Deforestation in IndonesiaIndonesia is a large, island country in Southeastern Asia that is home to the second-largest rainforest next to the Amazon in South America. It is also home to some of the world’s largest palm oil plantations and logging operations. Deforestation in Indonesia for the past half of a century is largely to blame for mass species extinction. But animals are not the only ones who are affected. Indonesia’s poorest rural communities are hurt and displaced alongside the wildlife in the area.

How Deforestation Affects Indonesia’s Poor

Due to unethical agricultural practices, Indonesia has lost 80 percent of its total original forest coverage and continues to lose 6.2 million acres per year. Deforestation in Indonesia is a direct cause of loss of habitat in tropical areas since the animals have nowhere to go. However, cutting down trees is not the only step in clearing a swath of forest. The next steps that are typically taken are draining the swamps and burning the remaining brush to totally clear the land.

Peatlands are very common in Indonesia. This refers to a type of swampland made up of nutrient-rich soil from thousands of years of decaying plant matter. When these peatlands are drained and burned, they release a thick, noxious haze that carpets the surrounding area, and even travels to neighboring islands and countries on the air currents. The fumes poison the wildlife throughout the remaining forest and find their way into rural villages. More than 100,000 annual deaths in Indonesia can be attributed directly to the inhalation of particulate matter from these landscape fires.

Since deforestation in Indonesia leaves the land in the prime condition for mosquitos, there has also been a recent spike in mosquito-transmitted illnesses like malaria and dengue fever. Many communities affected by deforestation do not have ready, affordable access to vaccines for these diseases, and must deal with the outbreak largely on their own. The best option for these people is to sleep in mosquito nets and try as best they can to keep insects at bay during their most active hours.

Fighting Deforestation

Although the statistics seem gloomy, there is still hope and progress is being made. Indonesia is one of the few tropical countries to make official pledges to lessen or halt deforestation. Incentivized financially by Norway in 2017, Indonesia experienced a 60 percent drop in primary forest loss from 2016. Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency has also been tasked to restore 5.9 million acres of decimated peatland.

The results of these regulations have been disputed, however. Many critics of the programs, such as Greenpeace, state that the programs leave loopholes that companies may exploit to further expand their palm oil plantations. In the moratorium, primary forests that have never been touched by corporations are protected under Indonesian law. But secondary forests (forests that have been previously transformed according to palm oil agriculture) are not protected.

NGOs Fighting Deforestation Now

NGOs like Greenpeace have been raising awareness of deforestation in Indonesia and lobbying the Indonesian government for more transparency in terms of deforestation statistics. Transparency efforts have been largely ineffective as far as the Indonesian government goes, but corporations have begun to be more open with their promises to halt deforestation in their palm oil farming practices.

Public pressure from many consumers has pushed companies to take significant measures to lessen their products’ effects on the environment and the people who live in it. For example, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil producer, promised in December of 2018 to keep up maps that monitor hundreds of its suppliers to ensure no rainforests are being cleared.

 

While the overall situation of deforestation in Indonesia does not seem promising, anti-deforestation efforts have had significant impacts. More people than ever are aware of the detrimental effects of clearing the rainforest. Indonesia is seeing fewer cases of deforestation per year than it has in the past three decades and palm oil production companies are doing more than they ever have before to ensure their products are sustainably sourced.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Cacay Oil
Amongst the incredible array of biodiversity which stems from the Amazon grows a small green fruit, the Cacay nut. A Google search for Cacay oil generates dozens of reviews by beauty blogs and skincare gurus who have tested the product. But what is Cacay and what makes it so special?

The Cacay Nut’s Uses

The Cacay nut, which is similar in size and color to lime from the outside, has three smaller nuts on the inside. The fruit grows on trees in Colombia and has a plethora of uses. People can use every part of the fruit, and this fact makes it a sustainable crop because there is no waste. It has a high nutritional value containing over 40 percent protein, all the essential amino acids and omega 3, 6 and 9. People can use the peel for compost or animal food, while the shell’s slow combustion properties make it a great source of biofuel. One can also make nut milk from the Cacay nut, which can serve as an animal milk substitute.

