Fight Global Poverty With These 5 Innovations

Now more than ever, technology is working hard to help those living in poverty. Although there are many innovations, here are five unique innovations fighting global poverty.

5 Innovations Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Score Stove 2: An appliance called Score Stove 2 not only cooks food but also creates electrical energy through heat combustion, an electricity source that one can use to charge up to 12 batteries at a time. To reduce deforestation, the stove requires almost 50% less wood than conventional stoves. Its energy-saving design also minimizes smoke inhalation. This environmentally friendly stove is a unique solution to a traditional stove.
  2. Hippo Roller: The Hippo Roller can carry up to 90 liters of water at a time, an efficient tool for those who need to carry several gallons of water a day to provide for their families. People can also use the Hippo Roller for irrigating crops, cleaning and cooking. Currently, 51 countries are using this appliance. It has supplied about 60,000 people with efficient water transportation. This innovation is a simple solution working to combat the water crisis and fight global poverty.
  3. LifeStraw: The LifeStraw also tackles the global water crisis, filtering and removing bacteria or parasites from water sources for those who do not have access to clean water. The LifeStraw has an unlimited shelf life, is very durable and lightweight and is an essential survival tool. Inside the shell is a membrane microfilter that remains effective for up to 1,000 gallons, or 4,000 liters, of water. The LifeStraw is now popular among hikers and backpackers. However, the original purpose of the LifeStraw was to help eradicate Guinea worms from water, making it safe to drink for those with limited access to clean water or healthcare.
  4. Life Saving Dot: Iodine bindis are saving lives in rural India as iodine deficiencies are a leading cause of brain damage and anemia. This Life Saving Dot, which people can wear like a bindi, gives a daily dose of 150-220 micrograms a day to the wearer. While the founders of the company have worked to give many away for free, Life Saving Dots generally sell at a low price to low-income families. Global poverty and health directly relate, both acting as the cause and effect of the other. Technology like this is helping to stop this cycle.
  5. Tree Planting Drones: Tree-planting drones in Myanmar are restoring forests. Biocarbon Engineering and the Worldview International Foundation have teamed up to plant trees in empty fields. The drones first collect data about the fields and then determine what plants would best survive there. The drones allow the coverage of more land at a faster rate than if people planted the trees by hand. Environmental factors, such as deforestation, flooding and drought, directly affect communities. Forests supply clean air, water resources and wood to help maintain food security and wealthy communities.

These five innovations fighting global poverty show how technology can be a powerful tool for addressing global poverty. Just one of these innovations offers so much relief to those in need; imagine what might happen if everyone in poverty had access to these technologies.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity
More than 1 billion people live in areas with water scarcity or the lack of access to freshwater resources. However, current innovations are tackling water scarcity in creative and environmentally friendly ways. Here are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity.

