Monday, October 31, 2005

TECHKNOWLEDGY : Deserves A Close Look

When I first saw the name "Techknowledgy" I thought that someone had misspelled it. But before I considered correcting the person who had written it, I read a little further. (As I get older, I have learned to "look before I leap.") And when I looked, what I saw was a really inspiring non-profit organization operating out of the UK.

Techknowledgy is a charitable organization dedicated to working with people in the developing countries of Africa in order to help them bridge the technology divide. By teaching passing on the knowledge about how to use it effectively. They support sustainable education programmes through providing computer equipment along with instructions on their use and also access to the Internet.

Focusing on young people of Africa, Techknowledgy endeavors to empower them by establishing centres where they can "learn to use computers and thus acquire skills that will benefit them later in life". This organization teaches the basic skills of keyboard use and English language, information technology and global communications. Together these skills give these new "techno citizens" opportunities in life which they might otherwise have been denied due to a lack of facilities and resources.

Using previously owned computers Techknowledgy equips schools in a number of African countries. Once the computers are installed in the schools, the organization instructs them on how to maintain them and they also provide IT teaching programmes.

Techknowledgy has worked with more than twenty African schools and universities, technical training collages and women's training institutions in Ghana, and Tanzania. Additionally Techknowledgy pairs schools in the UK with African counterparts, giving students in both the UK and Africa the opportunity to communicate using email.

Over 1,000 computers have been sent to Africa in the past year by Techknowledgy. And by doing this, they have helped with "the education of over 20,000 African children and young people and have provided employment opportunities to over 60 young adults to teach IT and to provide in-country support for the programmes."

Techknowledgy, like many other organizations that donate computers and other technical items to developing nations was organized with the understanding that many people would dearly love to have items that are often discarded in the developed nations. The folks at Techknowledgy realized that developing countries often cannot afford what is taken for granted in nations like the UK and the US. So Techknowledgy set about rescuing items that were headed for the landfills in the UK but could be recycled and reused effectively elsewhere. Particularly, they point out that computers that can be used for educational purposes and run Windows 95 and Office 97 are ideal in certain developing nations but are often discarded in the UK because they can be replaced more effectively than they can be recycled.

Techknowledgy points out that this is not a "totally unique" idea. But in this particular instance this came to be joint effort between a UK based charity and an NGO in Ghana.

In Ghana, phase one of the Project there had equipping the schools directly with computers prior to the UK and Ghanaian organizations joining forces. Research had been done, and that offered a guideline to follow in regards to the important elements of the scheme.

One of the things learned was that maintenance is terribly important. Computers had come into Ghana with keyboards for use with French, German and even Japanese. It is obvious to see the difficulties that that would create. Additionally, because computers were coming into the country configured for a 110 volt power supply as is standard in America, in Ghana, the power supply is 220 volts. Step down transformers were used to accommodate the difference in the US computers and the Ghanaian power supply, but the transformers were very costly, often exceeding the real value of the computer, according to Techknowledgy. And as if that was not problem enough, some of the computers failed after only a short time, and repair costs were prohibitive.

Learning from their experience, the people at Techknowledgy realized that they had to come up with a complete solution. They had to address the issues of supply, upgrade and maintenance of the machines. In addition to this, they had to convert the classrooms so as to provide an acceptable environment with proper furnishing and air conditioning. Techknowledgy also made sure that there were adequately trained teaching staffs in the schools.

When Techknowledgy went to work in Tanzania, the two organisations had come together and developed a single plan of action. In Tanzania the basic formula used in Ghana was adopted and revised. As a result of meetings held with the Education service in Tanzania an NGO was formed to be a vehicle for the project. To date, 26 computer schools have been successfully opened; and Techknowledgy intends to double that number in two years.

After the two organizations came together, they went back into Ghana for phase two of the program there. In order to move things forward more efficiently, a new NGO was formed in Ghana and talks were entered into with prospective schools. The idea was well received and several schools accepted the proposal. To date, two schools have been opened.

Because of the success of its operations, the Department for Community Development in Ghana has asked Techknowledgy to help with the Women's Institutions. These Institutions are schools that cater for children who have either dropped out of the education system or can't afford the fees, or both. However, these are small schools and because the government aid is limited their budgets are not very large either.

Rising to the challenge, Techknowledgy agreed to help 24 Institutions with 20 computers each. Now they have been asked by the Minister for Women's Affairs to help with a additional 24 girls schools with 40 computers each.

Although Techknowledgy was the coming together of two organizations, it is a single organisation with a Director appointed for each country responsible for the respective operations. The Ghana branch of the organization is set up to equip 2-3 schools a term. Because of the demands of providing such a large supply of computers, Techknowledgy is now looking for 3000 sq ft of storage space and workshop facilities.

It is also anticipated that the operation in Tanzania is going to expand to approximately the same level.

Techknowledgy only charges the students £4.50 a year each for the use of the computers. The fee's generated in this way are used entirely within the recipient country for repair and maintenance of the equipment and other services such as teacher training.

In order to completely refurbish a classroom and provide 40-50 computers for the student to use the organization has to raise £10,000.

Techknowledgy has put out the appeal that "If you can let me know of anyone wishing to dispose of computers we would appreciate it. We can in return offer photographs for your own newsletter and discuss the possibility of free advertising through newspaper articles. Also if you can offer any storage space, or know of anyone who can assist in the short and long term we again would be very grateful."

I was going to post some of the FAQs that are found on Techknowledgy's web site, but I see by the old clock on the wall that it is time for me to go, so I am just going to point you to Techknowledgy's web site and ask you to look them over.

Techknowledgy is doing a lot of good and you can be a part of that if you know of a way that you can help them.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

ENERGIA : Networking Energy For The Good

ENERGIA is an international network on gender and sustainable energy. The objective of this organization is to link individuals and groups concerned with energy, sustainable development, and gender. The goal of Energia is to contribute to the empowerment of rural and urban poor women through specifically focusing on issues related to energy.

ENERGIA was founded in 1995 by an informal group of women involved in energy inputs to the Beijing Conference on Women. Since then, it has grown and is now active in developing nations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania as well as in developed nations in Europe, North America and Australia.

Currently there are over 1800 subscribers to its newsletter, ENERGIA News. Phase 1 of ENERGIA (from1996 through1999) was focused mainly around the production of the Network's newsletter. In Phase 2 (from1999 to 2002) ENERGIA was centered on seven main activities. Those activities in addition to the newsletter, included: capacity building, advocacy, case study and research, establishing a resource center, and regionalization and formalization of the network.

ENERGIA has been extremely active in the area of advocacy. Here are listed just a few of the many things that they have done.

As a part of its Advocacy function ENERGIA has facilitated the development and synthesis of twenty-seven working papers. Twelve of these papers have been posted on the ENERGIA web site.

ENERGIA has supported the presentation of gender issues at twelve mainstream energy meetings, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development, World Renewable Energy Conference, ISES World Solar Congress 2001, Global Women Petroleum & Energy Forum 2001, Ninth Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Village Power Meeting, etc.

The organization has launched a number of gender and energy programs, such as Global Village Energy Partnership and Winrock International.

Gender and energy issues have been presented at eight other international energy meetings as well. A regional workshop "Women and Sustainable Energy in Africa" held in Nairobi, Kenya in March 2000 led to the main focus of the first part of Phase 2 being on Africa. At the end of Phase 2, there were nine national networks and three sub-regional networks. Additionally a regional focus point and a Francophone focal point were created and associated with the ENERGIA Network in Africa. As a result of the Phase 2 efforts twelve initiatives of the Africa networks received seed funding to help with the stimulation and strengthening of those networks.

Four sub regional focal points in Africa met with the ENERGIA Director of Regionalisation and Capacity building in Nairobi, Kenya in June 2002. And on three separate occasions, network members undertook their own initiatives in order to further ENERGIA objectives. On more than ten occasions, ENERGIA worked in partnership with a number of regional organisations in their activities.

ENERGIA has plans for a Phase 3 which began in January 2003 will continue the activities undertaken under Phase 2, but focusing mainly on capacity development to integrate gender and energy in policy, programs and projects for sustainable development, and the consolidation of the network.

While the direct beneficiaries of ENERGIA's efforts are first policymakers, planners, and project implementers of government institutions, NGOs, private companies and other organizations and secondly, network members actively taking part in program activities, the ultimate beneficiaries, are expected to be rural and urban poor women.

