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close this bookGATE - 4/96 - Information - the Key to Sustainable Development (GTZ GATE, 1996, 60 p.)
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View the documentFinancing and commercialising solar energy activities
View the documentMaking use of a new medium
View the documentA mighty force
View the documentTurning industrial waste into compost
View the documentPopularising neem as an insecticide
View the documentMore readiness to talk

Financing and commercialising solar energy activities

Second solar energy seminar for South and East Asia in Yunnan

by John O'Donoghue

On account of its geographical conditions, South and East Asia has an enormous renewable energy potential. Delegates to a solar energy seminar in Yunnan stressed the importance of financing strategies and a clear definition of consumer needs for solar energy system manufacturers.

The first solar energy seminar for South and East Asia, highlighting the "Prospects for Photovoltaic Systems in Thailand and Neighbouring Countries", was held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1994. This event allowed an exchange of relevant information on solar energy applications that were in use or planned by the respective countries within the region. This seminar generally recognised that solar energy technologies were significantly mature, pragmatic, environmentally sound, and highly appropriate for indigenous local conditions. However, within an all but favourable setting, they were only marginally delivering the commercialisation they promised.

The second seminar, "Financing and Commercialization of Solar Energy Activities in South and East Asia" was held in Yunnan Province in the People's Republic of China from August 26-30, 1996. Its rationale was to focus on the potentials and constraints to achieve commercialisation of selected solar energy technologies, particularly at a time when various activities are being proposed or nearing implementation within the region. This integral meeting point also further strengthened the existing close interregional linkages between the delegates, who have now formed a Council on Renewable Energy in the Mekong Region (CORE - cf. previous articles) allowing for a serious review of the requirements of elevating solar energy into a commercially favourable position across the region.

This second seminar was sponsored and organised by the Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft (CDG), on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Yunnan Science and Technology Commission, the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of Yunnan (ISTIY) and the Council on Renewable Energy for the Mekong Region, in co-operation with the Regional Information Service Centre for South East Asia on Appropriate Technology (RISE-AT) and the Solar Energy Research and Training Centre (SERT), Thailand. Additional support was provided by a number of private institutions, including the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Interpark Ltd. and Deutsche Aerospace.

Financing strategies

There were 70 delegates from ministries and institutes of energy, experts from research institutions, project planners, solar energy companies and distributors, representatives from financing and development planning institutions. They represented the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia, the People's Republic of China, Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Philippines, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of Indonesia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Finland, Australia, the USA and the Federal Republic of Germany.

The seminar strongly emphasised financing strategies and proven mechanisms that are already in place within the South and East Asian region and have encouraged the dissemination of solar energy technologies in some countries with closely-related social, economic and environmental conditions. Presentations highlighted establishing ways to pursue sustainable development goals by identifying, evaluating and financing solar energy activities, and by viewing project risks and feasible financing structures to direct funds from users to suppliers.

The delegates of the seminar concluded that solar energy was the only known technology with global potential to ensure a sustainable energy supply in the long term. There is an enormous renewable energy potential in South and East Asia due to the geographical conditions of the region and the fact that large proportions of population who still do not have access to regular energy supply. Solar electricity has special advantages as a modular technology: it can be generated in small stand-alone systems for individual households, as well as in electricity generation units on larger power grids. The responsibility for the extra costs of solar energy devices arising from small production quantities should be carried globally, since the scale-up of photovoltaic manufacturing serves the future sustainable energy supply globally. Simultaneously, the provision of well-established joint programmes among the South and East Asian Countries will have a far stronger influence on an international forum than any individual project alone.

With limited and diminishing fossil fuel sources, greater awareness to decision makers is extremely important in considering the use of renewable energy resources, not only as a technology for remote rural areas, but also as a mature technology to be applied on a wider scale. Basic financing structures for the establishment of solar energy should be developed as an integral part of implementing national energy plans. Greater awareness of such alternative energy solutions is unlikely to emerge from in- country institutions.

Private sector initiatives should be encouraged to activate project development into the existing institutional and policy framework. Delegates agreed on the future task of combining existing bilateral and multilateral financing instruments in order to introduce and disseminate large numbers of decentralised solar energy systems in rural areas, as well as large installations for urban and industrial energy supply. They will approach their respective governments as well as donor agencies for the provision of equity and loans for setting up rural energy service companies. Where financing institutions and banks are restricted from granting loans to users and manufacturers of solar energy systems, the respective countries and responsible agencies should attempt to harmonise their legal and financing instruments with a view to promoting solar energy activities.

Well-defined consumer needs

Solar energy system manufacturers and suppliers are asked to provide comprehensive energy services adopted to well-defined consumer needs, and not only to sell energy technology. This requires an exact matching of climatic conditions, system layout and expected energy services. However, the approach needs a supportive governmental regulation system, as well as services with tailored financing mechanisms.

It was also noted that the responsible institutions for the application, promotion, planning, and financing for solar energy are unclear, overlapping and scattered. Thus it would appear to suggest itself that the responsible bodies point out the institutions for these areas to enable a better understanding of the relevant channels to streamline efforts for project initiation and development. Mutual co-operation, the exchange of know-how, as well as the promotion of programme activities for supporting renewable energy technologies among the CORE countries should be further strengthened. Appropriate communication technologies, such as electronic mail, discussion groups and document distribution should be established.

Neighbouring CORE member countries expressed their sincere intention to continue co-operation and exchange information for ongoing and future activities in the field of solar energy development and promotion in South and East Asia.