People mostly covet the Cacay nut for its beauty and cosmetic benefits. The oil from it contains 50 percent more vitamin E than argan oil, which is essential for skin moisturization. Additionally, it contains a high retinol and collagen content, which reduces signs of ages and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.

Kahai Lifts Families Out of Poverty

Kahai, a Colombian-based company, has made it its mission to share the benefits of Cacay with the world and lift up the people who grow it as well. It sells Cacay oil for its incredible health and skin benefits and is the first to do so on such a large scale. Thus far, the organization has exported over three tons of Cacay oil worldwide. Kahai hopes that Cacay will take the place of many illicit crops that were previously a driving cause of deforestation across the region. The potential economic opportunities that farming Cacay will bring should motivate farming communities in Colombia to preserve their forests and plant thousand of more trees.

Kahai’s location in Bogota D.C., Colombia, is home to many impoverished peasant farming families. Because Kahai is seeking to farm the fruit on a commercial scale, it will utilize plantation-style harvesting. This has created over 200 jobs with sustainable incomes for the peasant families in this conflict-torn area. There is also the potential for upward growth within the company, with individuals who began working entry-level jobs now holding management positions.

Kahai’s Recent Initiative

Kahai’s recently launched initiative with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes may also assist in both the sustainability efforts and the community development efforts. The initiative’s goal is to partner with the government and privately-owned corporations in the region to provide payment for communities who reduce their emissions and demonstrate environmentally-friendly farming practices. This will further encourage this positive development and further support the local economy.

As the benefits of Amazonian gold become more apparent to the rest of the world, Kahai and its employees will reap the economic benefits as the first large-scale Cacay oil farming operation. It is the organization’s hope that farming villages that operate under sustainable practices and receive consistent sustainable incomes will only grow stronger.

Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Justice
When thinking about reducing poverty, environmental protection may not come to mind as something to be put in the same category. However, environmental protection and poverty reduction go hand in hand and achieving environmental justice is a vital step in fully ending global poverty.

Preserving the environment means protecting air quality and water sanitation, as well as land to produce food. Additionally, it means preserving the health of both humans and animals. Yet according to DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction, the poorest countries and people in the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. DAC Guidelines say that the key to reducing poverty is integrating “sustainable development, including environmental concerns, into strategic frameworks for reducing poverty.” Therefore, protecting the environment can reduce poverty if people take the correct steps.

Countries Taking a Stand

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 20 percent of the total loss of life expectancy in developing countries is due to environmental causes, compared to only 4 percent in advanced countries. In addition, 99 percent of deaths related to using unsafe water or having limited access to clean water occurs in developing countries.

Countries around the world are aware of the impact that environmental degradation has on poor communities specifically, and programs and leaders are taking action in order to protect the environment and make safe living spaces for the poor. Specifically, researchers in Costa Rica are working to show exactly how protecting the environment can reduce poverty in poorer countries and communities.

Costa Rica’s researchers’ ultimate goal was to show the effect that environmental issues have on poor communities and how environmental protection can reduce poverty. Two professors, Paul J. Ferraro and Merlin M. Hanauer, found that Costa Rican poverty reduced by 16 percent by protecting natural areas and that around  “two-thirds of the poverty reduction associated with the establishment of Costa Rican protected areas is causally attributed to opportunities afforded by tourism.”

In turn, Ferraro’s and Hanauer’s findings have demonstrated that improved conservation programs and policies are necessary to reduce poverty in poor communities even further. The goal of conserving wild areas for the purpose of ecotourism could potentially lead to more job creation, a growing economy, the reduction of deforestation and a refuge for wildlife in poor areas and developing countries. Costa Rica is taking the initiative to clean up the environment and create a healthier living space for citizens, yet most countries still face day-to-day environmental justice. For this reason, the world must take further steps to allow every person to have environmental justice.

