Manual of  Rural Technology

Handbook of Rural Technology

Revised: Wednesday, 5 August 2015


This manual is based on my knowledge obtained from 25 years of living in Mozambique. It is being published on the Internet in parts, so it will appear as a magazine written up about every 2 weeks in our Internet site <>. It will mostly be concerned with practical technology, often connected with agriculture but more basically on possible improvements to the lives of poor rural people. 

It will show that rural life need not be poor and that people living in rural areas can live a good life there and should not aim to go to towns and cities. 

There is great potential in the rural parts of Mozambique. There are sources of power at present not made use of. There is no need to suffer from drought and floods; technologies exist to deal with these. A family need not be limited to cultivating one and a half hectares with a hoe and a catana. 

The manual is aimed mostly at young people - our future generation. Many of the technologies can be created by young people, as we will show by examples. Many young people have greater abilities than we think. 


Woman hoeing 3

1 Introduction 

2 Agriculture, soil

3 Agriculture, water

4 Agriculture storage

5 Water, Sanitation, Rain collection 

6 Health, Medicine

7 Animals, insects

8 Food, Cooking

9 Heat, light

10 Clothes

11 Mechanical stuff

12 Electricity, power

Cultivator machine 1

13 Tools

14 Construction

15 Transport

16 Substances

17 Education

18 Music, sound

19 Sport Games, Crafts

20 Miscellaneous 



Mozambique’s resources

Mozambique is a rich country. Sources of oil, coal and gas have recently been discovered and are being exploited. However it has another potentially very rich  resource, one whose riches would reach the poor but is at present very underused: fertile agricultural land.

The United Nations recently said that 70% of Mozambicans live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for their survival, added that Mozambique has the most farming potential of all African countries and that the central and northern provinces of Mozambique have greater agricultural potential, more fertile soil and more abundant rainfall than other parts of the country. 

Mozambique has vast areas of fertile land, which could produce enough food for the nation, as well as exports. 

'Our statistics show that only four per cent of the thirty-nine million hectares with agricultural potential are cultivated. In other words, there are thirty-five million hectares lying idle.' 

About 70 percent of Mozambicans live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming for survival. According to the United Nations, Mozambique has the most farming potential of any African country. Parts of this are indeed being exploited, largely through land concessions to outside investors, but producing food for export rather than feeding hungry local people. 

But it is not only a matter of  the availability of fertile land but of a failure of rural people to take up the opportunity to increase their income. A recent President said: ‘Over sixty per cent of our people do not eat well, much less have money enough to resolve their basic problems such as buying medicine. How on earth can it be possible in a country blessed with such a vast area of fertile ground through which so many rivers and sources of water run?’

The flight from the rural areas to the cities 

Since Independence, people have flooded into the cities from  the rural areas, believing that life will be better there. They perceive, rightly, that the rural areas are backward in many aspects of life. Some of the reasons are as follows: 

Old-fashioned methods of agriculture and general lack of knowledge of improved agricultural methods. 

Lack of technology and knowledge of possible technologies.

Little use of animal transport and animal traction, such as for ploughing, raising water, etc. 

Lack of education for children and youth. 

No entertainment, for example  TV. 

They cannot earn enough in rural areas. People do not know methods for increasing  rural income.

Poor roads to take produce to market. 

Low prices from merchants for products. 

Inefficient methods of  transporting water, wood, agricultural products etc - both personal carrying and by carts or similar. 

The belief that people can earn more in towns. - a common general belief. 

Lack of communication, for example cellphone systems and the internet. 

As a result of these problems, rural life is not attractive, especially for young people.  


Some examples

An obvious example is the continuing use of the hoe as the common method of tilling the soil. This method is at least 4,000 years old. Newer and much more efficient methods exist, as, for instance, a group of farmers buying a motorised cultivator, or  even a tractor and plough plus maintenance and fuel. The problem is perhaps not so much the raising of the finance but the idea of forming a  cooperative whose members are honest with money, and fair in sharing out the machine and  costs of upkeep. 

There are better methods of irrigation than dependence on the rains or watering crops with watering cans. The making of canals is almost unknown, or the making of terraces so that sloping hillsides can be cultivated and irrigated. The method of making of ‘sand dams’ on streams is generally not understood. 

There is often sufficient total rain on an area to irrigate all of the area but generally most of the  water is allowed to  run into streams and away into rivers. or  to disperse into distant ground. The making and use of 'sand dams' is rarely practiced in Mozambique. 

The method of  farming without first hoeing the ground is not known, nor the treatment of the soil by mixing 'carbon' into it.

There are generally no mechanical power sources, e.g. a windmill to operate a water pump, etc. 

In some areas, the water table is near the surface but many farmers do not know easy methods of digging wells. Simple methods of raising water are not practiced. 

Some farmers in Mozambique use bullocks to pull ploughs but others do not. One reason for this is that people do not know how to look after bullocks.

