dissigno – Bringing CleanTech to Africa


Since Gary Zieff is in Africa, and I think his efforts with dissigno are critically important I will take the liberty of writing a bit him and forwarding an email or two while he’s there. The concept behind dissigno is simple – it’s execution is not. Gary and his partner David Williams have worked hard on a sustainable business model that will generate economic, environmental and educational rewards – they recently won a grant from the World Bank to bring sustainable power to Tanzania.

Here are the quick facts that prompted dissigno to action in Tanzania:

Candle provide 1.1 lumen and costs $58.40 USD a year to operate

Simple Wick provides 1.1 lumen and costs $8.92 USD a year to operate

Kerosene Lantern provides 182 lumen and costs $56.73 USD a year to operate

1 W LED provides 320 lumen and costs $4.38 USD a year to operate

Source: IFC Lighting at the Bottom of the Pyramid GEF Project March 2006

The opportunity was precisely what CleanTech is all about, providing a more ecologically and economically sustainable solution for a current problem.

I got this email from Gary a couple days ago:

Figurative tears run down my cheeks. After 5 days, 3 planes, 3 continents, many taxis, buses and cars myself and my precious cargo is a mere two hours jeep ride from the final destination. In this modern age, it really hasn’t been difficult, but rather time consuming to get the pedal generator, a bunch of supplies, and all the cargo to keep my mortal coil spinning here on African soil. Cynthia (Joel’s girlfriend) and I step down from the 19 seater turbo prop plane onto the red dirt runway of Bukoba and are greeted by Joel and William. The flight was exciting over Lake Victoria. The more so as we neared Karagwe dragging the large metal container carrying the pedal generator. It is nearing the end of this leg of the journey, but also the start of something new and exciting.

Although I don’t see much of Bukoba after landing, it smells and feels like the Africa I have been dreaming about since starting this project. It is lush and green. The roads are mostly red dirt packed hard after numerous carts, people and cars have driven it. It has a humid feel that I will get used to. Siting in the front seat of the van I watch the shore of Lake Victoria roll past.

It is nice to be met by Joel. Friendly faces who take over some of the heavy lifting and responsibility of the gear that I have been worrying over since leaving SFO. Although it hasn’t been difficult it has been pyschologically draining as I wonder who and where I will be stymied in my effort to get the gear to Karagwe. I feel much like the intrepid 19th century travels lugging cases and steamer trucks around with them on their visits. I am exhausted too from travel and time change. This project is so important on so many levels; for the people of Karagwe, for the kids, for us, and for Kaderes.

Joel and Cynthia and I eat dinner and Joel enthusiastically tells me about the people he’s met and the ideas he’s got. He has developed an understanding of who knows who, how they know each other, what they know and what they think about the project. He sees the potential. He’s excited and that makes me excited. You can see in his eyes that he’s been bitten by the project bug.

To be continued.

Gary Zieff will be contributing to CleanTechies from Tanzania. He founded dissigno with long time friend and colleague David Williams.

Picture Credit – www.barefootpower.com



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