New Skills

We promote and assist with the teaching of new skills and technologies, particularly in situations of extreme poverty and high unemployment. These new skills can be used for income generation as well as the betterment of individual and community living conditions.

One example of an ‘appropriate technology’ for a developing situation is Appropriate Paper-Based Technology.

Appropriate Paper-Based Technology (APT) is a simple low cost technology that utilises waste cardboard and paper to make a wide range of items. These include furniture, home ware and assistive equipment for people with special needs.

APT is:

  • Simple – using basic engineering principles to make weak materials strong.
  • Easily learned by those who are committed and prepared to work hard, regardless of previous education.
  • Sustainable – primarily using zero-cost waste materials.
  • ‘Green’ and environmentally friendly – recycles cardboard and paper.
  • Very adaptable in product design – easy to produce bespoke items for individual needs.
  • Adaptable in manufacture – in the home/community or batch produced in a workshop.
  • Adaptable in business/social enterprise models – income generation business and/or volunteer workforce.

The origins of APT

While beginning to learn about APT, we discovered an interesting coincidence. It was first developed by a man called Bevill Packer who was a sociology lecturer at UCE, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe back in the 70s. He was timetabled to do art classes and wondered what he could do with the students. Experimenting with making things from various free and throw-away materials, APT began it’s development. Bevill and his wife spent their retirement continuing to develop and teach APT. It initially took off and showed very promising results for income generation and the production of customised items for handicapped people/children with cerebral palsy. There were training courses and workshops in Zimbabwe while Bevill was still alive, but, while it is being used very successfully in several other parts of Africa (and other parts of the world), it appeared to have faded away in Zimbabwe as its practitioners died or moved away.

We were introduced to APT by the ‘Paper Furniture Social Enterprise’ (PFSE) in the UK. PFSE makes equipment, furniture and assistive aids, particularly for children with Cerebral Palsy. They work with a charity called Cerebral Palsy Africa and as well as manufacturing equipment themselves, they provide training for others in a number of countries to establish sustainable productive units.