Archive for September 14, 2013

DESERT’S GRACES: PLANTATIONS CAPTURE CARBON!

September 14, 2013

DESERT’S GRACES: PLANTATIONS CAPTURE CARBON!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Here’s another one for the good news, fellows! That desert plantations offer basic graces for whole nations.

According to a study published in the Earth System Dynamics, cultivating plants such as jathropa in deserts could absorb up to 25 tones of carbon dioxide annually. Desert plants also reduce desert temperature by a centigrade at least, and also induce rainfalls.

The advantage of desert-fit plants is that they don’t compete with other crops. It just needs some special technical expertise to plant them. In my own country [PH], desert-fit plants are among the top waves for renewable energy or RE sources, backed by policy environment that is among the world’s top as regards RE for power production.

Enclosed is the reportorial from the scidev.net about the intriguing find.

[Manila, 06 September 2013]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/desert-science/news/desert-plantations-could-help-capture-carbon.html
Desert plantations could help capture carbon
Speed read
• Each hectare of the tree could absorb up to 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year
• Jatropha needs little water but could be irrigated by desalination plants
• Plantations can also cut average desert temperatures and boost rainfall
Planting trees in coastal deserts could capture carbon dioxide, reduce harsh desert temperatures, boost rainfall, revitalise soils and produce cheap biofuels, say scientists.

Large-scale plantations of the hardy jatropha tree, Jatropha curcas, could help sequester carbon dioxide through a process known as ‘carbon farming’, according to a study based on data gathered in Mexico and Oman that was published in Earth System Dynamics last month (31 July).

Each hectare of the tree could soak up 17-25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, they say, at a cost of 42-63 euros (about US$56-84) per tonne of gas, the paper says. This makes the technique competitive with high-tech carbon capture and storage.

Klaus Becker, the study’s lead author and director of carbon sequestration consultancy Atmosphere Protect, says that a jatropha plantation covering just three per cent of the Arabian Desert could absorb all the carbon dioxide produced by cars in Germany over two decades.

“Our models show that, because of plantations, average desert temperatures go down by 1.1 degree Celsius, which is a lot,” Becker says. He adds that the plantations would also induce rainfall in desert areas.

Jatropha, which is a biofuel crop, needs little water, and coastal plantations would be irrigated through desalination, Becker says.

He also envisages a role for sewage in such large-scale plantations.

“There are billions and billions of litres of sewage that are discharged into the oceans every week, but instead we could send that water to the desert and plant trees,” he says. “In this situation, you wouldn’t need any expensive artificial nitrogen [to fertilise the trees].”

The team has also been working in Israel’s Negev desert, where they planted 16 tree species, which, they say, is preferable to a jatropha monoculture. “A diversity of trees is good for the environment, good for investors and good for preventing diseases,” says Becker.

At another of the team’s carbon farms — a jatropha plantation in Madagascar — the organic matter content of degraded soil has risen from 0.2 per cent up to three per cent.

Local people now harvest beans planted between the trees, providing a vital source of protein and creating a symbiotic exchange of nitrogen — fixed from air by beans — and shade provided by the jatropha trees.

“Previously, no one had the idea of using uncultivated land to plant these kinds of leguminous beans because they would not grow there. But after four or five years of applying cultivation techniques, the soil quality increases dramatically,” Becker says.

Alex Walker, a research assistant at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, United Kingdom, describes carbon farming as a “common-sense approach to rising carbon dioxide levels, with potentially positive biodiversity impacts”.

He adds: “It will grow on non-arable land, and so not compete with food production, but it is more difficult to process and subject to varying yields and absorption volumes”.

Egypt is pioneering an experiment in desert farming, using sewage water after basic treatment to produce wood, woody biomass and biofuel crops, such as casuarina, African mahogany, jojoba and neem, in addition to jatropha.

“In Egypt, there are 15,000 acres planted with trees of good quality but so far they have not been sold to create economic value,” Hany El Kateb, a professor at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, tells SciDev.Net.

According to El Kateb, Egypt produces more than 6.3 billion cubic metres of sewage water a year, and 5.5 billion cubic metres of this would be sufficient to afforest more than 650,000 hectares of desert lands and store more than 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually in new forests.

El Kateb points out that Egypt has an advantage over European countries that are leaders in forestry, such as Germany, because the same trees grow more than 4.5 times faster in Egypt where the sun shine most of the year.

But Mosaad Kotb Hassanein, director of the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate in Egypt, says: “One of the big challenges of planting forests in arid areas is the lack of experience, expertise and technical personnel involved in the establishment and management of forest plantations.

“The project in Egypt was lucky to have technical assistance and support establishing a forest administration from the German Academic Exchange Service.”

Additional reporting by Nehal Lasheen.

