Air Pollution in Nigeria
Nigeria has the largest number of deaths due to air pollution in Africa, while the country ranks fourth for air pollution across the globe. Statistics indicate that in 2016, 150 fatalities occurred per 100,000 people as a result of this environmental issue. The State of the Global Air Report that the Health Effects Institute (HEI) published determined that Nigeria’s air quality is amidst the most lethal worldwide. Atmospheric threats such as generator fumes, automobile emissions and crop burning cause air pollution.

In 2016, The HEI indicated that industrialized countries like Russia and Germany have reported lower death rates than Nigeria with 62 and 22 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reported much higher rates with 406, 207 and 195 deaths per 100,000 people.

Causes of Air Pollution in Nigeria

Air pollution emits through generator fumes which produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Automobiles with older engines are also likely to emit unhealthy fumes into the atmosphere. In households, kerosene stoves produce flames that contribute to the poor air ventilation. The nation creates over 3 million tons of waste yearly and most Nigerians burn their waste in their neighborhoods rather than discarding it, contributing more pollution to the atmosphere. Another aspect that contributes to the air pollution crisis in Nigeria is the use of firewood and coal to cook.

Additionally, indoor air pollution in Nigeria is also a big issue, as the amount of fine particulate matter levels in many households surpass air quality guidelines by 20 times. In 2012, according to the WHO, Lagos, Nigeria experienced nearly 7 million deaths caused by indoor and outdoor air contamination.

Air contamination across the African continent kills over 700,000 people annually; more people die from air pollution than unsanitary hygiene practices and undernourishment. Casualties as a result of the air pollution crisis in Nigeria has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 30 years. Nigeria has some of the highest rates of unhealthy air quality across the African continent. Overall, Nigerian cities contain the most unhealthy air quality with 10 urban areas being classified on a list of 30 cities in Africa with the most unhealthy air quality.

The Effects of Air Pollution in Nigeria

While developed countries have effective solutions in place to handle air pollution, underdeveloped countries are struggling to handle this environmental issue. Some countries have begun taking appropriate measures to handle it, though. As a result, the number of people exposed to air pollution has decreased from 3.5 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion in 2016.

The report also indicated that 95 percent of the globe’s citizens are intaking polluted air. In 2016, extended subjection to air pollution contributed to roughly 6 million deaths, all resulting from diseases such as strokes, lung disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks. Air pollution is one of the top leading causes of fatalities, particularly in underdeveloped countries, even after smoking, increased blood pressure and unhealthy diets. Exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of developing cancer.

Solutions to the Air Pollution Crisis

In order to effectively handle the air pollution crisis in Nigeria, it is important for the country to provide regular inspections of automobiles to ensure that older cars are not releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also integral that Nigeria removes cars from the road that are toxic to the environment.

The implementation of efficient electric energy will help decrease the need for generators, which produces unhealthy air pollution in households and work environments. However, Nigeria does have access to sustainable energy resources that are capable of providing power to its citizens. These methods are safer for the environment and the usage of them decreases the use of gasoline-powered generators, thus decreasing pollution.

Nigerians can reduce air pollution in the household by substituting fuelwood for biogas, which is a form of biofuel that is instinctively manufactured from the decay of natural waste. Biogas will provide sustainable options for preparing food and heating the household while eliminating air pollution both inside the household and the outside environment.

In terms of trash disposal, recycling methods will be helpful to make certain that people are not burning waste. Additionally, daily waste removal from households will also help to properly dispose of trash, which reduces the fragmentation of waste and prevents odors that contribute to air pollution.

Additionally, factories that are within metropolitan areas follow guidelines regarding sustainable practices in order to decrease air pollution in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) monitors operations to ensure that these work environments are abiding by the pollution proclamations.

In conclusion, the execution of environmentally friendly practices in Nigeria will help decrease the air pollution crisis in Nigeria that is present in households, businesses and the outside environment. In order for the elimination of air pollution to be effective, the country must pursue the regulations for all Nigerians.

Additionally, it is necessary to inform communities regarding the sources and consequences of air pollution in order for them to effectively take action in decreasing the issue. Furthermore, those that become more knowledgeable of the issue are then able to educate others and persuade the Nigerian government to continue to enforce legislation against air pollution.

Diana Dopheide
Photo: Wikipedia

Eswatini, formerly called Swaziland, is a small, mountainous, landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa and in close proximity to Mozambique. While Eswatini is classified as a lower-middle-income country, it is still plagued with severe poverty and high unemployment rates. One demonstration of this poverty can be seen by the approximately 900,000 individuals who were recorded to have no access to electricity in 2017. This is due in large part because Eswatini does not produce much of its own electricity. Rather, they get much of it, along with many other imports, from South Africa. In recent years, organizations like the World Bank have been working to improve Eswatini’s electricity supply, but there is still much work to be done.

