Dartmouth.HELP.11

Dartmouth.HELP.11

Editor’s Note: Students from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering are working in Tanzania to help improve sanitation and energy technologies in local villages. This series chronicles.

work being done by the student-led group, known as Humanitarian Engineering Leadership Projects (HELP), to design “rocket stoves” in the village of Mwamgongo and top-light updraft design (TLUD) gasification stoves in the village of Kalinzi. The goal is to create a healthier, more energy-efficient cooking apparatus that these villagers will accept and use. HELP students are filing these dispatches from the field during their trip. This is their 11th blog post for Scientific American.

If we want the stove to spread, we need to get people excited about the stoves and excited about improving the welfare of their community. Excitement was a missing element from last year’s stove project in Mwamgongo. Because individuals from the community were not included in the design process, they were not invested in seeing the project succeed. To design something is to make it your own. Any design process requires a significant investment of time, thought and effort into solving the problem. The procedure bestows on the designer an in-depth understanding of the problem and the solution. If people from Mwamgongo contribute to the process, the community will be poised to distribute the stoves within their own community and elsewhere.

To get the ball rolling, we had our first meeting with Mwamgongo’s government office. Working closely with the government is essential from a sustainability standpoint. The government of Mwamgongo includes a head officer, an assistant officer and a social services committee. There are many other committees dedicated to tackling challenges in the community, including sanitation, water distribution and education. But working with the government can be a frustrating experience. As Dr. Charles, the head laboratory technician in Mwamgongo explained: Government jobs pay poorly, but you have job security since it is difficult to fire a government employee. This freedom makes some employees difficult to catch at work.

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