Tag Archive | madagascar

Partners Both Home and Abroad Help Advance VPI’s BioD Project

Over the years, Vort Port International’s BioD project has truly developed into a partnership between social entrepreneurs and students in the U.S. and in Madagascar. What started off with a handful of engineers and business specialists here in the States has evolved into a team of dedicated students and professionals with a wide range of expertise in both countries.

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BioD strives to implement human-centric solutions to pertinent issues in Madagascar, and is working with two outstanding partners there. Over the past two years, BioD has been collaborating with engineering students at The University of Antananarivo, who have been involved in the assessment, design, and prototyping phases of the project. And within the University’s Institut pour la Maitrise de l’energie, five engineering students seeking their masters degree have constructed a prototype of the BioD and are currently testing the device. All the materials used by this team as well as the inputs for testing come from Madagascar and will provide us with benchmark data essential for scaling up. Over the next two years, as the BioD project progresses to the implementation phase, these students will play a crucial role in the deployment of the biodigester technologies in rural Malagasy communities. Through this partnership we are promoting local knowledge and skill development that will outlast the BioD Project and hopefully inspire other initiatives to improve the standard of living in Madagascar.

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The BioD team has also partnered with the Rotaract Club AVANA, which is based in the capital city of Antananarivo and whose members are young professionals with backgrounds ranging from finance to marketing to information technology. Their focus is to give back to their local community through education and empowerment projects. The Rotaract Club has assessed rural communities in Madagascar where the BioD will be prototyped, which consisted of a needs analysis and a survey of locally available materials, and has initiated a partnership between the BioD Project and our partner communities. The Rotaract Club members are also assisting with the education plan of the project, which seeks to deliver environmental and human health information to community stakeholders.

And closer to home, in September 2013 BioD launched a partnership with the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. This partnership will add the support of students and faculty from their Global Human Development program. The Georgetown team has already submitted the BioD concept for a social enterprise competition through the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Faculty members with decades of development expertise will serve as mentors on the project.

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These partnerships and the ones we hope to develop in the future will ensure that the solutions we deliver are culturally appropriate and sustainable in the long run. BioD aims to spark a culture of entrepreneurship in Madagascar that will last beyond our project and take on the challenges of tomorrow.

This blog post was written by Rahul Mitra, VPI BioD Project Co-Director

Project: Madagascar Biodigesters

Here’s a look at our Madagascar Biodigesters project.

Madagascar is an incredibly complex country, steeped in beautiful landscapes, endemic species, and vibrant cultures yet also host to high deforestation rates and biodiversity loss, political instability and abject poverty.  With one of the highest population growth rates in the world at 3% annually, and a per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of less than $US2 per day (per World Bank), environmental degradation caused by human settlements continues to grow at alarming rates.  While environmental issues occur worldwide, the impacts in Madagascar are exponentially worse for biodiversity because 70% of the species found there are found nowhere else in the world.  Madagascar is in critical need of conservation programs that do not negatively impact the economic and social livelihoods of the Malagasy people.

One of the most significant threats to biodiversity is deforestation and land use change.  According the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) there are 472 endangered or critically endangered species on the island.  The three primary causes of deforestation in Madagascar are all related to human activity: slash and burn agriculture; logging for timber; and logging for fuel wood and charcoal production.

There are significant challenges to curbing deforestation rates in a country where more than 70% of the population lives in rural areas and survives on less than $US2 per day.  With livelihoods dependent on agriculture and wood the only cheap and accessible fuel source, Malagasy people have few alternatives to continued deforestation.

As a localized challenge with the global ramifications of biodiversity loss and increased greenhouse gas emissions, creative solutions are needed to reduce deforestation rates while providing communities with effective and affordable alternatives to land use and energy production.

Vort Port International has identified the opportunity to bridge the energy divide through the implementation of biodigester technology.  Providing a mechanism to create a renewable and sustainable fuel source from waste products will reduce demand for wood charcoal and therefore lead to decreased deforestation.

Through the establishment of a successful biodigester enterprise, committed to community development and education, VPI will create a replicable model of a cohesive environmental conservation, social entrepreneurship, economic development, and educational program.

Madagascar Biodigester Process

Madagascar Biodigester Process

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