Economic Growth in Madagascar
Despite Madagascar’s 74 percent poverty rate in 2019, the small African country has one of the fastest growth rates in the world. GDP growth hovered around 5 percent in 2018 and 2019 and projections determine that it will remain at that rate in 2020 and 2021. Public and private investments in infrastructure, mining, energy and tourism helped drive the country’s recent economic growth. However, poverty still remains high, especially in the more than 60 percent of the total population that works in agriculture. Increased economic growth in Madagascar is drawing international investors to open businesses in the country, creating jobs and stimulating further growth in the developing nation.

Current State of Business

The main industry in Madagascar is agriculture. About 80 percent of Malagasy work in agriculture and approximately 86 percent of that number are in poverty. In addition, the country relies heavily on vanilla exports. The African nation is the world’s largest vanilla producer. Transitioning out of agriculture and diversifying the economy could help spur development. In 2017, the Economic Development Board of Madagascar helped reform the business climate to encourage outside investors to expand to the country. This also entailed fighting against corruption and money laundering. With Madagascar improving the business environment, international businesses may see potential in expanding to the island nation.

International Mining

Mining is yet another area driving economic growth in Madagascar. Madagascar is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas and ilmenite. There are more than one million jobs related to mining in the country. Additionally, 30 percent of export revenue comes from mining. Madagascar is abundant in ilmenite, zirsill and monazite. Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian company, is one of the large-scale mining companies. About 90 percent of Rio Tinto’s employees in 2018 was Malagasy. Although mining tends to be part of land degradation, Rio Tinto agreed to restore wetlands and biodiversity to its previous state after it completes mining.

Tourism Growth Resulting in Hotel Developments

Tourism remains an important industry that helped increase economic growth in Madagascar. More than 250,000 people visit the country annually to bring in $748 million in tourism revenue. The tourism industry grew by 20 percent in 2016 alone. Hotel development is one growing sub-category that could potentially add jobs to locals, particularly those seeking higher pay than they receive in the agriculture industry. The Economic Development Board of Madagascar stated that 11 percent of total employment is related to tourism.

More than 70 percent of visitors to the country stay for two weeks or more, expressing the value these visitors place on the economy. International hotel chains took notice of the increased demand for hotels in Madagascar. Radisson Hotel Group planned two hotels and one apartment complex in the country in 2019. All three buildings should open in 2020. Marriott International is opening hotels in many African countries, and one country on its list is Madagascar. Hotel and tourism growth could promise more jobs to Malagasy.

Clean Energy for the Future

The energy sector has even greater importance than tourism. Only 15 percent have access to electricity, which is one main impediment to economic growth in Madagascar. This holds back the country due to energy being one foundation to a developed economy. Schools, hospitals and other buildings require power to function at their maximum potential. As a result, the government of Madagascar set its goal high with the challenge of attaining 70 percent of electricity access by 2030. The country is already making progress to reach this goal. The country’s largest employer, Groupe Filatex, is building four solar power plants that will generate 50 MW.

As of 2019, Madagascar’s total capacity was 500 MW. Groupe Filatex employs more than 15,000 people and will add more jobs in the future to meet the high demand. Lantoniaina Rasoloelison, Minister of Energy and Hydrocarbons, explained that the country’s energy policy for 2015-2030 supports the transition to the energy mix for electricity and lighting. This will include 80 percent of renewable resources.

Growth Ongoing

International investors such as Radisson Hotel Group and Marriott International took notice of economic growth in Madagascar within the last two years. Three sectors seeing growth in the country are tourism, mining and energy. Additionally, the government’s goal of increasing electrification is a good next step to growing the country into a developed economy with less poverty and increased livelihoods. The addition of more jobs to these industries could reduce poverty.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

With the goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025, Ethiopia is making major strides in promoting clean energy and sustainability. As part of its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the Ethiopian government is working on a variety of clean energy projects and initiatives to build and expand its clean energy production. Ethiopia‘s main source of clean energy is hydropower, but the country is also working to expand its thermal, solar and wind energy. Here are the top five facts about clean energy in Ethiopia.

