June 21, 2014

ADE's organic Blackberry Farm

ADE sold its organic blackberry jam and shakes at the annual Strawberry Festival, along with the annual strawberry jello-eating contest and strawberry war which aired on national tv. ADE is also selling jams at local stores.

Using asset-based development model, ADE obtained the blackberry seeds from the national university, University of Costa Rica, with the purpose of cultivating organic products in the region and tried to start a co-op with local neighbors. The fruits of the ADE farm hopefully will encourage others to cultivate organic blackberry as an alternative to the heavy pesticide strawberries.

June 16, 2014

An interview with ADE High School's first graduate

Fabian was the first graduate of ADE Bilingual High School. He is currently staying with an ADE board member in Pennsylvania. Fabian gained a full scholarship to do ADE's 12th grade exchange program through a private Christian high school in Pennsylvania (Costa Rica's high school system runs through 11th grade.) He has just graduated and will return to CR shortly. 
1. How did you know ADE and how were you involved with ADE?

I knew about ADE from Tomas and Chelsea. Before ADE I was planning on taking English classes.  When ADE came I heard they were going to give English courses.  After that they had a meeting in the community and I went to the meeting with my mom and that is when they offered the opportunity to go to the high school.  I wasn’t very interested at first because I was working and didn’t want to go to school every day.  Then I talked to my parents about it and they let me make the decision if I wanted to go to school and I decided that I would try even if it would be hard.  I knew if it worked I would continue and if not, then at least I tried.
2.   Have you seen ADE have an impact in your life?
I didn’t believe that I could study.  I learned that I could do it and do it well.  Now I understand that if you work hard and try to do your best you can do almost anything.  I think ADE is a great example of how you can help people local or far away.  I’ve learned that I can help others and change their lives just like someone helped me and my life was changed.
3.  Have you seen ADE have an impact on the community?
Yes. ADE is trying to demonstrate that you don’t need things from the outside.  They are trying to teach us that if we work together and work hard we don’t need outside help.  We can grow as a community.  Some examples are having our own high school and helping in the elementary school with teaching and even maintenance work on the windows.

4.  How can you see yourself do similar things like ADE?
I’m not sure what exactly I want to do with my life yet, but whatever I do, I want to go back to my community and be able to do my work there showing the people around me that you don’t have to leave the community to be successful.  You can do your business right there and therefore benefit the community.  I want to be able to help the people of my community like ADE has helped me. 

Interview by Yvonne Miller
Fabian's incredible host family

Insightly Gmail Gadget

June 13, 2014

Bio-gas as alternative energy

Learning about Biogas in Costa Rica
Nathaniel W. Farris

What’s the Big Deal with “Biogas” and Anaerobic Digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is a method of producing and collecting methane gas produced by methanogenic anaerobes by providing an environment free of oxygen and abundant in organic matter in which they can flourish. This form of gas production-despite its recent popularity-is a form of renewable energy that has been around for a bit longer than many of us might expect. Below is a rather succinct excerpt from an article posted on pigproducer.net showing a snapshot of Biogas around the world in history:

- b.c. - Marco Polo mentions the use of covered sewage tanks in ancient Chinese
-In 1776 - Alessandro Volta concluded that there was a direct correlation between
the amount of decaying organic matter and the amount of flammable gas produced.
-In the 1930s - the development of microbiology as a science led to research by
Buswell and others in the 1930s to identify anaerobic bacteria and the conditions that
promote methane production.
-In 1937 – municipal park cars of several German cities (e.g. Muenchen) ran on biogas
from sewage treatment,
-In 1972 – due to the oil-crisis, construction of biogas plants became interesting
-Today (for instance); in Germany in 1992 there were as few as 100 biogas plants,
but in 2005 their number due to favored legislation has increased to 4.000 capable of
cumulative power production of nearly 1.000 MW

           The beauty of a biogas digester is that it is incredibly flexible in its scale and design. There are biogas digesters that power industry as well as the subsistence farmer. Another attractive feature of biogas digestion is that it allows you to harvest a valuable energy source like manure without degrading its effectiveness as a fertilizer. This fertilizer is of course the effluent discharge from the biogas digester. What is notable about this effluent is that it has a greatly diminished population of dangerous pathogens that are found in untreated manure and spoiled food waste that fuel the system. For these reasons and many more, biogas is a great alternative and supplement to conventional natural gas, and can be readily added to existing natural gas infrastructures providing that a refinement of the raw gas is met (which I will not go into here).

