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Camden Community Service Project

 Camden

Project Cost 

$3000

Assessment Cost

$60.00

Implementation Cost

Rain Barrel System: $200.00

Sustainability Cost

$250/year

Funds Needed

$1000

Because this project is not an official Rutgers Engineers Without Borders-USA project (must be international and meet other criteria), we cannot use funds that we have recently been donated through our holiday fundraising initiative. Our Camden Project Team is independently seeking funding from local and state organizations who may be willing to assist us.

Background

Camden, NJ has 77,344 residents according to the 2010 Census. The per capita income for the city is 1,967 and 35.4% of the population live below the poverty line. Based on statistics reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Camden has been ranked the nation's most dangerous city in 2004, 2005 and 2009, based on crime statistics in the six categories of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and auto theft.  In recent years, the lack of grocery stores and supermarkets has contributed greatly to the food and health crisis among residents of Camden, NJ, not to mention its struggling economy and poor standard of living.

 



The Need

The Camden Agricultural Coalition (founded by Stefan Erwin, Rutgers Camden Law student) has turned 2 abandoned and litter-filled lots into community farms with the assistance of the Camden Children’s Garden and the Concerned Citizens of North Camden (both 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations).  Nevertheless, due to lack of accessible water resources on site, the families currently resort to making upwards of 50 trips each carrying 5-gallon buckets, 3 blocks away, twice a week, just to water one lot. Occasionally, water barrels are refilled by the local fire department, but it has been an unreliable and unsustainable resource.  Consequently, the lack of proper irrigation has resulted in food donation shortages to the local community and the charity kitchen, making such subsistence gardening projects obsolete.


 

EWB-USA Response

 

 

First Assessment

 

EWB-USA Rutgers took on this project as a local community service enterprise to supplement its official international projects overseas. The Camden Project Team formed in September 2011 to assess how we could best implement a water acquisition system for these community farm lots.  We researched several options (well construction, hose-bib installation, rain water capture) and sought mentorship from the Water Resources Program staff of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Subsequently, on January 11, 2012, we traveled to Camden and met with the Camden Children’s Garden leadership, Stefan Erwin, and two Water Resource Program Associates who work in Newark and Camden.  After the project site assessment with Rutgers Water Resources Program staff, we determined that only one of the lots had a suitable collection and placement area for a rain water system. Based on average rainfall data in Southern, NJ over the last 5 years, we expect this to provide roughly a third of the 4000 gallons of water needed to maintain both farm lots. We hope to install a non-freezing locking post hydrant on the farm lot without the rain-water collection system to meet the remaining water demand.

 

Following Up

On Saturday April 14th, 2012, the EWB Camden Project Team made a pre-implementation trip to the two farm lots on Danahower Street. These two lots collectively produced several thousand pounds of vegetables (onion, potato, cabbage, broccoli, and peas are a few) throughout last year’s 9 month growing season. Much of this food is donated to the community members in need. The plan is to review our Moemorandum of Understanding, survey the farmers, and document the impact that having an on-site water supply could have on their lives and food production. The farmers make 100 weekly five-gallon bucket trips to a fire-department refill station (about 1200ft. total distance) in order to sustain their produce. Even still, the water that is available from these stations is inconsistent and often insufficient, causing many crops to die and ultimately less food donations for the community. We will film the water refill trip along with some farmer and student interviews to include in our EWB Camden Water Project documentary. There are 26 more lots on the waiting to receive similar water acquisition and distribution assistance with the city 'Adopt A' Lot' program. On this April 14th pre-implementation trip, we also assessed two other lots recommended by the Camden Children’s Garden to receive assistance.
 

Implementation

On May 12, 2012, the EWB Camden Project Team made the implementation trip and successfully completed installation of the rain barrel system at the Camden Agricultural Community Gardens.

Moving Forward

After implementing the first rainwater collections system on 122 Danahower street. The next step is to expand to several different community farm lots. We are currently working with Camden Children's Garden, Camden Agricultural Coalition, and HULT MSE to provide community outreach and education on the importance of these rainwater systems along with operation and maintenance. A comprehensive operations manual along with a video tutorial on setting up the rain barrels are currently under development.

 

February 2014

Currently at Engineers without Borders Camden project, we have started working on rain-barrel system for a new vegetable garden in the community. We are trying to update the design for the system to suit the needs of this lot and solve a few problems we encountered. The building adjacent to the lot we will be working on requires the installation of a new gutter that passes across the building to reach the barrels. In addition, we've been thinking of new pipe designs to rectify the leaking problem from the previous garden. In other news, the Camden project is working to become an official project under the EWB umbrella! We are working through the daunting amount of paperwork right now, but this puts us one step closer to being reviewed and approved. Hopefully, we can complete both of these huge projects by the end of this semester and leave for summer feeling accomplished.  

Project Lead(s): Wyatt Borden, Sravya Khasnavees

 

Professional Mentors: Water Resources Program staff of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension