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Lab life Comic Page_1
Lab life/Comic by Johannes Bousek (click photos to see larger version)

At the time of writing (05.09.2017) the field trial had ended and Chris and I were sitting in an airplane on our way back to Austria. We left Malawi with a laughing and a crying eye. Our time in Malawi was great, the support from our local partners was tremendous and the field lab worked quite well. We would have liked to stay and work longer in Blantyre, but it was also time to go home. The last two months of the project will now focus on the transformation of the prototype into a product.

In the first two weeks of the field trial, the lab was set up, treatment plants visited and sampling points defined. The first samples were also taken and analysed in this time. At the end of the second week the MSQ field trial team was joined by Jan Spit from Waste, while Magdalena from the Austrian Red Cross WatSan Service Center left.

In the third week, a certain routine in the lab work started. At that time, we had already established a sampling plan and started to work through it. The plan was (and it succeeded) to sample each of the plants at least twice. We were visited by colleagues from the Malawian Red Cross. Both spent a day in the field lab and they were very interested in the work performed at WASTE. Werner Fuchs, my professor at Boku, also visited the field trial. With him, we went to Mangochi during the weekend and sampled an anaerobic baffled reactor (ABR) treating the faecal sludge from public toilets at a market. The ABR was constructed by WASTE Malawi and designed for 250 people per day. However, around 500 people are using it. Thus, WASTE was very interested in the performance of the reactor.

At the end of the third week Madalitso, our local lab tech, joined the team. In the remaining time, Chris and I trained him on the operation of the field lab, which he will operate after our departure. Madalitso has finished his bachelor in Environmental Health at the University of Malawi, the Polytechnic, and was employed by WASTE Malawi for this task.

Mangochi ABR Comic Page_2
Mangochi ABR & Biogas Analytics/Comic by Johannes Bousek
Handover Comic Page_3
Handover/Comic by Johannes Bousek

In the fourth week, Chris took charge of Madalitso’s training, while I was writing the analytical methods for the lab. This week was spent wrapping up our loose ties and handing over the lab to Waste Malawi, who are also involved in a project with Blantyre City Council. One part of this project deals with the development of efficient faecal sludge treatment plants in Blantyre. The lab will be used to continue the project and deepen the assessment of the existing plants.

 

On Monday, September 4th, we gathered the MSQ Field Test Crew for a last supper in Blantyre to say “Thank you”. Without the help of these people, it would not have been possible to successfully conduct the field trial.

We would like to thank:

  • the whole WASTE Malawi office
  • Billy Bray,
  • Grover Casilla,
  • Wilfried Maluwa,
  • Madalitso Kanache,
  • Jan Spit, WASTE,
  • Elizabeth Tilley, University of Malawi

On Tuesday afternoon, we boarded an airplane back home to another life and to other duties.

Results from the third and fourth weeks:

  • Routine sampling of Blantyre’s faecal sludge dumpsite and wwtps
  • Field trip to Mangochi – Sampling an anaerobic baffeled reactor connected to public toilet at a market
  • Training of lab tech for continuous operation of field lab
  • FLOTAC workshop at College of Medicine, University of Malawi
  • Installation of wind turbine and photovoltaic panel to recharge batteries
  • Start of cooperation with University of Malawi to act as reference lab

Author: Johannes Bousek, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna

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