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June 22, 2007

Appropriate Technology at Kufunda

Appropriate technology is a fancy way of describing ideas that simply make sense, ecologically and socially, in any given situation. Here are some examples from Kufunda Village's learning center.

Many people, especially in rural areas, cook over an open fire. This is quite inefficient since much of the heat escapes around the sides of the pots, so Kufundees developed these efficient stoves made of clay that funnel air into the fire but keep the heat contained, thus using much less firewood! The one issue with these stoves, however, is that in the winter, families gather around the cooking fire for warmth, and these stoves don't allow for that. Oh well, appropriate technology is an ongoing experiment.

For example, one Kufundee is experimenting with building ovens out of mud. Since few people have ovens to bake bread, and the available bread is usually bleached white bread with no nutritional value, the idea here is to create a bread baking oven and save money while eating healthier. This photo is the prototype oven, built out of ant hill clay, some of the best building material in Africa!

This is a video clip of Elias, from one of the rural communities, explaining how he discovered how to turn plastic bottles into parrafin. Now, the burning of plastic is not a good idea of course, but it is a creative use of the many, many, many plastic bottles that plague Africa. This is also an example of how Kufunda encourages experimentation and then the cross-pollination of ideas from one community to the next.

One appropriate technology that I brought to Kufunda was the "hay box"--an insulated box that captures heat of a pot of food and finishes the cooking process without additional fuel inputs. In other words, instead of cooking your rice for 45 minutes on a stove, you can cook it to a boil and then throw the pot into the hay box and use the embodied heat to do the cooking! So simple, so easy, so powerful. Why doesn't everyone have one of these?

They are quite easy to make-- any insulation will work! Here you can see our box before we had a box... we just wrapped the rice pot in a wool blanket. It worked perfectly.

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