An MFA or RFA (it is more relevant for developing countries to refer to this as RFA) is an understanding of the flow of material and energy resources through the selected system. This concept can be easily explained through the figure below.
If the selected system is defined as a region, then in an RFA one quantifies the different materials and energy that go into and come out of a system. Such an exercise will highlight resources that are consumed to a large extent and help elucidate who is using the resources and what are the resources that are being wasted and how much. Once a figure like this is available, strategies to optimize resources become obvious.
A real-life example of an MFA in a developing country is from the case study of Tirupur in the south of India.
Tirupur is a major center for the production of knitted cotton hosiery. The town is located in the south of India and has a population of about 300,000 (Census of India, 2001). The 4,000 small units in the town specialize in different aspects of the manufacturing process. The aggregate annual value of production in the town was around US $ 828 million in 1996. An RFA for the town was carried out to highlight the quantities of resources consumed by the textile industry in this town (see Figure below)
Once the RFA was shown to the industries, they realized that in total the industries were consuming 90,120 kilo liters of water per day, of which 97% was being discarded. The industries also realized that they were spending as much as US $ 7 Million to buy water from distances as far as 50 km from Tirupur. In addition 500,000 tones of firewood were being consumed. This RFA highlighted the large amount of solid textile waste that was being disposed. Since this solid waste contained large quantities of textile and paper wastes, its calorific value was high enough to be used as a fuel. This study recommended using the solid textile waste as a fuel to replace some of the firewood and to recycle water to reduce economic and environmental costs.