Technology has played a major role in mainstream development. One would dread to think of our life without some of the technological gadgets that we have become accustomed to. However, when it comes to poor communities in poor countries they have hardly any access to technology or its benefits.

Appropriate or Intermediate technology is an area of development seeking to meet this need. It is not just for the poor, but technology that is sustainable. Some of the basic principles of Appropriate Technology are:

  • Meets local needs
  • Produced by the masses, not mass-production
  • Uses local resources
  • Generates low or no waste
  • Enables local control
  • Environmentally friendly.

One of the challenges in Appropriate Technology has been the propagation of the technology and devices to people who need it most. Several AT devices have been developed in AT institutions and workshops and generally tend to gather dust there. The very poor who need it most are rarely willing to think about such devices, since their main concern is their daily bread. The Self Help Groups and the People’s Institution that is built are proving to be a good ground where AT can be introduced and sustained. Experience shows that in several places AT devices, which otherwise were not spreading have captured the attention of such People’s Institution and members have collectively propagated the devices in their communities.

Appropriate Technology devices have been developed and used for numerous applications.
The following list mentions a few:

Fuel / energy saving devices

Fuel-saving wood burning stoves

A fire burns with different temperatures. The more oxygen it receives the hotter is the fire. A hot fire can be 10 times as hot as a cool fire and it utilizes the firewood fully. On the other hand, a cool fire releases more smoke because of gasses that are not fully burned. If one looks at the three stone stove, one might notice that the fire at the edges burns with more smoke – because it is cooler at the edges and hot in the middle. The fuel saving stove promotes a small hot fire – that will give less smoke – and utilize the firewood more effective.

There are different types of firewood saving stoves. Some have two pot holes and a chimney. The chimney ensures that there is no smoke in the kitchen, but it is less firewood saving and more difficult to make. The one pot stove can be placed in the middle of the kitchen, so that the family can sit around the stove in the evenings – or it can be placed in the corner of the kitchen – depending on the wish and need of the family. Pre-fabricated metal stoves are also available.

apprtech_clip_image002 Why a Fuel-saving stove?

  • A correctly constructed stoves saves up to 50% or more firewood compared with a traditional three stone stove. A family will therefore use only half the amount of firewood when this stove is used.
  • Money can be saved when one buys firewood or Time is saved by those who collect firewood.
  • The environment is protected by saving trees and wood. A saving of 5 kgs of firewood per day is a saving of 1.825 tonnes per household per year. In a community of 40 households, the saving is 73 tonnes every year.
  • The stove reduces the amount of smoke in the kitchen – and thereby the health of the people cooking improves. Inhaling smoke in the kitchen is just as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes. It protects children in the home from inhaling poisonous smoke. Small children often get injured by fire. The stove reduces such accidents.
  • The stove improves hygiene in the kitchen and pots used on the stove are easier to clean than those used on a three stone stove since there is less soot.
  • The stove is easy to construct and is made from locally available materials.

For construction details of one pot fuel saving stove see:

Solar cookers / water heaters

Our sun is a constant source of energy. Each day, the sun bathes the Earth in unimaginable amounts of solar energy, most of which comes in the form of visible light. All over planet Earth, sunlight is the by far the most important source of energy for all living things. Without it, Earth would be lifeless. Sunlight can be a practical source of energy for such everyday jobs as cooking, heating water, or warming up homes. The challenge is to find ways to transform sunlight into useable heat. The most efficient way to use heat from sunlight is to transform sunlight into heat i.e. to shine lots of sunlight onto a dark surface. Dark  surfaces absorb most of the visible light that falls upon them, and reflect very little. Visible light that is absorbed this way usually causes the dark-coloured surface to warm up. Of all colours, black is able to absorb the most light, and produce the most heat.

Solar cookers can be used when sunlight is available and complements other cooking methods needed at night and on cloudy days. Coming about twenty years after the first efforts to replace open fires with improved cooking stoves, the solar cooker uses no fuel at all. It is both user-friendly and environmentally friendly. Families can save scarce, expensive fuel. Solar cooking one meal a day, three times a week has been proven to reduce firewood consumption and related smoke by one third.

Why a solar cooker / heater?

