Maji for Maseara

Engineers Without Borders Valpo Implements Canal Improvements in Tanzania


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Engineers Without Borders Valpo students are working with the village of Masaera in northern Tanzania to both repair a deteriorating canal and to educate the villagers about the importance of water sanitation.  This past May, EWB Valpo installed a drop box mechanism that will absorb energy from water flow, eliminating water losses from erosion and infiltration.

This year marks the fourth year of EWB Valpo’s relationship with the village of Masaera in northern Tanzania. EWB Valpo’s focus on the project has been to work alongside the villagers to repair their primary water source, a canal with water diverted from the River Wona. The canal is approximately 75 years old and is in need of major repair, as portions of the canal have deteriorated to the point of threatening the agricultural and domestic water supply of the village. The chapter is currently providing technical expertise relating to the repair of the canal.  A major component of this work is to educate the villagers on how to maintain, repair, and operate the canal. The education component includes demonstrating common repairs such as patching of the concrete wall, installing effective erosion control devices, and installing gates. In addition, EWB Valpo is working with the newly elected Water Committee on the development of a Canal Operation, Maintenance and Repair manual.

In May 2011, EWB Valpo spent two weeks in Tanzania. The primary objective of the trip was to manage and assist with the installation of a “drop box” structure. At the first critical junction in the canal there is a significant change in elevation resulting in a waterfall of approximately seven feet. As the water plummets at this location the potential energy of the water is converted to kinetic energy, severely eroding the canal upon impact. In fact, the wall of the canal was nearly breached which would have resulted in no water reaching the village for irrigation or domestic use. The installed “drop box” structure is designed to absorb the energy from the waterfall and nearly eliminate the erosion in the canal at this location.

During the trip EWB Valpo also worked to educate the village members on methods and procedures to ensure the continued maintenance and rehabilitation of the canal.  The focus of this effort was to improve the effectiveness of the Water Committee and the development of a Canal Operation, Maintenance and Repair manual. The success of this portion of the work is the key to ensuring the sustainability of the canal for generations to come.

The Tanzania project has provided dozens of Valpo students with a priceless experience.  EWB Valpo is a multidisciplinary organization made up of students from the College of Arts and Science, College of Business, College of Engineering, and College of Nursing. This allows EWB Valpo to work with communities on comprehensive projects. In addition, the breadth of expertise Valpo students bring to the project results in sustainable solutions, the cornerstone to successful humanitarian service projects. Therefore, both on campus and while traveling, the students use their skill to improve the quality of life of those in need.

Along with using their skills to benefit a disadvantaged community, those students that have traveled to Masaera have gained valuable insight about life in another country. Technical Co-Chair, Craig Jariz commented that, “EWB has given me the opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of people that have so much less than I do. I get to use all of the engineering skills I have learned in order to improve their quality of life and finally, I get to see the difference that I make.”

Michelle Roy, President of EWB Valpo says “working with EWB has been my favorite experience as an undergrad because it enables me to serve others, which is why I wanted to become an engineer in the first place. Being part of EWB has truly changed my life as now I feel called to continue humanitarian engineering in the future.”

Since the successful trip in May 2011, EWB Valpo has continued to work with the villagers on the Canal Operation, Maintenance and Repair manual. As a result of the success of the canal repair projects, the village has requested that EWB Valpo expand their efforts to include a clear water initiative. EWB Valpo is currently working with EWB USA to add this critical work to the existing project scope.

EWB Valpo plans to travel back to Masaera in May 2012 to continue assisting the villagers with their canal and begin to assess the viability and community interest in the various solutions to bring potable water to the villagers.