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Creating Biogas from Water Hyacinth

Posted by on May 10th, 2014

Our river (like many others in Bangladesh) is choked with water hyacinth this time of year. This water weed damages the river eco system and makes boat navigation extremely difficult, but it is also an amazing source of energy.
(Photo by Paola Fornari.)

 

Like many Bangladeshi rivers, ours is regularly clogged with water hyacinth this time of year. Water hyacinth is a water weed which restricts water flow, blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants, and starves the water of oxygen, often killing fish. When water hyacinth takes over a water way, underwater visibility and boat navigation are reduced; and biodiversity is significantly compromised.

Just as owners of beach resorts must clean the seaweed off of their beaches every morning, we too will need to clean the water hyacinth off of our river. Fortunately, instead of just throwing this weed away or composting it, we can turn it into biogas by putting it in our biogas reactor. To our knowledge, this will be the first commercially operating biogas reactor running off of water hyacinth in the world. Though biogas reactor technology is common in Bangladesh, because our fuel source is new, we decided to create a prototype reactor first to see if the system works as well in practice as it does on paper. And the answer? A resounding, “Yes!”

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) is partnering with us to introduce this technology to Bangladesh. The gas generated from Panigram’s biogas reactor will be used to power our gas stoves and ovens, but as biogas is predominantly methane, it can also be burned in a generator and turned into electricity. As an added benefit, the sludge byproduct of the gasification process makes a great fertilizer that we can use on our organic farms.

 

Our cook, Dipu, cooking our first biogas-heated meal!

 

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Panigram Resort Organic Farm Flourishes in Rural Bangladesh

Posted by on January 9th, 2014

Our organic farm test plot next to the riverside bungalows.

Our first planting of our organic test plot is flourishing! Clark, our summer intern, and ULAB professor Shafiqul Islam designed our planting plan: first, we plant a round of legumes (beans and peas) to enrich the soil with nitrogen. Second, members of the brassicaceae (mustard and cabbage) family are planted; these include: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, and brussels sprouts. Next, nightshade vegetables are planted; these include: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. Finally, roots and alliums are planted; these include: garlic, onion, leek, turnip, celery, carrot, beets, etc. Planting in this order restores the nutrients in the soil and creates the ideal growing conditions for our crops. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wintering at Panigram!

Posted by on November 27th, 2013

As we enter into the winter season at Panigram the emerald green fields turn to golden brown as the rice is collected and harvested. In a few weeks beautiful yellow mustard flowers will start popping up all over the countryside. As the weather cools, the date palm sap starts to run. Villagers (and Panigram Apprenticeship guests!) collect the date palm sap called “rosh” and drink it straight from the tree. The sweet, smoky flavored juice that is not consumed by the guests is cooked into a sticky sweet syrup or sugar called khejurer ghur, a true village delight!

Winter time brings delicious date palm juice and khejurer ghur!

We have added some fun new activities to the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience including:

  • Date palm juice collection and ghur making
  • Muri moa (Bangladeshi equivalent of caramel corn balls) cooking class
  • Basket weaving
  • Pottery classes for children
  • Mustard oil collection and processing

For more information on the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience, click here.

Panigram Apprenticeship Experience guest (and father of company founder Kristin Boekhoff!) enjoys some fresh sugar cane on the verandah of one of our bungalows.

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Guest Blog: Ecotourism at Panigram Provides a New Perspective on Bangladesh

Posted by on September 25th, 2013

Panigram Apprenticeship Experience guest and Dhaka Tribune reporter Sheikh Mohammad Irfan observes the introduction of eco-friendly tourism in Bangladesh, exemplified by Panigram Resort.

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When someone hears the word “Bangladesh,” the first thing that usually comes to mind is Dhaka city, notorious for its congestion, pollution, and impoverished population. But what if all that could change?

Excluding its capital city, Bangladesh is somewhat of an untapped treasure, hidden from global attention and enjoyed only by the locals. From the mystical forests of the Sunderbans to the breathtaking tea gardens of Sylhet to the beaches of Cox’s Bazaar, the natural beauty of the country is mostly admired by Bangladeshis escaping the noise and bustle of the city. Those tourists who do visit mostly stay in commercial hotels and rarely get a fully authentic experience of Bangladeshi culture.

Scenic view along Panigram's vangari village tour route.

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Guest Blog: The “Real” Bangladesh

Posted by on July 4th, 2013

Paola Fornari Hanna, a professional linguist, writer, and trainer and wife of the European Union Ambassador in Bangladesh, recently participated in the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience with her sister, Silvia. She enjoyed her stay so much that she was inspired to write a blog entry for us; we are very happy to publish it!

The Real Bangladesh

Recently my sister Silvia, who lives in Houston, Texas, came to stay. She was our very first visitor in two and a half years in Bangladesh, and was as determined to see, feel and breathe as much of the real Bangladesh as I was to show her.

I had read about the Panigram Apprenticeship Experience, and it seemed to be exactly what we were looking for, so we signed up.  And for three days and two nights, it was one exciting sensory experience after another. Like blissful children, we got filthy mixing mud (and learnt to add jute to strengthen it for fixing cracks).

