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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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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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Making It Happen

Posted by on June 21st, 2012

Workers preparing the thatch roof

With construction well on its way, the resort is taking shape. It’s an exciting time to see how the plans and designs on paper are now transformed into physical buildings. The foundations have been poured and structural elements are in place. We’re also experimenting on finishes and materials on prototype buildings to enhance the feel of the resort. It takes time, but it’s a process that we know will achieve amazing results. There are over 200 workers from the local area working to make this resort a retreat in paradise. For more photos, visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/panigram.

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Cornell Summer Interns Arrive!

Posted by on June 11th, 2012

Summer is here and so are the interns! This year we have four students, all from Cornell University: a hotel intern, an architecture intern, an entrepreneurship intern, and a landscape architecture/media intern. This summer the interns are working on some of our socially responsible initiatives, from designing our handicraft village to hospitality training for our village employees. Their adventure has already begun with visits to the Panigram Resort site, villages, and Sundarbans–one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Center.

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Shuping Liu

Shuping Liu

Hello! My name is Shuping Liu and I am the architecture intern at Panigram Resort. I’m an architecture major in my fourth year at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Coincidentally, I was born in Syracuse, which is only one hour from Ithaca; however, I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. With my free time I enjoy reading, running and fixing up old bikes. You can check out some of my work at www.shupingliu.com.

As part of Panigram Resort, my main responsibilities will include planning the nearby handicraft village. I will be investigating how the villagers use and build their homes to inform the architecture of proposed market spaces, workrooms and plazas.  My summer experience in Bangladesh has already been unique and rewarding. I am looking forward to putting my skills to use but also to learn from the local villagers. I can’t wait to learn how to tie my new lungi.

 

Yohana Tsegai

Yohana Tsegai

My name is Yohana Tsegai. I am currently a junior in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Although many people here confuse me for a local Bangladeshi, I was born in Asmara, Eritrea in East Africa. At the age of three, my family and I moved to Houston, Texas in America. No cowboy hats or boots for me, but I’m a proud Texan nonetheless. I’m one of four children — the only girl with three brothers – so I’m pretty independent. I love to travel, especially when I can visit my relatives who live all over the world.

While here at Panigram Resort, I will be in charge of creating a training program for more than 200 employees in a variety of positions. The training will include activities, video modules, and written and verbal exams. I will also be helping the Human Resource Manager craft HR policies that will take into consideration the local culture and customs. I am looking forward to helping Panigram Resort set the standard as Bangladesh’s first five-star resort.

 

Katherine Li

Katherine Li

Asalam elaiykum! My name is Kathy and I was born and raised in the crazy city of Los Angeles, California. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in landscape architecture and next year will be my final year at Cornell University.  One of my greatest passions is to travel; I have visited more than 20 countries thus far. Most of my travels have taken me to Asia where I love to eat, shop and learn about the area’s culture and architecture.  Spending a year in Japan and traveling inspired me to go back to school to learn more about design and the environment.  I hope to focus my last year of study on sustainability and how it can be applied to ecotourism. As the summer Media Intern at Panigram, my job will be to publicize the activities leading up to the resort’s opening next year.  I am excited to be part of a project that is committed to helping the people in Bangladesh as well as the local environment.

 

Andrew Pike

Andrew Pike

My name is Andrew Pike and I believe in development through business. Growing up and working in East Africa over the past 20 years has taught me that business, as a profit maximizer, is inherently more efficient than aid and is a large part of the solution to poverty.

At the age of 18, I became a social entrepreneur by starting my own small not-just-for-profit business. My business creates eye-catching laptop cases out of ‘Kitenge’, a traditional African fabric with intricate, colorful patterns. Everything is made in formerly war-torn Northern Uganda and allows Mama Lucy, a remarkable local entrepreneur, to expand her tailoring business and to put the 10 children she supports through school. I stress that this is business, not charity.

Panigram, which is energizing the local economy around Jessore, shares my ideals. I am excited to start my main project—a crafts village for disadvantaged women, which will provide them with a self-sustaining and long term flow of income. By selling directly to the tourists, the women are able to get higher and fairer prices and eliminate exploitative middle men.

I study Applied Economics and Management with a specialization in International Trade and Development at Cornell University. I am an avid reader of science fiction, a lover of music, disco boogie, and all things jolly. My ‘to-learn’ list includes headstands, salsa dancing and ironing. Traveling makes me feel alive and I aspire to make the most of the opportunities that cross my path. Folks, the aim is to live the dream.

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Mud and Mangoes

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

Now, after almost two weeks of settling into our humble abode in Jessore, we interns, have become quite adjusted to our new lifestyle abroad.  We eat our egg and ruti in the morning before our hour-long autorickshaw ride to the project site; a ride which often makes me think of getting pulled down bumpy sidewalks as a child in my little red metal wagon.  Here, though, the sidewalk is eight feet wider and trucks stacked twenty feet high with local goods like hay, bricks, or goats (though not usually all three together…) fight at top speeds for the extra sliver of road beside me.

Millie waits for our driver Rafik in the autorickshaw.

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Winter Interns Work on Alternative Energy Project

Posted by on January 23rd, 2011

A couple of months ago a student from Cornell emailed me. She said that she had applied for the summer internship last year at Panigram, but unfortunately was not selected. She said that she really wanted to work for my company and was wondering if she could come do a winter internship with me. I thought that three weeks was too short for an internship, but I was impressed with her initiative, and I always enjoy working with students, so I agreed. Her friend Cat (another Cornell engineering student) decided to join her. Read the rest of this entry »

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Surveying Our Villages

Posted by on July 1st, 2010

The past month of work has been an eye-opening experience for me as I explore Panigram’s surrounding towns with my fellow interns.  My project for this summer is to collect baseline demographic data on these villages in order to better understand the community’s current condition—and its most pressing needs.  Since the Bangladeshi government has no demographic information (and not even any maps of the area), it’s up to us to do what in the United States would include census administration, map-making, and social outreach.  What our team is working on right now is the surveying: we visit villagers’ homes and go through a list of basic questions about household size, income, health, work, and education.  By obtaining a snapshot of the community’s current state, we hope to gauge Panigram’s impact in future years by comparing today’s data to subsequent years’.

Some of the villagers in our host community.

Some of the villagers in our host community.

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