Volume 50 and Counting

In collaboration with Appropriate Technology Magazine, this page appears in print in Vol 50, No. 1, March 2023. For more, please see the magazine’s site:

The first Appropriate Technology Magazine published: Appropriate Technology Vol. 1 No. 1.

Editor’s note: This article is a reprint of a page that appears in print in Appropriate Technology, Vol 50, No. 1. It is published here with permission as a part of our collaboration with the magazine. For more, please see the magazine’s site:

This is a landmark moment for Appropriate Technology as we publish the first issue of our Volume 50 year. As the accompanying image of our inaugural magazine shows, presentation has changed quite a lot over the years. Sadly, judging by some of the early editorials, many of the challenges that face people in the developing world are depressingly similar to those in 1974.

As we progress through our anniversary year, we will bring you a flavour of some of the technological innovations and advances we’ve covered in times past. We’d also love to hear from anyone who appeared in an early issue of Appropriate Technology (Volumes 1-10 ideally) who would be willing to give us an update on their life, work, project development, or continuing ambition. (See pages 32 & 33 for some other front cover images.)

Lustiya, 32, previously gave birth at Ntchisi District Hospital, Malawi, when it had no water. At that time, her guardian and mother-in-law spent three hours each morning fetching water for her. (See pages 10 & 11). Photo: WaterAid/ Laura El-Tantawy

Shocking lack of progress

One of the most distressing news items to cross my desk in the last couple of weeks carried the following headline: A woman dies every two minutes due to pregnancy or childbirth.

This statistic, contained in a newly released United Nations report, would have shocked us in 1974, let alone 2023. Under the heading ‘Trends in maternal mortality’ the report states there have been ‘alarming setbacks’ for women’s health in recent years, with maternal death figures either increasing or stagnating in most regions of the world.

Tracking maternal deaths nationally, regionally, and globally from 2000 to 2020, the report shows there were an estimated 287,000 deaths worldwide in 2020, only a slight improvement on 2016 when 309,000 women died in childbirth.

It comes as no surprise that maternal death rates continue to be highest in the poorest parts of the world and in countries affected by conflict. In 2020, about 70% of all maternal deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. In nine countries facing severe humanitarian crises, maternal mortality rates were more than double the world average (551 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births, compared to 223 globally).

“It is unacceptable that so many women continue to die needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth,” said Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Fund for Population Activities. “We can and must do better by urgently investing in family planning and filling the global shortage of 900,000 midwives so that every woman can get the lifesaving care she needs. We have the tools, knowledge and resources to end preventable maternal deaths; what we need now is the political will.”

Farmers know best

This month’s Prolinnova article is worth an extra mention. For all that research and development specialists contribute to our lives and livelihood, there is nothing quite like the hands-on approach of a farmer to identify what works in the field. I’ve witnessed this a lot over the years in reporting on the latest piece of farm machinery or new cropping advance. Often when such innovations are exposed to real on-farm conditions they undergo a vital bit of ‘refinement’ to make them work as the lab-based researcher intended. On the farm machinery front, there’s usually a hammer involved and sometimes a chisel. Refinement tends to be a bit gentler when crops are involved, but the process is the same. Check out the Prolinnova-South India report on pages 18-21 to discover how farmers in that part of the world are benefiting from some good old-fashioned, hands-on development.

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