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10 Cases of Appropriate Technology

xilebat . . . Comments

The goal of Appropriate Technology (AT) is to increase the standard of living for the developing world without condescension, complication, or environmental damage. Typical AT inventions are more labor intensive, require fewer resources, and use low cost or readily available materials wherever possible. Special attention is paid to the social, cultural, and ethical aspects of the communities the technology is intended for. Submitted for your approval are 10 inventions using these principles, and they are every bit as ingenious as anything coming out of Silicon Valley. You will also find several links to charitable organizations distributing these products for little or no cost, should you wish to contribute to their efforts.


One Laptop Per Child

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The developing world may be falling behind when competing for resources, but it hasn’t even started regarding technology. The “One Laptop One Child” project aims to fix this. Its goal is to create a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected computer for children in the third world. Its XO laptop is about the size of a small textbook, with built-in wireless and a screen readable in direct sunlight (for children who school outdoors). The computer is extremely durable, energy efficient, and has a childlike industrial design to discourage gray market trafficking—whip this out at the boardroom and everybody will know who’s NOT getting to use it. XO laptops have already been delivered to children in Afghanistan and East Africa, with additional shipments scheduled for the Palestinian Occupied Territories. More information.


Solar Powered Lightbulb


Though we can’t really fathom it, much of the world is still prisoner to darkness. Nokero’s N100 solar-powered light bulb may change that. This clever product stores electricity from daylight, one of the few commodities rural India, Africa and most of the third world has abundantly. Designed specifically for use in developing nations, the LED bulbs can provide four hours of light when the battery is fully charged. That may not sound like much to you or me, but consider the scarce wood burning fuel this replaces. The N100 is constructed from impact-resistant plastic and includes four solar panels, five LEDs and replaceable NiMH batteries said to last two years. Complete units cost $15 apiece, but may someday cost as little as $6 per unit in bulk. More information.


Concrete Canvas Shelters

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UK firm Concrete Canvas knows too well that “temporary” tent cities for refugees offer little protection from the elements, and a more sturdy solution is needed using local materials. Their solution is Concrete Canvas, an ingenious material for rapidly deployable hardened shelters that require only their product, water and air for construction. Just pump up the air bladder to provide temporary scaffolding, put the Concrete Canvas on top of the air bladder, and pour fresh or even salt water on the canvas. Let the canvas dry for 24 hours. Then remove the air bladder and you have a sturdy (25 or 54 sqm) shelter that can last up to 10 years. It’s even waterproof and fireproof. Two people with no training can assemble the smaller CCS25 version in 24 hours. More information.


Universal Nut Sheller


Prior to Jock Brandis’ Universal Nut Sheller, growing and harvesting peanuts in Africa was a time-and-labor intensive affair relegated to women and children. However, his simple hand-powered device – capable of shelling 50 kilograms (110 lb) of raw, sun-dried peanuts per hour – is now making African nut farming plausible. The device requires less than $50 in common materials to make, lasts 25 years, and just one sheller can serve the needs of a 2,000 person village. Thus it was no surprise when it won the 2006 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough award. The Full Belly Project in North Carolina, USA, is working to establish businesses that manufacture and distribute the Universal Nut Sheller, since the machine can quadruple farmer incomes and encourage nut farming, which prevents erosion and returns nitrogen to the soil. Field feedback indicates that the machine works well with shea nuts in Uganda, but Ghana residents report that the Universal Nut Sheller broke the peanuts into unacceptable sizes. More information.


Pot-In-Pot Refrigerator

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In 2001, Nigerian Mohammed Bah Abba won the 2001 Rolex Awards for Enterprise with his invention of a simple cooling system to preserve food in rural areas with no electricity. His solution was a Pot-in-Pot refrigerator, which relies on the concept of evaporative cooling. The system works by putting a smaller clay pot inside a larger one, separating the two by constantly moist sand. Evaporation causes a cooling effect in the inner pot. Eggplants are reported to stay fresh for 27 days, nine times their usual expiration date. Tomatoes and peppers can last for up to 21 days (I can’t even get that to happen in my own refrigerator!) More information.


Bike Powered Water Pump

UK Engineering student John Leary knows his “Gilligan’s Island”, and the world may be better off for it. When challenged to design a product from only waste materials, he created a bicycle-powered water pump for irrigation and water distribution in Guatemala. NGO Maya Pedal learned of the product and assisted in distribution, since its goal is to improve the daily lives of locals without finicky (and expensive) fossil fuel machines. The product works by plugging a normal bike’s rear wheel to a friction drive, connected to an electrical pump. The back tire contacts with the former armature of the motor, and the wheels are moved by raw muscle power. The machine can pump 40 liters of well water per minute, and locals love the design because it’s so portable (when you’re done pumping, just flip the frame upside down and the pump sits atop the back wheel, so you can ride off to the next well). The machine is now in regular production in Guatemala. More information.


