Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Follow-Up Plans for UG & TZ

One of the most important aspects of development work is not the introduction of a new technology or a progressive concept to a community in need, but the regular follow-up of methods to ensure progress and a sustainable outcome. I am currently working with SCI and collaborating partners in Uganda and Tanzania to implement follow-up workshops on safe water and solar integrated cooking.

In Uganda this September, together with Solar Connect Association (SCA), I will drive the 15 hours north on bumpy, dusty roads, past the Nile River and back to the tiny village of Obia on the border of Congo, where SCI worked with Mary Lou and 13-year old Max Ozimek last summer to develop the first solar integrated cooking workshop in this area. During the initial training, in addition to teaching the 36 participants how to use and make solar cookers, hay baskets and fuel-efficient stoves, we also gathered water samples from six major water sources, tested the water with the Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) and presented our results to the class during the 4-day workshop. As you can imagine, most of the water sources showed a high enough level of contamination of E.coli to warrant the use of solar water pasteurization ~ an essential component of the workshop’s curriculum using a CooKit and a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI). The exciting part is that, in the months following the workshop last summer, the participants got together and created the Obia Solar Cooking Group (OBSG), taking their own initiative to train others in the community how to build solar cookers and use them to cook food and pasteurize water. This follow-up workshop in September will capitalize on the skills this group has mastered; brush up on any procedures or concepts that need work, and brainstorm ways to make the OSCG successful, independent and sustainable for the future.

In Tanzania, a similar follow-up workshop will take place in the northern village of Musoma, located on the shores of Lake Victoria. I am working together with SCI, Global Resource Alliance (GRA) and TanzSolar in Musoma to provide a refresher course to the 35 men and women who participated in the initial solar integrated cooking and safe water workshop that took place in January of this year. The three organizations will work to ensure that the original participants are proficient at making solar cookers, painting pots with locally-found blackboard paint, using and promoting simple solar lanterns, organizing outreach workshops, developing income-generating activities and creating community-appropriate methods for sustainability. The advantage of having two locally-based, community-minded organizations located in Musoma allows SCI the ability to collaboratively support the participants as they work towards promoting solar integrated cooking and water pasteurization in the area.

The difference between try & triumph is just a little umph! ~ Marvin Phillips

Monday, August 10, 2009

Discovery Channel Show Features Solar Cookers

Living Off the Grid: A Dozen Skills to Get You Through

A new show depicts solar cooking as a tool for living in a post-apocalyptic world:

How Solar Cooking Works
As those appearing in the show “The Colony” know, you don’t need an oven to cook a good meal. All you need is sunlight. The sun’s rays can heat food anywhere from 180 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (82-204 degrees Celsius). In other words, a solar cooker can kill harmful microbes and make food and water safe for consumption. Read more about his simple technology and how it’s being used.

How to Start a Fire Without a Match
There are many different ways to start a fire without a match and plenty of different methods to make it happen. It all depends on your location and the materials available. HowStuffWorks has a whole slew of cool ideas, using everything from a soda can and chocolate to making a fire plow. See detailed illustrations and instructions in this article.

How to Build a Shelter
We all know that shelter is one of the most basic needs in any survival situation. Yes, it protects us from the elements and wildlife intruders, but perhaps provides psychological comfort, too? In this article from HowStuffWorks, author Chuck Bryant shows the basics of making a shelter using on-hand materials. Read more…

How Emergency Power Systems Work
In this article, learn how emergency power systems can help in almost any situation. Topics include understanding your power needs and goals, working with the resources you have and showing the difference between an inverter and a generator. Read more…

How Hand Powered Generators Work
There's one way to generate electricity that never runs out of power and is easy to carry: a hand-powered generator. It's the “gadget” that can power all your other travel gadgets – but for those living in “The Colony” – it’s essential. Learn how they work, how to use them and even how to make your own. Read more…

If I kill an animal, can I eat it raw?
Let’s envision for a moment that you haven’t eaten for a few days and you don’t have the resources to build a fire to cook an animal you just killed. Can you eat it safely? If not, are there some animals that OK to eat and others that aren’t? Read this HowStuffWorks article to find out.

