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York academic works with Oxfam in Vanuatu

Posted on 14 May 2018

In late April, Prof Thomas Krauss spent 10 days working with Oxfam in Vanuatu in the South Pacific.

Prof Thomas Krauss with villagers in Vanuatu

The visit formed part of the EPSRC/GCRF-sponsored project “Sensors for clean water” led by Steve Johnson of the Electronics Engineering department. The project also involves researchers from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) who have a long-standing connection to Oxfam Vanuatu. Vanuatu is regularly exposed to extreme weather, which leads to contamination of the water supply, so it is essential for the villagers to know when water is safe to drink. In the context of “integrated participatory technology development (iPTD)” the goal of the project is to develop water sensors that meet the needs of the villagers, that will be socially accepted and that can be used and maintained by them. It is a particular challenge to develop a technology solution that not only works reliably but that also fits into this socio-economic framework.  In the picture, Thomas explains the principles of DNA-based testing of faecal coliforms in drinking water to the villagers. Prof Krauss explained, "even though the villagers are not formally educated, they were very keen to learn and understand, which made the exercise very exciting".