Engineers without Borders, IEFT Help Sustain Schools in Tanzania

Water and education are inseparable and interconnected. A school cannot function efficiently without a reliable water supply, and students’ learning abilities and attendance depend on the availability of clean water. Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania (IEFT), a non-profit grassroots organization that provides quality, affordable secondary education to underserved indigenous children in rural Tanzania, is partnering with the Portland Chapter of Engineers without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) to ensure the staff and students of Orkeeswa Secondary School in Lashaine Village, Tanzania have a water supply system that is safe and dependable.

Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania (IEFT) and Portland Chapter of Engineers without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) - Orkeeswa Secondary School in Lashaine Village, Tanzania“Through our partnership with Engineers Without Borders, IEFT is not only able to provide Orkeeswa with renewable energy resources making it a more sustainable project, but also allows students the ability to interact with trained engineers and learn about ways to improve their communities,” said Ashley Holmer, co-founder and executive director of IEFT, USA. “It really is a truly remarkable relationship.”

Orkeeswa Secondary School provides education to children who have no hope of continuing their education past primary school, empowering them to positively transform their own lives, improve their communities and break the cycle of extreme poverty, while preserving their culture and traditions. The development of the school involves various infrastructure needs, where engineering expertise and experience is essential. At project inception, IEFT identified the following needs as critical to the success and sustainability of the school:

  • A reliable and clean water supply system
  • A renewable power system
  • Sustainable sanitation facilities

Due to the absence of groundwater or surface water sources in and around Lashaine Village, until recently, rainwater was collected from the classroom roofs, stored in small prefabricated plastic tanks and boiled prior to use. The storage volume in the plastic tanks was insufficient to last through the dry season and for several months each year, water had to be trucked in from neighboring areas, diverting significant funds from the school budget. Additionally, the water that was trucked in is known to contain naturally-occurring fluoride, at concentrations exceeding the maximum levels deemed safe for consumption, presenting serious health issues when consumed regularly.

A reliable and clean water supply was therefore identified as a priority and the first phase of the EWB-IEFT Partnership. The EWB-USA Tanzania Team conducted a site assessment in April/May of 2009, completing a topographical survey of the site, evaluating local building practices and the availability and costs of building materials, and meeting with local contractors with experience in water tank construction. By September 2009, construction of the first 60,000-liter rainwater harvesting storage tank was complete. Biamp Systems and Tetra Tech donated funds to the project, and EWB-USA covered half of the total cost.

The EWB-USA Tanzania Team plans to return in 2010 to construct a second tank in order to provide sufficient volume for the anticipated 2011 enrollment. The team is also designing a sand filter to treat the rainwater and reduce the need for boiling prior to consumption. To continue these efforts, IEFT and EWB-USA need more funding and resources. They will be fundraising for and designing the second phase of the water project for the remainder of 2009 and first few months of 2010.

IEFT opened Orkeeswa Secondary School in April 2008, enrolling the first 40 students in English-immersion classes. These students have now nearly completed their Form I (freshman) courses and 40 more students have begun English-immersion classes. IEFT plans on expanding school facilities and accepting additional classes until full build-out is reached in 2013.

If you are interested in joining the team, sharing similar design/construction experiences or assisting with obtaining the funds necessary to complete this project, please send an e-mail to

About the Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania (IEFT)
The Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania (IEFT) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that strives to increase access to secondary school educational programs and is committed to the mission of serving the indigenous children and citizens of Tanzania, providing them with opportunities and skills to positively transform their own lives. Founded in 2005, as a collaborative effort between Tanzanian and American volunteer teachers, IEFT currently operates in the village of Lashaine in northern Tanzania.

About the Portland Chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA)
The Portland Chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA (EWB-USA) is a group of professionals committed to volunteering in support of the EWB-USA mission and vision. EWB-USA partners with developing communities to improve their quality of life through the implementation of environmentally sustainable, equitable, and economical engineering projects while developing internationally responsible engineers and engineering students. We welcome all professionals, of any variety, to volunteer on EWB-USA sponsored projects.