Category: Blog

Innovation Africa-style

One thing that the Smart Villages model is based on is the notion of “appropriate technology” – that is the use of technologies that are specified and optimised based on their context and utility, rather than their absolute efficiency or performance. The classic example is the use of, say, an off-the-shelf lead acid battery instead …

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Unbalanced 3-phase power nearly killed the radio

So let’s start by stepping back a little. Our innovative partners, OMASI, have set up a number of different productive, social and community projects on their main site in the village of Terat in the Simanjiro District of Tanzania. There’s a shop, a community meeting hall, and a hostel (originally set up as somewhere for …

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Meetings with Remarkable Trees…

We were delighted to find that one of the many amazing things about working in the Maasai Plains of Simanjiro District, south of Arusha, is the indigenous baobab trees. The baobab, Adansonia digitata, is native to Africa, and classes as one of the biggest trees in the world. Whilst they “only” reach 25-30m in height, …

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Solar Boma Systems should be a thing

For the Maasai, the traditional living unit is the boma. This is an extended, or multi-family compound surrounded by a thorn hedge (usually), which will contain between 3 and 10 houses. There is an inner circular compound, also surrounded by a thorn hedge, to keep the livestock safe during the night. Satellite photos of the …

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Leena Chandran-Wadia: Are mini-grids the answer to rural electrification?

[:en] Interview with Leena Chandran-Wadia Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation Location: Bangalore, India “The day we can say that every home is electrified is very far away” ‘Kerala is totally electrified!’ run the headlines in the  Indian papers. It’s a claim many Indian villages make, says Dr. Leena Chandran-Wadia, the Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation …

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It is not a village but people: Long Lamai, a case study of a smart village

Long Lamai is a Penan village in upper Baram, northern Sarawak, of Malaysian Borneo. Travelling to the settlement from the nearest town Miri takes eight hours on rough logging roads and an hour of hiking through the dense rainforest. Alternately, it is reachable by flying from Miri to Long Banga by an hour’s flight via …

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Energy for Displaced Communities: How could Smart Villages help?

There are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people and 21.3 million refugees, hosted across the world (UNHCR). “Few forcibly displaced people” have access to modern energy. Out of 8.7 million refugees and displaced people in camps, only 11% have access to “reliable energy sources for lighting” (Chatham House, 2015). However, forcibly displaced people and refugees are …

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Off-grids can power South Asian electrification

South Asian governments would do well to integrate off-grid with grid options in their quest to achieve universal electrification, says a new study. “The governments prefer to extend the grid even to those regions in which renewable energy sources are available in plenty,” says Debajit Palit, associate director, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New …

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The frugal innovation revolution that is taking the world by storm

Rasperry Pi is a great example of technology enabling frugal/jugaad innovation

In late 2015 a Cambridge-based nonprofit released the Raspberry Pi Zero, a tiny £4 computer that was a whole £26 cheaper than the original 2012 model. The Zero is not only remarkable for its own sake – a computer so cheap it comes free with a £5.99 magazine – it is also symptomatic of a …

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Opportunities in Bario made me want to come home to Malaysia

What questions does the typical fifteen-year-old city Malaysian ask? ‘Should I look for a job this school holiday?’ ‘What do I want to do in the future? Go into business or work for someone?’ ‘Should I pick the science or art stream for school next year?’ ‘Should I continue my tertiary education locally or overseas?’ …

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Bursting With Energy—Nakuru Agricultural Show

Tribal dancers performing in front of the packed stadium

Kenyan farmers have been travelling to the Nakuru National Agricultural Show every year since 1920. These days you need to arrive early if you want to avoid the lengthy queues to purchase an entry ticket. You can tell when the show has officially opened from the throngs of people, rickety matatus and crowds of motorcycles …

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Kenya Spots Geothermal Potential in The Menegai Crater

Nakuru town was once dubbed ‘the cleanest town in East Africa’ but it lost that title many years ago. As you approach the town from Nairobi, you join a long procession of aged cargo trucks belching jet black exhaust fumes, reducing the air quality and staining roadside buildings. The town is, however, taking steps to …

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DAREnterprisers harnesses East Africa’s impetus for change

DAREnterprisers is run by Cambridge University based volunteering group Cambridge Development Initiative (CDI)—a student run organisation that prides itself on its on-the-ground decision-making and human centred design. The CDI partnered with Smart Villages and others to address growing youth unemployment in East Africa, taking advantage of the impetus for economic change and growth in the …

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What do Perovskites mean for the Photovoltaic Industry?

I once visited my local newspaper printing press. The machinery was immense. Two tonne rolls of paper were fed continuously into the ink rollers at fantastic speed. Conveyer belt contraptions whizzed partially folded newspapers around the factory with a frenetic industriousness. The whole apparatus would spit out 12 newspapers a second. Now imagine that it …

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Insecticide Vaporisers for Mosquito Control

I once stood in the courtyard of an apartment house in Mombasa, Kenya, watching residents try to chase off mosquitoes using the fumes from burning cow dung. Children near to the fumes were crying but, in a country where mosquito-born diseases such as Malaria and Dengue Fever kill tens of thousands per year, the discomfort …

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More applied research, news needed on off-grid ‘smart villages’

Ed- How can science and research help bridge the gap in energy access for some 1.3 billion people living in off-grid communities worldwide? Anna gives her report after attending the Smart Villages Seoul Media Workshop. A potential solution lies in mapping on-ground activities of prototype ‘smart villages’ that use off-grid electrification solutions to deliver energy, …

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Sexual Violence against Women and Girls: Is Energy part of the Solution?

Somali women carry firewood at Kobe refugee camp in Ethiopia (unicefethiopia)

“It was a degrading life full of humiliation and shame. We were often victims of rape and beatings by the hoodlums who hid themselves in the forest”  ̶  (An Ethiopian fuel wood carrier, Panjwani, 2005). Energy provision and sexual violence appear to be distant problems. However, with the possible exception of rural energy supplies in …

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A long climb to energy access: an off-grid success story

Claudia Canales, a Smart Village Project leader describes her visit to the remote community of  Amaguaya, recently in receipt of energy from a newly constructed micro-hydro plant. The visit was in preparation for a Workshop to be held in the Bolivia later this year – ed. I was fortunate to arrive in Bolivia a few days earlier than the rest of …

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