While South Africa has been free of the racist Apartheid regime since the mid-1990s, the expected boost to living standards for the majority black population has not been as widespread and as quick as many had expected.
One important aspect of lifting living standards is making sure the entire population has access to adequate sanitation and hygiene services. Another is making sure they have access to adequate and healthy food sources. A bright idea based on intensive research is meeting both goals in an innovative way.
According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (http://www.csir.co.za/), some 11 million South Africans have received access to basic sanitation services since 1994 – but 13.3 million still lacked basic sanitation services by 2008.
The Water Research Commission (WRC) (http://www.wrc.org.za/) believes there is a crisis with South Africa’s toilet pit latrines, which are quickly filling up past their original design capacity. WRC’s solution is to turn the human faeces or faecal sludge deposited in pit latrines into fertilizer for farming and agriculture. The Water Research Commission is advocating using the fertilizer either for fruit trees or for trees that will be turned to income sources like paper and fuel.
The WRC’s project and series of experiments are called “What happens when pit latrines get full?”
“Only one third of municipalities have a budget to maintain on-site sanitation,” WRC researcher and scientist David Still told Inter Press Service (IPS). “If pits fill up, all the hard work that was done to address the sanitation backlog will be wasted. Why not use faecal sludge to address the growing problem of food insecurity by planting fruit trees? Or use the sludge to cultivate trees for fuel or paper production?”
Human faecal sludge contains a variety of nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphates and potassium. The WRC estimates the average person excretes enough human faecal sludge per year to fertilize 300 to 400 square metres of crops.
The big reason people are reluctant to use human waste as fertilizer is because of the pathogens it contains. Spreading this on edible crops is dangerous and it is also a risk to groundwater when it leaches in to the soil.
The WRC conducted research on two sites: Umlazi and Karkloof, both in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. They used property owned by the South African Paper and Pulp Industry (SAPPI) and the local municipality.
The first step in the experiments was to bury the sludge in pits and plant crops on top of it. The pathogens were contained using this method and in time died off.
The test trenches were 0.75 metres in depth and filled with different quantities of sludge. Two control sites did not use faecal sludge. The scientists found the sites where the human waste was used saw plant growth and volume increase by “as much as 80 per cent.”
Tests for microbes at the Umlazi site also found none. The plants were found to have healthy dark green leaves and the trees grew larger with the sludge present.
Researchers also monitored the groundwater around the sites. They found in flat ground and sandy soil there was no impact. In the site with sloping and shallow soil, small increases in nitrate were observed in the groundwater after rainfall.
They concluded the best place to apply this technique is in places that are flat and where the soil is deep.
One local resident, Lindiwe Khoza, was selected to be part of the test. Citrus and peach trees were planted on top of the buried sludge.
She told IPS: “The fruit grows much faster and it seems to be tastier and juicier than fruit bought at supermarkets. We now enjoy fruit from our own garden.”
WRC’s clever solution to these twin problems could help make life much more pleasant in communities still grappling with poor hygiene services, while dramatically improving the health of crops and their yields.
Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.
Increasing the quantity and quality of food in Africa will be critical to improving the continent’s human development. And a key element in giving Africa a more secure food supply will be boosting science and knowledge on the continent and making sure it is focused on Africa’s needs and situation.
One pioneering scientist is looking to the humble chicken to tackle two big problems in Africa: food security and household incomes. By pumping up the weight and productivity of African chickens, she hopes to eradicate hunger and boost household incomes.
Her pioneering work is about trailblazing “a big chicken agenda in Africa,” she explained to TrustLaw, a global hub for free legal assistance and information on good governance and women’s rights. She grew up in an area – Mount Elgon in western Kenya – where raising chickens was the primary source of both income and food. Her family raised chickens and the income from this helped to pay for her schooling.
Raising chickens is common in rural Kenya, and many of the people doing it are women.
She works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ilri.org) based in Nairobi, Kenya. The ILRI “works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development” and conducts research in Africa, South and Southeast Asia and China.
“I’m really passionate about giving back to the community an improved chicken that will really help their lives,” she explains.
Another project she is working on is the development of a drought-tolerant chicken. This chicken could prove very helpful in parts of Africa suffering from drought and hunger, like in the Horn of Africa.
Women are considered to be the majority producers of food in Africa yet just one in four people working in agricultural research in Africa is a woman, according to TrustLaw.
Ommeh has a PhD in chicken genetics and is a staunch believer in seeking out solutions to Africa’s problems within Africa: “In my view = it’s about time Africa looked for solutions in Africa for Africa,” she told a group of British Members of Parliament.
She will continue her research by looking at native African chickens. She is worried indigenous African chickens are being wiped out by cross-breeding and the introduction into the continent of exotic breeds, which are making African chickens more susceptible to viruses.
