Brigid Beney

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Brigid

  • Is small still beautiful? Or is poverty too big?

    October 26th, 2016

    The first time I came across the idea of simple, poverty-fighting technology was in Lesotho in 2011, when I saw a roundabout that doubled up as a water pump. Whenever the local kids played on the roundabout, it would bring up water into the village well, giving the community a safe drinking water supply. Genius! I was captivated by the essence of this straightforward project that was making a huge difference to everyday life for some of the world’s poorest people.

    The next time I came across this “intermediate” or “appropriate” technology was at university. We were asked to discuss whether these kinds of small-scale, people-focused technological interventions in developing countries were still relevant. Fair to say, I was shocked! I couldn’t imagine anyone coming up with an argument against the kinds of projects that I’d seen working successfully and appropriately first hand.

    But then I found it. How can a few small, basic projects make a difference to the huge problem of poverty across our globe? According to the United Nations, one in eight people live in extreme poverty. Practical Action has found that over 840 million people are undernourished and over a third of the developing world doesn’t have access to acceptable sanitation facilities. With statistics this terrifying, how can we possibly think we can make a difference? One reason, we found, that people don’t support charities, is because they simply don’t know where to start. Poverty is too big a problem to tackle. So, as fundraisers, as awareness-raisers, as people who want to make a difference, what do we do? How do we encourage people to give when to them, their £5 or £10 or even £100 feels like a drop in the ocean?

    E. F. Schumacher

    E. F. Schumacher

    The reason I was first fascinated by that roundabout was because it was, as EF Schumacher put it, small but beautiful. A design straightforward enough to be implemented in a rural, isolated community, used immediately, and made sustainably. I saw real people using it, and met children who had a safe water supply and therefore a much brighter future. Seeing a project up close and personal makes it so much easier to invest in, and easier to invest in similar ones in the future.

    If only it was possible to take every supporter to see a project that they have helped to fund. Financially and logistically this isn’t possible, but we can still make individuals feel connected. Hearing names and stories, and seeing faces changes poverty from something that feels remote and far away to something that anyone can help to eradicate. Perhaps we can’t end poverty in one fell swoop but surely doing something beautifully small is better than doing nothing at all?

    In a world where having the latest technology is up there in most people’s priorities, creating technologies that bring energy, water, sanitation and risk reduction strategies must be relevant and important. And yes, the projects may be small. But the outlook and overall impact certainly isn’t. As I learn more about Practical Action, the work that’s happening and the plans for work to come, it’s difficult to not catch the excitement. Last year, Practical Action helped 1.7 million people with simple solutions to get out of poverty. These small projects are making a massive difference.

    Zeer pot fridge keeping vegetables fresh

    Zeer pot fridge keeping vegetables fresh

    One such project is the zeer pot fridge. This simple fridge, made from local materials in Sudan, can hold up to 12kg of fruit and veg. Carrots and okra that would have been rotten within 4 days in the Sudanese heat can now last up to 20 days, meaning that families don’t have to battle hunger and even famine. Hawa Abbas explained to Practical Action that her family’s life “has been so much better” since using her zeer pot fridge. The fridges can be made locally and support families who are already proficient at producing their own crops. Supporting projects like this, no matter how small, is vital because they are making a real difference to real lives every day.

    If you’ve been inspired to make a small but beautiful difference, please contact us at fundraising@practicalaction.org.uk for more information and resources, or to learn more about Practical Action’s projects, have a look at what we do.

    2 Comments » | Add your comment