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2010 March

News and Updates from our Chapter

25 Mar

By

Run To End Poverty

March 25, 2010 | By |

The Run to End Poverty is a team of compassionate runners united for a common cause – to bring an end to extreme poverty in Africa. Since 2007, runners across Canada and Africa have run together to raise awareness about extreme poverty, and to build support for Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) development efforts in Africa. In just two years the team has grown with races now planned in Vancouver, Montreal, Waterloo, Calgary and Ottawa!

These events are unique in that each is partnered with a run in developing communities across Africa, where EWB is working hard to build local capacity and create positive change. Through this connection, Canadians can learn more about international development and the people whose lives are changed by organizations like EWB. By raising awareness through high-profile local races and through the people we touch during fundraising activities, we hope to build stronger support for Canadian international development initiatives.

This is the first year that the Run to End Poverty has come to Waterloo and we hope that you will join the team!   The Waterloo Run to End Poverty will take place as part of the EndurRace on April 24th at 6:00 PM. There will be both 3K and 8K options – something for every level of runner. You don’t have to be a member of Engineers Without Borders to get involved – everyone is welcome.  By participating, you are helping out a great cause, spreading awareness and getting some exercise too!

If you are not able to run, you can still be involved by coming out to the event to support our runners, or sponsoring them here.

Are you ready to run?  Here’s how:

1) Join the team

Go to www.runtoendpoverty.ca and join ‘Team Waterloo’, choose which EWB chapter you’ll be fundraising for and write a small blurb about why you run.  This will displayed on your own personal fundraising page which you can use to collect donations for your run.

2) Register for the run

It is important to note that registration on the Run to End Poverty website is separate and independent from registration in the EndurRace run itself.

It is absolutely crucial that you also register at http://www.eventsonline.ca/events/endurrace/.

3) Start fundraising

Along with raising awareness, one of the main goals of the Run to End Poverty is fundraising to support EWB’s activities in Canada and Africa. It is up to the individual runners to choose the chapter they would like to support. The money raised by those selecting EWB-Grand River will go towards supporting our African Program Partners.

To give you a hand, we have created a fundraising email template, (that you can personalize and send to friends) and some hints and tips on ways in which you can carry out your fundraising (facebook, personal emails, etc). Both were a great help to other chapters, with several people raising over $500, and a few even passing $1000!

4) Training Runs

i) If there is interest, we can coordinate Grand River chapter group training runs, let us know!

ii) The Running room runs (accessible to anyone, every week):

When: Saturday, April 24, 6:00 pm
Where: Columbia Lake Health Club
Check out http://www.runwaterloo.com/endurrace.html for more details!

OK – the run is in less than 5 weeks, so get out there, and let’s Run to End Poverty!

Run to End Poverty is a team of compassionate runners united for a common cause – to bring an end to extreme poverty in Africa. Since 2007, runners across Canada and Africa have run together to raise awareness about extreme poverty, and to build support for Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB) development efforts in Africa. In just two years the team has grown with races now planned in Vancouver, Montreal, Waterloo, Calgary and Ottawa!

The Run to End Poverty team is unique in that each running event is partnered with a run in developing communities across Africa, where EWB is working hard to build local capacity and create positive change. Through this connection, Canadians can learn more about international development and the people whose lives are changed by organizations like Engineers Without Borders (Canada). By raising awareness through high-profile local races and through the people we touch during fundraising activities, we hope to build stronger support for Canadian international development initiatives.

This is the first year that the Run to End Poverty has come to Waterloo and we hope that you will join us! The Waterloo Run to End Poverty will take place as part of the EndurRace on April 24th at 6:00 PM. There will be both 3K and 8K options – something for every level of runner. You don’t have to be a member of Engineers Without Borders to get involved – all runners are welcome.

Are you ready to run? Here’s how:

1) Join the team

Go to www.runtoendpoverty.ca and join ‘Team Waterloo’, choose which EWB chapter you’ll be fundraising for and write a small blurb about why you run. This will displayed on your own personal fundraising page which you can use to collect donations for your run.

2) Register for the run

It is important to note that registration on the Run to End Poverty website is separate and independent from registration in the EndurRace run itself.

It is absolutely crucial that you also register at http://www.eventsonline.ca/events/endurrace/.

3) Start fundraising

Along with raising awareness, one of the main goals of the Run to End Poverty is fundraising to support EWB’s activities in Canada and Africa. It is up to the individual runners to choose the chapter they would like to support. The money raised by those selecting EWB-Grand River will go towards supporting our African Program Partners.

To give you a hand, we have created a fundraising email template, (that you can personalize and send to friends) and some hints and tips on ways in which you can carry out your fundraising (facebook, personal emails, etc). Both were a great help to other chapters, with several people raising over $500, and a few even passing $1000!