My First Experience

           Though I was actually introduced to Biogas in the 1985 Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi flick Mad Max Beyond Thunder dome, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgq4w4dqKsU) in which the city called “Barter Town” is run on the excrement of pigs, my first real hands on experience was at a small farm in Heredia Costa Rica.
           When I attended the TAM (tropical agriculture and missions) course last year we were taken to the farm of Don Rafael. As you can see from the pictures below the reactor used by Don Rafael's family is not very large, yet it is capable of supplying enough biogas to provide cooking fuel for his family. His bioreactor has a concrete base and a flexible bladder. The swell of gas contained in this bladder is primarily methane. It is fueled mainly by fruit and vegetable, many of which can be found beneath the many fruit producing plants on his property. If I remember correctly he used to have some live stock that contributed fuel, but had since sold them and the reactor is still producing effective volumes of gas.
Not too long after seeing the Biogas reactor at Don Rafael's farm we saw another at the dairy farm across the street from CATIE and yet another at Earth university. The latter (seen below at EARTH) provided cooking gas for the cafeteria and is powered by the student body. What you are seeing below is a storage bladder suspended above the actual biogas-reactor.

As you can see in the following pictures, the biogas reactor built on the ADE farm is quite large (yet not as big as EARTH’s). I have heard some estimates that it could produce enough gas to power five households. The bag is made of polyethylene and is around ten meters long and has an internal lumen big enough to park a car in. 

Here in Vara Blanca there are two agricultural products that dominate: strawberries and milk. For the biogas reactor, rotten strawberries and cow pies should work wonderfully as reactor feed, providing the pH is regulated due to the fruits acidity. To that end the supplementation of fruit and vegetable waste to that of cow manure provides a great primary material for a high yield of CH4 (methane). A study in India has shown that such mixtures of primary material can produce a CH4 yield that is in the high 70 - 80% range (Narayani et al. 2012).

In spite of the plentiful cow pies in Vara Blanca, the ADE farm does not yet have many of its own (nor does it have many spare strawberries), so at present we must go and collect five gallons of this green gold everyday from our next door neighbor Don Carlos who so kindly lets us pick as many pies as we please.

April 17th we primed the digester with the first batch of cow manure. We have yet to close the outlet pipe that will carry biogas once the reactor is active, so we are still dealing with an aerobic system. This means that starting the clock as far as the anaerobic process will have to wait until we get all the fittings and valves set. Once we have closed the system we should have to wait around two weeks for the population of bacteria to take off and the processing of organic material into methane water and carbon dioxide.

Jacob's one-year experience with ADE

Making chocolate from scratch

Hi, my name is Jacob and I came down to work with ADE the beginning of July 2013.  I first met the Dozier family when I was about 6 or 7 years old back when we both lived in California.  Since then, my family and I moved to Minnesota and the Doziers ended up here in Costa Rica.  Facing much uncertainty in my academic, spiritual, and emotional plans, I felt the need to leave school and re-examine myself.  During this time, I got back into contact with Tomas (who I hadn’t talked to or heard from since I was a toddler in California), and we began dialogue about what he’s doing through ADE and why he moved down here.  Tomas knew that I was looking for and opportunity to travel and learn about service, so we began discussing possibilities of me coming to Vara Blanca and doing an internship with ADE.  Finally, after several months of talking and planning, I booked a flight and made it down here.

During the beginning of my time here, I was helping out in the ADE high school with a computers/English conversation class.  I was also giving beginner English classes along with two other interns at the local chamber of tourism.  But for the past several months my time has been devoted mainly to work on ADE’s organic farm, cultivating blackberries, fruits and veggies, and biogas from cow and pig manure. Tending the farm is hard at times but also brings me much joy. At times I struggle to find the drive to give it my all, but grow each time I find the motivation within to persevere. I’m astounded every day by people’s strength and work ethic. Teaching English (or at least trying!) gave me a great respect for the hard work and struggle of teachers! Every day I’m seeing how much I take for granted.

Getting to know the Dozier family has been wonderful.  They each have very different personalities that mesh well together, and have made me feel at home.  My housemate and ADE staff, Miguel, has taken great care of me.  I have learned a lot from each of them.  I left Minnesota a non-believer who was unsure whether or not he’d ever return to school. I am very grateful to have come to be surrounded by academic and spiritually/scripturally based company, as they have helped me grow to value education, while growing in my faith. They’ve taught me about farm work, leadership, Costa Rican culture, humility, self-sustainability, education, family, and following God.  

I’ll be heading back to the States very soon, and can’t believe I’ve been here nearly a year.  I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned during my time here and will miss Vara Blanca very much. I’ll miss Miguel, the Doziers, and all my friends that I’ve made here.  I’ll miss the slow pace of life, the quiet sounds of nature, and the fresh air and water here up in the mountains. I’ll especially miss the delicious food I’ve had here. Hopefully I’ll be able to recreate some of it back home. Most of all I thank God for giving me this opportunity to learn and grow, and build positive relationships.

As much as I’ll miss life here, I also miss my family and friends back home and am ready to enter into this new chapter of my life. I’m looking forward to implementing what I’ve learned here in Costa Rica into my life back in Minnesota. I’m also looking forward to staying in contact with everyone from ADE. Si dios quiere we’ll meet again in the future!