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Anti-poverty pioneers create products to help people worldwide

January 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Imagine something as simple as a plastic bag that costs only a few cents to make but literally has the power to save lives of people all over the world.

As part of a new trend of social innovation, students, inventors and nonprofits are using their creative talents for good by creating simple, inexpensive products to help those living on less than $2 a day.

Women living in refugee camps in worn-torn Darfur spend the majority of their lives gathering firewood so they can feed their families, but the trips are filled with danger.

"They were having to walk up to seven hours, three to five days a week, to get the wood. And during these treks, they were often being assaulted," said Andree Sosler of the Darfur Stove Project.

So a California scientist decided to help by creating a special stove from simple steel that requires less wood to cook food. And the best part? Each stove costs only $20, and their assembly creates local jobs for the community.

"Each one might seem to be small, but when you look at all of them together, the impact is enormous," said Sosler.

These stoves are just one example of a growing trend of social innovation. Anti-poverty pioneers are creating simple, inexpensive products that pack a life-changing punch.

For example, the Hippo Roller allows African women to change the way they carry water. Instead of a five-gallon bucket on their head, they can roll 25 gallons across the ground. Or there's the Soccket Ball, which harvests the energy of a soccer game and turns it into usable electricity after the game.

There's also a clean birth kit to help rural midwives deliver healthy babies. Many deaths from delivery complications can be prevented with this $2 kit.

"The anti-poverty pioneers, as they're called, who create these inventions are really people like you and me. You don't have to be an Albert Einstein or an Alexander Graham Bell to change the world. You just have to have the passion and make the right kinds of partnerships to make that happen," said Kayla Springer, program manager for Global Envision.

So far, the Darfur Stoves Project has supplied 20,000 stoves and hopes to increase that number to 900,000.

"Some people have even started calling the stove, 'the stove of hope,' because it helps women so much," said Sosler.

See photos of these creative products.