Locally Available Resources
Across the globe, people live without access to electricity, sanitation and manufacturing resources. In turn, their households lack strong infrastructure and protection against extreme heat and environmental health concerns. Resourceful innovations are working to tackle these elements of poverty by utilizing readily available products and local capabilities. Here are three innovations using locally available resources to fight poverty.

1. Eco-Cooler

Bangladesh has one of the wettest climates in the world due to its summer monsoon season. To accommodate for the rain, more than 60% of Bangladesh’s population lives in tin huts rather than more vulnerable mud huts. Although tin provides protection from the rain, it exacerbates the extreme summer heat. Without access to electricity and, therefore, air conditioning, this heat is unbearable for those living in rural, low-income areas. 

Through resourceful innovation, Ashis Paul created a cooling system that does not need electricity and utilizes commonly found items. The Eco-cooler comprises locally available resources like plastic bottles that are cut in half and mounted on a sheet of cardboard. The cardboard is then fitted to a window with the wider part of the bottles facing outward. The bottles catch passing wind, cool the air as it experiences a change in pressure, and then funnel the air into the building’s interior. It is estimated that this affordable and easy-to-build solution is able to reduce temperatures up to 5 degrees Celsius depending on the conditions.  

2. Gjenge Makers 

Nairobi, Kenya generates around 500 tons of plastic waste every day. Without proper decomposition methods, a majority of this waste ends up in garbage dumps located around low-income communities, further impacting the health and living conditions of impoverished people in Nairobi. 

Nzambi Matee, founder of Gjenge Makers, discovered how to transform this plastic waste into a valuable resource: bricks that are seven times stronger than concrete. The bricks are formed with a mix of sand and polyethylene or polypropylene, which could otherwise not be recycled. Gjenge Maker bricks are half the weight of concrete, making transportation and building more efficient and affordable. Gjenge Makers’ aims to use its resourceful innovation to solve Kenya’s pollution problem, provide new job opportunities, produce healthier livelihoods and introduce young women to entrepreneurship and engineering. 

3. White Roofs 

The Mahila Housing Trust (MHT) originated to educate and strengthen impoverished women to improve their living conditions. One aim is to build resilience against unbearable temperatures. Temperatures in western India can reach up to 47.8C (118F) in the summer. This heat diminishes women’s ability to be productive and healthy in their homes. MHT is increasing women’s ability to tackle extreme temperatures without the need for hard-to-access resources such as electricity.    

Mahila Housing Trust has distributed white solar-reflective paint to low-income communities in western India. Women living in these areas are able to apply the paint at no cost, reflecting sunlight away from their houses and reducing the internal temperature. This simple and resourceful innovation is estimated to reduce temperatures by 1 to 2 degrees Celsius. Even the slightest drop in temperature reduces women’s vulnerability to heat stroke, exhaustion and pregnancy complications, and allows women to remain productive in the summer.

Nzambi Matee, Ashis Paul and the Mahila Housing Trust are demonstrating how resourceful innovations using locally available resources can help battle the barrier of access to commodities, such as electricity and manufacturing tools. Determining the materials a community lacks and utilizing the resources they do have is creating unique inventions and fighting poverty.  

– Aliya French
Photo: Flickr

5 Brilliant Inventions Helping Fight Global PovertySome of the world’s greatest inventors are not those who build flying cars or the latest smartphones; they are those who use their inventions to help people in need. Across the globe, people live without access to clean water, food and sanitation. Inventors have recognized these dire situations and have put their talents to the test in the ultimate fight against poverty. Through trial and error, determination and compassion for others, innovators have used their abilities to design brilliant inventions helping fight global poverty.

The Shoe That Grows

Across the globe, children in poverty-stricken conditions fall victim to illness and disease. Over 1.5 billion people suffer from diseases transmitted from the soil. Bare feet, believe it or not, can kill. The majority of children living in poverty do not have shoes. Those that have been fortunate enough to receive donated pairs eventually grow out of them and walk around with no protection at all. The Shoe That Grows addresses this problem head-on.

Through a unique design of adjustable notches and snaps, the shoe continues to grow with the child. In total, the shoe can expand up to five different sizes. A five-year-old child using The Shoe That Grows will typically be able to wear the same shoe until they turn nine years old. This solution to bare feet prevents the soil-transmitted disease from wreaking havoc and averts injuries to the feet.

