Dona Ferentes

Dona Ferentes.

The title is silly, the idea isn’t.

Dona Ferentes is from Virgil’s Aeneid, with which I am seriously unfamiliar, as copying the 500 or so lines of one of Virgil’s Georgic’s, rather than his Aeneid, was the approved school punishment. Subsequent reading of Asterix the Gaul gave me a passing acquaintance with the phrase “timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” which is normally mistranslated as “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” Dona ferentes therefore can be translated as bearing gifts, and now we can leave a pathetic attempt at a bilingual and classically erudite joke, and look at the idea.

The wheel is pretty much accepted as the first engineering invention, though it wasn’t. Endless thought has gone into improved methods of killing before the wheel was invented, and it took millennia until the wheel became a really efficient killing machine. Bearings, between the wheel and axle, were vital to making the wheel really efficient and revolutionised just about everything.

Bearings are the most high tech element of most mechanical devices from the wheelbarrow onwards and they have a massive impact on the amount of energy wasted. If you are shifting food or water for your family, that energy is the difference between survival and death. But bearings are high tech, and beyond the reach of a huge swathe of the world’s population.

The idea of Dona Ferentes is to look at the possibility of making bearings available and affordable at village level throughout the third world. You can drill out a wooden wheel on a wooden wheelbarrow with a hand drill to install bearings that will transform the wheelbarrow.

The local wheelbarrow builder loses no customers, and the bearings allow local workmanship to compete with factory made products.

That basically is it.

I can, and probably will expand on the idea, but basically bearing gifts is it. Bearings, given to communities to allow them to increase efficiency without losing local skills. And I am putting it up unformed so people can look at the downsides before any costs are incurred.

But it wouldn’t cost much. The bearings exist. Is it worth a try?

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