Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Finishing Design and Vendor Selection, June 2009

 Sorry it has been some time since we blogged here. Lots of happenings, so let me catch you up.

The big news is that our Rotary International Matching Grant request was approved! WOOHOO.

NomadHope and our partners will begin installing solar lighting and hand washing stations at the schools in Farach and Zouera this summer. These two (2) schools have been chosen as for our pilot, to be followed by four (4) more schools when funding is available. Between the generous Rotary International matching grant and our own fund raising efforts, NomadHope now has $64,000 toward our $180,000 goal for the water, sanitation and solar electricity improvements at all six (6) community schools in northern Mali. This is enough to complete the first two schools!

Designs are being reviewed by the EWB-LA team, and will soon be finalized for the following solutions:
· Water pipeline from the community reservoir to the school buildings
· A six spigot drinking and hand washing station with appropriate run-off
· A solar system for every classroom and school building
· An enclosure to surround the school buildings
· A printing, photo, and copy center for Farach (sustainability project)
· A millet grinding and solar oven center for Zouera (sustainability project)

In parallel, final vendor selections are underway for the water, solar, copy center, and millet machine components of the project.

This has been a challenging phase, as we are doing things a bit differently than most, of course! In order to be most successful and assure the projects are sustainable, we are sourcing all materials and all professional labor locally. Typically EWB sends volunteers to do the engineering designs and skilled engineering tasks and sources unskilled labor locally. NomadHope challenged the team to find all labor locally, seeking professional water and solar companies in Mali to do the water and solar work and designs.

With much help from Hamadi (of Adjmor, our local NGO partner), the Rotary Club of Bamako, and the local community leaders, we have at least 3 bids for each project component and have at least one locally experienced and recommended vendor in each area.

We have not had much luck with the engineering design drawings though, getting them in a format we require / expect here in the USA. So, EWB-LA is reverse engineering the drawings and calculations we need from each vendor’s bid and parts list. Each vendor did send detailed bids with parts lists etc., but asking for drawings is something we abandoned and have decided to do ourselves, satisfying our structured EWB-driven approval process. You can’t win them all! We will send our design drawings back to the selected vendor for approval, concurrence.

We had several serious issues and risks to contend with along the way, of course, including the potential need to raise each existing water reservoir. Luckily we moved past that and all engineers, in LA and Mali, now concur that we DO NOT need to raise the reservoirs to get the water flow we need for student drinking and hand washing at each of school. We had to fund a small trip for a few hydraulic engineers from Timbuktu to go to the school sites and validate our EWB-LA assessment calculations! I suppose knowing that the local engineers wanted to see for themselves should give us comfort that they are paying attention to detail. Next time I’ll pick them up on the way, LOL!

Regarding the sustainability programs, we have been working with GeekCorps Mali on the copy center in Farach. They have experience in the area and with these types of revenue generating centers, so they make for an excellent partner. The solar powered copy center will provide income to the school and also provide convenient access for the school’s printing and copying needs. The school Director currently pays for a roundtrip ride to Goundam, then pays for typing, printing, and copying to develop his required census reports, diplomas, and other copies. Farach is also on a well travelled route for tourists and media.

EWB-LA volunteers Tony Haske and Ed Andrews are developing a business plan for the copy center, and a millet grinding - solar oven center in the Zouera community that local women could pay to use, enabling them to produce the baked goods they sell at market in greater quantities and generating more income for their families. This equipment will be owned by the Zouera community school and also used to prepare the daily meal for all the students. We are struggling to find a viable vendor to purchase our millet grinding machine from ….of all things that should be simple ……… not!

Fencing enclosures for the school are another issue we are working to resolve now. The bids for fencing are just too costly, so we are providing local vendors with alternatives to consider now. The community told us that the traditional gathered wood enclosers thay they use for their individual nomadic family enclosures won't work in a large community, they eventually are taken for firewood! We need a solution to keep the animals out and the equipment in!

Implementation of the projects is tentatively scheduled to begin in August, after the hot season ends in Mali. The team is planning a return trip to Mali later this year, to assess the progress of the projects and the communities’ satisfaction.

There is a lot of work ahead for us and $116,000 is still needed to complete the remaining four (4) schools!

Please see our website www.NomadHope.org to make a donation!