Besides regional cooperation amongst the countries in South and East Asia, delegates would also welcome the setting-up of National and Local Energy Fora to create public awareness among policy makers, promote the application of solar energy technology, elaborate positive framework conditions, and foster human resource capabilities.

A third seminar focusing on the application of solar energy for South and East Asia has been proposed to take place in Hanoi, SR Vietnam, in 1997.

Making use of a new medium

CD-ROM and documentation needs of NGOs

by Ferdinand Soethe

In many parts of the world "CD" has become a synonym for easy-to-use tiny, silver disks that store hours of music. The qualities of these disks have found another use after they were discovered as a cheap and reliable medium for mass storage of all kinds of computer data. CD -ROM - " Compact disk as read only memory" - has become a standard feature of most new computers. Time to see how useful this technology can be for NGOs' information publishing needs.

In contrast to the old fashioned LP records, the CD is a digital medium. Anything that you want to store on a CD needs to be converted into the binary language of 1s and 0s. When storing computer data this is very convenient, since the computer handles data in a very similar way. The information you put on a CD is physically stored as a long line of indentations and exaltations (called "pits" and "lands") in a reflective layer just below the clear coated surface of the disk. To restore that information later on, aweak laser beam is run along this spiral of pits and lands, and the reflected light is measured by a light sensing device whose output will then be converted to digital information.

Hardier than floppies

Because information is virtually engraved on the CD and read by a purely optical process, playing back a CD will not deteriorate the medium at all. As long as they are handled carefully, CDs have an almost unlimited lifetime. Since magnetism is not involved it is also safe to store and use CDs close to strong magnetic fields. And while floppy disks suffer badly from spilled liquids or dust, a CD-ROM can easily be wiped off or rinsed with clean water.

CD in real world computing

Like most new technologies, the use of CD-ROMs started out as a creative chaos of competing technologies. While the physical structure of the disks is practically identical and can be read by every CD-ROM drive in any kind of computer, different manufacturers tried to establish their concepts of storing data within the available space. As a result, for a long time, there was no guarantee that any given computer and operating system would be able to read the data that you had recorded on a CD-ROM.

Meanwhile, thanks to a number of well established standards and quasi-standards, CD-ROMs have become one of the most easily exchangable media for computer data. As a matter of fact, the same data on a CD, when properly prepared, can be used by most known computers and operating systems. But keep in mind that information on a CD-ROM can be recorded in a number of different ways depending on your goals and preferences, the type of information you want to store, and how it will be retrieved. The following list mentions just a few of these to give you an idea:

- CD-DA: The recording format of the digital audio disk. - ISO 9660: A general purpose format for storing all kinds of computer data.

- Photo CD: Developed by Kodak and Philips to store digital images in number of different resolutions.

ISO 9660 the "Workhorse Format"

Today, the most important of these standards is ISO 9660. Created with the backing of major players in the computer industry and later established as an international norm, ISO 9660 describes a technical format that allows you to store up to 650 Megabytes (MB) of computer files on a single CD-ROM.

Like the file systems of all major operating systems, this space can be subdivided into up to eight levels of directories and subdirectories which contain the individual files. Note that there are restrictions on the character set and the maximum length of file and directory names to ensure that the files can be read and used in all environments.

Practical applications

The practical uses of CD-ROMs are numerous, reaching from publishing information through backing up data to exchanging complete preconfigured software setups between the different offices of an organisation.

The most important use for NGOs today, however, is probably information publishing. So let's focus on this and narrow it down even further to the key aspects of publishing text and image information. In doing so I deliberately exclude the high end multimedia publishing of video and audio information. For one thing because software and hardware as well as the knowhow required is beyond most NGOs today. And secondly because there is a new and better solution for these applications (the Digital Video Disk) that is just about to become a new standard.

Publishing text and images on CD-ROM

There are three major techniques to publish information on a CD-ROM.

- In the file-based approach you create a logical strucure of directories and subdirectories and store the information as files in the different directories. By placing an additional table of content-files in each directory, the user of CD-ROMs can find the required information.

- In a second approach, all information is placed in some form of database, which allows quick and easy access to the information and helps the user to access the information in different ways.

- Using Word Wide Web technologies as a third way you can combine the simplicity of the first with much of the powers of the second approach. The strength of the file-based approach is its simplicity and the fact that very little software is required. If all you have is text, it might be sufficient to export it as simple ASCII-text files from your word processor, create the table of content files and you are done. The user of the CD could then use any kind of text-viewer or word processor to access the information.


But there are clear limits to this approach. Searchability of the information is one of the problems that you will encounter along the way. While you can easily write and include software on the CD that will do full text file searches of the content, keep in mind that you might be searching some 650 MB of information. So unless you are dealing with extremely patient users, a simple search programme just won't be good enough.

The database-oriented approach can solve this problem. Unfortunately most cheap and easy-to-use database programmes are only available for one operating system. And while ISO 9660 allows access to the files on a CD-ROM from different operating systems, it does not make software programmes run in different environments. A standard solution to this problem is to include different versions of the software for each operating system. But be aware that you might have to pay a lot more to find a solution that is easy to use, performs well and provides viewer-software for most major operating systems. And please note that a standard user licence for most database packages will not grant you the right to hand out the software to all your CD clients.

Using technologies of the Word Wide Web on a local CD-ROM can be an elegant and free solution to this problem. Presenting your information in HTML, the document format of the World Wide Web, not only can you enhance your text with most features of a modern word processor (fontstyles, headlines, tables etc) but you can also integrate images and even interactive components. And because HTML was conceived in the heterogeneous environment of the Internet, there is free viewer-software (called a "browser") to view, use and print the content for most operating systems and hardware platforms.

