Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011
At around 8:30am we met up with Susan Kinne, as planned. We took the long route to the Solar Center in order for us to see the rest of the community. Upon arriving at the center, Julian, a volunteer from Canada, was there awaiting our arrival. We walked to the recently built restaurant at the Solar Center, which has a stove that is powered by biodigester. We then walked outside to see the where the biodigester was located while Julian explained how it worked. A biodigester is a system that takes in organic wastes to be digested by bacteria, where the byproducts are methane gas and a nutrient-rich liquid. The methane gas can be collected and used as fuel to cook with and the liquid can be used as fertilizer. At this moment, we all had a big interest in implementing this idea into our design. After seeing only latrines in this community, it was weird to actually see a flush toilet around this area. I jumped at the opportunity to use this flush toilet and I made my contribution to the biodigester. After being at the Solar Center for a while, we headed back to the community. We still had time to before lunch, so we decided to start interviewing the people in the community by asking them questions that would be crucial for our senior design project. We all felt comfortable having Susan there while we began our interviews because she knows everyone in the community and she was able to introduce us to several families. All of the families were very kind, welcoming and willing to help us. It was interesting to hear some of the answers they had to give and see how conscious they were about how much water they use and how sustainable they think their community is. All of the families we interviewed were very open to the ideas we had for our design for example having double compost latrines at each home as well as a communal flush toilet that will be next to the water pump. After retrieving a lot of useful information we had lunch at Reina’s house. After lunch we visited Ocotal, the nearest city to the community we were staying at. The purpose of our visit was to go to a hardware store to check what kind of materials are available in Nicaragua that we are going to use for this project. We also went to an internet café so that we could all check our emails and call relatives at home. The city of Ocotal was a beautiful place and it reminded me a lot of typical cities that you see in Mexico, so everything looked pretty familiar to me. After we were all done with what we needed to do, we headed back to the community to have dinner with the families that hosting us and get some rest for the upcoming day.
Monday, Dec. 12, 2011
On Monday morning Susan thought it would be best to meet up at 10AM to give us enough time to rest after our nearly 18 hour travel. We all met at Susan's house, which is basically the hub for the "Solar Mountain".
The "Solar Mountain" is a land reclamation project, in which workforce from the community has come together to reforest a section of the mountain that had been deforested by a previous land owner. This deforestation has led to issues with erosion control and groundwater recharge. They hope to not only alleviate these issues with their efforts, but to also gain expertise and as Susan calls it "social wealth".
Staying with Susan was a volunteer architect named Liz, who had been designing a small educational building for the community. The location of the building was directly behind Susan's house. Liz explained to us that the building will use sustainable materials and be made out of adobe bricks, which the people of the community will fabricate. The women of the community have already had a tremendous amount experience fabricating adobe bricks because they had previously fabricated them for the main building of the Solar Center. The men have already begun the layout of the education building. It is very impressive that they are able to do so much without the modern construction technologies seen in the states.
Once we all arrived at Susan's house, Erika and Jorge (two young and knowledgeable members of the community) took us to get a general idea of the housing project they call "El Projecto." This housing project will be the community for which we will prepare our design. In "El Projecto," there are 45 homes, of which only 28 are occupied with families. Each home is numbered and has a similar footprint. In "El Projecto," we were extremely surprised to see that within 50 feet were two wells, one on each side of the cluster of homes. One well was located at the lower end of the community while the other well was located at the higher elevated side of the community. According to Jorge, the wells were approximately 270 feet deep. Each well had a manual hand pump that the women and girls would rotate to dispense water. Constant labor was involved to pump the water. Not only would they have to rotate the wheel continuously until the buckets were filled, but would then have to carry the 40-pound buckets back to their homes. Although the distance was not anywhere near as long as we expected, the task was still arduous in comparison to the luxury we find of turning on a faucet in the states. However, for the people, it was just part of their day. We were all impressed by how well the women were able to balance the buckets on their heads. One girl was able to have an entire conversation while balancing a bucket she had just filled up.
Near the well on the higher side was a community washing facility. The facility was comprised of two shower stalls and a clothes wash station. Neither of the stalls nor the wash station had incoming plumbing, but they all had drains to collect the waste water. The waste water is then channeled out to a centralized area for the water to percolate back into the ground. The well on the lower side did not have a wash facility. However, there was a large amount of relatively flat, open space near this lower end. When we asked Jorge and Erika why there was not a wash station located on this side, they didn't seem to know why. We assumed it was due to a lack of funding. One thing that Jorge mentioned was that the lower side tends to have issues with flooding during the rainy season. He explained that at times flooding can be as high as half a meter. They had dug a simple channel to alleviate this flooding, but the channel only led to their main dirt road. This led to problems with erosion on the roadside.
After our tour of "El Projecto" we were brought to the house that Lizzie was staying at. Reina, the mother of the house, cooked us all lunch. They explained to us, that we would eat lunch there every day as it was the most centralized location for everyone else. While waiting for our food, we all realized that the design we had in mind before the trip was not needed for this community. The community did not need a potable water supply but instead they truly needed an improved waste and wastewater management system. However, implementing double pit composting latrines alone would not be a sizable enough task for our design group. Therefore, we would have to figure out other ways to improve the community in a meaningful way.
