Ecodesign in East Africa

I have some friends/colleagues/interlocutors based in East Africa who are working on a number of sustainable design technologies, and I’m going to use this thread to showcase and document some of them.

Right now they are working on a “maggot nursery” that will hatch black soldier flies which can consume food waste.

The nursery looks like this:

Interestingly, those dividers are made out of an environmentally friendly material called aircrete (foamed concrete without aggregate)

Here’s a video of some grubs they harvested

The numbers are kind of astronomical. Right now they are trying to hatch 20kg of grubs, each kg is about 7500 grubs. 150,000 flies. They eat 10x their weight depending on the food. Food should be ‘semi-stinky,’ fermented but not rotten.

Another related project: azolla. Grass with high protetin amino acid and vitamin content can be used for animal feed, and grown in small spaces with the right hydroponic setup. Theirs includes an aircrete filter that uses activated charcoal from rice husks.

One application they are imagining is for refugee camps, as my friend explains

You know all refugee camps can’t let animals out to graze. Has to do with customs and vet clearences. So in camps animals eat whatever trash is availible. With these solutions u feed the crap to the bugs ferns and weeds then the animals khave high protien and nutrient rich feed which intern makes healthier people. Idea I’ve had for years. I worked in many camps over the years in different capacities and always made me sad that the people eating shit because theres no ability to grow food or feed animals. I can fix that or at least provide direction and a foundation for others smarter then me to perfect a solution (9/10/21)


More black soldier fly

^ Barley, banana, pilipili (pepper)

They’re calling it the “maggot mansion”

Two useful videos with English narration here and here

There is so much interconnection/interoperability here. By my count it is an assemblage of azolla/duckweed, water, chickens, bugs, methane, aircrete. Sort of self-evolving. Reminiscent of Brenda Chalfin’s work on Wastelandia. Some of the system uses open-source arduino microntollers. Lots of local material and local labor too.

Video illustration of Azolla weed–the fowl love it!

Plus more pictures of how the site is shaping up, including the power station and microcontoller hub:

So there are a number of dimensions to the system these guys are trying to set up, ideally all of which interlock but which are also their own thing. One of them is cultivate quick-growing, nutrient-dense feed like barley seed and azolla particularly for farmers and herders who have diminishing grasslands (during drought for example).

Azolla in particular is a kind of an amazing plant. It grows on water and is incredibly good at sucking up carbon dioxide and can hence congenial to our own warming planet; in such conditions it can double in biomass in a few days. In fact some think an Azolla event played a critical role in drawing down Co2 and transitioning a “greenhouse earth” to an “icehouse earth.”

Fifty million years ago, the arctic ocean became a green carpet, indistinguishable from the land. And for 800,000 thousand years, an area of 400 million square kilomters was covered only Azolla.

Kind of like this but, you know, the ENTIRE ARCTIC SEA

For the poets amongst us, other names of the Azolla:

mosquito fern
duckweed fern
fairy moss
water fern [English]

helecho mosquito
helecho de pato
helecho de agua [Spanish]

Algenfarne [German]

bèo hoa dâu [Vietnamese]

满江红 [Chinese]

अजोला [Hindi]

アカウキクサ属 [Japanese]

അസോള [Malayalam]

آزیریان [Persian]

Азолла [Russian]

அசோலா [Tamil]

แหนแดง [Thai]