Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Empty Pockets Revisited

It's nice to be able to try out some of the things I've been looking for, thinking about and researching for a long time. Not my ideas, by the way, just ideas that sound like good income generation activities and ways of saving money. Generally, they are cheap or free sustainable activities that are easy to get involved in, even for those who have few practical skills, such as myself. I'm harking back to a posting entitled 'Empty Pocket Finances', which I wrote nearly a year ago.

The sort of projects I am thinking of have not changed that much. At present we are trying out solar cookers and cooking baskets but we would like to look into reusable, home-made sanitary towels, briquettes made from organic waste, solar fruit and vegetable driers and, I'm sure, many other techniques. Anything that people can fit into their day to day life with the minimum bother and the maximum benefit.

In addition to persuading people to use solar cookers, cooking baskets, home-made sanitary towels and other things, we would like to get people to make these cookers, baskets and towels themselves. Perhaps they'll even go on to teach other people and convert them to the virtues of sustainability and self-reliance. Then it will be up to them to sell the ideas on to others. So, in addition to saving people money, some people should be able to go on to make money. Admittedly, just a little money, but some of our clients are making almost nothing right now.

So much for the theory, anyhow. But we visited a Ministry of Agriculture office that has been involved in developing appropriate technology for several decades, apparently. One of the people we talked to had little good news to impart. He said he had long been trying to persuade people to do things that would be of benefit to them, with very little success. On the other hand, his colleague seemed to be of the opinion that people find change hard but that that's no reason not to continue to develop good ideas and try to disseminate them.

We also visited Egerton University to see a parabolic style solar cooker being constructed using an umbrella, much like the one I made recently, only bigger. I want to try a bigger one now to see if they can do some things that the Cookit can't do. I'm pretty sure they can but I am worried about safety aspects as people here are not exactly safety conscious. For instance, parabolic reflectors can quickly damage your sight. And if they heat things up to high temperatures, they are potentially dangerous when it comes to spillages, especially when children are involved.

But maybe this won't be a problem. When we were at Egerton, we were able to make some design suggestions that should make the parabolic cooker a lot safer. As for the difficulty of getting people to adopt new things, we hope that living close to our clients will mean we can check up on and badger them regularly. And if they tell us they are short of money or that they need something, we can ask them why they haven't adopted the wonderful techniques that various people around the world have made available, free of charge.


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