H+ Magazine
Covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing–and will change–human beings in fundamental ways.

Editor's Blog

Peter Rothman
December 13, 2012


We can use currently existing technology applied at the bottom of society to generate a wave of abundance and thereby solve many of the worst social and economic problems we face. And there is a lesson to learn here for those at the top in advanced societies as well. Small ideas and innovative uses of available technologies can make a large difference in the quality of life for everyday individuals and change the world. Here is one amazing example.

Many people around the world currently suffer from issues such as lack of food security, limited access to safe drinking water, or poor medical care.  However, starting at the bottom, we don't need to wait for advances in molecular manufacturing, or space transport, etc. to begin to produce widespread and worldwide abundance.

The Stanford Solar Benin Project is one such effort applying relatively low technology in a novel way that changes the lives of people from one of struggle and poverty to one of abundance.

This is the old way the villagers in Benin would get water for their crops during the dry season. They would go to a river or well and carry the water back. This made it hard to grow nutritious crops, and the villagers mostly depended on stored yams grown during the rainy season. But yams hold little nutritional value and many were near starvation and suffering from malnutrition during the summer months.

"In June 2007, the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF, a US-based NGO), in collaboration with local organizations, initiated a project to electrify the entire Kalalé district of northern Benin with photovoltaic (PV) solar systems. The electrification of each village will consist of two parts: (a) installation of solar-powered community pumps for drip agriculture, allowing local stakeholders to grow crops for home consumption and market sale during the dry season; and (b) electrification of public spaces, including schools, clinics, community centers with communications technologies, and streets."

With some PVC and tools and equipment you could get from your local home improvement store, the villagers were able to build a solar powered irrigation system.



The most "high tech" part of the entire system is the photovoltaic power source, however many homes in the U.S. have similar or even larger solar systems today. This is not a large or complex solar power set up.

End result?

The villagers are no longer near starvation but now are producing more than they require even during the dry season. They are self sufficient and further able to produce an excess which they can take to market and sell or trade for other produce and commercial products. In addition the system provides electrical lighting to schools and other public spaces.

The result is unprecedented local abundance and perhaps a new world of opportunities for the people of Benin. Want to usher in an Abundant Global Society? Start at the bottom.

3 Comments

    Glad to see some positive developments in Africa. People think that other countries and areas have nothing to do with them. If a place like Africa is well developed it will be good for people all over the world.

    Great article! IEET was thinking about putting out a book on this topic - Africa and Emerging Technology - let me know if you're interested

    Great stuff. This is one concept that will save humanity. However the 'power elite' will undoubtedly view it otherwise as it will take away their 'control' over the poor as they love the 'provider' status they have unilaterally assumed.

    By all means let us, who are able, provide abundance at the bottom of the social strata.

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