Sunday, February 15, 2009

East Africa Biz

(SCI Quarterly Report)

I recently returned to East Africa in January of 2009 with the intention of promoting current and future International Development programs and partnerships, contribute to a workshop in Tanzania with SCI’s East Africa trainers, and collaborate with East Africa Director and Staff about the direction of current programs and plans for expansion of Sunny Solutions and newly established Kenya offices.

Contacts in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya were productive, some interesting opportunities developed and I had a number of promising meetings with the following organizations:

• Solar Connect Association (SCA) ~ Kawesa Mukasa has been a great solar ally for years, and we had the pleasure of working together last summer on the Integrated Cooking Workshop in Obia, in northern Uganda, which we plan to follow-up on together with the Ozimeks this August. SCA remains busy with local projects and is enthusiastic to work with SCI in Uganda. Mukasa does a lot of field work and struggles with regular communications, but it is beneficial to have an experienced and knowledgeable solar colleague in Uganda as we attempt to plan the Safe Water / Integrated Cooking Workshop I have proposed, which will now likely take place in 2010.

• Peace Corps Uganda (PCU) ~ Mukasa of SCA accompanied me to Peace Corps in Kampala to meet with the Assistant Director and 10 staff members. Enthusiasm was high as there is already great interest in expansion to various alternative energy projects for volunteers in Uganda. The newest group of volunteers arrives next month and each of the program directors was interested in solar cooking, water testing and/or pasteurization for various reasons, and PCU will struggle to evaluate ways to include solar trainings into an already shortened Pre-Service Training (PST) with an increasingly restricted budget. While lodging and transportation of an SCI trainer sounded reasonable to most of the staff, I believe they were collectively put off by SCI’s high training fees ($100 per day) and even with an offer to split that cost, in the end it looks as if SCA will train a group of PC staff initially, who will in turn train interested volunteers during training off-time. I am confident that solar cooking and water projects will take off with the [PCV’s] volunteers and that our services will be required on a larger scale in the near future.

• Disabled Technicians of Uganda (DTU) ~ Edward Sembajjwe has been leading DTU in Uganda to initiate and implement solar cooking and solar food drying projects for disabled and disadvantaged people for many years. DTU is a small organization looking for collaborations and assistance in any capacity and Edward has expressed an interest in working with SCI and SCA in project planning in Uganda. DTU’s most recent initiative targets disadvantaged families in displaced camps who use bio-fuel as their primary source of energy.

• United Religions Initiative, UG (URI) ~ I was impressed by the four young representatives from URI with whom I met for an introductory face-to-face. URI has been working globally on environmental, community and conflict resolution issues since 2000. URI is keen to incorporate solar cooking into their programs and have offered to liaison for SCI on the ground in Uganda to facilitate contacts with local environmental and governmental organizations, which is an imperative that we do not currently possess. This is a dedicated and enthusiastic group and I believe that they will be an asset to expanded IPD program development in Uganda.

• World Concern, UG ~ Dr. Valery Shean works in the small and disrupted village of Karamoja in NE Uganda. She has organized a successful Peace Resettlement Project in the region and is interested in incorporating solar cooking and water pasteurization into the reformatory programs with the Karamojan tribe. Considering that Dr. Shean has lived in the area for the past 12 years and now calls this village home, I see a high likelihood for project implementation and sustainability, which I will personally facilitate with regular correspondence and information distribution. World Concern is a large organization that works worldwide to eradicate poverty and hunger, promote community development, dig wells and provide clean drinking water. Dr. Shean will likely be a gateway for further project dissemination and collaboration with World Concern in Uganda and possibly other parts of Africa.

• Water for Sudan, Inc. ~ On a fluke, I had the honor of meeting an individual who was a part of the community coined The Lost Boys, following the horrific war and genocide in Sudan some 25 years ago. After many years in refugee camps in East Africa, the luckiest of these Lost Boys was brought to the US and Australia where they obtained lodging, jobs and an education through the benefit of sponsors. Salva Dut used these second chance advantages to found Water for Sudan, Inc. which is a non-profit that builds wells for the rural villages still struggling to rebuild themselves in southern Sudan. Water for Sudan lacks the ability to adequately test the water that their wells produce, so I was happy to give Salva and his small staff a detailed training session on water testing with the PML, and provided them with 8 Colilert test tubes and 15 Petrifilms and pipettes, which they will practice incorporating into their safe water program in southern Sudan. I believe that this is precisely the type of program that the PML is suited for, and I look forward to hearing of the successes that Water for Sudan experiences with their new found water testing technology. As Bob likes to say, we can provide the missing link in safe water programs around the world.
Note: I highly recommend the novel “What is the What” by Dave Eggers on this topic.

• D.Light, TZ ~ I had the unique opportunity to meet with the founders of D.Light, who invented the solar lanterns I introduced at the last board meeting, and two of their most recently appointed representatives who are heading the newly established D.Light Distribution Office in Dar es Salaam. D.Light is selling individual lights for approximately $35 all over Tanzania, and expressed a willingness and desire to facilitate shipping and distribution of lights to SCI’s Kenya offices through TanzSolar. The SCI/EA trainers returned to Kenya with a demo lantern for each office, and I plan to work with Rene to write a grant geared specifically towards the incorporation of solar lanterns into SCI’s East Africa branches.

