Rich Kagel, founder and director of the Guinea-Bissau water project made a presentation to the Club of the current status of the project.
Rich Kagel, founder and director of the Guinea-Bissau water project made a presentation to the Club of the current status of the project.
Guinea-Bissau remains one of the poorest countries in the world with some of the lowest wages. He describes it as the worst country in which to be a mother due to the high infant mortality. Most babies are not given a name until they have reached their 10th week, because so many of them pass away before that time. People in the country are always sick, mainly from waterborne diseases, and through the clean water project Richard hopes to help to improve their lives. The country is poorly educated, with the average level of academic studies being fourth-grade. Life expectancy is 48 years. There is no stable central government, no public utilities, no clean water or adequate sewage systems are in existence.
Over the past several years the project has gotten going and a production facility was actually completed a little over a year ago. Unfortunately, the quality of the steel in the kiln was inadequate to support it while being fired and the entire thing collapsed. After reengineering it and obtaining higher-quality iron, a functioning kiln is now available.
The process of manufacturing pots required a great deal of hand mixing of the clay and sawdust. Over several firings, it has become apparent that the source of the sawdust (species of tree) has a significant impact on poor size and quality of the filtration system. The engineering of a proper mix is now pretty much fixed. Whereas earlier hand mixing led to inconsistencies in the clay/sawdust mixture, a recently acquired gasoline powered mixer has created a much more stable source of clay for pressing into the molds.
After his chronology of getting the project up working, he reflected on what has been successful and meaningful to him, as well as to the people of Guinea-Bissau from undertaking this project. Throughout, he has worked to gain their trust and respect in proving that this project is not just a project in which rich people from developed countries give something to people of poor and underdeveloped countries and then leave. Rather, he has been working on and asset-based partnership based on what the people of Guinea-Bissau feel their needs are and how they think they can solve them as well as how they can utilize the services and materials that are provided by the partners from the developed countries.
Inherent in this type of arrangement is the concept that it will take time to have a meaningful change occur. He likes to quote from Philippians in the New Testament about the mutual respect needed for people to work together in a positive way… In humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3 (NRSV). The project is well underway. Local people are buying in to its purpose and longevity. They are hoping to achieve a production rate of approximately 200 filters per week and ultimately to have the entire project taken over by the partners in Guinea-Bissau.