Monday, June 30, 2008

Safe Water Workshop in Kenya

SCI has recently initiated a Safe Water Initiative and will incorporate simple and safe water testing into current international programs involving solar cooking and water pasteurization. SCI’s Board President and one of its founders, Bob Metcalf, is the designer of the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) that is being introduced to government ministries to assist with official water testing procedures at the grassroots level. Contacts made last year with officials from Kenya’s Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) and Ministry of Health (MOH)~ the leading institutions involved with clean water in Kenya, enabled representatives from each of these ministry’s primary locations throughout the country participate in the Safe Water Workshop provided by SCI in June, and in turn train others in their districts, who will then train others, and so on creating a trickle-down effect all the way to the village level.

SCI's goal is to provide a simple and inexpensive method of testing water in remote areas that heretofore has not been possible due to scarce laboratory facilities and costly transportation fees. This is a revolutionary process that will significantly increase the ability of people in Kenya to know the quality of the water they drink, and to purify contaminated water with simple and inexpensive solar technologies. Here are some photos of the first Safe Water Workshop, involving detailed instruction on specific PML water-testing techniques, the importance of cleanliness and sanitation, and practical methods of treating contaminated water.

Bob introducing the Safe Water Workshop and getting acquainted with participants.

There were approximately 50 participants present for the workshop, 20 from WRMA and 20 from MOH.

Each sample is tested in two ways: in a test tube to test for presence of E-Coli, and on a Patrifilm to determine the number of E-Coli present in a sample.

This photo depicts Faustine placing a test tube in her bra to incubate overnight. The final process of testing water with the PML is to incubate the tests for 12-24 hours ~ and the perfect temperature for incubation happens to be body temperature. (Let us learn from the chicken!) So when you're out in the bush without any modern amenities, incubating water samples on the body is the logical solution. The incubation process is the part we've had the most resistance about ~ many (especially older) villagers equate incubating something on your body to voodoo, or just find it too weird. Even some of the government workers were uneasy with the process ~ these are the petrifilms that were left to incubate on the table overnight; an option (especially since it was warm out) but incubation takes much longer at inopportune temperatures.

This is a 'hay pouch' created by Mr. John Rumberia ~ a water testing expert from the village of Embu: understanding the cultural discomfort with incubating water samples on the body, John fashioned this method of incubating tests with a hot water bottle and a couple of cloth bags. The process of this 'hay pouch' is modeled after the hay basket for it's insulative qualities ~ rather than incubate a water sample on one's body for 12-24 hours, it is possible to keep it warm in an incubating pouch like this one.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hello Musoma! Tanzania

I traveled to Musoma, Tanzania to pursue collaborations between SCI and TanzSolar ~ a newly established nonprofit that will provide affordable solar panels to local internet organizations, health clinics, schools, small businesses and individuals throughout Tanzania. While TanzSolar specializes in photovoltaic (PV) systems, they are interested in expanding their solar reach and open to working with SCI to bring simple solar cooking and water pasteurization techniques to the area as well.

Marianne and her sons showed me great hospitality while I was in Musoma, treating me like family and taking time from their busy schedules to help with a solar demo and introduce me to some active and influential business people in the community; like Sergio Velasquez, an independent development manager, and Robi Machaba of JuaSun, a local internet company that works closely with Marianne and TanzSolar. With their help we rounded up a good group of locally active individuals interested in improving their environment by providing alternative methods of cooking, treating water and generating income in their community. Together we organized a very successful day of informational presentations on solar cooking and water pasteurization ideologies, processes and techniques, generating a great deal of participation and interest. With the help of those listed above and SCI's East Africa Office, SCI and TanzSolar will plan to host a 5-day integrated solar workshop on the TanzSolar grounds later in the year.

Mt Kiliminjaro in the distance, from the window of the tiny plane we took from Dar es Salaam to the small town of Musoma on Lake Victoria.

Marianne and me.

The TanzSolar grounds ~ a good sized compound with three buildings and a massive yard.

These are two different clay stoves found in the market in Musoma, both burn charcoal 'conservatively', but charcoal requires a great deal of wood to produce and seems to be the leading method of cooking in Musoma.

We bought pots at the market and painted them black for the demo the next day. If we had had a bit more time we would have let them 'bake' in the sun for a few days ~ as it was they were a bit 'tacky' but served their purpose. Black chalkboard paint works very well for painting pots since it is a matte substance which eliminates shine and does not chip easily, and is also available in practically any village in Africa.

Marianne painting lids. The pots and lids are painted black to attract the heat of the sun, and the pots are placed into a heat-resistant clear plastic bag which has a greenhouse effect of trapping the heat and keeping it in the pot. Like here in the US, black pots are not as prevalent as silver ones, so painting pots black is an essential component to solar cooking.

I showed a PowerPoint presentation, the SunCookers DVD about SCI's exploits in Kenya, and some photos of the recent Integrated Solar Cooking workshop in Uganda to the 20-ish participants. The presentation was given in the living room of TanzSolar. The Q&A session was lively and I see a lot of interest in possible project directions in Musoma.

I interpret this one as an amazed gaze up at the ever-productive sun :)