2015 - Wrapping Up Both Projects

It remains hot and sunny in Buseesa, Uganda.  The rainy season was supposed to start two weeks ago but other than one major thunderstorm there has been little rain.  We are wrapping up details on the two projects.
I haven't seen Erin and Jim since breakfast. Among the many tasks they planned today were: a meeting with Father Godfrey to thank him for his help the past two weeks; a meeting with the Buseesa B community to discuss potential future projects; and a diagnostic test of the well's flow rate.
Meanwhile John (that wouild be me) was busy with QEnergy staking out where to place the fence around the digester to keep the goats out.  The neceessary posts are in hand as is the barbed wire. Jonan, the farm manager, went to Akasalaba to hire some men to build it tomorrow. QEnergy, several sisters and I agreed to a plan as to where to place the large and small stoves/burners in the kitchen. Those will start to be installed when QEnergy returns to the school in a few weeks. Meanwhile the cow manure in the digester will ferment and create biogas. We also agreed to the schedule for all remaining ancillary construction and the training of farm hands and cooks. That will be accomplished over the next two months. QEnergy is a small organization but impressive. I feel very confident they will follow through on their commitments. The Sister's are in good hands in our absence.
Tomorrow morning we depart for Kampala (4-hour drive) for a stop at the craft market for souveniers, then a change of clothes at the Sister's facility in Mpala before the short drive to the Entebbe airport for our 11:30 pm flight to Amsterdam. From there it is on to Detroit, arriving back in Cincinnati mid-afternoon Sunday.
We are all looking forward to getting home after this successful implementation trip. This will be our last post to this blog.

Back In Touch

This provides an update on the water and biogas projects. Posting to this blog have not been forthcoming because the internet was down for several days due to thunderstorm damage to the provider's equipment.
The water project is complete.  The second hole drilled had a very acceptable flow rate (about 20 L./min.), so the pump was installed and chlorine was added a few days ago to sanitize it. In the next day or so the chlorine will be pumped out and the well will be available for community use.  A very successful project. 
With the well done and the biogas contractor back in Kampala for a few days rest, our team took a few days off to head north to Murchinson National Park to see the falls on the Nile River plus do a game drive throug the park in an open vehicle. The park is massive. We stayed in Gulu and got up at 3 a.m. to drive to the park, getting there when the gates opened at 7 a.m. The early arrival gave us a shot at seeing more game and we were rewarded with spotting several lions within 150 feet.  Our guide said we were very lucky as he hadn't seen any in the last 3 months.  We also saw many water buffalo, elephants, warthogs, giraffes, hippos and much more.  A great experience.  Our transportation to Gulu was the well-driller's pickup truck. It was loaded in back with the drilling equipment, 6 men from the drilling crew, a motorcycle and Jim.  The 14-hour trip was over very bad dirt roads.  Along the way it rained a few times so the men covered themselves with a tarp but still got wet. Erin and I were fortunate to ride in the cab; Jim said we missed out on the comradierie.
The biogas project is going well. The mixing tank, digester trench with walls, effluent tank and roof are complete. The bag has been laid out in the trench and cow manure/water is being added today. The gas line to the kitchen is also being installed. Tomorrow we will fence off the area with barbed wire to keep the goats away.  Then the unit will sit for 2-3 weeks while the mixture ferments and creates biogas.  At that time QEnergy will return to teach the farm hands how to feed the digester with pig, chicken and goat manure. They will also install the burners in the kitchen then and teach the cooks how to use them.
Overall, we are very tired, very dirty and very satisfied that both projects are doing so nicely.          

3/23 Email Outage

The email capability has gone down for several days at the school in Buseesa, so only limited information has been sent via text message. The first part of the digester work is completed, which includes digging the main trench, bricking the sides, and installing the roof, mixing tank, and effluent tank. The QEnergy crew is taking a break and will return on Tuesday to install the bag itself, make the remaining connections, and run piping to the kitchen.

John is impressed with the quality of work done by QEnergy, their hard work, and their responsiveness to suggestions. He is busy making lots of dimensioned sketches and taking lots of photos to record the as-built project.  

The travel team is also taking a couple of days off, to be tourists, and are scheduled to go on a safari in Gulu.

Progress On Both Projects

Yesterday (Wednesday) was quite warm and sunny--- high 80's ---but we had a thunderstorm late in the afternoon that cooled it off a bit. As usual, we walked the mile-or-so dirt/mud rutted road to Akasalaba to have dinner with the Young Men Drillers and QEnergy crews.  A cook has been hired there to feed all of us this week.  Michael and Tusabe, from the BCDC, gave us rides back to the school on their motorcycles.  They and other motorcyclists in Uganda handle their bikes with a high level of agility.  Very impressive.
Erin and Jim have been spending nearly all their time at the well site in Akasalaba with the Young Men Drillers crew.  They stopped drilling the second hole at 13 meters, installed a casing and are now developing that well.  Apparently the flow rate in the second hole is meeting expectations better than than the first hole.
John has been spending his time at the biogas digester construction site at the school with QEnergy.  The main 15-meter trench is complete and the sides and ends are now being beveled. That work should be done early tomorrow. The brick effluent tank was also started and is half complete.  Tomorrow they will start bricking in the short walls that run along both sides of the 15-meter long hole. They will also start digging post holes to support the corrugated roof.  We are on track to install the bag next Tuesday and fill it with a truck-load of cow manure being sourced from Mubende, an hours drive from here. Here's a new learning: Umar, the crew chief, said that someone will need to get inside the 1.5 meter diameter by 1 meter high input tank when goat manure pellets are being added.  He said the pellets need to be squished (he bent down and made a motjon of doing this with his hands) before water is added.  Apparently if the pellets don't get squished they don't decompose very well on their way through the digester bag. We engineers need to find a simple solution to this task to make it less objectionable and more sanitary.   