During lunch, we met with volunteers of Grupo Fenix. One volunteer had just graduated from High School in England, and the other was a carpenter from the US. We were able to discuss our plans for surveying the families of the community. We came to the conclusion that we should ask some general questions later that night to the families we were staying with. Once we got a feel for how they would respond to the survey questions, we would then be able to come up with a master survey for the families of "El Projecto." Susan then suggested that we take some time to plan out our week. This would allow her to make herself available to help us with the information we would need to collect. Since we didn't truly have a grasp of what our revised design intent would be, we focused on trying to collect as much information from the people in the community as possible. We hoped to gather elevations and coordinates for the community. This type of data would help us no matter what our design intent would become.
After lunch, Susan took us to the Solar Center. The Solar Center was located on the opposite side of the Pan American Highway from Reina's house. The Solar Center is the main headquarters for Grupo Fenix in that area. Early on, the Solar Center was the location where many of the solar panels had been fabricated by members of the community. As of late, it has evolved into a research facility. The volunteers along with engineers and local community members have begun to work on multiple projects such as a biodigester and a solar-powered distillation process. Mauro, a mechanical engineer who runs the solar center, explained to us the distillation process they are currently working on. They are hoping to be able to use the distilled water to create batteries and possibly sell the water to companies that make batteries. This would be a substantial revenue generator for the community and seemed to be an extremely "clean" process to create distilled water. Since it was getting late, we were unable to meet with Julian, a volunteer who was helping to monitor the biodigester. However, we were able to schedule a meeting with him first thing the next morning. We headed back to our respective homes for dinner and planned to meet at 8am the next morning.
Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011
The travel was rough, but after a 5 hour overnight flight to Atlanta, a 5 hour layover, another 3.5 hour flight to Managua, and a 4 hour bus ride to Sabana Grande; we finally made it.
Friday, Dec. 9, 2011
Hilda Garcia, Kyle Magazu, Lizzie Mercado, Agustine Perez, and Lisa Yabusaki are senior civil engineering majors and Roelandts Fellows at SCU. Their senior design project will focus on designing a water distribution and sanitation system for the area of Sabana Grande in Nicaragua.
Clean, potable water is a privilege that many communities are currently lacking. In this day and age and with all the science and technology available to us, it is hard to believe that such a basic necessity is so difficult to come by. Although rain is abundant and the water table is high in the area, there is a high incidence of child mortality due to unsanitary water. In the past, various designs have been attempted and implemented in the region, but periodic flooding and difficulties coordinating the maintenance of systems make it difficult to find a sustainable solution to the lack of potable water.
We will be looking into designing a pump and well system which will implement a solar-powered pump, a reinforced concrete storage tank, a pipeline network for distribution, and looking into measures for water quality and sanitation including waste disposal and resource recovery. For our system, we will also look into alternative methods and designs to withstand the periodic flooding of the area and fit into the lifestyle of the community in which our design may be implemented. We will also look into technologies that have been attempted and implemented in the region to help guide our design, such as pump and well designs and alternative components like water catchment systems.
Coming from a small Jesuit university that prides itself on its service to the underprivileged, we feel that we have been equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge from our civil engineering curriculum at Santa Clara to go into the world to make a difference and serve those who are often forgotten.
Why We’re Doing It
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, but it is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In rural areas, there is a major lack of access to potable water. Often, women and children have to walk long distances to wait in line for water from a contaminated source. This is a problem because having to spend so much time for something as simple as water keeps them from going to school and perpetuates a cycle of poverty.
Although Nicaragua has an abundant supply of water, it is prone to periodic flooding and most areas lack a sanitation system. The surface water that the impoverished communities do have access to are often contaminated with pesticides, runoff, and waste from humans and animals. This makes it unsafe as a primary water source.
In many areas, wells are dug and the groundwater sources are tapped into as they are somewhat protected from the surface contaminants. Conservation and sustainability is not a natural part of the culture, however, and it is especially lacking in the rural areas. Industrial deforestation coupled with individuals chopping down trees for use in their homes contributes to a growing problem with the water sources available to them. Deforestation increases the runoff experienced during the flood season and decreases the amount of recharge to the groundwater aquifers. In other words, it reduces the amount of water going back into the ground and is thus slowly depleting the groundwater supply.
Possibly the most disconcerting issue that we have come across is the lack of a sanitation system in many areas in Nicaragua. Without proper disposal of wastewater, providing clean water is pointless. Wastewater, if not treated or disposed of properly, has the potential to contaminate all water sources. This is why our project will encompass everything from retrieving water from a source to taking care of it after it is used.
What We Have Done So Far
After deciding to design a water distribution and sanitation system, we needed to find a specific site to design for. We had initially made contacts in the Lower Rio Coco area, who gave us some great insight into some of the general problems of rural Nicaragua. From there, we consulted our professors who had recently visited UCA (Universidad Centroamericana) this past summer. They were able to put us into contact with a UCA representative, who has been very supportive of our project.