  • A solar cooker saves more than four times its value in firewood each year. In a period of 2 years two tonnes of firewood consumption can be reduced by one household.
  • The cooker can pasteurize household drinking water, making it safe to drink.
  • The solar cooking process is smokeless, reducing respiratory diseases and eye irritation Solar cooked foods retain vitamins, nutrients and their natural flavors; there is no smoky taste; the foods cook slowly in their own juices. Nutritious, slow-cooking traditional foods (beans, root crops, and some grains) are restored to the family diet
  • Clean up is easy as the food never burns or sticks to the cooking pot. Households that cook on solar cookers report that the money they save on cooking fuel purchases is used to for many essentials, such as extra food, school supplies, and medical care.
  • Without having to gather wood or dung, breathe smoke, and tend a fire – all associated with traditional cooking – solar cooking is easy and safe for people with AIDS and other illnesses, the elderly, disabled and young orphans.

apprtech_clip_image003 Solar cooking saves time as there is less need to tend a fire or collect firewood. A person can cook while at work, at the market, or tending crops. Young girls  can attend school instead of searching for firewood. Solar energy is free and abundant in many countries,
providing a safe, clean, healthy supplement to  traditional fuels.

For details on how to build, look up



Charcoal briquette (biomass)

Every year sugar cane fields produce tonnes of leaf waste. As the cane is harvested, the farmer is left with a mass of leaves known as ‘sugar cane trash’. The leaves are full of lignin and silica, so don’t decompose easily and are no good as food for cows.Traditionally, the answer has been to get them out of the way by burning them.
The leaves can now be put to good use. They can be converted into charcoal powder by burning them under controlled oxygen. The powder is then formed into briquettes that can be used as fuel for domestic stoves. It is estimated that a rural family could make 100Kg of char-briquettes a day and so earn INR 3,600 Rupees (approx USD 80) a week by selling them. Charring the sugar cane trash in kilns instead of burning it in the open is helping to keep the skies clear and is reducing unnecessary carbon emissions. Charcoal briquette stoves are available and can use these briquettes as fuel for cooking. One model of this stove uses only 100g of briquettes to cook food that would normally need 3Kg of firewood.
Similarly, waste materials like dried leaves, paddy husk, crushed sugar cane fibre, coconut shell, saw dust etc can be made into charcoal briquettes for fuel. A manual screw press or lever press can be used for making briquettes out of the charcoal powder.

For further reading see

Access to water

Water is a basic necessity and accessing water for basic household consumption is becoming more and more difficult. Women and children walk long distances to fetch water to meet basic needs spending long hours of their time and energy. However with some simple pumps, access to water can become easier in places where ground water and other water sources are present. A wide range of low cost pumps are available to suit various applications. Some of them are simple to produce and can be  produced at the community with off-the-shelf components. There are others that can be produced with basic metal fabrication skills. Many of these pumps can also be bought from small producers.


apprtech_clip_image006Simple hand pumps can be produced or bought. One is a rope and washer pump, which can be easily  produced in the community with scrap materials and an off-the-shelf pvc pipe. The pump can lift water  from an open well to a depth of over 15 m. The discharge could be 20 to 40 litres per minute  depending on the depth and size of the pipe. Several rural households in India use a pump as shown in the photo both for agricultural and domestic needs. The cost of producing a pump like this would be around USD 40.

Plunger type hand pumps are available of the shelf and can also be easily fabricated in a metal workshop. These pumps can be used for pumping water from a bore hole or a shallow tank. The suction head is 4 m maximum. The discharge is at the pumps outlet and discharge is around 18 lt/min. The price of a pump like this will be around USD 60.

Treadle pumps

Different types of treadle pumps are available to draw water from tanks and shallow wells. One is the overflow model – can be used for pumping from ponds, lakes and rivers. A double plunger pump is used. The Suction head is 6 m and the pump delivers at the outlet. The discharge is around 90 lt/min and can be used for irrigating small agricultural land. The price will be around USD 120

apprtech_clip_image008A second model is a pressure model, which is suitable to lift water from a water source at a lower level to a garden / tank at a higher level. This pump has a suction head of 6 m and can deliver water up to a head of 14 m. The discharge is around 24 lt/min. The price of the pump is around USD 170.

Contact address of places where such pumps can be bought are:

Selam Technical and Vocational Centre,

P.O. box 8075,
Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA.
Phone: +251 1 462942
FAX: +251 1 463479



Appropriate Technologies for Enterprise Creation (ApproTEC),

Kariobangi North, Kamunde Road,
Off Outer Ring Road – Nairobi
P.O. Box 64142 00620

Tel/Fax: +254 2 783046, 787380/1

Intermediate Technology Development Group, (ITDG)
AAYMCA Building II floor, along State Housing Crescent,
P.O. Box 39493.


