Sauri's Untapped Resources


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A presentation to Jeffrey Sachs regarding ecologically friendly and economically strengthening solutions for the Millennium Villages.

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Sauri's Untapped Resources

  1. 1. Prepared by Annie Abbate Department of Biological Sciences. Elmira College. Elmira, NY. Illustrations by Hillary Irvine Sauri’s Untapped Resources
  2. 2. Executive Statement <ul><li>Problem: The Millennium Villages have long been heavily criticized for not being sustainably sound. Social and economic issues surrounding the use of chemical fertilizer and lack crop diversification have been of the main causes of concern. </li></ul><ul><li>Solution: Mimic natural ecological processes in the form of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Composting Toilets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biodigesters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Permiculture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intercropping (“The Three Sisters”) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Benefits </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Natural, safe, free sources of fertilizer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Free source of electricity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduction of water contamination levels </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inexpensive/ easy to implement </li></ul></ul><ul><li>These methods are practiced in various places around the world from New York City to Costa Rica by both modern and indigenous peoples. If implemented in Sauri and other Millennium Villages these practices would increase the sustainability of the villages. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Personal Statement <ul><li>Dr. Sachs, </li></ul><ul><li>My name is Annie Abbate and I am junior Pre-Med/Biology student at Elmira College in Elmira, NY. Since I can remember I have always known that I would dedicate my life attempting to alleviate poverty and suffering in the developing world. I was introduced to your work only two weeks ago when I read the article, “Africa’s Village of Dreams,” by Sam Rich in a Developmental Politics class. I was immediately inspired yet deeply troubled by it. While discussing the article in class, the majority of my peers came to a similar conclusion that Sam Rich did. They did not believe that Sauri or any of the other Millennium Villages could ever become sustainable. They cited the numerous problems revolving around the fertilizer, the main source of economic growth within the village, as its major downfall. </li></ul><ul><li>In May of last year I studied abroad in a rural village called Mastatal in Costa Rica. There I was introduced to many unique environmentally friendly and sustainable agricultural practices. As our class discussion became a heated debate, I, as the sole defender of Sauri, got up from my seat and began drawing diagrams explaining the innovative practices I had learned in Costa Rica. They included simple concepts such as how to diversify crops on small plots while enriching the soil and more radical ones, such as creating safe, natural, and free fertilizer, harvesting methane gas, and generating electricity all from human waste. I argued that if these practices were mimicked in the Millenium Villages, Sauri would undoubtedly become sustainable. When I was finished, my peers on ‘Team Easterly” began changing their minds. They still did not believe that Sauri could succeed but decided that it was because your Millennium Villages have too many economists and too few ecologists. </li></ul><ul><li>I came to your conference from Elmira today to give you this booklet. It is likely that you have been introduced to these concepts in the past, but if you have not, I urge you to read this. Within this booklet are methods that, if implemented, could alleviate or solve many of Sauri’s major obstacles in becoming sustainable. </li></ul><ul><li>Thank you for your time, </li></ul><ul><li>Annie Abbate </li></ul><ul><li>Elmira College </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  4. 4. Problem 1 : VIP Toilets <ul><li>In the Annual Report for Sauri 2008-2009, the construction of Ventilation Improved Pit toilets (VIP toilets) was listed as one of the major accomplishments for that year. In that same report, fecal contamination of water was cited as one of the major concerns. The two are related. Pit toilets and latrines as the sole means of waste management can pose enormous potential health threats to a community. </li></ul>Rainwater running underground toward community water sources can become contaminated with fecal matter and harmful bacteria by even the best insulated latrines and pit toilets.
