Applying Human Centered Design to Solvable Problems

Caring, sharing, and awareness within and beyond the Nigerian tomato value chain
Apr 21, 2017 9:05 AM ET
Article

The amount of post-harvest loss (PHL) in countries of the Global South is familiar to many by now. In Africa alone, 50 percent of fruits and vegetables, 40 percent of roots and tubers, and 20 percent of cereals—all of which are staple foods—are lost after harvest or during processing. Fortunately, solutions to PHL exist and with pilots underway attempting to introduce low-fidelity technologies into the equation, the future of reduced PHL looks promising. While PHL is a solvable problem, the timely diffusion of applicable technologies into the local context remains challenging. And the negative repercussions of insensitive approaches of noble intent should be identified and avoided early in the process.

The power of solutions lives primarily in the people who believe in and own them.

—V. Srinavas

Any reasonable attempt to integrate a new technology into a community must not only take into account the confluences and contradictions inherent in the human condition, but also nurture new behaviors that resonate with all stakeholders. This is one reason why human centered design (HCD) is emerging as an important practice in the world of international development. HCD aims to reframe what we know and what we think we know by testing newly formed assumptions through a crystallization of discovered insights and design iteration. Empathy is the foundational posture of each step in the HCD process.

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