| GATE - 1/95 - Waste water: resource management and environmental hygiene |
Christchurch - "If you look at what is happening on the farms, we do not earn the label 'clean and green'. We are probably one of the most polluted Western countries." This statement refers to New Zealand and was made by Chris Wheeler, president of the local "Soil and Health Association" at the 10th International IFOAM conference.
Every two years the «ecological agrarian world" - the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements - meets, in different locations, to exchange practices, advice and research on the topic of ecological farming. In December 1994, more than 800 researchers, practitioners and advisors in ecological farming from 55 countries met at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. The topic of the meeting was «agriculture - ecology - people" and the question of how to bring these three into harmony.
In the host country - which at first glance seems to be a perfect place for an exchange on agro-ecological questions since it is well known as the 'green paradise' - ecological farming has a difficult status. This applies not only at Lincoln University, where a brave minority are fighting for ecological gardening; but also in the thinly populated island nation in the South Pacific as a whole, which has for decades favoured industrial agriculture and lives from agri-exports of kiwis, apples, lamb meat and wool.
Official agricultural policy only started to take note of ecological farming very recently. Financial incentives to switch from traditional to ecological farming do not exist. Recently the agricultural ministry (MAF) announced publicly that it considers ecological farming as environmentally friendly. More support could hardly be expected, said Gill Rusbridge, a former member of staff of MAF. Therefore, less than half a percentage point of the agriculturally-used land is ecologically farmed. The majority of the roughly 300 eco-farms have switched to eco-farming in the last couple of years. The New Zealand eco-producers group (NZBPC) has been a member of IFOAM since the late 1980s.
IFOAM, the umbrella of ecological agricultural movements, which was founded in France in 1972 and today represents 500 organisations in 95 countries, provides not only regular international and regional exchanges of experience. It also supports networking, with regional associations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Through these the producers hope to develop improved possibilities for marketing their products. «We have to take care however" according to IFOAM general secretary Bernward Geier, "that the local food stock of the population has the absolute priority and that no biocolonialism develops."
Indeed, the question of a concept of a sustainable agriculture and sustainable development is not answered by the switch towards ecological farming. In particular the delegates from countries of the Third World relate sustainable development to the necessity to be self- sufficient with food and not to be dependent on imports.
The conference called unanimously for world-wide minimum standards in ecological farming and rejected gene-manipulated plants and animals. They proposed better information for consumers, improved public relations and information for example in schools. Priority should also been laid on training and advice for farmers who still represent the majority of the world's population.
The eco-producers also participate in the UNCED follow-up process. "All member groups of IFOAM are asked to lobby their governments in order to highlight the topic of ecological farming in the run up of the next meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development" stresses Bernward Geier. Yvonne Mabille
Wurzburg - Heavy loss of blood, vomiting and diarrhoea with the risk of drying out: all over the world hospitals treat these symptoms with infusions. The patient is on a drip and relatively large amounts of liquid are infused into his or her vascular system. In Germany this procedure does not pose a problem, but in countries such as Tanzania, Kenya or Zaire it is often a question of survival since infusion liquids are expensive and not always easily available. For doctors in these countries this is a big problem; for their patients a matter of life and death. How can sufficient bags of glucose or salt solutions be made available - also for emergency cases ? How can they reduce the high costs of purchasing?
The anaesthetist Georg Kamm in Tanzania found an answer to these questions, which is now being tried out in several countries. The Medical Mission Institute in Wurzburg supports the development and spreading of the simple and effective technical process.
Ten years ago, the protestant hospital in Machame, a poor town in Tanzania, was like many hospitals in developing countries, dependent on the import of infusions from a few western producers. Over time the demand was greater than the extremely tight budget of the hospital. Bad roads and rickety lorries were the reason why goods arrived only on a very irregular basis.
The anaesthetist Georg Kamm, who was working in Machame at the time, won dered: Wouldn't it be sensible to produce infusions in the country instead of importing them ? With the assistance of a German company he constructed a simple but effective filtration machine which is based on the principle of reverse osmosis. During the process water is pressed through fine membranes. If the technique works the result is germ-free and non-ionised water which resembles in its quality distilled water. The purified water is mixed with glucose in a steel bucket, and the solution is filtered and bottled.
