Archive for the ‘Liberation Technology’ Category

I was alerted to this excellent report by Melinda Smale and Timothy M. Mahoney who created a report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Agricultural Productivity in Changing Rural Worlds


The report highlights negative effects the Green Revolution has had as well as discusses solutions/ways to avoid these mistakes moving forward. A strong case is made for what they call agroecology (organic farming methods in common parlance).

It is the first report I’ve seen which takes into account geographic, climate & cultural differences between sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries. The authors advocate for systems which allow farmers to share their knowledge & expertise amongst themselves instead of extension/”expert” based systems which tell farmers what to do.  However, agricultural researchers are still needed to formalize the knowledge which farmers share/create.  ICT is viewed as essential to making this happen, esp. to enable farmers to overcome institutional barriers (e.g. establishing information sharing networks, reducing the cost of searching for/acquiring information, linking farmers to markets & credit).

There is also a very interesting panel discussion which focuses on US/USAID policy in facilitating transition to market driven approaches to agriculture:

Public-Private Partnerships to Develop and Spread New Agricultural Technologies in sub-Saharan Africa http://csis.org/event/public-private-partnerships-develop-and-spread-new-agricultural-technologies-sub-saharan-afric (the third audio clip below the video highlights the authors of the report)

There are a lot of highly pertinent sub-topics brought forth in the discussion so it is well worth listening to, in addition to reading the report.

Entities mentioned in discussion which I hadn’t heard of before (see speaker agenda/bios for more details):

Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa http://www.partnership-africa.org/

African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) http://www.aatf-africa.org/ (focused on licensing technology from the private sector)

Arcadia Biosciences http://www.arcadiabio.com/

Fertilizer Development Research Center http://www.ifdc.org/

CIMMYT (International Maize & Wheat Improvement Center) http://www.cimmyt.org/

Development Credit Authority http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/economic_growth_and_trade/development_credit/

Global Impact Investing Network http://www.globalimpactinvestingnetwork.org/cgi-bin/iowa/home/index.html

Terragua project http://www.globalimpactinvestingnetwork.org/cgi-bin/iowa/council/terragua/index.html

Root Capital http://www.rootcapital.org/

BizCLIR (Business Climate Legal & Institutional Reform) http://www.bizclir.com/

Report Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development http://www.ifpri.org/event/millions-fed-proven-successes-agricultural-development

Terminology “Soft Infrastructure” http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTURBANDEVELOPMENT/EXTLED/0,,contentMDK:20198974~menuPK:404390~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:341139,00.html

Commentary (not mentioned in discussion but reflective of general sentiment) on impact privatization is having on land ownership http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=23003 (based on a brief mention in John Lamb’s talk, the World Bank appears to be working to address these concerns by establishing investment standards )

World Bank’s Investment Across Borders project



John Lamb’s research (mostly focused on food standards)

Food Safety & Health Standards http://vle.worldbank.org/bnpp/en/publications/trade/food-safety-and-agricultural-health-standards-challenges-and-opportunities-develo

Agriculture for Development discussion http://info.worldbank.org/etools/BSPAN/PresentationView.asp?PID=2236&EID=1007

International Agro-Food Standards http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/TRADE/0,,contentMDK:20334931~isCURL:Y~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:239071,00.html

Not mentioned in the discussion but came up in search results while I was looking up information that was mentioned:

African Agricultural Opportunities Fund http://www.aaopfund.com/

Next Billion http://www.nextbillion.net/

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Any child who has grown up with African grandparents quickly learns that they appear to have a magical repository of wisdom which is virtually impossible to challenge.

One example: the notion that we need to reduce or eliminate our carbon footprints and design zero impact communities.  Run to an African grandparent with this “new found knowledge” and you’ll get no emotional reaction followed by a very calmn response along the lines of “and what do you think our so called primitive mud huts are designed to do?”  All the Western degrees and training leave one searching for an adequate response to this question.

Understanding this background helps clarify why those who have grown up in Africa are never surprised by earth-friendly inventions coming from anyone.   Granted patent filing is not a common practice, but, when it comes to designing Appropriate Technology, African inventors are among the best in the world.

Following are examples of African innovators:

Peter Onyango (tools from recycled materials) http://timbuktuchronicles.blogspot.com/2007/08/peter-onyango-jua-kali-worker.html

Paul Katana (SMS fishing) http://www.cooltoysgadgets.com/news/fishing-net-calls-when-its-full.html

William Kamkwaba (wind energy engineer at 14yrs)



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According to the old adage, a picture tells 1,000 words. In my opinion, a map tells 5,000; an interactive map 1,000,000. Yes, this is very geeky so let me just show you the power of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in community settings.

Eliminating Transportation Barriers for Low-Income Job Seekers

A project I was involved with in 1999 turned into an ongoing endeavor now called the Access to Work Interagency Cooperative.

The problem: how to help those needing to comply with new welfare reform regulations get to jobs by using public transportation?