Her goal is to produce a disease-resistant breed of chicken weighing four kilograms and laying 250 eggs a year. This would be a big increase on current average weights, and a trebling of the yield.
“Definitely the incomes of these households will increase and that will (create) a rippling effect that will trickle up … And we hope that in 10 to 15 years the poverty issue in Africa will not be so serious,” Ommeh said.
“Chicken is a small livestock but I believe it has the capacity to have a big impact.”
For female scientists working in agriculture, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) (http://awardfellowships.org/) is seeking researchers looking to boost their technical and leadership skills. It is hoped that supporting more women researchers will have the effect of turning research priorities towards the needs of smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of farmers in Africa.
As economies grow in Africa, more and more people are conducting their financial transactions electronically. This can be either through mobile phones and digital devices, or through the hole-in-the-wall of the automatic teller machine, or ATM.
These short cuts mean many people no longer have to endure long line-ups at banks to conduct day-to-day financial transactions. This convenience is revolutionizing banking for many millions of people, but there is a risk: fraud and theft. Both are rising, and are costing customers and banks, both in cash and in damage to the reputation of electronic banking.
Criminal gangs and lone individuals alike are behind this crime. Most notorious are the “carding” and “skimming” gangs, who plant devices on ATMs to read plastic bank cards and steal victims’ money. Mobile devices can also be “hacked” by sophisticated criminal gangs and the data stolen and used to plunder bank accounts. Lone thieves also take people hostage and force them to use their card to withdraw money. A crime victim is usually forced to give over his or her Personal Identification Number (PIN), which the thief then uses to withdraw cash from the ATM.
But just as thieves have become cleverer about the new opportunities created by digital financial transactions, enterprising start-ups are developing innovations to improve financial security.
One Kenyan start-up is hoping to be a pioneer in innovative financial safety software for mobile devices and ATMs. Usalama Innovative Systems, LTD. (http://usalama.biz/), co-owned by graduate student and lead programmer Denis Karema (deniskarema.com), has already been singled out for a CIO magazine’s CIO100 Award in Enterprise Innovation in 2011 (http://www.cio.com/cio-awards/cio100).
Karema has been working in information technology since 2008 and has a background in computer science. He has built his experience while working on various information technology projects in East Africa.
The ambitious company says it wants to be “the leading provider of innovative solutions to financial entities in Africa by 2015.” Usalama has developed various systems pending patents and copyrights and has built up experience in deploying enterprise information technology.
Usalama is seeking additional funding from investors for multiple innovations to protect customer financial transactions. One of them is an ATM solution, which the company claims can reduce theft by over 90 per cent. Speaking with the Business Daily Africa website, Karema explained the anti-fraud application, dubbed Safety Pin.
“When someone approaches you or when you are involved in a carjacking, or one of those unfortunate incidences, you give them your card or PIN as they ask for it, but when they get to the machine it does not treat them the same way as it does you,” Karema said.
The thief is presented with what looks like the victim’s bank account but actually only has 10 per cent of their cash on display. The thief will then withdraw this cash and think they have cleaned out the victim’s bank account.
It is a clever solution which doesn’t entirely block the thief from receiving money from the ATM, but just gives them a small portion of the amount in the account. The idea is to fulfil the psychological need of the thief to get some cash in the robbery attempt, so they will then release the hostage and go away.
“We are working on reducing the amounts that can be lost by up to 90 per cent, so it means if I have 100,000 shillings in my account, only 10,000 shillings can be lost through fraud,” Karema said.
The amount that is stolen can be covered by bank insurance policies so that the customer does not suffer a serious financial loss.
“(The) good thing about this application, first of all, is this hasn’t been done before,” Karema said. “People have come close to creating ATM anti-fraud measures, like asking you to put your PIN in reverse. But they don’t seem to work. For each of them, you are ending up having your money stolen and then following up with the fraudster. So our application prevents the money from being stolen in the first place. So our preventative measure is better than a curative one when money is involved. And also the application is applicable globally.
“We intend to have this implemented in each and every commercial bank, not only in Africa, but the rest of the world.
“A bank can recoup investment in our application within the first year [by avoiding the loss of clients and funds from fraud]. Aside from that, the bank is also able to receive complete and detailed reports each and every time a fraud occurs and so it makes it easier for the bank to monitor trends and also to know which of their outlets are having more and more fraud-related cases.”
Other innovations Usalama has been developing include Usalama Pin, which helps commercial banks monitor fraud in real time; Usalama Spy, which gives more detailed fraud reports and analyzes the information; Home Bank, a way to offer 24/7 banking to customers so they can deposit the money directly into savings accounts without delay; and Usalama Mobile, a mobile banking and money service solution.
Usalama believes the suite of solutions will help banks to retain current customers and make their financial transactions safer, attracting so-called “high net worth” clients. Usalama believes this will help banks in Africa grow their number of customers and cash reserves.
