Demotech, design for self reliance

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David Werner, author of "Where There Is No Doctor", wrote this introduction during my visit to his project Prohimo in Ayola in Mexico. Meanwhile, I worked on a wheelchair elevator for his project.

The Reality of Development in the Third World

Self-reliance is the backbone of traditional societies. Therefore, when problems arise that they cannot fix themselves, help needs to be provided in a form whereby they can continue to be self-reliant.

The Shortcomings of Current Technology

Traditional technologies can seldom cope with today?s needs, and industrial technologies cannot function without a western infrastructure. Therefore there is need for a more appropriate technology - one that is appropriate for its users, and is based on the reality of the situation where it is to be implemented.

A Design for Self-Reliance: the Rope-Pump

The Demotech rope-pump as an example of a technical solution that has been designed in accordance with the principles of Appropriate Technology

Appropriate Technology: How It Has Spread

Many people have been inspired to copy the design of the rope-pump, especially in Indonesia and Nicaragua, a fact that proves the ?appropriateness? of its design.

Improving a Design for Self-Reliance

Designs for self-reliance invite adaptations by individual users. Such adaptations should be carefully noted, so that when such an adaptation conveys a significant improvement to the initial design it can be incorporated into the said design and so can benefit subsequent users.

Impairing a Design for Self-Reliance

Some adaptations do not improve the initial design, especially if the sole basis for the adaptation is the introduction of a more modern looking component, or a western technical detail. Generally speaking, this results in an impaired performance of the technology.

Making Self-Reliance Impossible

Publications on appropriate technology often place far too little emphasis on the need for accuracy of technical information, resulting in inaccurate information being printed. Even partially incorrect information can result in non-functioning equipment.

Inspiring the Village

A whole village can become involved with the making and installation of a rope-pump. The whole community then has ownership of the pump, which is ultimately beneficial to all. An appropriate division of tasks among the people involved ensures that no one group is entirely dependent on any other.

Inspiring the Women

The participation of women in the construction of the rope-pump is very important, as they are the primary water-collectors. It can become an opportunity for them to gain independence in technical matters.

Using the Every Day Skills of Women

If the every day skills of women are incorporated into the design of an appropriate technology, then it becomes more obvious that their involvement would be beneficial.

To design for Women

A particular detail of construction can sometimes relate to a specifically male profession, or skill. Such details can prevent women acting on their initiative. Therefore, devices used mainly by women should be (re)designed to enable women to do upkeep and repair.

Empowering the Women

Giving women the opportunity to master the technology associated with the rope-pump helps to empower them and to prevent unnecessary dependence on men. Designs for self-reliance can and should support this.

The Role of the Designer

Designers need to approach the problem of design of appropriate technology from a very different point of view than their Western design framework,. The reality of the situation for which they are designing really needs to be investigated thoroughly and fully taken into account. Policy makers, also, need to gain experience with the potential of a design approach directed at self-reliance.

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