Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

2010 November

News and Updates from our Chapter

25 Nov


EWB Perspectives Challenge

November 25, 2010 | By |

What’s Your Perspective ?  Join In !

“What does poverty reduction look like? How should it be done?
What’s an engineers role? You likely have a perspective. So do the
people creating pages on this site. They want to challenge yours,
by sharing theirs. They believe in Engineers Without Borders’ (EWB)
systemic approach to addressing the root causes of poverty.
Intrigued? Read their perspectives. And, if you suddenly
see things a little differently, make a donation to EWB.”

There sure are some inspiring profiles on the EWB Perspectives website !

For starters, do drop by the Perspectives pages of our Grand River Team ~

         NaomiDane and  Alyssa.

22 Nov


Engineers Without Borders 10th Anniversary Conference

November 22, 2010 | By |

Have you seen the list of truly fabulous speakers that are all coming for the conference in January?  And we’ve heard there are a few more still being added to this impressive list.  This really will be the best ever EWB Canada conference.

21 Nov


Farming Lessons

November 21, 2010 | By |

From Don McMurtry’s EWB  Blog  Mudzi Madzi :

Last night it rained most of the night and today the radio was saying “the rains have arrived” as they forecasted clouds and rain across most of the central and southern parts of the country. The farmers have been preparing their fields for months and will probably move into planting mode this week. In some places where it has already rained, maize is sprouting.

Over the past few weeks I have learned a few things about farming in Malawi:

Lesson #1 — Everybody farms
Well almost everyone, but with over 80% of people in Malawi depending to a great extend upon their farming income and harvest, it is the foundation of the economy. Obviously we all rely upon farmers, but at home it is easy to forget about them. Here in Malawi, farming, even if you live in one of the large cities, is hard to ignore — there are people selling domestically grown food in the streets every day. Even wealthy Malawians will frequently have some land within their walled and guarded grounds to grow some food, typically mazine (aka white corn).

Lesson 2 — Farming can be Controversial
I started this message about three weeks ago when I discovered enormous lineups for subsidized fertilizer. The photo doesn’t give a sense for the scale of hundreds of people waiting to get seeds or fertilizer. It also doesn’t show hundreds of bicycles like the ones in the foreground that will peddle and push a 50kg bag to a near-by village. The door opens at 7:30, I am not sure when the line starts forming — probably very early if you live 10 or 20 kilometers away. These lineups will continue for some more weeks as some people just received their coupons today.

A few weeks ago the lead story in the newspapers was about a large NGO suggesting the government could not sustain the small farmer assistance program and it should be stopped. The President of Malawi says and does a lot of strange things, but I agreed with his response that western nations have substantial subsidies to various industries and they have no grounds for complaining about his government helping poor farmers.

In each village there is a process for deciding who qualifies for subsidy assistance, with input coming from the village chief, a committee and the Agriculture Ministry’s local staff. Being on the list means you will receive four coupons (50kg fertilizer, 50 kg urea fertilizer, maize & legume seeds) and it seems they must come on different days for each item. The subsidized price for the fertilizer is about $3.50 vs the normal $30-$35 list price. Apparently fertilizer this year is half the price of last year. I can only imagine that someone left off the list would not be very happy.

Lesson 3 — Small change, big result
A few weeks ago a colleague from Canada made a short visit to Malawi on her way to Mozambique and Zambia to check some facts and gather some first-hand stories for a report she is helping edit. Nidhi’s contacts took us to visit some farmers who have been using a technique referred to as conservation farming.

Since I arrived in Malawi, I have watched people all across the country hoe their land into long ridges that contour the land — the standard method for growing maize. Everyone grows white corn in Malawi because virtually everyone eats it a couple times per day in the form of nsima. The conservation method creates pits across a field and they generate about 50-100% more yield for the farmers we met. The logic is that the pit holds rain water better and reduces runoff. In a dry year that is critical. The land is also not tilled every year which helps reduce soil loss and also keeps more water in the soil. Some farmers we met also inter-crop — meaning they plant other species within the pits. Beans are the classic because they put nitrogen into the soil while maize consumes it.