Interconnecting documents

In addition to these tempting options, HTML allows you to interconnect your documents with clickable links (pieces of text or images that when clicked will take you to another document). This is a very easy way to establish crossreferences, active tables of content and even clickable keyword indexes. With some more effort you can even use free full text indexing technology (i.e. WAIS) to provide full text retrieval of the documents on your CD-ROM.

Because the World Wide Web and HTML have become so popular, HTML is also understood by most modern word processors, so that carefully prepared documents on your CD can be easily re-used without losing the layout.

Think about copy protection

When chosing your publication method, consider that data on a CD-ROM is just as easily copied as a file on a hard disk. If you need to keep people from "reusing" your data in a number of inventive ways, you'll have to figure out some copy protection scheme.

With file-based systems, copy protection is quite difficult, and although you can use encryption schemes, that often takes away the simplicity of this approach. An easier way to achieve reliable protection is to use a customised database software and disable the mechanisms to extract information (Save to file, copy to clipboard etc.). Consider that it is often sufficient to prevent users from extracting all the information while still allowing excerpts.

Manufacturing a CD-ROM

The preparation of content always takes place on conventional media such as hard disks. Consider that you'll need at least as much free space on your hard disk as you want to store on your CD-ROM.

Industrial production
Once the information is on your computer, production of the actual CD can happen in two different ways: You can burn your own or have a CD factory do it for you.

Since CD-ROM and Audio CDs have the same physical format, you can take advantage of the facilities of the music industry and have your CDs produced alongside Beethoven and Madonna. As you can see in the flowchart, all you really have to do is deliver the data to the company and check the intermediate and final versions.

In terms of price and production time this is an interesting option as soon as you need more than 40 copies of your CD. Since the process is optimised for mass production, cost will drop significantly with higher volumes (500 or more) and often get close to the cost of replicating a floppy disk (while providing 500 times more space).

As an additional benefit, most production facilities will also take care of printing a label on your CD and package the disk in the square jewel boxes that you know from audio CDs. If your intended audience is spread all over the globe, enquire about alternative packaging that is lighter and can be shipped more cheaply.

"Burn your own"

"Burning" or "mastering" your own CD's is a technology that has just now become affordable as the prices for the recording "CD-R"drives and premastering software have dropped well below US$ 1,000. Note that you always need premastering software because you can't just copy files to the disk with your operating systems.

After the data has been prepared for writing with the premastering software, pretty well all you have to do is insert a blank disk (about US$7) in the CD-R drive, start the recording process and wait about 30 minutes for it to finish. Of course you'll still need to label the disk, but otherwise this process will turn out a perfectly normal CD that can be read in any CD-ROM drive. To find out more details about burning your own CD, the drives and the software, take a look at PC Magazine Vol 15 No 7 (April 1996).

Get one anyway

Apart from the above mentioned uses, a CD-R can be useful in a number of other ways:

- Used as a backup medium, it is a very reliable medium with an extremely long life time.

- Doing your own premastering, you can save time and money in mass-production by delivering a finished and tested master CD to the factory.

- If you need to ship larger amounts of data, you can create a single CD and avoid all the problems of incompatible tape streamers or backupsoftware.

Consider the Multisession CD

If you decide to purchase a CD-R drive, try getting a drive and software that can handle multiple sessions. In practical terms this means that you can store some files on the CD, use it for a while and add more data in further "sessions" later on. You might even allow others to add a session with their own CD-R drive and return the CD to you before you add the final session that locks and write protects the CD for good.

Co-produce and save

Note however that some older CD drives might not be able to read anything but the first of these sessions. So if you are aiming at a wider audience, you'd probably want to create a single session CD for the final distribution.

Co-producing a CD can be an attractive option. Most NGOs won't need 650 MB of space for their information. So why not get together with other groups and share a disk. The benefits of such a joint venture speak for themselves:

- Because of the higher numbers of CDs you can probably go for factory production and cut your cost per disk.

- If you need database solutions and agree on a software, you will probably get a much better deal.

- Since every NGO reaches a different audience, your information will likely be seen by far more people.

And even if you are planning to sell your information for more than just replication cost, this approach is still viable. Just use a software that allows a user to unlock "your" part of a CD with a password that she needs to purchase from you.


Reading the introduction above will hopefully give you a basic understanding what CD-ROM publishing is about.

However, it does not answer a number of questions you need to ask to determine if this is a useful technology for your organisation. To 11st just a few you need to find out - if you really need to publish large volumes of information that justify the technology If the information can be distributed on a few floppy disks, think twice before using a CD. I was able to publish all important documents from the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna and its preparatory conferences on less than five floppy disks. - if a majority of your audience already has a CD-ROM drive or is planning to get one in the near future. If not, the increased cost of smaller print runs can easily eat up any savings you achieve with your CDs.

And finally, please do consider the impact on resources and the environment. Although a CD can theoretically save some 300,000 pages of printed paper, you often use just a fraction of that space while the high environmental impact of producing media and drives remains the same. Floppy disks can be reused many times and paper can be recycled to paper; an outdated CD may at best become a jewel case, while it normally ends up as long life garbage.

A practical example

Let's say you have worked for an umbrella organisation of 40 human rights groups around the world. For the annual conference you need to prepare a reader with a large number of papers and background information.