Link to full paper in Earth System Dynamics

References
Earth System Dynamics doi: 10.5194/esd-4-237-2013 (2013)

SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT DESIGN: INFORMAL MARKETS

September 14, 2013

SECRETS OF SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT DESIGN: INFORMAL MARKETS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Gracious day, fellow global citizens!

What makes a product design click in a certain market? As far as developing countries are concerned, the presence of informal markets matter most. This was the astounding finding of a study done in the M.I.T.

I do resonate with the study findings, being a development worker who knows the basic end-users in my country. Those families in the lower middle to lower income brackets comprise a very large portion of the population here, a fact that was highly recognized by big retailers and manufacturers who tailor fit their products for them.

For the product designers, better consult economists who are in the know about markets or end-users. The antiquated Say’s Law, which posits that “a supply creates its own demands,” was long debunked, with John Maynard Keynes providing the coup d’ grace to the demolition of the flawed doctrine.

The lesson forwarded is: don’t ever engineer products that require a lot of time and effort to educate the end-users. In developing countries, among informal markets, such a line of thought won’t work, as the end-users want a quick usage of the items without much ado about how to use them.

Below is the reportage about the revelatory development.

[Manila, 01 September 2013]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/enterprise/news/study-reveals-secrets-to-successful-product-design.html

Study reveals secrets to successful product design
Speed read
• Sales hits such as a phone for rent were designed for micro-entrepreneurs
• Design guidelines call for a focus on products’ money-making ability
• But a product’s business model is also viewed as crucial
The secret to successful product design for developing countries is to tailor products for informal markets, a study has found.

Some of the best-selling products in emerging markets, such as solar lamps and a Nokia mobile phone, were specifically designed to help the owners of low-income businesses, known as micro-enterprises, make money, the study says.

These micro-enterprises are an untapped but potentially lucrative market and products tailor-made for them could make large profits for both local salesmen and multinational corporations.

The study authors, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, are now planning a large-scale study to evaluate and refine a set of guidelines for those designing products for developing countries.

Design firms in more mature markets generally develop products for consumers or businesses, but not for the informal markets that are prevalent in developing countries, says Maria Yang, co-author of the paper published as part of the ASME international design conference this month (4-7 August).

The study cited mobile phone multinational Nokia as an exception.

In 2003, Nokia launched a phone that dominated sales in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. It was designed for the owners of small, phone-renting businesses, according to the study.

The Nokia 1100 was intended to be shared by many people and used in various environments. It had an easy-grip back for humid climates, a dust-resistant keyboard, an LED torch and several contact lists so users could share the phone and keep personal contact lists separate. Nokia also developed eRefills, a metering tool that displays the exact cost of each call. In addition, Nokia used a fleet of vans to reach rural customers for marketing and product servicing.

“The phones have been used by farmers, fishermen and other producers to check market prices. They have also been used as the basis for money transfers in communities without adequate access to financial services,” Yang tells SciDev.Net.

Products designed for this sector not only benefit local entrepreneurs, but can help develop whole communities.

“The ability to communicate is critical to development at a basic level, particularly when some emerging markets lack the infrastructure to support other key types of communication such as landlines,” says Yang.

The researchers highlighted solar lamps as another example of design success aimed at micro-enterprises.

Solar lamps enable micro-entrepreneurs to keep their businesses open at night. US firm Greenlight Planet has designed one that can also charge mobile phones. This lamp has sold particularly well because buyers can make money by charging phones for a fee.

But supplying emerging markets with solar lamps also benefits the entire community, driving the switch to solar lighting from expensive, potentially dangerous kerosene lighting.

Daniel Schnitzer, founder of the NGO EarthSpark International, which provides solar lamps to micro-entrepreneurs, believes that strong product design is not the only factor in ensuring sales success.

“Way too much effort is put into designing these products, rather than on coming up with the right business model and the right after-sales service model. That’s really what makes these businesses successful,” he says.

He adds that EarthSpark has spent much time and resources on designing education and training materials for the entrepreneurs to use themselves and to give to their customers. “I think this is an area where manufacturers have really fallen short,” Schnitzer says.

But Yang disagrees. “Educating the user can take a long time, which can backfire,” she says. “The best strategy is to come up with a novel product and business models that users can immediately grasp.”

The paper offers some guidelines for future designers that focus on creating products that foster micro-enterprise. For example, it says that designers should think of their target users not only as consumers but also as micro-entrepreneurs, and be aware of their needs. It must be clear how the user can make money from the product, and the product should be upgradable so its performance capacity can grow with the business.

Another guideline calls on designers to consider multi-functionality, for example, the solar lamp’s ability to charge phones was key to its success.

Link to the paper
References
Austin-Breneman, J. and Yang, M. Design for Micro-Enterprise: An Approach to Product Design for Emerging Markets (Proceedings of the ASME 2013 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, 4-7 August)