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Success Stories

Innovative pits establish mangoes

Ideally, mangoes require a good rainfall that is reliable for most of the year. But even with poor rainfall they will survive and produce if they are given the chance to establish on the ground. A farmer in Kenya has found a way to get the trees established. A report from Charles Mburu.

The Mwingi district, some 200 kilometers to the east of the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi, has an annual rainfall of between 200 and 500mm, but in four years out of ten the rains could be less than 200mm. So the area is primarily used to grow quick maturing varieties of millet, sorghum, cowpeas, pigeon peas, dolichos lablab, and soybeans. Locally bred cattle, goats, sheep and donkeys survive fairly well.

Mwingi is home to a mango farmer, Mr. Musili Buluu who spent most of his life in the Kenyan capital City Nairobi engaged in horse race gambling. In 1990, at the age of 65, he decided to leave the city and begin farming. 

Mr. Musili's land is well drained and has sandy-clay-loam that is ordinarily compacted and has the characteristic surface capping that is found with soils of the semi arid lands of Kenya. He started by growing traditional crops and tried fruit trees such as mango, citrus, guava, loquat, etc.  They all did poorly except mango, though there were problems in establishing them. 

Military service:
Musili Buluu began his working life in the army and served in Somalia during the Second World War. His  pecial duty was to manage the military probation farm, which was irrigated with water drawn from the Juba River. Working on the farm were two Italian prisoners of war who had experience of growing trees in harsh climates. Musili learnt from them and drew on this experience when he moved to his own farm some 40years later. He tried the technology. It worked very well. And now he is a proud owner of a mango plantation of more than three hundred trees. 

His initial source of fruit tree seedlings was the Soil and Water Conservation Programme tree nurs- eries of the Government of Kenya. But he later established his own nursery and today he is an effective supplier of mango seedlings to a lot of farmers some who are up to 60 kilometers away from his farm. 

Planting holes (the innovation):
Musili Buluu prepares small planting holes, which are dug about one foot in diameter and one and a half feet in depth. They are partly (three-quarters) refilled with very fine sand that is available near his farm.  The final top quarter is left for trapping/keeping harvested or irrigation water. Mango seedlings are planted in these planting pits/holes, and then watered at the rate of two liters every second or third day for about two to three months in the dry season until the seasonal rain falls. The water application is stopped after the rain falls and the seedling is left to survive on natural rainfall thereafter. To help the seedling survive Musili makes water-harvesting micro-catch- ments structures around the seedling to increase moisture availability to the root zone. The common structures he uses are V-shaped or semi-circular earth bunds. 

The compact walls of the pit serve as a water conservation container while the fine sand acts as a sponge to retain water in the rooting zone when the seedling establishes more roots.

Supplementary water supplies/ availability
Musili Buluu has introduced several other measures/supportive innovations to ensure that his farm has a better water supply and the seedlings are wellwatered. He has dug a shallow well   into   the   bed   of   an ephemeral/seasonal river about two kilometers away from his farm. He uses four donkeys to collect this water for irrigating his tree nursery and the transplanted seedlings.  The donkeys are also used to take his mangoes to the market.

To make the digging of planting pits/hole easier Musili has improvised a steel crow bar, 600mm (2ft.) long and 30mm (1.2 in.) in diameter. 

To protect his seedlings from termites, Musili mixes finely chopped Aloe vera leaves with the fine sand that he partly feels the planting hole with at the rate of one handful of chopped leaves for three holes.

Musili has been able to establish over 300 mango trees on his farm, with half of them now mature.  He harvests about 200 mango fruits from each mature tree, which gives him some 30,000 fruit to take to market each year. 

He sells them all in the local market at an average price of Ksh.lO, ($ 0.25). So his annual income is about $ 3,750 per year.

Musili has received training from extension officers from the Ministry ofAgriculture on grafting and now he does it himself at his tree nursery. He has also been to other mango growing districts to learn about other mango varieties  and effective production technologies. For example he has learnt how to change undesirable mature mango varieties to desirable varieties by top-working them. 

Why farmer Innovator?
After the world summit on environment management that took place at Rio-de-Janeiro in 1992, the Global

Convention to Combat Desertification stipulated that promotion of land user initiatives/innovations would help to reverse the process of desertification. In 1998 Kenya began the Promoting of Farmer Innovation (PFI) programme. The hope was that the land users, who have techniques/innovations that work in food production and/or environment management could be encouraged to help other land users to improve food security, reverse land degradation and desertification. 

When a farmer has been chosen for his innovation he/she helps to train other land users to use that idea and at the same time to pick-up new ideas from other land users and thereby broaden their use. Due to peer influ- ence the farmer-to-farmer extension approach has been found to work faster than in the case of conventional extension (extension agent to farmer). 

The PFI programme has taken over 750 farmers to Mr. Musili's farm to learn about his innovation, and about 500 of them, who live in a similar climatic zone,  have  adopted the planting method and are growing mangoes. 

Some of these adopter farmers have tried larger pits made according to recommendations from the depart-ment of agriculture extension. The larger pits, two feet wide and two feet deep, have worked but require more labour to make and more water for irrigation and do not show any clear advantage over Musili's smaller hole. Water availability is a major constraint and the smaller pit is the best compromise.

All in all, mango growing in Mwingi has become very popular. The farmers' next major problem will be marketing and this is being addressed through training. The verified inno- vator farmers of Mwingi district who number over 50 have formed a co- operative that has been linked to food processing industries in Thika town. One of the factories has requested that the mango fruit be delivered in large loads of at least four tonnes. Thika, the nearest industrial town to Mwingi, is about 130 kilometers away. The Mwingi farmers need assistance in setting  up  their  own  factory  for processing mango jam and juice. This would ease the transportation cost and create employment around Mwingi.  

Gender consideration
Musili's wife of his first marriage died necessitating him to have a second marriage with a much younger wife. He and his second wife have four very  young children under the age of eight. Since he is now over 80 years of age he feels he doesn't have a lot of time left to live with his new family. He therefore trains his wife in everything he does so that she can take over from him when necessity arises. In addition he has allocated a certain number of known mango trees to each of his children for inheritance. The remaining lot automatically belongs to his wife.

For more information contact
Charles  N.   Mburu:   National Coordinator : Promoting Farmer Innovation,
P.O. Box 1582, Nyeri
10100, Kenya.
E-mail:mburucnd@yahoo. com

Reproduced From Approriate Technology ( Volume 32 / issue 2(2005) pages 18-19

Cheaper filters to remove arsenic

Drinking water in the Indian state of West Bengal and Bangladesh is naturally contaminated with arsenic. This means millions of people are suffering from arsenic poisoning (arsenicosis).  Matthew Waterkeyn, Engineers WithoutBorders (EWB), has recently been in India and Bangladesh to help design low-cost filters for removing the arsenic. 

Chronic arsenicosis causes speckled skin and leads to crusty wart-like appearances, known as keratosis.  he skin becomes brittle and risks cracking open and becoming infected. There is growing evidence that arsenic effects the development of infants, particularly in cases where the child is also malnourished. The final stage of arsenic - cosis is when cancers of the skin, lung and liver develop. 

The problem arose when surface water became more and more polluted from agriculture, industry and water - borne diseases.  Wells were dug to provide clean ground water, but this source was contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic. 

Arsenic mitigation
Arsenic poisoning is treatable in the early stages by switching to clean water and eating a healthy diet. Recent hair and nail tests have suggested that children, due to their faster metabolism, absorb arsenic more readily. There are several options for making water safe to drink: 

-Filtering  the  water  from  the   shallow aquifer tube wells
-Filtering and disinfecting surface      and hand-dug well water
-Establishing alternative sources of clean water 

In West Bengal, the Bengal Engineering College (BEG) has favoured using Activated Alumina (AA), a white, porous, granular mate-rial to absorb and filter out arsenic, but it soon clogs up and has to be  regener-ated.  In Bangladesh, granular ferrous hydroxide (GFH) is popular.   

Unfortunately, iron is often found with arsenic. It is not a health hazard but has an unpleasant taste and  forms a  red precipitate on contact with air. Arsenic on the other hand is tasteless, odourless and colourless and so it is a common misinterpretation that iron is the source of the poisoning. This means that iron  iltration should be carried out as well. Removing iron also helps to extend the life ofAA, since the precipi- tated iron oxides clogs up the pores. 

Domestic filter
Three variations of domestic filter, all using AA, have been developed by BEG, and sponsored by UNICEF since   1999. The first was made with a steel  casing and used around three kg ofAA (costing Rs.100/kg or &1.20), but the second reduced this to one kg because it had a special porous candle (tripura), which  removes the iron prior to arsenic filtration. The candle is made locally by baking clay, sand and rice husk in a   mould then leaving it to cure over a period of about twenty days. The second filter was cheaper because it has a ferro cement casing, but this makes it heavier - 35 kg. It is also necessary to backwash or blow air

back through the candle to displace the iron oxide sediment.  This can be a health risk.  

The third filter, developed in September 2003 by S. Smithers and J. Arnold for BEG, has fine-tuned the second design to make it cheaper, more user friendly, durable and hygienically sound, while reducing the overall weight by about five kg.   

The community filter
A community filter (AMAL) developed by BEC works on the same principle as that of the domestic filter,  but instead of a tripura candle, the raw influent is sprayed onto the top of the cylinder through a shower rose. This aeration process oxidises the iron, which precip- itates out of solution, and then collects in the pore-space of the AA. Once a day, the flow is reversed or backwashed. This pushes the iron up and out into a sand filter where it forms a sludge. The sludge that forms is peri-  odically scraped away and mixed with cement to make concrete slabs for latrines. Monthly tests monitor arsenic levels and when they reach the permis- sible limit of 0.05 mg/l, the AA is regenerated. 

AMAL cost about Rs 75,000 (&1000) and most are paid for by foreign aid. The community pays the maintenance costs, with each family paying  Rs  l0/month.    A local committee, with at least three women  members, manages the filter and employs a care taker/plumber to operate the pump during specified opening hours and carry out a daily backwash. A health worker, usually a woman, spends a few hours per week making home visits explaining the  dangers of arsenic and discussing other   issues like nutrition and hygiene. 


The AMAL filter could remove iron  more efficiently if the water was better aerated by using a fine shower rose and spraying the water over a wider area or from a greater height. Using more AA and a porous membrane would filter off more iron. The large cost of AMAL means installation is often delayed.   The domestic filter on the other hand can be obtained immediately, but even they cost Rs. 450 which is nearly half the monthly income for many families.   

Public awareness
Word of mouth is the main way for making people aware of the problem. Health  awareness  campaigns  use leaflets  and dramas to  spread the message but as it is such a huge problem these programmes are strug- gling to make an impact. With millions of people at risk, these campaigns are simply not happening fast enough.  It needs a progressive and repetitious learning programme. Learning programmes can be set up by using Community Health Clubs (CHCs). Family representatives attend these to discuss health issues and learn about the arsenic problem, as well as other matters that affect the family like AIDS. The CHCs should be as much social clubs as they are educational with plenty of interaction. In Zimbabwe, I have seen a brilliant example of how community health clubs can improve the well-being of the community. They have been established by an NGO called 'ZimAHEAD' (Zimbabwe Applied Health Education And Development). The programme was initially aimed at basic hygiene education, attended predominantly by women, but now covers nutrition, AIDS awareness and income-generating proj- ects that have made the health clubs self-sustaining financially. The homes of each member are spotlessly clean and orchards, herb and vegetable gardens have been established.

Cheap filter
In my study I proposed some designs that can filter arsenic for under Rs. 80.00 (&1) when assembled in bulk. Small amounts ofAA are used, but as the amount of arsenic that can be absorbed is limited by the surface area of AA, regeneration will have to take place more often. The next consideration is how fast and how uniform the water flows through the AA - the flow rate has to be slow enough to ensure that there is sufficient time for the arsenic to be absorbed.  