5 Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity

  1. Solar-powered Water Pumps: These pumps use energy from the sun to power electric pumps, which extract water from the ground. The price and technology have evolved in recent years, allowing solar-powered water pumps to be a more affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable solution to water scarcity. Solar panels last approximately 25 years, requiring little maintenance throughout this lifetime. Also, the cost of solar panels that the pumps use has decreased by 80 percent. Solar-powered water pumps are most viable in areas with high solar insolation, particularly, many developing nations in Africa, South America and South Asia. Specifically, solar-powered water pumps have alleviated water scarcity for 40,000 people in Marimanti, Kenya, a country with annual sunshine.
  2. Solar-powered Desalination Units: Desalination technology harnesses energy from the sun and converts seawater into fresh, potable water. A system that Solar Water Solutions, a Finland-based startup, designed produces up to 3,500 liters of water per hour. Additionally, the system does not require batteries or oil-based fuel and it does not impart a large carbon footprint. Additionally, Solar Water Solutions has placed solar-powered desalination units in Kenya and Namibia. The desalination units are providing cheap, clean water to local communities. Additionally, large scale implementation of the technology could help solve water scarcity.
  3. Fog Catchers: Mesh nets trap freshwater from fog and eventually drips into the collection trays. A piping network then carries the water to the village. This system is free, clean and environmentally sustainable. People are using fog catching systems to provide water to communities in Chile, Peru, Ghana, South Africa and more. The largest fog catcher project is on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in southern Morocco.  Every day, about 1,000 people use water that fog captured for everything from drinking to agricultural use. 
  4. Portable Filters: In particular, one Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen, has developed a portable water filter. Lifestraw is a gravity-powered plastic tube, that people can use as a drinking straw. The filtration system eliminates protozoa, bacteria, chemical compounds and dissolved metals. Each Lifestraw can filter up to 4,000 liters of water — enough potable water to last three years for one person. Additionally, this portable filter eliminates the need for single-use plastics and fuel-combustion for water sanitization. Further, LifeStraw has partnered with the World Health Organization and the United Nations to alleviate the shortage of potable water for more than 64 countries, including Haiti, Rwanda and Kenya. 
  5. Drinkable Books: Each page of the drinkable book is a filter that turns raw sewage into potable water. The drinkable book houses silver and/or copper nanoparticles that kill bacteria when water passes through it. Motivated by a desire to create a water filtration system that uses greener chemistry, researchers designed the tool at Carnegie Mellon University. Field trials have shown that the drinkable book can eliminate 99 percent of bacteria in water. At the 25 contaminated water sources in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti and Bangladesh, these trials have been promising enough that people can distribute the drinkable book commercially. Each book holds enough filtration sheets to filter clean water for four years.

For the millions of people across the globe lacking access to clean water, these are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity. Technology like these has the potential to make a substantial difference in the world in terms of sustainable solutions for sanitation and access to water.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Inventions That Fight Poverty
If necessity truly is the mother of invention, then never before has the world labored so hard. Indeed, our world faces many challenges, and nurtures many needs, but none so basic as those ventured every day in developing countries. Innovators the world over have taken this challenge to heart and have created practical inventions that both fight poverty and have the ability to change our perception of the possible.

1. Watt-r

Basic access to clean water shouldn’t be the challenge it has become. In truth, 663 million people do not have this access. Watt-r is the solar-powered water delivery cart, that while it is still in development, would be able to carry a dozen 20-liter containers of water at a time.

What does that mean for someone in a developing nation? It means that inventions that fight poverty also save time and lives. Instead of 25 women or children walking to get clean water, one person operates the machine, which while idle, can charge items like phones, lamps and tools.

2. SALt Lamp

For those living in poverty in developing countries, finding renewable energy is a key to survival. The SALt Lamp requires simply two tablespoons of salt and one glass of water for an entire night of light. As it can also run on seawater, it is a nearly limitless energy source.

Currently, production of the SALt Lamp is aimed at nonprofit organizations for its possibilities in developing countries, where electricity is not always a guarantee.

3. The Aspara Cardboard Drone

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No…it’s life-saving medical supplies falling from the sky. The Aspara cardboard drone has GPS and two wing-flap motors, and it can deliver two pounds of life-saving materials without needing to be retrieved.

The industrial paper airplane can accurately deliver supplies to even the most remote of places. With refinement, it is hoped that the flyer can be scaled to carry up to 22 pounds of cargo, with new prototypes aimed at humanitarian groups.

4. MetaFridge

Inventions that fight poverty do so by meeting needs where the needs exist. The MetaFridge keeps vaccines safe during long power outages, which in developing countries, can plague an already ravaged land. With more than 40 units tested in Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia, the MetaFridge keeps temperatures stabilized for vaccines.

Researchers have explored this idea even further and are now working on a portable cooler for vaccinators to reach kids in the remotest of places.

5. LifeStraw

Imagine all the contaminants that thrive in an unclean water source. Now imagine 99 percent of these contaminants being defused by the simplest of devices — a straw. Sometimes inventions that fight poverty do so in ways that seem too simple to be able to work.

