Public Lab/citizen science

I’ve been involved with Public Lab (and Grassroots Mapping) since 2010, when I wrote to Jeff Warren after seeing the diydrones post showing his map of a settlement outside Lima, Peru. 

Public Lab is doing a Kickstarter campaign for aerial photomapping kits, from small lifting kites and balloons to the classic larger ones.

Jeff, Stewart Long, Mathew Lippincott, and others in the Public Lab community helped me learn simple aerial photo mapping techniques. 


They also helped me start a grassroots mapping program to map the 40-acre Belize Open Source – Sustainable Development (BOSSD) site at high resolution to support site development work and progress reporting, to make this methodology accessible to local landholders, to engage schools to develop capabilities for educational and community mapping and make an initial set of maps.

I’ve presented at Engineers Without Borders (EWB) workshops and poster sessions on Simple, Inexpensive Aerial Photomapping


In 2013, I applied these techniques at the BOSSD site and sessions at the August Pine Ridge RC school and Muffles College.

I’ve not been as active with Public Lab due to other priorities, but I am looking to get back to it.

Cashews and GPS track in Belize

The two screenshots from Google Earth show today’s route and a bit of yesterday’s. I caught water taxi to San Pedro at 3pm, then took a taxi to Mahogany Bay to look at their development using houses they prefab in Belmopan. 



I caught a ride back to town with Scott Fuson who showed me around Mahogany Bay. His friend, Mario, taxied us back. Mario also called and found me a room at Zen Belize.

Fred at Zen Belize was very gracious and deserves highest marks. 

I was able to met up for pizza with our old family friend, Francisco Bergen.

I booked a 7am flight on Tropic Air and Mario got me there in time. We landed at the municipal strip and Arjun taxied me to the water taxi parking lot via scenic route, I got a few photos of Belice City I will post later. Then up the northern highway to Orange Walk and out past August Pine Ridge to the Belize Open Source site. Our caretaker, Franco and I walked to the back. A few of the old cashew trees were still fruiting (and nutting).

Heading for Belize after great week in Nicaragua

This was a very productive week. I’m leaving for Belize tomorrow, returning home Saturday mid-day.

With our NGO partner, Alcance Nicaragua, I visited all four of the communities that we are working in. I documented the construction status of our composting latrines in Los Alvarez and El Llanito, near Santa Lucia in Boaco; and El Tunel and La Prussia, near Masaya and Granada. In addition, we were able to talk to the builders, community organizers, and individual family members who are participating in the project. I captured suggestions and observations from the builders to consider for future design improvements.

 

While I was not able to meet with Martha Castillo Ocon, my point of contact for the Masaya Rotary club, we exchanged messages and she commented on the construction activities using WhatsApp.

I was also able to visit the new communities that Alcance is working in out of the Santa Lucia office: Coyota and El Riego; and out of the Masaya office: Coyolar, Playas Verdes, and Justo Romero. Alcance discussed their thinking on new strategies to engage these communities to meet their many needs which include water and ecological stoves.

Ecostoves in Comejen Nicaragua

Yesterday we left Santa Lucia where we been looking at the composting latrine project and Alcance’s work in new communities. We arrived at Alcance’s offices in Masaya around 11 am. They gave me an update on their work on the composting latrines in La Prussia and El Tunel and their Initiatives with new communities. After lunch together, the Santa Lucia group went back. 


I went with Ricardo Rivera and Adriana Cruz to Comejen, one of the new communities they’re working in. We met with two families to discuss their experience with the pilot project for ecostoves. These ecostoves are so beneficial. They eliminate the health issue from having a kitchen and house full of smoke with it’s damaging effects on lungs, eyes, and other problems. In addition these stove burn much less fuel, so there’s less wood to gather or pay for. The women reported that they put out enough heat to cook very well. This is a demonstrated technology. 

Alcance has deployed these ecostoves in communities around Santa Lucia for some time, and has documented substantial user experience about their benefits.

This morning I had one of the mangos they gave us with my breakfast.

Microloan programs: In El Llanito and Los Alvarez Nicaragua and worldwide via Kiva

Yesterday, while visiting composting latrines under construction in Los Alvarez, Luz Dania, from our NGO partner Alcance Nicaragua, told me about a local community microloan program.

It started as pilot program in El Llanito using the eco-stoves project repayments to their own community based organization. Then they were able to get $5000 from Outreach International to expand the program. Loans are up to a maximum of $200 US, but many are much smaller. Loans are intended to address various problems and opportunities.

Applicants submit requests for review by a committee. They’ve made 39 loans and another 16 are being made for agricultural loans (as it’s now time for planting and seeding). Recipients pay 1% per month, but payments can be scheduled for a later time, for example when crops are harvested. The committee members really know the people in their communities so they can choose reliable people to loan to.

These photos show case where a family used their loan to add a new roof over existing rooms and an area at the back of their house and install new doors.

My wife, Kathy, and I have a portfolio of organizations we support. But based on my conversation with Luz, I want to focus on Kiva and microlending today.

Bill Clinton’s 2007 book, Giving, inspired me to consider how each of us can change the world. He takes the reader through the extraordinary and innovative efforts being made by companies, organizations, and individuals, to solve problems and save lives both “down the street and around the world.”

He urges each of us to seek out what, “regardless of income, available time, age, and skills,” we can do to help, to give people a chance to live out their dreams.

He writes of how people with modest amounts who are willing to contribute sometimes are often unsure their $25 or $50 will make a difference. Kiva, an NGO, has resolved that question in an innovative way by offering people a way to become microcredit lenders of as little as $25.

Clinton’s book and shout out for Kiva encouraged me to start loaning through Kiva on a monthly basis. I’ve been doing it since 2010 and it adds up. Most of the loans are attributed to team Belize Open Source Sustainable Development.

Here is an image of loans I made today, after a reminder from Kiva that I had a credit. Most of them are from repayments. I focus on women in Ag in Central America, but occasionally branch out. The adjacent chart shows the cumulative effect with 421 loans to date, and over $10.5k lent. It surprises me in a pleasant way.

 

Composting latrines construction is underway, traveling to Nicaragua and back through Belize

I travel 5/23/17 to Managua, departing 5/31/17 to Belize, returning to US 6/3/17. Here are few of the over 200 photos the Nica team has shared on a Whatsapp group.

Construction is underway with our NGO, Alcance Nicaragua, and our Masaya Rotary Club partner, for our Rotary/Engineers Withot Borders composting latrines project to do almost 90 more units with families in communities of La Prusia and El Tunel, near Masaya; and Los Alvarez and El Llanito, near the municipality of Santa Lucia.