The new filter is similar to the third domestic filter  developed  by BEC/LTNICEF, in that water is poured into the top chamber, and flows through a bed of AA into the bottom chamber.  

The parts can be purchased in the market for Rs. 70.00, and the AA costs  Rs. 30.00. This puts the filter above the aimed limit of Rs. 80; however, all the parts were purchased individually, so if they were to be obtained in bulk, the cost would be dramatically reduced. Water flow is slowed by putting more AA or sand in the funnel. 

Using a tripura type membrane to remove the iron will prolong the life of the AA. This could be done by mass- producing cheap thin disposable pots made with the tripura mix. The raw water is poured into the pot before drip- ping into the funnel. The pot is either replaced or cleaned once it is clogged

up with iron. This use of the tripura mix would be more practical on a domestic filter then on a community rig since access is less of a problem. For filters without this feature, the tripura pot can remove iron on its own when suspended above a bucket. 

A perforated splash plate placed on top of the funnel or tripura pot will help to aerate the raw water and removal of iron. A circular disk with a few holes punched through it, cut from a sheet of stiff plastic is more than adequate for the job. 

Pipe filter

This design cuts the filter down to the with AA and at both ends two plastic soft-drink bottles, with holes cut in, are forced on. Fine gauze across the pipe ends keeps the AA in place.  Water flows down the pipe from the top bottle, but there are problems with trapped air in the bottom bottle and the partial vacuum created in the top. This can be overcome by connecting the two bottles with a straw to reverse the airflow but this punctures the gauze. 

A better way is to force the water through the AA by squeezing the top bottle, which on recovery, sucks air back through the pipe. Additionally, as the air flows back it oxidizes the iron and acts as an automatic back washing mechanism. Another way is simply to use an open system, i.e. a bucket/funnel attached to the top of the pipe, which is then suspended over a lower bucket. If the flow is too rapid, a valve/sand restriction can be fitted or the length of pipe increased. The pipe filter and AA can cost less than Rs. 15.00. 

 Magic wand filter
This filter simply involves stirring a cage filled with AA in a bucket of raw water. The cage should only be about half-full of Ac\ so that water flows through the  media quite  freely. Vigorous stirring creates bubbles in the water which helps to remove iron. The oxidised iron settles on the bottom of the bucket and the purified water is removed with a ladle from the surface.  

The amount of arsenic removed from the water is proportional to the contact time, so the volume of AA and duration of stirring, determines the filter's effectiveness.   A card with a table comparing contact time with bucket size should be made available with the filter. 

The cost of making a cage which holds 0.15kg of AA and the other components cost about Rs. 35.00. If a suitable cage cannot be found, a vacuum moulded polymer cage (with a screw on cap to access the AA) could be developed, and if mass produced, may well prove to be a more economical alternative to buying individual parts. 

Personal water container
Another simple idea is to everyone with a small bag of AA that can be put into a bottle. After filling the bottle with contaminated well water, it is then shaken for a few minutes, and then left to settle, before decanting the purified water for drinking.  A card relating the contact time with the bottle size should be available with the AA. The main problem with this design is the possibility of ingesting AA, which will have absorbed some arsenic. A fine mesh incorporated into the cap could minimize this risk, or distributing the AA in sealed, loosely packed, fine mesh bags that are put into the container. These precautions could make this form of arsenic filtration the  cheapest and most convenient way to provide widespread arsenic free water. Preparation, sales, regeneration and  recycling 

· This is an emergency programme and  a  good  communication network is needed.  Community Health Clubs are the best way to achieve this.

· A team of health advisors needs to be trained so that the health clubs can be established quickly. 

· Widespread media coverage should urge people to attend the health clubs. 

· The health clubs should train the owners on how to use and maintain the filters. 

· If possible, funding should be provided for the manufacture of the filters, with recipients paying small    deposits on the container and the 'AA. When the AA needs regenera- tion, they return to the healthzzclub   and receive part of their deposit back, the balance paying for regen- eration.  The idea of paying a deposit    is very important, not only for the maintenance of the filter, but also environmentally, since the components won't be discarded if a clean water supply is implemented. 

· For this programme to be self sustaining, the health advisor for the area could set-up health clubs at   several villages, with one village being a central regeneration point. 

· For spent AA regeneration to compete economically, large  ated at once, for example at a     community    centre or local shops. 

Long-term developments 

The long-term advantage of the arsenic mitigation programme is the way the community becomes organised so that if an alternative water supply does arrive the community is capable of managing and maintaining it.   

Low cost arsenic filtration is only an interim stage in the mitigation process but it lays down the foundations for a more sustainable programme. 

More information from Matthew Waterkeyn, 6 Roslyn Rd, Redland, Bristol  BS6  6NN,  UK. 

Bengal  Engineering  College,
Shibpur, Howrah 711103, West Bengal, India. Web site

Engineers  Without Borders,  29
Trumpington Street, Cambridge CB2
leA, UK.Far: 01223 765625;
web  site:http://www.ewb-uk,org
Africa AHEAD, 215 Lomugundi St.,vondale, Harare, Zimbabwe. 

Reproduced From Approriate Technology ( Volume 32 / issue 2(2005) pages 32-35

A success story from Hyderabad

Padmamma belongs to Raghavendra Nagar, a small village in Mahaboob nagar district of Andhra Pradesh. She owns 4 acres of land of which approximately 75% is left barren owing to the degraded soil and depleted moisture conditions. With the land unproductive and no alternative jobs available in the village she was struggling to make both ends meet.

Hoping to get water she took loan after pledging her land documents. But unfortunately due to depleting water tables in the village the newly dug well remained dry. Desperate, she planned to migrate to the city to seek livelihood.

It was during this time that Youth For Action (YFA) began their activities in the village. During the community interaction soil erosion was identified as the major factor for decreasing productivity in the village. The village women now formed into women sangams decided to take up water harvesting technique with the help of YFA on a war footing. Check-darns, pit digging, minor irrigation works, contourbunding, sharing of water resources by the rich landlords with the poor etc. were taken up. Visible results of these activities were seen within a year. The soil erosion was arrested, water retention capacity of the soil increased, and with higher input efficiency there was better yield. According to Padmamma "when hitherto we were getting a bag of ground nut, today we are able to reap 3 - 4 bags. The soil and water conservation measure have had doubling and at times tripling effects on yields".

From food crops, Padmamma shifted to cash crops because there was more water in the well. To reduce cost and to improve productivity bio-pesticides as well as vermiculture were introduced. She also began to cultivate vegetables in the area hitherto left barren.

The village took up regeneration of fallow lands and social forestry. The purpose of social forestry was to conserve both soil and rain water and also to procure fodder, fruits, fuel and bio-mass.

Increased cultivation and yields provided food security to padmamma and her fellow villagers. From mere Jowar and millets they began to consume pulses, rice and vegetables. The backyard poultry also provided sufficient eggs for Padmamma's family.

Padmamma was able to repay the loan taken for digging the well and recovered her land documents. She procured a sewing machine for her daughter, motivated the
second daughter to be come health worker in the village. Padmamma is no longer a women in despair; she is full of confidence, enthusiasm and hope, having traveled a long journey from despondency to optimism.

Contributed by Youth For Action (YFA) Hyderabad
Source: Catalyst. 1(2); October 2000, Pp.4

Water Mills in Nepal
Throughout the Himalayas, much of the remote population uses water-powered mills on a seasonal basis to grind wheat, corn, millet, A traditional water mill and other grains into flour. It is estimated that there are 25,000 water mills operating in Nepal (referred to as ghattas), over 200,000 in India (referred to as gharats or panchakis), and many more in the mountainous regions of China, Pakistan, and Turkey. Each traditional mill has a power output of 200 to 500 W.

Himalayan water mill technology is centuries old. It continues to be built and maintained using local materials. Although each mill is unique to some degree, all share fundamental similarities. Water is diverted from a stream or river and flows down a chute towards the mill's turbine. The vertical shaft of the turbine runs up through the floor of the mill house and turns a rectangular metal "key". The key supports and turns the top stone of a pair of grinding stones. There is also a lever extending from below the turbine into the mill house that enables the mill owner to raise or lower the top grinding stone as he sees fit. It can be raised up high enough to spin very quickly without touching the bottom grinding stone.

Much of these mountainous regions remain unelectrified despite the interest in, and demand for, basic electricity. The aim is to create an opportunity for an individual entrepreneur to provide electricity to his immediate community by leveraging part of his indigenous infrastructure: the water mill.

Electricity Generation
For most Himalayan homes, kerosene is the only available source of light after sunset. Houses are rarely well ventilated, and kerosene inhalation poses a real health threat. New lighting technology can completely replace the use of kerosene for lighting. Both Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) and the more exotic white LED lights are available today in the local market. There is enough power in the traditional water mill to power these kinds of lighting systems as well as other small household appliances or even small incandescent lighting systems. Extending the mill's functionality to include electricity generation also has the added benefit of providing an entrepreneurial mill owner with an additional source of income.

Battery Charging
Just as in developed countries, entrepreneurship can be an excellent way to quickly introduce and disseminate technology in developing nations. When engineering a product for the individual entrepreneur in the Himalayan region, low cost becomes the main criterion. For a mill owner, expensive induction generators and transmission lines are simply out of the question. A battery charger is a much more viable solution. The mill owner bears the cost of the inexpensive charging system, while the individual households bear the cost of batteries, as they are able to do so. Even the more remote and isolated homes are able to participate in this scheme, as long as they are within walking distance of a mill. Although issues of transportation and disposal remain, battery usage seems the quickest and most economical path to bring basic electrical lighting to the mountains.

Batteries simply can go where a transmission grid cannot. Indeed, the precedent has already been established; villagers in parts of eastern Nepal are currently carrying 12-V car batteries into grid-connected towns for recharging. A battery-charging extension to the mill could both alleviate the need for these long trips and make such a strategy available to other, more remote areas of the mountains.

The mill is also an ideal site for a battery-charger. During much of the year, a steady stream of people arrive at their local mill with grain and leave with flour, as has been done for centuries. It will not be a dramatic change of routine for rural villagers to bring their batteries to the mill as well. They can have a battery charged and their grain ground in the same trip. The battery charger extension can also be operated during the unutilized time of the mill, which varies by season. The availability of a battery-powered light also allows the mill to operate at night, either for grinding or battery charging.

An inexpensive battery charger can be made using a car alternator, a bicycle rim, a belt, and a mill "key". The key sits on the rotating turbine shaft and supports the top grinding stone. By attaching a small square post to its top, the turbine shaft can effectively be extended. The bicycle rim has a square pipe welded to its axle that can be slipped over the square post. The turbine thus drives the bicycle rim, and the rim in turn drives the smaller alternator pulley using the long car v-belt. With the top stone raised up, the water mill's energy is not used for grinding, but for powering the alternator.

A car alternator is an excellent choice for a battery charger as it has been specifically engineered to provide a regulated voltage ideal for recharging 12-V batteries. It can supply up to 500 W of power, which is conveniently the maximum estimated power output of most traditional water mills. Although the alternator needs a fairly high rpm to generate electricity, it can be run below car idle speeds. The bicycle rim and alternator pulley provide enough of a ratio to allow the alternator to produce power at water mill speeds (60-90 rpm).

For the rural regions of Nepal and surrounding countries, the cost of an alternator may still seem prohibitively high. Power from a water mill Although it does account for much of the total cost (USS 50), there is evidence that this is affordable. Nepal's Center for Rural Technology has successfully launched a program to sell higher efficiency mill turbines for approximately US$ 80 to rural water mill owners. Over 600 new turbines have already been purchased and installed; sales are currently averaging over 250/year. There should be a considerable market for a battery charger in a similar cost range.

The initial low cost of the battery charger is not the only advantage of the simple design. With the device's removable shaft, the mill owner can quickly switch between battery charging and traditional grinding operation. With the bicycle wheel removed, the mill looks and operates exactly as it always has for centuries. The only permanent modification to the mill itself is the addition of the small square post on its key. This post does not interfere with grain being fed in between the grinding stones, and is completely out of sight.