The LifeStraw is a device that filters water through narrow fibers that trap unwanted contaminants. In places around the world where expensive filtration systems are not readily available, the LifeStraw can live up to its name.

6. Hans Free Electric Bike

Piloted in India in 2016, the Hans Free Electric Bike provides so many ‘no’s’ that are easy to say ‘yes’ to — no utility bill, no waiting for the elements to cooperate and no pollution.

The hybrid bicycle runs on a flywheel, which then turns a generator, which finally charges a battery. Power is literally put in a person’s hands — or rather, their legs. How effective is this? One hour of pedaling on this bike provides 24 hours of electricity.

7. Paperfuge

What can $.20 buy nowadays? How about an on-the-spot diagnosis. The Paperfuge centrifuge costs $.20 to make and can diagnose diseases like malaria and HIV within minutes.

That’s life-saving power without the aid of electricity. The toy-like device holds bloods samples on a disc, while someone pulls on strings to spin the disc at fast speeds, separating blood from plasma in mere minutes. Cheap, lightweight and effective, the Paperfuge is one of the inventions that fight poverty in a way that benefits all.

8. Tarjimly

Facebook’s translation bot, Tarjimly, provides a new face for altruism. Used in real time on Facebook Messenger, Tarjimly connects refugees with volunteer translators.

This potentially life-saving capability could provide a needed voice for those whose voice has been taken from them. Whether doctors or aid workers, a need is only a translation away.

9. Petit-Pli

Around the world, children often outgrow their clothes too quickly, and in developing countries this usually means wearing clothes that simply do not fit. Petit-Pli is a clothing line that grows with a child for up to seven sizes.

The waterproof, lightweight material reduces waste and saves families money. With Petit-Pli, parents of those without much will have less to worry about.

10. Vodafone

In the rural Lake Zone of Tanzania, inventions that fight poverty sometimes come in the form of programs like Vodafone, an ambulance taxi program that uses the mobile money system M-PESA.

Vetted taxi drivers respond to hotline calls from pregnant women in health emergencies. Where there are few ambulances available, lives are saved.

Inventions that fight poverty do so through the power of innovation, but this particular kind of innovation is fueled by a desire to help — the only real requirement for progress.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

LifeStraw Purifiers Provide Schoolchildren with Clean Drinking WaterIn Eastern Africa, 70 percent of hospital visits are related to contaminated water. This is due to a lack of clean water sources. The majority of people in developing countries depend on water sources like rivers to drink and bathe, but serious illnesses like typhoid fever, dysentery and guinea worm disease are common diagnoses for those who consume dirty water. In fact, diarrhea is the third leading cause of death in Kenya.

Vestergaard, a Swiss global health company, created a water filtration system called LifeStraw to put an end to these water-related infections. LifeStraw is a lightweight, portable filter that uses hollow fiber technology to filter up to 1,000 liters of water. The filter is also chemical-free and does not require any electrical power — instead, it depends on the suction generated by its user.

Water enters the plastic container and flows through narrow fibers under high pressure. These fibers then trap bacteria and other toxins that are flushed out of the water via backwashing. The clean water travels through pores in the walls of these fibers.

With LifeStraw, households in these regions will no longer have to boil contaminated water to make it drinkable. As a result, there will likely be a reduction in indoor pollution and house fires. People will also burn less firewood, which helps lessen deforestation. According to Vestergaard, the use of LifeStraw reduces carbon emissions by nearly three tons per year, per filter.

Of note, luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) invested in LifeStraw in 2013 in support of sustainability. In partnership with the carbon-offset company ClimateCare, the LifeStraw Carbon for Water project was born. This partnership has provided 1,900,000 people in western Kenya with LifeStraw filters.

Within the next few years, this investment will also provide 300,000 Kenyan schoolchildren access to safe water and filtration training programs. Once LifeStraw filters are installed at a school in Kenya, a JLR team will monitor its use once every term for five years. Teachers and students will also complete training to learn about the significance of clean water.

