Brainstorm

It’s easy to get so caught up in problems that we fail to look for solutions. It is necessary to recognize the problems, but at some point we have to shift our focus a little. As news of the severity of the famine trickled in my focus shifted back to the problems. I need to shift back to solutions. This post is the first step in that direction. I need your help. The idea is for this post to be a jump off point for a brainstorming session.

I need your ideas. What techniques, tools, simple innovations could we employ in Ethiopia to improve people’s quality of life. It could be something that increases productivity, helps them earn more money, or saves labor or resources.

A great example of this came from my good friend Kay. One day after church she mentioned an article she saw about solar cookers. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t think of that before. With my interests in outdoors and simple living I’ve read quite a bit about solar cooking. However, I never thought of it in terms of a solution in Ethiopia.

When we talk about these solutions we have to keep one criteria in mind – appropriate technology. That’s a fancy word used in development circles, but it is actually a simple and necessary concept. There are three main criteria that I use to determine if a technology is appropriate. It must be simple, so that it can be easily made or repaired, It must be cheap, so that the people can afford it, and it must be effective, so that there is a tangible benefit to using it. Simple, cheap, and effective, all three must be true for the people to benefit from a new tool or technique. If it is cheap and effective, but not simple the people will use it until it breaks and then go back to the old way because they can’t fix it. If it is simple and cheap, but not effective then what’s the use anyway. If it is simple and effective, but the people can’t afford it then it just becomes a tease. Development is a slow process. We have to start simply and let it build from there. As incomes increase and infrastructure improves more complex technologies can be used. Technology that is appropriate for one place may not be appropriate for another.

The solar cooker is a perfect example of appropriate technology for Ethiopia. They boast about having 13 months of sunshine. I can’t believe that I didn’t think of it myself. There are many other things out there that either I don’t know about or I know but haven’t thought of. So throw out some ideas. Send them as comments to this post.  They can be tools, techniques, plant varieties, animal breeds, anything that could be implemented to make some aspect of life better for the people of Ethiopia. Don’t over analyze them too much. Some things that are expensive here are cheap there. Some things that seem complex may have a simple alternative. Let’s just get a bunch of ideas on the table and go from there.

JB

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