NU Engineers Without Borders at work in Madagascar


A multi-year effort has sent the University of Nebraska chapter of Engineers Without Borders to Madagascar.
The team departed May 11 for a remote Madagascar village to work on projects to improve lives and the habitat for endangered species.

Working with Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo representatives, EWB-NU focused on Kianjavato, with 300 residents in the south central region of this island off the east coast of Africa. The zoo operates a research station nearby where endangered Greater Bamboo Lemurs live, and where Madagascar's rich bio-diversity has been threatened by hunting and deforestation.

The EWB-NU group intended to begin work in Madagascar last spring, but political unrest in the nation's capital postponed the 2009 trip.

The primary goal of the EWB-NU group on this year's trip is to conduct a site assessment and find out what the people there need - from potable water to reliable power - and then work collaboratively to implement sustainable advances in return visits ahead, said Sam Saunders, who is studying for his doctorate in civil engineering at UNL.

"Our assistance with their presence in Kianjavato shows the Malagasy people that when they are doing things to help take care of their local environment, the community gains many benefits and can continue to value these resources," said Libby Jones, faculty adviser and UNL professor of civil engineering.

On this trip, Rahman Strum, a student at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is conducting surveys on health needs with Kianjavatos people. UNL juniors Megan Hansen, a biology major, and Kaitlin Ek, who studies English and hopes to be a travel writer, are aiding these efforts.

Participation in the group is open to students of all majors.

"Engineers in practice must work with people outside of engineering, and being able to work in a multi-disciplinary way is a great skill for engineers," said Jones.

The group will return May 27. They plan to share their experiences and begin planning for return trips to Madagascar.

For more information about the NU chapter of Engineers Without Borders, go to For more information on the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo's Madagascar connection, go to

- By Carole Wilbeck, Engineering