Wednesday by Dr. Steve
We got a lot done on both projects today and morale is high. Tomorrow, when the sun shines, Bakang will have water, pumped from a depth of 150 feet using four solar panels and an electric submersible pump, and stored for use in a pair of 1,000 liter tanks. The hand pump that we’re replacing was broken again, so there had been no potable water at all.
I gave a presentation to the Water Committee yesterday on how the solar system works*, and I also explained the biosand filters. They were very interested in both, and asked some good questions. We also have a local NGO helping to orient the Water Committee on officers’ duties and financial aspects – I sat in on the first session and it was informative and oriented toward local issues. These people will be responsible for a lot, and they seem to take it seriously.
*I mean the solar-powered water system, not the Solar System. Thanks to
There are 40 families signed up for the bio-sand filters and we’re progressing well on that project, too. We built two of the concrete filter boxes while we learned the local materials, then had a local mason build another concrete form and pour the concrete while the Water Committee watched. We had some trouble with the diffuser system for the filter – that’s the part that keeps the water being poured in from disturbing the fragile biolayer on the sand surface. Metal screen didn’t work very well, but we found that local grain bags, made of woven plastic, work great when fastened to a framed screen. We’ve also sieved a lot of the local sand to put in the filters, and we’ll demonstrate that process on Friday. We’ve got people from an NGO in Youndé and from the
I am once again enjoying the incredible skills of Cameroonians. For example, the mold for our filter box is fairly complex, because we designed the interior mold as a set of boards that can be extracted stepwise and reused. When we showed the mason our mold, he understood the process almost instantly, even though we speak different languages. By the time we had been through the demonstration with him, we had seen several shortcuts on putting the thing together. We were using two-headed nails in some places to allow easy disassembly, but ran out…he immediately began bending the nails over a bit before they were all the way in, which provides good retention but easy extraction. I think he was impressed with us, though, because when he suggested we apply oil to the wood surfaces for easier dismantling, we already had the vegetable oil ready to go, and he really smiled. We were speaking the same language after all.
I should mention that this is an expensive trip. Many things are inexpensive, especially labor and some local foods (see below), but other things are not. The lumber, piping, and other building materials are more expensive than in the
Actually, here’s a rundown of some food prices from the expense list Martine gave me this morning. She’s Mr. Mukam’s sister and she’s been putting together our dinners with help from other family members. Since I love giving tests, it’s in the form of a very difficult matching quiz:
1. Avocadoes, 3-5, fresh and perfect
2. Carrots, 1 bunch
3. Greens (enough for 7 people)
4. Pineapple, yummy ripe
5. French bread
8. Cooking oil
a. $0.65 a loaf
b. $1.25. This is something similar to kale or spinach.
c. About $9 apiece (free running, for sure)
f. $1.20 apiece, not sliced. They’re not grown here, only at lower, more tropical elevations.
h. $2.50 a qt. – seems to be used for everything
Answers, unless I got confused. Grade your own!
2-g (seems expensive – I’d better check on this)
That’s it for now. We’ve got a lot of sieving and sand washing to do.