OHF Solutions aims to provide the poor with technology that is affordable, easy to maintain, and significantly improves their lives. Technology has vastly improved our standard of living in developed countries, through improved food production, communications, transportation, energy and healthcare. We hope to be able to transfer some of that to benefit the poor communities we serve in.
Unfortunately, technology has a heavy capitalist footprint as it is driven by profits. Companies invest in developing better handphones to sell and make money. When oil prices are high, so too will be investments in renewable energy. The food chain is a closely knit community of commercial farmers, companies that makes fertilisers, pesticides and agricultural machinery and supermarkets. The small farmer with a couple of hectares of land plays no part in supplying food to these large conglomerates.
This profit driven model excludes the bottom billion from technology, leaving it to NGOs like OHF and a few social entrepreneurs to examine the ways technology can help the poor.
Small farmers in developing countries require appropriate technology that is suited to their needs and income level. Generally, the poor in developing countries live in rural areas. They remain poor because their farms are not productive due to the lack of water, poor soil, and lack of markets. Being dependent on rain for water also means there is only one harvest and the lack of rain or too much rain could result in financial disaster for the poor farmer.
Water shortages can be mitigated using rainwater harvesting techniques and micro drip irrigation. At times, it is a combination of nature and technology that provides the most cost effective solutions. For example, waste water can be treated using inexpensive reed beds instead of industrial size treatment plants that need lots of chemicals and energy. There are many opportunities where the right innovation and application of technology could bring hope and reduce the hardship faced by the poor.
Drip Irrigation which uses tubes to irrigate crops drop by drop saves water , increases yield and eliminates the need for regular watering. It has been used in developed countries and was first pioneered by Israel. But the technology is still too expensive for the small farmers and the cheap solutions do not work well due to clogging of the holes. Besides saving water, drip irrigation allows fertilisers to be mixed with the water and slowly dripped into the soil giving ample time for roots to absorb them.
As a result , it is not widely used by the poor who needs a better solution. No doubt there is a solution but it would require a company to invest in developing a low cost and yet effective drip irrigation system. OHF hopes to partner tertiary institutions to use student based projects to create a low cost Innovative drip irrigation system with automatic injection of fertilisers and emitters that do not clog.
Compost is what our soil needs . However it takes months for the leaves and organic matter to become compost . The composting process can be rapidly accelerated through the use of enzymes and understanding how the composting process works. With the right mix of heat, enzymes, water and air, the composting process can be reduced to one to two weeks.
There are many possible solutions. One solution is a micro size industrial composting system that is solar powered and can be shared by a cluster of farmers. Another solution is a transportable composter that goes from village to village. The greater challenge is to design a low cost composter for the individual farmer.
The use of compost will reduce our dependency on chemical fertilisers . Best of all the more compost we use, the better the soil becomes. If composting is used on a mega scale , the world will start to gain rather than lose its precious top soil.
Partnering tertiary institutions
OHF is keen to partner educational institutions to develop appropriate technology for the poor. We can help design student projects that are challenging and at the same time useful and beneficial to the poor. We have worked with National University of Singapore, Harvey Mudd College, Temasek Polytechnic on projects varying from solar cookers to a low cost vegetable processor.
The process if as follows:
- OHF presents challenge to student team.
- Team comes up with possible solutions
- OHF approves solution with some suggestions
- Team works on solution
- Prototype is tested in Singapore
- Teams test prototype in field
- OHF continues with tests and surveys
- OHF works with partner to mass produce product
- OHF introduces product to the market.
We are looking for GRANTS
Grant makers interested in supporting OHF Solutions programmes can contact firstname.lastname@example.org. OHF with staff and facilities in Cambodia and Nepal is in an optimum position to carry our field tests and come up with a final product that the poor will want . This is an exciting opportunity for grant makers to work with a grantee that has hands-on and practical approach to innovation.