Friday, August 3, 2012

Ethiopia in July

Laura Brunson and Anne Kroeger, grad students in Environmental Engineering and Anthropology, respectively, arrived early June in Ethiopia to do some traveling in the north, get set up in the village of Meki, and begin their PhD research. Laura set up column studies to test the suitability of several different types of media and coatings for fluoride removal. Anne is a medical anthropologist who visited several villages where residents commonly presented with pain and physical symptoms associated with excessive intake of fluoride in their diet and water supply.

The market in the village of Meki is alive with activity on at least three days a week.

Laura looks over her lab notes for her column experiments in her makeshift laboratory in Meki.
Lowell Busenitz (OU College of Business) and Jim Chamberlain (WaTER Research Engineer) arrived several weeks later to being their 2-week sojourn in Ethiopia. Their primary interests were in understanding the small business and entrepreneurship potential in rural Ethiopia, especially as it might allow for a sustainable market for the introduction and adoption of sustainable fluoride mitigation technologies. In addition to meeting with key players in Ethiopia’s water future – Catholic Relief Services, USAID, the University of Addis Ababa, government ministries, etc. – they also visited villages in the affected areas, hoping to understand what makes a small business work in these locales.
Over two million people worldwide are impacted by drinking water that is higher than the WHO recommended limit of 1.5 mg/L, many of these in the central Rift Valley of Ethiopia. Fluoride is an element that is beneficial for preventing tooth decay at low levels, but causes discoloration of teeth (dental fluorosis) and skeletal deformation and brittling (skeletal fluorosis) at very high levels as is found here. While many treatment methods exist for the removal of fluoride, there is still lacking a set of mitigation options that are inexpensive, readily available, easy to maintain and effective. Our researchers are working on these sustainable solutions both in Ethiopia and back in the United States.
Lowell, Teshome and Jim catch a ride on a donkey cart
in order to travel flooded roads back to a water treatment installation.

Lowell demonstrates a public tap that delivers fluoride-safe drinking water
for villagers for a small water tariff.

Many more pictures from this trip and the summer trip to Cambodia are found at OU WaTER Center group Facebook page.

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