In 2014, the Follow the Liters campaign was created by 80 LifeStraw volunteers to provide schoolchildren with safe water. If a person purchases one LifeStraw water filter, the company will provide a child from the developing world with clean drinking water for an entire year.
Last year, 158,000 African students were provided with a LifeStraw filter and 300 more schools in western Kenya also received filters.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Business Fights Poverty, Jaguar Land Rover, LifeStraw, The Examiner
Photo: Flickr

mobile banking
With populations in the developing world on the steady rise and technology becoming more user-friendly, there is no doubt that technology will make drastic changes to the developing world in the next decade.

In a recent 2015 Gates Annual Letter published by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates declared that innovation will play a vital role in improving the lives of people in poor countries in the next 15 years.

Moreover, Melinda Gates argues that an increase in access to mobile banking through cell phones will provide impoverished people with the opportunity to save what they earn or perhaps borrow what they need at a low rate.

One of the many benefits of mobile banking is its socio-economic impact. The country of Kenya was known to have an underdeveloped banking infrastructure, high poverty rate and a large population of migrant people. Since the introduction of mobile banking in Kenya, financial inclusion is reported to have increased to 80 percent. Along with significant changes and improvements in global health and agricultural production, increased access to mobile technologies in developing nations is the starting point to something greater.

Developing countries are limited by the physical infrastructure of financial institutions, which means that a large part of their population is not included in a banking system. Financial inclusions have an important impact on the lives of people. Reports indicate that when poor people receive access to financial services, their cash management improves and creates better infrastructure for business and development of markets.

This change in the infrastructure in developing nations is a start to change the way people live in these countries. A small technological innovation like the mobile phone has made huge impacts in providing the opportunity to build a more developed economy in these countries.

Other innovations in technology have become popular in benefiting the developing world as well. Telecenters are an example of how technology has  changed in order to suit those living in remote areas. Telecenters range from innovations in the education sector to the medical industry.

For learning, distance education developed by technology has the ability to make every child a scholar. For health, telemedicine has the ability to change dysfunctional rural health-care systems by providing clinical health care at a distance.

Other small inventions, such as the Soccket and Lifestraw, have been developed to help those living in poverty-stricken areas and to improve the lives of those individuals.

This shows how a simple change in technology can change the lives of people living in poverty. These types of actions should be embedded in all development efforts that aim to challenge poverty through innovations of new technology.

Although technology does not end poverty, it allows people to create connections and relationships that together can break down the systems that keep people poor, and then it is up to humanity to end it.

– Sandy Phan

Sources: Bill Gates’ Blog, Consultive Group to Assist the Poor

In the United States, the LifeStraw is a popular tool for those interested in backpacking and hiking. But while these uses might be popular, it was never intended to be the primary function of the plastic device.

For those unaware, the LifeStraw is a plastic personal water filter designed by a company of the same name. The product allows an individual to take contaminated water and clean it. According to studies, the device removes a minimum of 99.9999 percent of waterborne bacteria and can fit into a pocket. Additionally, the LifeStraw contains no moving parts or batteries, which increases its longevity.

In addition to the regular LifeStraw, there is a LifeStraw Family. The latter is capable of filtering up to 18,000 liters of water, an amount that would be able to sustain a four-person family for three years. The individual product can filter 1,000 liters, and can sustain an individual for one year.

The LifeStraw was introduced and field-tested in 2005 as an on-the-ground relief for humanitarian crises. Feedback was positive and it is now available in the United States since it passed EPA standards for clean water.  Shortly after the test period ended, the product was honored with the TIME magazine invention of the year award.

The LifeStraw is hailed as one of the most cost-effective and eco-friendly ways to bring water to the 884 million people who do not have access to a clean water supply, but is not meant to supplant other, more traditional humanitarian solutions.

