Engineers Without Borders earn Outreach and Engagement Award

Posted: April 21, 2021
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In December 2019, the Engineers Without Borders travel team went to N'jau, Gambia to work on their irrigation project.

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) at The Ohio State University has been honored with a 2021 University Outreach and Engagement Award for its engaged scholarship and community impact in The Gambia.

The student organization has received the Community Engaged Program Award for its N’jau Community Garden Project. As part of the award, EWB will receive a $1,000 prize to help support their initiative.

The Ohio State Chapter of EWB has been working on the agricultural project in the small Gambia community of N’jau since 2015. The garden was implemented in an effort to help fight hunger and malnutrition within the community. Water shortages during the dry season—which can last six months— leave residents without water to drink or irrigate their crops for days. The community of 2,000—mostly women and children—often struggle to get adequate nutrition and raise crops to sell.

EWB is working to solve this problem through the implementation of a solar-powered irrigation system in the community garden. By providing sustainable water access, the Buckeyes hope to extend N’jau’s growing season by two months and increase their self-sufficiency.

“The community garden project is so important because it brings such a vital resource to life,” explained Ethan Wert, who serves as the EWB digital fundraising chair. “The water supply does not just pump water from a borehole into a tank—it generates the ability to bring comfort in food and water supply to a community that we’ve grown so close to.”

To date, a fence, water pump, solar panels, and water tank have been installed. Although the project has been delayed due to travel restrictions associated with the pandemic, plans are underway for its completion this summer. Thanks to the funding EWB received from their award, they will be able to hire a contractor in The Gambia to install the remaining water tower and irrigation system.

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A young mother tills soil in Njau’s community garden.

“We are also having an agricultural expert visit N'jau to host agriculture workshops for the community,” added Wert. “Education is an essential part of the project to ensure that our impact is sustainable, and the community will benefit as much as possible from the community garden project.”

The project consists of a partnership between EWB, the local non-profit organization the Women’s Initiative The Gambia, and the community of N’jau. EWB fundraises and designs the engineering solutions, the local non-profit provides leadership within the community, and the community helps ensure a sustainable project.

“Our years with the N’jau people have left us just as impacted, if not more,” said Wert. “The success of the N’jau irrigation system is a symbol of countless hours of work, the formation of many new long-term relationships, and the longevity of a community in need.”

Along with international projects, EWB works on local initiatives in the Columbus area using the same model of community involvement.

"An engineering solution by itself creates no meaningful change in the community,” said Wert. “Working with the community to identify needs, find solutions, and create ownership of the project ensures a successful and sustainable engineering solution.”

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu

Category: Students