Life Saving Dot

Thousands of women in rural India suffer from iodine deficiency, a problem caused by a lack of iodine in the human body. Iodine deficiency in women can lead to breast cancer, disease and complications with pregnancies. India’s primarily vegetarian diet and poor levels of iodine in the soil has led to high levels of iodine deficiency, primarily in women. The Life Saving Dot helps restore iodine balance in the human body to prevent disease.

Made to mimic an Indian bindi, women wear the Life Saving Dot between their eyebrows. The device supplies the wearer with a sufficient amount of iodine each day. It is fairly inexpensive to buy, only costing around 10 rupees for a pack of 30 dots.


Impoverished families across the globe depend on milk, not only for nutritional support but also for income. The transportation of milk, however, is tricky and can lead to spills, spoilage and contamination. Mazzi allows for easier and cleaner transportation of milk.

Through a durable, 10-liter plastic container, people transport milk from the farm to the family or to the market. The container has a wide mouth that allows for a large collection of milk. The container itself is spill-proof and keeps the milk fresh as it is transported from one place to another. It is also easy to clean, reusable and cost-efficient.


Summers in Bangladesh can be unbearably hot, often leading to higher rates of heat strokes and dehydration. Residents of Bangladesh live in houses with roofs that enhance the temperature of the sun, sometimes reaching up to 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 degrees Fahrenheit, inside of their homes. Air conditioning is, unfortunately, not a luxury that Bangladesh residents have. To combat the extreme temperatures in an environmentally conscious way, Eco-Cooler was born.

Developed as a low-cost cooling system, the Eco-Cooler is made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles that draw cool air into homes. Plastic bottles cut in half are placed onto a board, which is then placed on the wall, acting like a window. The bottles compress hot air, cool it down, and drastically decrease the inside temperatures, sometimes by as much as 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Embrace Warmer

According to Embrace Global, more than 1 million infants die every year on the day of their birth and 98 percent of those deaths occur in impoverished countries. The main cause of those deaths? Hypothermia. Infants in developing countries are more susceptible to hypothermia as a result of premature and low-weight births. Embrace Warmer is a unique invention intended to combat the increasing numbers of infant mortality in developing countries.

The Embrace Warmer acts like an infant sleeping bag. It helps regulate a newborn baby’s body temperature during the first few days of their life. The warmer keeps the child warm, does not depend on electricity, is cost-effective, portable and above all, safe. The Embrace Warmer has helped save the lives of 200,000 hypothermic infants in developing countries.


These five inventions helping fight global poverty prove that innovation has the power to help those in need. It is through these unique and brilliant inventions that progress is attained.

 – Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

Heat Relief in BangladeshAshis Paul overheard his daughter’s physics tutor explain how gas cools when it quickly expands, and the idea for the Eco-Cooler was born. During the hot seasons in Bangladesh, the temperatures rise up to 45 degrees Celsius, or about 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

70% of the Bangladeshi population lives in huts with corrugated tin roofs, which greatly amplify the heat. Eco-Coolers, built with accessible materials such as plastic bottles, provide heat relief in Bangladesh to improve the lives of those living without power or air conditioning.

Paul works as a creative supervisor at an advertising company called Grey Group, which sponsors several pro-bono projects, including Eco-Cooler. To spread the knowledge on how to build an Eco-Cooler, Grey Group partnered with Grameen International Social Business Ltd., which works in many Bangladeshi villages.

Volunteers teach locals to build the Eco-Coolers from easily found materials and encourage them to teach others how to make them as well. Detailed, step-by-step instructions are also available on Grey’s website.

The materials to make an Eco-Cooler include a board cut to fit a window and plastic bottles with the bottom halves cut off. Due to a litter problem, plastic bottles are easy to find in rural villages. Repurposing waste for its construction and requiring no electricity to run, the Eco-Cooler serves as an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective cooling unit.

Extreme heat can decrease productivity, increase dehydration and the number of cases of heat stroke.

Considering the heat coupled with the tin-corrugated roofs, Jaiyyanul Huq, a creative director with Grey Group told The Observers, “I’ve been in these huts. It’s like being in a sauna in the Sahara.” Generally, the Eco-Cooler cools homes up to 5 degrees Celsius, or 9 degrees Fahrenheit, improving the quality of conditions for those living in homes with tin-corrugated roofs.

“The beauty of it is how easy these units are to make,” Huq told The Observers. Eco-Cooler has already impacted 25,000 homes, with more to come, providing environmentally-conscious, cost-efficient heat relief in Bangladesh.

Laura Isaza

Photo: Flickr