Later, we got the opportunity to meet Susan Kinne of Grupo Fenix
. She was also extremely supportive of our project and proposed a community that would greatly benefit from our project, if it was ever implemented. One unique point about this community was that the people there were familiar with photovoltaic technologies as they manufacture their own solar panels and utilize solar cookers in their communities. Ultimately, this pointed us in the direction of Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, the site for which we are designing our project.
Where We Are Now
Because our Senior Design Project will be focusing on a design in an undeveloped area, we must conduct a great deal of research to create an efficient and feasible design. We have received a generous grant from CSTS (Willem P. Roelandts and Maria Constantino-Roelandts Grant) and funding from the Dean of the School of Engineering (Senior Design Project Fund) to do research for our Senior Design Project. On Sunday, December 11, Lizzie, Kyle, Hilda, and Agustine will be arriving in Managua, Nicaragua, where they will continue on to Sabana Grande. There, they will be staying with host families in the village and they will conduct the necessary research for the development of our design. We are hoping to share our experiences and design process with you through this blog.
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011
On behalf of the Center, we wish happy and healthy holidays to all of our GSBI alums, Tech laureates, partners, mentors, advisory board members, supporters, and other friends.
Last year, we set an audacious goal to promote the use of science and technology to benefit the lives of 1 billion impoverished people around our planet by 2020. The Center sharpened its focus in 2011 on three social benefit programs that enable progress towards this vision: entrepreneurship, through our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator™; innovation, including the rapidly evolving frugal innovation initiative; and social capital. According to the United Nations, the global population reached 7 billion at the end of October this year. Fully 4 billion, or 57%, are living in poverty at the “base of the pyramid.” Andy Lieberman’s article in the San Jose Mercury News captures well the power and potential of social entrepreneurship and innovation to solve the pressing needs of the global poor.
Our sector focus on off-grid, sustainable energy continued, enabling a successful launch of our Energy Map
, which has won praise from numerous impact investors, foundations, and development agencies for its deep and thorough characterization of technology solutions and business models to meet the needs of the 1.5 billion people living without electricity and nearly 3 billion using wood fires or unsafe traditional stoves for cooking. Based on practical knowledge from GSBI applicants, we’ve started to explore “contextual” factors, such as government policies, that facilitate or inhibit adoption of appropriate technology solutions and business model innovations for off-grid, sustainable energy, including speaking at the OECD’s Better Innovation Policies for Better Lives
Forum. Because our knowledge continues to deepen, we plan to continue the energy sector focus, particularly relevant given the UN’s declaration of 2012 as the Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
Our amazing 2011 GSBI Class
included 11 social enterprises focused on off-grid energy, the highest number and percentage ever. We also made significant progress towards gender equality with 8 women entrepreneurs of 18 total, again the highest number and percentage. In concert with the rapid emergence of social entrepreneurship in Africa, 6 of this year’s class serve communities there, with the remainder including Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Mexico, the Philippines, Slovakia, and Thailand.
With the enormous caveat that there are many forms of social benefit and no universal metric for assessing impact, analysis revealed that our 140 GSBI alums have collectively impacted the lives of 74 million people. Our strategy to positively impact the lives of 1 billion by 2020 is simple: help more social entrepreneurs help more people.
GSBI program extensions in development include GSBI Online and the GSBI Network. GSBI Online could potentially train hundreds or thousands of social entrepreneurs all over the world through proven core modules of our program. The GSBI Network leverages the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools to foster the development of GSBI-like programs that help social entrepreneurs build sustainable and scalable ventures. Towards this end, we have hosted a first working group at Santa Clara and have executed Memoranda of Understanding with Ateneo de Manila in the Philippines; the CK Prahalad Centre in Chennai, India; ESADE in Spain; and XLRI in Jamshedpur, India.
We also introduced substantial “capacity development” training for the 2011 Tech laureates
, helping them craft succinct elevator pitches, create 2-page innovation profiles useful for fundraising, and explore different sources of capital. We continue to manage the nominations, applications, and judging processes, and are pleased that the 2012 categories include Sustainable Energy and Young Innovators, the latter of particular interest given our blossoming partnership with The Spirit of Innovation Awards
A common need for all social entrepreneurs and innovators is access to appropriate forms of capital. Compared to the well-developed VC ecosystem, impact capital is poorly coordinated, creating higher costs for both investors and entrepreneurs. Under the leadership of John Kohler, we launched our Coordinating Impact Capital
report in July, and with an in-depth workshop hosted by World Bank in early November.
The newly funded Global Social Benefit Fellowship Program
will afford high potential juniors from all disciplines a comprehensive practical social justice experience conceived in memory of Fr. Paul Locatelli.
Together, these programs provide the Santa Clara community unique opportunities to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world in accord with our Jesuit tradition. In 2012, our signature Global Social Benefit Incubator
will enter its 10th
year. In many ways, it is the “center of the Center” and we hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the accomplishments of these incredible social entrepreneurs who are changing the world and creating significant impact. We invite you to consider a gift to the Center to help us accelerate progress towards positively impacting the lives of 1 billion by 2020.
Thane Kreiner is the Executive Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University