Introduction

Regional and international networks and coalitions often suffer from the same problem seen in international conferences. When those involved are a step or two away from real grass-roots A.T. practitioners, the connection to real problems and needs rapidly dwindles and may disappear altogether. Currently the greatest need appears to be for more decentralized local networks and coalitions, whose members may have more of immediate relevance to share with each other, and who are less likely to face language and cultural barriers. Once local networks are established and healthy, regional and international networks can be strengthened. A.T. support programs might try to identify and support several kinds of people. One is the “social entrepreneur,” a creative individual who can recognize social needs, overcome obstacles, and find ways to perform needed overhead functions. Equally important is the business entrepreneur (and her or his counterparts in cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises) who can create, produce and market tools at affordable prices.

The following are examples of specific functions in international cooperation, which could be supported by regional, national and international groups.

Communications, Documentation and Reference Functions

1) Compilations of documentation on successful traditional technologies within a country: of interest in the same country, in the region, and in the world; published in book form.

2) Catalog publishing for low-cost dissemination of commonly relevant technical information, and to provide access to additional, more specific assistance (some examples are Liklik Buk, People’s Workbook, The Whole Earth Catalog, and the former Sears and Roebuck Catalogs; the last of these had wide circulation among North American farm families before World War II).

3) Assembly or production of simplified basic technical reference books, translated and adapted where necessary and made available at low cost. A Farmer’s Primer on Growing Rice and Where There is No Doctor have proven the value of this approach.

4) Keeping unique and valuable reference books in print, by acquiring the publishing rights and reprinting books that are out of print due to low commercial sales. (For example, we have produced on microfiche more than 100 out-of-print books.)

5) Library grants—sets of basic books (including those mentioned above) totaling 50-100 volumes and distributed (for example, through national coalitions of development organizations) directly to small A.T. groups, along with small discretionary accounts through which these groups can pay for additional published items acquired from around the world. (The A.T. Microfiche Library, which includes most of the books reviewed in this Sourcebook, is such a low-cost basic library.)

People-moving Functions

1) Staff exchange programs among appropriate technology groups in different countries to share skills and perspectives.

2) Short-term tours of successful A.T. programs, by groups of A.T. people, including village crafts people and inventors.

3) International training exchanges of farmers and craftspeople; e.g., tapping Javanese farmers to teach techniques of training and handling water buffaloes for plowing and other field preparation work in areas where these skills are unknown.

4) In-country training exchanges among allied appropriate technology, community organizing, nonformal education, and other groups.

Small Grant Programs

1) Seed capital to help equip small community-based appropriate technology groups with workshop tools and libraries, involving young people and local crafts people.

2) Operating funds for the R&D or adaptation activities of small appropriate technology groups.

3) Block grants given to establish appropriate technology organizations and coalitions with proven records, distinct from grants for their own use. These groups would identify new appropriate technology groups and pass on this money in small amounts.

4) Small venture capital investments in enterprises to produce and market appropriate technologies.

Funding Specific Technology Research

1) Pilot project testing and accelerated further refinement of specific technologies identified as most urgent by a panel of A.T. activists; carried out whenever possible by those who have done some of the important initial work. Selected would be technologies that are broadly relevant to the daily needs of poor people in developing countries. Where possible, several lines of development would be pursued, so as to generate options that include a maximum of commonly available local materials as well as options that require purchased materials.

2) National and international annual competitions with prizes awarded to the innovations most likely to help alleviate poverty. The best entrants would be documented in a catalog. Most of the examples listed here have already been successfully tried at one time or another. All of them deserve more attention than they are presently receiving. In the pages that follow, you will find reviews of more than 1000 books and documents, on specific technical subjects as well as on many of the topics discussed in this introduction.

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