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Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development Goals

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved.

But in a first for India, a village is now entirely powered by solar energy, kick-starting its development and reversing the decline common to many villages.

Rampura village in the state of Uttar Pradesh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttar_Pradesh) had previously been without electricity. But its move to solar power has boosted school performance, brought new economic opportunities for women, and even made the buffalo produce more milk! By getting up early, the buffalo can be fed more before day breaks.

Being able to see at night unleashes a vast range of possibilities, but for the very poor, lighting is often the most expensive household expense, soaking up 10 to 15 percent of income.

There’s a direct link between lighting and economic development. Each 1 per cent increase in available power will increase GDP by an estimated 2 to 3 per cent.

In India, 600,000 villages still lack electricity. Despite the country’s impressive economic gains – growth of over 9 percent per year for the last three years, although that rate is now slowing – the levels of poverty in the country’s villages have driven millions to flee to the sprawling slum zones of India’s cities.

Rampura was set up with solar power by a project of Development Alternatives (http://www.devalt.org/), a New Delhi-based NGO working on promoting “sustainable national development”. Using US $1,406,000 from Norwegian solar power company Scatec Solar (http://www.scatecsolar.no/), it installed 60 solar panels to power 24 batteries. The village’s 69 houses are directly connected to the solar plant.

According to Greenpeace (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/), India could generate 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030.

Manoj Mahata, the project’s programme director, said half of India’s 600,000 villages without electricity can now have the option of solar power.

A steady electricity supply means children are extending their study time past daylight hours. Nine-year-old Aja told the Sunday Times: “I like watching television and the light at night means I can read.”

For women, the light brought by electricity means they can take on new business opportunities to boost income. “I want to start a sewing business with other women to make tablecloths and blouses,” said mother of three Gita Dave.

“Even the buffalo are producing more milk because people can feed before dawn,” said Ghanshyam Singh Yadav, president of Rampura’s energy committee.

“This is not rocket science. This is simple,” says Katja Nordgaard, director for off-grid projects at Scatec.

“The model is relatively cheap, and it is easy to operate and maintain. It can be built in three to four weeks, and can easily be scaled up if the demand for electricity increases.

“People in India are already paying when they need to charge cell phones, and for the kerosene they use in their lamps. The willingness to pay for energy is relatively high here, especially when that energy is reliable.”

In Bangladesh, more than 230,000 households are now using solar power systems thanks to the government’s Infrastructure Development Company Ltd. (IDCOL), giving rise to opportunities for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs to make use of this new power supply for the poor. IDCOL is run by the Ministry of Finance, and is on course to install 1 million Solar Household Systems (SHS) using solar panels by 2012. The Bangladeshi government is hoping to bring electricity to all its citizens by 2020 – meaning this is now a prime time for entrepreneurs specializing in providing energy efficient products to the poor.

Another initiative to boost development in India’s rural villages is the concept of the Model Village India (www.modelvillageindia.org.in), previously profiled by Development Challenges (November 2008).

Resources

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© David South Consulting 2021

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Cashing in on Old Wisdom

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

India’s traditional weavers, heirs to a 2,000-year-old textile industry, are turning to the ancient practice of ayurvedic medicine to make their products more appealing and boost sales. Drawing on recipes once used by weavers to the Indian royal courts, clothes are woven and infused with ayurvedic, herb-and-spice medicinal recipes to address various health problems. Strange as it may sound, the health-giving properties of the clothes have been backed up by clinical trials at the Government Ayurveda College in Thiruvanathapuram, southern India.

The college claims the trials were successful for 40 patients with rheumatism, allergies, hypertension, diabetes, psoriasis and other skin ailments. It is believed the healing properties of the herb-and-spice-infused clothes enter the skin and contribute to healing.

Modern India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, championed hand-spun cloth and weaving. But India’s weavers have been hit hard by the rise in the rupee against the dollar and an inability to compete internationally. They are facing stiff competition from a flood of machine-made cheap clothing. According to Siddique Hassan of the Weaver and Artisans Rights Front (WARF), 1 million of India’s 5 million weavers have lost their jobs because of competition (Deutsche Presse-Agentur).

But rising interest in sustainability and natural healing is creating a growing global market for organic clothes – sales are set to triple to US $2.6 billion in 2008 (Organic Exchange).

Against this backdrop, local governments have turned to traditional ayurvedic medicine to help save the livelihoods of handloom weavers and develop a market niche for their eco-friendly fabrics.

In the technique called Ayurvastra, the clothes are dyed with herbal essences, infusing the cotton with the medicine. More than 200 herbs are used, mostly taken from roots, flowers, leaves, seeds and bark. Most of the clothes are made with cotton and silk, and some with wool and jute. A dress is marketed to people who suffer from hypertension. There are bedcovers, pillow covers, nightgowns, and even suits. It is believed the healing effect is best when the patient is sleeping.

