From Ecosan toilets to sack gardens for slum dwellers, practical, affordable and locally-made technologies to solve problems and create new opportunities.
In Mbarara, in south western Uganda, the introduction of fuel-saving stoves is having a wide range of benefits. The stoves are being introduced through primary schools, as part of an ‘eco schools’ project run by the CECOD NGO. The stoves use less than half the firewood than normal three-stone stoves, helping to reduce rates of deforestation. They also burn much cleaner, so those responsible for cooking don’t suffer from eye irritations or from inhaling smoke. By reducing the amount of firewood families need, they also reduce the time spent collecting wood, and therefore the risks that women and girls can be exposed to when collecting firewood.
published: August 2013
In Busia County, western Kenya, around 10,000 farmers have increased their cultivation of cassava in order to supply industrial markets. The introduction of chipping machines has made a big impact, allowing for much quicker processing of raw cassava, which is chipped and dried ready for sale within just a few days. By working in producer groups, farmers produce sufficient quantities to attract larger buyers, including animal feed manufacturers and flour millers. Pius Sawa visits Tangakona Commercial Village to see the cassava chipping process in action and to find out how the technology has transformed the lives of the farming community.
published: October 2012
Conservation Agriculture, which has been adopted by thousands of farmers in Zimbabwe as a means to increase their crop production and protect their land from erosion, involves three main principles. Crops are planted with minimum disturbance of the soil, often in planting basins; the soil is covered with crop wastes, cover crops or other organic matter; and crops such as cereals and legumes are grown in rotation. Busani Bafana speaks to Martin Moyo of ICRISAT, a research institute that has been a key player in developing conservation agriculture in Zimbabwe, including the use of fertiliser ‘micro-dosing’, and also to Albert Ncube, a conservation agriculture trainer based in the north west of the country. He finds out more about the technique, the benefits it is giving farmers and the challenges they face in implementing it.
published: October 2012
Moses Amai, a smallholder dairy farmer from Kenya, has increased his year-round milk production by storing grass and crop residues for use as feed during the dry months. Instead of burning crop residues like maize and bean stalks, he stores them in his barn, which can hold up to 100 tonnes of feed. Another farmer, Jennifer Kilach, grinds green maize stalks, Napier grass and desmodium, to make a nutritious cattle feed for the dry season. With good availability of drinking water for their cattle, both farmers are managing to cope with more frequent periods of drought associated with climate change.
published: September 2012
In Kenya’s semi-arid Isinya district, a number of livestock farmers have shifted to irrigated crop production in order to supplement their food and income. With boreholes to tap into groundwater reserves, the farmers are using drip irrigation to grow a range of high value vegetable crops, including tomatoes, potatoes and spinach. Emmanuel Okella meets farmers to find out how successful this change has been, and also speaks to Noah Lusaka of the Arid Lands Information Network, an organisation that provides practical information to help people cope with the increasingly challenging climate.
published: June 2012
Biogas expert, George Kamau, demonstrates how farmers can generate clean gas for cooking and lighting, through use of a biogas digester. Animal manure is fed into an underground tank on a daily basis. As this is ‘digested’ by bacteria, methane gas is produced which is piped to the house, reducing the household’s need for firewood or electricity. Paschal Bagonza visits a farm in Kiambu district to the north of Nairobi, to see the system in action.
published: June 2012
Gachoire Girls School in Kiambu, Kenya, has installed a biogas digester under a specially designed toilet block. Toilet waste is digested by bacteria to produce natural gas, a clean and environmentally friendly source of power for the school kitchen. Connected by pipes to a stove ring, the biogas is a very efficient fuel, and using it has enabled the school to reduce its expenditure on firewood, as well as saving trees from being cut down. The toilet block has also provided a long term solution in terms of school sanitation, replacing normal pit latrines which have a limited lifespan.
published: June 2012
In Nigeria, it is estimated that every year over 90,000 women and children die from illnesses caused by breathing smoke from open fires and cooking stoves. Felling of trees to provide the large amount of firewood used to cook food and keep warm is also causing deforestation, and this not only leads to soil erosion, but also contributes to climate change. The Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with support from its global partner, has launched an initiative to introduce clean and efficient cooking stoves to 10 million Nigerian households by 2020. At the launch event in Abuja, Aveseh Asough speaks to those involved in this ambitious project, and learns more about how new designs of cooking stove can improve the health of women, children and the environment.
published: April 2012
Charcoal made from bamboo burns more evenly and efficiently, and with less harmful smoke than normal charcoal made from wood. In Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana, the International Network on Bamboo and Rattan works with farmers and charcoal makers in order to improve management of bamboo and to introduce simple machinery to pulverise bamboo charcoal and make it into conveniently sized briquettes. This can increase rural incomes while also helping to tackle climate change, since fast-growing bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide more quickly than many other plant species, and will re-grow after harvesting. In the exhibition hall at the international conference on climate change in Durban, Wambi Michael learns more.
published: February 2012
Over 80 per cent of Kenyans live in areas without electricity, a similar figure to other countries in the region. But having a source of power for lights, radios and mobile phones is more important than ever, especially for people doing commercial farming and other rural businesses. Established now in 20 African countries, ToughStuff is a manufacturer of solar energy products aimed at ordinary rural households. With a small solar panel, just one foot in length and costing US$10, customers can power a range of useful devices, including a lamp and charging units for their existing radio and phone. Eric Kadenge speaks to Gitau Mwangi, responsible for regional sales in East Africa, and to David Kavaya, a villager who has been using the portable solar panel and other devices.
published: December 2011
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