The Truth About Environmental Justice

The EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” The EPA emphasizes that the goal of environmental justice will only be met once every person around the world has both the same accessibility to protection from natural disasters and environmental/health hazards and the equal right to partake in community and country decision-making about environmental health.

While environmental justice is a goal of a lot of different communities, countries and organizations, environmental injustice is very prevalent around the world. The result is that the most vulnerable and financially unstable people on earth feel the global impact of environmental degradation the most severely. Although developed nations like the United States and those of Europe emit larger quantities of greenhouse gases per capita, developing nations often experience the worst effects of environmental degradation and air pollutants. This is because people living in developing countries often do not have the financial support to be able to move to less polluted areas, and usually have inadequate housing and limited resources, which makes it nearly impossible to adapt to environmental disasters.

Ways to Support Environmental Justice for All Humans

Protecting the environment can reduce poverty, but poverty reduction is also just as important in order to protect the environment. UNICEF states that girls in poor communities often do not go to school because they have to fetch water for their families. As a result, they often do not know the importance of conserving the environment and natural resources because they have not had the opportunity to learn about it.

According to 1 Million Women, 70 percent of the world’s people that live below the poverty line depend solely on natural resources for survival. Yet without clean water or proper waste and garbage disposal systems, escaping pollution is almost impossible. Therefore, supporting and donating to nonprofit organizations that help to provide resources for the world’s poorest and aim to stop environmental degradation is vital. In addition, taking small steps like eating more a plant-based diet, buying sustainable products, volunteering for community cleanups and educating others can make an enormous difference in protecting the environment, and in turn, reducing poverty.

These steps are crucial in supporting not only the environment but also the communities and developing nations around the world that battle environmental justice every day of their lives. In addition to small changes that every person can make to help the most vulnerable against environmental degradation and health hazards, organizations and federal agencies are also helping drastically. Specifically, the EPA started EJSCREEN in 2015, which creates data that shows the environmental demographics across the country and also assists federal agencies in allowing the public to view the impacts of environmental injustice in every area open to new development. By opening up this information to the public, people may be more cautious before blindly living in an area in which they may feel the effects of environmental injustice. With more and more companies and organizations supporting sustainability and environmental justice every day, these trends could increase and start to make an even bigger difference.

Change Starts with Individuals

The link between environmental protection and poverty reduction is clear, and it is imperative that nations and communities continuously work towards a healthier environment in order to secure the well-being of future generations. Protecting the environment can reduce poverty while the smallest changes to one’s life can make a huge difference to the globe.

Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in Senegal
For the vast majority of people in the United States, it would be difficult to imagine a life without electricity. However, for many nations in the developing world, the primary source of energy – be it for cooking, keeping the house warm or industrial fuel – is charcoal, and the process of harvesting wood and making charcoal has created a livelihood for thousands of people around the globe.

Unfortunately for Senegal and other countries that rely heavily on charcoal production, it is also terrible for the environment. According to a statement by the United Nations Environmental Program, Africa as a whole is losing more than nine million acres of forest per year, putting the continent at nearly double the world’s average deforestation rate.

Deforestation in Senegal and the world can open the door for a host of other environmental problems. Forests are essential for maintaining local water cycles; deforested areas often see a decrease in rainfall, and experts say that the increase in droughts in East Africa in recent years are the result of heavy deforestation rates. In addition, tree roots play a role in maintaining soil by holding it in place; without tree cover, rain or wind can wash rich soil away and turn arable land barren.

Compared to the rest of the continent, Senegal is not doing too badly. An estimate by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. states that the country is about 42 percent forested land as of 2016. However, deforestation still poses a significant problem, in no small part due to the charcoal industry; more than half of Senegal’s 13 million people are still relying on charcoal for fuel and thousands of people in rural areas of Senegal have built their livelihoods on harvesting wood to make charcoal.