Some of ENERGIA's focal points in Africa are:

Intermediate Technology Development Group-East Africa (ITDG-EA) , which is a focal point of the Eastern Africa Gender and Energy Network. The Intermediate Technology Development Group-East Africa (ITDG-EA) has an Urban Livelihoods and Shelter Programme, a Rural Agriculture and Pastoralism Programme, a Manufacturing and Enterprise Development Programme, an Energy Programme, and a Transport Programme.

ENDA-Tiers Monde is a part of the Francophone Focal Point and an international non-profit organisation based in Dakar, Senegal. Founded in 1972, ENDA is an association of autonomous entities co-ordinated by an Executive Secretariat. Enda relies essentially on the initiative and methods of popular action for its impetus that include, individual and collective initiative (particularly inner city inhabitants, who mobilise in response to particular challenges and issues); grassroots groups and social movements (rural and urban associations involving youth, women, communities, professionals and consumers, and local or national federations) and the construction of basic common infrastructures (socio-economic activities, sanitary and social services etc.) with the involvement of grassroots communities.

ENDA's support of grassroots groups also involves collaboration with numerous institutions and administrations in the third world; employing voluntary workers of Southern origin and from certain industrialized countries and other functions as well.

Enda Energy is a branch of the organisation Enda Tiers Monde and their work focuses on energy use and management in the African context, with an emphasis on the linkages between energy and development.

The Centre for Innovation and Development (NovAfrica) is a focal point of the Southern African Gender and Energy Network (SAGEN)

Novafrica is a regional development organisation that was set up in 2003 in South Africa to focus on promoting learning, innovation and knowledge and also to stimulate community-led economic development. NovAfrica's ambition is to develop a new community of development facilitators, with skills, exposure and experience to tap into and develop Africa's unique reserves of innovation and creativity. It believes that Africa's communities can - with the right kind of support - find solutions to their own problems.

West African Gender and Energy Network (WAGEN) maintains the Friends of the Environment (FOTE) focal point, which is now the Environmental Rights Action. The Environmental Rights Action (ERA) is a Nigerian advocacy non-governmental organisation founded on January 11, 1993 to deal with environmental human rights issues in Nigeria. ERA is the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), the world environmental justice federation campaigning to protect the environment and to create sustainable societies. ERA is the co-ordinating NGO in Africa for Oilwatch International, the global South network of groups concerned about the effects of oil on the environment of people who leave in oil-bearing regions.

Dedicated to the defence of human ecosystems in terms of human rights, ERA intends to promote environmentally responsible governmental, commercial, community and individual practice in Nigeria. It seeks to do this through the empowerment of local people. It acts as a peaceful pressure group, campaigning for change in the policies of governmental, non-governmental and commercial organisations in support of environmental human rights. Additionally it enables local people to defend their environmental human rights through the use of the law.

Mali-Folkecenter (MFC) is a focal point of the Malian ENERGIA Network and was the subject of a Blog article in July of 2005

This should give you a pretty good idea of the Network that Energia has been building. It would take quite a while to discuss all of the organizations in Enesrgia's network, but from time to time, I intend to revisit the Network and bring you more information about them; but for the time being, I must bring this article to a close.

Visit ENERGIA and see for your self the many things that are taking place in the world of energy in Africa.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

PLAYING FOR PEACE: Uniting And Educating - A Nation

KwaZulu Natal has many problems. More than a decade after apartheid ended in South Africa, the effects still linger and remain a part of every day life for black South African children. South African society remains divided both by race and social classes. Black and white South African youth seldom interact in a meaningful way.

One of the initiatives that is working to remove these barriers to racial and societal harmony is Playing for Peace.

Founded in 2001, this organization has been involved in working to break down racial barriers, educate children about health issues, and providing alternatives to crime. It is also molding young South African adults into role models in their communities in order to effect positively change and strengthen those communities.

Despite the difficulties and obstacles, of HIV/AIDS, high crime rates, drugs & alcohol abuse, and high school dropout rates, Playing For Peace is creating constructive outlets for children in KwaZulu Natal.

When you look at the numbers you can see that since December 2000, Playing for Peace, South Africa has:

• Taught the game of basketball to over 25,000 children from the city of Durban, its suburbs and its surrounding townships

• Actively involved 7,000 10-14 year old boys and girls from 98 schools who participate in inter-community leagues, life skills clinics, tournaments and clubs

• Trained and employed 100 young South African adults to serve as coaches and youth mentors

• Built 45 outdoor basketball courts each of which is affixed with AIDS awareness message

• Held 8 tournaments each involving over 2,000 children who participate on mixed teams

The organization has also developed, in partnership with Harvard University 's School of Public Health and the University of Natal, a program-wide HIV/AIDS Awareness initiative. As a registered charity in South Africa with an active board of directors Playing for Peace has also partnered with such organizations such as:
The Laureus Sport For Good Foundation
The Nelson Mandela's Children Fund and
The South African government, to name a few

Playing for Peace's program activities are:

Bringing together thousands of children from different backgrounds to play basketball and to forge positive relationships that transcend race, culture and religion;

Facilitating the acquiring of critical leadership tools for young adults so that they can make a positive difference in their communities and on the lives of the children with whom they work;

Utilizing the expertise of academics and community leaders to effectively educate children about AIDS and other critical health issues;

Constructing basketball courts at clubs and schools where the program operates;

Building community ownership and sustainability

Some of those activities are:

Schools Program – that work with sixth, seventh and eighth grade boys and girls after school twice a week during the school day.

Pairing of Schools – that facilitates weekly and bi-monthly programs for children from the paired schools to play basketball together in a festive atmosphere.

Life Skills Curriculum – that addresses important social issues in appropriate ways for these 10-14 year old boys and girls and provides them with the knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes and self-images that will enable them to lead healthy, productive lives.

Rural Outreach Program – that has expanded to the initiatives to the rural communities of Molweni and Umbumbulu in 2004, and worked with over 250 grade 6 boys and girls in these areas.

Under 16 Club League – that operate under 16 youth basketball clubs in strategically located sites so as to involve children from across racial and cultural backgrounds.

Basketball/ Life Skill Clinics – that combine fundamental basketball instruction with life skills workshops.

Additionally Playing for Peace conducts 2 major tournaments each year and has constructed approximately 40 basketball courts over the past two years.

In August of 2005 Steve Kerr, a professional basketball player with the US National Basketball Association visited the Laureus-supported Playing for Peace project in Molweni, South Africa in order to inaugurate a newly opened basketball court for underprivileged youth.

Youth from three local schools in a training session with Steve Kerr and having some fun playing basketball as well.

Playing for Peace is credited for breaking down racial barriers in Kwazulu-Natal, and teaching youth in that area about AIDS and other critical health issues.

Playing for Peace is doing a lot of good in South Africa. I only gave you the briefest outlines of their various programs, and I hope that you will visit their web site so that you can learn more about the wonderful program that they have for youth. I’ve listed the web sites for Playing For Peace – South Africa, Playing For Peace and Laureus.

Playing For Peace – South Africa

Playing For Peace


Monday, October 24, 2005

ICODEI - OKDV : More Than An Academic Exercise

Formed in 1993, Inter-Community Development Involvement (ICODEI) is a Kenyan non-governmental oganization (NGO) was intended to respond to needs of the community of Bungoma District of Western Kenya. At that time, the community's
immediate needs were seen to involve addressing poverty, illiteracy, health, the environment, farming, child care and gender issues.

Members of the local community established ICODEI as a non-profit organizatin purely for benevolent, charitable and humanitarian purposes.

The organization's Mission Statement says that its "purpose is to empower Kenyans living in the Western Province to overcome their medical, educational and financial problems and to recognize their inherent abundance of resources." To accomplish its goals and to improve the living conditions in the Western Province, ICODEI has five focus areas:

Micro-Enterprise Development for Women and Farmers

ICODEI has partnered particularly with two organizations:
The Episcopal Church of Africa, River Nzoia Diocese) and
Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers (OKDV) of Indiana University in the US.
But it is not funded by any organization or agency. All projects and programs have been implemented and funded by volunteer members.

Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers is an organization of Indiana University students that work in conjunction with ICODEI. The folks of OKDV say that they are not experts in the field of Third World development, hey have discovered that if they invest a sufficient amount of time and energy and work hand in hand with the people of Western Kenya, they can make improvements in health, literacy, the environment and the economy.

