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Exploring Africa’s Goma Region: Diary: Day 9

FLI Goma Hydropower

The hydroelectric plant uses water from Virunga National Park, providing much-needed electricity for industry in Mutsora, a town of over 30,000 people. Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The 7R Future Leadership Institute has been following Belgian Floris Buter from the Virunga National Park on a week long field trip in Africa, in order to gather topography data for a hydro-power project. The collected data are to be wired to the Belgian engineering firm TPF. They need the data to make a feasibility study.

However during his field trip Floris decides to leave the Virunga National Park project to set up a business servicing the Virunga National Park. Today you will read how the flow rates of the rivers in the Park are measured and how he prepares to leave the Park.

Topographical Feasibility Study In Hydro-Power Project

Day 9, 19th of June 2015 – Mutsora

I get up, I take a shower and eat some breakfast in the peyote.

I’m preparing to leave the Mutsora station for good. I have collected a lot of stuff here the last two years. I have a hair dryer to dry my feet, I have an apple tv to watch movies on the big flat screen together with the rangers, I have a machete (you never know), a lifejacket that self inflates when in contact with water, a spraying can to blow dust out of my electronic devices, 7 pairs of old shitty shoes, 5 suitcases and travel bags, a lot of electronic crap I don’t use but I don’t dare to throw  away, scared for the unknown.

I am about to do what I have been doing the past years…. living out of a suitcase, well… 5 of them. Every time I had to move I basically reorganized the stuff in my suitcases. I have become an expert now…empty the suitcases, create categories, move all the stuff in the categories, put all the categories in the same or another suitcase. What doesn’t end up in a category, ends up in the bin. The process brings peace of mind and it’s a nice way to rediscover the stuff around you.

I walk down to the micro-hydro office and do the same in what used to be my office.

Fabrice knocks on my door. He needs help with the Excel file I sent him. Fabrice is part of the flow measurement team of Virunga. His job is to drive from Goma to Mutsora, visiting all sites that have been selected for full feasibility studies and to measure the flow rates of the 6 rivers in the area. To measure the flow he uses what we call a “petit moulinette” which is basically a small propeller on a metal stick, connected to a meter counting the number of revolutions of the propeller. The device calculates the speed of the water flow. To get a very detailed and accurate approximation of the flow rate in a river, Fabrice takes flow measurements on 15 imaginary vertical lines on the cross section and he takes 3 points per imaginary line when the water depth is more than 70 cm deep and 1 point per imaginary vertical line when the river depth is less than 70 cm.

Using Excel, Fabrice calculates the cross sectional area of the place where he took the measurements and he uses this to calculate the flow rate in cubic meters per second. He summarizes the monthly result in a table that grows with one line per month for every site. In this table, also the amount of power available is calculated. It varies greatly from season to season. For example, the flow rate of the Taliha Nord can go down in the low season to 2.5 m3/s (corresponding to 11.2 MW) and can increase during heavy rains to 8 m3/s (corresponding to 35.8 MW).

Since January 2015, we also started to measure the flow rate of the 6 selected sites every day. We do this by hiring a local person that can read, write and count and has some knowledge of technique. We ask him to measure the river height every day and after one month, the flow measurement team collects his monthly table.

This leaves us every month with one flow rate measured by Fabrice using the “petit moulinette” and a table with the river height, measured every day. Now we have come to a point we have this data for every month since January 2015. The trick is now to link the flow rates measured by Fabrice to the daily river height. For this we need some Excel extensions like VLOOKUP Fabrice never used before. I help him with this. He learns and masters it quickly.

It’s 12:00 o’clock. We go to the peyote for lunch. I see Roger, the cook. He smiles and says he prepared the head of the pig. I smile back and say something like “ah, nice!” I never ate pig head before.

When I arrive at the peyote, I’m happy to see the pig head is already cut into pieces. The only thing I recognize is the jaw of the pig with the teeth on it. We eat it. It’s not too bad. Fortunately, there is also some salad and some fries with mayonnaise and pili pili.

I go back to my room for a power nap but end up lying in bed replying some emails.

I’m now really in the process of mentally preparing to leave Mutsora. It feels good, at the same time it saddens me.

Nicky calls on FaceTime. I met Nicky when I went to the ‘Première’ of the Virunga Movie, on the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, in April 2014*. I met her at a dinner party Kim and his wife organized in their house in Brooklyn. Nicky arrived there with a big homemade cake and a mirror reflex photo camera to make pictures of the cake. Later that week, I had a picnic with her in Central Park, we kissed and held hands and all that. The next day, I caught the plane back to Amsterdam while all my luggage was still at Kim’s place. Kim had promised to leave the keys in the flowers next to the front door, but when I arrived at the front door and my wifi connected to the wifi of Kim’s house, I read a WhatsApp saying: “Oeps, I’m sorry. I forgot to leave the keys. You can call Gretchen who is….” and then my battery died and I decided to get the flight and ask Kim to forward my luggage to me.

Nowadays, Nicky is traveling the world and sometimes she calls me which always creates a bit of an awkward situation. We always sort of ‘handle’ the situation for a moment, but I f always find myself shaking my head when hanging up the phone.  What is it this girl wants? I don’t get her.

A little hung over from the party yesterday, we eat some normal Mutsora food: fufu, some meat and red sauce, and we go to bed.

Tomorrow will be the day I will leave Mutsora for Beni.

Notes by Floris Buter

* The Virunga Movie was nominated for an Oscar in 2015 in the category ‘Best Documentary Feature’. You can watch it here. (note FLI Institute)

FLI Floris Buter VirungaFloris Buter is the Managing Director Commercial Enterprises of the Virunga National Park in Africa. He is responsible for the identification, conceptualization, implementation and operation of all commercial opportunities in and around Virunga National Park. Today he is in the process of leaving his job, setting up his proper company servicing the Virunga National Park and other potential clients.

Virunga is truly the crown jewel of Africa’s national parks. The park contains over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s biodiversity and is home to about 200 of the earth’s last 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is the oldest national park in the Africa. Despite this, the forests and amazing animals of the park, most notably the mountain gorilla, are in a desperate fight for their survival.

To read the other diary posts from Floris Buter, click here.

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The 7R Future Leadership Institute supports nature research and exploration. If you are a scientist, adventurer or explorer on a mission, we are interested in your story. Please contact us via info(at) to discuss terms and conditions.

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