Top Five Facts About Clean Energy in Ethiopia

  1. A Geothermal Energy Plan: Power developer Reykjavik Geothermal developed plans for a $4.4 billion project that will bring geothermal energy to Ethiopia. Starting in September 2019, the power developer is exploration drilling for two geothermal energy plants in the cities of Tulu Moye and Corbetti. Both plants would provide 500 megawatts (MW) of geothermal energy after completion, amounting to a combined 1000 MW of geothermal energy.
  2. Eliminating its Energy Deficit: The Ethiopian government is working with Scaling Solar to build solar energy plants and infrastructure. Scaling Solar is a World Bank-sponsored program that provides financial aid for emerging countries to invest in solar energy. By partnering with Scaling Solar, the plan is to build photovoltaic plants that would produce 500 MW of solar energy, which would be enough to completely eliminate the country’s energy deficit.
  3. A Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy: The Ethiopian government developed a strategy for building a green economy that fosters growth and sustainable development. Known as the climate-resilient green economy, or CRGE, the initiative includes expanding energy production from clean renewable sources, protecting forests and developing modern and efficient infrastructure in transportation, buildings and the industrial sector. CRGE is also working to improve farming practices and food security while reducing emissions. A green economy and better water and air quality will improve food security, public health and foster rural economic development.
  4. Hydropower Production: According to the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Ethiopia is the first producer of hydropower in Africa, having an installed hydropower capacity of 3,822 MW. In addition, Ethiopia is currently developing projects that will further increase its hydropower production. This includes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, which will generate a whopping 6,450 MW of hydropower energy once completed, nearly double the country’s current capacity.
  5. Wind Energy: The Ethiopian government is making strides in expanding wind energy. In 2013, Ethiopia opened one of Africa’s largest wind farms, the 120 MW Ashedoga plant, and continued the trend with the 153 MW producing Adama II in 2015. Currently, the Ethiopian government is working on a $300 million dollar project that involves building at least five more wind power plants. These plants would significantly increase Ethiopia’s output of wind power from 324 MW to 5,200 MW.

By focusing on clean energy generation projects, Ethiopia is working toward improving access to reliable sources of energy. Overall, only 40 percent of Ethiopians currently have access to electricity. 85 perfect of Ethiopians have access to electricity in urban areas but only 29 percent have access in rural areas. These top five facts about clean energy in Ethiopia demonstrate the country’s perseverance in fostering clean energy and expanding access to electricity. Access to clean energy will also foster economic growth, which is vital to Ethiopia achieving its goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

Clean Fuel Solutions

Today, 40 percent of the world lacks access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking. As a result, traditional wood, charcoal and kerosene fuels cause indoor air pollution claiming around 1.5 million lives per year. Fortunately, a number of organizations are taking up the mantle to introduce clean fuel solutions for the world’s poor. Keep reading to learn more about these top innovative clean fuel solutions.

