What a nice surprise to see that the current issue of Newsweek magazine (July 16, 2007 issue) carries a very nice story on the Ashok Gadgil’s Berkeley National Laboratory Darfur Cookstove Project, entitled “Flames of Hope.”
Yoo-Mi and I had the privilege to work in Darfur, Sudan in November and December of 2005 as part of Ashok’s four-person team doing the initial field research which would enable us to design a fuel efficient cookstove for Darfurians living in the refugee camps. Ashok and LBNL scientist Christie Galitsky conducted the research in the camps of South Darfur; Yoo-Mi and I did the same in the North Darfur camps.
Although the project and the experience were both wonderful, I wrote very little about it on this blog. My inhibition certainly did not stem from a lack of things to report; it was purely pragmatic. The Government of Sudan is extremely miserly in issuing humanitarian visas to those who would work in Darfur to help the people the government itself is trying to eradicate. The Spanish Red Cross, which does tremendous work in coordinating the administration of the largest camps in North Darfur was having difficulty renewing the visas of its long-time staffers; and CHF, the NGO under whose umbrella our project team was funded by USAID, was experiencing similar problems. I believed that I could do more good by not ruining my chances of getting a subsequent visa than I could by telling my tales. Maybe this was the right choice; perhaps it was not.
More information about the LBNL Darfur Cookstove Project is available on the project website.
If you want a simple, illustrated overview of the project – along with a little background on the Darfur genocide, life in the refugee camps, and how Yoo-Mi and I prepared for our work – take a look at a presentation we have given to a number of general audiences.
For those who are interested in a more detailed description of our work, take a look at the presentation we gave a to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the Spanish Red Cross, and other NGOs working in the refugee camps of North Darfur.