Monday, December 28, 2015

Continuing to Move Forward

On Saturday, we decided to continue our work in the community in order to get as much done as possible, as we only had a few days left!  Before we headed over, we of course visited Limbe, where we were on a mission to find a spring (for our plate tightening mechanism) and some paint (light blue in particular, the committee agreed this would be the best color!). Our favorite stores happened to be closed, as it was the day after Christmas, so we walked into the first hardware store we found to be open.

When we asked about the springs, the worker pulled out the biggest jar of springs I have ever seen.  Talk about luck!

After we gathered all the supplies, we headed to the community to continue working at Joseph’s welding shop.  We had three committee members, Sandy, Agnes, and James working together with us to do testing and work on the spring mechanism.  Also, we had a piece of local sheet metal to make the feeder out of.  However, this metal was too soft to weld together to make the feeder, but not to fear, Joseph had an idea!

He contacted a neighbor who lived down the road who made watering cans and was extremely good at joining metal.  Before I knew it a man named Happiness (translated to English) rode over on this bike and began working after I showed him the measurements needed.  He did an amazing job, and all by hand!

All while the feeder was being made, testing was being done on the maize mill.  When putting the flour that we produced up against the flour that the community currently produces from the electric maize mill, we noticed our flour to be a bit thicker than what they produce.  This posed to be a problem, as the consistency of the flour is very important for their food uses. (Our flour is on the right, slightly discolored due to not cleaning out the mechanism yet, so there was dirt in the sample)

We took this problem seriously and knew why this happened.  Being here for Christmas served as quite a challenge, as many engineering shops who would most likely have the materials we needed were closed for Christmas break.  This limited our material selection in many ways, especially our grinding plates. 

Due to this, we were unable to find the thick grinding plates similar to that of our prototype at home and had to compromise with the best thickness we could find.  This resulted in making the project’s grinding plates from a thinner plate of metal than what we were used to, which limited our design on the grinding surface of the plates.  On our original plates on the prototype at our university, depth played a large part in the design, allowing us to taper the depth to affect what maize particles were ejected.  However, with our current thinner plates, there was not enough thickness to taper the depth, allowing too large of particles through before they became grinded enough. This is an issue our team did not foresee, as we couldn’t find out the true maize flour consistency before we arrived.

Ultimately, we decided that the only way to fix the problem is to find thicker plates and recreate them with a slightly altered grinding surface design. After our discussions, we also realized thicker plates would alleviate other issues that could develop with thinner plates.  Since the engineering stores are closed until we leave, we will work through our NGO to find these plates and bring them to the community.  Since our community has been with us every step of the way, taking ownership of the project and fully understanding how it is made, they will have the ability to make these new plates and use them to vastly improve the mill.  We will remain in constant communication with the committee to advise on, discuss, and hear about the workings of the maize mill until we return for our next trip.

We view this trip as a success and so does the community in the words of Sandy, a committee member.  We achieved what we came out to Malawi to do, teach Kumponda’s development committee how to create a bicycle powered maize mill.  However, we are not completely finished with our work! In order for it to be truly sustainable, we will need to make improvements to its current state and continue working hard at home to ensure our design for the plates given to the community will fully serve their needs!

Now, we will be working on teaching the community how to properly maintain the maize mill and will be surveying the community with many questions to improve our team’s knowledge of the Kumponda group village!

We have been working hard and trying our best every day, and your support has kept us going, so thank you all so much for that!  Wishing the best to EWB teams India, Thailand, and Nicaragua, we know you are doing great things!



  1. Team- Excellent to know the Kumpanda community will have the info they need to carry forward the improved grinding plate to get the needed granular consistency. You are all impressive improvising with the village members and adapting as you go, making wonderful connections along the way. Huge learning experience and thank you for sharing about the material differences and access to resources.

    Glad you had a memorable Christmas and travel home safe to enjoy your new year. Cheers!

  2. We rejoice with you as you have had so many successes implementing the maize mill along with the wonderful Kumpondans! Thank you for sharing your journey! Wishing you more adventures ahead!
    Happy 2016, Victoria Tuttle (Jennifer's mom)