The NGO Mary’s Meals has been providing approx. 593,000 schoolchildren in 421 selected primary schools in Malawi with meals for over ten years now. With the aim of feeding children and thereby also increasing enrolment in schools, the young learners receive hot porridge made from maize flour mixed with salt and sugar. The challenge faced by the NGO, however, is a lack of firewood needed to prepare these meals. As 95% of the Malawian population rely on firewood, deforestation has become a real issue in the region.
However, an innovation constructed by a German engineer has helped to alleviate this issue: using an average of six kilograms less firewood per pot of porridge, a newly developed rocket stove uses only 1/10 of the wood that is normally needed to cook the amount required. This not only decreases costs but means that less wood is required on a daily basis.
This example shows that the usage of appropriate technological solutions can significantly enhance the social and environmental impact of a project. The organisation, which runs similar school feeding programs in 16 countries around the world including Haiti, Kenya, Zambia, India and Ukraine, has attained positive results in Malawi with the enrolment figures increasing from 200 to 525 in a short time.
“Technology without borders” cooperated with the Holy Family Hospital of Techiman, Ghana to tackle the problem of where and how to dispose medical waste.
Technology without Borders’ goal is to provide people in developing countries with simple and practical technical solutions for their everyday problems. The non-profit organization works mainly with engineering students who volunteer to foster development by searching for simple and robust technical solutions, teaching local partners how to implement these technologies, and creating micro businesses .
In our projects we focus on water and waste problems, which are often the starting point of a vicious circle: insufficient or dirty water supply causes diseases, which leads to overfilled hospitals with large amounts of waste. Inappropriate treatment of this infectious waste is not only dangerous to patients’ health but can again lead to more dirty water.
To finally break this vicious circle one of our major projects is the environmentally friendly disposal of biomedical waste. There is no regular state-run garbage removal system in Ghana, which requires hospitals to store or dispose their medical waste themselves. Consequently, most hospitals either store the waste, which is hazardous to health, in containers or simply burn it outside, which leads to the formation of toxic gases next to the hospital.
In cooperation with the holy Family Hospital in Techiman, a Ghanaian hospital, we developed a waste separation system that lowers the volume of infectious waste, because the separation controls contact between infected and non-infected material. The non –infected material can be recycled or stored without causing environmental problems. Afterwards, we installed an incinerator to burn the infectious waste at temperatures above 900°C, which guarantees the destruction of all dangerous particles.
We are solving several problems “with one stone” with this project:
First and most importantly, we prevent bacteria from growing in hospital and its environments and thereby diminish the risk to patients’ health and decrease the pollution of precious water resources. Secondly, we separate out the “clean” waste, which can now be recycled and sometimes even be sold to create some additional income for the hospital. Finally, we create micro business opportunities by teaching local workers how to build and repair separation systems and incinerators to earn money.
At the moment Technology without Borders has finished building these environmentally friendly disposal facilities in four hospitals, which are located in Techiman, Berekum, Kpandu and Agomonya, and two further systems in two hospitals are planned in 2013.
After having worked as a logistics manager in Ethiopia in the 1970s, writing about a European NGO in Ethiopia for years, travelling the most remote rural areas of this vast sub-Saharan country, visiting agricultural projects and conducting discussions with beneficiaries, I then published a book about how their lives have changed – mostly for the better*. My portraits were researched eight years ago. What has happened since then?
Alem, a rather quiet teenager in 2005, became one of the best marathon runners in her country. Tesfaye, a metal worker with a tiny business, became an important investor in small scale industries. Tefera, a wise farmer in his eighties living with his huge clan in the far northwest of Ethiopia, recently told me full of pride, that one of his great-granddaughters has just finished her PhD in political science (photo). Dhabo, eight years of age at the time and taking care of her younger siblings whilst her mother worked in the field, is now living in a students’ home in a nearby market place. In 2005 her dream was to become a teacher, actually the only profession she had ever heard of. Having had access to the internet for three years, she speaks perfect English. She is now determined to become a politician with the UN.
