In December 2011, six Engineers Without Borders-Georgia Tech (EWB-GT) students travelled to Cameroon to participate in a major implementation stage of a water distribution project. Since 2008, the EWB-GT student group has been working with the community of Mungoa-goa and it's highly-organized development association to provide a solar powered well and clean water distribution system to more than 400 of the community's residents. The students involved in this important initiative include: David Bertram, undergraduate Aerospace Engineering major; Adam Drozek, Civil Engineering graduate student; Hannah Kates, undergraduate Environmental Engineering major; Lily Ponitz, undergraduate Environmental Engineering major; Chris Quintero, undergraduate Mechanical Engineering major; and Brett Reichard, undergraduate Civil Engineering major.
Mungoa-goa is located on a hillside in the northwest province of Cameroon. In all, the village consists of approximately 1000 residents. However, the villagers located in the upper third of the community must walk at least 10 minutes downhill (~300 ft vertical elevation change) to access tap stands and cachments installed years ago by an NGO in the lower village. It is a difficult trip too make, especially multiple times per day. As a result, water is typically stored in large and generally unclean containers within homes, increasing the incidence of diarrhea. In addition, women and children are primarily responsible for collecting water so education rates are adversely affected.
The student group began this important project after conducting several site assessments and community discussions which resulted in a sustainable solution specifically tailored to meet the village's water needs. In January 2011, EWB-GT students oversaw the drilling of a borehole well and the installation of a temporary hand pump. Since that initial installation, students have been focusing on the design of the remaing components of the full system and tirelessly raising money to fund its construction.
Over the holiday break in December, EWB-GT students oversaw the construction of the concrete water storage tank and laid all of the piping to distribute water more effectively throughout the community. The team also conducted educational workshops on the system's operations and maintenance to ensure sustainability and success. The Cameroon project group hopes to send another student group back to Mungoa-goa in May 2012 to complete the final stage of project implementation, including installation of an electric pump and a photovoltaic array.
Community ownership is an extremely important component of the EWB model. On each trip to Mungoa-goa, the community has been heavily involved in terms of the labor, education, operation, and maintenance of the system. EWB-GT students also work with the local youth group and community leaders to support health and hygiene education initiatives, including the testing of clean-burning rocket stoves made from local materials.
EWB-GT is is the Georgia Tech student chapter of the national non-profit humanitarian organization Engineers Without Borders. The EWB-GT chapter is currently working on several innovative and sustainable service projects where student members personally design and implement solutions for health and infrastructure needs in developing communities. The organization is currently involved with two international projects as well as several local research projects. All construction and travel costs are covered by funds raised by EWB-GT members through donations and corporate sponsorship. For additional information about the organization and funding opportunities, visit: http://ewb-gt.org/.