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Archive for August, 2010

Caitlyn Peake, a PSU environmental science graduate and current AsoFénix intern updates the Green Empowerment community on some of her recent work with AsoFénix.

I have been out of touch too long now and so I want to take this opportunity to share snippets of my work here this summer in Nicaragua.  One update is that I only intended to stay here for six months, but have since extended my time here for up to three years! The opportunity presented itself and the work is amazing so I decidedto stay and keep  working with AsoFénix.  The last three months here have jam-packed coordinating interns, groups, biogas digesters and improved cook stoves.  Here are some work updates:

Groups
In June a group of business students from Portland State University came and worked with AsoFénix.  Students toured our hydroelectric, wind, solar, biogas and potable water projects to learn about the work that AsoFénix does.  One highlight from the trip was installing solar panels in the community of Poza de la Piedra with the technicians from the neighboring community El Corozo.

PSU Students Installing a Solar Panel

After leaving Nicaragua students diligently spent their summer developing business projects for AsoFénix.  The focus of the projects is for students utilize their talents to help us become more economically sustainable and to grow economic opportunities in the communities we work in.

Biogas Digesters
This summer our biogas technician, Ronald Torrez has been hard at work repairing biogas digesters, conducting surveys and providing general support to families with the assistance of one of our summer interns, Fiona Dearth.  Ronald enjoys working with families and “likes to support families with knowledge and help them learn about caring for their biogas digesters.”  Here are some of the pictures of Fiona and Ronald installing new tarps on some of the biogas digesters and working with a family to install a roof to better protect their biogas digester.

Fiona and Ronald installing a new tarp in Candelarias

Fiona and local child find a beam for the roof of the biogas digester

Improved Cook Stoves & Oven
My passion for the summer has been improved cook stoves.  With Fiona’s help we constructed more improved cook stoves in the community of El Roblar.

Fiona and family member prepare materials for the improved cook stove

Building the Eco- Justa improved cook stove

The final product

I also had the opportunity to build a fuel-efficient oven with Emilia Bello’s family in El Roblar.  Based on a design from the Aprovecho Research Center, the entire family helped to build the Winiarski Rocket Oven and to eat all the delicious things Emilia bakes in it.

Even the smallest members of the family helped out

Emilia with her new oven

Baking mango cobbler

As fall approaches, Seth and Sarah Hays will be finishing their service after three years of working with AsoFénix.  They have contributed so much of their time, energy and ideas over the last years and AsoFénix will be sad to see them depart.  However, we are welcoming changes and looking toward the future as we move into a new office, begin the installation of new projects and welcome new interns.

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Julie Wells recalls a water based project in Candelaria, Nicaragua

This past May I had the incredible opportunity to travel with Green Empowerment to Candelaria, Nicaragua. The landscape was very rugged and dry, quite unlike our previous village where it rained almost every day. Due to the dryness of this area, the village needed a way to get a ready supply of water. Solar panels powered pumps that pulled the water from an underground reserve to a large container where it was kept.

Piping for the water to flow from the sand filter to its collecting hole

Once Candelaria had water at its disposal, there were other projects soon to be underway. One project was building a sand filter at a woman’s home. Previously, the water used to wash the clothes would fall to the ground along with the bleach used in the water. The water was not being used efficiently. Building a sand filter would catch the wash water and filter out the clean water so that it could be used for other purposes.

We began by going down to the creek and gathering various rock sizes and gravel. A large barrel would first be filled with the large rocks and then decrease in size until the gravel was placed on the last layer. In this way it would act as a filter to catch the bleach-laden water.

After filling the barrel we dug a trench along the hillside that would contain piping for the water to flow down. The water would collect at the bottom and it could be used to water the garden. This project was completed in several hours and it was very rewarding to finish a project that would soon be used by a family. I thought it was an innovative project that was making good use of the water that was available.

Collecting rocks and gravel for the sand filter

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David Zhou, Michel Maupoux, and students from Northwestern reflect on their project of installing water pumps in the Philippines.

Over the past year, a team of students from Northwestern started working on a technology called the hydraulic ram pump.  By communicating with Green Empowerment and Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc (AIDFI), a local NGO in the Philippines, our team slowly began to build up knowledge of the pump and its system. We learned that the ram pump functioned purely as a mechanical system with two moving parts and that it used gravity from falling water to build up pressure and push water uphill. To further experiment with the pump system, we built our own model and received a full-size ram pump body from AIDFI. After learning about some of its minutiae, we began to brainstorm ways to improve the system. One of the main problems with the ram pump is that the waste valve becomes harder to open with increasing size of the pump. Hundreds of pounds of force needs to be applied in order to start a 6 inch ram pump, one of the newest models. Our team designed a lever mechanism that could be affixed to the pump and allow the user to apply the leverage necessary to manipulate a 6 inch pump. At the end of the academic year, four members from the team traveled to the island of Negros in the Philippines to help install and implement a new ram pump system.

The installation crew - tired but content

When I first arrived in the Philippines and went to the construction site, two things immediately struck me. First was the steepness of the hill that led to the source of water. The climb was over 60 meters and by the time I climbed to the top my thighs were burning, my back was drenched with sweat, and I was out of breath. I couldn’t imagine Filipinos, especially kids, having to carry heavy buckets of water up these hills. Second was the amiable nature of the workers. Each worker had to walk 30 minutes a day and needed to brave the unpredictable weather; yet, each of them was cheerful and outgoing. After a couple weeks of building, the ram pump structures near the source were completed and work moved to Tres Hermanos to build the reservoir, line, and tap stands. There, the residents had to endure a similar grueling walk in order to fetch water. During our stay, an auxiliary line was diverted for us from the pump and it soon became a gathering place for the villagers. People came to shower, to wash their clothes, and to fill their water jugs. I was seeing firsthand the impact that clean, running water was having on the community. When the distribution line was finished, tests showed that the pump was delivering twice as much water as predicted, over fifty thousand liters per day! This would provide ample water to the 48 households in Tres Hermanos. Now that I am back in the US, I am so thankful to have had a chance to work on this project with AIDFI and Green Empowerment and my Northwestern teammates. It has made me appreciate the little things in life that we in America take for granted. We will not easily forget the people we met in the Philippines nor the friendships we made.

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