They state that "through research and subsequent action, we plan on learning more about development issues that face the communities in the Western Province."

Rather than work from the top down to address the issues of their concern, these students take a different approach and work with the common people in the rural areas who seldom see the benefits of development efforts. And at the same time OKDV tries to educate the people with whom they are working about sustainable development.

The Mission Statement of OKDV (Remember, it is a separate organization from ICODEI) states that they work:

To create a compassionate and dedicated research and fundraising group that assists the grass-roots Kenyan non-governmental organization, Inter-Community Development Involvement (ICODEI).

To have volunteers work hand in hand with the people of the Western Province of Kenya and implement sustainable development projects in a mutually beneficial exchange.

To not be bound by religion, politics, ethnicity or nationality.

And OKDV programs are:

AIDS Education Program
Library Program
Micro-enterprise Program for Women
Health Education Center and Clinic
Clean Water Program
Pre-School Program and
Teacher's Program

One of the areas in the health initiative for ICODEI and its partners has been to address the problem of HIV/AIDS through education and awareness.

OKDV volunteers worked in the Western Province during the summers of 1998 to 2001, surveying and witnessing "the ravaging effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic." They found that one of the "main causes of the high-rate of infection in the Western Province is the silence and stigma that surrounds HIV and AIDS." The also attribute the high level of ignorance still exists about the origin, transmission, and prevention of HIV/AIDS in certain areas of the country for the problem as well. One of the things they learned is that "some Kenyans in the Bungoma District believe mosquitoes can spread HIV, that condoms have holes in which the AIDS virus can pass, and people infected with HIV can rid themselves of the virus by passing the virus on to as many people as possible through repeated unprotected intercourse."

Since the summer of 1996, ICODEI, working its partners, has reached over 45,000 Kenyans with their HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. The OKDV/ICODEI team presented an extensive two to three hour HIV/AIDS program at schools, community centers, bars, night clubs, churches and women's groups. This included the presentation of HIV/AIDS awareness films to holding discussions on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) to passing out over 10,000 condoms where permitted and demonstrating proper condom use.

ICODEI's Building Libraries program was established because before 2001 there was not a single public library in the Western Province, Kenya even though the Province's population approximates 4 million people. However, there is a high literacy rate (78% in Kiswahili and 60% in English) there, and Kenyan citizens are eager to actively pursue knowledge and read the classics.

To date over 2,000 books have been shipped to Western Province with the assistance and donation s from the Indiana University Memorial Union Bookstore, the Undergraduate Library of Indiana University, and a middle school in Middletown, Maryland in the eastern US.

In August of 2001 construction of the first public library in Western Province was completed on donated land in Kabula, Kenya, which is where the OKDV/ICODEI Headquarters are located. Additional volumes are still being collected for the library and the organizations also seek to establish a computer lab to both allow the local citizens access to computer technology and offer computer tutorials to enhance the skills of those interested in employment opportunities connected with computer literacy.

By the way, if you would like to donate books to this library effort, you can learn how to do it by going to this link. Library .

The Micro Enterprise initiative was created in order to the fight poverty. And a key to this was the removal of obstacles women face in expanding their own businesses and farms, such as the inability to access credit, training, and technical assistance.

While women account for more than 60% of agricultural labor and contribute up to 80% of total food production, they receive less that 10% of credit provided to small farmers.

The World Bank states that microenterprise programs are a very effective way to reduce absolute poverty. And it is through micro-enterprise development that OKDV hopes to help women gain economic independence.

ICODEI and OKDV believe that once women gain this economic independence they will be able to fill a more active and assertive role in the society of Western Kenya.

Based upon the findings from an earlier survey, in early 2001 groups of women were organized into three consortia that registered with OKDV. These women totaled about 2000 in number and were instrumental in launching new community-based economic development projects. In response to the goals and suggestions of the women themselves, the focus of the work during that summer with women's groups was the establishment of three sewing centers to be run as small businesses and vocational schools.

Currently, the income from this initiative is being reinvested to purchase materials and to pay the teache. The goal is to eventually put these profits into a joint bank account, which will then be fund for micro-enterprise loans.

In addition to the programs previously mentioned ICODEI intends to establish a Health Center that was constructed in Kabula, Kenya in such a manner that it was used as a Health Education Center in the first phase and then as an operational Health Education Center and Health Clinic in the second phase. There is also a Clean Water Program, a Preschool Program and a Teachers Program. The Teachers Program involves Kenya as a host nation in the Overseas Student Teaching Project and the Overseas Practicum for experienced teachers. This was done through Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers and the Cultural Immersion Projects of the School of Education at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Well, if you are a regular reader of the Blog, then you know that I have run over my promised length for the article. But there is still plenty more to say about ICODEI and OKDV. So, as always, I have to point you to their web sites.

You'll find ICODEI here.

And this link will take you to OKDV .

Take a look at what these guys are doing, because it is not just academic.

Friday, October 21, 2005

D-LAB: Cool People Doing Cool Things

Although I have never met her, Amy Smith is fast becoming one of my favorite “cool” people. Amy is that instructor at MIT that was awarded a McArthur fellowship last year for her innovative inventions, one of which is the screenless hammermill. Now, I learn that Amy is a driving force behind MIT’s progressive D-Lab. Okay, let me take a moment and explain this a bit.

D-Lab is a year-long series of university courses and field trips at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts (which is right next to Boston). The program is divided into two parts that coincide with the typical “Fall” and “Spring” semester schedules of many, if not most, U.S. universities. During the fall, students are given a basic background in international development and appropriate technology. This is done through guest speakers, case studies and hands-on exercises. Then in the spring, they have the opportunity to travel to Haiti, India, Brazil, Honduras, Zambia, Samoa, or Lesotho and continue their work in a design class in what is called an IAP fieldtrip (I had to go to Google to learn that “IAP stands for “Independent Activities Period” at MIT). During the fall class, the students will have partnered with community organizations in these countries they plan to visit and they develop plans for the IAP site visit. As a part of preparing their fieldtrips, students will learn about the culture, language, economics, politics and history of their host countries.

This D-Lab sounds pretty cool already, but the real “kicker” in all this is the really cool stuff that these student engineers and their mentors come up with.

I’ve already mentioned the Screenless Hammermill, and I will mention it again briefly, but you can read more about it at Screenless Hammermill

In addition to the mill they have created a
Solar Water Disinfection Process , a Low-Cost Water Testing Process , a Phase-Change Incubator and a process for making Charcoal From Sugarcane .

Also, in looking around D-Labs Home Page I see a link titled “Down and Dirty Tech Trick Of The Day: How to fix a community water system using toilet technology.”I go to the site and in fairly plain language (I say “fairly plain” because even I could understand it.) the web page sets out a problem for a community in a developing nation and how it was solved. The problem was that a water purifier system using chlorination kept having pressure fluctuations that caused inconsistencies in the effectiveness of water treatment.

The web page goes on to describe the system that is basically made of two holding tanks, one holding water piped down from a spring in the mountains and the other filled with a chlorine solution and is set to drip into the tank filled with the spring water. The drip rate of the chlorine is calculated upon what the flow-rate of the water. But the valve used to control the drip rate of the chlorine allows the flow of chlorine solution to slows down to about half the original rate with a few minutes. In trying to allow for this ineffective valve sometimes the chlorine levels were too high, sometimes too low, but almost always, the water was unsafe to drink.The D-Lab team in Honduras learned of the problem in January, 2004 and took an idea from the construction of the toilet.

The Team constructed a solution to the problem using a red plastic gas container for a reservoir, the clamp from an intra-venous drip kit as a flow controller and the valve apparatus found in almost all flush toilets in order to control the level of liquid in the reservoir.

The web page states: “Through this simple feedback mechanism, the level of chlorine solution is kept roughly constant in the small red container. This means that the pressure at the IV clamp is also kept roughly constant. Which, most importantly of all, means that the chlorine is added to the water at a constant rate, meaning that safe chlorination is made possible.

“The team went to the local pharmacy and the hardware store to get the parts, and for just a few dollars they had everything they needed. With the help of the plumber, who had several suggestions for improving the system, they installed it in the tank.

“After the apparatus had been in place and functioning for three days, the team tested the treated water for chlorine levels and the presence of bacteria. All tests indicated that the water was clean and safe! Additionally, the retrofit has also enabled the system to run for three days at a time without requiring any adjustments by the technician.

