ApproTEC (short for Appropriate Technologies for Enterprise Creation), is a non-profit organization working out of Kenya that develops and markets new, low-cost technologies to serve local entrepreneurs in Eastern Africa. The groups goal is to help establish highly-profitable small businesses, which in turn create new wealth, helping the poor to climb out of poverty.
The group operates in a series of organized steps. First, it identifies viable enterprises that can be established by local entrepreneurs with limited capital investments. Then ApproTEC designs and develops equipment and business plans required for those enterprises to succeed. Next, they ensure that the new equipment--which must be affordable, easy to operate, durable, and manually operated--can be mass-produced locally. ApproTEC then buys the equipment back from the manufacturers, helps people set up retail shops, promotes the technologies among locals, and educates them about how use and repair the new tools.
ApproTECs most popular device, the appropriately named Super-MoneyMaker, is a $75 foot-operated irrigation pump that allows farmers to drastically increase tillable area, allowing subsistence farmers to harvest surplus crops, which can then be sold at market. Several success stories have been logged, and one about an impoverished widow who was able to transform her horticulture business from a $93-a-season subsistence into a 5-person operation is particularly telling. With the 3400% profit she made with her Super-MoneyMaker, she was able to send her children to school, instead of into the fields.
ApproTECs plan is straightforward, but their work is hard. Thanks to their diligence, its starting to pay off. Since 1991, more than 33,000 MoneyMakers have been sold, generating more than $35 million and creating 16,000 new paid jobs. Subsistence farming in Eastern Africa will never allow the local population to get ahead. But ApproTECs ideas into action are indeed helping self-motivated private entrepreneurs manage small-scale enterprisesa highly effective way of developing and fortifying the local economy and quality of life.
Meaghan O'Neill edits TreeHugger, the "definitive, modern yet green lifestyle filter."