Interdesign South Africa 2005

Sustainable Rural Transport, Rustenburg (South Africa)

3-16 April 2005

During 2002 the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) received a request from the North-West Provincial government to develop specifications to be used in a tender document for the building of a donkey cart for specific local uses. This request created the awareness of the problems involved with the structure and use of local animal drawn carts on a national level and the need for national standards and regulations. It also became clear that, to develop a project of this nature in a sustainable way, some lateral thinking would be very beneficial.

The SABS Design Institute became involved and it was decided that an international design workshop, called Interdesign, would be presented addressing the whole issue of rural transport in South Africa. The approach would be problem-driven and holistic, addressing all aspects of transport and rural communities.

Interdesign 2005 on Sustainable Rural Transport – Technology for Developing Countries took place from 3-16 April 2005. During the workshop the issue of rural transport was considered against the background of social and environmental issues, sustainability and cost.


On the final day of Interdesign 2005, a meeting was held between the Interdesign Steering Committee and the representatives from the National Department of Transport. At this meeting the department indicated preferred design concepts for prototype development. Funding for the development of prototypes was made available by the national department of Transport.

SABS was contracted to manage the development and testing of specific prototypes. It subcontracted various institutions to manufacture, field test and to do the mechanical testing of the prototypes. Rural communities originally involved in the design workshop tested these prototypes for functionality and social acceptability. Two of the North West Province communities involved during the Interdesign, were used for the field-testing. SABS Mechanical Laboratory was used to conduct the mechanical tests.

Prototypes include the bicycle for children (Children’s Z Frame Bicycle); the North-West Bicycle; the combination bicycle or bicycle modules; the load-bearing tricycle; the refurbished donkey cart or Plain Jane; the single axle donkey cart or Tin Lizzy; the double axle donkey cart; the wheeled platform trolley and donkey harnesses.

The Industrial Design department of the University of Johannesburg produced layman’s instructional manuals for the manufacturing of some of the prototypes as examples of the application of the Communication Model developed during the Interdesign.

On 21 August 2009, SABS handed over the completed prototypes of the non-motorised modes of transport to the National Department of Transport at a function at the University of Johannesburg.

The final involvement of the Industrial Design department of the University of Johannesburg will be to provide the appropriate construction material and equipment to the community to enable them to use the instructional manuals. The Industrial Design department will also be able to verify the quality of the products produced by means of the instructional manuals. This is seen as the final feasibility study of the technical potential necessary for sustaining a production unit within the village.