“Perhaps most importantly of all, however, this fix used locally available materials and locally available skills. A fact that will enable this technology to be a sustainable solution for the community in which it was developed, allowing for local innovation in the near future.

“One year later, the team returned to Honduras and found that not only was the chlorine dispensing system still working, but that the plumber had devised several improvements to the system and had installed them in other water tanks in the surrounding area”.

I will leave you to read the specific details of how the simple parts of this system interact to provide and inexpensive solution to a serious health threat in a community in a developing country.

The page is currently a javascript program imbedded in the Home page, so I can’t post the URL here. So, just go to the Home Page: and click on the “Down and Dirty Tech Trick Of The Day” link. If the vignette about the water system in Honduras is not there, I’m sure that there will be something just as fascinating.

There is also an interesting news story from the Boston Globe that is posted on the D-Lab “ News ” web page. “Shared beliefs engineer technical changes for better Pair join forces to aid Haitians”

This story details how D-Lab, Amy Smith and an activist in the Boston Haitian community partnered to deliver technological support to communities in Haiti in the form of a synthetic charcoal created at D-Lab, as well techniques for a water purification and a drip irrigation system and some solar cell technology.

The synthetic charcoal is made out of fibrous sugarcane remains. This is important because 98 percent of Haiti is deforested and the vast majority of homes still use wood to cook. And of course, the continued use of wood would further exacerbate the deforestation, which precipitates other disaster consequences. Besides saving trees, the sugarcane briquette are also smokeless and much less likely to cause respiratory illnesses.

Sticking to my promise to keep these articles short, I have to stop here, but hopefully before too long I can post another article about D-Lab and the great and wonderful things they are doing to improve the world. But before I go, I gotta do this. In her course presentation, Amy Smith does a very good job of explaining the differences between Indigenous Technology, Industrial Technology and Intermediate Technology. And I hope she will forgive me for quoting so liberally from her class notes when I post the three examples which illustrate the differences between these technologies. Those three examples are in the areas of Grain Milling, Brick Pressing and Water Collection.

Grain Milling
With the indigenous grain processing techniques found in many African cultures, women may spend many hours every day pounding grains by hand. The industrial solution is a conventional commercial grain mill, which can grind this much grain in a few seconds. But costing thousands of dollars, it’s simply too expensive to be available for the vast majority of people.

"The intermediate technology solution for grain milling is a small mill operated by a local entrepreneur or coop – for instance, Amy Smith’s hammer mill shown in the slide. It’s affordable for the village-level entrepreneur, whose investment can be spread across many users. And it’s nearly as fast as the industrial solution, grinding a day’s worth of grain in a couple of minutes.

"Brick Making
Because of its large scale, the industrial brick-making operation only makes sense in urban areas. If all brick making goes to the cities, it pulls jobs and resources away from the rural population. An intermediate technology solution is a “hand press.” It is more efficient than indigenous brick making completely by hand, but operates on a scale that can still be deployed locally.

"Water Collection
In many regions, the indigenous solution for water collection requires women to carry jugs of water many hundreds of meters to several kilometers. Obviously the time and effort required is a drain on other things they might be doing. The industrial solution for water collection is classic “big development.” Dams and associated infrastructure cost many millions of dollars, and operate on a scale that may create other environmental or social issues. This treadle pump is an example of an intermediate technology – low cost, small scale, and very useful. It was designed and constructed by an NGO. It allows one person to collect enough water in a couple hours work to irrigate fields for several days.”

I really have to go now, but the next time I write about these guys, at D-Lab, I want to tell you about how they distinguish “Appropriate Technology” from “Intermediate Technology.”

Visit D-LAB

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

AFAP :One Thing Just Led To Another

At first I thought that the letters AFAP stood for Africa, Asia and the Pacific because the do good works in all three of those geographical areas. But after a bit of reading I learned that the acronym is for the Australian Foundation for the Peoples of Asia and the Pacific. But even that had grown out of an organization with an even more specific geographic focus.

According to its web site, the AFAP is an independent member of the Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International (FSPI). The FSPI is a network whose affiliates have been working in the Pacific since 1965. The FSPI is the oldest, largest, and most experienced secular NGO network in the Pacific.

Established as a non-profit, non-religious organization in Australia in 1968, the AFAP began work in Asia with program initiatives in Viet Nam. By 1996 AFAP became the first Australian NGO to have its permanent representative office registered by the Vietnamese Government. Today AFAP is an innovative overseas aid organization making a positive difference to the lives of people not only in Asia but throughout Africa and the Pacific as well.

As a membership organization, AFAP also aims to raise public awareness in Australia of the current situation in the countries of the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Towards this goal it provides volunteer opportunities for Australians who wish to offer their services in support of our overseas development programs. These volunteers provide technical expertise, assistance with project implementation and with fundraising and membership.

As with many other Wonderful organizations helping people around the world, that were brought into being one or two people, the AFAP was the inspiration of one woman -Elizabeth "Betty" Bryant-Silverstein and her husband, Maurice "Red" Silverstein.

In the early sixties, Betty (who was a prominent Australian actress) and Red (who became President of Metro-Goldwyn-Myer International, a division of MGM) developed a friendship with Stanley Hosie, an Australian Marist priest.

Hosie, who had done an extensive field study of its Pacific Islands missions in Melanesia and Polynesia in early 1963. This friendship, and Hosie's study led to the creation of the The Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific (FSP). So, lets just stop for a moment to make sure we have this straight. Betty and Red found the FSP, which later goes international and becomes FSPI. And in 1968 AFAP is initiated as an affiliate of FSPI. If you still need some help with this, you'll have to unravel by reading AFAP's history .

AFAP's currently has several programs that cover six major areas.

1. South-East Asia: Dengue fever control, rural development and environmental restoration.

2. Africa: Rural development, environmental restoration, water supply and HIV/AIDS.

3. Solomon Islands: Rebuilding civil society and refugee repatriation.

4. South Pacific: Disaster preparedness, storm tracking and warning and disaster recovery, environmental recovery.

5. The MSS program to provide medical support to rural communities throughout South Asia and the Pacific.

6. The TimorAid East Timor rebuilding program.

The organization also partners with a large number of smaller programs internationally in order to extend the reach of their benefits.

In Africa, AFAP has programs in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Kenya AFAP partners with Concern Universal (CU), an NGO that has been active in Africa for over 20 years, to operate the Maa Community based HIV/AIDS Response Program. This program is funded by AusAID and primarily targets the people of the Maasai nomadic community who are difficult to reach by traditional HIV/AIDS awareness strategies. Because of this difficulty they are often left out of national awareness programs. The joint AFAP/CU program engages in awareness raising of HIV/AIDS issues in schools and has also been working with Maasai traditional birth attendants to protect them from infection and to reduce mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Maa Community based HIV/AIDS Response Program

In Malawi AFAP's again partners with CU on two AusAID funded initiatives.

The first of these is the Chimaliro Water and Sanitation Project. This project provides much needed safe water and sanitation facilities in Malawi. This project provides new boreholes, and thousands of pit latrines and also includes a hygiene education awareness campaign and practical training component to maintain the facilities.

A second project in Malawi is the Kamenyagwaza Livelihood Improvement Project in the Dedza district of Malawi. This is a food security project aimed at assisting approximately 20,000 vulnerable people to better meet their own food security by lessening ongoing impacts of the food crises by providing access to seed for planting and small livestock for food and income generation. By meeting these needs the project helps the beneficiaries survive the state of emergency that was declared in Malawi since early 2002 due to the food shortages affecting most parts of the country.

Mozambique is the third country where AFAP operates a program in partnership with CU. This is a program to Strengthening Community based organisations through Adult Literacy

As part of the Southern Africa Integrated Development Program, AFAP supports a literacy project in the Zambesia province of Mozambique. The program is needed to offset the effects of recently ended the long-running civil war that demolished the education system leaving women's literacy rates at 25% and less than half of high school population in school.

The end of the has brought political stability and growth in school enrolment, but there are not enough trained teachers in this, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Literacy circles have been established and they develop learning materials that utilise the existing knowledge of participants as a starting point using no pre-printed materials. HIV/AIDS prevention and care information is made available through the literacy circle network as well.