The clothes are made in Balaramapuram, home to traditional weaving in Kerala, southern India, and sell for between 1,000 and 1,800 rupees (US $25 to US $45). Ayurvastra clothing is currently being exported to the Middle East, the US, Italy, Germany, Britain, Singapore, Malaysia and Jordan.

Acknowledging traditional medicine as a useful development tool goes back to the World Health Organisation’s Alma-Ata Declaration in 1978, which urged governments for the first time to include traditional medicine in their primary health systems and recognise traditional medicine practitioners as health workers. During the last 30 years there has been a considerable expansion in the use of traditional medicine across the world. Despite their ancient origins, it is still critical these medicines do meet efficacy and health standards and are proven to work.

Ayurvastra is a branch of the 5,000-years-old Indian ayurveda health system. Ayur means health in Sanskrit, veda means wisdom, and vastra is cloth or clothing. There are no synthetic chemicals and toxic irritants and the technique uses organic cotton that has been hand loomed.

“The entire process is organic,” said K. Rajan, chief technician at the Handloom Weavers Development Society in India, to Zee News. “The cloth is bleached with cow’s urine, which has high medicinal value. The dyeing gum too is herbal. It does not pollute like synthetic dye. And the waste is used as bio manure and to generate bio gas.”

Chaitanya Arora of Penchant Traders, an Indian company promoting and exporting ayurvastra cloth and clothing, tells how it works: “usage of the cloth is based on the principle of touch. By coming in contact with ayurvastra, the body loses toxins and its metabolism is enhanced.”

One clothes buyer, T D Kriplani, told Zee News, “Basically, I have read about the concept in newspapers… I was inquisitive and have also heard that it is in direct touch with body pores. I have come here after reading about it and hope it will benefit people.” It is even claimed the clothes can keep people cool.

Another seller of ayurvastra, Hitesh, is enthusiastic about its impact: “The medicinal clothes that we have launched is a new revolution in the textile industry. In there, we dye the clothes with ayurvedic dyes and the clothes have medicinal qualities, which hopefully are good for diseases.”

Resources

  • Think! Clothing: A stylish UK-based designer using fair-trade, hand woven clothes from Indian women from the ‘untouchable’ caste.
  • An online shopping site based in Kerala, India offers a wide range of the ayurvastra clothing: http://www.ayurvastraonline.com/
  • Fibre2Fashion: An excellent web portal can be found here to connect weavers with the wider fashion industry – basically an online marketplace for making deals.
  • Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities: www.apctt-tm.net

Published: February 2008

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Southern Innovator was initially launched in 2011 with the goal of inspiring others (just as we had been so inspired by the innovators we contacted and met). The magazine seeks to profile stories, trends, ideas, innovations and innovators overlooked by other media. The magazine grew from the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) since 2006.

Issue 6’s theme has been decided on: it will focus on Science, Technology and Innovation. For this issue, Southern Innovator is seeking invitations from cutting-edge knowledge and science innovators in the global South to view their work. Time is tight, so don’t miss this opportunity to let the whole global South know about your work. In the past, Southern Innovator has visited green pioneers in Cuba, a smart city in South Korea and an eco-city in China.

Contact me if you wish to receive a copy/copies of the magazine for distribution. Follow @SouthSouth1.

Southern Innovator Issue 1

Southern Innovator Issue 2

Southern Innovator Issue 3

Southern Innovator Issue 4

Southern Innovator Issue 5

Southern Innovator Issue 6

Innovator Stories and Profiles

Citing Southern Innovator

Finding Southern Innovator

Press Release 1

Press Release 2

Press Release 3

Southern Innovator Impact Summaries | 2012 – 2014

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Mobile Phones Bring the Next Wave of New Ideas from the South

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

Informa Telecoms and Media estimates mobile networks now cover 90 per cent of the world’s population – 40 per cent of whom are covered but not connected.

The rapid growth in take-up has made mobile phones the big success story of the 21st century. With such reach, finding new applications for mobile phones that are relevant to the world’s poor and to developing countries is a huge growth area. It is estimated that by 2015, the global mobile phone content market could be worth over US $1 trillion: relegating basic voice phone calls to just 10 per cent of how people use mobile phones.

Leonard Waverman of the London Business School has estimated that an extra 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country, leads to an extra half a percentage point of growth in GDP per person.

The experience of the US $100 laptops from the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) offers an important lesson on making technology work for the poor: the business model has to come first. In the case of OLPC, the big computer manufacturers are already offering low-cost laptops with extensive software and other support: and out-selling OLPC. And it is mobile phones that are proving how fast take-up can be if users are willing to pay for the service on offer.

A new report by the DIRSI (Regional Dialogue on the Information Society) on mobile phones and poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, unearths the strategies the poor use to access and use mobile telephony, and the main barriers to increasing usage. It also looks at how mobile phones have improved the lives of the poor.