Free Wheelchair Mission


Okay, the wheelchair did previously exist, but not one this cheap, and 20 million people in the world need one. NOW. After seeing a disabled Moroccan woman drag herself across a busy street, MIT grad Don Schoendorfer and his wife Laurie decided to do something about it. They reasoned that the key issue was wheelchair affordability, so they developed one with the lowest possible cost. The resulting FWM wheelchair uses elements already in existence, components currently in manufacture and off-the-shelf parts already being produced in very high volumes. By using this approach, FWM has an extraordinarily low $59.20 manufacturing cost. The FWM wheelchair is manufactured in China for maximum economy, packed in bulk in 40’ ocean-going containers, and shipped directly to the receiving country for highest efficiency. As of this writing, FWM has delivered 481,655 wheelchairs to 77 countries, all at no cost to the recipients. More information.


Hippo Roller Water Project


In some African villages, fetching potable water can take most of an entire day, and is typically a chore left to women and children. The Hippo Roller is a simple tool for transporting water from distant watering-holes back to homes and villages – an alternative to the traditional 5-gallon-barrels-on-heads approach. The product itself is similar to a barrel with a handle that you push ahead of you like a steamroller’s drum, and has a capacity of 90 liters / 24 gallons. That’s nearly a 5X increase in productivity. In the past 15 years, the Hippo Roller Water Project has distributed over 30,000 rollers, directly benefitting over 200,000 people. More information.


Rocket Stove

800Px-Rocket Stove

A rocket stove is a super-efficient heater invented at the Aprovecho Research Center to reduce biomass fuel requirements in developing countries. It combines the stove’s air-intake with the fuel-feed slot in an opening terminated by a combustion chamber, which in turn leads to a chimney and heat exchanger. Rocket Stoves are commonly used today in Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. The stoves are easy to build using local materials, and accept small diameter fuel such as twigs and branches. The resultant heat is directed to a very small area, and greatly reduces the amount of wood fuel needed for cooking and boiling water. Aprovecho won the 2009 Ashden International Energy Champion Award for its Rocket Stove technology. More information.



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In 2009, an estimated 5,000 deaths from unsafe drinking water occurred every day. This is down from 6,000 in 2007, and Vestergaard Frandsen’s Lifestraw played its’ part in the decline. The Lifestraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool, with a service lifetime of 700 liters, or about one year of water consumption for a single person. Unlike other water purification products, Lifestraw is intuitive to use, can be worn around the neck, and requires no training, special tools or electricity to operate. The sucking action of the straw pulls the water through a filter that traps 99.999% of waterborne bacteria (such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcus) and 98.7% of waterborne viruses. The Lifestraw has won countless awards, including Time Magazine’s “Best Invention of 2005”, “Europe’s Best Innovation” by Reader’s Digest, and “Innovation of the Year” by Esquire. More information.


Corn Sheller

Cti Corn Sheller

Designing products for developing nations is a unique challenge because inventors are creating technologies for cultures of which they have little, or no, experience. Ignorance of daily life and values in developing countries can pose difficulty envisioning how people might use an invention, or whether said invention fills a need at all. Case in point: Compatible Technology International visited Guatemala and observed women hand-shelling corn. They saw how labor-intensive the manual shelling process was, and, being engineers with a problem in their sights, they quickly developed a corn sheller out of a piece of wood with a hole in the middle. The women pushed the ear of corn through the hole, shaving the kernels from the cob MUCH more quickly. So the engineers crafted and donated several of their devices, convinced of their good deed. But when they returned months later, they found the women still hand-shelling corn. The women told them, ‘Thanks for your invention, it’s much easier. But this is the time we use to talk about men, school, and kids, and your device makes our work too fast for that.’ (Take heart guys, Edison had a similar experience selling a vote counter to the US Congress – of course they were talking about bribes and war, not ‘men, school and kids’.) More information.

  • Kimani

    As a resident of a "developing" country I appreciate any ideas that may help alleviate some of the unnecessary suffering that goes on. but just don't fell sorry for us, some of the happiest people i have met live in slums.

    • Randomguy

      Absolutely. I've travelled around the Pacific Islands, and while the living conditions often have a lot of room for improvement, the people there are some of the most relaxed, friendly, genuinely happy people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

      It certainly made me have a quiet chuckle at all the stress I saw in my fellow Australian urbanites back in Melbourne. I don't recall seeing anyone in Vanuatu act like a slave to the accumulation of material goods.

  • CrazyCizza

    Rather than coming up with these inventions, we should just hand out huge amounts of cannabis, solving the worlds' problems in no time at all.

    God I'm a genius.

    • aaa

      I am going to make a religion after you.

      • So you equate religion with a blissful stupor? Nice.

        • mahala

          why not? isn't religion all about being HIGH?

    • AlwaysVigilant

      yes you are a genius

    • leithold

      request for moderation please

  • LifeStraw sounds awesome.

    • VintageObsessive

      I AGREE! I am totally intrigued by Lifestraw and am suprised I haven't heard of it before!

  • Jesenjin

    lol, mayapedal went down due to too much bandwidth used :D

  • deezer26

    Love the Lifestraw and free wheelchairs!! What brilliant ideas. Thanks for a great list.

  • Arsnl

    I wonder if the us, the uk, germany, japan built their economies on the solar powered light bulb or on the bike powered water pump. While all these inventions help now a group of people, i imagine they wont build an economy or an industry or an agriculture. Long term solutions would be to find ways of spreading the wealth more equally. But for the moment these things do the job of helping people.
    I wonder how much the rocket stove costs?