In Zambia AFAP provides assistance to the Chikuni Parish Home Based Care Program, which proveds HIV/AIDS treatment and awareness training. The Chikuni Mission Hospital has 93 beds and serves a population of approximately 25,000 people in order to alleviate the burden on the under-resourced local health facility and reduce the distress of the patients. The treatment facility is complemented by a community awareness campaign, which makes use of a variety of communication mediums such as radio announcements, workshops and community meetings to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in general. This project is funded by both AusAID and from donations from the Australian public.

In Zimbabwe AFAP partners withs the Community Technology Development Trust to conduct the Forest Garden Zimbabwe Program. Plagued by constant droughts, floods, pestilence and disease Zimbabwean and Southern African farmers are hard pressed to produce the crops necessary to feed their nations. The Forest Garden Program works to restore degraded uplands, improve watershed management, enhance local bio-diversity, reduce local pressure on old growth forests and improve living standards of the population. This is done by providing farmers' with immediate food or income and gradually enhance their long-term food security. It also intends to help incorporate indigenous and local agro-forestry techniques into the current practices.

There are currently three major Forest Garden Centres in three separate provinces. They provide a variety of nurseries, greenhouses and related training resources. Villagers now come to these centers to receive the training and resources necessary to establish their own Forest Gardens in their individual community areas.

Well, the clock on the wall says that I gotta go. But you know you can always find out more about the great organizations at their web sites. And you can find AFAP here. Take a look at the history of this organization and see how ONE THING JUST LEADS TO ANOTHER.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

THE PRACTICA FOUNDATION : Recognizing The Importance Of Technology

The Practica Foundation was established in 2001 in Delft in The Netherlands to address the problem that the huge need for the development and promotion of technology for the rural poor is much underresourced. Practica recognizes that technology is an important driving force for social and economic change in both the richer parts of the world and in the world's poor areas.

In order to address this problem, Practica aims to facilitate research, development and commercial application of technology in the field of water and energy in developing countries.

In the first year of its existence, Practica won the shared first prize in the International Competition for Innovative Irrigation Rechnologies for Small Farmers. This award was organized by World Bank, IDE and Winrock International.

Practica receives requests from developing countries and looks at their implementing ability, financial aspects, and their relevance in terms of market potential, social and environmental desirability. Once it has done this, Practica continues to help develop the initiatives through technical assistance and by linking proposals with financial resources and marketing opportunities. In order to help ensure the success of the initiative, Prctica makes sure that the agreements on the rights to the technology are clear. In this way, this innovative organization functions as both a clearinghouse for funding as an entity that helps with the dissemination and commercial application of promising technologies.
One unique aspect of Practica is that it makes it very clear that commercial promotion is as important, if not more important, as the development of technology.

The aim of the Practica Foundation is to facilitate research, development and commercial application of technology in the field of water and energy in developing countries. Water and energy-related technology were chosen because of the understanding that these are often "prime movers" in rural livelihoods. And even though they are the prime movers there is still much to be done in order to reduce the cost and improve the quality of the technologies in use.

Because Practica believes that the commercial promotion is as important, if not more important, as the development of technology even though it is supported by private donors, foundations, Water Authorities and organizations, it works with a network of numerous partner organizations that engage in the business of producing, promoting and selling improved rural products.

Because it deals very much with engineering and such practical matters as that, Practica has a leadership team that is heavily weighted towards engineering. Frank van Steenbergen PhD, the Chairman of the board us a Social geographer, 20 years experience and specializes in water policy change. Wout Snijders MSc is Secretary and treasurer of the board. Snijders has been a Civil and environmental engineer for 25 years. The list of Board Members is quite long, but they include, among other professions, Land and water management engineers, Mechanical engineers, a (Geo)hydrological researcher, a Sanitary engineer, Agronomist, a Sociologist who is also a ceramist and an Irrigation expert

Some of the Technologies with which Practica is involved are:

The Volanta pump, which is a flywheel operated deep well piston pump driven by hand or engine

The micro diesel, which is a simple and small size engine expected to be available to farmers at an affordable price.

Practica has developed a Manual well drilling package consisting of the Rota-sludge and Stone-hammer

Motorize Rope Pump that can be used for pumping water from deeper wells than is possible with motorized pumping using suction pumps powered by a diesel or gasoline engines.

The Ceramic water filter is the same water filter made by Potters For Peace mentioned in the article of October 17, 2005.

I am going to stop listing technologies here, but you can read about the rest at: Practica Technologies

Practica has several Ongoing Projects as well, such as:

The Solar Thermal Motor

The Volanta ultra pump deepset

The Motorised ropepump

The Micro Diesel Engine and

The Stonehammer drilling method

All of these ongoing projects can be viewed at: Ongoing Projects

In additions to the listings of their Technologies and Ongoing Projects, Practica has a

LIBRARY SECTION and a section called, SMART WATER SOLUTIONS where they deal with water technologies.

Three is a lot to see at Practica. I was told about it by Ron Rivera of Potters For Peace ; and whether you like to see what is coming at you from over the technological horizon, or just like to browse through page after page of thoughtful solutions to some of the world's problems, Practica's web site is a Great place to visit. PRACTICA

Monday, October 17, 2005

POTTERS FOR PEACE : Who Cares If They Need Haircuts

Every since I joined I have been feeling a little guilty. This is because I feel like I have an army of worker bees finding great non-profit organizations that I can write about. The Nabuur "Neighbors" share information about potential non-profit resources and my blog has been reaping the benefit of their work. But don't get me wrong; I have been sharing information with them about the wonderful non-profits that are the subjects of this Blog's articles.

Well, today I have another Great Find that was suggested by a Neighbor of one community that I am hoping will work out great for another community as well.

The name Potters For Peace brings to mind (for an "old timer" like me) images of young people in the sixties heading to remote locations in the American Southwest to try to figure out what they could do to make the world a better place. These were the kind of people who, when I pointed them out to my mother would say: "That's nice, dear, but don't you think they should cut their hair?"

Anyway, I don't know if the folks at Potters For Peace are old "hippies" or not, but they sure have a hell of a good idea for making the world a better place.

Since 1998, these guys have been developing a low-tech, low-cost, colloidal silver-enhanced ceramic water filter.

I know, I know, I didn't quite understand it at first either, but here it is. What this is, is a porous ceramic pot placed inside a plastic or clay bucket with a spigot, and the clay pot is saturated with a germicide/disinfectant called colloidal silver. The water filters through the clay pot saturated with the colloidal silver germicide and is ready for consumption as clean, safe water.

Now, to be honest, I didn't know what "colloidal silver" is, even after a Google search told me that it is a suspension of submicroscopic metallic silver particles in a "colloidal base."

I eventually found a definition on Potters For Peace's web site that said:

Colloidal Silver
"Colloids are submicroscopic particles of material suspended in a liquid. Silver is converted to colloidal silver by running a positive electrical current through bars of pure silver suspended in water. The size of colloidal silver particles is generally between .015 - .005 microns. Upon becoming a colloid, silver takes on a positive ionic charge.

"In its ionic colloid state, silver is recognized as a germicide, or in some cases as a bacteriostatic. It is believed that silver is able to disable the particular enzyme that pathogenic bacteria and fungi use for oxygen metabolism, thus suffocating them. Other pathogens are destroyed by the electric charge on the silver particles, causing their internal protoplast to collapse, and still others are rendered unable to reproduce. Parasites are also killed while in their egg stage."

But, when I had Googled "Colloidal Silver" earlier, a lot of pages came up where the "pros and cons" of humans ingesting colloidal silver are being debated. And after a fairly close read it's my understanding that, the Potters For Peace does not say with certainty that the using the water filter does not involve ingesting colloidal silver. (Correct me if I an wrong, guys.) In their FAQ page they put it the following way:

"Q. After water passes through the PFP filter, is silver in the water? If so, how much?
Good question"

But Potters for Peace is very candid about this controversy and takes no position on the claim of colloidal silver's effectiveness as an antibacterial agent to be directly ingested in relatively large daily, or regular doses." They do state, however that there is a "historical and well-documented application of colloidal silver as a safe and effective water purification agent used in conjunction with various filtration and storage methods for both large and small water systems." They go on to state that Colloidal silver is not listed as a toxin by the Environmental Protection Agency's Poison Control Center and that the Food and Drug Administration has no regulations regarding the use of colloidal silver as an antibacterial in any form or method, but that some sort of guidelines will be forthcoming.

The site gives an account of the toxic side effect (Argyria) from ingestion of silver as mentioned earlier, but cites that while medical science recognizes Argyria as specifically caused by intensive long-term exposure to silver compounds, such as silver nitrate, silver sulfate, silver sulfadiazine, etc., it is not believed to come from micro-particles of ionic silver.