The poor use them to strengthen social ties, increase personal security, and improve business and employment opportunities. Few share their phones and most own them. The only exceptions are Colombia and Peru, where the incentive is to share ownership. Most importantly, the study found that mobile phones are not a luxury good, but the most cost-effective solution to many problems.

Some 250 million Indians today have mobile phones. Many of them are people who make just US $2 or US $3 a day. More and more are getting access to computers and the internet, even in villages.

India’s Mapunity is pioneering ways to reduce the stress and anguish of the daily commute to work – something that seriously erodes people’s quality of life and affects their health. Owner Madhav Pai is using SMS technology to improve transportation in Bangalore by providing the Bangalore Traffic System’s information on bus routes, locations and congestion – all in real time – to mobile phones. The service is free for subscribers to Airtel, and at a small cost for others.

The service works by collecting information on cell phone signal density to build up a map of congestion at different intersections in the city. Tracking congestion has had two benefits: it not only shows where the trouble spots are, it has also enabled mobile phone companies to know where to place extra relay towers to boost capacity and reduce network overload.

This technology effectively turns the mobile phone into a GPS (global positioning system) mapper, with real-time updates.

The company is incubated at the N S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

In Nairobi, Kenya computer science graduate Billy Odero’s MoSoko uses an SMS text bulletin board system for buying and selling via mobile phones. He got the idea when he had to move out of his university dormitory and needed to sell things to the other students. He was also interested in finding an apartment to share with other newly graduated students somewhere downtown. Tired of sifting through irrelevant ads on bulletin boards, Billy developed an SMS bulletin board system to help connect buyers and sellers in Nairobi. Sellers text into the MoSoko SMS gateway with information regarding the type of item they would like to sell (a bicycle, TV, couch), their location, and the asking price for the item. This information is stored in a database and can be easily accessed via SMS by potential buyers.

More ingenuity can be found in Fultola, Bangladesh. A modest internet café with just four workstations it may be, but remarkably all four can access the internet: through just one mobile phone. This is all possible because of something called an EDGE-enabled (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) mobile phone. One of the computers acts as a web server, while the other three workstations are connected to a small device no larger than a cigarette packet. All of this is wireless and possible because of the EDGE-enabled Motorola clamshell mobile phone using a USB cable connection to the server. The project is being supported by the Ndiyo ProjectGrameen Phone and Grameen Telecom.

People use the internet centre to keep in touch with relatives, check market prices, and seek job opportunities or access government websites. The project was co-ordinated by a team working for the GSM Association, the global confederation of mobile phone operators. The aim was to explore the extent to which mobile networks could provide Internet connectivity in developing countries, and to demonstrate the extent to which mobile telephony can increase access to online resources.

In Ghana, mPedigree uses mobiles to fight counterfeit drugs. The plague of counterfeit medicines in Africa kill thousands, and it is estimated between 10 and 25 per cent of all drugs sold in the developing world are fakes (BASCAP – Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy). And in Africa, this may be over 50 per cent (USFDA).

mPedigree founder Ashifi Gogo started his company to use mobile phones to protect people against counterfeit drugs and vaccines. “Buying medicine here is like Russian roulette,” said Gogo. “I don’t want people to have to choose between a drug that’s safe and more expensive and a drug that’s cheap and not genuine. Those choices shouldn’t be there.”

Ghanaian Gogo (also a graduate of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering), lets consumers send an SMS to mPedigree to verify if a drug is legitimate while they are thinking about buying it in the drug store or the street market. The consumer types in the serial number found on the drug’s packet to a short code (a five-digit number similar to the ones used to top-up mobile phone credits). The consumer then receives an SMS response verifying the drug’s authenticity.

To publicise the service, mPedigree advertises in parallel with existing drug promotion campaigns by legitimate pharmaceutical companies. It is also getting publicity help from the local mobile phone provider, Mobile Content in Ghana.

Gogo hopes to expand the service to Nigeria and Mozambique – and eventually the rest of Africa.

Gogo is really enjoying the whole experience of setting up this business: “It’s fun!” he said. “It just feels so good doing this work.”

Resources

  • IdeaMamaClub: This online invention and business start-up incubator connects inventors and social entrepreneurs with investors, creative support and global business networks.
  • Stockholm Challenge Awards 2008: An initiative of the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), it has four categories and looks for innovative projects in ICT.
  • Terranet: A Swedish company, it has developed a way to make calls between a network of cellphones in a geographically close area, free. A powerful development for entrepreneurs in the South looking for free calls. They are piloting this technology in Ecuador.
  • SME Toolkit: A free online resource aimed at the South to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access business information, tools, and training services to be able to implement sustainable business practices.
  • Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles: EPROM, part of the Program for Developmental Entrepreneurship within the MIT Design Laboratory, aims to foster mobile phone-related research and entrepreneurship. Key activities include: development of new applications for mobile phone users worldwide.
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David South Consulting first launched in Toronto, Canada in 1991. In 2010 it had a brand re-launch, with a new logo and website developed in Reykjavik, Iceland using 100% renewable energy.