Learn about how Peace Corps Senegal volunteers are promoting the use of Appropriate Technologies in their communities.
last updated ,
12 February 2012
What does it mean to be an appropriate technology? The name came into existence at the same time as the term intermediate technologies, and today is on a list with about a dozen other terms that mean roughly the same thing. The definition we work with
is the following: Appropriate technology devices are locally affordable locally made low-tech low-cost tools that greatly reduce labor requirements and provide new opportunities for profitable labor.
The objectives of our work with appropriate technology are to introduce devices that meet these criteria and train people here how to exploit them to their full potential.
Appropriate technologies are applicable in every volunteer’s site in Senegal regardless of sector. Many volunteers have discovered the great potential for positive change through these clever inventions, given that they are applied effectively. Pumps, stoves, nut shellers, oil presses, these and other devices offer Senegalese communities the opportunity to reduce their amount of labor or increase the gains from the work they already do.
Furthermore, these technologies are opportunities for profit that can be realized by people living in small rural communities. Both Paul Collier in The Bottom Billion and Paul Polak in Out of Poverty argue that one of the fastest and most effective ways to empower people in developing countries to rise out of poverty is by putting the means for economic development in their hands. Every one of our technologies is a tool for doing just that.
The benefits derived from the technologies we work with are broad. Improved stoves reduce cooking time, reduce fuel use which in turn reduces deforestation, and greatly reduce levels of indoor air pollution, which the World Health Organization claims is responsible for as many as 1.6 million deaths per year, over half of them children under 5. Rope pumps increase water availability and quality and reduce the amount of time and energy needed to gather water. Oil Presses are a way to turn the peanut crop into a more lucrative product. Nut Shellers reduce labor time and drastically increase productivity.
These technologies are also the potential basis for new markets. Rope pumps need manufacturers and repair-men, as well as a source of spare parts. Creating these local manufacturers and mechanics is part of the development process for the rope pump technology in Senegal, as well as for Nut Shellers. Becoming a manufacturer of improved stoves requires a small initial investment, and the process of testing these stoves around the country will also find the people who will be capable of becoming a local stove-maker.
The Appropriate Technologies Task Force
Appropriate Technologies have been a part of development work for decades, but only recently have more effective approaches emerged that deal with how to properly introduce these devices.
In the 1970’s there was a surge of spreading Appropriate Technology into the developing world in response to the energy crisis at that time. It appeared, however, that the movement was not having the dramatic impact that had been hoped for, and it has since died down significantly. The movement failed for the simple reason that people were designing devices that, while simple and effective, were in no way affordable to the vast majority of the people that would actually want to buy the devices.
This concern has helped shape the Appropriate Technologies Task Force.
We are not here to simply give people tools and technology. We are here to introduce interesting and affordable products to locals; find clients who will take the products; and to encourage and enable locals to become profitable. In the past, Peace Corps Senegal’s efforts at implementing and proliferating technologies were enthusiastic but limited. Ideas would emerge then fade after the leading volunteer left the country. Some ideas would arrive with great promise, but due to ineffective implementation, would encounter problems and then disappear in a haze of disappointment. The task force exists to focus and refine our efforts with new ideas, and develop the potential of the technologies we believe are best suited to improve the quality of life in Senegal.
The Thiés training center has become a place for testing, demonstrating, and developing technologies. To improve the chances of new ideas having their greatest impact possible, a timeline has been created for research, testing, and market development. With advice from the CED department, testing periods will also be used to do research on market potential. It is our hope that these efforts will make Peace Corps Senegal a leader in the advancement of appropriate technology in West Africa.
See the following pages for information about each technology with which we are currently working, and contact info specific to each program:
Anyone interested in learning more about Peace Corps Senegal’s work with Appropriate Technology and how they can contribute should contact Nathaniel Miller (77 329 3526, email@example.com). Whether you are just looking to have a rope pump installed on your well, would like to be part of the testing program for the universal nut sheller, or have an idea for a device you think has potential in Senegal, there are plenty of opportunities for productive work.