Most of the entry level employment positions in Allegheny county are located at suburban retail centers. At the time, most of those needing to comply with the new welfare regulations were living in public housing communities located within the city and the southern portions of the county. There was a need to readily share data which would enable various coordinators from different agencies (Port Authority Transportation, Job Developers, Social Service Providers) understand the data in a way that would help them to create solutions.

At the request of Jane Downing, Senior Program Officer at The Pittsburgh Foundation, employment centers, day care establishments, demographics for selected communities, bus routes, travel times, and, number of bus connections required were mapped. The group discussions instantly shifted from questions such as “how many are really affected?” and “is this a significant problem?”, to statements such as, “oh my God, this is incredible” and, “we have to do something.” Over a 2 year period the immediate employment transition goals were met. Mapping concentrations of employers and the residence location of workers is now being used to analyze employment issues for all income levels.

Here is the latest report from the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board http://www.trwib.org/3D2009/index.php?id=6

Participatory GIS for Community Resource Mapping

The best source of knowledge about any community are those who are its long time residents. Even more so when there is a generational legacy. Such knowledge has typically resided in the heads of a few community members and the challenge has been finding a way to effectively share such information, especially across generations. An exciting approach called Participatory GIS is proving to be a highly effective solution, even in rural communities in Africa.

Here is an example of a project done with the Ogiek people in Kenya. http://pgis.cta.int/completed-initiatives/35-completed/46-mau-complex-kenya

This technique is also known as Public Participation GIS. You can read this Wikipedia article for more details http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PPGIS or visit the PPGIS Open Forum http://www.ppgis.net/

Teaching Youth about Environmental Resource Management

The beauty of spatial analysis is that data can be readily understood by all ages and skill levels.

Here is an example of how maps are used to train fourth graders on biodiversity and environmental issues in their local community http://www.esri.com/news/arcuser/0207/horny-toad.html

In this example youth are trained on how to inventory trees in urban areas as well as how to assist with park and greenspace maintenance. http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/winter0506articles/4h-clubs.html

Interactive Mapping with Open Source Tools

The biggest drawback to using spatial analysis has been the need to have a technical specialist familiar with GIS data analysis techniques, expensive baseline maps and data sets, as well as high powered machines.  While publicly available tools still do not offer the full power of GIS software, this day is coming. In the interim, individuals and communities have a powerful new tool they can use to convey information.

Understanding the Impact of Hurricane Ophelia in North Carolina http://www.communitywalk.com/north_carolina__hurricane_ophelia_impacts/map/143

See the world’s population density http://www.google.com/gadgets/directory?synd=earth&cat=featured&url=http://www.google.com/mapfiles/mapplets/earthgallery/World_Population_Density.xml

For those wanting a more technical discussion of these issues, visit James Fee’s blog http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/2009/04/21/sharing-cartography/

In short, why read a data report when now you can see it!

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Ok, so you take a business course and you learn Marketing 101:

Confused people don’t buy – be clear
Be consistent – create a seamless brand identity
Maximize outreach and lower costs – leverage technology

How simple. Why isn’t everybody branded and selling like hotcakes?

Be Clear: ok, I set my goals. Oh wait, those were my personal goals. Ok, reset. These are my professional goals. Oh, they only make sense to me (why would anybody pay for the fact that I want to be able to work from home and anywhere in the world). Ok, reset. They want to know what I do for them! Check. Multiple revisions – feedback = too wordy, not clear, not compelling. Reset, re-write. Maybe this time it works….

Leverage technology: Ha!!! Evidently a piece of advice created before the age where a new invention comes out every week! Ok, lowest cost = free so let’s see what I can do. Facebook (social and personal networking). Ning (people with similar interests). Twitter (God only knows or understands the language so let me just focus on sharing links to stuff I find interesting). Freewebs.com (paying for a business website hosting is quite enough, need something quick and easy to update on the personal front). YouTube (oh yes, whenever I have time I’m supposed to tape videos that showcase what I do and help people learn). LinkedIn (tracking people you know and then your head starts spinning after just 3 degrees of separation). Gmail (finally! one e-mail to rule them all!). Box.net (file sharing made easy). Skype (not just for talking on the computer anymore, great way to conference once you figure it out and assuming there is a broadband connection on both sides). BlogTalkRadio (hmm, in my other spare time I need to interview thought leaders and host a regular talk series). RSS feeds and Podcasts (sigh! you mean I’m supposed to generate regular news???). Amazon.com (great place to sell products, only charged if they sell). PayPal (ah yes, having people pay you is very important). the new .tel domain (a way for people to find every possible way of contacting you in one place – do I really want this???).

Create a seamless brand identity: you are kidding right??? Did you just get a feel for the list? Ok, time to focus on the only thing I can control: ME! Brand identity = Conscious Leadership, Quality Communication, Having Fun.

How about we skip Marketing 102? I’m too exhausted!!!

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