In short, improved and modern technologies are not known and used. 


Mozambique is one of the largest power producers in the SADC region but only 18 percent of Mozambicans have access to electricity.

With electricity you can do so  much, e.g have light at night, TV, charging a cellphone, etc. Once you have electricity, you may be able to get a TV set. With a TV  set, you have access to education for children and youth. You have entertainment and news. There are educational channels which teach better than most schools.  

So getting electricity is essential. There is an easy and cheap way of generating electricity by means of a 'vertical axis windmill', using only bamboo, rice sack cloth, and a battery and an alternator from a scrap  car. 

Some interesting facts; Did you know?:

All plants and trees are  built, not with material from the ground, but from the carbon dioxide in the air.

Water in desert or semi-desert areas comes up to ground level by climbing up from particle to particle of the soil or sand, and can be collected at the surface.

Plants do not use much of the water that they take from the soil; they use it mainly to transport minerals and nitrates. Large Eucalyptus trees take in anywhere between 1000 and 5000 litres of water per day, then they transpire almost all of it from their leaves into the air. If this could be collected it would be major help to agriculture.

What follows is a draft of notes for turning into chapters


Agriculture, soil

The earth under our feet.

Simple soil science.  Soil testing

Minerals, clay. 


Measurement of agricultural chemicals,

Balances and volume measure.

Hydroponics, e.g. tomatoes

Digging efficiently

Agricultural tools. Iron, steel

Agricultural machines, Plough,

Liming clay soil. For clayey soils

Limestone, shells to make lime

Lime chemically interacts with the clay and makes the clay molecules stop

sticking to each other so hard. Old gypsum, drywall scraps can by laid on

the ground and covered with cardboard, newspapers, leaves, weeds, etc. 

Fertiliser, organic, compost. Fertilizers, commercial. 

Agricultural chemicals

Need to replace nutrients

How water goes up through soil

Tilling soil. 'No-till' farming


Agriculture, water

Streams. Dams.

Collecting and conserving rainwater for agriculture

Wells. How to dig a well.

Raising water, wells, pumps. Water-raising wheels. 

Pressure experiments

Canals, Channelling water


Rotating sprinklers. Spraying,

Pipes. Flow through pipes

Pressure experiments

Floods, droughts 

Rain. Measuring rainfall. Volume measure. Graphs. 

Tin pipes

Radial irrigation

Force of water in streams

Floating  sinking, density. 

How water goes up  plants, high trees, Quantity that goes up.

How to collect water from ‘dry ground’.



Agriculture, storage

Making silage and other foods for animals.

Grain storage. Types of stores

Drying cereals. How to measure humidity

Leaves to repel insects

Weaving bags for maize storage

Rats (see ‘Animals’)


Water, Rain collection, Sanitation 

Rain collection for domestic use

Collecting water from the atmosphere (e.g. dew)

Storing clean water

Filtering water

Decontaminating water, pasteurisation

Water delivery by bicycle trailer


Diseases from smoke in houses

Burning plastic

Soap, detergent

Alcohol as disinfectant for wounds


Health, Medicine

The human body

Medicines and pills are specific. Don't use them from any old source.

Microbes and diseases

Children looking after babies. Medicines and Tablets. Medical plants. Microbes and diseases. Bathrooms., latrines, Births. Girlfriends, Contraception. 

Malaria. Cures. Quinine. Asprin.

Prevention vs cures. 

Restaurants, bars, 


Beer and other drinks. Making alcohol. The effect of alcohol. 

Traditional medicine


Animals, insects

Animal farming - pigs, cows, hens 

Fly traps


Mosquitoes and stagnant water. 

Traps for mosquitoes


Bees. Honey. Extracting honey from comb. 

Centrifugal force 

Tsetse fly. Tsetse fly trap using cow urine.

Types of pesticide. Use of tobacco. 

Pesticides. Types. How to measure doses.


Mataquenha, fleas, (Jiggers) . How to remove.


Traps: rats, snakes. Trapping animals for food


Food, Cooking

Buying in the market. Measures and checking you were not cheated

Weighing, balances.

Measuring volume.

Stoves and cooking

The process of combustion. Fanning the stove.

Improved stoves, Ideas of efficiency 

Straw box. Insulation.

The process of combustion. Conductivity.


Danger of carbon monoxide

Grass as fuel. Block-making,


Sugar and sugar cane



Local beer.

Keeping flies off. Protection of food

Storage of surplus food over year. 

Conservation of food: with salt, sugar, vinegar, smoking,

Balanced diet. 

Fruit juices. 


Keeping drinks cool. Evaporatioon

Ashes for scouring plates and  saucepans.

Sunlight as disinfectant for plates, cutlery, etc. 

Distillation. Making alcohol



Heat, light


Lamp wicks and how kerosene goes up, etc 


Saucepans. The Physics behind these aspects involves:

Heat flows





Thick clothes of desert Arabs


Other temperature indicators

Units used to measure heat.