Because of the amount of material it seems impractical to send the reader by e-mail, so you decide to create a CD-ROM in order to save on printing and shipping. In an attempt to simplify your work, you appeal to all participants to send their contributions by e-mail or on disk and to use one of a few previously established document formats (i.e. ASCII-Text, Winword 5, HTML). Contributions that arrive in printed form are scanned and converted to text and images.

You are planning to publish the information on CD -ROM and also offer it on the World Wide Web. So you opt for HTML and convert all documents to HTML pages with text and images. As the deadline draws closer, you create a new directory tree on your hard disks and think up a logical directory structure for storing the individual documents.

Next you connect to the internet and download the current version of a free WWW viewer-software (i.e. Mosaic) for every operating system that your readers use. Each package is placed in a seperate subdirectory, and perhaps you'll add some instructions for installing the individual version. Don't forget to add a page that lists all the different versions and tells your reader which one to install on her operating system.

Once all documents are in place you add a number of overview documents (also in HTML) that allow access to the information by mouseclick and offer different access routes (i.e. by organisation, subject, region, etc). Since you have planned well there is time left to add additional cross-references between different documents and further enhance the informational content of the disk.

Now you can create the CDs. Since there are not too many participants you decide to produce all of them on your CD-R drive and use the multi session technique to be able to add more later on. You include a note asking participants to bring the CDs with them to the conference.
Then you place the materials on your World Wide Web Server to reach an even wider audience. Because the documents were prepared using World Wide Web technologies, you can do that with out much extra work. Once the conference has begun, you start gathering the reports of the working groups and store them in your computer for further processing. Your first reader probably didn't take up the whole 650 MB capacity of the CDs. So you can offer to update the original reader disk and add the information from the conference in a second session.

When preparing the new material for the update you have the choice of just adding new documents or replacing some of them with modified versions. That way you can completely integrate the new documents with the previous reader.

When you're done, all you have to do is write the new information as the final session to the CD-ROM to obtain a completely write protected CD and mail it to the participants.

How to handle your CD-Rom

Although CDs are insensitive to many foes of the floppy disk, the tiny silver disks are by no means indestructible, and should be handled with great car. To ensure the uninhibited passing of the laser beam throughout the clear top (or rather bottom) layers of the disk, it is of utmost importance to protect the clear coating layer against scratching and abrasion.

The best way to achieve this is to always store the CDs in a clean box when they are not in use. If you use a small number of CDs frequently, consider getting a drive that uses so-called "caddies". Instead of handling the bare CD - ROM; each CD is permantly stored in a caddy and inserted with it into the drive, thus avoiding wear and scratching.

If your CD gets just a bit dusty or somebody has left fingerprints on the surface, you can usually wipe it with a clean, soft piece of cloth. Just make sure to always wipe the CD in a radial movement from the centre to the rim because if you happen to scratch the surface, the error correction of a CD can deal much better with scratches in this direction.

Creating a CD-ROM

A mighty force

The activities of KSSP, Kerala's People's Science Movement

by Uwe Hoering

KSSP started bringing science back to the people of Kerala by publishing scientific material in the local Malayalee language. It has since staged a large variety of activities aimed at combatting superstition and resignation.

The people of Ulloor are on the ball. They have drawn a map of their village and the surrounding district with details of houses, huts and paths. They are establishing how the land can be utilised and what water supply problems they will have to tackle. They are counselled and supervised by soil scientists and cartographers of Kerala's state land use authority. Their survey of the available sources of the land, water and vegetation forms the foundation for future development planning.

Leaving the drawing up of a resources map to the villagers themselves is typical of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP), Kerala's People's Science Movement. Ever since it was set up in the sixties, it has been involved in getting science and technology out of the ivory tower and circles of experts and "bringing it back to the everyday life of everyday people, its creators and beneficiaries», as K.K. Krishnakumar puts it.

"We are convinced that science is a powerful force that will boost changes in society," says Mr Krishnakumar, who is an engineer of the State Planning Authority in Thiruvananthapuram; the capital of Kerala and has been a member of KSSP ever since its inception. Just like him, and regardless of their political affiliations, many technicians, scientists, doctors, jurists and teachers support the People's Science Movement and its basic conviction that scientific enlightenment is a potent remedy against superstition, religious prejudice, nationalist fanaticism and helpless resignation to existing problems.

Scientific material in the local language

The first step was to publish scientific material which had hitherto been available exclusively in English in the local language of Malayalee. The Malayalee publications are not at all expensive, and are written in a clear and straightforward style. They cover Darwin's theory of evolution and agricultural production methods, education and health and the envioronment and technology. There are an encyclopaedia for lay-people, a children's magazine called Eureka, "Sastra Kerala", a periodical for juveniles and a host of novels, dramas and science fiction books.

However, the " People's Science Movement» made a point of actually entering the villages. In order to improve the teaching of natural sciences in rural areas, it organised courses for natural history teachers, donated material and equipment for physics and chemistry lessons and supported "science clubs" at schools. Lectures were organised for the villagers, and discussion fore gave them the opportunity to work out solutions of their own to problems they were facing. This provided a counterbalance to top-down planning through authorities and companies. «Before, people used to believe that science and technology was only there for people who had studied,» says C.P. Narayan, KSSP's General Secretary.

