EDINBURGH, United Kingdom — Desperate hunger, poor living conditions, families to provide for, limited work opportunities and lacking medical facilities, these impoverished conditions are far from ideal and not what you would expect as the fertile ground for the prospering of frugal innovations.
Throughout the developing world, however, many gifted innovators have turned deprivation to their advantage by pioneering genius projects. These frugal innovations provide essential technologies and facilities in environments where traditional wisdom would deem impossible through a lack of resources.
From rural India to villages in the Philippines and Tanzania, shining stars have brought glimmers of light to formerly neglected regions of the world. In turn, such life-saving ideas have sparked global interest in pursuing more of these frugal innovations.
Electricity-Free Clay Fridge
In Gujarat, India, a seed was planted in the mind of young Mansukhbhai Prajapati as he watched his elders work with traditional clay pottery. A devastating earthquake that rocked Gujarat in 2001 left its inhabitants and infrastructure in peril – not sparing Mansukhbhai’s generation’s long family trade of clay pottery.
In spite of the horrors faced, Mansukhbhai valiantly found enough inspiration to take out a 50,000 rupees ($612) loan and invest the small amount in an invention that would allow an already deprived area to maintain sustenance in the aftermath of a disaster.
Building on technologies that go as far back as ancient Egypt, Mansukhbhai designed an efficient electricity-free fridge made purely from clay. Not only was the invention a lifeline for those in need at the time, but to this day it remains a low-cost, eco-friendly method of refrigerating goods, which is essential for survival in the hot summers of India.
Organic Care for Premature Babies
Each year, more than 200,000 babies are born prematurely in Tanzania, with health care unavailable to almost 40% of women who give birth. As a result, complications associated with prematurely born babies in Tanzania lead to heart-breaking levels of infant mortality.
Premature babies are often born with low body weight and low body temperature. Together, the deficiencies make it difficult for them to regulate the immune system and use the suckling muscles that are essential for them to breastfeed.
Whereas in developed countries, food and heat could be provided through technologies and around-the-clock medical professionals, poverty-stricken regions like Tanzania have long suffered for not having such privileges available to them.
In response, the people of Tanzania have worked hard to develop what has become known as the Kangaroo Mother Care method to help remedy these issues. This procedural frugal innovation educates new mothers, fathers and family members on how to provide sufficient care to struggling infants without access to medical facilities.
The method encourages mothers to use body heat and cloth as a natural incubator. This organic skin-to-skin contact method has a range of benefits for new-borns including:
- Giving them warmth
- Regulating their heartbeat
- Promoting good breastfeeding practices
- Encouraging bonding
For those struggling to breastfeed, fathers and other family members are taught how to adequately drip-feed babies through a syringe, according to World Health Organization (WHO).
Furthermore, the care of new mothers is emphasized in the method which is another overlooked factor in taking care of premature babies when midwives are not available. As the health of new mothers is the bedrock for raising any newborn, let alone preterm infants, this emphasis is critical to lowering the mortality rate.
Solar Powered Bottles of Light
The Liter of Light program, run by MyShelter Foundation, commenced in 2011 with the aim of helping communities free themselves of energy poverty. The frugal innovation uses discarded plastic bottles filled with water and bleach as a way to harness solar-powered energy for light.
Since commencing, the project has given light to over 350,000 homes in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Kenya, Egypt, Italy, U.K. and others.
The method is straightforward, DIY and easy to use. By using the bottles for light, electricity resources can be saved for essentials such as cooking, hot water and light in the darker hours. With that, there is also a low-cost way to upgrade the device to include a LED or solar panel that is still less resource-consuming than traditional lighting methods.
Additionally, the Liter of Light program promotes environmental friendliness by recycling existing plastic debris and discouraging the manufacturing of more unfriendly lighting methods.
Future of Frugal Innovations
With the attention of the world now turning to these incredible feats of selfless ingenuity, internationally proclaimed institutions have taken steps to promote them further including UNICEF, WHO, TED and the University of Cambridge.
To merely survive such tribulations as the aftermath of an earthquake, or the ordeal of giving birth to a premature newborn without health care is in itself nothing short of remarkable. To then channel this distress into a project that eradicates the suffering of others is notably heroic.
The list of frugal innovations that have emerged continues to grow from all corners of the developing world including India, Ghana, Kenya, Togo and others.
In all cases, the plight of depravity has been an inspiration to adapt and develop. In the future, one can only hope that the rest of the world follows the wisdom of frugal innovations by using fewer resources to save more lives.
– Ryan David Campbell
Photo: Wikimedia Commons