4) Training Runs

i) If there is interest, we can coordinate Grand River chapter group training runs, let us know!

ii) The Running room runs (accessible to anyone, every week):

When: Wednesday @ 6:30pm (check store info for details), Sunday @ 8:30am
Where: Running rooms in Waterloo (On King St. in Uptown)
Check out http://www.runningroom.com/hm/inside.php?id=2410 for more details!

OK – the run is in less than 5 weeks, so get out there, and let’s Run to End Poverty!

25 Mar

By

A&WMA Premier Technical Series: EWB’s Evidence Based Decision Making in Northern Ghana

March 25, 2010 | By |

Imagine you are working for the local government of the Saboba District in Ghana, West Africa. Many of the communities within the District are in extreme need of services and infrastructure like clean water, sanitation facilities, and health care. You have many separate donors who want to give you money and implement projects they think will  help the people of your area. But some of these donors have never been to your area and don’t understand the challenges being faced; others are pushing projects that overlap. You can’t say no to these donors because you don’t want to lose their support and money – it is often their money which is keeping your District afloat. So you go along with all of their projects, and although some problems are solved, often the solutions are ineffective, and real causes of problems are left lingering.

Shamir Tanna has spent the last year working the Saboba District Assembly to promote and facilitate the use of evidence-based decision making in the selection of locations for boreholes, latrines, schools, and health centers. The goal of this work is to ensure that the District Assembly can respond such that communities that are in the most urgent need will be helped first, with the right interventions, based on the opportunities and funding sources available. Shamir will speak about his capacity building role, as part of EWB’s Governance and Rural Infrastructure Team and their broader objectives to support effective planning cycle activities and a regional monitoring system at the local government level in Northern Ghana.

The Air and Waste Management Association, Ontario Section has invited EWB to present at their March Premier Technical Presentation Series in Waterloo, on April 28, 2010, with all proceeds of the event going towards EWB-Grand River.

Speaker: Shamir Tanna, African Program Staff, Engineers Without Borders Canada

Shamir Tanna graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 2007. Prior to his work with Engineers Without Borders, Shamir worked as an analyst at TD Securities. During this time, he helped found www.vconnectall.com, a Facebook site, which matches would-be volunteers with non-profit organizations.

Cost: AWMA Member $20, Non-member $25, Student Member $5, Student Non-Member $10, No prior notification surcharge $5

If possible please bring payment the day of the event in the form of cash or cheque (made payable to AWMA-Ontario Section).  All proceeds go to support EWB-Grand River’s African Programs

To Register: Contact Camille Taylor by phone: 519-884-0510

Date: Wednesday April 28, 2010

Note: This event has been rescheduled from the original March 31, 2010 scheduled date.

Time: 7:30 A.M. Registration and Breakfast, 8:00 A.M. – 9:10 A.M. Presentation

Location: Conestoga-Rovers & Associates Ltd., 40 Bathurst Drive, Waterloo, ON

23 Mar

By

AllAfrica: Excellent Source for African News

March 23, 2010 | By |

As their ‘Who We Are’ page describes: “AllAfrica Global Media is a multi-media content service provider, systems technology developer and the largest electronic distributor of African news and information worldwide.”  I find their headlines RSS really useful for keeping an eye on African news.  Bonnes nouvelles for our francophone members, AllAfrica also has a French site.    

Two articles I found really interesting last week are:

Ghana:  Massive Jatropha Farming Threatens Food Security   –  A recent study by Action Aid Ghana   (AAG) and their Food Security Policy Advocacy Network   (FoodSPAN)  in four Ghanaian regions, shows that the production of biofuel (from Jatropha oil)  is having a detrimental impact on food crop farmers.

Ghana:  New Wells Boost School Attendance, Improve Public Health  –  This short news item reports some encouraging results from the United Nations Development Program’s Community Water Initiative in Zukpuri Traditional Area in Ghana.  One of the impressive improvements resulting from this UNDP project has been an increase in local school attendance rates from 25 percent to 95 percent.

21 Mar

By

EWB New Member Happy Hour

March 21, 2010 | By |

What does Engineers Without Borders do? Where and how does it work? I’m not an engineer; can I still become involved?  What exactly can I do?  For answers to these questions and more, you are invited to join us for our New Member Happy Hour next Saturday, March 27. Members of EWB-Grand River will be on hand to introduce you to our chapter and our work, and our Junior Fellow Elizabeth Logan will talk about her recent work with EWB in Ghana.

When: Saturday, March 27, 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Where: Huether Hotel (59 King Street North, Waterloo) in the Barley Works Boardroom

Ghanaian villagersAbout Liz: Recently, Elizabeth Logan traveled to Ghana to work in EWB’s ongoing ‘Agriculture as a Business’ project in cooperation with the Ghanaian Ministry of Food & Agriculture. Liz’s efforts not only helped African farmers pull themselves out of poverty, but are continuing to help enrich the experiences of our chapter. During her field tenure she acted as our eyes and ears on the ground relaying the challenges and successes of her work.  Since her return, she has continued to educate and inspire us to enhance the way we think as engineers and individuals in Canada.