The most significant advantage to using an inexpensive mill add-on to bring electricity to the mountains is sustainable maintenance. The Himalayan water mill, however, has been built and repaired locally by the mill owner and his family for centuries. They are already the technical experts for most of the battery charging system. The mill owner cannot repair the electrical portion - the alternator, but any auto garage shop in the country can repair it. All parts in the system come from locally available, off-the-shelf components.

Renewable energy projects can be costly in developing parts of the world. A considerable amount of time and capital is needed to create local expertise and manufacture parts. The technology infrastructure already exists in the Himalayan region to support basic power generation. ( Courtesy: A study conducted by Nathan Eagle to engineer a way to harness the rotational mill and transform a ghatta into a community battery charging station. Further details on this study are available at-

(Note: Winrock International India (WII) has carried out a similar case study on "Water mills in India" (refer Wll's REPSOVision Vol 12 newsletter). For details, please contact Dr. Koshy Cherail at <>
(Source: Resource. 6; Oct. 2000, Pp.4 -5)
Solar Basket Fund in India

Rural women are interested in renewable energy technologies that improve their quality of life, reduce their workload, and/or provide them with opportunities to increase their income. This does not necessarily mean, however, that women Solar PV generates income for Pavur tribal women who are engaged in agricultural labor by day and basket weaving by night have to work on energy project as technologies alone. Women have had, and continue to have, various roles in RET projects. Women have proven themselves capable of undertaking projects when provided with appropriate training and support.

Several houses in Pavur, a tribal village on the border of the states of Karnataka and Kerala in India, are connected to the grid but have no power! Their only source of lighting is kerosene. The primary breadearners are women who spend their late evening hours weaving baskets.

Don Bosco, a charitable institution in Karnataka, India, approached Winrock India in 1998 for financial support to provide lighting systems to this tribal village. Systems were
bought and "loaned" to the tribals. Don Bosco then set up a revolving fund whereby beneficiaries return payments that are revolved and lent out again to other tribals who need PV systems.

These solar lighting systems have proved to be a real boon to these poor, uneducated, much-exploited tribals in many ways. They have replaced the poor-quality kerosene lighting systems, have given them more time to weave their baskets, reduced their expenses (on lamps and kerosene), thus increasing their incomes and savings for the month. Maintenance costs are also met from the money collected.

  • Income generation: The tribals who earn their living from basket making have to go to the forest far away and spend the whole day to collect raw material. But with the solar lights they can now do some preparation work so that they can weave their baskets early the next morning. They now finish their work by early noon and then take them to the market, which gives them half a day extra for other work.
  • Education of children: With the help of solar lights, after they return from school, they play for a while and then do their home work.
  • Improvement of their self image: These tribals were always looked down upon as the lowest of castes. Now these people are the only ones with lights in their houses. This, together with better incomes and houses, enhances their self image. Now two tribal young men are standing for the forthcoming elections - for the Gram Panchayat and the Block Panchayat.

Merchants buy baskets from the village itself or in Majeshwar, the nearest small town, or in Mangalore, the nearest city, depending on the distance they have to walk and the time on hand. The further they go, the better the rate. With the extra income earned, new houses are being built and the rest is used for better food, more decent clothing etc.

Don Bosco is now considering starting a cooperative for them, managed by themselves. Their baskets will be collected, they'll be given the standard price and then the baskets will be transported to Mangalore or Bangalore to get higher rates. The extra money earned will be distributed to the basket weavers after deducting the expenses incurred for transportation, etc.

( Don Bosco themselves have installed a 2 kWp PVsystem at their Bangalore institute and have been active in urban and rural community development activities since 1979. For further information, please contact: Fr Thomas Myladoor Sdb, Email:
(Source: Resource. 6; Oct 2000, Pp.6)

Biogas Plant Dissemination : Success story of Sirsi, India
P R Bhat, H N Chanakya and N H Ravindranath

Abstract: Dissemination of alternative energy technologies such as biogas in various parts of the world has rarely led to a success rate of 90%. This study in Sirsi block, Karnataka, south India, revealed that 43% of rural households (HH) had dung resources to operate biogas plants and 65% of them had already built biogas plants. I00% of the plants built were functioning satisfactorily and 85% of HH with biogas plants met all their cooking energy needs with biogas, improving the quality of life of women. The presence of multiple agencies in the dissemination network, participation of entrepreneurs competing to assist households in all aspects of biogas plant construction, commissioning, procuring subsidy, guaranteed performance and free servicing contributed to the high rate of success (of 100% of biogas plants being functional). Most biogas plants built had excess plant capacity, with cost implications. An observed shift in the design choice from mild steel floating drum design to fibre reinforced plastic-based floating drum design and then to a less expensive fired dome model shows that rural households respond quickly to technological developments. The paper discusses the roles of various factors and their implications for future dissemination programmes.

1. Introduction

India, like many other developing countries, has a limited conventional energy supply and is therefore forced to look for alternative and renewable energy routes to foster its development programmes, especially in rural India where more than 70% of the population lives. Currently fuel-wood is the, dominant energy source for cooking. Scarcity of fuelwood is very well recognised. Cooking with fuel-wood and other solid biomass fuels is associated with low efficiency of use in the traditional stoves, drudgery in gathering the fuels, health hazards from smoke and resultant low quality of life. Cooking accounts for 60% of the overall energy and 80% of the non-commercial energy in rural India. [Ravindranath and Chanakya, 1986; Ravindranath et al., 1994; Ravindranath and Hall, 1995]. There has been a realization of the need to provide clean gaseous fuel for cooking to rural households to promote the quality of life. Biogas is one of the environmentally sound options to provide quality fuel in a sustainable way. Thus, the National Programme on Biogas Development (NPBD) was launched with this objective in 1982. At the time of its initiation, it was envisaged that a majority of rural households could meet their cooking energy requirements through the biogas route. This then required disseminating and popularizing family-size biogas plants(c. 2-4 m3 gas/day) which use bovine dung as the major feedstock (generated by the family bovine stock). Biogas programmes have been launched in over 50 countries, those in China and India being the largest. The success levels achieved in many countries have been low owing several technical and non-technical factors and there is a perception that biogas dissemination programmes are largely a failure.[BORDA, 1990; Ni and Nyns, 1995].

Today over 3 million biogas plants [MNES, 1999] have been built against an estimated potential of between 12 and 17 million (based on bovine dung availability) [Ravindranath and Hall, 1995; Khandelwal, 1990; MNES, 1999]. In the dissemination programme, there is a wide variation in performance levels between different regions in India. A number of studies have examined the causes for failures in different parts of India where 40-70% of plants disseminated have found acceptance [Chand and Murthy, 1988; Moulik and Mehta, 1991; Kalia and Kanwar, 1991; Ravindranath et al., 1992].

The causes of failure (low dissemination rates and performance) largely arise from factors that are [Chand and Murthy, 1988; Moulik and Mehta, 1991; Kalia and Kanwar, 1991]:

  • technology and skill related - poor construction techniques or unsatisfactory technology, inadequate maintenance and repairs;
  • resource related - inadequate attention to details about dung resource availability and consequent gas insufficiency for meeting cooking needs; or
  • dissemination approach and policy related - a target driven dissemination leading to plants built faultily for poorly motivated families, who are unlikely to use such biogas plants, and inadequate follow-up services.

There are only a few instances of a very high level of success in dissemination and functioning of biogas plants [Ravindranath et al., 1992; Ravindranath and Hall, 1995]. One such case is that found in Sirsi block of Uttara Kannada (UK) district of Karnataka state in south India. The case of Sirsi was discussed to a limited extent earlier [Ravindranath and Hall, 1995]. However, with additional data and a deeper analysis, the present study attempts to examine factors that have led to a high success rate of biogas plants. This study analyses the field data gathered in 8 villages of Sirsi region in south India to understand the factors contributing to the success of the biogas programme. It is envisaged that this "success" model could provide lessons to promote biogas programmes in other regions.

Such a study is important for the new non-dung biomass-based biogas plants now being developed and disseminated [Chanakya et al., 1995; Jagadish et al., 1997]. These new biomass biogas plants are expected to overcome the problem of a limited dung supply. As these new plants will enjoy the advantage of similar factors for their successful dissemination, a study of the causes of success will enable development and implementation of a more successful: dissemination programme for the new generation multi-feed biomass-based biogas plants.

2. Methods

This study was conducted in Sirsi block of Karnataka state in south India, situated in the hilly Western Ghat forest region, where the biogas programme has been intensively implemented. Primary data on the number of biogas plants built on a yearly basis was collected from the records at the District Office, the KVIC regional office in Bangalore and the State Planning Department. Small discrepancies (a few months) were observed between the date of construction (stated by the household), date of commissioning and the date entered in the records. To overcome these discrepancies brought in by accounting needs, the yearly construction rates are plotted as moving averages (of 3 consecutive years). The study villages were selected by the following procedure. From among the list of the top 25 villages (i.e., largest number of biogas plants installed), a total of 8 villages were selected on the basis of accessibility (Figure 1, Table 1, data source Block Development Office). In these villages out of a total of 250 biogas plants owning households (HH), 187 HH (plants built before 1996) were chosen for detailed study. Information about livestock ownership size, land-holding, family size, biogas plant details and plant performance was collected, using a questionnaire, by visiting all the 187 HH.

A more detailed physical survey was carried out in three of the eight selected villages. Data on the quantity of dung available (per family, per bovine, per individual), the volume of gas produced daily, etc., was obtained in the following manner. The biogas production rates of these plants were determined by measuring the rise of the gas holders (24-48 hours) and the volume of gas produced daily was computed from this data (gas-holder rise multiplied by cross-section area). The total quantity of dung collected per bovine per day was determined by physically weighing the dung collected in the stall for a 48-hour period in each HH of these villages. Information on gas sufficiency, etc., was obtained through an interview with the HH, especially the women.


A total of 10 biogas entrepreneurs (8 civil contractors, 2 gas-holder fabricators) were interviewed to obtain primary data on the employment generated, guarantees and maintenance back-up provided and other services

rendered. Data on the number and types of biogas plant built in the block, the infrastructure available, the subsidy and administration requirements, etc., was collected from the offices of the Zilla Panchayat (ZP), Block Development Office (BDO), the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and the areca plantation growers' societies. Detailed personal interviews were carried out with a few key actors in these organizations associated with the programme during the rapid dissemination phase (1983-1996).

3. Results

We have attempted to study the performance of the dissemination programme and strategy, the extent of potential tapped and the performance of the biogas plants measured as ability to meet cooking energy needs and continued trouble-free operation. The various factors contributing to the observed level of dissemination and performance in terms of feedstock resource, technology choice and its appropriateness, etc., have also been examined for this study area.

3.1 Dissemination, use and success

3.1.1. Biogas technology dissemination in the region: The large number of biogas plants built in Uttara Kannada (UK) district, Sirsi block and the study villages (Tables 2 and 3) by itself establishes their popularity in this region. The biogas plants built in the Sirsi block account for 21% of the total number of biogas plants built annually in the 11 blocks of UK district. These annual rates of biogas plants built and their total indicate a high level of dissemination among rural HH of this region. UK district has 168,000 rural households with a net dissemination of 108 plants/ 1000 HH built at a rate of 8 plants/ 1000 HH/ year. Sirsi block has 15,000 HH with a net dissemination of 248 plants/ 1000 HH disseminated at an average of 20 plants/ 1000 HH/ yr. The study villages, with 756 HH, have a dissemination level of 330 biogas plants/ 1000 HH. A very high dissemination rate is seen at all levels in the district of Uttara Kannada compared with the national average of 24 biogas plants/ 1000 rural households.

