Dr. Mbakisya Onyango, Assistant Professor, Civil and Chemical Engineering, is currently working with Mbeya University of Science and Technology (MUST) in Tanzania after receiving a fellowship through the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program.
Alongside MUST faculty and students, Onyango is researching the use of rice husks in construction materials for housing and other structures in Tanzania.
Natural soil (mud) blocks are widely used in the Mbeya region of Tanzania. The blocks are made from a mixture of water and soil, pressed into the block formations, and then either air/sun dried or burnt into blocks. The area’s natural volcanic soil has cementitious properties, so the blocks naturally dry to become firm, strong materials for building.
Onyango’s project is studying the effects of stabilizing the soil in the blocks by adding locally sourced rice husks to the block mixture.
The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship program facilitates engagement between scholars born in Africa who are now based in the United States or Canada and scholars in Africa on mutually beneficial academic activities. The MUST project is one of 57 projects that are pairing African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions in Africa to collaborate on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training, and mentoring activities.
Onyango is one of the 59 African Diaspora scholars awarded fellowships to travel to Africa beginning May 2016. These fellowships will support a wide range of projects across disciplines, from agroforestry to e-learning modules for nursing, and from ethnomusicology to military mental health.