Dan Oerther wants to help East Africans help themselves. He is working to bring clean water, food and income to an area that is suffering from the worst drought in decades.
As the John and Susan Mathes Chair of Environmental Engineering at S&T, Oerther has spent the last five years with his wife, Sarah, a registered nurse, working on projects to benefit the area.
“We’ve been working with the Luoa tribe in Tanzania and are now starting projects with the same tribe in Kenya,” he says.
The Oerthers completed a water project in Kenya and returned to the country this past summer with David Hackney, a senior in civil engineering, to spend three weeks establishing the Pula Cloud project there. This income-generating project is a collaboration with a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati and Missouri EDGE, a company owned by Sarah Oerther. Pula Cloud provides villagers with computers so they can sort through 40,000 images from a medical database to narrow them down for a researcher.
“Computers can’t process these images like a human can,” says Oerther. “And the researcher doesn’t have time to go through all those images. We’d like to start a similar project in small communities near Rolla that need income generation as well.”
Another project in Kenya, the Nutrition Partnership, will teach animal husbandry to widows. “Widows will learn to raise chickens for eggs, and the meat will be given to the schools to improve nutrition,” says Oerther. The Oerthers will lend the funds for the chickens and associated capital, and have begun fundraising for a school lunch program.
Oerther is confident the projects in Kenya will be as successful as the ones in Tanzania. “The village in Tanzania now provides its own clean water,” he says. “The Roche Health Center we started has a full-time doctor and several nurses. Diarrheal diseases and childhood mortality are down, and the nutrition program has improved students’ health, academic performance and school attendance by 25 percent.”