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I’m Sarah Mosier and I’m a sophomore studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke.  For the last month and a half, I have been living in Manantenina, Madagascar, located in the SAVA region of northeast Madagascar.  I am here with six other Duke engineers to build a clean water distribution pipeline that our team designed, establish a water council made up of village leaders, and work on water education initiatives.

Manantenina is a small village located just off a main road between two major towns.  There are around 1300 residents, most of whom are children due to high population growth.  Although contraceptives are becoming more popular, it is still common to have 4 or 5 children per family.  The village is made up of 5-7 large family groups and is led by a president called the Fokantany.  The Fokantany of Manantenina is a well-liked woman named Emerencienne Eliese, whom we have been working closely with on the establishment of the water council.  Almost all the villagers farm both rice to live on and vanilla to sell, which is currently Madagascar’s most profitable export.  The villagers are drinking, cooking, and washing with river water, which is contaminated by both human and zebu contact upstream.  The pipeline we are building will bring water from a high, uncontaminated source, filter out sediment, and flow into a tap system throughout the village.

My daily work is always exciting. For the first week and a half we were here, the whole group went to the construction site each day to make decisions with the contractors, make dam modifications, and work alongside village volunteers to dig trenches for our pipeline. The team then split into two different groups, and half continued to work on construction with the contractors and half started going into the village each day.  I work in the village or surrounding villages every day with our translator, Yockno, and 2-3 other students.  The key to the sustainability of our project will be the water council that is currently being established.  They will be responsible for managing the general maintenance and repairs of the pipeline and collecting a small tax from the villagers each year.  There are two nearby villages, 1k and 5k away, that both have pipelines with successful water councils.  We have been consulting their current water council members as well as interviewing their villagers to understand what does and doesn’t work about their systems to best design ours.  The interviews we conduct in our village collect information about amount of water use for each family, type of water use, type and regularly of illnesses they experience, expectations and wishes for the pipeline, and answer any questions they have for us.  We have also started working with the local public school teacher on additional water education that he can work into his curriculum for the fall.

There have been bumps along the road and a few unexpected circumstances, but I am very optimistic about the future of our project and look forward to what lies ahead in the next few weeks!

This is the view on the road leading into Manantenina, on the way from our construction site to our home.
This was our first day of work- we had blocked off the dam to do some renovations and in this picture we were starting the construction of a sediment trap.
Duke engineering student and fellow Dukeengage independent, Rachael Lau, walks along the pipeline route with surveying equipment.