Beginning in April 2006, EWB-USA UMN worked with the African Resources Center (ARC) to develop a plan to address water and sanitation needs of the Minnesota Academy, a grade school that provides education for 1,300 rural children. The Minnesota Academy is located in the Agona-Swedru region, an area of Ghana in desperate need of rural schools. Since the construction of the initial school building in 2004, the Minnesota Academy has been providing children in the region a state-certified education necessary for entrance into high school, centering on subjects such as reading, writing, math, history, and health. However, as enrollment at the school soared, water and sanitation problems were magnified. The lack of a reliable water source nearby forced students to either drink from contaminated surface water—which led to intestinal diseases—or to walk a mile to obtain water from the nearest clean source, disrupting their school day. Rudimentary pit toilets on the school property were highly unsanitary, leaching human waste into nearby water sources, and did not provide a sustainable and healthy waste disposal system. These problems threatened to reverse positive trends in enrollment and attendance at the Minnesota Academy.
In July of 2006, EWB-USA UMN members traveled to Ghana with a professional engineering mentor, Walter Eshenaur, a water resources engineer with 13-years of experience in drinking water supply construction through UNICEF and other agencies in Somalia and Ethiopia, to conduct a site assessment of the Minnesota Academy. The objective of the site assessment was to gather independent water quality and site data. This consisted of testing water sources used by people in the surrounding areas, a detailed site survey using a total station and GPS, and extensive information-gathering meetings with Ghanaians ranging from local day-laborers to chiefs and decision makers in the immediate and surrounding communities.
Data from the site assessment was used to develop a Capstone Design project for students in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Minnesota under the mentorship of Walter Eshenaur. The objectives of Capstone Design course was to implement thoroughly researched designs for locally sustainable solutions to water and sanitation problems at the Minnesota Academy, and provide a unique and challenging design experience for students interested in engineering in developing nations.
Project Design and Implementation
Five students in the Capstone Design class worked on designs with Mr. Eshenaur during the 2006-2007 school year. Their designs consisted of a bore-hole well fitted with an AC/DC pump. Solar panels were used to power the pump. EWB-UMN implemented these designs at the Minnesota Academy in Ghana in July of 2007, under the guidance of their professional mentor.