At a later point in this discussion that indicate that while the total amount of colloidal silver used in their filter relatively minute, it is still possible that even smaller trace quantities of the material could pass directly into the filtered water. But to date, "no medical study conducted on colloidal silver has indicated that it poses a threat to human health."

There is much more to the information on that page than I have posted here, but time and space requires me to move on and urge the reader to finish reading this material at: Colloidal Silver

It needs to be said also that Potters For Peace has a link posted on their web site that leads to a page where they have posted he results of a study financed by USAID that gives the following information:

"In September 2001, Jubilee House Community contracted with USAID to provide intrinsic and field investigations of the Potters for Peace colloidal silver impregnated ceramic filter." …

Potters for Peace manufactures filters which are sold to NGOs that implement a water filtration program in the communities they work within. Working with three partner NGOs, a total of 33 homes in seven communities were visited during the three-week field trip. Twenty-four of the 33 homes (73 percent) were using the filter at the time of the unannounced visit.

The results of the water quality monitoring in these 24 homes were:

Silver concentration in the finished water does not pose a human health risk.
Water quality parameters measured were not outside normal values.

· Only 4% of the filters removed total coliform, 25% removed H2S-producing bacteria, and 53% removed E. coli when it was present. This is due to contamination of the receptacle and inadequate storage of water.

· Latrine ownership, household cleanliness, and plastic receptacles were correlated with microbial removal.

· No household with a filter that removed microbial contaminants had a child with diarrhea in the last month.

There are some recommendations that follow this portion of the report, which I will leave for the reader to review himself or herself. The report can be found at:
Field Investigations

Potters For Peace also say on their web site that this filter has been "cited by the United Nations' Appropriate Technology Handbook, and is used by the International Red Cross and the Nobel Prize winning medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders." That sounds like a couple of votes of confidence to me.

They also say that field "experience and clinical test results have shown this filter to effectively eliminate approximately 99.88% of most water-born disease agents."

The people at Potters For Peace state on their web site that they "are potters first and foremost, working on the Ceramic Filter Technology project in conjunction with a wide variety of medical and scientific agencies." By pooling our collective talents, they hope to put our skills to use benefiting people. They also say that they "welcome and encourage constructive criticism."
What they are hoping is that they can "provide potential incubation assistance to a badly needed cottage industry; the production on a village, and semi-industry level, of low-tech ceramic water filters." They believe that their filter is and efficient way for rural, communities in developing nations to secure safe water. And they believe that this process is "well proven."
By presenting their information on the Internet, they are hoping to generate an interest in this technology and fostering discussions among those concerned with quality of life issues in the developing world. And, of course they are hoping to meet the urgent need existing in the world today to provide safe water in rural and marginalized communities, while providing employment for local potters.

There may be some controversy about Colloidal Silver, but I think I feel pretty safe if the International Red Cross and the U.N. think these guys are on to something. But don't take my word for it. Surf on over to Potters For Peace's Ceramic Filters web page and take a look for yourself. And also, I've linked to their Home Page as well.

I Think These Guys Are Doing Something To Make The World A Better Place.

Friday, October 14, 2005


One of the things that really caught my eye about Architecture for Humanity is that they have a book coming out entitled "Design Like You Give A Damn." But I'll talk more about that later.

Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999 as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to "promote architectural and design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises."

The organization uses competitions, workshops and educational forums to foster its work. It also partners with aid organizations and other entities to create opportunities for architects and designers worldwide to help communities in need. They believe that innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference in areas of the world where resources and expertise are scarce.

Past initiatives have included three international design competitions that enhanced the quality of life in the recipient communities. And several more of their projects are listed below.

Another initiative being carried out by Architecture for Humanity supports humanitarian-directed design through advocacy on a number of projects. To put this in layman's language it means that they have consulted with (and urged) government bodies and relief organizations to consider in greater depth the interface between societal and cultural issues and environmental factors into the design process. Some of these projects include: "mine clearance programs and playground building in the Balkans; earthquake resistant construction techniques in Turkey and Iran; school building in Calcutta; refugee housing on the borders of Afghanistan and responding to Hurricane Ivan, Emily and Katrina."

In addition to this Architecture for Humanity has also provided referrals and advice to a number of organizations, such as: the Oprah Foundation, the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation, Kids With Cameras, Habitat for Humanity, Common Ground, Planned Parenthood International, to name a few.

They also foster public appreciation for the many ways that architecture and design can improve lives by bringing media attention to this topic through exhibitions, conferences and forums in addition to normal press releases.

Architecture for Humanity has used Educational Workshops on Elementary and high school levels as well as on the university level. The organization says that on the university level, "architecture and design programs around the world have used our competitions and design criteria as a model for semester-long projects. In addition we have hosted student-led workshops focused on humanitarian-directed design at a number of universities." Their web site says that elementary and high school students have benefited from our design initiatives through after-school workshops.

Through its additional web site, Architecture for Humanity fosters the formation of local groups made up of individuals who want to "lend their time and talents to community groups and advocate for better planning and design in their communities." This initiative was begun only two years ago, but now over 1500 designers meet regularly to discuss and participate in design projects in cities such as New York, London, Atlanta, Boston, Belfast, Chicago, Dublin, Los Angeles, Sydney, Seattle, St.Louis, Toronto, Washington DC and many more. Interested persons can sign up on the web site. You can sign up for some local groups right from Architecture for Humanity's Home Page.

Given the character of this organization, it not difficult to see that it was co-founded by an architect with an interest in social, cultural and humanitarian design and a freelance journalist with a deep understanding of urban issues. The architect is Executive Director and Co-founder Cameron Sinclair and the journalist is Kate Stohr . Their full bios are linked to their names.

The organization recognizes that "At the heart of Architecture for Humanity is a core group of people who have generously donated their time and efforts to keep AFH running. With advocates around the world Architecture for Humanity is truly becoming a global organization that encourages designers to make a difference." And like any successful non-profit organization it has a "deep bench" of hard working Staff, Board Members and Advisors. I should also mention that they have a group of four "Design Fellows."

Architecture for Humanity has been getting noticed and proudly displays on its Home Page the following quote from Robert Ivy of the "Architectural Record":

"Architecture for Humanity represents the finest of the new breed of architectural leadership, employing architectural skills and directing them for the larger good. Committed, unapologetically architectural in name and mission, Architecture for Humanity stands up for people in need."

Some of Architecture for Humanity's projects, which I shall mention only briefly here and you can read in more detail at their web site, are:

Rethinking Tent City - This project is scheduled for late 2005 through 2006 and will "focus on a potential to achieve target 11 of the Millennium Development Goals to help improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Their Tsunami Reconstruction project began in 2005 and is ongoing. Since January 2nd of 2005 Architecture for Humanity has been partnering and supporting a number of groups in Tamil Nadu, India and Pottuvil and Kirinda, Sri Lanka on the rebuilding of civic and community buildings. This project is partnering with students from Montana State Universitys' Center for Community Design as well.

Now, back to where I started: Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises - to be published in early 2006 - is a book that will offer a history of humanitarian design efforts as well as provide a compendium of innovative architectural and design projects that have helped improve lives in communities around the world. One purpose of the book is "to be a resource for both designers and relief organizations involved in humanitarian development and reconstruction."

Other projects - that you will have to read about at Architecture for Humanity's web site are:

Kids With Cameras - The name of this project is fairly revealing.

Siyathemba - a project that challenges designers to create the perfect 'pitch' in Somkhele in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. And you'll never understand what this is about unless you visit the web site.

Rebuilding Bam, Iran - a 2004 project that helped to provide long term housing for thousands of residents left homeless by the tragic earthquake which left over 41,000 dead.

Mobile Health Clinics to Combat HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa - an ongoing project that began in 2002.

Transitional Housing for Kosovo's Returning Refugees - a project that ran from 1999 to 2000.

In addition to these projects, local groups also participated in projects in their various communities.

On their Home Page, Architecture for Humanity has a link titled: "People we Like." And there they list other organizations that believe are doing good work. Well, Architecture for Humanity is/are People I Like and I really think it would be worth your time to visit their place on the Internet and visit with People Who Give A Damn.