You can continue to follow Don’s blog at

18 Nov


Chapter Planning Meeting

November 18, 2010 | By |

Next Grand River Chapter Meeting:  December 16

The next meet-and-greet and planning meeting of the Grand River Chapter is currently scheduled for December 16th at 7 PM.   (Please check back here on the day of the meeting, in case of any last minute update regarding location or time.)  Anyone considering becoming more involved in the Grand River Professional chapter, or wanting to learn more about Engineers Without Borders in general, is invited to attend.  We’ll have lots of interesting feedback from our chapter’s fantastic group of volunteers currently working in Ghana and Malawi.  If you have to drive through snow to get to us, we’ll have Fair Trade hot chocolate to warm you up !

Location:  Christ Lutheran Church, 445 Anndale Road (off Lexington just past intersection with Davenport), Waterloo ON,  N2K 2E3  (Lots of parking available)

15 Nov


Advocacy Workshop Series

November 15, 2010 | By |

How can you influence our government to develop more effective foreign aid policies?
Does Canada actually live up to its international aid commitments?

Find out what you can do to advocate for more effective aid!

EWB Ottawa will be hosting a three-part series on how to create change within our government and make our foreign development aid more effective. No matter who you work for, this is useful information about how our government works, and the topics covered will apply to whichever cause fires you up. We’ll be focusing on aid effectiveness, but the material covered and the principles you will learn can be applied much more broadly. Here’s your chance to attend a modified version of the $1350 workshop civil government workers are exposed to at a dirt cheap price (as low as $5!).
You may attend one, two, or all three workshops, and pricing is set accordingly. Please visit the website for more details on registration costs.

Workshop 1: Is Canada’s aid effective?

Thursday, November 11 (6-9pm)

University of Ottawa: University Centre 207 (85 University Private, Room 207)

This workshop will explore where Canada stands on foreign aid, the various international commitments related to aid and how we can foster better aid effectiveness on the ground. The accountability, creativity, and transparency of Canada’s foreign aid will also be investigated.


Workshop 2: How Government Works

Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21  (10-4pm)

Location T.B.D.

The highlight of the series is a  two-day workshop on how the Canadian government works. This is a modified version of the workshop for new public servants (with an original cost of $1,350) and will show how individuals and groups can create change within the Canadian government. Heavy emphasis will be placed on how the government is structured and the access points through which change within the government can be created. The workshop will explore the roles and actions of government entities, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office, and the dynamics between a minister’s office and their associated department. Special emphasis will be placed on the role of the central agencies, Cabinet, Parliament, and the courts. The major processes explained include yearly planning and estimates , the passage of a bill through Parliament, and the approval of Memoranda to Cabinet (MCs) and Treasury Board Submissions (TB Subs). This is one workshop you do not want to miss!!

This course does not offer the official text-book version of the system; it provides insights into the real workings of government in a lively and entertaining manner, using an array of photos, videos, and discussions. In particular, this version of the workshop will provide considerable time for answering your specific questions.

***Please note that a lunch break will be provided, but participants will be responsible for their own lunch. It is recommended that a lunch is brought. Refreshments and snacks will be offered throughout the day.


Workshop 3: Shop Day – Creating the Action Plan

Thursday November 25 (6-9pm) or Saturday November 27 (2-5pm)

Locations T.B.D.

This workshop will enable participants to apply the material learned from previous workshops to created an action plan for Advocacy in Ottawa. We recommend that you have previously attended the “How Government Works” workshop. Please note there is a choice in dates — please attend the day that works best for you.

For more info and to register visit

12 Nov


Phone Chat With Mark In Ghana

November 12, 2010 | By |

Mark Soares has been on the ground with EWB in the Saboba Region of Ghana since late August working with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Join us for a group chat with Mark to hear his personal perspective on life in Ghana and working with EWB overseas.

Mark SoaresThis is a great chance to address those curiosities you have about “Just what does EWB do?” as Mark is experiencing it first hand and is always excited to share and answer questions.

Email Naomi Knischewsky at with your Skype information if you’d like to join us!  If you are not currently a Skype user but would still like to join us for the group chat, we can dial in cell phones and land lines to the conversation as well.  Just send us your preferred contact number.

Date:  Sunday November 14th

Time 10:00 a.m.

11 Nov


Who’s coming to EWB National Conference 2011?

November 11, 2010 | By |

Hey Everyone ~

It’s EWB’s 10th anniversary and we’re having our biggest conference yet to celebrate in Toronto this January. For the past three weeks I was seconded to the conference team to build a website to generate some buzz about who’s coming to conference. Check it out here:

Anyways, that’s my quick status update on the project I’ve been working, it’s been tons of fun and I hope you enjoy playing around with it!

I’m heading off to the West Africa Retreat in mere minutes – should be a great weekend.