One LifeStraw success story comes from an island nation of Kiribati, located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. Around one in 20 infants do not survive due to malnutrition that is often caused by dehydration.  In a response to this, Carol Armstrong started the Island Rescue Project. While the campaign has traditional, large-scale methods of curbing this high death rate, it also encourages the use of low-tech simple solutions.

To no surprise, the LifeStraw is among the highest rated of these. Armstrong commented on the ability of the device to sustain an individual for up to a year. It was especially promising compared to the other solution—the “sodi method.” This method involves putting water into an empty plastic bottle and letting UV rays hit it. After seven hours, the water should be clean to drink.  However, the water will only be clean for a few days and it will not clean the water to the standard that the LifeStraw does. But it’s a solution that anyone can do, and at virtually no cost.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: ABC, Men’s Journal, Digital Journal, Hills News
Photo: Future of Cities


Access to clean water is critical for human life and agriculture. From the LifeStraw filtration technology to solar-powered irrigation pumps, engineers seek innovative ways to provide water to communities that otherwise could not get enough. A team of scientists at Michigan State University are developing methods to extract water from another unlikely source: cow manure.

How can clean water come from such a dirty source? The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, as the engineers call it, works using surprisingly simple principles. “About 90 percent of the manure is water,” noted professor of agricultural engineering Steve Safferman. The process merely separates the water from the other components. Using an aerobic digestion machine, which creates energy from animal waste inputs, the system extracts the existing water and leaves other chemicals behind.

The technology is not yet perfect. The engineers are currently able to get 50 gallons of water from 100 gallons of manure, but they hope to increase the output to 65 gallons. The resulting water has not been proved safe for human consumption, but it is clean enough to nourish livestock and crops.

The McLanahan Nutrient Separation System is set to be sold later this year, and the engineers want to market the system to U.S. farms. However, this technology may have an even greater benefit for farmers in developing nations, especially those with less access to water. Many communities already suffer from water crises; according to the U.N. Human Development Report, 1.2 billion people live in areas with limited amounts of water, and another 1.6 billion face water shortages because they do not have the funds to build wells or get clean water from rivers. By investing in new technology to extract water from manure, foreign aid providers may be able to free up more water for human use.

In addition to providing more water for irrigation and livestock, manure filtration has other agricultural benefits. The technology also stores nutrients found in the animal waste, which can then be used to grow crops. Jim Wallace, a student working on the McLanahan system, reports that their process can “capture a large percentage of the ammonia that would otherwise be lost in the atmosphere,” and ammonia is a common component of fertilizer. In developing nations, this fertilizer would be vital for soil enrichment and could lead to stronger harvests.

Collecting manure and removing the nutrients and other chemicals for storage and later use will also have environmental benefits. A study conducted by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found that 75 percent of greenhouse emissions from cattle comes from those developing nations, and much of this comes from decomposing manure that is not disposed of properly. Harvesting manure for water and fertilizer will allow farmers to capture greenhouse gases, like methane, and reduce their carbon footprint.

Innovative systems to extract water from manure aid in all aspects of farming and have great potential to help developing countries. Though the technology is still in its developmental stages, further exploration and investment could benefit millions of lives and reduce water shortages globally.

— Ted Rappleye

Sources: Michigan State University, IRIN Global, United Nations
Photo: Wikimedia

900 million people in the world are without access to safe drinking water. This a serious problem which the world is trying to address in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A product developed by the Swiss-based company Vestergaard Frandsen is making great progress towards water sanitation. The product is called LifeStraw. It is a 25 cm straw that purifies water by simply sucking on the product, like a straw. LifeStraw uses no chemicals when it purifies water.

LifeStraw comes in two different sizes; the LifeStraw can provide 1000 liters of safe drinking water, and LifeStraw Family can provide 18,000 liters of drinking water. The LifeStraw removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of parasites. However, the LifeStraw does not filter out heavy minerals or desalinate water.