    • coocoocuchoo

      no, we built ours when there was no such thing as solar powerd or incadecent light bulbs, in the 19th century parts of London and probably cities in the other nations mentioned in your post were just as bad or even worse than some modern LEDC slums. the fact that an economy could grow back then means that these economies can also grow, granted it is not going to happen overnight or soley due to innovations such as those in the list, but with NGOs handing out micro-loans so a person can set up a small shop or business and other new ways of encouraging economic growth and development, at least they are going forward slowly rather than backwards at all.

    • Tyrone

      The inventors of the rocket stove are now selling the best one I've ever seen. It's available online at

  • Bubba

    Awesome list. All these inventions are so inspiring.

  • It's amazing what humans are capable of doing when they are motivated by the thought of helping other humans and not by the thought of making money.

    • lrigD

      Amen! Can't agree more!

      • ArjayM

        Yeah! Definitely.

  • Ros

    What about the wind up radio invented by Trevor Bayliss

  • KK007

    This is such a cool list, it made me happy to know something practical is being used to help the world!

  • hsn

    #5 appeared in the book "The Ugly American"

  • Saber 25

    Actually, I heard about the straw, the laptop, and the solar powered lightbulb. And we have here my own invention, the super-free, gallon-sweat, wheelchair. I invented a wheelchair myself, just my old chair, stripped the cotton, then all left is the metal skeleton, make holes at the bottom, then put on my old wheels from my old pc chair. and add a normal plastic chair with it's legs quite cut off. voila!

  • Joshi

    has anyone thought that maybe it isn't a good idea to help third world countries in say, Africa. Maybe the suffering is nature's way of saying "hey, you have too many people to support, so I am going to do something about it". Let nature take it's course. And when she is done in Africa, mother nature will turn her attention to china and india.


    • kuch

      maybe you get hit by a lightning, thats nature's way of saying "hey, thats one less dumbass racist for everyone's sake.."

      • joshi

        i am no racist! I am sure nature will take care of, or downsize the population wherever it is needed regardless of race, creed, color or religion

    • the gimp

      Finally, someone who thinks like me. I refuse to donate to charity that help starving people in other countrys. After decades of help nothing changed.

      • Heh

        It may seem like nothing changed (which is a bit frustrating) but if you help make people's lives better, to me, that is enough.

      • Surely if you can make just one person in a developing country happier and healthier, then that is worthwhile, for that one person at least.

    • kuch

      then you get hit by a lightning, maybe its nature's way of saying "hey, thats one less ignorant fool to support". keeps you dumbass ideas to yourself..

      nice list btw=)

      • the gimp

        "keeps your dumbass ideas to yourself"

        what are you, the listverse censor?

    • Heh

      1) While it is true there are too many people in the world, look to the developed countries. We have higher and higher populations all the time, where there is quite often a 'throw away' culture. I'm pretty sure we do more damage to Mother Nature than undeveloped countries. Besides, the suffering in third world countries is a horrible thing and no matter how 'justified' you could argue it is, it is only human nature for people to feel empathy and want to help.

      2) LA Mother Nature. If you're going to throw in random French, learn your la/le.

      3) I think this is a great list. I'd not heard about all but one of these. I've never heard of the term Appropriate Technology before. Very neat.

      • Arsnl

        I know the guy that posted the comment is as stupid as stupid can be. I mean if id actually care what an idiot would say id get very mad but i dont. My reply is just related to the “french”. He mixed the spanish viva with maybe the french le. HE’S STUPID. we shouldnt try to understand what idiots are trying to communicate.

    • coocoocuchoo

      thats just like saying if you had a very large family and you were really struggling to feed all of you , you would let one die. its easy to say such things when you live in a comfy home with disposable income…ever wondered why they have families so big? its so the have a better chance of more children growing up, as mortality rates at birth and in the first year of a childs life are extrememly high in some LEDCs, and with many living and working at more or less subsistence levels the more people they have to help them farm or work means they can actually have a better chance of survival. i know why you would say what you have but it just sounds a little immoral seen as you have probably never worked as hard as most people over there and probably dont know the meaning of a life-or-death situation.

      • helllooo

        'if you had a very large family and you were really struggling to feed all of you , you would let one die"

        In such a situation, why would anyone have more children? For example – if YOU are having trouble getting food, why let your children suffer as well?

        • JustSayin'

          Part of it is due to First World nations' foreign aid policies. Let's recall that during Dubya's reign, the U.S. provided aid but in those programs didn't permit the teaching of safe-sex methods and actively worked to prevent condom distribution, thanks entirely to the influence of meddlesome, dangerously ignorant religious whack-jobs at home.

          • whore exposer

            “dangerously ignorant religious whack-jobs at home.”

            Burn in hell Antichrist, it is the Christian people of the world who are the ones saving millions of lives every day and giving their lives to come up with solutions to save the lives of suffering people everywhere. Go start your Antichrist atheist charity and I will watch and see what you do for others you damned satanic hypocrite.

    • Momotsuki

      That's quite a horrible mentality. You're essentially condemning people who are born into a third world country purely for the fact that… well… they're born into a third world country. So you're saying that the people who have lost their homes and loved ones in the Californian or Melbourne bush fires deserved it because it's mother nature's way of saying "gtfo my land"?

      I'm really disappointed that people such as yourself who (probably) live(s) in a first world country and takes their prosperity for granted.

