Pacific Islands Humanitarian Makerspace Begins Production of Locally Made Items
Worldwide 60 to 80% of aid funds are spent on logistics - moving items from where they are made to where they are needed. In times of disaster, supply bottlenecks occur at ports and airports. Which in turn delays critical aid, increases suffering, and costs lives. And in the Pacific islands, this is especially acute given the vast distances, limited transport infrastructure, and small decentralized populations.
This year, Field Ready with the support of AHP-Disaster Ready has opened the Pacific region’s first humanitarian makerspace in Suva, Fiji. The makerspace facility is designed to promote the localization of the production of humanitarian supplies and increase the local human technical capacities for this. The space is equipped with cutting edge digital tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters. As well as, conventional workshop tools to support the work of humanitarian partners in the region. With one of Field Ready’s missions of humanitarian supplies being made-in-the field, the first local innovations have been produced through the makerspace.
Field Ready first collaborated with local manufacturers on items that needed to be made in large numbers for humanitarian supply. Working closely with Habitat for Humanity Fiji, UNICEF, Fijian Ministry of Health, and the Rotomould Fiji company they were able to design an emergency latrine that is durable, lightweight, easily transportable and affordable. Addressing the shortage of appropriate latrine solutions identified after cyclone Winston in 2016 that left 26,000 households without sanitation facilities. The Fiji Ministry of Health will be deploying the first 50 of the emergency latrines in vulnerable communities; which will also be available for purchase by low-income families as a first or improved latrine. And because of the successful development of the latrines in the initial months, more are expected to be produced across other countries in the region.
Along with the latrine units Field Ready engineers have also produced a shelter, foot-operated water tap, assistive railings, ramps, and designed and produced 3D printed spare parts for disability assistive devices for crutches and wheelchairs. By fabricating low-volume customized items directly in the makerspace, items that were previously unusable because of a lack of spare parts or were unaffordable to repair, have now made mobility easier for vulnerable individuals in the region.
The Field Ready designs in Suva are locally made with locally available materials. Helping to make them affordable before they undergo rigorous safety assessments. And once an item is “field ready” a manufacturing guide is produced to help train local people wherever possible, so that they can produce the solutions themselves. So far, 3 Fijian graduate engineers have completed a 6-month full-time technical internship with Field Ready senior engineers in manufacturing techniques. And they are now employed as field engineers and are the backbone of the technical skills of the Suva makerspace.
Field Ready aims to have the pacific humanitarian makerspace be a facility that can benefit the people of Fiji and through the Pacific islands, by providing aid in ways that are cheaper, better, and faster than traditional aid.