What’s the universal edibility test?
There are more than 700 varieties of poisonous plants in the United States and Canada alone, so how can you tell which are edible and which are potentially toxic? Use the four steps outlined in the universal edibility test and you may prevent potential disaster. Read more…

How can I tell if a bug is edible?
Ever accidentally swallowed a bug? Some of us might have joked about it (“Mmmm … protein,” you say). But all over the world, people eat insects every day. It’s called entomophagy. In a survival situation, how do you know which bug is edible – nutritious, even -- and which can make you sick? Read on to find out.

5 Ways to Snare Dinner in the Wild
If you are used to being in remote places, you might be pretty adept at recognizing telltale signs of nearby animals. Droppings, tracks by a nearby watering hole, chewed up plants. But we’ve got 5 really cool tricks for snaring dinner, using fairly easy-to-come-by resources. Read on…

How to Find Water in the Wild
To maintain good health, the human body needs a minimum of two quarts of water per day, according to U.S. Military Field Manual 21-76. In a survival situation, that might be tough. There are some basic ways to find, filter, collect and store water, however. We’ve got the answers here.

How to Send Smoke Signals
Let’s put it this way: The Boy Scouts of America still teaches smoke signaling. So if it’s easy enough for a 12-year-old boy to do, you can learn the skill, too, right? Learn how to send specific messages in one-puff, two-puff and three-puff style. Read on…

Top 5 Everyday Items You Can Repurpose in a Survival Scenario
Whether you’re living in “The Colony”, just survived an airplane crash or are caught in a freak winter storm, there are five basic items that might come in handy in a survival situation. The first one on our list? You might be wearing it right now.

The Colony: Living Off the Grid : Discovery Channel

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

SCI Featured in Lift Up Africa Newsletter

Olika Solar Cooking Distribution

Helping Maasai women in Southern Kenya

Since July 2005, Solar Cookers International (EA) has been working with women's groups in Kajiado to promote the use of solar cooking as a means to help poor women save their meager resources for other pressing needs. The women are generally Maasai women with their new CooKits, a small, portable type solar cookerwidows or single parents who need group support to move forward with their lives. Many are engaged in petty trade like selling vegetables, beads, milk and eggs.

(Me with the Maasai Women's Group & 2 local Peace Corps Volunteers in Kajiado, Kenya)

Several groups devised a way to purchase solar cooking materials for each member. Thus far, some have been able to purchase CooKits--a small, individual solar cooker. (See photo) However, this system is slow and many women are still waiting to receive the materials they need to either begin or fully realize the maximum benefit from solar cooking.

Because the purchasing process has dragged on for three years, SCI approached Lift Up Africa (LUA). They asked SCI to partner with several of these groups so the women could more quickly enhance their energy savings, thus improving their living standards.

On May 22, 2009 the first of these partnership distributions took place in Oloika. At the distribution event, SCI's Stella Odaba informed the women that through Lift Up Africa (LUA) they would now receive donations of the equipment they still needed, including hay basket fireless cookers.

Although the weather was a bit cloudy, some CooKits were set up to demonstrate pasteurizing water using the WAPI (water pasturization indicator.) The use of the fireless cookers was also demonstrated. While the members watched and timed the process, some rice was simmered for 5 minutes. Then the rice was transferred to the hay basket. Half an hour later a member went to check and found it cooked.

At the meeting Agnes Osoi, one of the group members, said:

"... solar cookers have been of great help to us....We can pasteurize our drinking water and our children don't suffer from diarrhea because of taking dirty water. FurtherSCI's Faustine Odaba demonstrating the hay basket fireless cookermore, it's safe around the child; I can leave the food to cook while I go to sell my beads in the market without any fears of fire accidents at home. Now with the addition of fireless cookers life will be even simpler for me. I will warm water at night, pour it in the ten liter plastic container then put it in the fireless cooker. In the morning my children have ready breakfast and warm water to bathe before school. I will not be exposed to smoke for so long; I will use firewood only when there's no sun and save some wood."

Other participants chimed in saying:

"The fireless cooker will bring peace in my home; my husband will always find hot food whenever he comes late. I don't have to wake up to light a fire to warm the food for him."

"...I am so excited and grateful to SCI and Lift Up Africa for their support in making our lives better!"

A vote of thanks was given by Esther Sekeyian, the group's chairlady. The women then gave gifts (beaded ornaments) in honor of Lift Up Africa and adorned Ms. Odaba with beaded ornaments, too.

The distribution to the 17 women who attended the event cost $700 (USD). This small grant will help an estimated 150 people.

Information on all of our solar cooking projects is available on LUA's Solar Cooking Wiki.

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