      • A C

        Don't the bush fires happen regularily (like the ones in California, at least)? I dunno .. I wouldn't build a house where fires happen every year (if it is true) ….

        • There is a “fire season” every year in most of wooded parts of California, but the major ones that you hear or read about only happened that one time in that particular populated area. And btw they are usually started by the hands of people (whether by accident or arson), not by “nature”. I agree, even once is too much, but point being, there are thousands of wooded acres just like those all across the state that probably have not had any major fires in a hundred years or more. That’s not to say the risk isn’t there if you choose to live in those woods, but there are associated risks to living practically anywhere. However please feel free to not live in California. There are too many people here already.

    • I don't think I have ever come across anyone quite as crass or openly hateful as you are. Did you have this same thought when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast, killing thousands, and destroying much of the New Orleans area? Do you think like this when tornados run rampant down Tornado Alley, wiping out entire towns?
      What about what is happening right this very minute in the Gulf of Mexico, the BP oil rig disaster? The number of creatures who are being affected, and thus, the number of people being being affected, is incalculable, but you can be quite sure that neither will recover fully.
      You, whoever, or whatever, you are, clearly do not belong to the human race. For that, I am glad.

      • oliveralbq

        im guessing that anyone who would say dumbass shit like that, probably did have the same thoughts you asked about in your post..
        — heres my little story
        as you know by now, i lived on the beach, on the mississippi gulf coast when hurricane katrina made landfall in waveland, miss. — about 5 miles from me.
        my sister (was in memphis at the time) — one of my closest friends went to stay with family in houston, and i transferred to las vegas. ((memphis and houston had about half the 'refuges' from new orleans)). one disturbing thing i learned was that tons of people felt the way joshi described. in all three of those places.
        people bitched and moaned that the people of the gulf cpast were bitching and moaning about the slllooowwwww ass response time of fema and state governments.
        this wasnt always just about the city of new orleans being poor, and god's master plan to control the population —- which is already stupid as shit.
        another distinction that really surprised me was that it was common to say new orleans deserved it.,. poor city and all…….the same people felt bad that it also decimated damn near all of the mississippi gulf coast — this outrageous double standard really doesnt make any sense in any capacity. — ive never seen such a big group of people be that utterly clueless about a situation like that.
        i guess what im trying to get at, is the stupidity which runs rampant is way more popular than you think. *the level of idiocy notwithstanding*
        a lot of people tell me im a dumbass because i stayed in my house, *right* on the beach and it fucking flooded 35 feet. (like i *knew* that was gonna happen). what stunned me was that they believed all people involved were dumbasses (i'll admit i was stupid, but i'd do it again — katrina was an angry storm, but the sheer magnitude of craziness could only be experienced if you were right near it) — yeah, ill accpet the dumbass label.
        but everyone? c'mon…get a grip. all the elderly that got trapped, all the disabled that *couldnt* do anything but goto a shrlter (many of which flooded themselves)…. ad nauseum. puh-leaze.

        • oliveralbq


          there are tons of idiots, and the reasons behind why theyre adopting retarded ideas is a complete mystery. but they are. the instant i saw one of a.t. entries (vcant remember which) — i thought to myself — "oh, fuck. here we go with the pissing contests". i was really hoping i was going to be wrong, but i knew better. call it anything from wishful thinking, to simply being overly optimistic. and maybe the worst part of it is that if you ask peple why they have that mentality, they dont fucking know at all. many times they dont even guess. i dont know if they learn to through word of mouth or the news (meh…ug) — they sound like an obnoxious child.

          "mom! can i eat this rock?"
          ""hell, no""
          ""because i said so!""
          "but, maaaaaaaa"
          ""shut up kid""
          "but moooooooom?"
          whatever —
          that works fine if youre talking to a 5 year old trying to eat a rock. but to do a blanket generalization takes a special kind of buffonary and piece-of-shitness that i, myself, saw coming.

          just ask joshi — im sure he knows why some idiots say idiotic things.

          having said that, its important to note that people dont let it consume them, because that fact that there is nothing to do but hope b.p. owns their fuck-up — and in the mean time, there is not much other than hope as we clean these damn birds and wonder when they are going to do somehing — anything– to prevent this from happening again, and to remedy the current situation

          • of course the humour angle helps everyone through —
            i was cleaning a bird.
            this dude who hasnt said shit in 3 days walks up and says

            'we just heard they found a way to stop the oil leak…….
            …….b.p. put a wedding ring on the pipe, and it quit putting out'


    • hermy304

      Well to be honest,your all as bad as joshi by some of the things you are saying to him and every person has a right to an oppinion and freedom of speech.

      • I am sorry. I honestly didn't know what was going through my mind when I said that. I am dissapointed in myself and will remember this next time my mind wanders off.

      • your all as bad as joshi…every person has a right to an oppinion and freedom of speech

        Just because you have a right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean you are exempt from criticism if you say something stupid.

        • VintageObsessive

          Your replies just keep getting better! Keep em' coming!

    • The best way to reduce the population is to raise income and education. (Comparatively) wealthier and better-educated people have fewer babies than (comparatively) poorer and worse-educated ones.

    • Maggot

      @Joshi: Maybe the suffering is nature's way of saying "hey, you have too many people to support, so I am going to do something about it". Let nature take it's course.

