Nick Rosen | |
coal cake maker
Bake me a coal cake

The village of Durgai in the remote mountainous area of Zardaloo Valley is an unlikely setting for an experiment in off-grid development.

But New Zealand eco-consultancy Empower, in partnership with the Pakistani organisation Anjumae Khidmate Khalq Naujawanane, are in the middle of a $300,000 assignment to develop a community using locally-produced coal cakes for cooking and heating. The aim is to develop a suitable alternative fuel to the endangered juniper wood currently used. The target area is Durgai Village in the remote mountainous area of Zardaloo Valley in Balochistan.

Sample coal cakes were made using coal presses from Viet Nam, which were then tested by village women for suitability in cooking and space heating. The alternative fuel source represents a saving in energy costs to villagers and also provide an income through local marketing of surplus cakes.

The Zardaloo valley work is functioning well, said Tony Woods of Empower.

The community have an active and trained management committee and read their meters and collect the bills each month. The mosque, schools and health post are also metered, and bills split amongst families, with the richer taking a larger share.

The health post has used power to run a vaccine fridge (purchased by the community themselves) and reported that they saved three lives from snake bite last year. But communities have a demand for real power, not just a couple of CFL bulbs per house, and the demand will grow rapidly with time, so allow for growth in demand. Durgai does this, and uses meters to keep billing fair and transparent.

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