Guinea-Bissau Water Project – Richard Kagel
Guinea-Bissau Water Project – Richard Kagel
Richard presented a program on the progress of the Guinea-Bissau water project, of which our Club is a sponsor.
Richard has been involved with Guinea-Bissau for over four years. His initial interest in the country came as the result of traveling with a long time employee from his business who was originally from Guinea-Bissau, who after 19 years of working for Richard, decided to return home to live in his native land. Richard accompanied him on his trip home, in hopes of dissuading him from making the move. Instead, Richard became intrigued with the land and its peoples.
Guinea-Bissau is a very poor country. Most people earn approximately two dollars a day for their services. The country is plagued with political unrest and has little or no infrastructure.
Illness, due primarily to water-borne infections, is rife. There is a 10% infant mortality in the first year of life, and of those children who live through the first year one out of seven will die before the age of seven. There is one doctor per 20,000 inhabitants. Most of this illness can be traced to contaminated drinking water.
Richard has made six trips to Guinea-Bissau that have culminated in the building of a production facility to make ceramic water filtration devices that are affordable and effective in improving the quality of the drinking water.
As part of his presentation, he showed a video of a Ted talk that outlined reasons why aid projects frequently fail. The main reason is that local people are not engaged in the project and do not take ownership of the project once the donors have left the country. Infrastructure may be created, but rapidly falls into disrepair and is no longer usable.
Richard has been engaging local people with his project throughout the four years that it has been developed. He has good working relationship with the local people, their churches, the local governing bodies as well as a broad base of supporters from outside the country.
This project has been fraught with mishaps, most notably with the initial firing of the kiln which melted the steel members supporting it resulting in its complete collapse. It has since been rebuilt and has been fired successfully numerous times.
The product produced is a ceramic pot made of clay mixed with sawdust. The clay and sawdust are mixed and pressed in a mold. During the firing process, the sawdust burns off, leaving multiple microscopic pores in the finished pot. This is treated with colloidal silver, which is a very potent antibacterial,/anti-parasitic agent that is stable over time. Each pot manufactured goes through a simple quality testing process to assure that it is filtering properly and uniformly. In the initial production runs, only 2-3 out of 400 pots have passed the standards. There have been adjustments to the hydraulic press used to form the pots, which is resulting in a much higher success rate.
Richard will be returning to Guinea-Bissau in April of this year along with six other people from the community of supporters to oversee production and to help make the facility more efficient.