The main advantages of this method are the low level of energy use and the large amount of purified water which can be produced in a short period of time. Also, the rapid working process prevents the growth of germs in the infusion solutions. Georg Kamm set up the first production unit in Tanzania, and it has paid off: "Since we produce the infusions ourselves, there is no shortages anymore" he says.
The test period has long since developed into a major project of appropriate medical technology which supplies many hospitals. Kamm moved with his four container boxes to Moshi which is better located due to its big airport. Today, there are about 50 infusion units in Tanzania, which produce about two-thirds of the annual demand of the east African country - about 800,000 infusions. According to Kamm, Tanzania saves at least US$2 million per year. It is therefore no surprise that neighbouring countries and other states are interested in the project.
Meanwhile in Zaire an equivalent project with eleven infusion units was set up. Smaller production sites have also started operations in Madagascar and Kenya. In
Ethiopia a small unit is under preparation. But these countries are not alone in wanting to produce their own infusions with the help of the project base in Moshi. At regular intervals African and Asian countries approach the project in Moshi or the Medical Mission Institute in Wurzburg. An information brochure in English gives information to all those interested.
Kamm was supported by the Protestant Association for Cooperation in Development (EZE) in Bonn. The initial phase was also co-financed by the Bishops' organisation Misereor. For the new infusion units in Madagaskar and Zaire an application has been made to the European Union.
Obviously there is also criticism of the method. Critics say that there could be germs growing in the filter module or bacteria could spoil the purified water. According to Kamm it was on this basis that a company with worldwide operations tried to discredit the project with the Tanzanian government; the latter quickly realised the selfish motives of the company in these attempts, however. In the opinion of Dr. Bernd Kohler of the tropical medical department of the Medical Mission Institute in Wurzburg, these worries are only justified if the equipment is not used properly. Experience so far has shown that this danger is not realised when staff are trained and regular technical service is provided.
Dr. Kohler emphasises that the staff know about the danger of germs. They are aware that rapid processing of the solution is the "bestprecaution". Therefore, the delivery of technical equipment is dependent on a thorough training course of staff at the training centre in Moshi and the setting up of a network of advice and technical services. A user's manual as well as appropriate quality control methods, which have been developed in cooperation with the Medical Mission Institute, are available.
This scientific cooperation exists with the Medical Mission Institute since 1986, in particular regarding further technical developments. When a model unit is set up in the low-tech laboratory of the tropical medical department, the Institute is able to make proposals for improvement regarding sterile filtration and quality control.
The implementation of the proposals are checked through regular visits to Tanzania. The director of the Institute, Karl-Heinz Hein-Rothenbucher points out that since 1988 the institute has spent DM 20,000 per year for visits and vocational training.
The investment of US$30,000 for the initial setting up of a unitis paid off within two years. The sum is low compared with the costs for imported solutions. Service and other follow-up costs are self-financing, through the production process itself. Doctor Kohler thinks that countries such as Tanzania can save a lot of money if they succeed in integrating the preparation of other drugs such as packages for oral re-hydration, eye drops, skin ointments as well as Cloroquin, Quinine on pain killers into the project. In this way, medical care in important areas could be stabilised.
Eschborn - The Information Service on Appropriate Technology (ISAT) is an information advisory projecton the use of appropriate technologies. Located at the Head Office of the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) in Eschborn, Germany, ISAT is the successor to GATE's Question and Answer Service.
Documentation on AT is a key instrument for centralized information and has been a major element of project work. ISAT is used by project staff, GTZ Head Office staff and visitors from other organizations.
What services does the AT Documentation Center offer today; When setting up the Question and Answer Service on Appropriate Technology in 1977 an information center was established to gather all the know-how and knowledge needed to answer queries on technical and organizational issues. This later became the AT Documentation Center - with its wide range of specialist areas.
Subject areas: Based on the SATIS classification which was widely used at that time, the documentation still covers the following subjects: renewable energies, water supply and sanitation, agriculture, food processing, crafts and small industries, construction and health/medicine.
Across-the-board issues such as project management, information and documentation, development policy and AT theory are also covered, together with numerous reference literature, bibliographies, address books and encyclopaedia.
Type of documents: Focus is placed on so-called "grey literature", i.e. documents which are often difficult to come by, such as project reports, manuals and practical instructions, mostly from partner countries in the South. The aim is to provide information to supplement the often very technical literature available, which frequently neglects the cultural dimension of technology and development.