The "Science and Culture Caravan", Sastra Kala Jatha, is an integral part of KSSP's activities, and forms their annual climax. "Theatre makes people inquisitive," says theatre producer Jos Chirammel. "It provides an impulse to reflect on one's own situation and that of society as a whole. » For several weeks, the lay theatre groups travel from village to village and school to school. Folk drama elements are cleverly combined with traditional story-telling styles, folk myths and popular songs and film music, and they are filled with new contents. Topics addressed include discrimination against women and the exploitation of agricultural workers, the hazards of environmental destruction and nuclear weapons, and the significance of education and solidarity.
Some facts and figures

KSSP is India's largest science publisher. It has al- ready published 600 books and produces 30-40 new titles per year. Nearly 90 percent of its income derives from this activity.

KSSP has 60,000 members, 10,000 of whom are teachers. KSSP strives to raise both the standards and the commitment of teachers, and the achievement and enjoyment of learning of students.

The foundation of KSSP can be traced back to that of Science Literary Forum in 1957 by a group of concerned activists and science writers. Five years later KSSP, which literally means Science Writers' Forum of Kerala, was formally established.

Arming people with knowledge

The KSSP soon became a factor that parties, politics, industry and bureaucracy had to reckon with. It drew public attention to water pollution through industrial companies. And its sound criticism helped stop the planned errection of a reservoir dam in a rain forest area with a particularly rich biodiversity. «Our contribution was that of informing people," Mr Narayan explains. "Again and again, we can observe that people themselves become politically active once they have been armed, as it were, with knowledge.»

In arguing that environmental protection and development are not opposed to eachother but have to progress hand in hand, the KSSP played a pioneering role in India. But it also contributed to the fact that, unlike, the popularity of the Hindu nationalists has remained at a low level in Kerala. It campaigns for democracy and democratic decentralisation, and against the might of multinationals and the negative social impact of the economic liberalisation course the government in New Delhi has been pursuing for a number of years. "We are political in that we campaign for an improvement in living standards of the majority of the population, and for a widening of their knowledge and their cultural horizon," says Mr Narayan.

The literacy campaign that it ran by order of the state government in the mid-eighties was also about far more than reading and writing. "It is just as important to impart to people scientific concepts of our society, the universe, the world in the 20th century in which we are living and causes of backwardness. These are issues they are interested in,"says Mr Narayan.

Literacy campaign a model for NGOs

This has been underscored by their success. 20,000 volunteers, including housewives, salaried employees, fishermen and workers, were won over to run the courses. Five years later, Kerala announced that illiteracy was a thing of the past. The campaign became a model for several other NGOs throughout India.

TV competition

However, the "People's Science Movement" now has to orientate itself on television programmes. If an instalment of the "Ramayana", the film serial version of the popular Hindu epos, just happens to be showing on TV, then its events are only poorly attended, Ms Radhamani, a staff member of the KSSP, complains. Even in the most remote hamlets, glamorous soap operas and adverts are attracting people to the television. This means serious competition for debating societies, books and street theatres.

Contact addresses:
Kerala Sastra
Sahithya Parishat
Paryshat Bhavan,
Guruvayur Road
Thrissur- 680 004
Kerala State, India
Tel.: +91 (0)487381084
Fax.: +91 (0)487331505
General Secretary (home):
Tel.: + 91 (0) 4 88 82 35 75

Turning industrial waste into compost

A successful environmental-protection and resource-conservation project in Brazil

by Winfried Schmidt

Citrus farmers in the Vale do Cai region of Porto Alegre's hinterland who switched to ecofarming have set up their own company that is developing a method of turning organic waste from the region into compost by aerobic fermentation. The compost is to be distributed among the shareholders. Consultancy is being provided to the farmers via a GTZ-supported scheme.

Composting residues from the food industry is an economically viable approach to disposal and supplies ecofarmers with low-cost fertiliser for their citrus crops. The GTZ-assisted project in Brazil has succeeded in combining environmental protection with economic interests. The author describes how these successful measures took root.

Most foods consumed and exported by Brazil are produced and processed by the agro-industries in the Federal State of Rio Grande do Sul. Enormous dumps of organic waste are scattered over the State.

Enforcing stricter waste disposal legislation is not an easy task because the authorities are having difficulties in setting limits and ensuring that they are adhered to. Nor has it yet been possible to break the waste producers' resistance to disposing of the residues using the latest technology as this entails very high costs for them.

Problematic organic industrial waste

The state environmental authority FEPAM has set up a hazardous waste cadastre with the assistance of Technical Cooperation funds in which 383 large, medium and small-scale food and leather processing industries are registered in greater Porto Alegre alone. In most of these industries, organic waste from the production process is not being disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

For example, TANAC and SETA, the producers of organic leather tanning agents, generate some 500,000 tons of acacia bark, a residue from tannin extraction, each year and dump it near the factory grounds. In one very serious case a dump was even established along a riverside in the outskirts of Montenegro without sealing the foundations, and since 1990 the urban groundwater there has been contaminated with lignin.

The state environmental authority FEPAM has declared the bark extract dump a contaminated site. Since 1995 operators wishing to prolong their operating licences have had to guarantee that residues from ongoing production be disposed of according to the latest state of the art and in the long term undertake to rehabilitate any contaminated sites generated in earlier production years.


The Vale do Cai region in Porto Alegre's immediate hinterland is a traditional citrus fruit growing area. Full time and part time farmers cultivate average cropping areas of 5 hectares, growing mandarines, lemons and oranges using conventional methods. The PRORENDA project, an assistance programme of German Technical Co-operation, is promoting small farmers in the Harmonia region. It gave the first impulses for setting up co-operatives and organising marketing in 1990.

In this context a group of mostly young citrus farmers decided to turn to eco-farming and gradually switched over their fruit plantations to less aggressive cropping methods without using mineral fertilisers and pesticides. They quickly realised that for the new farming system to be sustainable, artificial fertiliser must be replaced by high quality organic compost.