Flooding and the Women of Kaffrine

In Kaffrine, a region of Senegal where many families rely on charcoal, deforestation has taken its toll on the residents. In 2016, the region was scourged by heavy flooding during the summer. Heavy rain had always been common in Kaffrine during the summer months, but 2016 brought a level of flooding not seen for decades. The floods destroyed at least 100 houses and damaged at least 1,500 other homes on a massive scale. In addition, the flood waters swept away crops, resulting in farmers losing their livelihood for the year – a devastating blow in a region where agriculture is the main source of income. Experts claimed that deforestation may have been partially responsible for the flooding and that reforestation might be the key to preventing similar disasters in the coming years.

However, as deforestation in Senegal continues, the women of Kaffrine have been at the head of the movement to salvage what is left. Senegal has long considered the process of making charcoal to be men’s work, but in recent years, women have been taking the initiative to reduce the negative impact of charcoal.

The Female Forestry Association and PROGEDE 2

Part of the job is reducing the harm done through reforestation. The Female Forestry Association, led by Fily Traore, has been leading the way in this undertaking; in 2018 alone, the organization planted more than 500,000 trees in Kaffrine. One of its goals is to revive several types of fruit trees, which have become scarce in the region as forests disappear.

Furthermore, in areas which are dependent on charcoal production for money, women have played a massive role in finding other, more sustainable ways for communities to support themselves. Aside from the work of reforestation, which provides jobs for many women within the Female Forestry Association, women have been instrumental in developing alternative sources of income besides charcoal production. In particular, the village of Medina Degouye has taken huge steps toward developing horticulture; the community’s vegetable gardens not only provide food for the village, but several residents have begun selling excess produce throughout the region and even in the capital city of Dakar.

These advancements have happened partly because of the support of the United Nations’s Second Sustainable and Participatory Energy Management Project (PROGEDE 2) in Senegal. Under PROGEDE 2, women in Kaffrine are empowered to take charge of the local economy, including charcoal production and the management thereof. PROGEDE 2 also offered training in forest management, beekeeping and horticulture for men and women, allowing women to support their families while also finding alternative sources of income.

Aside from the environmental impact of charcoal, the work of PROGEDE 2 and the women of Kaffrine are addressing a much more direct result of overusing forests: if deforestation in Senegal continues, eventually nothing will be left to harvest. In addition, the long-term effects of deforestation could easily ruin life for many people in the rural areas of Kaffrine if left unchecked. However, between the work of the Female Forestry Association and the empowerment of rural women under PROGEDE 2, Senegal may be able to avert this scenario as the area sees a regrowth of its forests. The women of Kaffrine are taking the future into their own hands.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

Cotton in Haiti

At the beginning of February, smallholder farmers in Gonaives, Haiti, along with three representatives of the outdoor apparel company Timberland, worked together to bring about the first cotton harvest the country had seen in nearly 30 years. Before the 1980s, cotton was the fourth largest crop in Haiti; however, due to politics and sinking cotton prices, cotton harvests were gradually decreasing for years before finally stopping altogether in 1987. Now, thanks to the work of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the support of Timberland, it seems that the Haitian cotton industry may be making a comeback.

Timberland and the SFA

This first harvest was a test run for Timberland. Several different varieties of cotton were planted and harvested in order to see which will be the most lucrative. After analysis, a larger quantity of the most productive strain of cotton will be planted this coming August. Timberland has already pledged to source one-third of the cotton it uses in its products from farmers in Haiti if all goes well.

In addition, the company has begun working with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to involve other potential buyers in the apparel industry, including other companies under Timberland’s parent company, the VF Corporation. The footwear company Vans, another brand under the VF Corporation, also participated in funding the project to bring the cotton industry back to Haiti.