  5. 5. Problem 2: Chemical Fertilizer <ul><li>As you are aware, there are many economic and social problems coupled with fertilizer purchase and distribution in the Millennium Villages, especially in Sauri. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chemical fertilizers are extremely expensive. “In Sauri the project spends $50,000 a year on them,” (Rich 2007). Sauri may not be able to afford this fertilizer when the project leaves. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Farmers often sell the fertilizer distributed to them because they are unable to see how the long term economic benefits of fertilizer use will outweigh the immediate economic rewards of selling it on the black market. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Additionally, excessive use of chemical fertilizer in an agricultural village over a long period of time posses the potential risk of contaminating water supplies. In a village where drought is frequent and clean water is a precious commodity, Sauri cannot afford to take that risk. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Model for Solution: NYC Sewage System <ul><li>New York City sewage systems have a very cost effective method of waste management. All sewage is treated in the NYC Wastewater Treatment facility. The entire facility is run off of electricity generated by methane gas from human waste. After processing, solid waste byproducts are packaged and used as fertilizer in agriculture nationwide. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Solution 1: Composting Toilet <ul><li>Composting toilets are waterless toilets which utilize natural aerobic digestion of human waste by fecal bacteria to produce a free, safe and natural source of fertilizer . Composting toilets are above ground structures, typically built against hillsides. This above ground storage eliminates the potential for contamination of underground water sources. </li></ul>Composting toilets in Mastatal, Costa Rica (Above) and at a Lake Superior Campsite (Right). Top right is fertilizer produced by a composting toilet. Right center are young pineapple plants grown on the same farm in Costa Rica as the above toilet, with the organic fertilizer made from this toilet. Duel compartments for storage and natural decomposition of human waste and other carbon rich ingredients into fertilizer. When the first compartment fills, the seat is moved to the second opening that, until this time, has been closed. By the time the second compartment fills, the waste in the first compartment has been completely digested by natural bacteria. It is now a harmless and natural source of fertilizer. Model composting toilet Seating compartment
  8. 8. Solution 2: Biodigesters <ul><li>Biodigesters are systems which harvest methane gas produced from waste under anaerobic conditions. This methane gas can be utilized to cook on stoves or run through a generator to produce electricity. Solid waste products, post-digestion, can then be utilized as fertilizer. </li></ul>Like the composting toilet, biodigesting toilets are built above ground. Unlike the composting toilet, waste is not stored in two aerobic compartment but transferred through a pipe to long, typically plastic, aerobic containers. This is the anaerobic container where waste is digested. Under these anaerobic conditions, fecal bacteria produce methane gas as a byproduct when breaking down waste. The methane gas is harvested and can be utilized for cooking on a flame stove or processed through a generator Solid waste products can be removed from biodigesting container after they have been digested and methane gas has been harvested to be used as fertilizer, just as with composting toilets. This is a generator powered by methane gas. The mechanism is simple; “methane is lit under a tank filled with water which evaporates in to another tank above it. The steam is pressurized and when released shoots out a pipe and spins a small turbine creating electricity,” (
  9. 9. Summary of Composting Toilets and Biodigesters <ul><li>As seen in the previous diagrams, composting toilets and biodigesters can provide free, safe, and natural sources of fertilizer. If these practice were implicated and the structures replicated in Sauri and other Millennium Villages these sustainable designs could have tremendously positive consequences for the community. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Composting toilets and biodigesters could eliminate or greatly reduce the expense and social problems associated with chemical fertilizer use. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>By reducing or eliminating dependency on chemical fertilizer, the potential health risks associated with chemical fertilizer, including water contamination, are also greatly reduced or eliminated. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The Annual Report for Sauri 2008-2009 described necessity for, “use of a household water treatment tool that will reduce the fecal contamination of drinking water,” (Annual Report ’08-’09 pg27). The elevated design of composting toilets, as opposed to pit toilets or latrines, as well as proper management and utilization of the waste could eliminate or greatly reduce water contamination by fecal matter. