From West Wales to East Africa

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Nick Jeffries, Renewable Energy and the Built Environment alumnus, talks about his life since graduating from CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment. You can read Nick’s previous post whilst a student at CAT here

In October 2009, I sat down to write my first assignment as a new student on the REBE course at CAT. For this first essay, I asked the question: ‘Can renewable energy turbocharge international development and poverty reduction?’. This became the theme that thread its way through the rest of the year, influencing lines of enquiries and choice of research topics for monthly assignments. My interest: systems that are small-scale, suited to remote communities, affordable, easy to operate and maintain.

The Tadelle family with their Sunflower pump

For my thesis I traveled to Ethiopia where I worked for three months among farmers in the Central Rift Valley assessing a new type of solar thermal irrigation pump called a Sunflower. During this time I collected mechanical and climatic measurements, farmer feedback and socio-economic context data which together allowed me to assess the viability of future commercialization of the equipment. The recommendations from my thesis fed back into the R&D process allowing improvements in performance and ergonomics, as well as informing future marketing and financing strategies.

The irrigation pump in action

Since finishing at CAT, I have continued working with Practica Foundation contributing to the ongoing development of the Sunflower pump. Recently I have helped set up a new entity called Futurepump, which has secured almost $1million to assist with commercialisation in Kenya. In October at the beginning of the latest growing season, I kicked off the field element of this work by installing a number of improved pumps, checked performance using locally procured collector dishes and demonstrated the technology to interested farmers. Alongside my work with Futurepump, I work with appropriate technology NGO – IDE, among other things setting up field laboratories to test emerging technologies that look promising for their particular customer group.

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