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Dig, Dug, Done!!!

May 31, 2010

Another beautiful day in Kenya.  So far, each day in this African winter is like a perfect Pennsylvania summer day.  The equatorial sunshine is intense, but those of us from PA are all too familiar with the now universal farmer’s tan.  All threeessential design teams ended the day with a sense of accomplishment, despite some setbacks for the high tunnel team and theseemingly endless wait for parts, which all teams have been experiencing.  All things considered, today was a strong start to what is practically our final week in Kenya.  We are confident in our designs and implementation and pleased with our ability to make a difference at the Children and Youth Empowerment Center and beyond. 

The anaerobic digestion team was pleased to meet a new arrival to the CYEC today.  Moritz is a German volunteer and a educational science major back in Germany.  He arrived only today but will be staying for 6 months at the CYEC as a staff volunteer.  He offered much help today and had many useful suggestions.  You can see Moritz in the attached photo (with , as he helps with the biogas build.  The AD team is exceptionally excited about his prescense because he will likely be a huge asset in seeing the biogas project through after the Penn State group leaves.  He is environmentally minded and his background in educational science makes him an excellent resource for the youth who are working on the project.  The AD team hopes to work closely with him, via the internet, upon returning to the US. THis collaboration should allow the development of a biogas curriculum, which could prove to be a major addition to the current woodworking, metalworking, and tayloring programs. 

Other work on the biogas project included the signifacant step of burying the digester chamber.  All of the neccessary pipework was attached in the early morning and the digester was lowered into the hole that was dug before the safari. Construction of the digestor is now nearly complete.  Remaining tasks include constructing a guide frame to ensure that the floating drum remains straight as it travels up and down, running gas line to the kitchen at the CYEC, and designing and building a biogas burner from available materials.  The team feels confident that they are on track to accomplish these tasks.  Starting the digester is perhaps the most important aspect and tommorows first task is to travel to a nearby working farm-scale digester to obtain an active bacterial culture.  This culture will be used to innoculate the digestor at the CYEC.  The start-up procedure will take approximately 3 weeks in all and, unfortunately, the team will not be here to witness methane production. 

The high tunnel team worked hard today but major setbacks mean that they will be arriving very early to the CYEC tommorow in order to catch up.  TOday’s work included drilling holes to attach the perling and hip-boards (the lateral braces for the hoops) and raising all of the hoops.  Unfortunately, crooked Kenyan lumber did not cooperate with the pre-arranged holes for the perlings and hip-boards (which assumed straight boards) and tommorow new holes will need to be drilled.  Also, fitting PVC pipes together in Kenya can be quite a task.  The dimensions are non-uniform and heating and stretching of the PVC is required. Though this was done last week by the team, the pieces seem to have magically returned to their previous shape.  Here, there is also a lack of convenient heating mechanisms.  Fires have been the tool of choice.  So, another fire was started today and the pieces reshaped.  Min Pack spent a large portion of the day tracking down some parts in Nyeri, as all of the teams await some hard-to-get parts from Nairobi. 

The drip irrigation team accomplished a major goal today – the completion of field preparations.  All nine of the raised beds have been completely constructed.  In addition, the main water tank has arrived and the only material in limbo is the drip tape, which should be arriving from Nairobi this evening.  After completing the field prep, the team conducted research on proper crops and crop rotation patterns.  Materials were compiled which can be easily distributed to the CYEC staff member in charge of the shamba (or garden).  These instructional materials should ensure that both the drip irrigation system and raised beds are used to their fullest potential.  After determining the proper crops to be planted, a trip to Nyeri town yielded some seeds, though seedlings were the goal.  Seedlings, as it turns out, are obtained only at a premium.  The seeds will work well, however, and the construction of a low tunnel over one of the nine raised beds should shelter them and speed along their development.

Overall, essential design is on track to complete all of the projects by the end of the coming weekend.  It will be tough to leave, but we’ll do so with a sense of accomplishment.

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