      If you were to become seriously ill, are you willing to “let nature take its course” without seeking any medical attention? Or are you just a hypocrite?

    • maximus

      Had i lost someone in an earthquake i would find it insulting that someone implied it was because of mother nature's population control, it cheapens their demise. I think the lynch mob above is so upset because of your depressing theory and the tone you used which almost suggests you want population-control to happen in india and china. (you git)!

      As for the third world 'suffering', i think all of you are forgetting, what we perceive as awful conditions is just normal life to most 3rd-worlders. My opinion is that happiness is relative, e.g. a african child will see the same delight in a new football as we would in, say a new car. They probably see malnutrition, disease and death with much less discontent as people in the first world. I'll bet theres a higher percentage of depressed people living in america than in africa. I'm all for improving their standard of living, don't get me wrong.

    • Whore of Satan Exposer

      Burn in hell genocidal Machiavellian Antichrist earth worshiper.

      • Whore of Satan Exposer

        that is meant for joshi by the way.

  • Piva

    @Joshi – If you had said India or China – sure, maybe. Strange idea, considering how many people would die unnecessarily (mostly children under 5), but especially in Africa, the problem isn't overpopulation, it's undereducation and a complete dependence on the land. So when in Niger a drought lasts for years on end and farmers can't get even the grass they need for their cattle, people starve to death in extremely low-population density areas.
    I'm curious, too – if you saw a 3 year old with cholera (where you die from dehydration after days of diarrhea and vomiting) in some slum in India , would you help him, or would you let nature take its course?

    After taking a public health course in university, I was happy to see the Lifestraw at #1. Dirty water kills hundreds of millions of people worldwide every year – if not directly, indirectly through killing mothers, depressing the immune system, or complications from the diseases. The other inventions are great, but they're not really useable unless you're alive, so kudos for putting Lifestraw first.

    • bristola

      All the estimates I've seen show total worldwide deaths of 50-60 million people. Sure it's just a technicality in an otherwise valid argument, but such inaccuracies completely discredit anything you have to say. Go back to university.

      • A slight exaggeration (or different sources of information) make the point no less valid. Go back to school yourself and learn to respect peoples views, regardless of small inaccuracies.

        • bristola

          I wasn't attacking his/her views. I was attacking his/her accuracy in numbers they were using to make their point. I find it hard to respect people who are wrong in what they say yet act like they know. It completely destroys all credibility of their argument. You go back to school to learn some logic, respect, common sense and fact checking.

      • If joshi made it past grammar school, I'd be shocked. That kind of thinking is the result of a lack of education.

    • nope over population is a huge factor . A HUGE factor ,

  • K-Dog

    This motivates ME to build something good! But then again, I'm still doing some of my studies…
    Maybe when I'm done :)

    • Thanks. I can now endure any abuse that comes my way from making this list. Good luck on your studies, K-Dog.

  • The Lifestraw is actually genius. Whoever invented that deserves every honor and award that comes their way.

  • Joshi and The Gimp ( you need a new name ), I am going to assume that you are perhaps genuinely frustrated at the continued suffering of people despite all the things that have been done to help, as opposed to trying to be offensive. Yes, it can be annoying when you see so many suffer despite all the aid that has been given. In many of these countries, the corrupt governments are the only ones getting rich while their people pay dearly, often with their lives. I think that is totally inhumane. But there are thousands, maybe millions who have been helped thanks to the generosity of others and, whilst the current way of doing things may not be perfect, it is far better than doing nothing.

  • erika mavrich

    you forgot the solar oven, it can be used for cooking and to boil water

  • srm

    Think how many Einsteins, Mozarts, Piccasos and Tolstoys have been lost from Africa because of the poverty there. Everyone knows about the humanitarian reasons for ending poverty in Africa, but the effects on the rest of the world would be great as well.

    • I think about that all the time! It's so unfortunate when so much potential in human life is lost just because the circumstances don't allow them to flourish.

      • they'd be eating your dinner.

        • If they were doing the kind of stuff that Einstein, Mozart, and Tolstoy did, I would give them my dinner.

  • The life straw sounds awesome. The water where I live is just nasty. I won't drink it due to the "added flavor" so I end up with bottled water for drinking or cooking. Even boiling doesn't clear the tap water up. Would love to get one of those.
    Interesting list. Nice job.

    • I don't believe that the life straw changes the taste though? Tap water taste bad no matter where you live. My taste like robots with extra iron.

      • The town where I used to live in Germany (Wachtberg) officially had the best tap water in the whole eu, that water tasted nice ;-)

        • Jealous. I would love to drink out of the tap like I used to. Can't now….not sure what might be floating in it.

      • Yep…know that flavor.

    • Maggot

      The water where I live is just nasty.

      I was just out your way this past week visiting family, and I noticed that too. Fortunately, they had beer.

      • mmmm….beer. Awesomeness in a bottle.
        I need one now. You suck…..since I don't have one. :P

    • i know that the purpose of this life straw is beneficial to preventative health measures. but — and oouch, i know you can back me up here, cause i know youve been here before — if they were to widely market this device, (*if* buckethead is wrong and it does affect the taste) — it would make a fucking killing here, since the best tap water in new orleans (in metarie), tastes like dirt.

