Summer 2021 Update

The last two years have been a turbulent time. The COVID pandemic changed how we could meet and plan, forcing meetings to become hybrid or virtual. This isolation also prevented us from sending a travel team to Ullo, meaning we haven’t been present physically since winter 2019.

However, thanks to our partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Self Help International (SHI) in Ghana, that time has been used in a remarkably productive manner. KNUST and SHI have been our people in the field for remote implementation. With their assistance, the rainwater catchment system weather stations have been entirely installed. This setup has enabled our Rainwater Catchment Team to get real-time data about the weather conditions in the community while remaining in Ames, which is helpful for future planning. The old dam in Ullo, partially designed by students in a capstone engineering course, used to break during each rainy season, flooding the area.

Weather Station Construction: the final phases of installing the data collection system

Dam Restoration: before (left) and after (right) recommendations were implemented

In 2019, the travel team was able to take measurements that let us determine a simple solution: improve the spillway by digging down the ground in front of the dam to be around 40 centimeters deeper. After being cleared by the local government, the dam upgrade recommendation has been implemented, and the dam is now successfully holding water! The shea nut harvest post-harvest loss assessment has also finished successfully. All of this would have been much more difficult to accomplish without the leadership of SHI-Ghana and EWB-KNUST’s assistance.

But even though we haven’t been able to send over a travel team, the people of Ullo have not forgotten us. Through the support from our chapter’s faculty advisor, Prof. Dirk Maier, the KNUST chapter of EWB was initially started in 2019 with 20 members. Now, it has more than 80 active members who have been collaborative in all our projects in Ullo. For the first time in the past two decades since SHI has been in Ghana, SHI has expanded into Ullo, employing some community members. This incredible act was instituted as a result of the EWB-ISU chapter’s years of active engagement in Ullo.

During the 2021 summer, George – the Real Engineer in Charge for the Ullo Shea project who is also one of Prof. Maier’s Ph.D. students – also organized a “train the trainer” workshop on the post-harvest management of food grains and Shea nuts. This workshop directly impacted more than 30 trainers and was made possible with the involvement of SHI and EWB-KNUST. Farmers were introduced to a low-cost moisture meter to assist in grain drying and the hermetic bag to help prevent food and crops from spoiling. The workshop also gave farmers some entrepreneurship skills and explained how these farmers could make a profit off their crops. 

Still, beyond the organizations, the residents themselves appreciate the projects we have worked with them to create. The people of Ullo are hardworking and willing to learn new things. By working together, we can empower the people of Ullo to reach their full potential as a community. We are very much looking forward to sending a team to Ullo this winter, and we are excited to be back in Ullo!

Farmers’ Training: a group photo from the post-harvest management workshop