4 Innovative Clean Fuel Solutions

  • KOKO: KOKO is a small portable stove that uses bioethanol. The business model relies on mobile banking which enables users to buy a KOKO and clean fuel by paying for it in installments. KOKO partners with fuel majors so its model requires significantly lower upfront capital expenditures compared to other clean cooking fuels. As a result of its decentralized sales points and mobile/cloud technology, its model delivers bioethanol fuel closer to customers. When taking imported ethanol and taxes into account, it is also the cheaper option at 85 cents per liter.
  • BBOXX: BBOXX is similar to KOKO in that it uses mobile technology and installment payments. BBOXX engages in the same process as KOKO but also has BBOXX Pulse. The BBOXX Pulse device collects data and insights letting the company provide its services to previously unreachable populations. BBOXX also detects when fuel is depleted letting the user know the fuel cost and replenishing the fuel supply. It currently operates in 12 countries and has been sold in more than 35. BBOXX received a $15 million investment from a number of companies most recently Oikocredit. With this investment, the company experienced a rapid scale-up of its business model allowing BBOXX to reach key regions in Rwanda and Kenya.
  • Biogas device – Omer Badokhon: Omer Badokhon invented a small-scale biogas system that converts waste into clean fuel. The device is created from plastic or fiberglass and works by using specially designed fermenting chambers. This device then takes food scraps and converts them into biogas. Badokhon won the “Young Champions of the Earth” award from the U.N. Environment Programme and is building the first group of units with the prize money. The units have been piloted in 1,500 rural homes in Shabwa, Sanaa, Hadramout, Ibb, Taiz and Aden. Badokhon also received $10,000 from the Yemeni oil company PetroMasila to complete his research. Not only does the biogas device create clean fuel, reducing pollution, respiratory illness and death, but it also has the potential to reduce cholera rates. By recycling, waste should not be as big of a problem as it is a major contributor to cholera.
  • HomeBioGas: Another clean fuel solution is HomeBioGas. HomeBioGas is an invention that uses bacteria rather than electricity, naturally breaking down organic matter to turn it into either cooking gas or fertilizer. HomeBioGas performs bacterial anaerobic digestion of organic waste, for example, food scraps or animal manure. It also has two filters, a bio-filter that reduces odors as well as a chlorine filter that eliminates pathogens. The device itself is an easy-to-assemble kit, making it a perfect fit for villages in places like Palestine and Uganda. There are an estimated 70 different countries that are interested in having their own HomeBioGas devices and are willing to distribute them throughout their respective countries. An Indiegogo campaign raised 200 percent of the company’s $100,000 target, thus it is now launching globally.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Ending Energy PovertyLarge portions of the developing world do not have access to electricity. Instead, they have to rely on energy sources that are inefficient, toxic and expensive. Financing universal energy access is urgent. Ending energy poverty is therefore in everyone’s best interest.

Here Are Five Reasons to Care About Ending Energy Poverty:

  1. Energy poverty is one of the developing world’s greatest struggles.
    Approximately one billion people around the world live in energy poverty. An additional one billion people have unreliable access to electricity. Of those living without electricity, 84 percent live in rural areas where resources are scarce. Nearly all individuals suffering from energy poverty, which is over 95 percent, live in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia. In fact, only 14 percent of people living in rural sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity.
  2. Energy poverty causes serious health problems.
    Much of the developing world lives in energy poverty. Billions of individuals each day are ingesting dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals from their cooking appliances. For instance, biomass-fueled stoves release pollutants in the air that can have serious health consequences. Women and children are the most exposed to these harmful pollutants. If the developed world provided energy access to all, they would be able to lower the premature death toll by 1.8 million people per year.
  3. The burden of energy poverty falls disproportionately on women.
    Currently, many women in the developing world rely on biomass-fueled stoves in order to cook their meals. As a result, these women spend, on average, 1.4 hours each day collecting firewood and then several more hours inefficiently cooking on their biomass stoves. Due to the amount of effort it takes to simply cook a meal, many women do not have the time to go to school or obtain a job to become financially independent. In that sense, energy poverty fosters gender inequality. If the developed world invested in universal energy access so that impoverished women could use efficient and cost-effective cooking appliances, women would have significantly more time and money to invest in their futures.
  4. Renewable energy can end energy poverty.
    The price of renewable energy continues to decrease, making renewable energy an optimal investment from both a financial and sustainable perspective. Currently, much of the developing world relies on kerosene and candles. This is because these energy sources do not require installation costs. However, kerosene and candles are not cost-effective, long-term. In fact, they are quite expensive. If the developed world invested in the installation costs for the developing world, more people have access to electricity. Furthermore, people would pay less on energy than they currently do. Thus, financing renewable energy projects is a worthwhile investment because renewable energy reduces costs in the long-term. As a result, it creates opportunities for economic growth in the future.
  5. Ending energy poverty can lead to job growth.
    Financing renewable energy development would provide a new market in the developing world that would provide many new jobs for workers with undeveloped skills. These jobs would provide not only steady incomes and safe working conditions but also skill-building opportunities. India, for example, is working toward creating 330,000 jobs in the renewable energy market by 2022. India is doing this to provide electricity and jobs to its poor, rural communities while simultaneously combating climate change. By promoting job growth through the renewable energy market, the world can achieve its goal of economic and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, the sustainable economic development of the developing world would promote the global economy, serving everyone.