Architecture for Humanity

Thursday, October 13, 2005

BOOK AID INTERNATIONAL: From The Mind And Heart Of One Woman

Those of you who have followed this blog for some time know that my favorite stories are those about organizations that are brought to life by the inspiration of one individual who then acts upon his or her heartfelt compassion and acts on that emotion to make the world a better place. Well, I am sure that you have guessed by now, that this is one of those stories.

Book Aid International was founded in 1954 by Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly as the Ranfurly Library Service. Her husband was at that time Governor General of the Bahamas. During Lady Ranfurly's travels she became aware of the desperate shortage of books for children in the Bahamas. As a result of this experience, she instituted a process that brought donated book to that the Bahamian children. She began by asking her friends and contacts to send surplus books from the UK. These books were then re-distributed to schools and libraries that needed them. When Lady Ranfurly returned to the UK in the early 1960s she was asked by the then Colonial Secretary, Lord Boyd, to continue her efforts and indeed expand them to other parts of the developing world.

Today, in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in Palestine, Book Aid International is hard at work providing over half a million books and journals each year to libraries, hospitals, refugee camps and schools. This is because Lady Ranfurly's organization believes that books are the basic tools of literacy and education. And they are trying to get books to the millions of children and adults across the developing world do not have access to them.

This organization reminds us that not only to children need them to foster their education but farmers, nurses, mechanics, development workers and teachers all need them to support their work.

The bulk of the work of Book Aid International is in support of rural and urban libraries that provide free access to everyone. Partnering with libraries, Book Aid International helps them to develop their pivotal role in the community.

In pursuit of a long-term goal, Book Aid International is supporting the growth of local publishing and bookselling "so that affordable books can be produced which reflect the local languages and culture".

Lady Ranfurly incorporated this charity as a company limited by guarantee on 3 June 1966 as the Ranfurly Library Service. By 1994 the charity had sent an estimated 15 million books to over 70 countries worldwide and in January 1994 its name was changed to BOOK AID INTERNATIONAL to help raise awareness of the need for book aid, to heighten the profile of the organization for potential supporters and to give clarity in explaining what it does.

Lady Ranfurly passed away on 11 February 2001 but remained as President of the organization until that time. At the present time, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh is Patron of the organization.

Currently, for the three-year period of 2004 - 2006, Book Aid International has set new goals for itself and restructured the organisation to meet them. These areas in which it has set these goals (to paraphrase) are:

- Increase access to Books and Information
- Gain wider support for the Book Chain
- Increase the effectiveness of its Partnerships in working to achieve common goals
- Enhance Reading Promotion by more effectively reaching out to readers
- Promote Advocacy by increasing books and information for development
- Measuring Outcomes and Impact to enhance the role of evidence
- Enhance the Training and Learning of partners
- Continue Internal Development

Just to highlight a few of these goals, I will quote from Book Aid International's web site.

"Access to Books and Information"

"Book Aid International aims to increase opportunities for learning and personal development, and to strengthen the capacity of partner libraries to develop new ways of providing access to information

"We will:
provide over two million good quality books and other materials in English and in African languages, targeted to meet community information needs support partner libraries to meet local needs in priority areas such as health, HIV-AIDS, vocational skills and African fiction, through purchase or donation of relevant materials from UK and African publishers work with partners to create attractive and vibrant libraries, by encouraging effective weeding, creative displays, outreach activities, adult literacy classes and other innovative services support partners to increase the availability and use of Internet and ICT in libraries advocate best practice among book donating agencies."

"Partnerships in working to achieve common goals"

"Book Aid International aims to work in partnership with those organisations overseas who are committed to meeting the information needs of disadvantaged communities, and with those organisations in both the south and north who can help us to deliver our mission more effectively

We will:
use partnership agreements with our library and book trade partners to ensure that programmes are focussed and effective work with partners who reach out to disadvantaged communities and provide services relevant to their needs develop country programmes in key sectors such as primary education, health, and human rights that contribute to development and have a direct impact on the reduction of poverty work to promote the interests of women and girls through all programmes develop strategic alliances, increase networking and the sharing of best practice."

"Training and Learning"

"We aim to learn together with partners, share best practice, and support partners in developing professional skills and creative and sustainable approaches to delivering services for their users

"We will:
foster the conditions for reciprocal learning with partners support partners in meeting their training needs for professional development, management and leadership ensure training and learning is relevant to the local context, and helps equip partners with skills to meet the information needs of their communities on a sustainable basis."

I know that it has taken me a bit to get back to one of the original points, but I don't want to end this article without identifying the 18 sub-Saharan African countries that are aided by Book Aid International. Those nations are:

Sierra Leone
Zambia and

If you are interested in increasing the availability of books to children in these countries (all of them, or some of them) surf on over to Book Aid International and read more about this thriving organization that began just as the generous compassion of one person. And while you are there, give some thought to how much harder this world would be if it were not for people like Lady Ranfurly.

Book Aid International

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

$100 LAPTOP: MIT's Media Laboratory's "One Laptop per Child" Initiative

While surfing around the Internet looking for items of interest I often come upon some really cool sites. I had been noodling around the African Technology Forum for the past day of so, and never noticed until just now a link titled: "MIT's $100 Laptop Initiative."

Since I have been working with two groups at Nabuur that are looking for computers, one for a village school and the other for an Internet Café' / Training Center I was naturally curious - actually, intrigued.

When I brought up the Home Page for the "$100 Laptop" the first thing at the top of the page was the following notice:

"Please note that the $100 laptops-not yet in production-will not be available for sale. The laptops will only be distributed to schools directly through large government initiatives."

"Ummmm" I wonder, is this a good thing? Or will dealing with large government initiatives bog the effort down in bureaucratic red tape until computers become obsolete? But reminding my self of my "self improvement pledge" not to prejudge, I continued to read.

The project is the brainchild of the MIT Media Laboratory, which has created a new, non-profit association called One Laptop per Child (OLPC) to carry out the goal to develop a $100 laptop. The MIT Media Lab believes that this technology "could revolutionize how we educate the world's children." Being a "sixties child" anything that contains the word "revolution" (or any variation thereof) sounds good to me. So, now I definitely want to read further.

In January 2005 this initiative was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland by Nicholas Negroponte, the co-founding chairman of MIT's Media Laboratory. And what the people at MIT's Media Laboratory are proposing is to develop a Linux-based, full-color, full-screen laptop that will use innovative power - including wind-up. This computer is intended to be able to do most everything except store huge amounts of data. They are also intended to rugged, be WiFi- and cell phone-enabled, and several USB ports. (The web site actually said "have USB ports galore," but I don't know how many a "galore" is. I guess just a few less than a "google.") Oh, and the current specifications are: 500MHz, 1GB, 1 Megapixel.

Making the point in its FAQ section of the web site the group states the case that these laptops will be "a window into the world" that will also be "a wonderful way for all children to 'learn learning' through independent interaction and exploration."

The FAQ page also states that providing these children laptops is a better solution than providing them desktops because while desktops are cheaper, mobility is important. The mobility of the laptop allows the child to take the computer home at night. Providing kids in the developing world the newest technology, really rugged hardware and innovative software meets the challenges presented by their environment and as well as their educational needs.

Citing the fact that "bringing the laptop home engages the family." The group gives the example of "one Cambodian village where we have been working, there is no electricity, thus the laptop is, among other things, the brightest light source in the home." The Media Laboratory folks also said that their recent work with schools in Maine has shown them the huge value of using a laptop across all of one's studies, as well as for play.

The group also points out that even if refurbished desktops were used, it would take at least forty-five thousand work years to make the same number of computers available. "Fourty-Five Thousand Work Years?" you say? Oh, perhaps I forgot to mention that they are planning on their initiative making ONE HUNDRED MILLION LAPTOPS available to children. MIT's Media Laboratory is not opposed to recycling of used computers; it just does not think that that would be the solution for their One Laptop per Child initiative.

Okay, so everybody is wondering: "How is it possible to get the cost so low?" For one thing, the Media Laboratory is planning on significantly lowering the cost of the display.

The say that their first-generation machine may use displays that will cost approximately $35 but still "can also be used in black and white, in bright sunlight, and at four times the normal resolution." They describe it as "a novel, dual-mode LCD display commonly found in inexpensive DVD players."

They also say that because two-thirds of the software in modern laptops is used to manage the other third that mostly does the same functions nine different ways there is a lot of fat in the systems. This is fat that they plan to eliminate.

