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Great strides were made for the Kenya Ceramic Project (KCP) this past summer as two medical students from the University of Alberta, Subir Sutradhar and Serena Cheung, spent two months in Western Kenya. The team worked closely with Joshua Machinga, local director of a community-based organization named Common Ground for Africa (CGA). The KCP is constructing its new, high-output ceramic filter factory at the CGA site in the village of Kiminini. This site provides great access to necessary resources, major trade centers, and distribution networks. This should translate into the filters being produced, transported, and sold at a very low cost.

This summer the team was able to build on the KCP’s relationships with several key organizations. UNICEF Kenya has continued to show interest by agreeing to provide access to their distribution networks and to potentially subsidize the ceramic filters and stoves once production is up and running. This will better ensure that people with the greatest need will be supplied, especially in emergency management situations. Other relationships that were fostered were with the Mumias Sugar Company and Pan-African Paper Mills.

One major accomplishment of this past summer was the acquirement of three-phase electric power for Kiminini. This will be necessary for powering the machines involved in the filter-making process. In addition to powering the new factory, the installation of three-phase electric power will benefit the community and the local primary school. To get ready for factory operation, the machines required some modifications. A skillful local engineer, Mr. Singh of Rao Engineering Center, was found in nearby Kitale. Mr. Singh was very enthusiastic about working with the KCP and possibly being a consultant if machine modifications and adjustments were needed in the future.

The brand new ceramic filter press was tested at Rao Engineering Center. There was some trial and error involved, but the first filter produced using this press (although slightly misshapen) was a beautiful sight indeed! There were big smiles all around!

In addition to making preparations for the new factory and fostering large-scale partnerships, several relationships were built in and around the community, as these will be essential for the project’s future success. Serena visited several women’s groups and pottery groups (including our old friend, Musa Omumia) to discuss the possibility of working with the KCP to make and market the ceramic filters and stoves. Serena found that most were very excited at the opportunity to potentially help themselves and their community.

There was much accomplished in the summer of 2009 but there is much more left to do. Lots of headway was made and the project is in a great position to move forward in the hands of Joshua Machinga at CGA. Patrick McConnell, a business graduate from the University of Alberta, is the next KCP volunteer and will be in Kenya from mid-August, 2009 to the end of January, 2010. Good luck, Patrick!

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