Mixing Mud Mortar

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ULAB Professor Helps Bring Organic Farming to Our Village

Posted by on June 30th, 2013

This week Panigram was host to Shafiqul Islam, a professor from the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh. He came to assist the interns in refining the plan for the organic farming test plot. Professor Shafiq is well versed in the methodology and theory behind organic farming as he was actually an organic farmer before he became a professor.

Shafiqul Islam, professor of organic farming at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), and Dudu, a local farmer, discuss the benefits of organic farming.

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2013 Summer Interns Arrive!

Posted by on June 5th, 2013

This is the fifth year that Panigram Resort has hosted summer interns. This year the interns are helping to introduce organic farming into the area and are assisting Nazmeen with the English and hospitality lessons in the village.

Clark Austin

Clark Austin

I am a self described nerd and Biologist that comes from San Diego, California. I have been studying biology for the last nine years. In my schooling I have specialized in botany, ecology, and entomology. While working at Panigram this summer I am concluding two multi-year studies on two separate endangered plant species endemic to Southern California.

I am very excited to start working on an organic farming program in the local village that Panigram is located in. While organic farming is big in America, it has a limited market here in Bangladesh and the possibilities are endless.  I am hoping to utilize my knowledge of plants and insects to facilitate a successful program that will not only benefit the local farmers with higher market prices for their crops, but also increase the health of the ecosystem at large.

I grew up on the east coast of the United States and have traveled extensively. I like to cook very much and as a result wherever I travel I always make it a priority to try the local foods. Having never been to Asia, I am very excited to see a whole new side of humanity, and new forms of food I have never encountered.

Jordan Gascon

Jordan Gascon

Hello my name is Jordan Gascon and I am from San Diego, CA. I studied international security and conflict resolution and specialized in conflict, conflict resolution and cooperation at San Diego State University. I continued my studies at Norwich University in Vermont and received my Master’s in Diplomacy and specialized in international conflict management. I have always been a problem solver and a people person. Throughout my studies I have had the opportunity to visit many different countries including Estonia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Russia.

In each country I realized that I was inherently interested in the people’s culture and religions. I found myself trying to learn their language and teach them a little bit of English in order to facilitate better communication. I hope to be able to help the English program and the Panigram Apprenticeship program in developing stronger staff at the resort. In addition to my studies, I have worked as a biology research assistant in the Ecology Department at San Diego State for  four years. This experience has helped me develop a love of plants and sustainable agriculture. It will be a great honor to help the other interns bring sustainable organic farming to the villages of Bangladesh.

My goals for this internship are to develop lasting relationships with the local population, learn conversational Bangla, improve the English abilities of each English class, learn a little hotel/ resort management skills, and take away a better understanding of the lives of people living in poverty.

Savaila

Savaila

Greetings! I am Savaila, Pakistani native, pursuing a B.S. in Development Studies and Economics from the Asian University of Women Bangladesh. My policy interests are poverty and inequality, community and international development and social entrepreneurship. I love learning, sharing my knowledge, experiencing cultures different from my own, travelling, adventure, music, and surfing the net. This last interest led me to the internship at Panigram Resort. Various projects of Panigram resort are giving back to the community to empower those from disadvantaged communities in Panigram.  I am currently working on the organic farming project at Panigram. We had a meeting last week with some of the local farmers, and I was excited by how interested they are to work with us. So far, we have planned to do research on the prices of the vegetables and fruits in the different steps of the chain of selling vegetables and fruits. I am excited to be an intern and looking forward to work on the project.

Syeda Jeena

Syeda Jeena

Assalamu Alaikum! This is Syeda Jeena from Chittagong, Bangladesh, studying BSS in Economics and Mathematics, in an international university named Asian University for Women. By being fortunate of living with multicultural people and by learning about their culture and countries, I have always been excited to visit their places. However, before visiting the neighboring countries, I have always thought of visiting at least the 7 divisions of my mother country, Bangladesh. I have been living in Chittagong, the 2nd largest division of Bangladesh. Beside the capital Dhaka, this city is called the 2nd capital of Bangladesh. I visited Dhaka, Comilla, Chittagong Hill tracts, Coxs’ Bazaar, Sylhet, and Khulna. Just a few days before, I arrived in Jessore in order to do my Summer Internship this year here at Panigram.

When I first saw the webpage of Panigram, I was totally amazed by its mission and vision. I could guess to learn more about this project alongside the underprivileged people’s lifestyle by working with the people in Panigram. Panigram is truly an amazing place to stay. The people here and their hospitality, the food and the environment are excellent. I was truly stunned to see the innovative ideas and design of the cottages and the inside furniture and other materials that were used in the construction of the resort. All the materials are Bangladeshi which makes me really proud.

I am working now with my group mates to build the organic farming initiative here at Panigram in order to promote healthy crop production. We have been working with the farmers and villagers. The field work is very exciting, enjoyable, and knowledgeable.  I hope to learn many more new things from this summer work and come back here again after the resort is open.

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