3.1.2. Performance of biogas plants:
In the 8 study villages, all the 187 biogas plants built were in use and none of the biogas plants have been abandoned. This is not the case in several other regions of India [Chand and Murthy, 1988; Kandpal et al., 1991; Moulik and Mehta, 1991] where the percentage of biogas plants operational is low. The total extent of biogas plant dissemination as well as use rates in the study villages are high (Figure 2, Table 2; 14 and 8 times higher than the national average of 24 plants/ 1000 HH and 2.6 plants/ 1000 HH/ year, respectively). All these suggest that biogas plants are popular and about 15 new plants are built in the 8 study villages every year. This high rate of dissemination began from 1984 and continues.

3.1.3. Dissemination infrastructure and mode: There are three biogas technology promoting institutions, the BDO, the KVIC and growers' societies. There are two types of financing institutions, the local banks and growers' societies, that provide credit for installation of biogas plants. The biogas plants are built by private entrepreneurs who are normally civil contractors also trained to build biogas plants. From the data gathered (Table 4) from the BDO and KVIC it was found that Sirsi block and UK district have 15 and 60 trained builder-entrepreneurs, respectively, employing 1-3 biogas construction teams each. These teams comprise 1-2 masons and 2-4 skilled and 2-4 semi-skilled workers. It was estimated that about 30 plants/year could be built per builder-entrepreneurs with the existing manpower and infrastructure (total 450 plants/year in Sirsi block). From interviews with these builders, it was found that there was scope for building biogas plants only for 6-8 months in a year, because of heavy rains during the remaining months. Results computed from interview data also show the same (Table 4).

3.1.4. Role, incentives and effectiveness of dissemination: The biogas dissemination strategy adopted in this region is similar to that followed in the rest of India, with the following exceptions. In addition to the roles in promotion, provision of credit and construction of various actors mentioned above, the BDOs (who usually administer only the subsidies) assign builders to households that have applied for biogas plants. Most of the HH that have biogas plants had individually filed applications for them, indicating a high level of awareness and interest among users. There are usually a greater number of applicants than targets assigned for subsidy. The programme thus is largely demand-driven.

Once applicants are selected for subsidy, the entrepreneurs help in reducing the time-lag between sanctioning and construction. They facilitate the expediting of several clearances and the sanction of subsidies. They often build plants in spite of delays in release of finance from the credit agencies, provide a six-month guarantee on the plants built and a three-year warranty for repairs and maintenance (free follow-up services). These factors as well as the presence of an additional credit and promotional agency (the growers' society) have led to creating sustained demand and meeting such demand effectively.

3.2. Feedstock resource and biogas potential tapped :

3.2.1 Insufficient dung availability (cattle number) and/ or competitive uses for dung have often resulted in the disseminated biogas plants being quickly abandoned because of their inability to meet cooking energy needs. We examined, village-wise, the availability of dung resource for determining the feasible level of dissemination and the extent to which the available (I) potential is tapped, (2) dung is used for biogas production and (3) gas is sufficient to meet the family's cooking energy needs. 3.2.1. Extent of village-wise biogas potential tapped Three of the 8 villages were studied intensively to collect the above statistics ( Table 3). Between 52 and 8295 of the HH with potential to use biogas plants have already built biogas plants. Households are considered to have biogas plant potential if they have at least one bovine per capita. Further, the bovine:human ratio is a measure of dung resource availability which for the biogas-using HH is slightly <1, indicating that the dung availability (about 5kg/ capita/ day) is nearly adequate to meet the daily biogas requirement. The remaining 36% of households with biogas potential, which still do not have a biogas plant, may opt for biogas plants in the future.

3.2.2. The per capita gas availability: Gas production rates were measured for the biogas plants. It can be observed from Figure 3 that biogas production in the majority of the HH was over 200 litres (l)/capita/ day. On the other hand, over 85% of the HH reported that all their normal daily cooking energy needs were met through biogas. Among the remaining, 11% reported meeting 75% of cooking needs and only 4% indicated <50% of energy needs met from biogas. The discrepancy between the measured and reported values is attributed to a daily gas requirement of less than the expected 175 1/ capita/ day arising from a higher cooking efficiency.

3.2.3. Gas production, dung use and conversion efficiency More than 40% of the total population in the study villages currently depends on biogas plants for its daily cooking energy needs (Table 3). Field observations revealed that all the available dung is fed to biogas plants at an average of nearly 5 kg dung/ capita/ day. This translates into a biogas potential of <175 1 gas/ capita/ day. Yet gas sufficiency is reported at the household level. This gas sufficiency can be achieved only when (1) all available dung in the family is used for biogas production and (2) there is high dung-to-gas conversion efficiency (0.035m3/kg of fresh dung [Ravindranath et al, 19941]. Field observations suggest that both these factors are responsible for observed gas sufficiency.

3.3. Technology-related factors:

Sustained use of biogas plants built in a dissemination programme requires reliable designs (technology) and their being built appropriately (according to the dung resource and family size). We examine these factors in this section.

3.3.1. Choice of biogas plant designs :The floating drum biogas plant designs have been the most popular (Figure 2) and less than 3% of the total number of biogas plants built (before 1992) were of the fixed dome design. A few fixed cover designs disseminated in the past failed because of poor quality of work-manship and appear to be the possible reason for their rejection in this area. All the three floating drum designs, gas holders made using mild steel (MS), ferro-cement (FC) and fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) were disseminated initially. Over the years, the MS and FC versions were gradually displaced by the FRP design. This demonstrates the households' preference for FRP gas holders, which are least affected by corrosion and require very little post-installation maintenance. Once the biogas plants became popular and the fixed dome plants were supported by sufficient guarantees, the fixed dome design (Deenabandhu model) gradually gained acceptance. The fixed dome plants cost about 60% as much as the floating drum models.

3.3.2. Cost of biogas plants: The actual cost of biogas plants, the cost as approved by the Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) and the subsidy component for the period 1993-95 are shown in Table 5. It can be observed that HH spent 20 to 40% more than the MNES-approved rates. The subsidy component increased with the size of the biogas plants. It is interesting to note that the actual cost to the HH (after deducting the subsidy) did not vary much within the range of 3-6 m3/day capacity plants. There was nearly a 30% increase in the cost of biogas plants between 3 m3/day and 8 m3/day plants. The cost of a 6 m3/day biogas plant is in the range of Rs. 10,400 to Rs. 13,400 (1US$ =Rs. 45.5 at the time of writing).

3.3.3. Plant size in relation to the number of bovines and family size: It is possible to determine the optimum size of a biogas plant, depending on the ownership of bovines, assuming a dung yield of 5 kg/ animal/ day for this region, a 35 days' retention time of dung in the biogas plant and a gas yield of 0.035 m3/ kg dung. Determining appropriate plant sizes for dissemination is based on similar recommendations. When the average size of biogas plant built for each level of bovine holding is examined (Figure 4), it becomes clear that all plants have been built with an excess capacity of 4 m3 gas/ day. Over 55% of these rural families hold between 6 and 8 bovines/ HH and the optimum plant size would be about 2 m3 gas/ day. However, over 85% of the biogas plants built had been in the 6-8 m3 gas/day size range. Thus, the biogas plants built seem to be of larger capacity than required.

4. Discussion

4.1. Higher dissemination rate: The spread of biogas plants in Sirsi area is nearly 8 to 10 times as high as the national average of 24 plants/ 1000 HH. All the biogas plants built are in use, meeting full cooking energy needs of over 85% of plant-owning HH. It is interesting to note that 75% of the geographic area of Uttara Kannada district is under forests. Thus, even though there is no fuelwood scarcity, the HH have spent Rs.10,000 to Rs. 14,000 for the biogas plant. This is a large investment when compared with a rural schoolteacher's salary of Rs. 4,200 per month or a daily wage rate of Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 per day during the peak season. The potential reasons for the higher rate of dissemination in the Sirsi region are presented here.

  • Most farmers grow arecanut (a high-income perennial cash crop) (74%) as well as rice in these villages, leading to higher and assured income (no assessment of income made during the study).
  • Rural HH realize the need for gaseous fuel for cooking.
  • Rural HH have no access to LPG.
  • There has been intensive implementation of forest conservation and afforestation programmes in the Western Ghat forest region.
  • The subsidy for biogas plants is higher for forest and hilly districts than for plains areas, so as to conserve forests.
  • Intensive attempts have been made by the government (Block Development Office) to disseminate biomass conservation programmes such as biogas and improved stoves.
  • Sirsi area has a high literacy of 74%, compared with 56% at Karnataka state level (according to the 1991 census).
  • There is easy access to credit from multiple agencies.
  • Co-operative credit and marketing societies and growers' societies have provided finance to HH for biogas plants, in addition to financing offered by commercial banks.
  • Builder-entrepreneurs' livelihood is linked to income generated from biogas plant construction activity. A biogas entrepreneur (including team members), who built about 30 biogas plants per year, could earn about Rs. 105,000 over a period of 6 to 7 months in a year (compared with a schoolteacher's monthly salary of Rs. 4,200). Further, the entrepreneur receives Rs. 500 per biogas plant commissioned as incentive from the government.
  • High-quality manure for arecanut orchards is obtained from the slurry output of biogas plants.

4.2. High rate of success: The performance of biogas is not intensively monitored by independent agencies at the national level in India. The success rate, of 100% of plants operating and meeting full cooking energy needs of 85% of HHs, achieved in the Sirsi area is the highest ever reported in India [Ravindranath et al., 2000]. It is not easy to attribute the success to any one or two specific reasons. However, some of the features unique to Sirsi region, compared with the programme in the rest of India, are presented here.

  • Relatively large cattle holdings, which means more dung and adequate biogas for meeting all cooking energy needs of households.
  • Guarantees and warranties (follow-up) offered by the entrepreneurs, free of cost, ensuring high performance.
  • Intermediate finance agencies, such as growers' societies, through which the entrepreneurs operate, also ensuring that any technical problems are rectified.
  • Relatively high income (due to arecanut- and rice farming) and high literacy rate, contributing to a realization among rural HH of the need to shift to quality fuels for cooking. This leads to not only creating a demand for a biogas plant but also its successful operation and maintenance, even though there is no fuelwood scarcity in the region.

Thus, multiple reasons have contributed to the success of the biogas programme. Elsewhere in India, the absence of (1) proper screening for adequacy of dung resource with HH and (2) reliable follow-up services have led to low levels of performance and acceptance of the biogas programme and of easy access to credit for it [Chand and Murthy, 1988; Moulik and Mehta, 1991; Kalia and Kanwar, 1991; NCAER, 1989].

4.3. Biogas plant design and technological factors The gradual increase in popularity of FRP-based floating drum design (1984-1992) in spite of its higher first cost clearly indicates the role of reliability as well as a dislike for higher maintenance needs while choosing biogas plant designs. Only when sufficiently proven has the lower-cost fixed dome Deenabandhu model biogas plant been accepted. The lower cost of the design has contributed to the increasing popularity of the fixed dome model. HH tend to opt for a larger plant to ensure that there is additional capacity or biogas production for meeting their needs if a few guests have to be entertained and for arecanut plantation workers (about 2 to 4), for whom food is cooked for about 200 days per year. Feeding larger capacity biogas plants well below the daily feed rates required increases the biogas yield due to increased residence time and surface area. However, there is a need to ensure optimum size to save costs for the HH.

5. Conclnsions

Biogas technology dissemination has achieved a very high level of success in this region of India (Uttara Kannada district, Sirsi block), largely facilitated by the following:

  • Realization among rural HH, in particular among women, in this high-rainfall and highly-forested region of the need for high-quality fuel for cooking.
  • Efficient collection and use of cattle dung resource the family, leading to gas sufficiency even at <5 kg bovine dung availability/ capita/ day.
  • A high stake for quality manure in agricultural activities, particularly for areca orchards.
  • Entrepreneurs' dependence on biogas plant construction for a livelihood.
  • A well-functioning dissemination network involving multiple agencies - private enterprise, promoters, catalysers and users' interest groups - with sufficient for everyone involved.
  • Adequate and quality follow-up services.

