Monday, November 28, 2011

In search of rice in Vietnam

By Steve Laible, CTI Volunteer, Vietnam

As part of our project work with CTI, we have been involved with the development of a device that uses rice hulls as a "feedstock" and converts the rice hulls into a cooking fuel. The rice hull makes up about 20% by weight of the rice kernel. The goal of our current work in Vietnam is to gain an understanding of where rice milling is taking place so we know where rice hulls are available in great abundance. If conditions and supply are appropriate, there may be an opportunity to introduce a rice hull production device into the area.
CTI Volunteers Steve and Nancy Laible in rice growing area of Vietnam
After visiting a rice farm, we travel a few miles to a local rice mill. Because we are between harvest seasons, the mill is not active. There is a "watchman" (actually a watch woman) on duty in the small office. Our guide, Dai Tran, strikes up a conversation with her and we are able to ask a few questions. As the mill lady warms to our presence, she offers to give us a tour of the rice mill. It is clear that the equipment in the mill is very old, but functional. This particular mill serves a local market. Thus, much of the rice is sold in the area after processing.

A portion of the rice hull by-product is used as fuel in large cook stoves where the function is to maintain a hot fire for long periods of time. The stoves used to burn bulk rice hulls are very similar to the "cook stoves" used in the USA some 80 to100 years ago when it was common to burn corn cobs in farming areas. The cook stoves are able to use the energy value of some of the rice hulls, but the large stoves and the bulk fuel is not practical for home use. We have gained useful information from this visit. We say farewell to our hostess and continue or quest for a more modern mill and more information about using rice hulls as fuel.

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