Monday, April 13, 2009

Kenya ~ Site Visits

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 SCI's Sunny Solutions and newly established Kenya offices.

In Kenya I met extensively with SCI's Nairobi staff, as well as assisting 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.

Dozens of orphans and displaced kids are educated at the Hamomi Children's Centre in this small 3-room classroom.

This single room houses over 30 children per class on a daily basis, with a maximum of 8 benches as seen here, in the baking hot sun under hot tin roofs.

This is the first meal that's been served at the school in months, since there is not enough money to buy both food and fuel for cooking.

Now that they're cooking with the sun, the two single fathers who founded the Hamomi Children's Centre can afford to feed these kids lunch on a daily basis.

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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.

Machakos Women's Group preparing food to put in the solar cookers.

Curious girl on her way home from gathering wood, gets an idea of what she could be doing with her time instead.

Tanzania ~ Solar Cooking & Water Testing Workshop

In Musoma, Tanzania I performed a Solar & Integrated Cooking / Safe Water Workshop, together with SCI's EA trainers, from the 20th to the 24th of January. I was delighted to be working closely with two of SCI's 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. 36 local men and women participated in the 4-day Solar / Integrated Cooking and Safe Water Workshop in Musoma, Tanzania in January, 2009.

Faustine translates as I introduce the group to SCI with a PowerPoint presentation.

The participants came from a variety of professional & educational backgrounds, each with their own cooking techniques.

SCI's East Africa Director, Margaret Owino 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.

The workshop got a crash course in water testing with the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML).

Participants making solar cookers out of materials purchased in the small town of Musoma, in northern Tanzania.

CooKits lined up in a row, cooking local dishes like rice, Ugali, vegetables and meat stew.

Participants took the water tests home with them and incubated them overnight, keeping the tests on their bodies while sleeping. The following day we interpreted the results of the tests, and workshop participants now know which water sources are good and who's water needs to be treated. Since the CooKit is able to pasteurize water as well as cook food, we feel good knowing that those with contaminated water sources now have an inexpensive way to treat their water.

Making Hay Baskets was also a focal point of the workshop, where integrated cooking was introduced and explained. A Hay Basket is not only able to keep food hot for up to six hours, but is able to continue cooking food that's been brought to a boil. The combination of a CooKit and Hay Basket can effectively cook two meals on a sunny day without the need for any wood at all.

Musoma workshop participants with certificates.

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 SCI's 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.

Uganda ~ Reconnaissance

My most recent visit to Uganda was an effort to meet with as many new, potential collaborators as I could in order to lay the foundation for future activities. It proved lucrative beyond my imagination and I was able to meet with a number of enthusiastic and inspired individuals with whom I think SCI will have a productive relationship.

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 Max and Mary Lou Ozimek 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 SCI attempts to plan the Safe Water / Integrated Cooking Workshop I have proposed, which will now likely take place in 2010

Mukasa and Olivia devote all of their time to solar and integrated cooking projects in Uganda. While based in the capital city of Kampala, most of their work is done from the village of Mbarra, about an hour and a half outside of Kampala. SCA is in the process of developing a resource center where people and organizations interested in solar cooking can come for trainings, obtain materials and even stay on the grounds.

United Religions Initiative (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 SCI's expanded international program development in Uganda.

Mukasa with URI, demonstrating the pot being cool to the touch while cooking food in a parabolic cooker.

Lion of 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's 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 Metcalf 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.

I also met with a number of other organizations, like Peace Corps Uganda who will be training volunteers in solar cooking and water pasteurization as a result of our meetings; Disabled Technicians of Uganda, who have been and implementing solar cooking and solar food drying projects for disabled and disadvantaged people for many years; and World Concern where Dr. Valery Shean 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.