Appropriate Technology and Quality Assurance

Appropriate technology is a small-scale, decentralized, and grassroots solution to the technology needs. It is, therefore, low-cost, flexible, easily accessible, convenient to control, and less complicated. As a demand-driven modality meeting the demand of various ranges of appropriate technology of micro-entrepreneurs from all MEDEP districts has always been a challenging issue. The actual challenge in technology transfer has been to identify the section between two factors which are:

  • The optimal utilization of locally available factors of production and services including technological capability already available and
  • The introduction to existing production systems of a dynamic component as a means of stimulating learning processes and boosting productivity through incremental, or possibly even radical, innovations.

Quality Assurance and Standardization

Quality of the products or services is the key to the success and growth of an enterprise. The Programme believes that quality is always a result of an intelligent effort and a will to produce superior products and services.

Quality control is a planned system of activities whose purpose is to provide a quality product, whereas Quality Assurance is a planned system of activities whose purpose is to provide assurance that the quality control programme is actually effective.

The Objectives of Quality Control

  • Guarantee of the product safety as a protection to consumer and to the trademark or brand
  • Product management in conformity with legal provisions and standards
  • Reduction in faults by preventing errors
  • Improvement in productive efficiency
  • Identification and correction of any cause of deviations

Quality control includes continuous process improvement in the product with being customer-focused and preventing defect. The steps of quality control are raw materials, process and finished product controls. The quality control measures applied in micro-enterprise are as follows:

Quality and standards are intertwining activities. Quality starts with standards and only through the help of standards quality is assessed. Standard is the parameter to measure the quality of products. A standard or a set of specifications on quality characteristics states the level of quality.

The programme also maintains linkages with the major quality assurance organizations viz. Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) and Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) and various other private laboratories. The NBSM issues Quality Assurance subjected to Nepal Standards and is voluntary whereas the Food Standards controlled by the DFTQC are mandatory and is directly related to the consumers' health and safety. Many of the food products produced by the entrepreneurs e.g. dried ginger, jam, chutney, spices, honey, etc. has been subjected to laboratory test to check the quality of the products.

Application of Appropriate Technology

Application of appropriate technology by the programme for micro-entrepreneurs is guided by the nature of the micro-enterprises, adaptability of the technology and action research for technology development and dissemination. Technologies used by the micro-enterprises supported by the programme have been broadly categorized into three types.

Enterprises using traditional and obsolete technology

Here the need is to use their traditional skill to diversify into other products that have market demand rather than upgrading the existing technology. Examples of these types of enterprises are traditional iron-work,, rope making, traditional fast-food-based enterprises, etc.

Enterprises using available technology which can be upgraded to enhance their efficiency and productivity

Most of the Programme-supported enterprises fall in this category, e.g., bee keeping, food processing, dairy-based and handicraft-based enterprises etc.

Enterprises either not utilising their available technology or keeping idle

These enterprises should be supported to utilise them by training, credit support and market linkage for activation of the idle technological resources.

The appropriate technologies whether already existing or yet to be adopted, are identified and chosen considering a combination of the following factors.

  • Simplicity of fabrication and operation and therefore of adoption
  • Level of existing and inexpensive technical expertise
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Raw materials availability
  • Availability of market for technologies, products and services
  • Availability of backup technical services
  • Availability of local skills and
  • Enhancing existing indigenous technical knowledge

Small technological innovations are often the key to providing efficiency and quality control that make small-scale production possible and profitable. Table 3 lists the range of such technologies that have been taken up by MEDEP entrepreneurs, and which in most cases have made the enterprise possible and/or more viable.

Additionally, MEDEP operates a programme of Participatory Action Research to test potential appropriate technologies. In this regard, MEDEP worked with partners to test several “new” technologies in situ:

  • Solar Dryer for Ginger, Vegetables, and Fruits. (Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST), Tribhuvan University. Was tested and then used by the participants in their enterprises.
  • “Beehive” Briquette Production. Tested with the Langhali Community Forest User's Group in Sunsari district. MEDEP entrepreneurs are now utilizing the process and marketing these briquettes to both urban and rural customers.
  • Improved Water Mills (ghatta). MEDEP, in cooperation with the Centre for Rural Technology(CRT), created awareness, demonstrations, and operations of the water mills

Case Study: Producing the “Beehive” Charcoal Briquette

One product with potential for an expanded market is the “beehive” charcoal briquette. This briquette is just the size to efficiently cook one meal, especially when placed snugly in the especially designed simple stove. It competes with kerosene, and its market can expand with any increase in the kerosene price.

