March 29, 2010

WSE students seek voting support for South Africa project

Johns Hopkins students who are helping to build irrigation systems to improve the productivity of agricultural gardens in an impoverished region of South Africa are urging supporters to vote online to help them win a $50,000 prize to fund their efforts.

This project, entered by the Johns Hopkins chapter of Engineers Without Borders–USA, is a semifinalist in the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition. Voting to select three finalists is under way through April 14.

Since 2005 the group has been working in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where a high HIV/AIDS rate has left many elderly grandmothers as the primary caretakers for orphaned and vulnerable children. Often, these women must carry water by hand to the gardens where they raise crops. To ease this burden and improve crop production, the students have been installing ram pump systems that use stream flow to move water to the gardens without the need for fuel, electricity or even manual labor.

The students also hope to launch a technology and development center at the Zakhe Agricultural College, a vocational high school in KwaZulu-Natal, where the team hopes to promote training of locals.

To vote for this project, register at www, click on View Ideas and/or search for Sustainable Irrigation for Community Agriculture in Rural South Africa, then click on Promote