A parallel survey revealed that large volumes of organic residues from the agro-industries were dumped in the region. Pilot tests demonstrated that the residues could be transformed into organic compost without this requiring any large-scale technical input.

Organic waste composting project

The conditions were a favourable launching pad for the ECOCITRUS concept. Industries, for their part, were faced with the problem of coping with the new regulations to rehabilitate their contaminated sites and organise appropriate disposal paths for everyday production waste. A group of committed ecofarmers on the other hand, was working to obtain approval to use these waste products as raw material for their composting process.

The ECOCITRUS group established itself as a company with the goal of turning organic waste from the region into compost by aerobic fermentation. The articles of association underlined the company's non-profit-making goals. The final product - the compost - is to be distributed amongst the share-holders, enabling them to save the high costs for mineral fertiliser.

The organic products obtained are expected to be an impulse for the market. Initial surveys indicate that organic citrus fruits fetch a high price on the Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo markets.

The group rented a 3.4 hectare site. The 20 shareholders levelled and compacted the ground themselves, built a collecting tank for the surface water and a sealed basin for the liquid fruit pulp, a component of the composting process. To date, the company associates have covered the operating costs by a monthly membership fee of 150 Real (approx. DM 230).

The GTZ-assisted "Environmental and Resource Protection FEPAM" project provided consultancy to the farmers during the experimental phase. Long-term and shortterm experts gave technical assistance on designing the plantsite and optimising the composting process.

The composting process

The chief ingredients of the compost (expressed as m³ per year) are: 50,000 m³ acacia bark, 6,000 m³ ash, 4,000 m³ charcoal, 3,000 m³ fruit pulp from orange juice manufacturing and 2,000 m³ paunch contents and other slaughterhouse waste. The organic wastes are moistened with the fruit pulp, mixed and deposited in 1.5 m high triangular stocks. Although the addition of fruit pulp with pH-value 5 hinders the composting process at the beginning, this problem is remedied by adding ash from burned acacia wood. The alkaline ash raises the pH-value to 6-7, which is suitable for composting. Absorptive charcoal binds any unpleasant odours generated when mixing the raw materials and during the composting process itself. Thanks to the high proportion of bark sufficient structural material is available, the oxygen supply is adequate and surplus heat is ventilated from the centre of the stock.

These two processes (oxygen supply and heat removal) are vital to composting and are supported by perforated plastic pipes sunk vertically into the stock. Once prepared, the stocks are covered with a layer of acacia bark to stop any unpleasant odours from escaping and to protect the composting material from drying out or becoming too wet depending on the weather. When the stock content is turned over, the moisture content can be regulated, if necessary, by adding water from the rain collection tanks. The rotting process takes 6 - 9 months depending on the season.

Promising results

The first results are very promising. The quality control of the initial compost series gave the following values: moisture content 40 %, organic content 40%, C/N ratio 10/1, nitrogen content 2%. The pure organic compost obtained does not contain heavy metals or other pollutants.

ECOCITRUS is presently tackling the problem of reducing the turn-around time of the material in the compost yard and ensuring that the high volumes of material are processed better and more efficiently. 21,000 tons of organic compost have been produced to date-enough to provide organic fertiliser for 400 hectares of citrus plantations.

Popularising neem as an insecticide

Socio-economic factors influence farmers' use of neem

by Carsten Hellpap and Wilfried Leupolz

The neem tree (Azardirachta indica) originally native to southeast and southern Asia has been introduced to almost all tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Considering the neem's high potential as a natural insecticide, GTZ has supported several projects to popularize the use of neem for pest control in different countries such as the Dominican Republic, Ecuador (cf "gate" 4/90, pp 25-27), Niger, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

The projects generally targeted farmers poor in resources, as they are most needy of support in improving their production techniques.

Neem offers a particularly promising and appropriate plant protection method for this group as it requires no financial inputs, causes no health hazards and is ecologically sound.

Consequently, project activities concentrated on homemade neem products such as neem-seed water extract and neem oil and put only minor emphasis on industrially-produced extracts which are too expensive. Extension work consisted of personal advice to pilot farmers, talks to farmer groups, leaflets, posters and demonstration plots.

Slow dissemination

The major results of the project efforts have been the planting of hundreds of thousands of neem trees in rural areas, a tremendous increase In research and development activities on neem worldwide and the introduction of neem at farm level. In all project countries there are now about 50 to 500 farmers regularly applying neem preparations as insecticide. They are the focus for the dissemination of neem technology. However, neem is not likely to become a common pest control method for most farmers in these countries in the near future as disseminating neem technology among farmers is a slow process.

When analysing the reasons for the slow adoption the following basic factors should be examined, as they determine to a large degree the prospects for the sustainable use of home-made neem insecticides:

· availability and cost of raw materials,
· quality and effectiveness of the preparation, application rate of the raw material,
· requirements of labour, technology, capital, energy and know-how and
· access to and attitude towards synthetic pesticides.

In many sub-tropical/semiarid countries of Africa and Asia, neem trees are in abundant supply, but they are relatively scarce in Latin America. Neem grows primarily in dry regions and is often not found in the more humid vegetable-growing areas which are specially suitable for neem insecticide applications. Increased use of neem is only possible, therefore, if a structure for marketing neem raw materials already exists. This precondition is often not fulfilled or neem commercialisation is still in its initial stages.

