February 2012: B.U.G. (Beautiful.Useful.Green) Design

Designing for Africa
Sally writes,”On the New Inventors program we saw plenty of well-meaning inventions aimed at relieving living conditions in Africa. Our guest judges with expertise “in the field” would often point out the problems with imposing our cultural tendencies on others. For example, one student design mounted a PVC bladder on a bamboo frame, ignorant of the fact that women carry the water and usually have an infant right where the frame would sit. The Hippo rolling water tank won design awards across the globe, yet its designer now considers it a cultural failure.  The Play Pump, a personal favorite, where children play on a roundabout that in the process of spinning will pump water from a well to a tower tank, has been plagued with maintenance and bad siting issues. More than a third of the installed pumps are currently out of action.

Give a Jumpstart

Which is why I love what my friend and neighbor Suzanne Joyal does as the Executive Director of Give a Jumpstart. The non-profit administers micro loans to women who are supporting families in rural villages in Zambia bordering the Congo.  Suzanne’s newest project Bumba Busumba Hand-Printed Textiles, for which she is currently fundraising, will help her Zambian friends create products to tell their stories and fund their futures.


Why is it beautiful? “We work with vulnerable women in a community devastated by HIV and poverty, “says Suzanne, “but the women of Kashikishi are also strong and joyful.” Bumba Busuma means creating grace. What could be more beautiful than empowering women to help themselves?

Why is it useful? There is a saying in Africa: “Invest in a man and you help an individual. Invest in a woman, and you help a village.” Give a Jumpstart recently launched WEEL (Women’s Economic Empowerment Loan) micro lending program in Zambia to help the most vulnerable women build sustainable business ventures to raise themselves out of poverty.

Why is it green? Put a woman in business and she will put her children in school. The micro-lending program has already reached 150 women in Kashikishi, helping them to create an income to support their families. Loanees are living on $1 per day or less, yet every one is able to pay back their loan on time. The women  are running sustainable businesses such as bakeries, co-op hair salons, and egg, farming, and sewing cooperatives.

Watch the Bumba Busuma Kickstarter video. Proceeds from sales of Bumba Busumba textiles will benefit Give a Jumpstart and WEEL.

Check out Sally’s blog for more B.U.G. Designs.


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