These are only few of the many success stories that encouraged me to found a start-up which I am naming THE NEW//AFRICA. It will be an online platform, a conference scheme and a yearbook connecting young professionals all over Africa with partners, mentors, and investors. We will go online in June 2013. TNA is about the chances, challenges and changes faced by the aspiring young generation of African women and men – all this so that they can bring their countries forward by using their own talent, know-how and skills.
Iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA) is one of the health issues faced by over 3.5 billion people in Cambodia. The disease leading to birth defects and impaired brain development has a lasting impact on lives. However, Chris Charles, a graduate student at the University of Guelph in Canada, has come up with a novel solution. In an attempt to address IDA amongst rural women in the region, he applied findings of the studies conducted in the past, which showed that using iron pots in daily cooking actually ameliorated IDA.
In a trial conducted in the village of Preak Ruessei, Kandal Province, Cambodia, Charles tried to persuade villagers to stir chunks of iron in their cooking pots. Coming up against resistance to the idea, he then suggested forming the iron into local fish shapes – something considered to be a symbol of luck in the area.
Charles commented “We designed it about 3 or 4 inches long, small enough to be stirred easily but large enough to provide up to about 75 per cent of the daily iron requirement”. A local scrap metal worker began producing the fish for $1.50 each providing him with a source of business and the project was underway. The results were impressive with women reporting that they no longer suffered from dizziness and had fewer headaches. Turns out the (iron) fish were lucky after all!
Bringing together, innovators from various fields,PopTech gathers people into one global community. Their approach is an innovative one: A multidisciplinary approach networking various actors and areas of expertise from around the world to find solutions for positive change. The community meets in close-knit, gatherings where participants share their most promising new solutions. They then set out to work on their new ideas to approach some of the world’s toughest challenges.
PopTech holds a series of programms with the aims of not only uncovering new ideas but also training next generation innovators and bringing about positive change. Programs include Labs that investigate new domains with disruptive potential to one of the renowned annual conferences. The group is always on the lookout for new members, so if you’re an innovative spirit eager to make a difference, take a look here and join in?
Today’s World Water Day is dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water. The objective of this UN initiative is to stress the importance of water as the basis of existence for everybody – because more than 780 million people worldwide currently don’t have access to clean water. Cooperation at the international and local level is vital to tackling future challenges as regards growing demand for water, supply of drinking water and funding.
Actors from politics, civil society as well as individuals worldwide have started cooperating in order to better work on these challenges. The Siemens Stiftung for instance supports drinking water projects in Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Kenya. All these projects are implemented in close cooperation with partners and adapted to the unique needs of the local communities. What they have in common is a reliance on water filtration technology as well as a focus on education and financial sustainability. In these projects, the Siemens Stiftung works with customized, low-maintenance water filters that bring contaminated water up to drinking standards.
There are, however, many more solutions and fields of applications out there, such as solar thermal or rainwater harvesting systems that are urgently needed. Discovered, promoted and combined, these often small but very effective solutions have the capacity to improve basic supply in many regions of the world and this is why the Siemens Stiftung has launched the “empowering people. Award”. With over 150 Award entries in the category of “Water and Waste Water”, we are confident to find promising technologies, which can be used at household as well as at community level. Above all, we think that these technologies can leverage sustainable solutions for the management of water resources worldwide, especially when applied in combination with entrepreneurial and training activities.
Every year over 287,000 girls and women* die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications. According to the World Health Organization, 99% of these mothers live in developing countries and most of the complications are preventable. A lot still needs to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goal number 5 aiming to improve maternal health and to reduce maternal mortality. Dr. Suellen Miller and her team at the Safe Motherhood Program at University of California have developed a first-aid device that saves thousands of women’s lives: the LifeWrap.
