The Infra Innovations offices are located in the Smith Tower in Seattle, Washington. It is a beautiful building, constructed in 1914. Until the 1970's it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
Among the many employees at Smith Tower is Moses Dut, who has worked there for 13 years, first as an elevator operator and, more recently, in maintenance. Moses is originally from South Sudan and is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
Moses and Valentino were among the 20,000 Sudanese children who fled their villages when forces invaded them from the northern part of Sudan. They walked barefoot across 1,000 miles of African desert to Ethiopia, only to be forced out by violence in that country. They then walked another 1,000 miles to Kenya and spent several years in the Kakuma refugee camp. It was in this camp that Moses learned to speak English. Eventually, he was among those young men who were chosen to move to the United States to begin their new lives.
The nation of South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 and is now rebuilding itself. Many young men who have spent the last several years in the United States are now returning home to participate in this endeavor. Valentino, a true visionary, has established a foundation (the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation) dedicated to rebuilding his village of Marial Bai. He has succeeded in creating an outstanding "education compound," with a middle school, two libraries, a computer lab, and a teacher training program. He has especially emphasized the education of girls. This school has become a model for other schools throughout the country.
Valentino has asked Moses to return and become the director of the school. Infra Innovations, Inc. is working with VAD Foundation to support and improve the Marial Bai Secondary School.
In addition, our company is working on the projects described below to help improve the quality of life in Marial Bai.
Brick-making in Africa is an important yet backbreaking job. In many remote areas of Africa, the bricks are made laboriously, one by one. First, the mud is dug from the ground, then packed into a press that produces a brick, added to a growing pile.
However, there are brick-making machines that can significantly speed the process. For example, one of these machines could make more bricks in an hour than a man could make in a day. The ability to produce bricks at this rate would allow building the community much more quickly. It would also provide an excellent source of income.
Solar Cell Phone Chargers
Statistics show that there are more cell phones globally than there are flush toilets. This may seem like misplaced priorities, and although the need for flush toilets is crucial to basic sanitation and health, the use of cell phones is not frivolous.
In many places in Africa, where roads are primitive or non-existent and where walking is the primary mode of transportation, cell phones allow communication over long distances that not too long ago was inconceivable. Moreover, they allow families and friends to contact and make business dealings much more accessible.
But lack of access to reliable electricity is a huge problem. Therefore, solar cell phone chargers have become very important. The regular practice is for the owner of a cell phone charger to set up in the local market, and people pay a small fee to have their phones charged, thus providing a service to the community and an income to the service provider.
Fire Briquette Making
In many parts of Africa, the predominant energy source is wood fuel, either in the form of firewood or charcoal.
According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), firewood and charcoal alone provide more than 40 percent of the energy used in Africa. Around 80 percent of households on our continent depend on wood and charcoal as a primary energy source.
This presents a number of difficulties for individuals and the environment.
For those families who use primarily wood for cooking and other heating, someone, usually a woman, has to go out into the bush to collect firewood for the day. As nearby sources of firewood are depleted, the women have to walk further and further afield, sometimes walking over six hours a day to get firewood. Besides the enormous investment of time involved, this practice leads to deforestation, contributing to climate change.
The use of charcoal is even more problematic. In addition to the problems of wasted time and depletion of resources, charcoal can cause respiratory difficulties since charcoal is often used indoors. And yet, the production and selling of charcoal is an essential source of income for many African families. Moreover, since electricity, kerosene, and cooking gas are expensive and often unavailable, the charcoal market is very large.
Fortunately, a promising new process could reduce the reliance on wood fuel and use a cheap and readily available resource, the banana!
Researchers in the UK mashed piles of rotting banana skins and leaves then mixed them with sawdust and compressed and dried them to create briquettes that ignite readily and throw out a steady heat, ideal for cooking. In addition, the banana skins bind other materials together, acting like glue.
Some strains of banana plants can bear fruit within a year of planting, and the fruiting is not seasonal. Therefore, there can be a steady supply of bananas throughout the year. Thus, we can have a sustainable source of fuel that can be used not only for cooking and heating but also as a source of income that might one day replace the charcoal industry.