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Innovative Solutions for Energy and Farming

For most of us it is so normal to have electricity coming out of the wall outlet that we hardly can imagine living without. But for people living far away from the network of technical industrialization it does not at all go without saying. In third world countries, especially in rural areas, having access to electricity is often great step ahead – and be it just to charge a mobile.

A group of African Harvard undergraduates and university scientists, have created a social enterprise working in off-grid energy delivery and lighting technology in Tanzania. They call it “Lebônê“, pronounced [La – bo – ney], a Northern Sotho word for light, lamp, or candle.

They “combine efficient lighting technology with a simple energy source readily available to all Africans in the form of microbial fuel cells. These inexpensive fuel cells run on animal and plant waste and naturally occurring soil microbes, and are framed around a flexible substrate (wood, steel, etc) that can vary by geographic availability. This is truly electricity right out of the ground. These fuel cells are used to charge a battery or cheap supercapacitor, which in turn will be used to power a high-efficiency efficient LED or PLED lamp.”

To reach the target group of people they combine their innovative technologies with an innovative implementation strategy that will promote local entrepreneurship and youth involvement.

Another very innovative approach is the initiatve of a retired Swiss journalist in Kenia, Peter Baumgartner. He has realised a magazine for sustainable agriculture called “The Organic Farmer“. They are publishing “relevant, reliable and ecologically sound information which is both, appropriate as well as applicable for farmers in Africa.” It is monthly magazine with 18’000 copies, distributed nation-wide in Kenya and reaches around 100’000 readers. The electronic version can be accessed free of charge and has been used so far by farmers and researchers in over 20 tropical countries. Since end of August 08 they are also on the radio in Kiswahili and they offer the programs as MP3-files. They are supported by different sponsors, among others the Swiss government and, an information platform for ecological control of plant pests and disease transmitters.

Their initiative has a very strong resonance, with more than 150 e-mails, sms and phone calls after every emission. People are asking questions about pests or other kinds of information. They have a team of specialists. One strength of the magazine is the intelligent distribution structure via farmer groups, church organisations and schools. So they can spread the knowledge of a gentle biological farming with a minimum of chemicals. The journal with 8 to 12 pages per month has also spread to neighbour countries. Each copy is read by about 7 – 9 persons in the average.

A very inspiring initiative for supporting local farmers by sharing know-how – good will in action.

A meadow in Switzerland – biological farming is also an important factor here.

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