First interviews and networking – half time of our stay

Jonas, Ichikael and me visiting the local water and sewage authority (MUWSA). After a tour of their laboratory we discuss the current water situation in Moshi with Mr. Revocatus and Mr. Limbe.

Karibuni and hello to you all, my name is Rebecca James and in this blog entry I will tell you about my first experiences in Tanzania. I arrived on Monday the 3rd of February to support Jonas, Julius and Edgar, who have already been here for four weeks. Before I tell you, what has happened so far, I would like to introduce myself briefly. 

This is me, Rebecca James.

I am 23 years old, finished my bachelor in Energy Economics last year and since then I have been living in Darmstadt, where I am now studying the Master in Sustainable Urban Development at the TU Darmstadt. In November last year I went to my first meeting of Engineers without Borders. Around that time, they were just looking for a fourth person to travel to Tanzania and I felt like I was being addressed directly. At first, I had some doubts, because I didn’t really know the project nor the people. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to a departure, as I had already been to Bolivia for twelve months at the age of 18 as part of the Development Volunteer Service and later I had completed a semester abroad in Colombia.

The project group gave me a warm welcome and I quickly participated in the meetings of the team leaving towards Tanzania in order to learn as much as possible about the project during the short preparation time I had left.  

Within the project I am part of the distribution team. In this team we are trying to find ways how the project can be used by many people in the future, as I am confident that the SoWaDi devices can help people all over the world to get access to safe water. In this way we are trying to collect information based on which we can evaluate different distribution concepts. Concretely for the time abroad this means that we have prepare interviews and questionnaires and contacted suitable interview partners. For the distribution team and me this has not been easy, especially in the last few weeks, because so much was already happening in Tanzania and it was difficult to identify possible interview partners from Germany at the same time. 

Jonas and I take water samples at the Kiwoce Open School in Moshi to test for microbiological contamination and to see if the location is suitable for the SoWaDi devices.
Jonas (left) in conversation with our project partner Sam (middle) and Mr. Swai (right). Mr. Swai is a consultant in the field of innovation and water supply and gives us ideas on how to distribute our project among as many people as possible in the future.
Documentation is important! Here I take a photo of the labeled sample together with the source. Like this the sample can be clearly assigned.

So now, instead of writing exams, I am in Tanzania and am gaining experiences that would not be possible in Germany. What one often forgets is that you can plan and prepare a lot of things, but then it often turns out very differently. Here, things are more spontaneous and easygoing than in Germany and yet together we improvise and always find a solution that everyone is satisfied with. I am really looking forward to the next few weeks. Projects and practical experiences like these are important to me, so that I am willing to create the space for them in my studies. 

On Sunday a week ago, I left Frankfurt and arrived in Moshi on Monday, February 3rd. There I met with Jonas, who had previously been in Mwanga our first location. After the first night in Moshi I had time on Tuesday to settle in a bit before some meetings with the project partner were on the agenda. Later, Jonas and I planned the first meetings for the distribution interviews. Since we were still looking for a third location at that time, we visited the Kiwoce Open School in Moshi the next day. Then on Thursday we visited the laboratory of the local water supplier MUWSA, where we had our water tests done for all devices. This is also an important part of the Project, to be able to judge if water is suitable for treatment and how effective the SoWaDi devices are working. As expected, the tests so far have delivered good results. Later Jonas and I visited the Meli Secondary School as another possible location where we could get a first impression of the water situation at the school. On Friday we had the opportunity to meet Mr. Swai for a more detailed discussion. He has been active as a consultant in the field of innovation and water supply for a long time and could answer all our questions about SoWaDi from an entrepreneurial perspective. On the same day we also had a detailed discussion at the  

Meli Secondary School and finally decided to implement the project there in the next three weeks. Afterwards, Jonas and I drove to Kidia, four kilometers away, when the construction team there, together with Julius and Edgar, just finished the first plant. Although there were some challenges with a few components such as the insulation and bending of the copper pipes, “TZ03” could be put into operation as planned thanks to the very motivated, independent and precisely working team. The first output was definitely my most impressive event last week, as it was the first time, I could see the system “in action”! Together with 150 children of the Kidia Primary School I marveled at how the hot water flowed out of the absorber pipe. 

Julius and Steve from the construction team setting up the string lines. With this the system can be aligned exactly.
The construction team in Kidia bending the copper pipe. The bending device is self-built using the SoWaDi instructions.
Julius and Edgar put on the upper glass. The device is now almost ready.

Unfortunately, we did not manage to do all the interviews for the distribution like we had planned in this overloaded week. Therefore, we want to reserve one day in the next weeks for it. But we are happy to have finally found a suitable third location where we can build two more devices. After various attempts at other locations turned out unsuccessful for different reasons, such as chemical contamination of the water (the SoWaDi devices only treat microbiological contamination) it is now clear where we will continue next week. The Meli Secondary School is located far outside of Moshi on an unpaved road and gets its water from a spring, as it is not connected to the public water network. There we can implement our project effectively and together with the teachers and students on site improve the water situation a little bit. Just as in Mwanga and Kidia, here we also plan to build two systems. This will be a real challenge, as we were not able to plan as much in advance as at the other two locations. However, we are happy to take on the situation and are looking forward to starting there directly on Monday and getting to know the team! 

While Jonas and I are working there, the “TZ04” device will be completed next week in Kidia with the help of Julius, Edgar and the construction team. Next Sunday there will be an open event, to which the whole community is invited and where one will hopefully be able to see two finished SoWaDi systems. Here the devices will be presented and a workshop about “clean water” will be offered. This will give us the opportunity to talk to the locals, answer questions and collect information for market research and distribution. Apart from that we want to make up for missing distribution interviews in the further course of our journey. All in all, I hope that our stay in Tanzania will provide us six functioning devices and that we will find new ideas for further. With the information and the contacts gathered, we hope that the distribution group will be able to assess better who the target group is and where the equipment can be used most effectively. In the long run, my wish is that the project will be so far developed that SoWaDi devices will be built worldwide wherever people have no better possibility for water treatment and thus the water situation will be improved sustainably. Cross your fingers for us. 

Kind regards from the foot of Kili, Rebecca

The whole team united! For two weeks the four of us are in Tanzania before Edgar travels back to Germany. Therefore, we can split into two teams and manage twice as much.