End-users have had larger plants built with full knowledge of their excess capacity and higher cost. The high rate spread of biogas plants in Sirsi, even though there is shortage of fuelwood (with 80% of geographic area under forests), is a clear indication of the awareness among households of the importance of quality fuel for cooking for an improved quality of life of women. The role played by entrepreneurs also appears critical to the highest of success recorded for the biogas programme in India. [Ravindranath et al., 2000]. There is competition among builders, encouraging good construction and regular follow-up services. Entrepreneurs also assist HH in overcoming procedural difficulties to obtain subsidy. The main policy message for the large national programme biogas development is to train a large number of entrepreneurs to provide infrastructure support, enable sustainable livelihoods and launch an awareness programme.

The awareness programme should also ensure that "optimum" sizes of biogas plants are built.

( The authors can be contacted at: E-mail.- )
( Source: Energy for Sustainable Development. 5(1). Mar 2001. Pp.39-46)

Village Banks in Mali: A Successful Project Of Self-Help Promotion
by Matthias Adler

The 11 million people of the Republic of Mali are among the poorest in the world. Life expectancy is only 54 years, and the infant mortality rate at 144 deaths per 1,000 live births is correspondingly high. The average annual per capita income is DM 530 (about US$ 250 ). The majority of the poor people (86 per cent) live in rural areas, and the agricultural sector, mainly cotton and rice growing, accounts for 47 per cent of Mali's Gross Domestic Product.

The remote Dogon country in North-eastern Mali, one of the three project regions, is also affected by great poverty. Diseases due to poor hygiene are pandemic, and the level of education is extremely low. The inhabitants, mostly smallholders, live from onion and millet crops and livestock breeding. As the region often suffers from drought and plagues of locusts, the farmers' yields are scarcely enough to ensure them a living.

Before the project got underway, the villagers had only two options if they needed larger sums of money for purchases or emergency spending, such as in cases of sickness. They could turn only to traditional savings and loan associations, whose credit volumes are usually limited, or to private moneylenders, who charge usurious interest rates of up to 120 per cent. In addition, the modest amounts smallholders were able to save could not be deposited in a safe place (for instance as a reserve for the next sowing). Instead, the money was hoarded, or spent on consumer goods or buying cattle.

The state-owned agricultural development bank, BNDA, also was unable to offer the smallholders savings and loan options tailored to their needs. Besides that, the bank's branches were far too distant from the villages in the Dogon region.

To remedy this problem, self-administered village banks (Caisses Villageoises d'Epargne et de Credit Autogerees, CVECA) were set up there in the mid-1980s as part of a project to promote income-generating measures such as rehabilitating small-scale dams. The project was supported by both German Financial Cooperation (FC) and Technical Cooperation (TC). The village banks were to provide the villagers with access to loans and at the same time mobilise their savings. The background was that the impact of income-generating projects, such as promoting irrigated rice growing, often was not sustainable due to a lack of local finance markets which could put the savings to more productive use.

Some of the village banks found very soon that they could no longer cover the heavy demand for loans out of the savings of their members. They were increasingly dependent on other refinancing sources. This was the starting point of something new in Germany's aid to the financial sector. The funds given to BNDA, which had been supported by the Reconstruction Loan Corporation (KfW) since 1986, were no longer to be used exclusively for the direct granting of individual agricultural credits, but also to be made available to the village banks. This concept was implemented from 1994 in Dogonland and in two other rural regions of Mali.

The village banks are based on the principle of self-administration. The villages themselves decide on the founding of a bank, and elect its "staff" - that is, the manager, the treasurer and the comptroller - from among their own people. Part of their funds is used for literacy programmes and initial and advanced training to turn the elected men and women farmers into real "village bank managers". The banks' self-perception rests on the ideal of village solidarity, which is why the villagers as a whole feel responsible for them.

The loans made available by the BNDA are passed on to individual banks by higher-level associations composed of representatives of the village banks. The interest rate for these loans is about 20 percent, far above the national inflation rate of 2 per cent (1999). This rate is also offered for savings deposits. The village banks demand 30-40 per cent interest on their loans, so they have a margin of 1020 per cent to cover their costs.

True, this margin may seem high. But it is quite reasonable given the time-consuming and costly processing of many microcredits and savings accounts and comparable with similar microfinance intermediaries around the world. The high rate of interest also does not deter borrowers because alternative sources of money, such as informal moneylenders, are much more expensive. In addition, unlike moneylenders, the village banks offer a safe place to keep savings, which for many customers is at least as important as access to loans.

The system also involves a former state-run and now privatised advisory and supervisory body ("service commun"), which is staffed by Mall specialists and for whose services the village banks and associations must pay (which also is covered by the interest margin). The body ensures an orderly handling of the financial transactions, carries out audits, and trains the village bank staff in book-keeping and financial management.

The villagers use the mostly short-term loans (3 to 6 months) to finance a great number of small-scale investments in income-generating activities and also to cover private financial needs for sickness, weddings and burials. Collateral is provided by "social pressure" and assets such as goats, bicycles and farming equipment.

What was achieved through village banks?

1. Geographical expansion: In 1999, there were more than 150 village banks and 8 higher-level associations in the three project regions. The cooperatives have a total of almost 65,000 members, through which an estimated 500,000 people are reached. As members of their banks, about 70 per cent of the economically active villagers have access to savings and loans. That means the banks reach directly all economically active sections of the population. The remainder benefit indirectly from banks: higher incomes mean that children, the elderly and the sick can be given better care, and the traditionally strong social cohesion of rural people is further enhanced.

2. Orientation on poverty: The banks mobilise savings totalling DM 4.4 million per year. These savings are the main refinancing basis (about two-thirds) for the overall annual loan volume of DM 6.7 million. The remainder is made available via BNDA credits. These figures manifest not only a far-reaching impact, but also a clear orientation on poverty. In 1998, the average loan level, which is one of the relevant indicators of the share of poor households benefiting from the project, was the equivalent of about DM 180 for all village banks, DM 160 in the Dogon region, and only DM 80 in another region. That means the project's target groups, which mainly are among Mall's poorest people, were reached to a great degree.

3. Social closeness: The village banks usually have repayment rates of 95 per cent, an indication of their efficiency in allocating loans and the sustainability of their goal achievement. It shows that the cooperatives have become stable and thus reliable financing intermediaries in rural areas. ln Dogonland, most of the village banks have even covered their operating costs since 1997. That includes not only their administrative costs, but also the interest on savings accounts and BNDA loans, including their repayment, and payments to the "service commun". This positive result is due to two factors. First, the village banks have a great "social closeness" to their customers not only because of their grassroots proximity, but also because they speak their customers' language. Second, their savings and loan terms are tailored to their customers' needs. Larger sums of money, be they savings or loans, are available when they are needed. What also counts is that the loan repayment burden is tolerable and that savings are safely invested, meaning family members cannot get their hands on them. In this respect, the BNDA's aim of improving the rural people's opportunities to generate or retain income in an efficient way has also worked out.

4. Increasing income: The project has shown how successful financial intermediation, meaning the efficient transformation of savings into loans, and going beyond pure access to financial products, can help tackle pressing social problems. An impact analysis of the Dogon region by Ohio State University in 1997, for example, found that the economic situation of local households had improved. The members of village banks were less vulnerable to the financial consequences of illness, death and other events of the life cycle than were non-members. True, the banks' members are not among the poorest households. But the demand for loans by the latter was greater than their mobilised savings, while richer traders were net savers. This means there was a transfer of resources in favour of the economically weaker members. In addition, the study said, the project had promoted the people's readiness for self-help and self qualification, strengthened social cohesion, and improved both food security and the empowerment of women. These successes were achieved by measures such as the literacy programmes, which were extended to include entire village populations and had raised the level of education as a whole.

5. Linkage with the BNDA: The partner bank made a great contribution to the project's success. The bank's efficient, professional management by an experienced Mali specialist and the good level of training and motivation of its employees proved decisive. The BNDA sees the refinancing of village banks as an attractive business field both because of the lower costs of loans to them and their repayment pattern, which is much better than that of the bank's own individual borrowers. The BNDA has not yet had a default on repayments by village banks, compared to a 50 per cent default rate for the direct loans it made earlier to end-borrowers. In the final analysis, the bank can thus better fulfil its mission of also helping poorer people to gain access to financial services than by granting traditional agricultural loans. The BNDA is currently and for the foreseeable future the only bank that is both willing and able to operate to a substantial extent in Mali's rural areas and, alongside the regional savings and loan cooperatives, to refinance the village networks as well. This linkage of formal sector institutions with informal finance intermediaries, which is now recognised internationally as a "best-practice model", not only strengthened the business activities of a state-run agricultural development bank, but also got underway a "bottom-up development".

6. Knock-on effect:, The village bank project had a "structure-building" effect in the sense of extending the "financial frontier". Aid from outside played an import catalyst role - without prejudice to the target groups' own efforts - not only in relation to their better access to sustainable financial services conforming to their needs (expanding the customer group), but also in terms of widening the offer of such financial products. New and similar village banks are now emerging in other parts of Mali at the people's own initiative, such as one promoted by the French in the Kayes region in the West of the country. In the Koro District of the Dogon region, the local village banks are themselves involved in selecting other villages and setting up new branches. Thus the venture is having a knock-on effect beyond its original project region and contributing to the spread and professionalising of rural finance markets. As a whole, the village bank approach has proven that even simple ways of organising the mobilisation of savings and granting loans in Mali can function sustainably and be developed further on-site.

7. Framework conditions: The project's success would have been inconceivable without improving the framework conditions in Mali's finance sector, in whose promotion other donors were involved as well. The main success factors included Mali's existing market economy system framework, the stability of its currency, and interest rates which are positive in real terms, conforming to market conditions, and cost-covering in the long term. The German Development Cooperation, involving inputs by the KfW, the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and the German Development Company (DEG), which is a BNDA shareholder, contributed to these conditions by:

  • supporting and promoting the process of developing a Mali development plan, adopted in 1997, to promote microfinance institutions;
  • achieving in consultation with other donors in the Mali finance sector the raising of the interest rate ceiling for microfinance institutions from 12 per cent to 27 per cent. This rate is still too low in terms of covering costs, but is an important step in that direction (the authorities tolerate for the time being that village banks exceed this limit); and
  • cooperating closely with the Agence Francaise de Developpement, including co-financing and joint evaluation of the BNDA.

The KfW has since 1989 frequently taken the initiative in this process, mainly by organising Round Table discussions with Mali partners and international donors and by deploying experts in the field. The KfW is also involved in the funding of the supranational RIECA network, an African union of decentral finance institutions.

Lessons learnt and future challenges

Is the village bank model transferable to other countries? The building up of village networks is a lengthy process. In Mali, a promotion time frame of more than 10 years was required. This means that staying power is needed, the amount depending on local framework conditions. In addition, based on the experiences in Mali the following minimum prerequisites should be in place to enable the transfer of the approach:

  • the people must be keen to help organise a network;
  • the population density of the village banks catchment areas should not be less that 15 inhabitants per square kilometre; and
  • the village banks must be able to work together with an efficient formal finance institution (either a development bank or a commercial bank).

Besides making further efforts to mobilise more savings and cut costs, the main challenge for the village networks in future will be to remain independent of external donor inputs in refinancing their growing loan portfolios due to their own borrowing.

Regional commercial banks are following the BNDA's example only hesitantly because they can neither assess the risk nor hedge it. That is why the German assistance has provided the BNDA with a guarantee to facilitate its refinancing of the village banks on the regional finance market. This path will also be a long one. At the end of the day, it will be successful only if the Mali government continues consistently to pursue its development goals of democratisation, decentralisation and privatisation, and if the sectoral conditions also remain favourable.

(Source: Development and Cooperation (D+C). 1. Jan-Feb 2001. Pp.18-20)

Renewable Increase Access to Rural Education

Renewable energy technologies are allowing the development of many new and effective ways of bringing education to adults and children in remote areas.

