Columbia University Engineers Without Borders - Uganda (New York, NY)


  • Name:Julissa Tejeda
  • Title:Funding Team Chair

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Columbia University Engineers Without Borders - Uganda
  • Address:4887 Lerner Hall
    2920 Broadway
    New York, NY 10027
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:347-264-4535

Organization Web

User Web and Email


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  • Mission:
  • Engineers Without Borders (EWB)-USA supports community-driven development programs worldwide by collaborating with local partners to design and implement sustainable engineering projects, while creating transformative experiences and responsible leaders. Founded in 2004, Columbia University's student chapter follows this mission by working on sustainable engineering projects in Ghana, Morocco, and Uganda. EWB-USA is a 501(c)3 organization.

  • Overview:
  • EWB is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization that connects communities in need of infrastructure or developmental advancement with chapters of student and professional engineers that have the expertise to implement high-impact, sustainable projects. Chapters apply to adopt projects proposed by communities, and partnerships are born.

    The Columbia University chapter of Engineers Without Borders (CU-EWB) aims to address the problems facing individuals and communities both locally and overseas by leveraging skills, talents, and passions of Columbia University students and the partnerships formed with our organization. Our members come from many different arts, sciences, and engineering backgrounds, but share the desire to do make a difference through meaningful work and application of our classroom studies. Each project draws from the skills of its members to provide technical solutions to worldwide problems. Our student chapter began in 2004 with the Ghana program. The Uganda program was established in 2007, and the Morocco program began in 2011. Each program sends a group of students to its respective country 2-3 times annually, principally during winter and summer breaks.

    The Uganda program was founded in response to the troubling lack of agricultural processing infrastructure at the local level in Northeastern Uganda. Ten years ago, a Columbia student and his Mechanical Engineering professor began to search for a solution to this predicament. The result was the implementation of Multi-Function Platforms (MFPs) in rural communities. Beginning with a pilot installation in one community, the project has grown to include MFPs in ten communities around Soroti, Uganda. The chapter continues to work in the region to ensure the sustainable success of these communities’ MFPs.

  • History:
  • In collaboration with Pilgrim Africa, a Ugandan NGO, we have implemented ten Multi-function Energy Platforms (MFPs) in the Northeastern Uganda. MFPs are diesel engines which are fitted with several specialized attachments, each of which is suited to process a certain type of crop. Types of attachments include cassava millers, rice polishers, maize hullers, and sunflower seed oil presses. Each MFP is different, and comes with attachments appropriate for its community.

    Since 2007, CU-EWB has implemented ten MFPs across the Teso region of Northeastern Uganda. We chose this region because the past two and a half decades have brought significant distress to the area through multiple rebel insurgencies, regional conflicts, and severe floods. Strong leadership at the local level has allowed these communities to stay on their land in the face of these troubles, while sustaining pride and respect for their land and community members.

    MFPs provide important mechanization for agricultural processing and have been shown to be an effective piece of development infrastructure. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has engaged in similar ventures in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal. The most recent full report, published in 2010, speaks to the success of the program. Specifically, the introduction of MFPs has opened up new social opportunities for members of the communities, primarily women and children.

    The goal of CU-EWB’s MFP project is to improve the livelihoods of participating communities by decreasing the amount of time spent on labor. The project does this by decreasing the amount of time required for subsistence farming. Tasks that once took 5-6 hours, such as pounding cassava, can now be completed in minutes with the MFP. Further, the efficiency of the MFPs creates a higher-quality product, which sells at higher rates in regional markets.

    The liberated time, coupled with the increase of income resulting from the MFPs, allows individuals more time to pursue education or entrepreneurial goals. In particular, CU-EWB has seen increased numbers of young women attending school since the MFPs were installed. UNDP observed the same positive result from their work in West Africa.

    The MFPs are installed in and supported by Pilgrim Africa’s extensive farming cooperative (co-op) network. As members of the co-op, the individuals pay modest dues. These dues are used to pay rent on the land, purchase fuel, and pay for repairs when needed. The co-op is supported by a volunteer elected council, consisting of 5-9 board members. In addition, each site employs 2-4 paid operators, hired from within the community. All members of the co-op are given voice in decisions regarding the future of the use of the MFP and receive reduced prices for usage of the MFP. Individuals from outside the community pay slightly higher rates.

    The ten MFPs were implemented from 2009-2015, at a rate of 1-2 per year. The communities are Orungo, Usuk, Tubur, Anyara, Angole, Aboiboi, Sugur, Okidi, Garama, and Olwa. The most recent site is the final installation of the project. Each community consists of 100-200 members.

    In the midst of the MFP project, CU-EWB Uganda took on a second project, the Rainwater Harvesting project, from 2008 until 2012. In 2009, the Beacon of Hope Secondary School in Soroti had only one tap stand supplying water to the entire campus, including the latrines, kitchen, and classrooms. The tap stand was supplied by the city water line, which would cut out as often as 1-2 days a week, forcing students (usually females) to walk 5-6 km to retrieve water from wells.

    CU-EWB conducted assessment trips to analyze the problem and take measurements of source reliability, water pricing, and water quality., among other important factors to consider.

    In meetings during the school year, CU-EWB completed the design for the rainwater-harvesting system. During the summer, three rainwater-harvesting systems were implemented. Quantitative and qualitative assessments show that the system had been successful in significantly reducing the city water consumption of the school and had even been able to supply water by itself for a whole week when a drought cut out the city water supply.

    Final testing occurred in 2011, and found that the water provided by the system was significantly more potable than the local city water. Ever since, the program has continued to monitor the quality of the water and the reliability of the rainwater-harvesting system.

    We are now working on successfully closing the MFP project in these upcoming two years. While some communities are profiting and prospering, others are not. After the installation of the tenth and final MFP this past January, we are transitioning into a monitoring and evaluation phase of our program.

  • Year established:2007
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(1)
  • Tax ID: