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General News of Monday, 18 June 2018


Lincoln Community School Quartet clinch AISA Award

Front row from left, Agrawal, Horie and de Jager with some community members Front row from left, Agrawal, Horie and de Jager with some community members

Four high school seniors from Lincoln Community School in Accra have won the award for the most outstanding service project, beating all other project entries from competing international schools across Africa.

The Ghana team, comprising Aayush Agrawal, 17, Goro Horie, 19, Hawi de Jager, 17, and Maltiti Andani, 18, was selected as the best for their project ‘Hustle to Oasis (H2O)’ by the Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) and each student was awarded USD 5,000 to help further the vision of the project.

Team member Master Aayusha Agrawal told journalists after news of the award reached Lincoln Community School that the creation of H2O was ‘organic’.

“When we were in 11th grade, we had to initiate a project. As a group we had agreed to focus on Cocoa farming given that it is the single most critical sector of the Ghanaian economy,” Master Agrawal said, disclosing that he and his team mates visited a cocoa farm at Mpaem, near Akwadum in the Eastern Region in order to learn more about cocoa and its production.

“The idea was to find out the constraints facing Ghanaian cocoa farmers and attempt to provide some solution for at least one of the problems identified,” he said.

He said as the group probed deep in its field work, it learnt that for cocoa trees to bear good pods during the harvest season, a sustained supply of water throughout the year was imperative.

“Unfortunately, the farmers hinged solely on intermittent rainfall; when it did not rain, it resulted in poor yield. The year 2016 had been one of the driest year in recent Ghanaian history. This resulted in a very poor crop and the lowering harvests translated into falling income for the farmers,” Master Agrawal lamented.

Another team member, Goro Horie said the group’s inspiration to forge ahead with H2O actually originated from one of the team’s previous service projects.

“Every Wednesday, we visited the Village of Hope Orphanage near Accra in an effort to provide rudimentary educational support for children who have lost their families or who simply live off the streets.

Master Horie said a series of one-on-one interactions with the children aimed at developing their social and literacy skills, enabled the group to identify a pattern which confirmed the suspicion that many orphans and street children were born into farming communities far from the national capital and that poverty had forced either the families or the children to migrate to Accra to seek greener pastures.

“Thus, we realized that the struggles of the farmers in general and especially of cocoa farmers, had widespread consequences for Ghana as evidenced by the large number of children in the ‘Village of Hope’ orphanage alone. Through H2O, we wanted to create solutions that could help farmers and their dependents to escape from this vicious cycle - known to economists as the ‘poverty trap’,” Master Horie said.

Another team member, Master Hawi de Jager, described the group’s plan of action and investigative processes as having gone through a series of phases.

“Initially, our plan was to donate large amounts of water to the farm - a common practice in Ghana. However, after numerous discussions with the farmers, we concluded that our efforts cannot be sustainable. Even if we managed to gather water, it would be impossible to collect enough to reach the roots of the trees; this seemed to justify the farmers’ reliance on natural rainfall,” said Master de Jager.

With the Mpaem farmers constantly having to travel back and forth to fetch water from a distant stream, the group drew the conclusion that one of the biggest problems facing the farmers was the absence of a reliable source of water and as Team member Maltiti Andani observed, a permanent, affordable and sustainable solution was critical if the farmers were to expect a good yield in the next harvest season.

Master Andani said: “We designed a rainwater-harvesting system (RHS) and a water-transportation system (WTS). The RHS provided the farmers an opportunity to exploit the sporadic rainfall, as it would allow for the mass collection of water and to ensure that the water was clean, we built a filtration system using discarded, fibrous cocoa pod husks - which were available everywhere.”

“However, we knew there was one limitation to the RHS: the fact that in recent times, the country has been susceptible to droughts. The answer to that was the WTS we developed - a large, wooden cart, customized to carry four 20-litre water containers. The massive carrying capacity and convenience of a cart should improve the time and energy efficiency for the chore of water collection,” said Master Andani.

The students declared their appreciation to the authorities of Lincoln Community School for a $700 grant given as the funding for the project and two of the winning team members Aayush Agrawal and Goro Horie, have been selected to represent the school at GISS Johannesburg, to organize workshops to share the team’s experiences and knowledge regarding sustainable agricultural solutions.

As Aayush Agrawal puts it, “When trying to solve issues, one has to work on low cost sustainable solutions that can be replicated by others. Through Hustle to Oasis, we wanted to show that something such as this can be done through working on details and figuring out low cost and innovative solutions”.

The project has since been handed over to the farming community at Mpaem.

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