'AFFORDABLE' TECHNOLOGY OPENS WORLD TO AFRICANS

'AFFORDABLE' TECHNOLOGY OPENS WORLD TO AFRICANS

Villagers and city dwellers are learning cheap and practical ways to handle their daily chores at Togo's national center for appropriate technology, perhaps the most advanced of its kind in Africa.

Conventional Western technology costs too much for many applications in Africa. The center's staff in Lama-Kara demonstrates affordable technology ranging from mud stoves and solar ovens to reinforced mud cisterns for water storage.Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso are other nations that have begun programs to spread the use of cheaper technology that is more practical for African conditions.

But Togo is the first African nation to make a national policy of widespread use of appropriate technology, as the techniques are commonly known. Much of the impetus for the policy came from Togolese women, who, like women elsewhere in Africa, are responsible for most of the daily chores in villages and towns.

The promotion of appropriate technologies is a solid guarantee of success to liberate women from their innumerable burdens, says Aminata Traore, an adviser to President Gen. Gnassingbe Eyadema.

In Lome, the Togo capital, Kpatcha Kanda, assistant director of the School for Social Training, said most Western aid attempts until recently have been to simply transfer development models and technological norms from the industrialized world.

But Western technology remains clearly limited to those who have the means to afford it, he said.

But before people will accept the new ideas, trainers have to show the new methods will lighten work loads and be profitable.

Other forms of appropriate technology are being used throughout Africa. Some examples:

* A Zimbabwean developed a circular saw fitted to a bench and driven by pedal-power.

* A Zambian woman devised an incubator, made of clay with reed windows, to keep premature babies alive.

* In Niger, farmers who need to protect their plots from animals are given wire and boards with nail pegs. They weave the wire through the pegs to build a fence.

Even some forms of appropriate technology aren't within everyone's reach, however.

In Mali, whose per capita income of $150 was the fourth-lowest in the world in 1987, a small metal stove was developed recently to cut wood consumption. But the stove's developers said sales were disappointing because even the modest price of 2,000 West African francs ($7) was too expensive.