Any technology is only appropriate in its given context. For example, solar ovens seem appropriate for Nicaragua where there is so much sun, but in the cities where backyards are tiny, precious shade trees would have to be cut down for a solar oven to work, therefore it’s no longer an appropriate technology in that context. Cell phones, on the other hand, allow rural farmers to know the current market price for their crops, enabling them to knowledgeably negotiate fairer prices… a very appropriate technology on their farms.
In all of our projects, we strive to use technology that is appropriate in context – whether it is installing solar dehydrating latrines at a rural school, designing a clinic to encourage natural air flow, or using rocking chairs propped up with paving stones for rural dental exam chairs.
Over the years we have had several dedicated appropriate technology projects:
A biodiesel processor made clean diesel for our vehicles until used cooking oil became scarce. We plan to restart the biodiesel project when we get equipment to press surplus cotton seed into oil.
- We had a volunteer build an aquaponics system that included a fish tank and raised garden beds. The water from the fish tank cycles to nourish plants in above-ground gravel beds, which in turn clean and aerate the water returning to the fish. This closed system can be set up in a backyard to increase a family’s intake of fresh vegetables and protein. The demonstration system was donated to a local agricultural university where students are studying and replicating it.
In the past we have built wood burning cook stoves that use less wood and properly ventilate the smoke. This is especially important for homes of children with asthma and older adults with emphysema. Many elderly women, patients at the clinic, have emphysema from cooking over improperly ventilated wood cook stoves.
Future appropriate technology projects might involve getting our center and clinic independent of the electrical grid. Electricity is very expensive and unreliable in Nicaragua; electric bills represent a significant portion of our budget and during the rainy season we experience a lot of power outages. Both our center and the clinic now have diesel generators in order for work to continue when the power is out, but we would love to have alternative power… first for the clinic, then for the center and other projects.
If you have resources or expertise you’d like to share, please contact us.