Hacking In Cameroon For Profit And Entertainment

[Bill Zimmerman] is in Cameroon and has been posting some really interesting articles about life in the central African nation. It comes as no surprise that imported goods can be prohibitively expensive for many of the country’s residents, so building tools and goods is way to improve life and save money. The image above is a metalworking cooperative where any number of products are manufactured from recycled materials, often using tools that the craftsmen made themselves. Their wares are amazingly wide-ranging; crow bars, motorcycle seats, buckets, plows, hammers, knives, cold chisels, and much more. The video after the break shows the tradesmen hard at work. See some video of the cooperative after the break.

But adults aren’t the only ones getting in on the action. Remember [William Kamkwamba] who built a wind generator for his villiage? It seems the tinkering spirit runs deep in the children of Cameroon as well. [Bill] came across some kids who grabbed leftovers like the soles of sandals, scraps of rope, and empty sardine tins to build a steerable toy car.


[Thanks Rob]

24 thoughts on “Hacking In Cameroon For Profit And Entertainment

  1. very nice. i have seen places exactly like this in se asia and pacific rim countries. a surprising amount of good can actually get done in even the most rudimentary co-op like this.
    appropriate technologies organizations that focus on helping train and equip group centers like this to produce goods invariably have far more success than ones working toward supplying individuals with technology. Once they have success, the model can spread easily as well – hand tools and even lathes ARE actually self-replicating, unlike some things.

  2. Far out a rudimentary hacker space, whether they be a place for the hobbyist, or a place for the entrepreneur to create a prototype, most hackers spaces are cooperatives.

    Why imply poverty? Those persons shown here are merchants,merchants who are also the tradesmen who produce the wares they sell. Chance are they are the most well off members of their community.

    Why imply a lack of ease? Unlike most of us in the West, there are still those cultures where the member can comfortably sit on the ground or squat for long periods of time. No doubt if this group ever produces item where a higher mounted anvil would be of benefit, they are smart enough to figure that out, and construct a work station with that it place.

    I’m no blacksmith, but my understanding has been the reason why the area round the forge is so dark,is so the blacksmith can see the subtle color changes that occur while heat treating steel. Thia open area shop seems fairly bright, even under the canopy. I wonder if they do little work that require heat treating, or if their eyesight has become accustomed to doing so under these conditions?

  3. You got scrap, a need for something, know-how, and will. Applied hacking! Whats not to love?!

    If anywhere places like these need a internet access and fair English skills (plus some 14yo with basic computer skills).

  4. That’s just a group of hard working very talented people making a living. That’s a good example of what different opportunities as you grow up can do for you.

    They have they same native (pun intended) intelligence and willingness to work that we do, probably more than most of us. Those are the high tech workers of their village.

    1. Thats a great book. I finished it about 2 years ago and now im working on finishing David Gingerys “Build a Complete Metalworking Shop from Scrap” series. Despite MANY setbacks im almost done /w building gas fired crucible furnace design. I never thought dealing /w refractory was going to become such a huge part of my life till I had to do it. :-/

      1. I bought several copies of Weygers’ books when they came out and then several more copies when the reprint of all 3 in one volume came out.

        I’ve got the Gingery series and probably 1/3 or more of what Lindsay has reprinted over the years.
        Personally I think one would be better off studying Gingery closely, but designing things differently. for example, a $30-$40 5C spin indexer would make a nice spindle for light duty. Southbend had a depression era 9″ lathe that used cast iron bearings.

        BTW make sure yu get Steve Chastain’s books.

      2. Ive got both the “Metal Casting: A Sand Casting Manual For the Small Foundry” volumes he did…im really wanting to read his books on the tilting furnace and the cupola furnace though. I completely agree on Gingery though. I dont think it is practical to follow his instructions to the tee anymore because in the Gas Fired Crucible furnace for example a lot of the availability or price of supplies has changed so much it kinda makes parts of it are overly complicated in my opinion. I actually made the blower on my furnace using a $30 1750rpm bench grinder connected directly to the fan blade rather than hunting down a buffing arbor and pulleys to knock down a 3450rpm motor like he did. Its fun stuff but ive found that 90% of the work has been research and reading just to make sure its done safely.

  5. I’d like to suggest that the primitive setup is more a question of do you spend your time making products you can sell or building a nice workshop.

    These guys are resourceful, ordinary people who happen to be quite poor relative to most people reading Hack A Day. So their motivation is much more basic. It’s food to eat.

    As for working on the ground. If you look at pictures of places like gun shops in the Pakistani tribal areas, you’ll see lots of anvils and vises mounted on a timber lying on the ground w/ the workman squatting or sitting cross legged. This is even when it’s a shop w/ a roll down metal front. So at least some of it is cultural.

  6. I grew up in West Africa – Kids there made amazing steerable model vehicles, from motorcycles to trucks, from scrap wire. I think this is what inspired me to become a hacker!

  7. If I can revive a zombie thread I gotta say this is amazingly cool. It shows a level of interaction with the world around them that most first world people no longer have. Obviously, each culture interacts in different ways but as an example consider a wrecked car. To a majority of “First Worlders” it represents an insurance check and the necessity to replace it. To these guys it most likely represents a variety of things like a 12v blower, generator to run the blower, copper from the wires to chase the engravings of less utilitarian pieces, a huge amount of good quality iron and steel, useful bearings for a cold work lathe, a couple of comfy chairs to chill in after swinging the hammer all day, flame resistant airbag material, etc, etc… The one thing I wish I could do for these guys is get them some eye-pro. I bet they have burn treatment pretty well figured by now, but with little kids running the billows it wouldn’t surprise me if somebody got a coal in their eye fairly often. Do YOU want to be holding the work when a guy with no depth perception is swinging the sledge?Obviously the workshop will will never be up to OSHA standards, but I bet you could do a lot of good by passing out goggles. Hell, even sunglasses would be an improvement.

    1. Like you say each culture interacts in different ways. Many in the first world salvage wrecks for usable parts and material. However it most likely isn’t their wreck vehicle, they need to take that check to replace it they can get on with living life in the way it has evolve in their culture. They may or may not buy it back from the insurance company if possible and if doing so is good value. Yea not having eye protection is worrisom. I’m a ware of it my prescription eyeglass probably saved my sight many time. Perhaps hacker spaces and the like could creation relationships with places like like some cities have sister cities, and send eye protection. wouldn’t have to break the bank if local retailer could be convince to proved the protect with a deep discount if many items are purchased. Not sure if the local mom and pop or local local chain could beat or even match the box store’s everyday price, but I like to give them a chance to.

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