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Madaraka Day, Interviews, and More!

June 1, 2010

1 June 2010

Coming off of a long, eventful Monday, today seemed somewhat less labor intensive for the majority of essential design. Aside from Min and Jeff, who rose earlier than the other essential design team members to assemble vital parts of the high tunnel, the Drip Irrigation and Anaerobic Digester groups were able to indulge in a little extra shut eye. Although overcast early in the day, the sun poked through later in the morning, perpetuating the streak of rainless days. Today also marked the last day Amy Freeman will be working with us; she’s been a source of inspiration, support, and entertainment for essential design as a whole.

Despite some slow points, not a day goes by at the CYEC without at least one memorable anecdote. Today, a few happenings are worth mentioning. Firstly, Kristian and Ben, representatives of WPSU broadcasting, conducted individual interviews with each of the essential design teams. Each team member got a chance to shine under the big camera, answering questions specific to the project and Kenyan context. Excitingly enough, these clips will be included in a live airing of the 2010 Kenya story later this summer (on the Big 10 Network). Another, more cultural event that took place this afternoon was a CYEC soccer game. While the essential design teams worked fastidiously, the CYEC kids geared up for a competitive hour of futbol. The game was even officiated, and was most likely in commemoration of the day Kenya gained its right to a self government (Madaraka Day) – June 1! The kids brandished vibrant jerseys of ruby red and shiny yellow. In contrast to the long grass and patches of red Nyeri clay, the uniforms were quite an eye catcher. Seeing kids dart around grazing goats with a ball at their feet brought a smile to many faces. Lastly, on a more serious note, Paul Maina, owner of the CYEC, made a visit to each of the essential design project sites. He seemed very impressed by everyone’s progress, and especially excited about the prospect of integrating some concepts of the projects into classroom curriculum.

The Drip Irrigation team started off the day by looking up information about growing plants in the Kenyan climate. Graham and Kerri are planning on planting onions, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, and peas in the drip field. Most of the day was dedicated to explaining aspects of drip irrigation and crop rotation to CYEC students, namely Jasinta and Dennis. In order to make sure their students understood the key points, the kids back-taught Graham and Kerri about the drip irrigation and crop rotation process. In addition, the team members showed the kids all of the components of the drip system. However, after realizing that the connection to the water tank isn’t compatible with the newly received parts, Graham and Kerri have made plans to go into town tomorrow and do some shopping.

The High Tunnel team started the day pretty early, arriving at the CYEC around 8:00. Although they only performed three actions, each took a considerable amount of time and effort. They started by putting up all of the supporting hip boards on either side of the high tunnel. Next, they removed the high tunnel frame, with the help of 18 people, and laid it flat in order to tack on additional reinforcement. In doing so, 2 parallel cross braces were installed. Each brace was bolted lengthwise into the structure. Min and Jeff returned to the hotel dirty and tired.

The Anaerobic Digester team had a somewhat slow start today. The team began the day by meeting with the omniscent Andrew Okello. In doing so, they discussed certain technical considerations of the biogas unit, as well as future plans. Liz, Mike, and Chris met up with their CYEC champions Joseph, Paul, and Jackson around mid morning. The group headed to Wambugu Farm, a government run renewable energy organization with a working biogas system. The point of the trip was to inquire about start up feed for the biogas model constructed at the CYEC. A preferred example of a start up feed is the waste from an existing biogas system – the effluent from Wambugu Farm. The team was looking to secure this “seed” in order to obtain a populated culture of anaerobic bacteria for their digester. When proportioned correctly with water, this effluent would facilitate methane production at the CYEC. Getting there and realizing the office was closed (due to the Kenyan Independence holiday), the team wrote and delivered a letter with hopes of visiting again tomorrow morning. The rest of the day was consumed by interviews and ground leveling around the digester. As of now, the digester is in place, with all pipes attached and sealed. Liz, Mike, and Chris hope to begin start up tomorrow, build the guide frame for the floating gas drum, and possibly run the gas hose to the kitchen.

Overall, the day was full of accomplishment and a growing sense of pride. Excitement is building as each essential design team nears completion of the respective projects. In another light, everyone is looking very forward to Sunday. With the help of Wishvast, Penn State students have organized a community fair at the CYEC. Activities such as face painting, art work, bead making, food stands, and soccer will bring an air of refreshment to the trip!

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