      • Agreed. I would think since the filter is in place the water would have improved taste. Take the filters we have now that fit on the faucets. I had one before, and it worked on the taste as well as made it cleaner so ….. I'm gonna say that it should in fact, improve the taste….even a small bit is better.
        Yes. Been all over New Orleans…the water is about the same here, except ours taste more like what you pick up on the bottom of you shoe.

        • i figure this will become widespread around the same time flying cars do, but we can always hope ;)

          i am currently closer to biloxi, miss., and while filtering new orleans water *does* make it taste less like dirt, the mississippi gulf coast water often tastes like wolf piss, and filtering *helps* but certianly doesnt fix it.
          perhaps some beta testing?

    • the water where i live , ive seen pics on the news of fetus's and shit and dead bodies ,we have very crap water , but i have to say i like the taste of my own tap best .

  • In Africa the goverment has built low cost housing for the poorest of the poor, taken them out of their mud and cardboard shacks and given them accomadation.
    A lot of these people go back into the bush and rent out their houses after a week or so.

    What these people need is education as mentioned by Piva above.

    Thanks for a nice list.

    • and even though they built the low cost housing , the poorest of the poor have no access because of corrupt gov officials who then "sell" the houses to the highest bidder. Change needs to begin from within the african people . These invensions offer only (very much needed) releif not soloution , the only soloution is education and social reform….

  • Awesome list, this was a wonderful read.

  • NotForsaken

    I'm surprised the Lifestraw hasn't had better support as of now, it sounds awesome! This list is really inspirational, we are the first generation in history with all the resources to feed and shelter all the world, with plenty to spare. Good to see there are some people doing something about it!

  • Heidi

    This is one of the most beautiful and inspirational lists I have ever seen. I especially like the rolling water barrel. Human ingenuity and inventiveness can be used for so much good!

  • I perfected a way of making brogues, bow-ties and trilbys from paper so that people in developing countries could die in style. Didn't really catch on.

  • Cool list! I want to see more!

  • The Sanity Inspector

    Very good list, great job, poster!

    A good addition to this would be the composting latrine. A description from elseweb:
    "Composting toilets don’t require water to operate. Rather, they separate solid waste, which drops into a shallow compartment, from liquid waste, which is stored in containers. Toilet facility attendants add ash at scheduled times throughout the day to adjust the chemical composition of the solid waste and eliminate the odor. The mixture is also stirred at regular invervals.

    "Once the solid compartments are full, they are closed up. A large black metal door absorbs sunlight and increases the heat of the contents, helping them break down and become compost. After three to four months the door is opened, revealing a safe, nutrient- rich fertilizer. The fertilizer is removed and the compartment is ready for use again. Urine is stored in a separate container and can be used right away as nitrogen-rich fertilizer after diluting it with water. "

  • xilebat, a fabulous list! This should get all of us thinking of ways to help.
    I live in an area where earthquakes and drought (despite living on the edge of the Pacific), not to mention the constant danger of brush fires, keeps us all aware of how to treat the planet.
    Being able to leave a legacy of hope and growth in the third world would be a great gift.
    Thank you for this List.

    • Hey S. Did you leave FB? I don't see you there anymore. (?)

      • Yes, Randall, I quit FB.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    A list of appropriate techology bloopers might also be interesting. The only one I can think of offhand is a contraption which utitlized a bicycle connected to a corn mill. Unfortunately, due to ignorance of the local culture, the device was a flop. Seems the inventors didn't realize that, in that culture, only women ground corn, and only men rode bicycles.

    • LOL! I could use a list like that! What an extraordinarily funny mistake.
      Well intentioned, yes, but oh, my!

  • Lifeschool

    Heeyy, what a great list. I have a friend building up his own place from scratch in Portugal and money is very tight for him at the moment. He has the land but no money for the buildings. I bet he’d love to have a few concrete shelters up. Just looking at those things I wondered… if you were to pack earth over those things, whouldn’t the inside be nice and cool? Just the thing for baking hot countries. The last thing you need is a house that gets hotter!

    I bet he’d also like the lightbulbs as I’m not sure how they get electricity (they may have a portable gen.). I know LED light is horrible to work under – it’s as alien from natural light as olive oil is to water; but at least the LED varieties are better than those horrible blue mercury abominations they’re trying to bring in. JUST SAY NO!

    The refrigeration pots – what a great idea. I used to sell pots just like these. They weigh a lot to cart about but once they’re on site they stay there. I can imagine – after seeing all those pots dug out of old caves and ancient ruins – that we were probably not the first to (re)invent the idea, but it’s a good one!

    Did someone mention solar ovens? This should be one a list as it’s also a great idea. I mean, how hard can it be?? I live under a velux roof opener – which turns the flat into an oven at the best of times, so having that heat channelling into an oven space sounds like a good way to use it.

    The lifestraw looks like a water filter in a cigar tube. Again a great little trick, as long as the guy can afford to bet another one (or another filter thing) every year. Looking at all the water around the ‘hippo’ roller made me think ‘why bring it when it all around you’, but then the filter would bet blocked pretty darn quicky if you were to suck in muddy puddle water all day.

