Earth Clinic Seed Funding Competition Year 2010-2011

In order to help achieve the goals of the Earth Clinic, a competition for project seed money was held. The Earth Clinic Steering Committee received 15 proposals. The proposals were reviewed by the Earth Clinic Steering Committee and 3 proposals were recommended for funding totaling $72,129. Information on the funded projects is below.

Contact: Dr. Pedro A. Sanchez, Director, Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment
Title of Project: Improving Post Harvest Handling of Maize and Bean Grains for Increased Food Security in Ruhiira Millennium Villages Project, Uganda
Scope of Project: Since Ruhiira became a site of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), agricultural intervention has resulted in crop diversification and increasing yields. Unfortunately, the increased harvests have not fully translated into sustainable improved food security. The inability to attain food security is mainly attributed to poor post harvest handling at household level, as the farmers lack knowledge and appropriate facilities to store the produce. To avoid loss and deterioration and sustain food security in Ruhiira, there is a need to promote appropriate storage facilities in the area. Our study will introduce and assess various improved storage technologies, as well as the traditional ones currently under use. We will determine their relative influences on stored grain. As a result, the technologies registering minimal damage and loss over a specific storage period will be promoted in the area.

Contact: Darby Jack, Assistant Professor, Environmental Health Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health
Title of Project: A Newborn Cookstove Program for India
Scope of Project: Particles from incomplete combustion of traditional biomass cooking fuels pose a major risk to health in many parts of the developing world. A Columbia University working group  was convened in 2007 to foster research related to the health impacts of traditional biomass cooking, and has commenced and/or completed work in Uganda, India, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda to date. Our involvement in a range of research questions in this domain has led to a focus on two top-priority questions. First, how clean is clean enough? Second, what approach to targeting interventions will deliver the greatest benefit? In December 2009, the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced the National Biomass Cookstove Initiative to distribute approximately 150 million high efficiency stoves in the next 15 years. This Earth Clinic study will identify cooking practices and intervention models that reach the most vulnerable, that improve health markedly, and that can be scaled nationally as part of the new initiative. This work will provide a critical input into a broad effort to develop a major research and intervention program in India.

Contact: Patricia Culligan, Professor, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics
Title of Project: Piece it Together (PiT) Sustainable Engineering Program
Scope of Project: In accordance with the country’s Millennium Development Goals initiative, Ghana is well on its way to cutting its poverty levels in half by the 2015 target date. However, Ghanaians still face enormous hurdles in infrastructure, energy, poverty, and public health. These challenges are only compounded by limited access to education and a lack of socially responsible leaders. Through ‘Piece it Together’ (PiT), we aim to present a long-term solution to these issues by evaluating a flexible hands-on curriculum and collaborative educational model. PiT is a four-week summer engineering institute designed to encourage and investigate project-based experiential learning in the education of socially responsible scientists and engineers in developing communities. The program was first launched as a pilot program in the summer of 2009 with the goal of demonstrating that experiential, project-based learning is an effective and scalable model for educating future leaders in science and engineering. The Earth Clinic seed funding will initiate the long-term evaluation and dissemination of the PiT educational model.