Photo credits: Matteo Anaclerio, title credits: Tommaso Pacetti

During my BSc, MSc and then PhD studies, I was (luckily) exposed to the concept of “Appropriate Technologies”, namely technological choices and applications that are small-scale, decentralized, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally autonomous (Hazeltibe and Bull, 1999, as cited on

One may naturally think about “naif” technologies, made by natural, rather than local materials. Here, I quickly expose a personal view: we shall not refuse technological and “Northern” innovations, materials and approaches, if they can bring self-sufficiency and sustainability to the territories in which we work. Development is not, and will never be, a matter of defining which technical approach is better. Any technical approach, being modern or “naif” is functional to the goal it serves.

As an example, with the Water Harvesting Lab we built nice and functional household rooftop water harvesting system in Guatemala, in 2016. These latter were made with excavated reservoir in traditional adobe bricks, clay plaster, and a locally available polyethylene mesh to waterproof the tank.

In late 2018, we replicate this approach in the rural communities in the Zambesi Delta, Mozambique. Here we could have thought of replicating the same approach. Did it sound appropriate? Maybe, with nice, environmentally friendly clay brics.

Here comes the reflection on the approach: in the Zambezi Delta, the groundwater depth can up to 1-2 m from the surface, in the wet season. Any tank made by the Guatemalan technique (originally developed for a dry, hilly region) would have risked being undermined by the rising water table. Communities were aware of that, and suggested using concrete.

Concrete. Did it sound appropriate?

Locally, concrete and sand were available. We found export of concrete masonry within the locality of Maquival. We found also one example of a single rooftop water harvesting system built in a single house, in concrete. Did it sound appropriate? Yes.

Now we are testing this latter approach. We will wait the next rainy season to test it a to draft our conclusions, including, if needed, further improvements.

Building of a rooftop water harevsting system, Mozambique
Rooftop system finalised, Mozambique, 2018

Hazeltine, B.; Bull, C. (1999). Appropriate Technology: Tools, Choices, and Implications. New York: Academic Press. pp. 3, 270. ISBN0-12-335190-1.

In the latest days, Mozambique was hit by Idai Cyclone. The city of Beira has suffered so far the highest damage, but rural people have been also affected. We are close to all Mozambican people and we hope the best for our partners in rural areas. In this year, we are planning two new missions, to further improve the water supply in Zambesi Delta, necessity that now is stronger then ever, as well as the rehabilitation and development of other services for the post-disaster scenario

*Published by Giulio Castelli.
I am a postdoctoral scholar, passionate about people and water managment in arid areas View all posts by Giulio Castelli

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