    So… I’m gonna pass this list onto my mate – housing, refrigeration, water, heat, and cooking. I love tips lists, frugal lists and genius lists, and this one seems to be all three… :D

    • Lifeschool

      sorry for the typos. 'thing', 'thing', 'things' etc….. 'guy can afford to GET another one' etc

    • re: the cooling pots? The ancient Egyptians, with all that desert heat, were able to make ICE! They put shallow clay trays at doorways, where breezes would blow in, the clay would somehow cool enough to form a thin layer of ice atop the water.
      BINGO! Air conditioning, and, in the morning, a nice cool drink.

  • I bet Compatible Technology International was seriously not pleased when they found that those women had thrown aside the product they had invented and given to them, just so they could gossip.

    I do a lot of chatting with coworkers at work but if you could find some way to halve my hours, you can bet I could find something productive to do for the rest of the day!

  • Elisa

    Thank you for a fantastic list.
    I’d never heard of the denomination AT. I feel a huge wave of gratefulness and love towards those people who don’t just sit in their living room wishing they could help, but actually work on making it happen. Thank you!
    (Okay, that was rather cheesy. But…I really was weirdly moved by this list. Mmh.)

  • I have never heard of "AT" either, but I'm so glad someone brought it to Listverse. This was a spectacular list.

  • rachel

    If anyone else is interested in more information in design for practical uses, I highly recommend reading Emily Piloton's "Design Revolution: 100 products that empower people". I got the book through interlibrary loan through my university library and wish I could keep the copy. Piloton not only includes products designed for the third world, but also designing products to make people's lives easier around the world.

    This is a link to Emily Piloton's activist website, Design H, where she updates on progress regarding the material in her book.

    A good documentary to watch is called "Objectified", where the main idea is getting people to understand how much work it takes to design everyday things we take for granted. The film also includes many discussions with today's most innovative designers on what they do, how they work, why they work, and their opinions on design. It might be a bit dry for some, but those who love Apple, Target or Ikea will have a blast. It is made to make you think, and I was thinking about the concepts in the film for a couple of days afterward.

  • Too many people die from things that can easily be prevented. It's good to know that there are people who are trying to remedy the situation. This list was very inspiring.

  • Stephen

    Really cool list!

  • People giving a shit about each other?! Whoa… I almost lost my breath back there!

  • Anyone who makes technology for the better of mankind deserves a medal and his/her name put down in history.Its hard to show love and compassion while its seems much easier to show evil.

  • verry cool list

  • AlwaysVigilant

    Yeah these inventions rock.

  • Anaughtybear

    It's nice to know that while some companies are doing irreparable damage to the world, there are at least a few helpful inventions out there. My complete loss of faith in humanity is staved off for another day.

  • baabaaer

    I want that refrigerator pot! I wonder if we could make ice out of it…

  • Excellent list… one of the best in a long while.

    • In re: FB.Yes, I have quit. Long, boring, etc.

  • Courtney

    Excellent list. I'd only ever heard of the concrete shelters before; I'd seen them on the Discovery channel a few years ago. These are truly fascinating inventions!

  • An excellent and about damn time post, cyn, but since it is now possible to post comments from e.mail the "no signature" portion is a problem, unless someone here sits around editing everything coming in via e.mail.
    I know my e.mail contains 2 signature parts. How does that work? Sometimes replying via e.mail is the only option.

  • Interesting shit

  • Anoonimoose

    Inspiring list. Thanks.

  • Am I the only guy who cringed and had to cross their legs when reading # 7 Universal Nut Sheller ?

  • suzi

    This is definitely my favorite list yet.

  • Dr Ajay K Singla

    People have been innovating in need, it is only that the world at large can know now. I have lived this life so I can say so. In hot desert we regularly put sand below the earthen pot to enhance cooling and make it stable. We used to wrap cloth aroud pot and make it wet regularly to enhance cooling. Ice used to be wrapped in cloth and burried deep in thrashed wheat straw and would last even 24 hrs in 48 degrees celsious. Without scalpel, i had to drain chalazions and abcesses by holding a obliquely broken new shaving blade in a needle holder.

  • Moonbeam

    I read a great short article about this type of innovation in the March/April 2010 issue of Sierra Club Magazine here:….

    Here's a bit from the story: "In 2004 John Barrie was riding a bus through the highlands of Ecuador, watching villages pass by, when he realized that 'no one designs for poor people.'"

    The villagers' appliances were old and inefficient, and they consumed more power than most Ecuadorans could afford. Farmers cadged a few hours of TV by wiring a set to a castoff car battery. 'Everything these people use is designed for someone else,' Barrie says. 'It's all designed for rich people…There are 200,000 people in the world designing cell phones, and 20 people in the world designing things for the 2 billion poor people on the planet.''

    He started a nonprofit called Appropriate Technology Collaborative.

    One thing about this list that stood out to me was what a huge contrast against the lists like the Top Ten Greatest Firearms in History. If mankind could spend more time on inventions that contribute rather than harm and destroy this world would be an entirely different place… OK OK, wishful thinking on my part… As John Lennon wrote, "You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope someday you'll join us …"

  • great list! i agree the wind up radio is a notable admission, but every invention on this list deserves endless praise!!

  • Magnumto

    "Where I come from in West Africa, we have a saying: "A fool at 40 is a fool forever", and most African countries have now been independent for over 40 years."