The cotton harvest is only the newest development in a long line of agricultural and humanitarian feats performed by the partnership of Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance. In 2010, the American clothing company began working with the SFA to create a business model for sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. At the same time, Timberland began investing in one of the SFA’s most ambitious projects: the reforestation of Haiti.

The SFA and Reforestation in Haiti

For Haiti, the promise provided by the SFA’s reforestation project could not be more necessary. With an estimated 1.5 percent tree cover, Haiti is one of the most severely deforested countries in the world. The environmental effects of deforestation have been devastating. A survey done in 2018 suggests that anywhere from dozens to hundreds of species native to Haiti may lose their habitats if deforestation continues.

In addition, deforested areas are at a greater risk for landslides and flooding, and the country has already become increasingly susceptible to flooding in recent years. In a country that is already vulnerable to tropical storms and floods every year, deforestation only exacerbates the potential damage to its population and its infrastructure. Hundreds of Haitians are killed or displaced every year by flooding.

Today, the main culprit for deforestation in Haiti is the economy of most rural areas. For decades, rural families made room for their farms by clearing away Haiti’s natural forests. In addition, the trees that were cut fueled the lucrative charcoal trade, as many rural families make a living by burning charcoal and selling it in urban areas. Millions of Haitians rely on charcoal for energy. The charcoal industry counts for 20 percent of the rural economy and at least 70 percent of the entire country’s energy supply. Between the country’s history of deforestation and the modern need for land and charcoal, not much is left of Haiti’s forests.

Tree Currency and Reforestation

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that smallholder farmers in Haiti are the ones responsible for the project of reforestation. Within the tree currency model, which was created by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and sponsored by Timberland, smallholder farmers plant and tend to tree nurseries in order to earn tree credits. These credits can be exchanged for a variety of goods and services, ranging from seeds to training to new equipment and livestock. In addition, taking part in tree planting and tending makes farmers eligible to receive microloans, participate in local seed banks and get help with planting and harvest from work crews comprised of local volunteers.

Since the beginning of Timberland and the SFA’s partnership in 2010, more than 6.5 million trees have been planted by some 6,000 smallholder farmers in Haiti. In turn, those farmers have reaped the benefits of the tree currency model. Crop yields among farmers who participate in the reforestation project increased by an average of 40 percent while household income has gone up by 50 to 100 percent.

Through the tree currency model, Timberland and the SFA are healing Haiti’s forests and revitalizing agriculture at the same time. And now, with the return of the cotton crop in Haiti, they may have brought back the crop that used to be the cornerstone of Haiti’s economy while also creating a new source of organic and sustainable cotton for Timberland and other companies in the textile industry.

New Hope in Hait

During the harvest in Gonaives, many of the people present commented on the new hope brought by the cotton crop. Some older farmers remembered a time when their parents had produced their own successful cotton harvests and expressed gratitude that they and their children would be able to do the same. However, the implications of this harvest, which was funded by an attempt to reforest the country, go beyond cotton and even beyond Haiti.

The partnership between Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance goes to show that economic and ecological concerns don’t always have to be in conflict with one another and that big business can be successful on a basis of cooperation and reciprocity of the those who support it and not through exploitation. Who knows what could happen if more companies began following Timberland and gave back more?

Keira Charles

Photo: Timberland

Younger Generation Helps
Felix Finkbeiner, a German 19-year-old, has created a global youth movement, Plant For The Planet, in hopes of saving communities all over the world and eventually building a suitable place for everyone to live. Younger generation helps protect the world with the ambitious Finkbeiner, and they show how little actions can make huge differences for the better.

The Younger Generation Cares About the World

At nine years old, Felix Finkbeiner had the goal of protecting land by increasing the number of trees. Finkbeiner successfully motivated 75,000 children to become climate ambassadors with Plant For The Planet, and over 15 billion saplings have been planted.

Finkbeiner spoke at the United Nations and European Parliament. Due to his hard work, Finkbeiner has gained traction for Plant for the Planet from the World Wildlife Fund. Since 2006, about 15.2 billion trees were planted by individual people, governments and businesses.