“We are always thinking about innovation because we feel that innovation is the key thing to developing sustainable enterprises,” Karema believes.
1) Sinapis: Sinapis’ mission is to empower aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world with innovative, scalable business ideas by providing them with a rigorous business education, world-class consulting and mentoring services and access to seed capital. Website:http://www.sinapisgroup.org/entrepreneurs.php
Southern Innovator was initially launched in 2011 with the goal of – hopefully – 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. A selection of books and papers citing stories from the magazine are featured below to aid researchers, in particular those interested in health and human development and the role of innovators in international development.
“Innovation is critical to growth and development in Africa. In the context of a continent characterized by fast growing economies as well as an array of socioeconomic challenges, such as high levels of poverty and inequality, innovation in Africa must be understood in an encompassing manner. Africa needs to support the emergence of its own Silicon Valleys, but it must also foster the invention and adoption of cleaner technologies that limit respiratory illnesses, deforestation and combat climate change. This book contains a number of analytical case studies that examine the nature and origins of emerging high-end innovation hubs in Africa. These “hubs” or ecosystems are both understudied and little known inside and outside the continent. With this analysis, the book highlights and draws lessons from some of the most promising and successful innovation cases in Africa today, exploring the key factors driving their successful emergence, growth and future prospects. Relevant for scholars, policymakers, and business leaders, the book provides both inspiration and useful policy advice that can inform strategies and concrete measures to speed up the pace of innovation in Africa today.”
“Research on gated communities is moving away from the hard concept of a ‘gated community’ to the more fluid one of urban gating. The latter allows communities to be viewed through a new lens of soft boundaries, modern communication and networks of influence.
The book, written by an international team of experts, builds on the research of Bagaeen and Uduku’s previous edited publication, Gated Communities (Routledge 2010) and relates recent events to trends in urban research, showing how the discussion has moved from privatised to newly collectivised spaces, which have been the focal point for events such as the Occupy London movement and the Arab Spring.
Communities are now more mobilised and connected than ever, and Beyond Gated Communities shows how neighbourhoods can become part of a global network beyond their own gates. With chapters on Australia, Canada, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, this is a truly international resource for scholars and students of urban studies interested in this dynamic, growing area of research.”
“The economic, political and social situation in Chile shows a country in transition. Some observers anticipate a broad “reboot” of the nation. While Chile is still seen by many as an example of progress in South America and of developmental potential in the global South, it faces a complex political constellation, particularly in the aftermath of the re-election of Michelle Bachelet. Many wonder how social and institutional innovations can be incepted without interrupting the country’s remarkable success over the past decades.
This book provides an interdisciplinary analysis of Chile’s situation and perspectives. In particular, it addresses the questions:
What is Chile’s real socio-political situation behind the curtains, irrespective of simplifications?
What are the nation’s main opportunities and problems?
What future strategies will be concretely applicable to improve social balance and mitigate ideological divisions?
The result is a provocative examination of a nation in search of identity and its role on the global stage.
Roland Benedikter, Dr., is Research Scholar at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, Senior Research Scholar of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Trustee of the Toynbee Prize Foundation Boston and Full Member of the Club of Rome.
Katja Siepmann, MA, is Senior Research Fellow of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs Washington D.C., Member of the German Council on Foreign Relations, and Lecturer at the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Cultural Sciences of the European University Frankfurt/Oder.
The volume features a Foreword by Ned Strong, Executive Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, and a Preface by Larry Birns, Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington D.C., and Former Senior Public Affairs Officer of the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America (Santiago, Chile).”
“A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants investigates how the social works in determining health and health inequity. Taking a global perspective, the book shines a light on how experiences of health, illness and health care are shaped by a variety of complex social dynamics. Informed primarily by sociology, the book engages with the WHO’s social determinants of health approach and draws on contributions from history, political economy and policy analysis to examine issues such as class, gender, ethnicity and indigeneity, and the impact they have on health. A Sociological Approach to Health Determinants is a comprehensive resource that provides a new perspective on the influence of social structures on health, and how our understanding of the social can ensure improved health outcomes for people all over the globe. Toni Schofield is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. She specialises in research and teaching in sociology, and public policy and administration.”
New Directions in Children’s and Adolescents’ Information Behavior Research edited by Dania Bilal and Jamshid Beheshti (Emerald Group Publishing: 2014)”This book comprises innovative research on the information behavior of various age groups. It also looks at special populations such as ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, and users with disabilities. The book presents research and reflections on designing systems that help the new generation cope with a complex knowledge society.
Economy Reports for APEC Economies on demographics, policies & ICT applications for people with Special Needs (Seniors and People with Disabilities), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, APEC Telecommunications and Information Working Group, January 2013