The third way in which their plan will reduce the cost is by marketing these machines in very large numbers directly to ministries of education, with the idea that those ministries will distribute them like textbooks.

There may be some other questions running through your head. Questions like:
Well, what about the argument that the kids can access computers at community centers?
What about connectivity?
Can a $100 machine compete with a $1000 machine?
And what about marketing?
And how in the world will they build 100 million laptops?

But if I answered them for you, you wouldn't have the incentive to go to the $100 Laptop web site and look it over for yourself. But I guarantee that if you visit their web site these and other questions will be answered. And if you have any questions after that, they have a link where you can contact them.

So, all you folks that say you are serious about closing the digital divide, to take a look at this very, innovative idea at the $100 Laptop .

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

SOCIAL FUND FOR DEVELOPMENT (SFD) at the Embassy of France to Kenya

This will be a relatively short article, but I just wanted to bring attention to the Social Fund for Development that is operated by the Embassy of France to Kenya.

The French Embassy's Social Fund for Development (SFD), now in its third year of existence says that its main goal is the eradication of poverty in Kenya.

This SFD is hosted by the Co-operation Service of the Embassy of France but works in a close partnership with various partners in key areas of development: water and sanitation, and health, primary education and the improvement of conditions of living of the poorest segments of Kenyan society.

In the area of water management, sanitation and health, the SFD works in the areas of communal chemistries and the dispensation of water, among other things.

Construction of classrooms and rehabilitation are its main focus under the umbrella of primary education.

The poorest of the poor in Kenya, as in most developing nations are women who live in slums and poor rural areas, street children and the disabled.

While projects dealing that help to improve the quality of life for all members of a community benefit women and children as a part of that community, one third of SFD's funding goes to matters related to women's issues and another twenty-nine percent go to programs dealing with youth. This means that over half of the SFD's budget goes towards women and children specifically.

In the three years that SFD has been in existence, it has approved 14 projects and another 12 are currently under study. Of course the request are much more numerous. During that same period of time the Selection Committee of the Social Fund for Development has received 250 requests for assistance.

The Selection Committee considers the application to determine the self-sustainability of this project as well as the context of the matter and the aims of and goals of the applicant. Of course, the means needed to carry out this project are carefully considered as well.

Seriousness of the applicant and self-sustainability of the project are the two conditions, which are considered guarantees of the project's likelihood of success.

The funding limit for any applicant project is 5.000.000 Ksh and the project cannot run more than one year. Additionally, the recipients must contribute, financially or in kind at least 30% of the total budget of the project submitted.

During the fiscal year 2003-2004, 600.000 Euro (i.e. 50.000.000 Ksh) were available, for any project located in Kenya that met the SFD Selection Committee's approval.

SFD partners financially and operationally with many NGOs and other state run organizations and agencies including: the government of Kenya and local authorities; agencies of the United Nations, such as UNEP; international foundations such s the Aga Khan Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières-Belgium, Handicap International and many more. In addition to this the Co-operation Service of the Embassy of France gets technical support from many agencies and organizations such as the French Agency for Development (AFD), the British High Commission, DFID, GTZ of Germany and various UN agencies.

As I said in my last article, I do not usually write about governmental agencies, but the Social Fund for Development of the French Embassy to Kenya definitely deserved to be known for its good work. You can find their web site at:
Social Fund for Development of the French Embassy to Kenya

Vive la France!

KIST : An Award Winning Innovator

As many of you know, I try to limit my articles to private organizations involved in non-profit work. But today I must give respect to a public organization that I believe is operating in the spirit of "Self Help" that this Blog seeks to recognize.

The award winning Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST) is the first public technological institute of higher learning in Rwanda. The Institute only came into existence on November 1st, 1997 as a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project. And since that time it has won Ashden Award For Sustainable Energy First Prize in 2001 for its improved bread oven. It won an Ashden Award again in 2005. This time it was the Special Africa Award for its Biogas plants projects in three prisons in that country. The projects were the 'Management of Toilet Wastes Through Anaerobic Technology.' And the award of £30,000 was given to KIST for "underlining the vital role which small-scale sustainable energy can play in tackling both climate change and poverty in Africa."

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy have been awarded for the past five years for "inspirational and innovative renewable energy projects which both provide social and economic benefits to local communities and contribute towards protecting the environment by curbing deforestation and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels - thereby helping tackle climate change."

When KIST opened it had major degree programmes in engineering and management and it was part of Rwanda Government's mission to build a strong post-genocide human resource base. Such a base was desperately needed after the terrible violence that took so man lives in the early nineties. The establishment of KIST as an institute of science, technology, and management has been part of rebuilding process in Rwanda by addressing the shortage of qualified technical experts since that violence who could help rebuild the infrastructure.

When the Institute was developed, it was made possible by the combined efforts of the Government of Rwanda as the main stakeholder, UNDP (Rwanda) as the executor of the project, and the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ) as the implementing agency. This cooperative effort was funded by a UNDP core funding and a UNDP Trust Fund obtained from contributions by the Governments of Japan and the Netherlands. Japan and the Netherlands continue to be very supportive of KIST along with the UNDP and GTZ (a German owned Development Agency).

Working to build an indigenous scientific and technical human resource base through its regular, part-time, and outreach programs, KIST's impact is already being felt in most parts of the country. Today, KIST has two campuses, four faculties and a Centre for Continuing Education (CCE).

KIST also operates a number of service and training centers and/or demonstration units and key facilities in furtherance of its mission.

These include separate centers for:
Gender Studies and Women in Development (CGSWD)
Inovations and Technology Transfer (CITT)
Technology and Business Incubation (CTBI)
Information and Communication Technology Service
The KIST/ DFID Information and Communication Technology Training Centre; and
Career Guidance and Counseling.

In January of 2005 the UK Secretary of State for International Development recognized KIST's rising prominence during a lecture when he stated that "an organization like KIST - the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, in Rwanda - is a superb example of building African scientific capacity."

The Institute's received further international acclaim when the March 2005 Report of the Commission for Africa named KIST as one of several "excellent centers, institutes, universities and partnerships" that exist in Africa.

The Bread oven, whose design won KIST the 2001 Ashden Award uses a quarter of the wood used by traditional wood-burning ovens. It was principally designed for institutional use and can bake 320 small loaves at a time. It also presents a good opportunity for baking bread on a commercial basis as fuel consumption of this oven is low.

The rate of deforestation in Rwanda is estimated to exceed the rate of tree planting by a factor of twenty. This makes the need to reduce dependence on wood as cooking fuel very obvious, and KIST's oven cuts consumption by 75%. Also, while normally fired by burning wood, the oven can be adapted to use methane from a biogas plant.

Realizing that the oven fits into the overall economy of the nation KIST teaches artisans how to make the stoves in workshops at its Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) in Kigali. The Institute also conducts follow-up training sessions in small workshops in towns outside Kigali. In addition to providing training in oven construction, KIST has also run training workshops on bread making, and on business and marketing skills.

It has been training bakery operators through the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer how to understand their market, to properly estimate the size of their market and what they can reasonably expect to sell.

Since the award was received in 2001, approximately 200 stoves have been produced, 120 of these at the KIST workshops, the rest by private operators who were originally trained by KIST and who are now working outside Kigali. The Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer has trained 15 people how to make the new ovens, a total of 10 entrepreneurs have been taught how to bake and have been given some basic business skills to help them sell their bread.

Biogas Production Process - Rwanda houses 120,000 genocide suspects in prisons currently awaiting trial. Because of this, this nation's prisons must prepare many meals and treat a great deal of sewage. In fact, each of its prisons must dispose approximately 50,000 liters of human waste each day.

KIST found one solution to both of these large problems. It designed a method of capturing the methane from the raw human sewage and turn it into cooking gas. This process even has a byproduct as the residue left after capturing the gas from the sewage can be safely used as fertilizer on crops to feed the prisoners.

Because of this system, less firewood has to be produced, thereby saving forests and enhancing the environment - a more efficient cooking fuel is produced - waste management is made more efficient and fertilizer is produced inexpensively.

Five of the country's largest prisons now have these systems which are largely built by the prisoners themselves under the guidance of trained masons and other skilled professionals. Work, which by the way, gives the prisoners skills that will serve them and their communities well when they're eventually released.

It is certainly easy to understand how such creative thinking could win an award.

Rwanda and KIST are making future plans for this process, as it might be easily adaptable to schools and other institutional environments.

I think that this is one Government run organization that I think you should really read about.

Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management