Looking Ahead

Although the UN has pledged to provide universal energy access by 2030, the current initiatives the UN has in place to promote this goal is insufficient. In order to achieve its goal of ending energy poverty, the UN would have to invest a total of $52 billion per year. The UN has failed to match even half of this goal in a given year. The importance of financing this mission, however, is essential for the long-term benefits of renewable energy projects in the developing world. By investing in universal energy access through global renewable energy development, women’s rights, world health, clean energy and economic development can all be better promoted. All of this can create a more sustainable world.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Africa
Africa is a goldmine of resources, yet reliable electricity is only available to 30 percent of its population. For many Africans, expensive diesel generators are the only solution to the constant blackouts, costing some countries up to five percent of their GDP.

Increasing Renewable Energy Resources

Without a steady source of electricity, students have a difficult time studying at night, businesses are restricted by the cost of generators, and countries face economic stress. As of 2016, 80 percent of South African energy came from coal, but Africa has developed numerous renewable energy projects as the nation works towards improving accessibility.

The Blue Energy Group-led Nzema Solar Power Station, for example, will raise Ghana’s generating capacity by 6 percent. By its completion, it is expected to supply 20 percent of the government’s energy goal. The Taiba Ndiaye Wind Project in Senegal builds a 158-megawatt wind farm to provide an affordable energy source for the 40 percent of the population still left without electricity.

African countries are aiming to increase their renewable energy usage; Morocco, for instance, hopes to derive 40 percent of its energy from renewable resources. South Africa partnered with 27 renewable energy producers to generate electricity for its people. Accomplishments like these have been made throughout the continent, allowing renewable energy in Africa to slowly gain a foothold.

The International Renewable Energy Agency

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) recorded 61,000 jobs created by the renewable energy sector in 2017 alone. Thousands of Africans are being employed in technology installation, sales and construction.

According to IREA, the renewable energy industry creates more jobs than the coal industry. Solar PV itself “creates more than twice the number of jobs per unit of electricity generation compared with coal or natural gas.” Employment is an important benefit of renewable energy, considering African unemployment rates reach up to 46 percent.

Other Energy Sources in Africa

Yet, coal and natural gas discoveries are still being made. Around 30 percent of the world’s gas and oil discoveries between 2010 and 2014 were made in Sub-Saharan Africa. And while these discoveries do help towards improving energy accessibility, their long-term effects on climate change may be harmful, especially for poorer populations.

Decreased crop yields may cause a 12 percent increase in food prices by 2030, a haunting statistic with Africa’s undernourishment rates being one of the highest in the world.

Decreased water accessibility, increased risk of malaria and diarrhea and increased natural disasters may all arise from climate change. Flooding and desertification are already becoming prevalent in certain parts of southern and west Africa, demonstrating the importance of renewable energy in Africa.

Renewable Energy in Africa

Renewable energy in Africa has high potential, especially with the amount of constant sunlight it receives. A report by GSMA stated that solar energy has a potential of 656,700 TWh.

With this mass of resources, Africa would be able to independently source its energy rather than rely on other countries to do so. New and existing renewable energy projects push Africa in a sustainable direction while encouraging economic development.

Renewable energy also aids the impoverished through increased jobs and improved electricity access. All in all, Africa’s energy movement is a success story in the making.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Mozambique
The energy sector is beginning to sink its claws into a stabilizing Mozambique for good or for bad. ExxonMobil is one of the largest contributors to government projects in this African country. They are planning the largest infrastructure project in modern African history. The Government of Mozambique estimates that revenues generated from natural gas sales could have huge benefits for the country. If properly managed this could be a great moment in the history of Mozambique. Until that day, much of the country lives without access to the power grid or even power. That does not mean the people are simply waiting for something to happen. Sustainable energy in Mozambique is on the rise thanks to domestic and foreign support.