Heat and the human body

Keeping temperature constant - sweating, etc 

Dryers for food

Heats houses with zinc roofs

Idea of 'hot day'

The heat from the sun. 

Solar cookers. 

Evaporation cooling. Zeer pots

Country bars want to keep beer cool

Market traders want to keep their products cool. Bars want to conserve ice

Fishermen want to keep fish cool

Cooking: many aspects, e.g. Boiling at 100 degrees

Above a certain temperature, using an electric fan may not cool you off because it may be directing air warmer than you at you.

Spectacles, lenses

Mirrors, how to make. With bowl. Smoked glass

Sun dials



Clothes, History.

Use of tree bark

Repairing clothes.

Shoes, Footwear in general

Sandals made of motor tyres. 


Hair straighteners



Obol for Charon across the Styxs

Spinning and weaving, simple. Inkle loom.

Laundry irons


Mechanical stuff

Pulling, pushing

Things that connect with inertia

Walking, jumping


Pouring water

Volume, overflowing, 

Water finding its own height


Stability, balance, weighing

Catapults, throwing, spears, bows and arrows

Toys illustrating mechanical effects.


Rope, string, thread, knots


Clippers, Shears

Cutting, chopping, sawing

Keys, locks, bolts


Blacksmith work

Tinsmith work

Breaking glass. Cutting glass

Strength of materials

Swings, seesaws


Plastic things, types of plastics: bottles, pens, bags, 

Toy cars, tin lids as wheels

Toys of  other kinds

Strength of the wind


Roads, paths, surfaces

Balls: inflating, making balls, dented ping pong balls

Bicycle inner tubes

Rubber bands


Nets and netting

Avoiding rust: sacrificial cathodes.lobster pots, 


Pressure boy on board, suckers (glass lifters), blungers, drinking glass supports.

Levels. Horizontal e vertical.


Raising heavy weights. 

Levers. Pulleys,



Electricity, power


Use of small motors as generators 

Generators that work by treadles or on bicycles or sewing machines

Wind-driven generators

At first it is not to be expected that households can make their own vertical axis windmill to  generate electricity. The first step is to train a District-based team to make them. Then this team can go and build the windmill generators for individual households. 

The households pay the team but this cost will be small because the work is easy and the materials are usually locally available. There is generally enough wind to operate these generators. If the wind is weak, it is just necessary to build a bigger windmill.

Use for radios, for charging batteries, for providing light at night

Ordinary phones

Cell phones 


Domestic electric appliances

Electric wires and cables

Mains electricity. Electric meters and costs. 


Plugs and sockets

Electric lamps, stoves, meters



Carpentry and wood tools

Hammering, nails

Metal working tools

Sharpening knives, catanas, axes, scissors 



Construction of houses 

Bricks. Moulds

Cement. Proportions to make mortar, to make concrete Proportion of sand, gravel Types of sand and gravel.

Reinforcing of concrete

Rustic cement. 

Tests of concrete




Heat coming from hot iron ('zinc') roofs

Ventilation of house



Stopping heat radiation coming down from roof

Protection against floods, houses on stilts

The form of villages, habitaçôes, towns, 

Climb a tree to see the plan of your village, bairro 

Preparedness for disasters. culture of preparedness



Wheelbarrow, sled, 

Bicycle trailer.  stretchers, palanquins, wheelbarrows atrelados. Use of shirt. 

Boats, rafts, sails, oars

Going uphill and downhill.

Carrying water, firewood, ets. Shoulder yokes 




Gold, how to recognise it.. Price of gold


Gold panning 

Metals, how to recognise.


Uranium in Mozambique. (See references in DuckDuckGo)

The separation of substances.


Use of scrap plastic. 




Light at night

Quiet place

Preparation for understanding


Music, sound

Percussion, guitar, wind, instruments

Mouth organ, Jew's harp, ocarina, 




High and low notes, frequency, period


Tuning an instrument

Bands, music groups

Speaking, shouting over distance.

Speed of sound


Noise in meetings


Ears and hearing

Electronic instruments for playing

Mikes, loudspeakers, amplifiers

CD players

Telephone wires

Selecting wood for xylophones ('marimbas')


Sport Games, crafts

Spinning and weaving.

Rope making


Maths, sport distsance measurement. Football field. Race track.

Making a right angle

Measuring by rolling wheel.

Land, measurement, level




Map on the ground. 

Rubbish in and outside the home.

Ideas of re-cycling. Returnable bottles versus plastic. The re-cycling of plastic

The characteristics of plastics of different kinds

Conservation of the environment for tourism

People have invented a word for 'what surrounds'. It is 'meio-ambiente'. 

Ideas about the Earth in space. A bit of astronomy.

Mobile cinemas

Toys illustrating mechanical effects

Climate change, drought and floods

Bird scarers

Land mines


The Internet and Web

Globalisation of information

Sources of information

Newspapers and books