Obstetric hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal death: Women bleed to death before they receive the treatment they need. Especially where skilled stuff, transfusions and surgery are miles away, complications often result in organ failure and death. In these settings, nurses have almost no means of coping with hemorrhage. This could change with the LifeWrap: In appearance similar to a neoprene wetsuit, the non-pneumatic anti-shock garment (NASG) is wrapped around the legs and body of the mother, returning blood back into the vital organs. In this way, the LifeWrap helps women to regain consciousness; it accelerates recovery times from shock and reduces blood loss, stabilizing mothers suffering from hemorrhage so that they can be transported to the next hospital.
The LifeWrap has been applied in several countries including Egypt, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Several studies already proved the efficiency of the device: it significantly reduces mortality, especially for women in more severe shock. The LifeWrap and other appropriate technological solutions do their part in providing hope that the Millennium Development Goal 5 can still be achieved by 2015.
Watch this video on the LifeWrap in Zambia and see how it actually saves lives:
You lift a few rocks within a few seconds and receive clean and green energy for 30 minutes. You don’t need any batteries and you don’t pay anything apart from an initial cost of $10. Sounds unbelievable, but it’s true! An innovative, low-cost lighting solution makes it possible:Gravity Light. Martin Riddiford and Jim Reeves, two London-based designers, have developed a lighting solution based on gravity. The device has two elements: a body with a lamp and a power generation unit consisting of a weight that has to be filled with sand or stones and is then lifted up in the air for a few seconds. By the time the weight returns to its starting position, power has been generated automatically – completely emission free and independent of electricity or solar power. Apart from being a source of light, the device also serves to power other things. On top of that, Gravity Light is a real money-saver because there are no running costs, people can save the money they would have spent on kerosene or other biogas fuels and invest it in more powerful lighting systems, for example solar panels. Have a look on the device here: http://vimeo.com/53588182
How do you charge your phone or light in your off-grid home at night by simply being in the sun during the day? The Portable Light Project gives the answer by empowering people in developing countries to create solar textiles that harvest energy from the sun to charge USB 2.0 enabled tools. Flexible thin-film solar cells and batteries are integrated into portable textiles like blankets and bags using local materials and textile craft traditions. Would you like an example? In Nicaragua, rangers working with the conservation organization, Paso Pacifico, hook a solar textile and LED lantern onto their bags by day, and remove it to light their homes at night. The lantern, which is able to switch to a red light, can even be used to protect sea turtles and their eggs from poachers. You can find more inspiring examples on the project’s website: http://portablelight.org/
How often is the door of a latrine in the field actually opened? Is the water offered through a new filtration technology really of better quality? How do we know if appropriate technologies are actually used and if they have real impact on people’s lives? Researchers from SWEETLab (Sustainable Water, Energy and Environmental Technologies Laboratory) at Portland State University have developed a tool to answer this question: They have invented sensors for development infrastructure to investigate if and how people are using technologies in everyday life.
When presenting different appropriate technologies on this blog, such as efficient cookstoves, low-cost sewage systems and simple water filters, we emphasized their great advantages and potential. But often it takes inventors years until they have reliable data on the efficiency of their solution. SWEETLab’s remote-sensing technology helps to overcome this problem: Their sensors, placed on technologies such as water filters or latrines, inform researchers and aid organizations via mobile phone or WiFi signals about the frequency and behavior patterns of the technologies implemented at the moment they are used. These tiny sensors are powered by little batteries that only have to be replaced once a year.
Real-time monitoring and reliable evaluation is of utmost importance when trying to gain insight into the effectiveness of solutions and enabling inventors and aid organizations to meet the actual needs of the consumers. SWEETLab has shown how important it is to know what is happening in the field in several countries, including Indonesia, Haiti, India and Rwanda for example.
Photo: The SWEETSense PassiveLatrineUse Monitor collects data on when and how often latrines are used. (Source: SWEETLab)