Power Situation in Mozambique

Despite Mozambique having the highest energy production potential in Africa, only 34 percent of its population has access to power. This is due to the high cost of coal, natural gas and oil. In the upcoming years, it is estimated that coal, oil, natural gas and sustainable energy sources will provide 44 percent of the power for Mozambique. Right now hydroelectric energy powers most of the country, alongside government funded sustainable energy projects for rural areas. In 2014, it was estimated that only five percent of the rural population had access to power. To help connect the rural population to the power grid or provide them with power, Mozambique’s government began to fund sustainable energy projects led by the Mozambique Energy Institute (Fundo de energia or FUNAE).

Solar energy

The African-European Union renewable energy program states that the solar energy potential of Mozambique is large and unexploited. It has the potential of producing 2.7 gigawatts a year. Due to this E.U. nations and international organizations are working with FUNAE and Mozambique’s government-owned energy company Electricity of Mozambique (EDM) to exploit this resource and increase sustainable energy in Mozambique.

The World Bank, United Nations and the Belgian government all are working towards increasing the funding of solar-powered mini-grids for rural villages. These mini-grids are not connected to the main power grid of Mozambique. They are self-sustaining power units that power only small villages or homes. It is estimated that these individual power stations help produce 2.2 megawatts of energy. Through this program, the government also hopes to supply up to 50,000 solar-powered refrigerators to the rural population.

Government Support

Sustainable energy in Mozambique received a huge support from the Mozambique government. By 2030, the government pledged nearly $500 million to investments in sustainable energy in Mozambique. The investment outline details increased investment into Mozambique’s already booming hydroelectric sector and expanding the growing solar sector. The Mozambique government stated that hydroelectric and solar projects between 2014 and 2015 helped to provide power to 201 villages, 669 schools, 623 health centers and 77 public buildings, reaching an estimated 3.7 million people. By the end of their investment, the government hopes to reach 332 villages more.

The balance of power in Mozambique looks like it could be tipped in either direction. It is hard for a struggling economy to ignore their vast reserves of oil, coal and natural gas. Many people from rural areas still use charcoal, wood and manure as fuels to cook and warm their homes. It is satisfying to know that the government still takes renewable, clean, and sustainable energy seriously. Even if the entire nation will not “go green” at once, they are building the infrastructure to make it there one day.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Solar Irrigation in Bangladesh
Agriculture is an essential part of the Bangladesh economy. It makes up 14 percent of the GDP, and over 42 percent of the labor force in Bangladesh is involved in agriculture. The income of almost 90 percent of the population living in rural areas is dependent on agriculture.

Bangladesh has seen excellent improvement in agriculture within the past four decades, which has led to a decrease in food insecurity. However, 24.3 percent of the population was still living below the poverty line in 2016. In addition to the high rate of poverty in Bangladesh, there are many rural areas that do not have access to reliable electricity, making electric irrigation pumps difficult to use. Implementing solar irrigation in Bangladesh is providing a solution to these problems.

Irrigation Methods in India

Irrigation is an essential aspect of the agriculture industry. The transportation of water to crops is incredibly important in terms of crop yield, and the timing of the watering is crucial for many crops. The main methods of irrigation used in Bangladesh include diesel fueled irrigation and electricity fueled irrigation. However, these methods are not cost effective. Diesel fuel is expensive, difficult to transport and prone to pollution. Electric irrigation, though less harmful for the environment, is also inconsistent since it is prone to outages and not available in all areas.

A newer method of irrigation that is more reliable and cost-effective is known as solar irrigation. The use of solar irrigation in Bangladesh has been on the rise in the past few years. Solar pumps can cover several farms, and they reduce the time farmers spend ensuring that the irrigation is functioning properly when watering their fields.

Solar irrigation cuts the costs of electricity for farmers and improves their quality of life through the reduction of pollution and the increase in time that can now be spent more effectively. Solar irrigation is especially suited to Bangladesh because of the flat terrain and the high levels of sunlight throughout the country.

