Madagascar is the fourth-largest island country situated in the south-eastern region of Africa. According to Conservation International & World Wildlife Fund, its isolation from the rest of the African continent has allowed a rich biodiversity. Uncontrolled logging, overharvesting of fuelwood and the increasing rates of fires have caused that 80% of the original forest cover disappear threatening biological diversity, water resources, and soil stability. Additionally, it is one of the ten countries expected to be the most affected by climate change in the world, increasing the occurrence of cyclones as well as droughts. Access to electricity remains low with about 20% of the total population having access to modern forms of energy. In the rural areas, only about 5% have access to electricity.
To help to address this problem, I embarked on a project organized by Lernen-Helfen-Leben e.V., an association from Düsseldorf, Germany in 2016. The objectives of the project were under the framework of Sustainable Development Goals, precisely SDGs 3, 7, 12, 13 & 17. My work involved designing and developing a 20 W compact Solar PV System prototype and present it at the University of Fianarantsoa in Madagascar.
Figure 1 shows the developed Solar PV system prototype which I built in Germany and then took it with me to Madagascar for demonstration. Figure 2 displays me presenting my prototype in the Electrical Engineering department of the University of Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. The motivation of this work was to introduce the concept of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency to the students at the university who were very excited to get acquainted with the new technologies. Later I donated the prototype to the university for experimental usage. Regarding the impact of my visit to the university, a process of partnership between the University of Fianarantsoa and Hochschule Düsseldorf in Germany has been initiated with an aim to facilitate exchange and development of a Renewable Energy Lab.
The second part of my work was in a remote village called Andalamengoke in the south of Madagascar where I spent 3 weeks. In the vicinity of the village, there was a borewell which is the only source of fresh water around 5 km radius of that village. So Andalamengoke and the nearby villages are dependent on the borewell for their water demands. The problem was, however, the manually operated pump connected to the borewell which takes a great deal of physical strength to draw water from underground. To make things easier, my task was to develop a Solar PV based submersible water pumping system which would draw the water out with just a click of a switch.
Figure 3 shows the development and assembling of the solar water pumping system. Figure 4 displays the successful testing of the system. This part of the project was a great success as it suffices the water demand for the people living in Analamengoke village and the villages around the area and gave them easy access to fresh water.
Apart from that, other tasks I was involved in was experimentation with different locally available biomass materials to produce a suitable mixture for manufacturing an eco-friendly alternative fuel as Bio-briquettes to replace the use of charcoal as the cooking fuel in the village. It is a well-known fact that charcoal is accountable for huge indoor pollution and threatening the health of the kitchen workers especially women in the villages in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Figure 5 displays the manual press system developed in Germany and was taken to Madagascar to produce bio-briquettes. Figure 6 shows the produced briquettes using different biomass composition. During the test phase, the results show a positive trend although the briquettes were not as efficient as charcoal in terms of heat content, however, they were not as harmful as charcoal to the environment. More experimentation with the different combinations of locally produced biomass is required until the best combination is obtained to replace charcoal. I believe the impact will be huge as it will save lots of lives which are vulnerable due to the indoor pollution.
Overall, I consider the project a great success both personally and professionally. It gave me a sense of satisfaction for being able to bring about changes in so many lives and such things give me the motivation to keep working towards the betterment of the society and contribute to the community because I know that I can’t move mountains, but I can at least throw a stone and be the change that I want to see in the world.
Written by Deepak Mohapatra