Governmental Efforts

In Eswatini, The Eswatini Energy Regulatory Authority (ESERA) regulates the country’s electric supply industry, while The Eswatini Electricity Company (EEC) acts as the national utility. The Eswatini Electricity Company is state-owned and controls hydropower stations in Maguga, Ezulwini, Edwaleni and Maguduza. Despite this, Eswatini is a net importer of electricity due to the fact that its domestic electricity generation is insufficient to meet national demand. This can be attributed in large part to a lack of water storage, which has led to severe variations in annual domestic generation output over the years.  However, the Eswatini Government is looking to become more energy independent in the near future and has implemented the Rural Electrification Program (REP), which has increased the percent of Eswatini residents with access to proper electricity from 5 percent in 2003 to 75 percent in 2017.

The World Bank’s Role in Eswatini’s Electrical Supply

In conjunction with the REP, the World Bank has also aided in improving Eswatini’s electricity supply. One of the World Bank’s most notable projects in Eswatini is called the Network Reinforcement and Access Project.  It contains four parts. The first two components focus on strengthening the transmission and distribution network in Shiselweni and building upon the REP program to finance additional household connections. The third component provides analytical support by financing technical aid, and the 4th component is designed to improve Eswatini’s ability to respond to major economic or social emergencies. These efforts by the World Bank have proved to be extraordinarily helpful in Eswatini’s efforts to become a nation that produces its own energy.

Final Steps

Eswatini has taken major steps forward to address their issues with producing electricity.  However, the country is still struggling overall in this regard, and more work is necessary in order for the nation to become energy independent.  Funding from the World Bank, as well as from organizations like the UN, will be of great help to Eswatini as it seeks to improve access to electricity for its residents.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

SolarAidHaving access to working electricity and lights is something most first-world countries tend to overlook and forget to point out how fortunate it is to have such a thing. Unfortunately, there are countries who do not have that privilege and have to cut the day short, which interferes with work and children’s studies. SolarAid is a charity founded in 2006, to combat poverty and provide electricity to developing countries such as Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. They are responsible for many innovations including solar lamps, study lights and solar light libraries. SolarAid charity works alongside numerous partners and even created their own social enterprise, SunnyMoney in 2008, located in Africa so that rural communities have a local main seller and can receive information on how to use solar lights. This charity has done many projects that have transformed and impacted the communities within Africa.

Uganda

In 2014, SolarAid started doing projects in Uganda. Households in small, remote villages in Uganda rely on expensive kerosene for lighting where residents have to travel back and forth to trading centers to buy the kerosene which can get expensive over time. Many schools were also affected by the lack of light until SolarAid created the “world’s most affordable light”. The SM100, also known as a study light, is the world’s most affordable light selling in rural communities for as little as $5, tax-free. This light can be charged in low sunlight and provides light for about five hours. It has a stand attached so that it could easily be set up on the ground and it can also be hung on the wall. Because of its rectangle shape, the SM100 can be taken off its stand and can be attached to straps so that residents can carry it around or use it as a head torch.

A 70-year-old widow, who raises her four grandchildren, lost their hut due to her grandchild knocking over a kerosene lamp sparking a fire. With the SM100, this light is safe for her young grandchildren to use. Students at the Star Light primary school have successfully increased their grades due to having an adequate light source.“My teachers used not to plan their lessons at night and candidate class was limited to the use of three kerosene lamps but ever since I purchased 40 SM100 for my pupils and teachers, everything changed”, said Okello George, the director of the school board. This light has provided many solutions for the community in Uganda that are safe and efficient with doing everyday tasks.

Malawi

On April 1, 2019, SolarAid launched Project Switch in the Mandevu village in the Kasungu district of Malawi providing the village with solar light for the first time. This village has zero access to electricity cutting days short once the sunsets. During the execution of Project Switch, SolarAid provided this village with a solar charging station which is essentially a building with different solar energy enabling options such as renting solar lights for a few pennies and rent to own lighting options including phone charging systems. There is also an option to outright buy solar lights systems. SolarAid has also provided lights and switches inside of households where people are able to turn on a light with just one light switch, something this village has never experienced before.

Along with this, SolarAid teamed up with the Malawi Red Cross after Cyclone Idai hit neighboring countries and caused flooding and high winds forcing 86,000 people to leave their homes and into emergency camps. Interested to see how light can have an impact in aid relief, the Malawi Red Cross and SolarAid provided the emergency camps with 100 solar home systems, and 100 portable solar lights. These systems can help charge phones, keep women and children safe and reduce the risk of dangerous animals or reptiles such as poisonous snakes.

