiative will work with ARTI to introduce end-of-value-chain features that will promote the expansion of the sustainable charcoal market. The initial areas of focus will be upon brand development, distribution channels, consumer sensitisation and policy interventions that will assist the exposure and sales performance of ARTI’s non-wood charcoal product. The second year will focus on monitoring the progress of the charcoal briquette enterprise to identify trends, opportunities and challenges.
D-Lab founded at MIT in 2002 by Amy Smith, is a multi-faceted education, research, and international development program that brings the expertise of members of the MIT faculty, staff, and students— from disciplines as diverse as mechanical engineering, urban planning, business and anthropology—to bear on the greatest technological challenges facing the developing world. D-Lab has established projects and partnerships in South and Central America, Africa, India, China, and Southeast Asia.
In January, D-Lab organized a team of MBA students from MIT’s Sloan School of Management to observe ARTI’s operations first-hand and conduct market and policy-related research. The team included Elli Suzuki, Rajat Sethi, and Ali Kamil. They bring specialised knowledge in marketing and policy frameworks in development nations from their studies and field experience and seek to use these to assist ARTIs non-charcoal commercialisation efforts.
The Charcoal Project
TCP is a not-for-profit organisation that aims 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.’ As project managers for HFI, TCP will provide guidance to ARTI based upon their experiences working on similar projects since 2009.
The overall aim of the Harvest Fuel Initiative is to “enable a fuel switch from unsustainable charcoal to sustainable non-wood charcoal in Tanzania” and includes several specific objectives that form part of the project’s overall goal:
- To promote investment in sustainable charcoal in Tanzania by conducting market research of existing sustainable charcoal producers in East Africa and the markets they cater to, and by examining their best practices in consumer education, distribution, supply chain, and marketing.
- To build a prototype for a sustainable and scalable charcoal enterprise by assisting ARTI, a leading producer of sustainable charcoal in Tanzania, in strategizing a financially viable charcoal briquette production.
- To improve the organizational process within the Community Based Enterprises to ensure maximum efficiency.
- To develop a sustainable charcoal industry in Tanzania by creating a vision document and obtaining government support for clean charcoal consumption in the form of financial subsidies, market creation and promotion.
Market Research and Marketing
D-Lab has conducted valuable research into the current state of the non-wood charcoal market in East Africa. The research will provide valuable insight into features of the current market, future market trends and investigate the experience of other non-charcoal enterprises. The research will look at distribution channels and marketing initiatives currently used in the market by ARTI and other charcoal briquette enterprises, examining their effectiveness and formulate how they could be adapted to further benefit ARTI. This research will then be used to formulate a comprehensive marketing plan that focuses on growing the potential market for ARTI’s charcoal briquettes. ARTI will consider the plan and then work to implement its recommendations within its own marketing strategies.
D-Lab will also investigate the current policy frameworks such as financial support, tax structures and infrastructure that have an impact upon the sustainable charcoal industry in East Africa, particularly in Tanzania. It will identify policy barriers that may exist within the current environment that may hamper the expansion of ARTI’s charcoal enterprise and investigate possible policy alternatives. This will then culminate in the drafting of a policy document, developed through consultation with stakeholders such as ARTI, which will propose government measures that can be implemented to support the fledgling sustainable charcoal industry.