Three as yet unselected Harvard students will travel to sub-Sahara Africa in January to assist Mali tribesmen in building an adequate and reliable water supply system.
The expedition, led by Hans Guggenheim, a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will try to solve the acute water shortage caused by a five-year drought by constructing water storage systems within the framework of traditional Mali technology, Guggenheim said.
Guggenheim plans to build an aqueduct and reservoir system using already existing houses and other structures. Aqueducts from roof to roof will empty into infrequently used eight-foot high granaries.
Guggenheim, who became concerned about the plight of the Dogon tribe in Mali during a trip there three years ago, has asked Everett I. Mendelsohn, chairman of the History of Science Department, to provide the names of three Harvard students who might go on the expedition. However, Guggenheim said that he will also consider applications from other students.
The Wundamin Fund is financing part of Guggenheim's project. A few other groups have expressed interest in funding the efforts, including National Geographic, which is considering doing a television program on the expedition.
Several students in Guggenheim's architecture seminar at MIT are constructing a full-scale model of a granary to test Dogon waterproofing cement. The high, conical granaries have an approximate capacity of 2500 gallons, according to Guggenheim.
Guggenheim said the granaries' mythological significance will help make the water system acceptable to the Dogons. According to legend, the granaries were brought to Earth by the water god Nommo.