Sep 05, 2014

Waste Not Want Not

There is a bunch of students at the university I work in who are taking a module on sustainability. The first part of the module is on renewable energy.

As a librarian, I teach these students how to search for information for their team project. As a teacher, I contextualize my lecture using examples that are relevant and practical (or you will risk losing their attention to Facebook, online chat or anything online). To prepare for my lecture, I read up on solar, wind, biofuels and hydropower.

So when I first looked at pictures of CCI-Bangladesh’s Rajashan Tutorial and Feeding Centre to write about the feeding programme, I was bowled over how the Rajashan’s villagers use renewable energy. It is renewable energy in its simplest form – cow dung or I suppose – dung-on-sticks.

Dung sticks

Before I get into the business of waste, let me start with the Rajashan Tutorial and Feeding Centre. Over 45 children are fed rice and curry chicken 5 days a week. Their parents work as day labourers, garments workers, rickshaw-pullers or van drivers. These children will come every day except Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy their meal. Their usual diet at home is rice or bread. So curry and rice is eaten only when they come to the Centre.


Rajashan kids enjoying rice and curry

But first of all, children are taught to wash their hands before they eat.


Kids washing hands before they eat

The curry chicken is cooked at the Centre on earthen stoves which are made of clay.


Pastor Yeob cooking curry on a typical earthen clay stove

You can make a stove anywhere as long as you can mould the clay on the earthen floor.

Boiling water for laundry on a clay stove

Clay is moulded to form a ridge for the pot to sit on and a hole from which the dung stick is stuck into. The deeper you stick the dung stick in the bigger the fire will be. The ashes are accumulated deep at the bottom of the stove and do not create a mess.

Earthen stove made of clay

This is how they make the dung sticks. Most families own cows either to get their milk from or to sell the milk. So getting a good supply of cow dung is not an issue. Cow dung is moulded to stick to long sticks and left to dry. If it is a sunny day, it only takes a couple of days to dry a stick of dung. Once they are dry, they are ready to be used.

Cow dung is stuck to the stick


Dung sticks left to dry

Our university students are encouraged to use technology or to think of innovative ways to come up with safe, cost-efficient energy alternatives. New inventions stand on the broad shoulders of what has been previously done. Perhaps, instead of messing around in their labs or pouring over academic journals, our students should explore the little corners of the world to learn from the simplicity of using waste.



Story by Wong Kah Wei and Yeob Biswas

Bangladesh, Empowering (B), Feeding & Tutorial Programme, Holistic (B), Innovative (B), Sustainable (B)