Cost of the raw material varies

Neem seeds are far more expensive in Latin America than in Asia and Africa due to the different harvest methods used. In Africa and most Asian countries, birds and fruit bats feed on the fruit of the neem trees and the already depulped neem seeds can be collected from under the trees. In almost all Latin American countries, in contrast, seeds are not collected off the ground but gathered from the tree or pulled off the branches being cut. This method gives better quality seeds but is also more costly.

Even in Latin America home-made aqueous extracts of neem seeds bought directly from the picker (1 kg seed = 0.9 US$) are cheaper than synthetic insecticides. But if seeds have to be bought from traders (1 kg seed = 2 US$), the cost of the neem seed water extract becomes comparable to that of more expensive synthetic insecticides.

Active ingredients

The profitability and effectiveness of home-made neem products depend on the content of active ingredients in the raw material. Most important hereby is the triterpenoid Azadirachtin. The content of this ingredient in the seeds can vary between 0.1 and 0.5% even in seeds from the same plantation. It is not yet known which factors are decisive for the Azadirachtin concentration. varieties with exceptionally high active ingredient content have not been identified.

Nor are there any conclusive results of the effect of climatic factors and soil conditions. Another problem is the handling of the seeds. If not dried and stored properly they can easily turn mouldy, leading to a degradation of the active compounds and consequently to a drop in efficiency. To compensate for this, the farmer would have to apply higher amounts of the rotten seeds.

Technologically simple, but labour intensive

Despite the difficulties in obtaining high-quality raw materials, the efficiency of neem at farm level does not seem to be a general problem. According to an opinion poll among 124 farmers in Nicaragua, 74 % consider neem to be effective or very effective for controlling pests.

Home-made neem products can be prepared using simple technology not requiring any capital or energy. However, collecting and processing of neem seeds are labour intensive. An African farmer spends approximately 32 hours on these activities for a 1ha crop. His Latin American colleague needs even more time as fruit harvesting and processing are more labour intensive.

The neem harvest may compete for time with other important agricultural activities so that the farmer has to invest leisure time for the neem harvest. Many farmers are not able or willing to spend such an amount of time on their neem insecticide and prefer cheap synthetic insecticides or do not control their pests at all. They will only use neem if preprocessed or finished neem products are available at low prices.

Successful use of homemade products demands planning abilities and knowledge on the specific characteristics of neem. The neem seed harvest does not usually coincide with its use as insecticide. Farmers must therefore estimate in advance how much of raw material they require. Wrong calculations may cause a lot of work in vain or mean not having enough to sufficiently protect their crop.

Farmers have to know how to handle the seed so that it does not deteriorate. Also, neem differs from most other insecticides since it is not a contact poison. The active ingredients generally have to be ingested by the pest. Neem is only effective if the aqueous extract or the oil preparation completely cover the plants by thorough spraying. Neem has no knock-down effect. It kills insects slowly in several stages.

Farmers should know that neem is not effective against several sucking insect species. Considering these characteristics, neem is not a very simple pest control method. Many farmers will not obtain the expected results when applying neem for the first time. Training from extension officers and neem experts is expedient to avoid major failures.

Competition with synthetic pesticides

In conventional agriculture, neem preparations compete with other plant protection methods, especially synthetic insecticides. So acceptance of neem products depends heavily on the price policy for imported agricultural inputs. When synthetic pesticides are sold at low, subsidised prices, neem insecticides have barely a chance of being successful on the market.

The attitudes to use of neem are influenced by sociocultural factors such as values, norms and models for a better life and agricultural production in society. So neem will be more easily accepted in regions where farmers:

· have no strong negative attitude towards additional manual work,

· are aware of health and environmental problems of synthetic pesticides,

· are educated in school and have received additional training in integrated and ecological pest management,

· consider neem as a valuable natural resource not only as an insecticide but also as a source of medical preparations or cosmetic products.

The projects address farmers' attitudes

There is a correlation between economic aspects, socio-cultural constraints and acceptance of neem. Farmers who have a more disinterested attitude towards neem for socio-cultural reasons will only accept it if the economic benefit is high. The dissemination of neem is easier if the sociocultural constraints are low. In this case the economical advantage of the neem application can also be lower.

Projects therefore often aim at changing the socio-cultural conditions to facilitate the introduction of neem by, for example, increasing the awareness about the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides or training farmers in ecological pest control. Experiences to date show that for such a project strategy to be successful, it is not enough to work with pilot farmers alone, for the attitude of farmers towards new technologies is strongly influenced by the community they live in.

If farmers feel isolated and not supported by their families and by neighbors when applying neem they will hardly continue to use this method after the project finishes. Extension work on neem should always include the farmers' community too.

A most promising project strategy is to focus activities on regions where social cultural constraints are low and on crops or production systems in which neem applications have a clear economic advantage compared to other plant protection methods.


In the medium and long run it can be expected that socio-cultural and economic obstacles to neem use will diminish worldwide as:

· more and more cheap but highly toxic synthetic pesticides are taken from the market,

· farmers become increasingly aware about the health and environmental hazards of synthetic pesticides,

· the demand for pesticide free agricultural products grows, while contaminated products are less accepted by consumers,

· subsidies for synthetic pesticides decrease,

· farmers' knowledge about pest control improves and

· the availability of commercial neem products at reasonable prices increases.

The potential of neem will continue to be underutilised for several years until it can establish itself a common plant protection method in a more ecologically oriented agricultural production system.