LifeStraw could provide safe drinking water to many impoverished people who would otherwise suffer from the many diseases unsanitary drinking water causes. The most prevalent illness caused by unsanitary drinking water is diarrhea. Nearly one in five child deaths – about 1.5 million each year – are due to diarrhea. Diarrhea kills more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

LifeStraw uses the point-of-use (POU) approach to bring about effective, and affordable drinking water. The philosophy of POU is that purification of drinking water at the point of consumption is much more cost-effective and disease preventative. By purifying water in the household it reduces the risk of water being contaminated at other points during the purification process. POU empowers people to control the quality of their own drinking water. In the developed world, household water-quality interventions can reduce diarrhea morbidity by more than 40%.

The LifeStraw currently costs $20 in the US, but it is subsidized and made cheaper for those in need. LifeStraw was distributed to those in need during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2010 Pakistan floods, and the 2011 Thailand floods. LifeStraw won the “Best Invention of 2005 Award” by Time Magazine and the 2008 Saatchi and Saatchi Award for “World Changing Ideas.”

LifeStraw is providing hundreds of thousands with affordable drinking water and is making a tremendous dent in the MDG to provide safe drinking water to all.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: PRINKA, The Daily Star
Photo: Cool Material

What an individual considers a “valuable resource” reveals a lot about the economic standing. In developing nations, water is considered a valuable resource. It is access to clean water that separates those who live from those who die in the developing world. The following list gives credence to efforts at alleviating the global water crisis.

1. LifeStraw

According to the joint monitoring efforts of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 884 million people live without access to adequate drinking water. In response to this staggering statistic, the folks at Vestergaard Frandsen Disease Control Textiles have created the LifeStraw. This cheap, reusable tool allows the user to drink available water without worrying about if it is contaminated. Without any replaceable parts or batteries, the device filters out 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne protozoan particles. At under $10 US, the LifeStraw has a one year lifetime worth of clean water consumption. While the LifeStraw is considered nothing more than a short-term solution, it is worthy of adamant praise.

2. Slingshot

While the LifeStraw does a great service for those in immediate need of clean drinking water, it does not serve the benefit for more than just the user. To meet this problem, Dean Kamen, the famed inventor of the Segway, has invented the Slingshot. Using less energy than the average hair dryer, the Slingshot uses a vapor compression filtration system to produce up to 30 liters of purified water in under an hour. Teaming up with the Clinton Global initiative and Coca-Cola, Kamen aims at bringing this technology to regions and communities still lacking clean drinking water.

3. Solvaten

Swedish for ‘sun water’, the Solvaten water purifying system is spearheading the sustainable water purification market. With a capacity of up to ten liters, the device simply sits in the sun until a blinking light indicates purified water. Although it takes three to four hours to completely purify the water, the sustainability factor outweighs any inconvenience. The device is currently undergoing testing in South America with very positive results.

4. P&G Water Purification Packet

With the water purification packet, Procter&Gamble has joined the fight to end the global water crisis. Remarkably, the team of scientists behind the project has managed to condense the proprietary municipal water sanitation system into a simple packet. By adding the packet to contaminated water, stirring and sitting, the solution has been proven to remove 99.99999% of common waterborne bacteria, 99.99% of common waterborne viruses, and 99.9% of protozoa. To date, P&G can tout that over 5 billion liters of clean drinking water have been made using these packets.

5. Desalination “Water Chip”

It seems ironic that, despite being 2/3 covered by water, our planet faces a global water crisis. The painful truth, however, is that the vast abundance of water we seemingly have at our disposal is not suitable for human consumption. Anyone who has had the misfortune of ingesting a gulp of seawater understands exactly why. To meet this challenge, chemists at the University of Texas, Austin and Marburg, Germany, are developing a 21st century solution to a very old problem. The “water chip” they have developed applies a small voltage to a chip filled with salt water. While this nascent technology is currently only producing nanoliters of clean water at a rate of only 25%, the innovation will be one to keep an eye on in the near future.

– Thomas van der List 

Sources: Life Straw, Slingshot, Solvaten, P&G Packet, Water Chip
Photo: PB Works