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~James H. West

Lisa's Blog

Sustainable Living in South Africa....

Lisa Cutforth - Sunday, November 15, 2009

...can we learn something?

I just got back from a wonderful visit to South Africa, and I so enjoyed hanging out with my father (David Alcock) and checking out his latest renewable energy and rural development projects.

Our first stop was the sustainable living organic gardening projects, which he has been involved in for a number of years.  My father builds and installs rampumps in rural areas, so that the villagers don't have to walk for miles to get water (a rampump is a clever little pump that uses gravity and pressure to pump water up hill from a stream or river).   

It was wonderful to see the rampumps in use, the water is pumped into big plastic tanks (rudimentary reservoirs) and this water is then used to irrigate large gardens in which gorgeous fresh organic vegetables are grown.  Enough vegetables are grown to feed surrounding families and often extra is available to sell.  The hard part is getting the extra produce to market though, the areas are quite remote, so transport is a challenging obstacle. 

It is exciting to see the innovation and commitment of all involved and how much has been achieved over the years, small changes that have made a big difference to some.


Another of my fathers projects is Biogas, which I just think is ingenious- using "fart gas" for fuel!  He installs big methane "digesters" which he diverts sewerage pipes to, so that collect faeces which releases methane gas, this methane gas can then be used for fuel.  I have watched how small little rural communities are able to use this fuel to then cook with, a free energy source.  His latest project has now moved into suburban areas.  Here is a picture of him standing proudly on a digester he has installed in someone's backyard.  The way of the future!  Free energy!

Some of his other projects include grey water recycling and making fertilizer at the sewerage works.  When my father is around, nothing is wasted!!!


It was amazing to see how little people can survive on, and I was really encouraged to see how much is possible with a few resources, imagine how much we could achieve with the resources we have at our disposal!


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