Friday, January 30, 2009

Pictures of Bakang

Above are folks getting water from the water tanks we installed last time. The system works great! The tanks are behind the inner fence you see. The Water Committee had the fences built to protect everything.

Above on the left you see Taylor taking a water sample from the location I mentioned last post (he's also apparently walking on water). This is close to where we hope to have a well drilled, far up the road from our solar panel location in rest of these pictures.

Above, you see our filter team with the mold for our next water filter. The mason mixes the concrete in the standard way, and the mold is filled already. This was two days ago and we have now removed the exterior mold section. The filter team is having problems separating the interior mold and were interrupted by the necessity of putting out a fire (not metaphorically!) in the grass by the school. After that we were distracted by a party breaking out as students finished school and the drums and ballaphone appeared - pictures next time. So we hope to get the mold apart, somehow, tomorrow, when we can concentrate.

ok, here's the solar panel installation - also protected now by an attractive barrier. Not visible in the lower right is a small opening that Andrew could barely crawl through (missed a good picture there) but he was able to remove the solar logger so we have now offloaded all the solar data since last June. Also note Nura, the fantastic Peace Corps volunteer of Bamendjou, standing next to Alyssa. The locals get the two of them mixed up, quite understandably.

Below is a better view of the panels. We need to make sure they get dusted off during nthe dry season, but even with a good layer of dust and dirt they put out enough power to keep the tanks filled (2000 liters).
Here are the filter guys surrounded by excited kids. Andrew, Tyler, Taylor, and Steve had just finished rinsing out their filter sand....obviously, school had let out! After this pic there was a rousing game of soccer in the village intersection.

And finally, here's Tyler's photo of me after taking the above picture. Everybody wants a look at themselves!

Today we are also busy with the geohydrology study - DC resistivity combined with Tony's map - we have confirmed a very nice fault along the road in upper Bakang, where the chief also agrees that a productive borehole well could serve a lot of people who are far from clean water (see picture #1 above).
We're far from done here. I'm posting this from the Piarist mission computer but we have more on today's to-do list. We'll post again soon (some of the students, j'espère). Thanks for all your support!
Dr. Steve

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A kitchen without clean water - Thursday (Dr. Steve)

While in Yaoundé we were able to arrange for a geohydrology study to assure that wherever we hava a new well drilled, we'll be sure to find a good supply of water at a reasonable depth. That visit will happen on Friday, so we've beeen revisiting some of the drier areas, way up the road from the existing well. There, we stopped at one family compound and found a man building a new outbuilding - by himself, using clay bricks that are home-made. This will be the new kitchen, he told me (this means an open fire in the center and a tall ceiling).
But there's no water. To get water for this kitchen they will hike down a steep hill to a little creek. We saw that creek. . . to put it bluntly, I wouldn't allow my dog near water that looked that muddy, buggy, and oily.
This man is also secretary of the Water Committee. So he knows what we hope to accomplish in the future. When we have the chief and the geohydrologist there on Friday, I hope we can find a good location to drill. They work so hard and deserve better than these conditions.

As we traveled to the village it became more and more evident that this was the dry season. There was a heavy haze, blocking the beautiful view of the mountains that I had been looking forward to, a clear result of the still common practice of slash-and-burn agriculture. But we soon discovered that was not the only air pollution; before we left the paved roads our driver suggested we close our windows. In front of us the previously lush green vegetation was now covered in the brownish-red dirt which provides a false hope of a tan. During the dry season the roads are kicked around, spewing a layer of dirt over everything. This presented a stark contrast to the muddy roads that we slipped on in the rain. However, some things have not changed: the people are still so wonderful and the climate is great. Regardless, some people in the outlying areas of Bakang still lack access to safe, potable water for drinking and cooking.

One thing I was excited to see was the maintenance of the solar pilot system. As we approached the system we noticed fences around the tanks and the PV array. After we left, the community erected fences around the key components of the system to protect it from children and animals. Also, each of the spouts on the tanks came off at different times through the year and the community fixed them, much sturdier than we had left them. The community clearly appreciates their new water system and the people are excited to help with any construction for future phases of installation.

This is not an assumption that we can make without hesitation. As the dirt stains our clothing, so is the landscape stained with failed projects, from Scan Water to some building projects that lacked funding, which now lay in ruin. I am certain that this project is sustainable since we are working with the community and they are taking charge. Throughout the country people have heard about our project and are abuzz about reproducing our efforts elsewhere. Public officials, technical people and people from other villages have heard about or seen the water pump in Bakang and the slow sand filters. They are all excited to talk to us and hear from us.

That’s all for now, I need a shower and to get some sleep, busy day tomorrow.


We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give. - Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, January 26, 2009

EWB Team has made it to Bakang!!

I just got a call from Dr. Steve saying that the EWB travel team has made it to Bakang!  They are sitting down to have a nice dinner at the 7-11 restaurant.  As Dr. Steve explained in a blog post from the June trip, the 7-11 in Bamendjou is not the same as a 7-11 in the U.S.  It is the only restaurant in Bamendjou, and it consists of a single room with a few wooden tables and some white plastic chairs.  They serve some very tasty Cameroonian food!

It sounds like everything is going smoothly.  I'm sure they will update on their progress in more detail in the days to come assuming they are able to access the internet.

Way to go team!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Yaoundé

Our crew's in the capital city now, and our new team members waking to the chaos of Yaoundé outside the hotel window. No problem getting the mold and all out tools & materials through customs because Mr. Mukam was awaiting us. And he had time to assure these things because our flight was delayed leaving Paris while they figured out what to do with an unruly passenger - evidently an illegal Cameroonian in France being returned to Douala, but shouting loudly to annoy the passengers, who then insisted he be removed. So that guy is still in Paris, and we are here! Busy day ahead.
By the way, the toilet in my hotel room has a slow leak so it wastes water. I was going to write a few paragraphs on whether toilets are a sustainable technology, and if so, under what conditions - but I'll save it for an essay question in the course next semester.

Friday, January 23, 2009

FOURTH TRIP - Here we go! - Dr. Steve

Hey, just reporting our luck with baggage check! No extra charges for the steel filter mold, which weighed in at 69 lbs (the cutoff is 70) - great design calculations! And they seemed to give us some leeway on the combined weight per passenger, too. So we're under budget and in the middle of a 3.5 hour wait for the flight (yeah, how did the group get Dr. Steve here so early? I think I was tricked somehow...)
We'll report in from Yaoundé if the internet works!