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Rabbit, No Hat

May 23, 2010

Today was planned to be a day of rest.  However, there was much work to be done and, aside from sleeping in, it was busy as usual for most of the essential design team.  Also, today was not a CYEC day.  The majority of work was done “in the field” in the form of surveys and data collection.  Members from the Essential Design, Wishvast, and Mashavu teams all conducted surveys today to supplement our implementation efforts.  Today was also a day of planning for the week ahead and, for some, a day of worship.

For those who went out into various communities for surveys, this was the most intimate experience of Kenya to date.  Within Essential Design, the Anaerobic Digestion (biogas) team has the most stake in collecting data from surveys.  The data will allow the team to adjust their existing design in order to ensure that the technology is appropriate in terms of affordability, useability, and desirability.  The team also wishes to ensure that the digester is designed to utilize the most readily available organic waste materials.  Data is also being collected on current cooking practices and costs.

The best Essential Design story of the day stems from the biogas team’s surveying adventure.  After a lengthy travel by foot, to just beyond Nyeri, the surveyors reached a rural Kenyan community.  Surveyors included Michael Shreve, Liz Bell, and Chris Ferdik.  Two intertrepters from the CYEC and one observer (Kerri Smith of Drip Irrigation).

The picture at the end of this bloc shows one of the most interesting experiences of the day.  At the second household, upon asking tho take pictures, we were urged to “come see the rabbit.”  This actually meant come hold the rabbit by the ears, as you can see.  We took turns holding the rabbit the “Kenyan way” and there was much laughter, mostly at us.  It was all in good fun though – a moment that helped to bridge the gap between our culture and theirs.

In the end only two surveys were conducted by the biogas team.  However, those two surveys allowed for the careful omission of questions that were deemed unnecessary.  Many observations of the Kenyan countryside were also made, and Penn State’s presence in the community was announced.  The team intends to return to the same community (hopefully Tuesday) to continue surveying.

The drip irrigation and high tunnel teams spent the day at the Ivory Hotel (our home base), but still made progress.  The Drip Irrigation team was excited to find hired labor to help with their ground preparation (constructing raised beds).  This labor was coordinated using the Wishvast system, a huge step for both teams, which highlights the interdisciplinary nature of our efforts here.  Negotiations were intense between Graham Gaya of Drip Irrigation and Chanakya Mehta of Wishvast.  In the end, Wishvast’s budget covered 70% of the labor costs in return for the opportunity to use their system in coordination with Essential Design.  The Drip Irrigation team also prepared instructions for the hired workers and planned out the rest of the week (stay tuned).

The High Tunnel team first met with Andrew, the CYEC’s materials and logistics guru, and subsequently planned out the up coming week.  Min Pack conducted some research and found a very promising rate of return using the current price of tomatoes (the most profitable cash crop right now in the area).  Finally, a chance meeting with local farmer led to the arrangement of a site survey visit the his farm and an informal focus group with other farmers in the same social network.

Overall, it was a productive day, for a Sunday, and all of Essential Design is beginning the new week feeling confident in the pr0ject and proud of the accomplishments to date.  From Africa, Kwaheri.

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