Friday, June 24, 2011

It's been too long!

Sorry for the delay. Who would have thought? Reliable internet is hard to find in rural Ghana!

There have been a slew of updates since our last post. After the broken press, we arrived the next morning to find that the manager of the saw mill donated new lumber to the project. Due to his generosity, we were able to fix the press in no time. Following the repair, we made about 20 different mixtures of briquettes, conducted burn tests, and produced more of the briquettes that burned well. Production with the press is in full swing, and we are looking forward to more samples for testing.

We have made some great progress on the community involvement front. After working during the morning producing briquettes, we headed home for lunch. Upon arriving back at the press, two of the sawmill workers were eager to show us the briquettes that they had developed.

We were fortunate to be able to visit the Kwame Nukramah University of Science and Technology. There we met with three very helpful academics, all with experience in briquetting biomass and one who specializes in rural community enterprise. We learned a lot from our meetings and are excited about future collaboration on this project and others.

Friday is our last day in Patriensa, and nobody is looking forward to leaving. We have accomplished much in our short time, and are feverishly working now to make the most of our remaining time. We will update you after project completion, goodbye for now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life has its ups and downs

So we’ve got good news. The press is built! Unfortunately, we also have some bad news. The press is broke.
The saw mill that we are stationed has been a great work sight. We have shade, solid ground to work on, and the most friendly and curious workers that anyone can ask for. The kindness that Ghanaians exude has been nearly overwhelming. The workers at the mill, having only casually met us during our work, insist on helping us carry our tools and supplies across the lumber yard every morning and afternoon. The owner offered, without our asking, to lock the tools in his office nightly.
The press construction went slower than expected. Unfortunately the electric tools that we brought don’t like 50 Htz electricity available in Ghana. Therefore, some manual labor was in order. It took longer than hoped to source a hand drill and wood saw, but we finally succeeded. When the tools were available, press construction moved along as planned. We finally completed the press yesterday. It was looking good, so we decided to press a few briquettes before dusk. During the second compaction of the first batch of briquettes, we heard a loud crack. Immediately, we noticed the cracked main beam that compresses the briquettes. As bad as it looked, we decided to continue to carefully work until it reached complete failure, thinking that a patch would be impractical, so complete replacement was inevitable at some point. The third and final compaction was the last it could take. The two hardwood 2x6’s broke with quite a startle. It appears that the wood that was used to create the main beam was old and rotted, with evidence of mold growing along the fracture line. We hung our heads and called it a day, planning on purchasing new wood first thing in the morning. On the way out, we mentioned the problem to the saw mill proprietor. For the loss, he agreed to purchase outright the replacement boards for the beam. On the bright side, he happened to be cutting 4x6’s for a client, a perfect replacement to our joined 2x6 set up. We agreed to the deal and will start work tomorrow morning.
Another point of mention is that we designed and built the drying rack. It is an A-frame structure supporting bamboo pieces acting as skewers for the donut-shaped briquettes. We have had a lot of luck finding wild bamboo locally, and are anxious to get it working. That’s all for now, updates to follow.


Day of rest

Sunday was used as a recoup and relaxation day. We all attended Sunday church service at Pastor Kofi’s Presbyterian Church in the center of Patriensa. It was a welcome rest day and culturally awakening. After church service, several of us played soccer with the local children who were out of school. Overall Sunday was well received by the teams and left us ready to work hard on Monday.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hard at Work

Double post today! Our work these past few days has kept us too busy to make it to the local internet spot but we are making it up now. We've had a lot of progress. After a day in Kumasi gathering materials and meeting with some local contacts, we made it back out to Patriensa in time to have a quick team meeting before crashing in bed. Rising at sunset has been a hard transition! Today was incredibly productive. We started the day with a meeting with the local sawmill owner, who granted us permission to use the facility to work. We set to work early, where we were joined by several interested men that were on the grounds. After some curious watching from afar, we shook some hands and had some very helpful volunteers swinging hammers with us. It has been incredible how many people have been willing to lend a complete stranger a hand, no matter how strange the task. This continues to remind us how friendly and open Ghana is, and for that we are very thankful. The work continues tomorrow, with lent community tools and welcoming greetings. Updates in a few days!

Arrival in Patriensa!

After an early start this morning, the team headed to the village Patriensa from Accra. Upon arrival, we were greeted at the guest housing accommodations by Pastor Kofi, community leader and pastor of the local church, along with the kontihene, the right-hand man to the Chief. Our first view of the village started with a tour of the future site of Patriensa Pure, PUC Ghana Sachet team future facility for the production of sachet water and the repurposing of sachet bags. We also toured both sawmills in town, where we were pleasantly surprised with quantity and quality of sawdust and tools available.

The most interesting part of the day came upon meeting the Chief of the Patriensa area. At the chief’s palace, we were greeted by an assortment of sub-chiefs in colorful Ghanaian clothing. We were very warmly welcomed, and sat in on the traditional council meeting. Fruitlessly, we tried to catch bits and pieces of the local dialect, but to no avail. Pastor Kofi, fortunately, was there to translate for the team. After formally presenting our project to the Chief through Pastor Kofi and the Linguist, we said our goodbyes to the incredibly friendly Chief, and made our way back home. Full of freshly cooked rice and chicken, we began our night’s group meeting. Overall, a very promising day for the success of the project and a renewed zeal to begin work early in the moring.

-Sam and Kykta
The PUC team in the cheif's court.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Welcome to Accra

All of the team members arrived in Ghana yesterday with no issues. The flights were long and there wasn’t much sleep had, but fortunately we had a comfortable hotel room waiting. Today we toured Accra with our very kind and helpful guide Kwame. We toured the Kwame Nkrumah museum, where the following picture was taken, and visited the sprawling market at the National Cultural Center. After lunch on the beach we visited Trashy Bags with the PUC Ghana Sachet team. We set off early tomorrow morning for Patriensa, ready to make some progress!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ready to go!

We've been working hard preparing for our departure tomorrow. Sam, Alex Kykta and I will be travelling with the Ghana Sachet team, while Marc and Simon will provide support from home base. We have some very knowledgeable technical advisors travelling with us and are anxious to finally meet all of our local Ghanaian partners. Everything is packed and ready to go. On the ground in Ghana in two days and can't wait!

-Alex Breckel