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EWB-UA members Terra Michaels, left, internal vice president, and Dave Newman, project lead, raising funds and awareness at the Engineers Breakfast Oct 24.

Engineers Play Frisbee to Raise Funds for Clean Water for African Villages

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Engineers Play Frisbee to Raise Funds for Clean Water for African Villages

Nov. 4, 2008
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Student chapter of Engineers Without Borders is helping bring clean water to 10,000 people in Africa.

The UA chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-UA) organized Frisbee Without Borders, an Ultimate Frisbee competition to raise money for its clean water projects in Ghana and Mali in Africa.

Map showing geographical locations of Mali and Ghana.

The competition was held Sunday, Nov. 9 from noon to 6 p.m. at Himmel Park, which is on Tucson Boulevard one block south of Speedway Boulevard.

EWB-UA started the Ghana water supply and purification project in the village of Mafi-Zongo in 2005. Ultimately, the project will supply safe drinking water to approximately 10,000 people in 30 or more villages. The Ghana project has been reported on by Arizona Engineer and UANews (see side bar).

Deadly Trek for Water

Trahern Jones, president of EWB-UA, said the group is also raising funds for an assessment trip to the village of Mandoli in Mali, followed by one or two implementation trips. “We're looking at designing and constructing a rainwater catchment system to provide people and crops with water throughout the year,” he said.

Chris Bentley, EWB-UA’s Peace Corps contact in Mali, explained the dire need for the catchment system. “The nearest water source is a small spring at the base of a cliff. Women and children walk this rocky, steep path to the spring from June until it dries up in January or February,” Bentley said. “In October, a young boy fell off this path and died.”

Children playing soccer, Dogon region, Mali. (Photo: Jelle Jansen)

Bentley said Mandoli’s nearest well is close to drying up, and that the next nearest is two kilometers (1.24 miles) distant. “There is a pump in Mandoli that was installed the 1990s,” said Bentley, “but it is broken and has not been fixed or replaced.”

Mandoli is a very rural village that depends on subsistence agriculture; therefore, few materials, such as concrete and metal, are attainable. Using rock cisterns as rainwater catchment vessels might be a possibility. “For perhaps centuries, the Dogon people have carved shallow rainwater catchments into the sandstone bedrock,” said Bentley. “They are familiar with catchment and are interested in ways to store more water. In addition to a large catchment project, the village could be educated in rainwater micro-catchments that could be applied in gardens.”

Bentley explained that rainwater catchment would increase the amount of water in the village and alleviate some of the burdens of carrying water long distances or along dangerous routes. “The presence of water would then allow the village to begin to address water quality issues,” he said. “Rainwater catchment would also be a welcome addition to this region and could prove to be an adoptive technology for the surrounding communities.”

EWB-UA President Trahern Jones said of Mandoli’s plight: “EWB-UA sees this as a surmountable challenge, and we’re looking to raise funds from the UA and Tucson community to aid in our efforts.”