Funding Solar Irrigation in India

While solar irrigation in Bangladesh is a vast improvement for the agriculture industry, it is expensive to develop and put into place. This year, the Bangladesh government will receive a $20 million loan from The Asian Development Bank as part of a Power Efficiency Improvement Project as well as grant money in order to help continue their growth in solar irrigation.

This loan and grant money will help put into place over 2,000 solar-powered pumps and create off-grid solar photovoltaic (SPV) pumping, which will allow irrigation in areas where there is less access to electricity and will help replace diesel pumps, which are more difficult to maintain.

In addition to the aid from The Asian Development Bank, The World Bank is helping Bangladesh through a finance agreement that will provide $55 million in funding for the growth of renewable energy. This agreement includes supporting the creation of 1,000 solar irrigation pumps along with 30 solar mini-grids that will also greatly improve the agriculture industry by reducing carbon emissions from using diesel-fueled irrigation pumps.

The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), an organization that was launched in 1997, is working towards financing infrastructure and renewable energy in Bangladesh. This year, 923 of the 1,024 solar irrigation pumps that have been approved by The IDCOL are already operational. The IDCOL has set a goal of installing 50,000 solar-powered irrigation pumps within the next seven years. Through the support of organizations like The Asian Development Bank and The World Bank, this goal is well underway.

Solar Irrigation Will Decrease Poverty and Help the Environment

Currently, 14 percent of the population of Bangladesh is covered by the country’s solar power program. Renewable energy is a growing part of Bangladesh, and the solar irrigation pumps that are being built will go a long way towards establishing environmentally friendly agriculture methods that will benefit people across the country.

By reducing the costs of farming, these solar power irrigation pumps will reduce poverty and increase the quality of life in Bangladesh. In fact, the vast majority of poverty reduction that occurred in the five years leading up to 2010 was spurred on by such improvements in agriculture. Solar irrigation in Bangladesh offers a new way to help the environment and change the lives of people living in Bangladesh for the better.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Eco-Friendly Measures Combat Poverty
A common complaint about pro-environment actions is the cost they pose to the economy. But worldwide, eco-friendly measures combat poverty in new and sustainable ways. A clear link exists between environmental degradation and poverty, as a feedback loop is created between the two circumstances: by focusing on the environment, the world’s poor can also benefit. Several strategies have already been implemented with proven results that demonstrate that environmentalism can benefit the impoverished.

Five Ways Environmentalism Fights Poverty

  1. Green Energy Provides Jobs and Protects Health
    Green energy provides new jobs and opens up markets that were previously not beneficial. Additionally, according to The World Bank, pollution “stunts economic growth and exacerbates poverty and inequality in both urban and rural areas.” Poor people often feel the effects of pollution most severely since they cannot afford measures to protect themselves. Green energy lessens pollution and can provide relief to suffering communities.
  2. Environment Affects Livelihoods
    More than 1 billion people worldwide depend, to some extent, on forest-based assets for their livelihood. Low-income countries feel the effects of environmental problems more intensely, as environment-based wealth accounts for 25 percent of total wealth in such areas. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, warring parties depleted natural resources so that, according to the U.N. Security Counsel’s 2001 discussion, “The only loser in this huge business venture is the Congolese people.” Eco-friendly measures combat poverty in these cases by ensuring a community’s source of income does not disappear.
  3. Sustainable Farming 
    Globally, cooperatives have arisen that have produced organic food for markets everywhere and “revitalized traditional agricultural systems with new technologies.” Low-income communities producing organic and fair-trade coffee like this have created a rapidly growing niche market that is both sustainable and environmentally conscious. Additionally, many industries can create sustainable jobs for lower-income individuals by focusing on the environment. A Madagascar shrimp processing company created 1,200 permanent new jobs and focuses on keeping those jobs long-term by ensuring that the shrimp population in the area remains healthy. Such policies benefit all parties involved: the company, the environment and the impoverished.
  4. Recycling and Reusing Resources 
    A substantial concern in impoverished countries is developing ways to reuse scarce resources such as water. 99 percent of the time, death due to not enough water or unsafe water takes place in developing countries. In India, the company Banka BioLoo is placing more than 300,000 eco-friendly toilets in low-income areas, which creates jobs and eliminates harmful waste while providing desperately needed sanitation. The by-products of their system include water for gardening and methane gas for fuel. This innovative design is just one of many examples of how eco-friendly measures combat poverty and can improve human health.
  5. Helping Stop Exploitation of the Poor
    Governments can play a big role in combating poverty and protecting the environment with just one action. Corruption can often lead to inter-country conflict, which harms both the environment and the poor. Access to information and legal frameworks, as well as sanctions imposed by organizations like the U.N., can improve the situation in areas plagued by corruption.