The movement’s founder is prepared to reach his goal of helping save the world by being knowledgeable about what matters. Through research, he found that there is enough land in the world to plant 589 billion mature trees harmlessly.

Finkbeiner explains, “We need to plant at least a trillion trees to get 600 billion, since many will not survive. Additionally, we must protect the 170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction.” Younger generation helps contribute to positive changes in the world following the example of Finkbeiner.

The Positive Impact of Planting More Trees

Plant for the Planet has planted trees in 200 countries including:

  • China with 2,859,664,407 trees planted
  • Mexico with 789,303,868 trees planted
  • Afghanistan with 34,019,233 trees planted
  • Nicaragua with 6,425,810 trees planted

Plant for the Planet bought a 33,359-acre ranch near Cancun, Mexico in 2014 that employs 78 people. The ranch strives to plant ten million trees on the land by 2020 because its land was deforested. 

More Trees, Less Global Issues

The following countries are supportive of planting more trees to help with the reforestation of saving land all over the world: Ethiopia, Niger, Mali many other African countries and Latin American countries. Plant for The Planet has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations and set the goal of planting one trillion trees in the next thirty years, with the Trillion Tree Campaign.

More trees can help solve many global issues by providing a healthier living environment for people. In fact, the planting of one trillion trees can collect an extra ten billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly.

The younger generation helps to make the world a better place by involving themselves in solving global issues. This population knows that there is not much time to stop these global problems from getting worse for their children, so Finkbeiner and the younger generation are taking action-oriented steps to help alleviate global poverty — one tree at a time.

Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr

Are Natural Disasters Getting Worse?According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the amount of flood and storm catastrophes has risen by 7.4 percent annually in recent decades. With reports of excessive weather damage constantly in the news, it is important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? 

By definition, natural disasters are any form of catastrophic events induced by nature or natural activities of the Earth. Some examples include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, tsunamis and tornadoes. The severity of such disasters is typically measured by the number of deaths, economic loss and the nation’s capacity to rebuild.

Many natural disasters are beyond human control. The constant motion of Earth’s tectonic plates initiates earthquakes and tsunamis. Fluctuation in solar radiation infiltrating the atmosphere and oceans give rise to storms in the summer and blizzards in the winter.

However, sometimes natural disasters aren’t so natural and are caused by humanity’s interference with the Earth’s system.

For example, as environmental pollution increases, humans are contributing more energy to the system; which strengthens the likelihood of repeated hazards such as flash floods, bushfires, heatwaves and tropical cyclones. 

So are natural disasters getting worse? The answer is yes. The number of geophysical disasters on Earth’s surface, like earthquakes, landslides and volcano eruptions, have remained steady since the 1970s. But the number of climate-related catastrophes has vastly increased. The amount of damage done to the economy due to these catastrophes has seen a steady upsurge.

There were triple the number of natural disasters between 2000 to 2009 as the number that occurred between 1980 to 1989. A large majority, 80 percent, of this growth is caused by climate-related happenings.

It may no longer be important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? But instead: Why are natural catastrophes getting worse?

The scale of disasters has swelled due to higher rates of urbanization, deforestation, environmental degradation and escalating climatic elements like high temperatures, extreme rain and snow and more brutal wind and water storms.

Dangerous events do not need to result in a tragedy. Limiting vulnerability and increasing the ability to respond to these disasters can save lives. Additionally, the continuous evolution of science and technology is making it more possible to anticipate disasters, provide aid quicker and allow for the rebuilding of cities in safer areas.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Drops for First the Time in Three YearsThe relationship between deforestation and poverty has long been interlinked and mutually destructive. Forests directly contribute to the livelihood of 90 percent of the world’s poor.

