Elizabeth Boorman September 4, 2014

Now that you've read our previous blog post and learned about the Benin Summer School and how the 8 students in the summer school were selected, here’s a bit more information on some of the projects a few of the students are working on.

The projects that the students in the Summer School take part in are not only great for the students to learn more about agriculture, medical or transportation issues along while gathering project management and entrepreneurial skills, but really contribute to finding solutions to local problems. This can be clearly seen in some of the past projects like the Baobab Express which was created after the last Materialise World Conference brainstorm on suitable transportation in Africa and was later further investigated during the 2012 Summer School.

With the slogan “Bouger et Gagner Ensembe, C’est Bon” (Move and win together, that’s good!), the company currently employees over 50 locals and offers 12 small busses that transport a few thousand people per month and cover over 3,200 kilometers per day. Baobab Express is already the largest passenger transportation company in the entire northern region of Benin. Although the students are only one week into the project, there are already some great projects that have come up with the guidance of the summer school leaders.

How to Safely Cross a Flooded Road

One of the first days, the Materialise employees and CEO along with Euloge took one of the Baobab Express vans to go Kpari for an all-day market tour. Unfortunately their plans were cut short by the time they reached the Okpara River where it was extremely flooded making it extremely difficult to use the road which was now totally submerged.



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People still attempt to cross the river through various methods like using strong branches to carry motorcycles (as seen in the photo above) or pushing their cars across, which leads to injuries and last year alone caused four fatalities. As the flooding is not an isolated episode and happens usually from mid-August to mid-September every year, this inspired to a new project for the summer school: to try and investigate the economic feasibility of offering a safe river crossing system as an extension of Baobab Express’s normal bus service.

Preserving Produce Longer with the Wakati Tent

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Another project this year is the Wakati project. The day after the Materialise volunteers and CEO arrived, they had set up a small experiment with a few items they had purchased in the local market (carrots, cabbages and eggplants) to see how well the Wakati system actually worked. Benin is a very hot and humid climate. The Wakati tent is a solar-powered device that provides a more suitable microclimate for storing fruit and vegetables so they can last for longer periods of time.

To test it, they placed half of the produce in a shady part of the house and the other half in the Wakati tent. The eggplant and carrots in the house were clearly wilted after 4 days, but those in the Wakati tent were still fresh. For the cabbage, we saw less of a difference, but nonetheless this could be a valuable solution for many farms, markets, and households.

Fresher Hospital Food: Extremely Local Agriculture

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Many of our projects are in the medical field. For these projects, we work with the Hospital in Papané where we work with the medical director and lead surgeon.  The hospital consists of several buildings on a large terrain, so one student will investigate an agricultural project and see if the unused land could be rented to farmers and used to produce crops that could be used in the hospital restaurant and for the patients.  With the help of agricultural consultants who work for Hubi & Vinciane and the hospital nutritionist, the student will investigate what kind of vegetables or fruits could be cultivated on the land to stimulate a mini-economy with added value. 

With this system in place, people at the hospital would have access to more nutritious food, farmers would benefit from a more or less assured income for selling their produce to the canteen and the hospital would have a new means of generating income from the land.   We’re excited to learn more about what the second week has in store and how the projects will advance in the upcoming weeks. Check back soon to read more about the Summer School!  

Find out more about the Benin Summer School on our website!

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