3/18 Wednesday

On Water Project:

- They are now 11 meters deep with the second hole in Akasalaba.  The first well was drilled to 10 meters but the flow was around 15 L/min. and the target was to get to 16-18.

- So they are drilling another well about 20 meters away. Yesterday they hit rock at about 9-10 meters and planned to punch through it today. It turned out the "rock' was hard clay and after soaking all night they were able to drill through it this morning. They were at 11.5 meters a few hours ago and pulling up a clay-sand mixture.  Looks like the water flow is better than the first hole so the morale of the team is back up.
On Biogas:

- On Tuesday QEnergy began their work.  Great crew.  Easy to work with and very accomodating.  We layed out the site with stakes and strings and by 10 am the 3 diggers hired by Sister Anita started digging. The diggers first demanded we pay them 4 times more than what QEnergy was willing to pay saying it was a 4-day job.  QEnergy (Umar) said it was a one day job and he would pay them much less.  They agreed to dig and were shown a wooded stick of the length (about 1.5 meters) we needed them to dig the hole.  Two of them dug and the other one, their leader, just watched --- and they all left shortly after 3 pm.  The hole was about 1/3 done then.

- Today the diggers returned and claimed the stick was longer and refused to dig unless they were paid more money.  A lot of arguing ensued.  I got Sister Janet and Anita involved.  Sister Anita is decisive.  She walked up, listend to both sides of the story and quickly fired the diggers. They said they wouldn't leave.  She said fine, just stand there but your not getting any water.  They finally were paid for yesterdays brief work and they left.

- Sister Rita then asked her farm hands to do the digging.  One of them showed up, did a little digging and left.

- QEnergy then went into Akasalaba (about a kilometre away) and hired 3 guys who are now doing the digging.  So we lost about a day's worth of digging time but are making progress again.

- Also, yesterday the manure/water input tank was built of brick and mortar.  But on checking it was found that the diameter and volume were too small and it was too close to the digester hole.  So after a lot of conferring between Umar and Sandra, they busted the unit out today and they are rebuilding it to spec.
Overall, the weather is unseasonably hot, the sky is nearly cloudless and the ground is hard as this is the end of the dry season. Drilling and digging isn't easy. Haven't had any rain since we arrived. We are all doing fine, walking a lot and sweating even more.


3/16 Monday Afternoon

A ten meter well has been drilled by Young Men Drillers, a six-person team. The well is now being "developed" by repeatedly pressurizing each meter of depth with a plunger to draw fine sand out of the surrounding substrate. The water flow rate into the well is not yet as high as desired. As a contingency another well is being drilled nearby that may yield the desired flow. All materials (bricks, cement, sand, etc.) are on hand --- some of the materials were donated by community members.  The pump is on hand for later installation. A pump expert was invited by YMD to the site and is providing his guidance. 
A few monkeys were seen today in the trees near the drill site. Yesterday, in the hills above NDA, we saw a family of mongoose and a hornbill.

Qenergy just got here at 9 pm. Their equipment truck broke down along the way.  We are going to layout the site Tuesday morning.  Digging for the main digester trench is due to start in the morning.

Arrival 2015

The travel team made it to Buseesa just fine, after buying the pump in Kampala along the way. As befits a Sunday morning, they attended the Parish mass. Afterwards, Erin and Jim ran a community meeting about the water project. As described in the last post, the well drilling is going better than expected!

One of the next tasks for the day will be to resolve some questions recently raised about the actual cooking routines used in the school kitchen. Our EWB chapter has interviewed the cooks on two previous assessment trips and, based on that information, is recommending the modification of two large wood-burning stoves to use biogas (in addition to installing two new large stovetop-sized biogas burners). This modification will be done by placing institutional-sized biogas burners inside the stove drum. The biogas burner will stand on its own supports inside the drum, and can be removed in case the gas supply runs out and the cooks need to revert to using wood.

However, the biogas contractor, QEnergy, conducted their own interviews on their recent site assessment visit, and their information conflicts with ours. QEnergy is suggesting only modifying one large kitchen stove. So John and Jim will verify the cooks' needs today, and the information will be relayed back to the contractor.

This is a good example of how difficult it can be to get a clear understanding of local operations in another country, even after several conversations. Language difficulties get in the way, different personnel may say different things, and a given process may not even be consistent each day.

En Route

The drillers were able to get to a depth of 6 meters and hit water the first day of drilling! I think they put the casing in yesterday (Thursday). We had asked them to start drilling in advance of our arrival in case they hit something that took some time. Guess that wasn't necessary after all. I wasn't expecting everything to run so smoothly. Knock on wood J.



 We're in Amsterdam now, en route to Uganda. We'll sleep between Kampala and Entebbe, wake up early to purchase the pump, and then it's off Buseesa!

Project Implementation Trip

(posted by Erin Cummings)

It's finally here! We're getting ready to help implement both projects (water supply and the biogas)! A lot of hard work has gone into this: more than two years developing the program, two assessment trips, a comprehensive alternatives analyses, and a complete design for each project. Thanks to everyone who has supported the effort!

This time our travel team is made of three members: John, Jim, and me (Erin). John will focus on the biogas project, I'll be on the water project, and Jim will help with both. We're leaving Cincinnati this Thursday, and we'll arrive in Buseesa Saturday night after a brief rendezvous in Kampala.

The drillers arrived in Buseesa today! They surveyed the site and are going to start drilling tomorrow.  They sent these photos along... 

BCDC and drillers at the shallow well site.

Drillers in Buseesa.

So excited that this is finally happening! Can't wait to get over there!