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Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Appropriate Technology

“Appropriate Technology” embraces solutions that are relatively simple and economical, but that are also effective and appropriate to the culture and environment from which they emerge. Appropriate technologies are those that best utilize local traditions and limited resources to solve problems in ways that are most acceptable and affordable to their users.

In many countries around the world, Peace Corps volunteers are working with community groups and partner organizations to help identify and implement the most appropriate technologies available. In Zambia, for instance, these have taken the form of solar food dryers, charcoal from agricultural waste, pedal-powered cellphone chargers, hand-held maize shellers, and simple hand-washing stations known as “tippy-taps.”

The success of any appropriate technology depends in part on the involvement of local people in its planning, design, and implementation. These types of collaborations have been essential to the Peace Corps experience throughout its fifty-year history.

PARTICIPANTS

Alexandra Chen, Zambia, Peace Corps Volunteer
Alexandra served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in a Zambian village working on fish farming and public health. She extended her work to partner with the Technology Development and Advisory Unit (TDAU) at the University of Zambia. Alexandra splits her time between building capacity at TDAU and coordinating the launch of Appropriate Technology centers for Peace Corps Zambia.

Henry Chilufya, Lusaka, Zambia, Peace Corps Staff
Henry provides training and technical support to volunteers and counterparts in sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, beekeeping, and appropriate technology. He attended the MIT D-Lab’s International Design and Development Summit in Ghana and participated in three D-Lab trainings in Zambia. Henry is the lead staff in setting up Peace Corps Zambia’s Appropriate Technology centers.

Elizabeth Spellman, Woburn, Massachusetts, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia
Elizabeth served as a Peace Corps health volunteer from February 2008 to May 2011 in Zambia. In her first two years, she focused primarily on nutrition and sustainable agriculture, working with home-based caregivers. In her third year, Elizabeth worked as volunteer leader and wrote the training manual for new volunteer leaders.

Kofi Taha, Watertown, Massachusetts, D-Lab/MIT
Kofi co-leads D-Lab’s Creative Capacity Building projects. These efforts strive to teach the technology design process to people living in poverty and to support sustainable local innovation. D-Lab, a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works to develop and implement sustainable, low-cost technology to improve the quality of life in low-income households. Kofi has facilitated training in Ghana, Uganda, and Haiti, and worked with Peace Corps Zambia to establish its Appropriate Technology centers.

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