For more information, please contact Alyssa or Stephanie through our contact page. See you there…

PS: Stay tuned to the website for a similar new members event next month in Guelph!

15 Mar

By

Women’s Stories – Women’s Hope, and International Celebration

March 15, 2010 | By |

On Saturday, March 27th Ten Thousand Villages and the Mennonite Economic Development Associates are proud to present Roopa Mehta as part of Women’s Stories – Women’s Hope, and International Celebration.

Saturday, March 27th , 2 – 4 pm,
Victoria Park Pavilion,
80 Schneider Ave, Kitchener
Admission is free although donations will be accepted.

Roopa Mehta is the Executive Director of the Indian Fair Trade producer group Sasha and will be speaking on “Impacting lives through Fair Trade: A Sasha perspective”. Sasha employs more than 5,000 artisans in over 100 workshops with 70 percent of these artisans being women.

Ann Gordon from MEDA will also share personal stories of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan who are seeing new hope for their future through MEDA’s economic development programs.  The afternoon will  include a colourful dance presentation by Swati & Nidhi Juthani, and an opportunity to sample Fair Trade food and beverages (brownies, cookies, jams and chutneys, olive oil and zatar, nuts, chocolate, coffee, tea, hot chocolate). 

For more information contact Ingrid Heinrichs Pauls at Ten Thousand Villages.

 

15 Mar

By

Art & Agriculture: A Focus on Zambia

March 15, 2010 | By |

On March 24th, 2010 at 7pm, EWB-University of Guelph will be hosting “An Evening of Art and Agriculture: Focus on Zambia”. The event includes a silent auction of Zambian paintings and photographs collected by 2009 UG Junior Fellow, Tony Fedec and a workshop detailing agricultural value chains – one of the main sectors of EWB’s work in Africa. For more information, watch the video below.

WHEN: March 24th, 2010. 7pm
WHERE: Guelph Italian Club, 135 Ferguson Street, Guelph
REGISTRATION: Please register online at http://www.uoguelph.ewb.ca.  
TICKETS:  $20 for one, $30 for two and $50 for four.

15 Mar

By

Water Complex

March 15, 2010 | By |

My flip flops slap against the ground as I call out “Desiba” (“Good morning”) to the women walking past on the narrow dirt path. Ahead of me, Rashida balances two giant metal containers on her head, while Zewera follows behind. We come over a small ridge and I find myself looking at a large pond. Rashida and Zewera continue down the slope to the water, where they hike up their skirts and wade in. They fill the two buckets with the milky-looking water and help each other hoist the containers back up onto their heads. They are strong – those buckets must weigh at least 100 lbs. As we walk the 8 minutes back to the compound, other women call out, laughing and asking me where my water is. I tried carrying a small bucket yesterday, but my head-balancing skills are definitely not up to par. Today I’ve elected to bring my camera instead (it’s one or the other – I spill too much water when I’m carrying it on my head to bring a camera!).

We arrive back at the compound and Rashida and Zewera skillfully pour the water from the tops of their heads into the giant clay pots that are fixed to the ground. Inside, the new water mixes with the old, left over from last night’s trip to the pond. Rashida takes an old tomato can from beside the pots, scoops up some water and takes a long drink. She refills it, then takes it over to where her 7-month-old daughter Failatu is sitting on a reed mat and holds the can for her to drink. Zewera does the same for her 2-year-old son, Mohammed Awa. Then the two women pick up their containers and head back to the pond for another load.

This scene, from the village of Gbabshie, is unfortunately common in northern Ghana. These two women will make the trip to the pond 4-5 times per day to supply this 11-person household with water. Luckily for them, it’s not a long walk – some women walk over 2 km to access water in the dry season. They will use this water for all of their household needs: cooking, bathing, drinking and washing. They know the water is not good, but they have no other choice. Mr. Iddirisu, the sole member of the household who can speak any English, says “we see the goats defecating near the water and we know it’s not safe. We need a borehole but no NGO has yet come.”

Iddirisu’s statement is indicative of the development culture in Ghana. Though they may try, the government of Ghana has not been successful at meeting the needs of its population. This is both an issue of resources and of capacity (more on that in later posts). As a result, the doors have been thrown open to NGOs, foreign development agencies and multilateral institutions to fill the gap. Ghana in particular has become a “development darling” thanks to its relative stability and support for foreign projects. Now there are literally thousands of projects operating here on all scales, from small local NGOs doing agroforestry projects, to multinational UN-funded campaigns to eradicate guinea worm. In many cases, NGOs are playing a role that would traditionally be filled by the government – hardly a sustainable model.

