This Man Can’t Stop Innovating
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Nothing beats the economics and ingenuity of a great dual-use product. On a scorching February day, Moses Kizza Musaazi stands behind the latrines at Mpigi UMEA Primary School, describing the features of his portable incinerator. The mud at his feet is red. So are the uniforms of the children who surge and subside in waves as he delivers his tutorial.
Musaazi is telling me about the unit’s three-chamber design, which allows it to heat to almost twice the temperature of other incinerators manufactured here, in his native Uganda. He points out a fat pipe running into the girls’ toilet stall to facilitate the discreet disposal of sanitary pads. Smiling broadly, Musaazi slides out a metal panel that bisects the pipe. “Most of the time when the incinerator is burning, this stays in,” he explains. “But if you remove it, the smoke goes back up into the bathroom and drives away the flies.”
What I like about the incinerator, besides the fly thing, is that it represents a kind of turnkey thinking about human suffering. In Uganda, where more than 50 percent of the population survives on less than $1.25 a day, social problems abound. A holistic innovator, Musaazi attacks those problems in clusters. The origin problem in this particular cluster is girls’ abandoning school when they reach puberty. They do so because 1. They cannot afford sanitary napkins 2. They cannot privately dispose of sanitary napkins and 3. They cannot wash, because school bathrooms—walled-off holes in the ground—lack running water.