Tel: +254 2719413 or 2719313

For more information visit

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is a water-saving technology which enables slow and regular application of water directly to the roots of the plants through a network of economically designed plastic pipes and low discharge emitters. It maximizes crop productivity through increase in the crop yield and also the area for cultivation, and protect the environment through conserving soil, water and fertilizer resources, and thus increasing the farmer income.

Drip Irrigation as a water-saving technology, comprising drip and sprinkler irrigation has been adapted to suit the needs of poor farm families and, more importantly, to make the technology simple and affordable.

Drip irrigation kits have been designed for a range of crops and are quite suitable for small and marginal farmers of the semi arid regions in India. Also, these kits are applicable in a wide range of plot sizes varying from 20 square meters to 1000 square meters, with prices ranging from USD 8 to 80, which the farmers can install and maintain themselves. The farmers also have the option to begin with one unit and expand it later at their convenience.

Low cost Housing / Sanitation

Conventional building technologies like burnt bricks, steel and cement are high in cost, utilize large amount of non-renewable natural resources like energy, minerals, top soil, forest cover etc. Cement, steel and bricks are conventional energy intensive building materials. The burning of bricks in the vicinity of fields damages plant life and digging of soil for brick making causes collection of water in pools creating unhygienic conditions and erosion of good agricultural soil. The thermal efficiency of kilns leads to environmental pollution. Steel and cement factories emit toxic gases leading to air pollution. Excessive quarrying of limestone for lime burning or cement manufacturing has disturbed the ecological balance.

apprtech_clip_image010Cost effective, labour intensive and energy efficient  traditional building materials and techniques like mud wall, thatch roofs etc are available but these require frequent repairs. Use of conventional  materials to satisfy the demand for new buildings can drain the available energy resources and cause  environmental degradation/ pollution. Energy intensive building materials are expensive. There is clearly a need for energy efficient, environmental friendly, economical alternative building materials and technology.

Stabilized Mud Block Technology is a simple, cost effective, environmental friendly technology. It utilizes local materials and reduced energy consumption and reduces cost.


  • Energy efficient – 70% savings when compared to burnt bricks
  • Economical (40-60% when compared to brick masonry).
  • Plastering of walls can be eliminated Highly decentralized production thereby reducing transportation costs
  • Better block finish
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  •  Lower amount of mortar required for wall construction

Stabilized mud block technology lends itself well to rural housing for the poor. Good quality houses can be made with locally available skills in an environmentally friendly manner.

There are several relevant technological developments in the area of low cost housing and sanitation. Some of these are: Micro-concrete roof tiles, ferro concrete roof slabs and stabilized mud blocks for housing. Environmentally friendly sanitation units that are economical have also been developed.

For further reading view:,,

Low-cost Transport

In many developing countries people live in regions away from the main transport infrastructure. This means transport services are expensive Many villages in the South are not part of road networks and the lack of transport is a constraint on income generating activities such as taking produce to markets and acquiring equipment and materials needed for a small enterprise. A lot of thought and action has gone
to promote a view of transport systems that addresses problems of access and mobility for rural people. They further strengthen capacity of communities to control and manage these transport facilities.
A range of transport technologies that address different transport needs are: Ox carts, extended load carrying  bicycles, aerial runways, bicycle taxis, bicycle ambulances,
wheelbarrows, low cost wheelmaking, animal harnesses, low cost road construction and bicycle trailers. Cycle trailers are used for transporting goods, fuel, water and harvests where other means are too expensive. A person can carry three times as much as with a bicycle on a trailer, which is around 200 kilograms (450 lbs.) The range of use is quite wide including ambulances, mobile shops, and even a mobile library in one instance in Sri Lanka.

For further reading:

Agricultural Technologies

A wide range of improved agricultural / horticultural technologies are available. These can help small and marginal farmers to improve the yield of their land and produce more in an eco friendly and sustainable way. This would include techniques in soil and water conservation, compost and organic fertilizers, bio-pesticides, better agricultural techniques and urban agriculture.

Information on Improved breeds of small animals and birds are available and techniques of improved breeding and relevant housing.

For more information view:

The list of Appropriate Technologies could go on and on. In the Self Help Group context, it may be helpful to introduce relevant technology to the group members. One important principle is to allow time for the SHG members to think about the new device that is introduced and decide for themselves if it is going to be of benefit for them. The next step could be to provide one or two samples for the group
members to experiment with. Permit them to freely discuss the advantages and disadvantages before they make up their mind. Once they decide for themselves, they could prove to be very good propagators of the technology.

Other relevant websites that may be helpful are:

Intermediate Technology Development Group

Development Alternatives

SKAT Foundation, A resource centre for development

Network on Appropriate Building Technologies