These efforts require the non-poor and poor to work together. Since the non-poor have higher consumption levels, the degradation of the environment by poor people is often “due to the poor being denied their rights to natural resources by wealthier elites and, in many cases, being pushed onto marginal lands more prone to degradation.” However, the situation promises hope for the future; by working together, wealthier people have the ability to reduce environmental threats, and poor people often have the technical ability to manage resources. Together, these eco-friendly measures combat poverty.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

Cooking FuelFinding a reliable and clean source of cooking fuel in developing countries is a persistent obstacle for poor households. From using animal dung in East Asia to wood and charcoal in Africa, the simple process of cooking varies greatly in both safety and reliability across the world. Adverse health effects from household smoke have encouraged governments to provide affordable and cleaner options for cooking fuel.

Cooking Fuel in Developing Countries

The youngest and most vulnerable in the developing world are most likely to benefit from cleaner cooking fuels. Since indoor air pollution is most prevalent with the extremely poor — those living on less than $1 a day — providing cleaner options for cooking has disproportionately positive health effects for them.

Traditionally, coal and biomass have been the primary sources of cooking fuel in developing countries and have been particularly damaging in countries that lack access to other viable options. Unhealthy levels of air pollution in homes lead to premature deaths every year. The prime culprit is smoke from coal and wood in poorly ventilated kitchens.

Convenience Over Safety

Until recently, however, convenience has trumped health and environmental concerns. Despite recent efforts to modernize energy use in the developing world, the number of people reliant on solid fuels, such as wood, is expected to grow to 2.7 billion by 2030. Although the adverse health effects of indoor air pollution contribute to 2.6 million deaths per year, there has been major resistance from people accustomed to their traditional way of cooking.

Established types of cooking fuel in developing countries, if not healthy or environmentally friendly, are hard to usurp as the primary source for energy use.  Both India and Brazil have approached the problem through promoting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) usage but from distinctly different angles.

LPG in India

For decades India has subsidized cleaner energy sources such as LPG as an incentive to transition homes from less healthy options, such as wood, charcoal and animal dung.

Although subsidies have been historically inefficient, India has made progress in providing affordable and clean fuel to households through a biometric identification system. Since 2016, India has provided 34 million households with stoves and a free cylinder of LPG.

India has focused on targeted, subsidized fuel for those needing the greatest assistance. In 2012, in response to increasing graft and black market activity, India initiated a Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme of LPG.  The subsidization program has only been possible due to access to individual bank accounts and biometric identifiers; which allows the government access to household’s income levels in order to better target various need requirements.

LPG in Brazil

Brazil, on the other hand, has focused on the market development of the LPG gas industry and promoting education to consumers. Specifically, the government’s approach to promoting efficient and healthy means of cooking has evolved into selling the public on the beneficial qualities of LPG. Rather than subsidized fuel or free LPG cylinders, Brazil has relied on educating Brazilian’s on the use of new stoves, as well as providing a free trial period.

To get accustomed to the new fuel, LPG cylinders and accompanying stoves were offered on a short-term, three-day trial. Once completed, households involved were allowed to either purchase the new cooking equipment or return it. The majority of consumers felt comfortable enough with the more modern cookware to transition to LPG usage. Direct experience with the product, instead of handouts, has been the impetus in Brazil for creating a market for cleaner cooking fuels and stoves.