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Biodigesters, which can cost as little as $200 to build (plus approximately $300 for a generator), could provide a free source of electricity for the village as an alternative or supplement to that provided by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Maize is a staple in the diet of most Africans. Unfortunately, this plant which provides nutrients for all of Sauri’s citizens is also infamous for leeching nutrients, especially nitrogen, from the soil. Because maize is such a important food in the village, both culturally and economically, completely replacing maize production with another crop is not an option. There are, however, agricultural systems that can incorporate other plants into maize production in order to maximize maize harvest while reducing the tax on the soil. </li></ul>Problem: Maize Production
  11. 11. Permiculture: Nitrogen Restoring Plants <ul><li>Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two most important elements for plant growth and are the active ingredients in most chemical fertilizers. Maize requires an exceptional amount of nitrogen and overtime can completely deplete the soil of all of its’ nutrients. An effective agricultural solution to restore vital nitrogen in the soil is permiculture. Permiculture is the practice of planting nitrogen restoring plants alongside crops in order to increase the amount of nitrogen available to crops and prevent nutrient depletion in the soil. These plants have a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen fixing bacteria in their roots which are responsible for producing the nitrogen completely harmless to humans and all surrounding plants. The following are nitrogen fixing plants native to Western Kenya. </li></ul>Crotalaria grahamiana Tephrosia vogelii (Also an effective insecticide) Sesbania sesban Cajanus cajan (Pigeon Peas) Edible and an excellent source of protein.
  12. 12. Model Solution: Pequot Indians “Three Sisters” <ul><li>The Pequot Indians were a Native American tribe who inhabited much of Connecticut (now the owners of Foxwood’s Casino). The Pequots practiced an agricultural method referred to today as intercropping but what they referred to as “The Three Sisters.” In this system, maize, beans, and squash are grown together in the same field. Each plant works with the other two in a system which results in greater crop yield of each than if they were grown alone. </li></ul>Above: Wasted space and weeds growing between maize Below: Three sisters depicted on the back of US $1 coin Squash plants were planted at the base of the mounds. Squash have large leave which shades the soil and prevents weeds from growing. The shade also prevents the soil from drying out and the leaves trap in moisture. The maize is planted on top of the mounds which is approximately one foot tall and has a 30’’ diameter. The maize provides a tall structure for the beans to climb. Beans are planted at the base of the maize (on the mound). Beans are nitrogen fixing plants and provide nutrients to the maize while growing up the stalk.
  13. 13. Extra: Abba’s Refrigerator <ul><li>In the 1990’s, a business professor at a college in Jigwa, Nigeria invented a pot-in-pot refrigerator which has made a tremendous difference for rural communities in northern Nigeria. “Eggplants, for example, stay fresh for 27 days instead of three, and tomatoes and peppers last for three weeks or more. African spinach, which usually spoils after a day, remain(s) edible after 12 days in the pot-in-pot (” Studies have </li></ul><ul><li> found that the average temperature difference between the pots and the </li></ul><ul><li>environment are approximately 24 degrees Farenheit. </li></ul>“ The pot-in-pot refrigerator: Water seeps through the outer pot from the damp sand layer separating the pots, or from the food stored in the inner pot. As the water evaporates from the surface of the outer pot, the food is cooled.” (Chemistry and Chemical Reactivity 2006) Inventor, Mohammed Bah Abba, with his invention. Mohammed Bah Abba and his pot-in-pot refrigerator won the Rolex Award (2000), the Time Magazine Invention of the Year (2001), and the Shell Award for Sustainable Development.
  14. 14. Conclusion <ul><li>By utilizing readily available resources and mimicking natural ecological processes, Sauri and other Millenium Villages can succeed in making themselves more sustainable. These sustainable practices, coupled with others already implemented within the villages will help them to succeed and stand as testaments to the feasibility of alleviating global poverty. Because these villages have the potential to lay the ground work for the development of entire nations, extreme care should be paid to help them avoid many of the crisis's that developed nations are now experiencing. The most prominent among these is the environmental crisis. Because the practices within this booklet mimic and work with natural ecological processes, all methods are considered “green” methods and are positive avenues of progress for developing nations ecologically as well as economically. </li></ul>