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The multifunctional platform (MFP) is built around a simple diesel engine, than can power various tools, such as a cereal mill, husker, alternator, battery charger, pump, welding and carpentry equipment, etc. It can also generate electricity that can be used for various applications. The MFP reduces many of the arduous and strenuous tasks typically performed by women while offering to them income-generating opportunities, management experience and, as they become more economically independent, increases their social status.
A typical MFP comprises a 10 HP diesel engine, capable of driving different ancillary modules. Standard ancillaries include a grain mill, a de-huller, an oil press and even an electric alternator. This alternator can drive modules such as a water pump, provide power for up to 250 light bulbs, charge batteries, drive a sawmill or weld metal.
In setting up an MFP a participatory feasibility study must be made in each village, before installing a platform to identify key services required and to enable the definition of baselines against which its performance will be benchmarked.
Applications and Efficiency
The MFP is a simple, inexpensive energy source at the village level. It provides energy for milling, de-hulling, charging batteries, welding, food processing, pumping water and lighting.
It has been shown to stimulate the creation of employment as well as the development and modernisation of other artisan activities in the villages (e.g. blacksmiths, mechanics, carpenters etc); especially given it is assembled and maintained by local mechanics.
Overall system efficiencies depend on the number and nature of ancillary equipment connected to the engine, but typically do range between 5% and 30%.
The costs of equipment and of the installation of the basic module (e.g.: engine, mill, de-huller, alternator, battery charger, house) is estimated at US$ 4,500.
Capabilities and Limitations
The platform employs simple and appropriate technology and is an economic, practical and sustainable solution for many of the problems faced by rural communities.
- A flexible, decentralised and client-oriented approach adaptable to specific situations encountered in different villages is essential. MFPs respond to expressed demand from villages for a multifunctional platform. This ensures ownership and appropriation of the platform by the villages and its autonomous management.
- To ensure maximum benefits to women, the ownership and management of platforms is typically entrusted to a group of organised village groups. Training and technical support are provided to build up their management capacities.
- Technical competencies tend to be a problem in most village settings and must be outsourced to established private sector operators who may not be readily available proximate to the villages. This however can be addressed through training and networking with local mechanics.
- Financing for most of the operating MFPs has typically been through development financing given the relatively high cost of diesel engines/ generator in comparison to rural incomes.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: I - Energy Technology
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: I - Energy Technology