Forests cover one third of the world’s landmass and serve vital purposes around the globe, including regulating the atmosphere and providing shelter, sustenance and survival to millions of people. However, since 1990, the world has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa. When combating this injustice, it is important to note that the world’s forests are very unevenly distributed. Brazil holds the world’s second largest share of forests, with approximately one quarter of the world’s total.

The Brazilian Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and it is “vital to the well-being of the peoples on our planet,” according to Rodrigo Medeiros, Vice President of CI-Brasil. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has long plagued the nation’s people, environment and economy.

Seven institutions, including the Brazilian Ministry of Environment and the World Bank, have joined together for the largest restoration effort ever made in Brazilian forests. The efforts to reverse the rampant deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is proving to be effective; the region’s deforestation fell by 16 percent in July 2017 compared to the previous year. This is the first decline in three years.

This decline is an indication that Brazil is making strides towards its climate change targets and towards a more prosperous and sustainable environment, which is essential for the eradication of poverty.

The multifaceted response to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is “helping Brazil demonstrate that it is possible to preserve the forest, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and at the same time strengthen the local communities,” said Martin Raiser, World Bank Country Director for Brazil.

The harmful relationship between deforestation and poverty requires that both be targeted individually in order to halt the cycle of deprivation across the globe. Forests help us breathe, provide shelter, foster biodiversity, regulate temperatures, influence weather patterns, prevent flooding, refill aquifers, block wind, stabilize Earth’s foundation, purify the air, provide nutrition, supply medicines and create jobs. When any of these life-saving advantages of forests are compromised due to deforestation, it is the world’s poor whose health and livelihood suffers most. It is imperative that the fight to end poverty, as well as the fight to sustainably manage forests, both continue without impeding each other.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Cookstoves in KenyaIn Kenya, only 20 percent of the nation’s 47 million inhabitants have access to electricity. In rural areas, that number is even more drastic – only seven percent of the rural population has access to electricity. Consequently, the majority of the nation’s inhabitants, especially those in rural areas, are dependent upon biofuels, such as coal and charcoal, to power their lives.

These biofuels are often used in immense quantities for a very specific task – cooking – as 84 percent of the population relies on wood or charcoal cookstoves. These stoves require such immense quantities of fuel that, in fact, a Kenyan household can often expect to spend about $500 per year on charcoal alone; this is an entirely unsustainable expense that can lead to bankruptcy for impoverished families.

This immense reliance on biofuels has also contributed to the massive deforestation the nation has faced. Only two to three percent of the land remains forested today, leaving the environment susceptible to irregular rain patterns and soil degradation, both issues that undermine agricultural abilities and thus undermine the economy. Further, the reliance on biofuel cookstoves in Kenya costs the nation at least 5,000 children a year, as the children catch respiratory infections caused by smoke from the stoves.

All of this is exactly why the clean cookstove revolution has entered Kenya. Organizations like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves have catalyzed the efforts to diversify cooking options in order to combat the effects of traditional, expensive, and ultimately dangerous biofuel cookstoves.

Further, the first-ever clean cookstove manufacturing facility in Sub-Saharan Africa has settled in Kenya. This facility, run by BURN – a clean and affordable cookstove company – employs over 100 Kenyans in the effort to invigorate the economy with localized production and employment.

Though BURN’s cookstoves still use biofuels, they are incredibly efficient, cutting fuel consumption by over 56 percent, which ultimately saves Kenyans up to $250 a year. They also reduce carbon emissions by 65 percent, which not only helps to improve air quality on the whole, but also minimizes the respiratory risks associated with biofuels.

Thankfully, it is clear that although the clean cookstove revolution is relatively young, it is on its way to changing cookstoves in Kenya for the better. BURN is only a single company, and yet it is projected that in the next 10 years it will have generated 3.7 million clean biofuel cookstoves. This essentially means that at least 3.7 million households will be able to improve their finances, environment and health. And they are only a single company; imagine the impact that all similar companies will have in conjunction. Thus, there is a very bright light gleaming ahead for Kenyan cookstoves, and it is a clean light at that.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr