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Using simple technology to fight poverty

February 1, 2010

Practical Action is a charity that I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. Practical Action doesn’t start with technology, but with people. “The tools may be simple or sophisticated – but to provide long-term, appropriate and practical answers, they must be firmly in the hands of local people: people who shape technology and control it for themselves.”

The charity works in four main areas: reducing the vulnerability of poor people affected by disasters, conflict or environmental degredation; helping poor people make a better living; improving access to basic services such as sanitation, water, housing and electricity; and helping poor communities access new technologies effectively.

The Earth.

The Earth.

My very good friend Peat makes the not unreasonable point that our planet simply has too many people on it. I suspect that Earth’s self-regulation will bring those numbers down at some point – whether that’s the horrible fallout of global climate change starving people or drowning them – or perhaps the rich inhabitants of the developed world choosing to have smaller families, and the developments that allow us that luxury, really reaching the developing world too.

The people who look down on women producing large families in poor countries seem to have forgotten that this was our way of life too until we improved public health, contraception and women’s rights.

Practical Action is working to help people who have as much right as you or I to clean water, food to eat and the hope of a better future for their children. If you would like to help them achieve this, you can get involved in many ways  – from buying practical presents, to recycling your old mobile phone, giving as you shop online or joining a sponsored walk. You can of course just donate money too.

Yes, there are too many of us, but They are people – sons, daughters, mums and dads – and they shouldn’t have to live in extreme poverty, especially when half the world’s population has so much more than it needs.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 10:49 am

    Great to see you’re interest in Practical Action. You’ve made some interesting comments on the question of population growth. One of the key issues in regard to population is to give women more control in their communities.

    An interesting example is from this recent article in Boiling Point http://www.hedon.info/BP57:EngagingCommunitiesInAlleviatingSmoke by one of our staff, Vincent Okello in Practical Action’s Kenya office, which describes our work with women on fireless cooker technology. By listening to their views and using local materials the women have now adopted this new way of cooking – which is cheaper and more healthy. But one of the main points Vincent highlights is the fact that it’s given women the opportunity to have their voice heard.

    By such simple measures Practical Action is making a significant difference to poor people’s lives around the world.

    • February 3, 2010 1:28 pm

      Absolutely Sandra – an excellent point and a nice example of why Practical Action is my kind of organisation!

  2. Peat permalink
    February 5, 2010 12:21 am

    Hi Jo
    Good call again. You are wise and should have a column in the mainstream media. How do we make that happen?
    If nature doesn’t sort us out then nothing will – certainly not us. The human virus is self absorbing.
    My two new favorite subjects are consumerism and marketing… don’t get me started!
    Much love
    Peat x

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