Allowing poor households to see the benefits firsthand has directly created a demand for LPG. This approach of consumer development, rather than India’s direct cash transfer, could be replicated to provide cleaner cooking fuel in developing countries still reliant on wood, dung and charcoal.

The number of households who opt for cleaner and safer cooking fuel in developing countries will vary in approach. It depends on the level of poverty in the country and the policies the government, and the taxpayers, are willing to commit to.

Reducing deaths from indoor air pollution and providing a reliable source for cooking should be the ultimate policy goal of modernizing indoor fuel consumption. After all, making dinner in the developing world should not come at the price of smoke filled kitchens and declining health.

– Nathan Ghelli
Photo: Flickr

houses made of plastic
When it comes to environmental preservation, plastic represents a huge global problem. The average American or European throws away 100 kilograms of plastic per year, as reported by the Worldwatch Institute in 2015. The plastic waste issue not only affects the environment but also increases poverty. Fortunately, initiatives all around the world are trying to fight plastic pollution by promoting recycling while also reducing poverty by building houses made of plastic.

Conceptos Plasticos

This Bogota-based company produces low-cost houses made of plastic; each one averages around 430 square feet. Since 2010, Conceptos Plasticos has been building temporary and permanent homes, shelters, classrooms, community rooms and other buildings in Colombia.

Founded by Colombian architect Oscar Mendez, the company transforms the recycled plastic into Lego-like bricks that are easy to assemble and contain additives that make them resistant to fire and earthquakes. Its clients are the government, non-governmental organizations, foundations and private companies, who pay for housing solutions in the communities where the houses are built. Each house costs the equivalent of $130 per square meter.

Conceptos Plasticos provides the materials to be used by the communities and gives people training on how to build the houses. A home for a single family is built by four people with no experience in construction and takes only five days to be built. In 2015, the Colombian startup helped build a shelter for 42 families displaced by the violence in Guapi, Cauca, recycling a total of 120 tons of plastic.

EcoDom’s Innovative Houses Made of Plastic

In Mexico, every year 800,000 tons of plastic waste is produced and only 15 percent is recycled. To minimize this problem, Carlos Daniel Gonzalez founded the Mexican startup EcoDom, which means “Eco House”. The company recycles everything from soda bottles to toys and turns it into material to build houses made of plastic. It works with local trash collectors in Puebla to achieve its goals of reducing plastic waste as well as improving Mexico’s economy through affordable housing.

EcoDom turns plastic, as well as cardboard, into four different products to structure a house: thermal wall, concrete roofing, thermal roofing and structural beams. Weekly, the company recycles 15,000 kg of solid waste and turns it into 1,200 prefabricated walls, flooring and structural roofing.

EcoDom is helping reduce the number of Mexican people living in poverty, which currently stands at 63 million. So far, the startup has built more than 500 houses out of recycled plastic at a cost of less than $300 each.

Fundación Eco-Inclusion

The Eco-Inclusion Foundation is an Argentinian network of NGOs that manufactures ecological bricks made of plastic. Founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs Leandro Miguez, Leandro Lima, and Fabio Saieg, the organization works to reduce plastic waste and have a social impact by building houses out of the recycled plastic.

Eco-Inclusion has 45 plastic collecting spots in four cities. They turn every 20 plastic bottles into one brick and can produce 20 bricks in one hour. The plastic bricks have the same characteristics as a regular brick. They are also light, insulating and are made with a production process that does not damage the environment.

The bricks, built in partnership with Ceve-Conicet, are used to build community spaces that help the most impoverished people of Argentina. Right now, with the help of volunteers, the trio of entrepreneurs is building a dining hall and bathroom for an Argentinian soccer club, attended by hundreds of children.

If more people support these projects, two huge global issues can be minimized: plastic waste and poverty. It is a way of both helping the environment and improving people’s living conditions.

– Júlia Ledur

Photo: Flickr