    Thus begins an article published on the BBC website on Nov. 24, 2008 ( The thrust of the article is that Africa, despite having received billions upon billions in aid monies during the last 40+ years, remains an Africa in need of more aid, with precious little to show in the way of progress. The article goes on to suggest that corruption is at the root of the problem, that donors are rewarding failure. It's easy to imagine that, as long as an African country is bringing in the donations, the leaders of those countries are shining beacons of success to the ordinary citizens. And that will simply perpetuate failure and dependence.

    I don't believe that the items on this list, or the thoughtful gestures behind those items, fall into the category of mere aid. As tools for allowing disadvantaged people to help themselves, these examples of Appropriate Technology are vastly more "appropriate" than shiploads of dollars, pounds and Euros.

  • bluesman87

    instead of sending that stupid laptop thing , they should send condoms shoes and food. that laptop wont help anyne or else people will kill each other for it….

    • VintageObsessive

      I have to agree. I mean, I get that "they" want to empower the youth of 3rd world countries with educational tools and opportunities, but in the light of the more pressing basic needs, it just seems kind of unnecessary. Let's make sure everyone has food, clothing, and medicine…then if anyone wants to send them a cheap laptop, hey at least they'll live long enough to use it!

  • wow. this is simply amazing. if only we get a breakthrough in solid state devices, people will be able to do a lot more. All these technologies are amazing. I hope people continue the good work.

  • MmmHmm

    Good list after a long time!

  • leithold

    bravo! bravo! why oh why aren't these things public knowledge already! these are awesome inventions that should be spread throughout the word asap!

    oh and i dont know if this fits the list, but i think contraceptives (condoms) should be an AT too. not only does it prevent STDs but it also prevents population explosion. imho, overpopulation is the biggest problem the world has. overpopulation causes just about every problem the world has: energy crisis, waste, food shortage, etcetc.

  • steeveedee

    Great list. It's funny how in this day and age, when one mentions "technology", it's usually associated with advanced products like computers, cell phones and the like…stuff we use every day. But we forget that a simple 24-gallon barrel with a handle or a cooling pot to these countries is many times more valuable than all that "advanced technology" that we take for granted everyday.

    Thanks for putting things in perspective. Every now and then us more developed countries need a wake up call like this.

  • Lifeschool

    The best local water in the UK (I’ve tasted) was in the Lake District, the worst water I have EVER come across came from London.

  • knothead
  • VintageObsessive

    BRILLIANT! This is one of the most well-written, well-researched, and inspiring lists on LV. I am intrigued by the Lifestraw and will be donating through their website to help supply people in need of these life-saving tools!

    *I, too, had never heard the term "Appropriate Technology", but after reading the list it is definitely appropriate.

  • graceland

    Misread "universal nut sheller" as "universal nut shelter." A+!

  • hunter

    Because of the title, I thought this list was going to be boring. I was so glad I read it anyway. One of the best lists I've read so far. Very informative and helpful, especially for us living in the third world.

  • By far, one of the best lists ive come accross xilebat!
    a really good read
    makes me believe that even with all the things going wrong in OUR world, we might have a chance to fix it up!

  • Gerinsege


  • Marden

    Wow! I’m not the first to say, but I loved this list.

  • dennoh snoops

    I have liked the idea of pot in pot refrigerator.It’s so inspiring.

  • Bethzz

    The work the charities do is amazing. Purely Amazing.

  • Leif Knutsen

    Solar night light for the third world.

    I recently ran across a video of third world folks using 2 liter plastic soda bottles for “deck prisms” for roofs of corrugated tin windowless homes to great success. (One is equivalent to ~ a 60W bulb on a bright day.)

    That got me thinking about night light options: My solution was to take a solar powered walk light, $3.00 new at Home Depot, USA, and take the top, working guts, of one and tape it to the top of a wide mouth plastic Mayonnaise jar filled with water and a Tb of bleach to keep the water from growing algae, a hole in the top to allow the LED to shine through and set it in the sun to charge and voila… A night light! that we are using regularly. Early evening there is enough light to read by if close and with one on each side probably even crafts. Tape the inside of a Potato Chip bag to half the bottle and get even more light on the other side. Early evening I can distinctly see a shadow on my bedroom ceiling 20 feet away. Try it, the light is beautiful, diffused, and all but free. (Suck EXXON!) (I told a local pastor about it and showed him my “Leif Light” and he was blown away, took photos and sent them to his kid working in Africa slums.) One would be enough to supply a pleasing glow to a slum room all night long. The light does diminish as the evening progresses but a good charge will give you 4-5 hours of workable light and some light all night, for free and big savings to strapped poor. I often see those LED yard lights thrown in the dump, upgraded for new ones or just needing a battery. [Donate them to an NGO.} (Works best if your eyes are dark adapted, we in the west are programed for bright light all the time.)

    With minor design efforts I could even make one that could be married to an existing 2 liter small cap installed roof prism to supply dim room light but still enough light for basic chores. The LED would need to be on a clear wand to reach below the roof line to get the light into the room otherwise wasted on the roof, and move the charger guts high enough to not negate the day function. Both an easy cheap fix. One disadvantage is that there is no off switch but you can put a shirt over it or tin can, put it under a table, outside or be creative.

    I throw this thought out as public access and good will. I can supply more info, pictures or input if requested. Recognition is OK if warranted.


  • ibrahim kadu

    what i see above are good but it more good if it is with step(procuder)

  • namud

    let stand for better world today;that makes happy us and let i begin /.

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