The first steps in Tulkarm were 1) to discuss with Fayez and his family their plans for the Solar Dryer, 2) to begin to discuss the basic plans and design parameters with the students, and 3) to inquire about available tools and materials.
Fayez did have interest, and specific intentions, for the Solar Dryer. The practice of sun-drying fruits and vegetables exists in the local culture of course, though the habit is largely disappearing. It was gratifying to hear how often the local response to the solar dryer was to remark that everyone’s grandparents had sun-dried excess farm production, and that we–the internationals of the Global Campus–were merely bringing a reminder of wisdom already present in the community. This assuaged our fears of being (or of being seen as) well-intentioned, neo-colonialist aid workers.
The “Solar Dryer Group” consisted of myself; one international participant with some experience in Tamera; and several students in in Agricultural Engineering from the local university. The group had a fairly sold core—Wafa, Inas, Baha’, Adul Rachman, and Bashir; eveyone was encouraged to support group needs, occasionally working in the kitchen for example, and to visit other procjets. As a result, not everyone was present every day, and other participants came to us occasionally. I leave these details to general discussions of the Global Campus in Palestine, available elsewhere.
The first step with the group, after having discussed Fayez’s plans, was to look at the pictures in the aforementioned book, and discuss the airflow and temperature requirements. I still have the first drawings I made, which were based on standard sizes of lumber in Europe, and the expectation of access to hand- and power tools.
These drawings were about ideas and communication, and not a blueprint for building. The main reason for this was the desire to use material available locally, ideally to “upcycle” material from the waste stream, and designs. This meant that the design would depend on what was around.
For example Fayez had already brought some “scrap” wood—plywood and pallets—to use during the Global Campus. Two of these, end to end, came very close to fitting the initial drawings of the dryer. We needed quite a bit more lumber, which we found a few hundred meters from the farm, at a kind of scrap yard. This yard was probably also the origin of the wood already at the farm.
By weight, nearly the entire Solar Dryer was built with recovered materials. (We’ll mention the exceptions as they come up.) This was a conscious choice. The construction process would have taken only a few days, had we bought new materials.
In any case, nearly all the final design decisions were made by the student team, with only the occasional veto from me. Adapting to available materials was therefore quite natural.