Spirulina Production Unit Proposal
William, Xuchen & Rosemary are students at Oxford University and recently spent time with the Nasio Trust during internships at our offices & projects. Here’s what they said…
William Hodgkins, Penultimate Year, BA Literae Humaniores, New College
I worked with the charity on a project to set up a farm producing a nutritional supplement called spirulina. Spirulina is an algae with high nutritional value, as it has the highest protein content of any natural food. It is cheap to produce, and effective in tackling malnutrition and boosting the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs in those living with HIV. I carried out research on the market for spirulina in Kenya to identify the best places to sell it. I was also heavily involved in the design of the farm because of my language abilities – many of the relevant manuals we were using were in French.
The support from my manager, a long-term volunteer from the UK, was excellent, and she made an effort to provide me with work relevant to my career plans.
There was a lot of variety in my daily life because of the nature of the project. I lived with other volunteers in shared accommodation owned by the charity, which was simple but surprisingly comfortable. Most days I would have a meeting with the rest of the team after breakfast to talk about our progress and what needed doing. Whenever I had some time I would work on my market research, reading reports and articles and writing up my conclusions. On many days there was travel to visit other spirulina farms, and interviews with people involved in the industry, or a trip to the nearest town to stock up on supplies (45 min away by Jeep on a dirt track). In the evenings I socialised with the other volunteers I lived with. There were also opportunities to travel, including a nearby rainforest, and a chance to go on safari.
I felt that I was very lucky to be involved in an exciting and unusual project. I regretted not having more time to travel around Kenya, which was surprisingly cool and comfortable in the summer months. The people I met were incredibly welcoming and friendly. I would definitely consider returning if I was involved with work that was equally as motivating and interesting as this project. The internship also confirmed to me that I could add more value to NGOs by working in a different sector first for a few years, in order to gain useful skills and experience.
Xuchen Yang, First Year, BA Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s College
I was involved in the spirulina production project, and I was mainly responsible for the design of the production unit (in construction) and of the production method. I was also involved in part of the marketing and operations.
We lived in a guesthouse owned by the charity which is near the planned production site of spirulina. We worked with local contractors, local parents/guardians, local volunteers and charity staff. We also travelled a lot to visit other spirulina producers, in order to establish connections and on occasion ask for help. In my spare time I usually stayed with other volunteers from the UK to do various activities for fun.
The pace of the Kenyan countryside environment is generally slow. We spent a long time waiting for people for appointments, so the efficiency was not terribly high.
Rosemary Dickinson, Second Year, BA Philosophy, Magdalen College
My internship involved report writing, strategy work, website design, newsletter production, financial analysis.
I rented a room in Oxford, and caught bus to work which took 40 minutes from Oxford to Chalgrove, where I worked at Jennings Business Park. Evenings and weekends I had free from work (except for the odd meeting). I got on extremely well with everyone in the office.
The Nasio Trust has a wonderful team, who are doing fantastic work. I have never worked with a team who were so positive and supportive in their attitude. I have come away with a real sense that anything is possible through sheer determination!