• PATH, Kenya ~ In Nairobi I met with Rikka Trangsrud from PATH, Kenya, who work on independent community and health oriented programs in collaboration with local Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) country-wide. PATH also works with various commercial and public sector collaborators to identify, adapt, and develop a commercial market for effective Household Water Treatment and Storage (HWTS) systems. Solar and integrated cooking, along with water pasteurization and solar lighting all fit well within the parameters of Path’s priorities and guiding principles. Rikka has been in Kenya for decades and I look forward to expanding the reach of solar cooking and water pasteurization promotions together with SCI/EARO and PATH.

In Musoma, Tanzania I assisted our SCI/EA trainers in a Solar & Integrated Cooking Workshop from the 20th to the 24th of January. I was delighted to be working closely with two of our lead trainers, Faustine Odaba and John Amayo in this endeavor as we teamed up with locally-based TanzSolar and Global Resource Alliance (GRA) to introduce solar cooking, water testing, solar lighting and water pasteurization to 35 participants from neighboring communities on Lake Victoria. Attendees of the workshop included WID (Women in Development) and GAD (Gender and Development) women’s groups, local health workers, Victoria Farms fishing and farming professionals, energy conservation specialists, secondary school teachers and students of Musoma Tech’s permaculture studies.

Margaret Owino, SCI's East Africa Director and I worked together to develop a comprehensive training schedule for the workshop, which incorporated solar cooking and water pasteurization procedures and techniques, practical use and manufacture of the CooKit and Hay Basket, energy conservation issues, promotional activities, and introduction of solar lighting and water testing concepts. I provided detailed instruction on water testing techniques with the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) on three consecutive days, allowing the participants to collect samples from their local water sources, perform hands-on testing with the Colilert test tube and 3M Petrifilm, and then critically analyze the results.

Workshop participants learned the techniques quickly, and are enthusiastic to use and teach these new solar cooking and water treatment skills in their nearby villages and communities. I always learn a lot about the many cultural and technological differences in Africa from our talented and experienced staff during these trainings, and judging from the enthusiasm of the 35 participants there will be plenty more work to be done in this area. We will plan the first follow-up on this training in August of this year, and I will work closely with TanzSolar, GRA and SCI/EA to gather feedback and combine our collective goals and objectives to ensure a successful and sustainable outcome.

In Kenya I met extensively with Margaret and the Nairobi staff, discussing plans for 2009 and intentions for project expansion and execution out of the three new offices in Kisumu, Kakamega and Machakos. I assisted in a local solar cooking demonstration in the Kangemi Slum outside Nairobi, which was inspiring due to the large number of excited orphans in the charge of the Hamomi Children’s Centre, but also because this solar demo provided the first lunch these children had received at school in months. Since both food and firewood has increased in price due to recent economic crises, it has been not been possible for the Hamomi Centre’s administrators to purchase both fuel-wood and food for these 30+ students everyday. The Hamomi Children’s Centre kept a box cooker, two CooKits and two Hay Baskets when we left, which will enable them to cook food with the power of the sun and allow them to buy rice and beans for the children’s new lunch program. To see the looks of delight on the faces of these underpriveledged kids, and to know that they will now receive a nutritious solar cooked lunch on a regular basis thanks to the help of solar cookers and integrated cooking methods, well that’s what it’s all about.

During my time in Kenya I had the opportunity to visit one of SCI/EA’s newest offices in Machakos (about an hour southeast of Nairobi) and assist in a demo / training for single mothers at a women’s group house. This group of about 20 single mothers reside in a common domicile, each having at least one child and normally two or three. It is a nice facility with a large number of western toys donated by local NGO’s, and the women were eager to learn a new and inexpensive cooking and water treatment technology that would relieve some of their daily burden and expenses. The day long training session included not only instruction on how to cook food with a solar cooker, but how to make CooKits and train others, as well as how to pasteurize contaminated water for storage in water tanks already present on the compound. It was uplifting to leave this group of strong and independent women with the ability to cook daily meals without needing to walk half the day for firewood, but also to ensure that they will have adequate food and safe water for their children, in addition to more time to bring in income, furthering their independence and ensuring the well-being of their families.

In regards to further program expansion, it is my sincere hope to get SCI’s feet on the ground in West Africa in the upcoming year. I am pursuing involvement in a Sustainable Village that has been initiated by Empowerment Society International (ESI) in Liberia. I am still in contact with Gabriel Kapandou in Benin and hope to consider further collaborations with he and his colleagues with the Ministry of Health (MOH), Population Services, Inc. (PSI), Le Centre RĂ©gional pour l'Eau Potable et l'Assainissement (CREPA) and the Environmental Engineering Group (EEG). As Burkina Faso is my old stomping ground as a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV), I would of course like to incorporate this country into the expansion mix, as it is already on the list of top 25 countries best suited for solar cooking.