ISAT's close cooperation with NGOs and contacts with Third World countries were vital assets in procuring such literature.
Languages: Practically all literature is obtained from partner countries and is destined for re-use in the South. Emphasis was placed from the very beginning on ensuring that the documents are available in the world languages: English, French and Spanish titles therefore prevail over German.
Present stock: The ISAT documentation contains some 18,000 documents classified in three sections.
- The AT documentation proper with some 7,200 documents. Agricultural subjects dominate in this section.
- The entire corpus of literature from the former biogas dissemination project has been incorporated over the course of time. Split into two collections, the documents, some 4,500 titles on biogas, biomass and pertinent areas, consist of specialized literature and project reports and experience reports.
- Literature from the former GTZ Database project on agriculture and rural development; in all c. 6,300 documents.
Access: the familiar card index used to research the ISAT documentation at the beginning has succumbed to the age of electronics and was transferred to the CDS/ISIS system at the end of the eighties. This database program from UNESCO is nowadays used by the GTZ and many partner organizations.
CDS/ISIS has the advantage of being adaptable to many varying data processing purposes, it has a multilingual menu package, and non-commercial organizations can obtain it gratis from UNESCO.
All three ISAT literature databases - the AT documentation, the biogas documentation and the data project - can be accessed via CDS/ISIS.
Parallel to transferring AT documentation to computer processing, English language keyword lists were drawn up on various areas. The keywords guarantee that controlled and uniform descriptors are used for the documents. Some ISAT thesauri and lists on specific subject areas have been adopted by other organizations EULEISA members use the lists on agriculture, for example.
Other sources of information: ISAT provides numerous other sources of information to complement its documentation:
The Institution File with more than 1,000 entries on governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions working in development policy in general or of special significance in relation to appropriate technology. Entries contain the address of the institution and frequently further information on their work areas, size of the organization, contact persons etc.
The AT Consultant File commissioned by ISAT in recent years now contains data on more than 500 independent experts consultants and consultant firms in Germany. The data are updated on a running basis and can be obtained from the ATVerband in Bonn. CV's and references on the consultants are also available from there.
To round up, ISAT presently subscribes to about 200 pertinent journals primarily from developing countries, which are available for visitors to consult.
An overview of the information available in ISAT's AT Documentation Center as at January 1995 is given in the table.
Services provided by the ISAT documentation: The varied information basis spawns the services offered by the AT Documentation Center.
Activities focus at the present time on transterring information: in practice this means giving ISAT staff, GTZ colleagues and external users (project staff, NGOs worldwide, external experts, consultants in universities) full access to the information available. Interested visitors to the Documentation Center can research and copy relevant literature, and outside users can send inquiries for literature references and information packages on specific themes.
Specialized bibliographies on ISAT literature are a significant help to field staff in their project briefing phase. The interlinked processing of the various areas covered by ISAT and its networking within the cooperation partner program), generate indepth non-printed information on activities by partner organization, cross references and access to experience from GTZ activities.
This allows practice-related information packages to be compiled.
Methods and instruments: Not only is information on specific areas transferred but also details of the methods and instruments available. Activities in this area is to be intensified in future.
ISAT's instruments - e.g. the keyword lists and the database structures - can also be passed on to other information centers. I + D centers in partner organizations in the South who do not have the capacity to develop their own instruments can tap on ISAT's tested tools. Such activities facilitate cooperation and mutual exchange of information and benefit all involved.
ISAT also provides support in planning, establishing and developing information and documentation centers at NGOs. Drawing on its own experience over many years, ISAT is able to give sound, practice-related consultancy.
The future: The benefits of worldwide electronic networking are now to be exploited so that all the potentials can be tapped to the full. ISAT is on the E-mail network, and one of the next steps will be to make the ISAT information available online, knowing that not all organizations, projects and individuals will have access to these technical potentials.
ISAT, and specifically its Documentation Center, is always interested in contacts and exchange of experience with other information centers. We would be happy to answer any enquiries, provide further information or just hear your views.
Dirk Franken/Regina Tumpach
Tel.: ++49 (0)6196793184
Fax: ++49 (0)6196797352
email: GATE-ISAT@oln. comlink. apc. org