Distance education based on televised instruction, interactive radio, and Internet access can significantly strengthen the quality of rural education in developing countries, and contribute to increased human capital development. The potential contribution of these electronic technologies is perhaps greatest in rural and remote regions where it is difficult to attract and retain quality teachers, and where individual teachers often have to handle all Subjects. It is precisely in these areas, however, that access to electricity services is unavailable.

Adequate and reliable electricity supply is a prerequisite for the deployment of modern information and communications technologies (ICT). In un-electrified areas of developing countries, the expense associated with expending the electricity supply grid into rural areas is often prohibitive. Renewable power technologies such as solar photovoltaics (PV), small wind electric turbines, hybrid power systems and micro-hydro systems are often ideal for providing electricity.


A Solar Satellite School in South Africa

Imagine a school with no electricity, no running water and no telephone lines but with the largest library in the world. A miracle collaboration of people and technology has taken place at Myeka High, in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

Today, solar PV and a satellite dish bring distance learning to Myeka High. Equipped with solarpowered computers and wireless Internet access, the students now have virtually unlimited amounts of information at their fingertips.

How was this made possible?

Direct funding for the PV array came from Eskom (the local utility), while the computers and technical assistance were provided through the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). Willard Batteries donated new batteries for the PV system, and Mangosuthu Technikon (a type of vocational school) donated a secondary PV/ gas hybrid system. Winrock International was involved in the training and mobilization of the local NGOs and Mangosuthu Technikon staff that support the

schools project. WI has also been funding, via Solar Engineering Services, the headmaster's time in the program beyond his normal duties, and the construction of a biogas digester for the school, which will help power the PV/gas hybrid system at the school.

Myeka High has been a prototype to show how a previously

disadvantaged rural school has been able to, through the utilization of convergent technologies, to leapfrog itself into the 21st century. The exercise at Myeka has been able to establish some interesting perspectives and results. The project

established and overcame the hardware and infrastructural barriers of setting up a computer room/ education center in a remote location. The project also helped dispel many of the patronizing myths about technology and rural communities. The project also showed how rural educationists, urban technologists and passionate people can seamlessly collaborate.

The rewards of this project will benefit millions. Anyone who thinks they could make a valuable contribution to this project is most welcome to get involved. It is time to break all traditional barriers and to use our knowledge, passion and imagination to create a better world for all.
(For further information, please refer
(Source: Resource. 7. Dec 2000. Pp.4-5)

The World’s First Zero-Emissions 4 - Star Hotel

Freiburg, close to Germany’s Black Forest, has something of a reputation as a ‘solar town’, having hosted several large solar events, having a large number of solar installations, and being home to both the International Solar Energy Society and the Fraunhofer Institut for Solar Energy. Partly as a consequence of this, the region attracts a high number of ‘solar tourists’ along with usual holiday and business travellers.

At the city’s Victoria Hotel, Astrid and Bertram Spaths have transformed the establishment that has been in the family for generations, into the world’s first zero-emissions hotel. However, this by no means compromises guests’ comfort or the efficiency with which the hotel is run. On the contrary, the rooms all offer a higher standard of comfort than before.

Since embarking on their mission 10 years ago, the Spaths have invested several hundred thousand German marks in putting their environmental beliefs into action. The measures include high-efficiency windows, sustainable, natural building materials and finishes, a computer-controlled energy management system, avoidance of packaging waste - hence their breakfast buffet is non-packaged, fresh produce from the region - and the use of environmentally friendly cleaning materials.

The hotels WCs are equipped with water-saving cisterns, taps and showers in all the rooms are controlled-flow models. Optimized bathtubs use 30% less water than conventional-shaped ones.

Energy Saving Measures

As regards cutting power consumption, all the minibars in the rooms use the latest refrigeration technology, providing energy savings of 30%, while almost all the rooms have and energy-saving lamps. Time switches and photo-sensitive devices are used throughout.

Power Production

All the hotel’s power is produced by clean or renewable means. Since March last year the hotel has had in operation a 7.6 kWPV installation on its roof, which provides a quarter of the 63 rooms with power (guests can see progress of power generation on a digital display in the reception area) - 6% of the hotel’s total needs.

Two CHP generators (11 kWe, 24 kWth) in the basement meet a further 30% of the electricity needs, as well as 30% of the hotel’s heating needs - avoiding about 20 tonnes of CO2 each year compared with the previous, conventional system.

The remaining 64% of the Hotel Victoria’s power comes from a wind farm in the north of Freiburg, at Ettenheim.

Plans for the Future

Plans to switch the heating over to wood pellets, mean that all the heating will be supplied by renewable means as well as the power. The hotel is continuing to work closely with the Freiburg Energy Agency - which has been consulting throughout, and plans to work with other environmentally friendly hotels in the region.

{ Hotel Victoria, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. Tel : +49 761 207 34-0; Fax: +49 761 207 34-444
e-mail: ; URL :
Energieagentur Regio Freiburg (Rainer Schulle); e-mail:}

(Source: Renewable Energy World. 4 (2). Mar-Apr 2001. Pp.106-107)

Sustainable Building Materials - Philippines

We are very proud of our network. Although it has gone through several name changes - the latest of which is Sustainable Building Technologies-Philippines (SBT-Philippines) - its core of practitioners has remained steadfast and committed. Our network has already achieved many breakthroughs in promoting sustainable building technologies, but our plans are even more grand.

SBT-Philippines began in 1995 with nation-wide gatherings of micro-concrete roof tile producers initiated by the Mindanao State University - lligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) and ILO/SKAT. Since then, several national business forums have consolidated their efforts in promoting MCR tiles as well as other sustainable building technologies. This sharing of experiences guided the direction and addressed immediate concerns of producers and users of these technologies. Training courses and seminars were organized, along with refresher courses in the production and use of MCR tiles.

The Network is lead by MSU-IIT and another university based NGO, the Mindanao Shelter Foundation, Inc. (MSFI). Based in southern Philippines, the university is committed to promoting the developing construction enterprises. Being a state university, it enjoys the support of the national government in its development of alternative construction materials especially for housing applications.

Network members

The Network now has many active organizations working in key parts of the country with varying degrees and areas of expertise. This is the all-important ingredient in sustaining the network. The following are some of its active members. The Pagtambayayong Foundation, Inc. (PFI), and NGO in Central Philippines, is one of the members and a major partner in MISEREOR’s nationwide socialized housing projects, which includes several other related NGOs. PFI was instrumental in recruiting members for the Network. It is a leading member of the Network and serves as one of the three secretariats.

Another member is the Foundation for the Development of the Urban Poor (FDUP), which in addition to its housing projects serves as the secretariat of the CMP - Congress and Social Development Organizations for Low Income Housing. CMP stands for the Community Mortgage Program that the Philippine government runs to promote adequate housing for the urban poor.

The Julio and Florentina Ledesma Foundation, Inc. (JFLFI), another NGO in central Philippines, enjoys the generous sponsorship of the local leadership as well as international agencies for its poverty alleviation projects in the countryside. JFLFI advocates the use of earth-based technology, and an incremental housing development scheme using this technology has delivered decent houses to 650 disadvantaged families since 1993.

Mindanao Land, an NGO based in southern Mindanao, not only has social housing projects, but also produces various kinds of equipment, including the CEB press and the MCR vibrators. These valuable experiences have great potential to involve communities, businesses, and the government agencies in successfully implementing a social housing programme.

Homestead Builders, a commercial company that produces building materials and is at the same time a housing and building contractor, represents the northern part of the country. Their ‘No Lumber Building System’ demonstrates the efficient use in various housing and building projects of concrete hollow blocks, pre-cast door and window jambs, steel roof structures, and micro-concrete roof tiles.


Although the network has not been going long, SBT-Philippines has already had some successes. It has promoted the use of sustainable building materials such as compressed earthblocks, ferrocement, and micro-concrete roof tiles. One example of the noteworthy projects organized by members is Buenavista Homes, a housing project in Metro-Cebu. It has 417 house-and-lot packages in a 5-hectare area. Each regular package has a lot of 35m2 and a floor area of 23m2. There is provision for the buyer to add a second floor, also with a maximum area of 232. Each is sold on the open market at a price of Php 180 000 (US$4000). Buyers may apply for a loan from a government housing finance institution, which they pay back at a monthly rate of around Php1600 ($40) over 25 years. This package is affordable only to better off low-income families in the Philippines, as the monthly minimum wage in the Philippines is $90 and average monthly household income is $130.

The project uses compressed earth blocks and micro-concrete roof tiles, which are not only low cost, they are also:

  • attractive: the houses do not look ‘low cost’ at all;
  • Environment friendly: both technologies use a relatively low amount of cement and other energy-intensive products. The blocks are made of ordinary soil rather than sand and gravel, which have already been depleted in many areas such as Cebu; and
  • Labor intensive: it is estimated that at lease 50-60 per cent of the total project cost was labour (15-25 per cent is usual when conventional materials are used).

The project developer is Legacy Homes, a subsidiary of one of the Philippines’ largest companies. The houses were built by Eco-Builders, a house construction and site development business. Eco-Builders supports the activities of the Pagtambayayong Foundation, an active member of our Network.

Buenavista Homes are a commercial success. Despite the economic crisis plaguing Asia, all the units were sold even before completion. Many other commercial developers have already expressed an interest in using the same approach for their own projects.

Project Dream Land in Metro-Manila is another good example. The project involves 232 families affected by the development of a military base (Fort Bonifacio) into a ‘global city’. These families opted for in-city relocation with a compensation fund to finance their housing project. They also contracted a member of our Network, the FDUP, to build their houses using compressed earth blocks and micro concrete roof tiles.

FDUP has similar project in Kawit and Rosario, Cavite. The Julio and Florentina Ledesma Foundation Inc., another member, has similar projects in San Carlos City and Negros Occidental, and the Mindanao Shelter Foundation in Mindanao State University has built a model house using a number of appropriate technologies. They are now negotiating with the government of Lligan City to use these technologies in its municipal housing projects. Huub Luyk in northern Philippines has built a good number of houses that have roofs of micro-concrete tiles, and there are more examples all over the country.

The Dissemination process

Buenavista Homes and the other projects have shown that appropriate building materials are commercially viable, and will be even more so when the housing industry recovers from the current crises. Compressed earth blocks, micro-concrete roof tiles, and a number of appropriate building technologies are now mainstream. But this did not happen overnight. It was a long and deliberate process.

The Network feels that the main problem with appropriate technologies is dissemination. They are stuck in a vicious cycle: no one knows about them, so no one uses them. Since no one uses them, they have no visibility.

The vicious cycle must be broken. The value of appropriate technology must be demonstrated, not just in laboratories but in real life. Many members of the Network built their office buildings using the experimental materials. Staff members followed, and a number of housing projects were later developed.

But we are not content with pilot projects. We are obsessed with scaling-up and will not rest until we shall have changed the landscape of the housing industry in the Philippines. More production. More users. More producers. More products. And so on.

The production of appropriate building materials is combined and integrated with other activities. For instance, many of the Network members also work with communities in other ways. Many also develop housing projects, in addition to their production activities. A prominent producer of concrete roof tiles said that it was only able to sell its products after it had organized housing development projects.

Major Activities

In the Philippines the commercial producers of appropriate building materials are working together as allies, selling our products to a universe of potential buyers who have not yet even heard of our products. The success of one is the success of others.

Our Network regularly conducts exchange visits and meetings to allow us to learn from each other and to work together on mutually beneficial activities. These include joint participation in trade exhibitions and information campaigns, and jointly producing better promotional materials for less money. We have even organized a business corporation, Koolroof Equipment, Inc., to co-operatively produce the plastic moulds needed to make MCR tiles.

To upgrade the skills of its members to design and implement housing projects, the Network organized a Contractor’s Development Programme. The programme’s management systems should increase the efficiency and profitability of those involved in the delivery of housing projects.