Further information: Dr. Carsten Hellpap Information and Advisory Service on Appropriate Technology (ISAT)
Deutsche Gesellschaft fhnische Zusammenarbeit GmbH
P.O.B. 5180
D 65726 Eschborn Germany
Tel.: ++ 49 6196-79-3188
Fax.: ++49 6196-79-7352
e-mail: [email protected]

Dr. Wilfried Leupolz Finkhof
St. Ulrich Str. 1
D 88410 Arnach
Tel.: ++49-7564-931730
Fax.: ++49-7564-931712

More readiness to talk

The process of mutual dialogue is in progress

by Roland Seifert

Experience is gathered throughout the world every day. But often, additional know-how is required to actually change a given state of affairs. And individual insights might be of considerable use elsewhere. Clearly, dialogue is required between those with a problem and those with a solution to it.

In sugar cane processing in Columbia, bagasse is sent straight back into the ovens once it has been pressed. The pressed and still damp sugar canes are burnt and thus transformed into energy that is required for the process as a whole. This method has been steadily refined over the years in Columbia. But in Haiti, where sugar cane is also processed, it used to be unknown. The ovens used there were unsuitable for the method. Instead, valuable timber resources were used as fuel. It was only through mutual contact that an important technology transfer was facilitated.

The Brazilian agronomist R Trier discovers Moringa oleifera, an unusual plant, at a workshop in Burkina Faso. He finds the effects of the plant baffling. Its seeds clear cloudy, polluted water and show the same results as aluminium sulphate. But it is precisely this chemical substratum that is beyond people's means in the northeast of Brazil. The smallholders of the Caatinga scoop their drinking water out of pools they have dug themselves. It is brown and is organically polluted. Impressed with the effects of Moringa oleifera, R Trier starts initial cultivation trials with seed from Africa in co-operation with the NGO AS- PTA (Assessoria e servicos a projetos em agriculture alternative). Insights that have been gathered are imparted to the people of the Caatinga during a workshop, and they are also shown how to handle the seed.

One technology had a long way to travel in the eighties. It all started in China. In order to develop self-sufficient solutions to waste water problems, biogas technology was already promoted in China at a very early stage. This technology attracted attention in Tanzania. Small biogas plants were set up, modified and adapted to local conditions. However, improvements in the burner and construction technology then led to a breakthrough not only in Tanzania, but also in Thailand. It was above all in rural areas that biogas proved more and more useful in cooking and as a substitute for kerosene and expensive bottled gas. Communal waste water treatment was adopted in the programme of the regional authorities and integrated in national energy policy.

Insights don't just spread like that

Throughout the world, different and individual experience is gathered every day. Often enough, it can serve to solve a certain problem without any further input. But much more frequently, there is a lack of know-how to reach a different, and better, state of affairs. Insights that have been gained at local level do not simply jump over to another region. Rather, dialogue is required between those that have a problem and those that can offer a solution. But how does the right information get to those who need it at the right time?

With the onset of the information society, information management is maturing more and more as an industrial branch in its own right. Commercial firms can compile smaller or larger information packages tailored to customers' needs and offer them to their clients at a respective price. Neither are there any limits to individual research. For information of all kinds can be obtained via a multitude of channels and media at any time. Computeraided data networks such as Internet extend access facilities.

However, unlike in the North, access to information is often restricted, and in rural areas, it is even more of a problem. Libraries are only located in the big, far-off cities. Newspapers and magazines cost money, and getting linked up with international data networks is only in very slow progress.

Setting up regional networks is one way of countering this problem. Under the motto "From the region - For the Region", the regional information network SIATA (Service Inter-Africain sur les Technologies Appropri) was set up in December 1993. It is an amalgamation of almost 150 West and Central African NGOs that have their headquarters in Ouagadoudou in Burkina Faso. SIATA sees itself as a knowledge silo, a "Grenier». And "Le Grenier" is the name of the network's journal. SIATA aims at integrating traditional knowledge from the region in its information and consulting services range. Also, emphasis is to be put on employing local experts for local consulting tasks.

Information for local manufacturers

SIATA can already boast success. Owing to the economic crisis in the region and the resulting depreciation of the Franc-CFA, most people cannot afford imported goods. Therefore, SIATA is facing a particularly high demand for information on the local manufacture of soaps and basic cosmetics. This also holds for jam making and fruit drying.

Transferring and imparting technological knowledge is also the object of another network based in Thailand, the Regional Information Service Center for South East Asia on Appropriate Technology. It is dealt with in detail in the Focus section of this gate edition. Just like RISE-AT, SIATA is supported by the Information and Advisory Service on Appropriate Technology (ISAT). In their respective contexts, both networks aim at considering both technical aspects and the cultural, ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity of their regions. They have set themselves the task of providing information and consulting services in the field of technology. Of course there are many other organisations that pursue similar goals.

In Latin America, networks can boast a long-standing tradition. The region disposes of a large number of networks in areas such as medicinal plants, credit systems, adult education and agriculture. And there is the Experts Network for Locally Appropriate Agriculture (Movimiento Agroecologico de America Latina y el caribe). It is the purpose of this network to promote a new development network that is socially just, ecologically sustainable and economically viable, that respects cultural diversity and is based on the participation of the people.

A new process

The above examples do not demonstrate a status quo. Rather, they indicate a process that is in progress in the countries of the South. Without a transfer of know-how, the sugar cane farmers in Haiti could still be burning up important timber reserves, and the effects of the Moringa oleifera plant would still be just as little known in Brazil as biogas technology in Tanzania and Thailand. It is only the establishment of local technological competence that can support this process. It requires close technical and organisational collaboration at regional level as well as the readiness to engage in mutual dialogue.