[This story is a reprint of an article from the United Nations' "Online.Volunteering.Org" Newsletter of June 2009. The entire Newsletter can be read here.
This story is a powerful example of what can be done with good will in combination with the internet.]
Combining their expertise in engineering, life sciences and international commerce, seven online volunteers have been helping the NGO Africavenir develop a sustainable solution to environmental pollution caused by pig breeding.
To address the contamination of groundwater, emission of green house gases and odour through pig breeding in Porto Novo, Benin, Africavenir developed the idea to turn pig waste into energy and use that energy to provide electricity for public schools and health centres. For example, left-over waste can be used as compost for organic farming. Through the Online Volunteering service, Africavenir was able to harness expertise from volunteers around the world to materialize their idea.
The online volunteers contributed their various specializations and skills to different aspects of the project. First, they developed the project outline to identify the project elements and tasks. Then they produced the technical project document, comprising an analysis of the characteristics of biogas, the environmental impact, a description of the process to generate biogas, the requirements for the power plant, cost estimates, etc. Through Internet research, the volunteers identified the type of generator that was needed and located a potential supplier in China.
Although a big piece of the work has already been accomplished, some important tasks remain before Africavenir can start looking for sponsors to finance the implementation of the project: the financial document needs to be finalized and the legal documents elaborated.
Africavenir posted the technical document on the Réseau International d’Accès Aux Energies Durables (RIAED), a knowledge and resource-sharing platform for renewable energy. Several companies have already demonstrated interest in investing in this project. In parallel, Africavenir is engaged in negotiations with the supplier of the generator in China. “Through the collaboration with the online volunteers, we learned about the complexity of such a project, the range of tasks and activities involved and the necessary elements to be covered by the project document,” says Megan Stanislaus Afan, the director of Africavenir.
Comlan Tony Kouteh, Benin, is an Energy Engineer who also holds a Masters degree in Project Management. “This was not only an opportunity to serve others and to contribute to environmental conservation, but also to gain professional experiences and exercise my skills. I very much enjoyed the exchange with volunteers from other countries about various technical and organizational questions of the project.”
Jean Bosco Utuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, is a rural development specialist with experience in environmental management.“I had already realized a similar project. I am glad that I could share my experiences”.
Andrea Rudin Montes de Oca, Costa Rica, is an Industrial Engineer, with experience in purchasing, planning, supply chain and people management. ”I am glad for having had the opportunity of participating in this project and being part of the solution.”
Hippolyt Fogaing, Cameroon, holds a diploma of higher technician (University of Technology) in Electrical Engineering with eight years of industrial experience, currently pursuing a degree in Electromechanical Engineering. “This was a rich experience; my research on the use of biogas helped me learn a lot about this renewable energy source.”
Koulibaly Kayergué, Côte d’Ivoire, holds a Masters in International Business and Negotiation and is in charge of foreign trade statistics at the General Management of the Customs of Côte d’Ivoire. “My contribution to this project was validated as an online internship required for my PHD in International Relations”.
Amandine Hourt, France, lives in Spain and is an agro-development specialist with a Masters degree in Economic and Territorial Development, and is experienced in technical and financial project analysis and management. “We organized our collaboration in such a way that first each of us drafted a proposal with our own ideas, which we then exchanged and discussed. This was a bit challenging at times because of our different schedules and time zones.”
Read More at UN OnlineVolunteering.Org