Possibilities and Prospects

The housing industry in the Philippines collapsed when the currency crisis hit Asia in 1996, aggravated by various changes in the government’s housing policies. The currency crisis is now over, but the Philippines is not recovering fast enough. The present government considers housing as a centerpiece programme, and although there is still a gap between policy and reality, things seem to be shaping up. In April of this year, the top government housing officials visited Buenavista Homes and they have agreed to scale up the project nationwide, thanks to r project nationwide, thanks to a proposal submitted by a number of NGOs which are all members of the Network.

Now 17 social housing projects will build 3310 housing units throughout the country using sustainable building materials. Government financing institutions will provide homebuyers with financing worth around Php500 million ($11.1 million), and the Home Guaranty Corporation will provide sovereign guarantees for Php200 million ($ 4.4 million) worth of development financing.

Our Network is also organising an Awareness Campaign, starting with a meeting in Manila to highlight the various activities of the Network to various government and donor agencies. We hope to encourage them to use these materials when they build school and other structures. This activity is part of our strategy to position our technologies in the poverty alleviation and economic pump-priming programmes of the present government in the Philippines.

The Challenge

We realize that despite our successes we still have a long way to go. The users of sustainable building materials are not even a fraction of one per cent of the market.

Our Network believes that this does not have to be so. Sustainable building materials are superior to conventional materials: lower costs, more beautiful and durable, labour-intensive, and environment friendly. The problem is formidable, but certainly not impregnable.

( Francisco L. Fernandez, President, Pagtambayayong Foundation. Daniel S. Mostrales, Faculty
Member, MSU-lligan Institute of Technology. Email:

(Source: Basin News. 20. Nov 2000. Pp.23-25)

Paving a Future for Villagers

The Centre for Vocational Building Technology (CVBT) was created in Thailand in 1992 with the objective of creating new employment locally so that villagers would not have to leave their families to find work in Bangkok or overseas. In terms of income generation our first endeavour, MCR (micro-concrete roofing) production, has not been successful; the semi-sheets were quite difficult to manufacture to a high quality standard, and were also hard to transport. These Roman II tiles were having a tough time competing in the well-developed Thai roof tile market too. The real winner for the villagers has been our venture into ornamental concrete paving slab production.

Success on the first try with paving slabs

We started to have trouble keeping up with orders shortly after slab production began in 1994. With the support of a Thailand-based British charity we had received a limited number of moulds to pilot the technology in the country. Ornamental paving slabs are easy to sell in Thailand because:

  • they are beautiful; and
  • they are recognizable - when customers see them they know what they are, what they are used for, and have no fear of installing them by themselves.

A ready-made marketing channel

We had an idea. With the help of a VSO volunteer and our Thai staff the paving slabs were marketed through nurseries or landscaping supply stores. Concrete slabs are mainly used for patios and in gardens. Soon the stores were ordering 200 to 400 slabs at a time. They collected the slabs in their own trucks, so we rarely had to arrange our own transport. Within a few years storekeepers were coming to us from 150 kilometres away!

The winners - the village workers

Production is simple and easy for the producers. The raw materials, sand, aggregate, and cement, are readily available. The village workers mix the concrete by hand. The slabs are vibrated on a large format vibrating table in plastic moulds and set out to harden for about 24 hours. They are demoulded and put into a solar-powered high-humidity curing chamber.

The finished products are easy to store. Unlike agricultural products they do not lose their value over time. The production technology is appropriate to the workers’ capabilities, and they manufacture products of high quality.

Pay for the production of the concrete slabs was fixed on a per piece basis. After developing some skills are gaining practical experience the villagers are now able to earn 25 per cent more than the minimum wage in Thailand (and in our area it is normally very hard to find anyone who pays as much as this so-called minimum wage). The slab producers are now earning enough to send their children to school and have a bit leftover for other important things in life.

Technology developments

A colleague working at a local university generously equipped the villagers with an electric concrete mixer. This eased the workload considerably. Initially moulds were used without frames, which meant that the slabs had edges and the mould did not last very long as the edges chipped and broke. Light-weight mould frames were developed using kiln-dried softwood. This helped to improve mould durability very much.

Necessity is the mother of invention

A full mould and frame can weigh up to 18kg for a 45 x 45cm slab. This is a very heavy load to turn over by hand. As a consequence a turn table was developed that has an automatic locking/unlocking mechanism, a tremendous improvement for the production process. In addition the turn table is used for demoulding twice per day, which increases the value of the expensive moulds.
Colour the world with friends

Within two years after the villagers began paving slab production AESOP volunteer from Australia joined the Centre. He and his wife helped the villagers to improve their concrete mixing, and they introduced the idea of colouring the paving slabs with powdered colour pigments. Slabs with pigments are made in two layers, a coloured layer and a grey backing layer. Coloured slabs have become very popular and people are willing to pay more for them.

Superplasticizers were introduced to the slab producers as well. These simple additives make the wet concrete more slippery with a lower water content, so the mix slides easily into the corners of the moulds. Again, it meant an improvement to the production process for the worker, resulting in a strong product. Controlling the amount of water in a concrete mix is one of the most difficult part of manufacturing concrete products.

A need an opportunity

Some years ago customers approached the Centre with a request for a different style of paving slab. The request was hard to accommodate, because the rather expensive production moulds have to be imported from abroad. After lengthy discussions with the customers and a number of unsuccessful trials, a slab style was finally found that pleased them. It had a washed stone surface, and the new technique required some skill developed. Washed-stone paving slabs have turned out to be the highest value-added product that the villagers now make.

Quality and Pride

On the back of every paving slab, the villagers imprint product information and a logo, also produced by the Centre (the CVBT concrete product stamp). They are proud and happy to produce a quality product, and because of careful checking they noticed that some of the paving slabs were slightly curved on the top.

The villagers were asked to correct the defect, but despite several reminders the curves remained. Finally they were asked to just count the number of paving slabs that came out curved. This proved to be rather a burden, so the request was reduced and applied to just one pattern of paving slabs each day. This was done, and more. They corrected the problem almost completely within two weeks. Just putting the ‘feedback loop’ in place was enough to get them thinking.

Customers - our market

For the slab producers, the main market is nursery (landscape supply) stores. The ‘end customer’ (user) is usually a middle-to upper-income houseowner. Government agencies have also purchased hundreds of paving slabs, and at least three hospitals have paved their point used the paving slabs for a rest area. Fisheries and livestock fodder stations have also used them, and another market in Thailand is Buddhist temples.

Management and dissemination

One small workshop can be set up for about US$ 7.500. Not too much for a small and commercially viable enterprise, but a huge amount for a villager. Even a group of villagers would hesitate before putting so much money together into a venture. And this despite a 60 per cent return on investment. Most Thai villagers are not prepared to risk enough to try to manage a small enterprise. The need to learn a whole host of completely new skills, such as dealing with bank deposits and withdrawals, taking inventory, ordering raw materials, and serving customers, is quite intimidating. So, although we have quite a number of already experienced and established business people wanting to start paving slab business, few village groups are picking up on it. This is one challenge for the Centre in our development work: how to increase peoples’ capacity, and perhaps also their courage.

Ornamental paving slabs are a win-win-win proposition in Thailand. Why? The workers gets a good wage, the producers get a good income, the distributors get good income, and the customers get a good product. Ornamental paving slab production truly is a successful sustainable rural industry for Thailand.

CVBT plans to produce its own paving slab moulds in future, and will include some indigenous designs. Existing mould suppliers include: ces of moulds include:

(Geoffrey Wheeler, Centre for Vocational Building Technology (CVBT), Kilometer Stone 147
Frienship Highway, Group 5, Ban Thin, Tambon Ban That,Phen Distric, Udon Thani 41150 Thailand. Tel/Fax: +66 1 220 1848 ; Email:

(Source: Basin News. 20. Nov 2000. Pp.29-31)

NGO Story of Achievement: Young Africa

Through this column nisiet Bulletin has been providing introductory profiles of organisations doing voluntary work, mostly within the States. This month the column gives the profile of an African Voluntary body.

Young Africa is a NGO launched in 1998 in Chitungwiza in Zimbabwe, a township 20 kms. South of the capital city of Harare. YA is in fact a composite of two no-government organisations - a charitable trust which legally owns the projects of YA, and a foundation in Netherlands.

Primarily, YA focusses on helping the adolescents and the young adults (age group of 15-25 years) to earn a sustainable livelihood through income generating activities. In association with the local community, YA identifies the potential entrepreneurs and viable projects, and matches them.

YA also provides consulting and diagnostic services through its coordinators and operators a small credit loan scheme to help the new entrepreneurs with working capital. It attracts a very low interest of 10%. The beneficiaries of these schemes are mostly women entrepreneurs by finding markets to display and sell their products besides helping them publicise through internet to enable global marketing of their products.

It has a skills centre which gives training in shopfloor skills such as welding and carpentry, and trade skills like tailoring. The enthusiasts selected need qualifying education and have to pay a nominal fee.

The social dimension of YA includes caring for the street children. They are given a home and encouraged to socialise and participate, and show their talent in games and other activities. An adult education programme is in place to spread literacy, a computer centre provides training in IT at a competitive fee, and a reference centre makes available material to students and aspirants to enrich their knowledge.

YA had deputed their field officers for training at nisiet to study the Indian experience in small entrpreneurships so as to use the insights to alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe through promoting self-enterprise. YA now looks forward to assistance from Indian NGOs and Institutes in networking to share technology and ideas. With all its endeavours, YA is constantly striving to uplift the people of its country and put them on the path to well being.

(Source: nisiet Bulletin. 7 (3). Mar 2001. Pp.2)

Wonders of the Sun: Installation of solar panels have life comfortable


The solar lighting system in Mundanmudy village, the largest installation of its kind in the world, has changed the life-style of local people here. The Hundreds of Houses (393 Precisely) lined one after the other with bright solar panels in the village of Idukki district in Kerala, are quite impressive.

Mundanmudy village is located at an elevation of around 1,500-2,ooo metres near a reserved forest, with no access to the electrical grid. The connection only reaches the foothills, and even here due to the transmission losses, the light in the last few houses only glimmer.

Till 1997, the entire was dependent on kerosene lamps. But, with the introduction of solar lighting system. the lighting dreams of the village have come true. Rajagiri College of Social Science (RCSS) adopted this village in collaboration with the Community Aided Sponsorship Programme (CASP) an NGO based in Mumbai.

The Adoration Sisters (nuns) based in the village conducted that electricity and drinking water were the major problems of the villagers. This survey report was submitted to Japan s Ministry of External Affairs who subsequently released a grant of Rs. 33 lakh under its grant-in -aid for Grassroots progammes, under which the college had earlier received grants.

Under the project, the households (around 590) were divided into 15 units, each unit consisting of 30 to 40 families. These households nominate their leaders who form the central committee where the convenor is usually a male and the joint convenor, a female. "This is because we encourage women’s participation in our projects." says Benny George. manager, Aditya solar shop in Cochin. George was the coordinator of the RCSS team when the project was undertaken.

Calculations revealed that Rs.33 lakh was not sufficient to execute the project on both electrication and drinking water supply. Though a set of solar panels cost Rs 11,200 only, 8,500 was left for each household, so families interested in installing solar panels contributed and additional Rs 2,700 each. Eventually 393 households, around two-third of the entire village, agreed to take the chance.

The solar sets are made by TATA BP Solar, a joint venture of BP solar and TATA.
Solar Tech, a Cochin-based company carried out the tough task of installation in this village with no decent infrastructure. Aji Augustin an engineer from the company faced the challenge of installing them in houses scattered across the village and interspersed between boulders and thick vegetation.

"There were no proper roads that connect one house to the other, so installing the solar panels was difficult," says Augustin. Three local people were trained to assist him in installing the panels. The Project eventually got completed in a short span of five months.

"The project was executed smoothly, because the government was not involved," says one of the staff of Solar Tech lightly.

