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9. Availability of skills and materials

The skills and materials available for self-help projects vary greatly, even within different localities of a given country. The methods or techniques selected will be strongly influenced by local availabilities. Any technique which relies on specialized equipment or materials imported from a distant country cannot generally be considered suitable for self-help projects. On the other hand some materials which are routinely imported and are almost always available locally may be used in limited quantities if their prices are not prohibitive (e.g. cement, pipe, etc.). In general, however, self-help projects should use indigenous materials to the greatest extent possible.

Where skills are not locally available, they can frequently be taught and the upgrading of skills might be considered as important as the finished project itself.

Table 4 shows three arbitrarily chosen levels of skills and materials available. Frequently a given country may have a relatively high level in and around population centres with lesser levels in the more remote regions. Since it is precisely in more remote regions that self-help projects are most needed, it is probably better to err in the direction of simplicity and labour intensity than in the direction of technical sophistication.

Table 4 Levels of Skills and Materials Available





Blacksmith with traditional equipment and capability of forge welding. Carpenter with limited hand tools.

Wood, stone, steel drums, parts from discarded vehicles and machinery, locally made rope.


Blacksmith with traditional equipment plus hand-powered drill press, grinder, and hacksaw and oxy-acetylene welder. Carpenter with all common hand tools, sheet metal workers, stone cutter and/or brickmaker, mason.

As above plus : brick, cut stone, cement, sawed lumber, sheet metal, pipe, reinforcing rod, common structural steel (angle iron, iron channel etc), threaded fasteners, manilla rope, steel cable, chain.


As above, plus: machinist with metal working machines (lathe, mill etc.), arc welding equipment, sheet metal fabricating equipment. Engine mechanic.

As above plus : engines, winches, pumps, drive points and pipe, well screen, plastic pipe.

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