Let’s get back to the water problem in Gbabshie: the community needs a safe water source. It would be easy to come into the community, see the women and children drinking from this filthy pond, make a quick video appealing for donations from friends in Canada, and pay a local NGO to install a borehole. Bam! problem solved. But is it really solved? Let’s take a closer look.

Have you ever been given something for free? Maybe it was a bicycle, a phone, a book, just something that someone else didn’t want anymore. How much value did you place on this discarded item from your friend? Probably not much – it wasn’t worth much to him/her, so why should it be worth so much to you?

What about this: have you ever shared a resource with a large group of people? Maybe it was a common kitchen in your house, or supply of toilet paper in an outhouse at camp. What was the state of this shared resource after some time passed? Did you have to put some structure in place to manage the resource well? What incentives did you have to care for the resource, and how did you react to other people using it in different ways?

These two issues both come into play when discussing a village borehole: you’re giving something away for free to a group of people. Of course they will appreciate it – clean water! But how will they treat the borehole? Who will take care of it? Who will be responsible for paying for repairs? Who has priority over the water? It is common to come back to one of these villages a year later and still see women walking to the pond to get water. The borehole has broken down, and no one is responsible for paying for repairs, so they haven’t been done. Besides, why pay for repairs when any day an NGO might come along and repair it for free?

In the middle of the village of Gbabshie lies a testament to these issues. The women’s group here received a grinding mill several years ago. Now it lies in disrepair, covered in cobwebs (photo above). No one is willing to pay to have it fixed, so all the money the NGO put into buying and installing the machine in the first place has gone to waste.

These issues of sustainability are always prevalent in development projects. It is easy to fill an immediate need; it is much more difficult to change the institutional environment around that resource so that the change will be sustained. For a borehole, several conditions need to be in place. Someone needs to be responsible for managing that borehole, whether it is one person or a committee of people. Users need to contribute money for maintenance and repairs. For this to happen, people need to see value in having a working borehole, which means they need to be educated on water and health issues. When the borehole breaks down, skilled technicians need to be accessible to the community at an affordable price. Replacement parts must be locally available in a timely manner. People must know their rights and how to address the authorities if they are being taken advantage of. And NGOs must not continue to offer new things for free which undermine the existing system.

This example demonstrates the complexity of poverty and development. There are simple solutions, but there are no simple problems, so the simple solutions will inevitably fail. To address the complex problem of poverty, we need complex solutions that change the operating environment of development in Ghana. Institutional changes take time to produce, but the effect is long-lasting and the impact is much greater.

09 Mar

By

‘Science’ Special Issue On Food Security

March 9, 2010 | By |

A special collection of articles in the February 12th issue of Science (the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) examines a wide range of topics on the subject of Food Security.

If you just have two minutes, check out the short promo video “Feeding the Future” on the introductory page of this issue.  If you have 30 minutes, you may be interested in the special audio podcast.

Science has made access to this special section free, though non-subscribers are required to fill out a simple registration.  You may find it useful to complete the basic free registration to AAAS anyway if you’re not already a member, as it gives you full access (hoorah!) to all Science journal articles (after 1997) over one year old.  For those who might not feel like using the registration process, I’ve starred the few titles from this special issue where you can access the article in full, just by clicking on the “Read the Full Text” tab at the end of the summary paragraphs.

If you only have time to skim through one article, I’d suggest the excellent review article Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People.  And if you’re looking for an interesting Dorothy (who is Dorothy?) story in this issue, do check out the news story From One Farmer about Winifred Omoding, a farmer in Olagara, Uganda.

Here’s the listing of articles:

News

From One Farmer, Hope – and Reason for Worry  Gaia Vince
Getting More Drops to the Crops  Gaia Vince
China’s Push to Add by Subtracting Fertilizer  Mara Hvistendahl
*Sowing the Seeds for the Ideal Crop  Elizabeth Pennisi

*Armed and Dangerous  Elizabeth Pennisi
Holding Back a Torrent of Rats  Dennis Normile
Spoiling for a Fight with Mold  Dennis Normile
*Dialing Up Knowledge – and Harvests  Richard Stone
*What It Takes to Make That Meal
Could Less Meat Mean More Food?  Erik Stokstad
For More Protein, Filet of Cricket  Gretchen Vogel

Reviews

* Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People  H. C. J. Godfray et al
Breeding Technologies to Increase Crop Production in a Changing World   M. Tester and P. Langridge

Perspectives

Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed-Crop-Livestock Systems  M. Herrero et al
Measuring Food Insecurity  C. B. Barrett
Precision Agriculture and Food Security  R. Gebbers and V. I. Adamchuk
African Green Revolution Needn’t Be a Mirage  G. Ejeta
*Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century N. V. Fedoroff et al