The concept of solar lighting was not new to many of the people. This was due to the strategy employed by Solar Tech who installed a panel at the Adoration Sisters’ convent in the locality. "Curious villagers used to come and see the light and ask a lot questions." says Augustian.

Life with the sun

One of the first customers who came looking for a solar panel was Amina Sidiq, a 60-year-old lady, who is looked upon as a mother figure (Amma) by the local people, she knew that it would help her in operating her small teashop.

Since Rs 2,700 was a huge sum for down payment, she borrowed the amount from a local money lender at a monthly interest rate of five per cent. She managed to return the money the same year. she says that is was worth the cost and she even wants to buy more. "Now," I open the shop even after sunset," she says proudly. she also mentioned that her grandchildren who are as old as the lamps are so used to the solar lights that they would find it difficult in their absence.

One has to see to believe the changes brought about by the solar lights in the life of the local people. Anthony Verkey, convener of the project committee says: "Using a kerosene lamp, it is very difficult for the children to concentrate for a long time." and adds, "but now they can study for longer hours." Educational improvement is one of the most impressive changes brought about by solar electrification.

For Jobi Joseph, a student and a budding artist, there is sufficient time for both his hobby and his studies: "Now I can differentiate various shades of colours at night, while I study for my final pre-university exams during the day."

"Around 150 households have television sets now, and they are more aware of what is hapening outside," says George. Thomas Kurien, one of the local people who bought a 14-inch black and white TV four years back mentions that he is able to watch cricket, his favourite sport, with the help of the solar light. The subsidised set now costs Rs 8,000 (which is otherwise Rs 14,000), but it is still unaffordable for these people whose annual income ranges from Rs 10,000 to 15,000. Most of them are dependent on rubber, witch does not fetch them much income.

The rest

"The balance from the grant - around Rs. 2 lakh was used to built five ponds and five water tanks." says George. In addition, Rs. 5,000 was collected from each of the 15 units to add to the project. Without any wages the local people volunteered to dig the ponds from where water flowed into the tanks buit at a lower level. "In the ponds and flows downward without the need for electric pumps." says George. Sufficient water gets collected in the tanks to last the whole year, so the people need not extract groundwater. Before the amount is released, an engineer inspects the scene and submits a separate report for each stage, which involved digging of the ponds, protection and construction of water tanks. "The amount to be released depended on the engineer and how we interacted with him," says George. The report had to pass through at least five officials before it was finally cleared. Eventually, Rs 1,20,000 was sanctioned to the community.
(Source: Down to Earth. 10 (04). 15 Jul 2001. Pp.52-53)

Solar Energy and Agro- Industrial Applications

Di-basic calcium phosphate (DCP) is an odorless mineral-based inorganic compound widely used for supplementing phosphorus and calcium in animal feed. Phosphate India Limited produce feed-grade DCP in their plant near Udaipur in Rajasthan. Rock phosphate, the chief raw material, is available in abundance around the plant site. The installed capacity of the plant is 300 ton DCP per month. The present production rate is around 6 ton DCP per day. Wet DCP cakes have a moisture content of around 35-40% and are produced and dried to a moisture content of around 5% in two steps. Tray drying reduces the moisture content to around 15%. Thereafter, the moisture content is reduced to around 5% in a spin-flash dryer. Both these dryers have diesel-based hot air generators.

Solar Cabinet Dryer

A natural convection cabinet type solar dryer wet DCP prototype was designed, erected and commissioned at the factory site (see photo) under the technical guidance of the cooperating center of the ‘All India Coordinated Research Project on Renewable Sources of Energy’ located at the Maharana Pratap University of Agricultural and Technology, Udaipur. The prototype of the solar dryer had a floor area of 9.5m 4.5m and a capacity of around 500 kg of wet ECP per batch. It consisted of bricks and a hollow cement sand block structure, a flat plate solar collector and an electrically operated exhaust fan for removing the moist air from the drying cabinet. This small system has been working at the factory site for more then a year for drying wet DCP to a moisture content of around 15% Fully satisfied with the technical performance and economics of the small capacity solar drying system, the industry decided to replace the existing diesel-based tray type drying system with the solar energy-based system.

Solar Tunnel Dryer

A natural convection tunnel type solar dryer with a loading capacity of 1.5 tons per batch was designed, erected and commissioned in the factory premises and is under regular use since janury 2001 (see photo). Its salient features are:

  • The hemi-cylindrical shaped tunnel dryer has a base area of 3.75m r 21m. Low cost materials are used for its construction to give it high rigidity, long life and superior thermal characteristics.
  • The metallic frame structure of the tunnel dryer has been covered with a UV stabilized semi-transparent polyethylene Sheet of 200-micron thickness. It has a long life and does not allow the trapped radiation to escape. A gradient of 15-20 has been provided along the length of the tunnel to induce a natural convection airflow.
  • The cement concrete floor has been painted black for better absorption of solar radiation. Five-cm thick glass wool insulation has been provided to reduce heat loss through the floor. Providing a black polythene sheet has reduced heat losses from the northern side of the tunnel. Inlets for fresh air have been provided all along the periphery of the tunnel (except the upper end) near the ground level. The upper end of the funnel has been provided with a steel door (1.6 mr 0.75m) for loading and unloading of the material and an exhaust fan of 1000-1200m 3 h -1 air flow rate capacity and 0.,75 kW power rating for removing moisture. Air temperature inside the tunnel remains higher than the outside ambient air by up to 100c. The exhaust fan operation is automatic to maintain the average relative humidity of the inside air between 50-70%.

Operation and Performance

  • Wet DCP is thinly spread in the steel trays of 80cmr 40cmr 4cm each. Twenty-four trays are loaded on to a trolley. Ten trolleys with approximately 1500-kg wet DCP are placed inside the tunnel dryer at a time. Here too. like in the diesel-based tray dryer, the loading and unloading of the material is manual in the solar dryer. The tunnel dryer has been located 50m away from the plant to get uninterrupted solar insulation. Therefore. two additional laborers are required for transporting the DCP to and from the tunnel dryer.
  • The system has been under operation since January 2001. The average solar insulation during January-February was 585 Wm-2 and the ambient air temperature around 200C. Under those conditions, the average time for drying from an initial moisture content of 35-40% to a moisture content of around 15% was two solar days. The drying time extended up to 3 solar days when solar insulation was lower (average 380wm-2) on an average 4-6 electrical units (kWh) were consumed in operation of the exhaust fan for drying one batch.

Cost Economics

The total cost of the tunnel type dryer has been worked out to be Rs45,000 (US$978). The average cost of drying one batch of DCP of 1.5 tons has been worked out to be approximately Rs.400 (US$8.7). This includes interests on investment, depreciation, labor cost, cost of electricity and other running expenses.

The existing diesel based tray dying system is equipped with a 5.6kW blower, a 7.5 kW suction motor and a 3.7 kW hammer mill. It dries 250 kW per hour or DCP from an initial moisture content of 35-40% to a final moisture content of around 15% and consumes an average of 12 liters of diesel for air heating. The cost of drying 1.5 tons of DCP in the diesel based tray dryer works out to Rs.1,800 (US$ 39.1). As such, there is a huge saving of around Rs.1.400 (US$30.4) for every batch of drying in the solar tunnel dryer as compared to the existing diesel-based mechanical dryer, A battery of up to eight tunnel type solar dryers can completely substitute the existing mechanical dryer. The investment on a solar tunnel dryer can be recovered in drying around 87 tons of DCP or say 115 working days.

A soft loan has been secured from the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) For the installation of four more such dryers.


Solar energy can be profitably adopted for various thermal applications in agro-industries located in the countryside. This technology can generate employment and will reduce dependence on commercial sources or energy such as petroleum and electricity in rural India. (Contact:: Dr M Shyam, Project Co-ordinator, Central Institute of Agriculural Engineering, Bhopal-462, 038. Ph.: 0755-733383, Fax: 0755-734 016, Email:

(Source: Resource. 8. Apr 2001. Pp.4-5)


Bhoomla Khedi one of the village under Chanchoda block of the district is getting fame as a first ever bio village of the state. The project is being developed by Rajiv Gandhi WaterShed Mission under drought eradication development programme.
The basic aim behind this project is to establish a bio village, which uses bio techniques to improve not only crop production but also get the quality, crop free from the harmful pesticides.
Firstly the local soil was minutely examined for the presence/absence of various elements and suitability of soil for type of crops. The farmers were advised about the elements required for the soil to get a better crop. The soil was tested for the presence of quantity of Zinc, molybdenum, magnesium, magnese, iron and copper. Besides these soil was also examined for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Based on these tests reports farmers were guided accordingly about the type of crop most suitable for the soil. The treated seeds were given to the farmer and after that NADEP fertilizer were used. The seeds were being treated to make them free from fungus, germs and bacteria
Fifteen NADEP pites were formed in Bhoomla Khedi. These NADEP pites were further improved with slight modification. They were treated with fungus named "TRICODERMA" along with garbage, soil and cow dung. This makes soil/fertilizer ready in 60 days instead of usual 90 days period. Use of bio technique resulted in production of onion, papaya, zira, ajwain and crops with clinical aroma like citronela, lemon grass and meath. Besides traditional crops like wheat, soyabean and dhaniya. The results were astonishing and the production was almost double then it used to be in previous years.
The most important thing was that no chemical insecticide is being used. An equipment is placed in the center of the fields, which attracts the insects, and they are automatically caught in that instrument. The price of this instrument is also nominal.
The production of crops with clinical aroma started but the problem was how to extract the oil from it. As the oil is the main source of income for the farmers. An instrument was prepared at a nominal cost in consultation with local farmers and project officer of the micro water shed mission. The problem of extraction of soil was solved. The farmers are now happy, as the concept of Bio Village has brought prosperity in their lives.
(Source :


Kanniyakumari district which was a part of erstwhile Travancore state commands an impressive topography with majestic hills, undulating surroundings, the plains bordered by colourful seashores and pristine water falls.
A. Tribe Living in Darkness:
A hill tribe, small in number known as 'Kanikar', dwells in the dense forests around the Pechiparai reservoir. There are 24 Kani habitations in Pechiparai Village panchayat. Each of the habitations consists of 20-25 households & most of them are poor and under privileged. By the frequent contact with the people of the plains, the primitive customs and habits of the hill tribes are fast changing. The Government and few voluntary organizations are taking various welfare measures for the upliftment of these tribes. Still they are deprived of reasonable health and sanitation facilities and basic amenities like electricity. The tribals cultivate Rubber, Tapioca, Pepper etc in their small holdings in the Forest. Some of the affluent tribals have installed rubber sheet processing rollers with Govt. assistance. Other small holders from the neighborhood form groups and get their rubber sheets processed at these units. Each unit processes 40-50 rubber sheets and the effluent produced is discharged in the holding itself leading to emission of foul odour in the locality.
B. Lamp is lit
Cultural Academy For Rural Development (CARD), a small NGO which works among these tribals came up with a novel proposal to provide lighting to the tribal dwellings by treating the effluent of the processed rubber sheet, anaerobic ally, by installing biogas plants. These biogas plants, apart from providing lighting for the tribals, will reduce environmental pollution and arrest the euanation of foul odour from the processed water of the rubber sheets.
The DRDA, Kanyakumari, immediately extended a helping hand, after the Biogas Technical Cell conducted the feasibility study. The beneficiaries whole heartedly offered to lend their support by way of labour. The DRDA sanctioned the proposal through the state sponsored "Village Self Sufficiency Scheme" to construct 3 units of 2 cubic metre capacity 'Deenabandhu model' biogas plants. The total cost of the project is Rs.84,000/- in which the contribution of the beneficiary is Rs.24,000. The tribal youths toiled to bring the construction materials like brick, sand, cement etc by headload by trekking 3-6 kms up hill. CARD, took up the construction and successfully commissioned all the 3 units. Each unit provides lighting to tribal houses and one community hall.

(Source :


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