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Dartmouth receives funding for global health project from Green Mountain Coffee

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/23/09 • Media Contact: Susan Knapp (603) 646-3661

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Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding has received an award from Green Mountain Coffee of Waterbury, Vt., to support a project aimed at improving health, sanitation, and energy supply in villages of the Kigoma region of Tanzania. The $141,000 grant will fund a three-year project of Dartmouth’s Global Health Initiative (GHI), and it will be implemented with the help of the student-run Humanitarian Engineering Leadership Projects (HELP) Worldwide initiative of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. The grant is part of Green Mountain Coffee’s “Coffee Community Outreach” efforts.

Benjamin Meigs, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2010, collects water samples in Tanzania.
Benjamin Meigs, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 2010, collects water samples in Tanzania. (photo courtesy of the Dickey Center, Dartmouth College)

Dartmouth’s strong presence in Tanzania began 10 years ago with a partnership with Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) in Dar Es Salaam. Since then, Dartmouth’s GHI has strengthened this partnership through new projects that all embrace the notion that community-based solutions best address local needs. HELP has also received funding from the Byrne Foundation and the Dickey Center received support from Penny and Bill Obenshain (Dartmouth Class of 1962) and Gina and Tom Russo (Class of 1977) for this new Tanzanian project.

“This project highlights the multidisciplinary scope of GHI, and it provides students the opportunity to utilize their engineering skills in a long-term, sustainable development project,” said Kenneth Yalowitz, Director of the Dickey Center. “We are very grateful for Green Mountain Coffee’s support for this effort and its focus on improving lives and livelihoods in coffee-growing communities. Additional support from the Byrne Foundation and the Obenshain and Russo families is also important, as it helps us offer meaningful projects for our students interested in global issues.”

In remote villages of Tanzania, many health problems result directly from poor sanitation systems that often carry contaminated water and provide breeding grounds for insects, as well as from inefficient, wood-fueled cookstoves that create long-term respiratory problems and contribute to deforestation. The Kigoma region, where many of the country’s coffee-growing communities are located, is particularly hard-hit by these problems, which are exacerbated by Kigoma’s remote location.

“For many years, Green Mountain Coffee has recognized a direct link between the quality of coffee we receive and the quality of life in the communities that grow our coffees,” said Rick Peyser, Director of Social Advocacy and Coffee Community Outreach for the Specialty Coffee Business Unit of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. “We are very pleased to support the work of Dartmouth’s Global Health Initiative and the work of Thayer School of Engineering students. Our hope is that their efforts will enhance the quality of life in these Tanzanian communities where we purchase coffee, and further, that the technology they are developing for this project may be replicated to benefit other communities we work with in Africa and ultimately around the world.”

The new project emerged through Dartmouth’s relationship with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a worldwide non-governmental organization that supports Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Forest. Dartmouth’s relationship with JGI developed due to an introduction made by Green Mountain Coffee employees working with coffee growers in Tanzania. The Dartmouth project will provide selected villages with low-cost, sustainable sanitation and energy systems, constructed from local materials and designed to address local needs and cultural norms. Dartmouth students involved with the HELP program will work with representatives from the University of Dar es Salaam College of Engineering and Technology to modify latrine and cookstove models and, in partnership with coffee growers, work to refine biomass technologies and develop an entrepreneurship model for introducing biomass businesses to additional coffee-growing communities. With GHI and JGI, the students will continue to assess mechanisms for encouraging community-to-community dissemination.

Benjamin Meigs '10 was part of the assessment team in Tanzania that laid the groundwork for this current HELP initiative.
Benjamin Meigs '10 was part of the assessment team in Tanzania that laid the groundwork for this current HELP initiative. (photo courtesy of the Dickey Center, Dartmouth College)

“As with our other programs in Tanzania, this collaborative project focuses on building partnerships, in this case between Dartmouth’s Thayer School and the University of Dar es Salaam’s engineering school,” said Lisa Adams – who is overseeing the HELP students and is an assistant professor in the Section on Infectious Disease and International Health at Dartmouth Medical School and the director of the GHI at the Dickey Center. “Long-term relationships with communities and institutions around the world have become the model for successful GHI programs at Dartmouth.”

Students with Dartmouth HELP Worldwide, based at Dartmouth’s Thayer School, have worked on projects in Rwanda to develop a turbine system so small amounts of water from rivers and streams can be diverted to recharge batteries, which are then used by families to provide electricity in homes. HELP students have also worked on a public clean water supply project in Kenya, and on clean water and renewable energy projects in Rwanda.

“Programs that our HELP Worldwide engineering students undertake, like this partnership with Green Mountain Coffee, provide on-the-ground, practical, and profoundly useful outlets for their engineering training,” said Joseph Helble, Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. “Students are always interested in projects that make a difference in people’s lives, and I know that this program in Tanzania will have a positive impact for many generations.”

In Tanzania, HELP has already conducted a needs assessment survey and gathered data in three villages. Based on their assessment trips, and in consultation with JGI, HELP determined that sanitation and energy—and their related health and deforestation issues—were the most critical needs of these communities and would benefit most from HELP expertise. A trip during the summer of 2009 to Mwamgongo, Kalinzi, and Mkigo will launch the multi-year commitment by GHI and Thayer School’s HELP on this project. The agenda for the next three years includes the development and implementation of new technologies with ongoing evaluation, plans for dissemination, and strengthening of institutional and community partnerships. The goal is to continually broaden and deepen impact in the region.

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Last Updated: 9/14/09