In Mude, Dolakha district MEDEP entrepreneurs were using a stove made by CRT, which helped to produce charcoal appropriately, but were grinding charcoal and pressing it manually. They put in less water, reducing the drying period to one to two days in cooler climate like that of Mude. On the other hand, in Dharan, Sunsari dristict MEDEP entrepreneurs adapted a mill to grind the charcoal and are also using pressurization to produce a standard output. But they are using ordinary stoves or pits to make charcoal. They are also using more water required to drying for 5 or 6 days in a relatively hotter place like Dharan. The exchange of experiences as well as information on tools and methods will help both the groups to improve their productivity and benefits. Additionally, dies should be made to enable to produce briquette to last shorter period also to attract diversified market. Improvement in briquette stove (for consumers) is also expected to improve and expand its use.

Given the importance of appropriate technology, innovations for the micro-enterprise sector, the progress in this area is frustratingly slow. Although there are a number of public and private sector institutions active in the arena, it is difficult to discover which technologies are currently being developed and tested in Nepal or already being disseminated.

Appropriate Technologies used by MEDEP entrepreneurs

  Indigenous and Appropriate Technologies Enterprise
1 Modern beehive and accessories Beekeeping
2 Honey extractor, honey processors Beekeeping
3 Raspador machine Ketuki fibre processing
4 Stitching machine Hosiery and tailoring
5 Cream separator Milk products
6 Grinding machine Spice and Rittha powder making
7 Tapari making machine Leaf plate (Tapari) making
8 Papad press Papad making
9 Leather products stitching machine Leather products
10 Solar dryer Ginger drying
11 Sealing machine Bottle sealing
12 Warpin drum Allo and Dhaka processing
13 Dhaka and Allo weaving loom Dhaka and Allo products
14 Rope maker Babiyo rope
15 Wood cutting machine, electrical saw Bamboo crafts
16 Spinning machine Allo fibre processing
17 Ceramics furnace /kiln Ceramic products
18 Cutting machine, stamping dice Soap making
19 Baking oven Bakery products
20 Ice churner Ice cream
21 Bamboo splitting tools Bamboo crafts
22 Handlooms, Jacquard looms Jhalla and Allo weaving, Dhaka
23 Camera Photography
24 Screen print Envelop and file making
25 Screen print Paper bag making
26 Die Chalk manufacturing
27 Die, vibrators, compressors Cement block making
28 Improved water mills Milling and oil extraction of grains
29 Refrigerator Fresh house
30 Sundhara oil extractor Chyuri oil
31 Labelling and cutter Soap making
32 Oil dehydrator Dalmoth making
33 Spinning wheel Pottery
34 Spinning wheel Wool spinning
35 Chulesi die Chulesi making
36 Chocolate cutter die Chocolate making
37 Slicing machine Potato chips
38 Bangles making equipment Laha products

Because of the diversity of the micro-enterprises, the programme has identified several technology needs that are either to be replicated or to be studied in more detail for dissemination or adoption for the establishment of sustainable micro-enterprises. These technologies include food processing, non-timber forest products, medicinal and aromatic plants processing, apiculture, soap and cosmetics, handicrafts, Dhaka and hand-woven clothes, and animal feed.

Various activities on action research and dissemination of appropriate technology have been undertaken in the districts to increase the productivity and quality of the products and services of micro-entrepreneurs. The programme uses Participatory Action Research( PAR) methodology to test the most effective ways of bringing about desired social, economic and technological changes. The approach is a combination of research and practical actions that are undertaken as a temporary task to find locally compatible solutions. As part of the development and transfer of appropriate technology, the programme has carried out PAR on the following areas:

  • Promotion and dissemination of Improved Ghatta (water mill) in Nuwakot, solar dryer for ginger, vegetables and fruits in Deurali VDC of Nawalparasi, beehive briquette production in Sunsari
Action Research Objectives Outcome Action taken No. of beneficiaries Collaborating organisation
Solar drier for ginger and other vegetable products
  • Introduction of renewable energy technology reducing the negative environmental impact (deforestation and health hazard due to smoke) and production of high quality dried ginger and other vegetable products.

  • Value addition to fresh product in the production area itself
  • Adaptation of Solar drier for drying ginger

  • Reduced pressure on forest resources and environment

  • Production of dried ginger products meeting the mandatory standard as per the Food Act

  • The output from the solar drier is low so drier with higher output is sought after.
  • Disseminated and adapted solar drier for the production of dried ginger

  • Developed linkage between entrepreneurs and business organisation for marketing

  • Disseminated smaller units of solar driers in other districts for drying vegetables and spices
58 (Female 38, Male 20) Research Centre for Applied Science and Technology (RECAST), TU, Kirtipur

 




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