Zambia

Just like in Uganda, SolarAid’s participation in Zambia has positively impacted the school environment. In January 2019, SolarAid’s social enterprise team SunnyMoney in Zambia sought out to rural areas where the majority of the community is living without electricity power lines. They visited a rural school in the Rufunsa district and delivered a solar light library. The solar light library is available for children to use throughout the day to study and do homework, mostly after dark. Throughout the day, there are household chores, farm work, etc., and children, especially girls considering they tend to the majority of the daily household tasks, have little daylight left to do schoolwork. They rely on battery-powered torches or candles, items that don’t last long enough to get an adequate amount of homework done. There are 50 lights available to borrow in the solar light library for as low as 25 Zambian Kwacha (which is roughly two U.S. dollars).

SolarAid is the perfect example of a charity who is taking advantage of the knowledge of renewable energy and using that knowledge for a great cause. With their brilliant innovations made specifically for developing countries, communities will no longer have to suffer to do important tasks throughout the night. As the fight for solar-powered energy continues to increase, these three countries now have the help they need to continue to shine the light in their communities.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Developing CountriesSome think that the majority of zero-carbon energy generators are being built in European countries such as Switzerland or Norway. But that is quite a stretch from reality. In 2018, the majority of the world’s new renewable energy capacities were built in developing countries. While wealthier developed countries added only 63 gigawatts of zero-carbon of energy, during the same time period developing nations added 114. Despite encountering numerous sizable challenges, developing countries are now leading the way in terms of the world’s clean energy transformation.

Renewable Energy in Developing Countries: Current Undertakings

  • Costa Rica: The most impressive energy transition has likely been experienced by Costa Rica. In May 2019, the small country was able to hit a huge milestone of generating 99.99 percent of its energy from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. Throughout the past decade, the country has seen a constant rising slope in its alternative energy generation despite adverse conditions caused by changing weather conditions and the El Niño phenomenon. The nation aims to be completely carbon neutral by 2021.
  • China: For the most part, the most popular sector of renewable energy in developing countries has come from the sun. With the cost of solar power decreasing by roughly 80 percent over the past decade, many developing countries are building both centralized and decentralized solar power systems. Some of the most ambitious renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently occurring in China, which ranks first globally for renewable energy having produced 1.4 GWh of electricity in 2019 from alternative sources. The country also owns about a third of the total renewable energy patents worldwide and is currently spending three times the amount the U.S. is in renewable energy investment, setting it up to become even more of a green superpower in the future. A combination of these factors has led to solar power becoming cheaper than grid electricity in China, which has further driven the demand and investment levels in it.
  • Kenya and the Ivory Coast: Most decentralized renewable energy projects in developing countries are currently being built with DIY kits which can easily be purchased from the internet. For instance, Lumos, a Dutch solar company, began selling solar kits in the Ivory Coast in 2017. Within a year, more than  73,000 units have been installed — consisting of a solar panel, power sockets, battery, mobile phone adapter and LED lightbulbs. Metered pay-as-you-use solar devices and generators have also become quite popular with M-KOPA, a start-up launched in 2012 in Kenya, leading the pack. For as little as a dollar per month, families can access solar energy. The company now has more than 600,000 customers across three countries and estimates on its website that it is bringing solar power to 500 new households per day.

Effects

The effects of developing countries transitioning and installing renewable energy have been overwhelmingly positive especially for remote communities. Currently, an estimated 1.3 billion people do not have access to grid electricity, forcing them to pay absurd amounts of money for unclean lighting and heat such as kerosene oil and coal stoves. However, micro-hydro systems and solar panels have been able to combat this by being self-sufficient energy off-grid sources. For example, in Kenya, the global leader in solar panels per capita, more and more citizens are choosing to install private solar systems rather than connecting to the country’s highly unreliable electric grid.

Additionally, jobs are often created in lieu of the initiation of zero-carbon energy producers. As an illustration, when Delhi, India built a new waste-to-energy plant in 2017 that burned garbage as fuel, it immediately hired seven waste-pickers and provided job training and employment to roughly 200 women.

Challenges

Currently, the greatest challenge facing the implementation of renewable energy in developing countries is reliable energy storage. Without good energy storage, communities become dependent on the natural conditions for their electricity and are subject to frequent blackouts.

Another anticipated challenge is meeting the demand of critical metals and minerals, such as nickel, lithium and manganese, to these batteries in a sustainable and ethical manner. As the demand for these materials is expected to grow tenfold by 2050 and large deposits of them are found on African soil, the extracting industry must be regulated in a way so that the economic benefits are enjoyed by the entire locality, and that labor conditions within the supply chains are correctly regulated and addressed.

Future Directions

To combat the lack of reliable energy storage in third world countries, in 2018 the World Bank committed $1 billion to help accelerate investment in both the development and implementation of battery storage. Individual countries have also pledged varying amounts towards the development of alternative energy with China leading the way with an ambitious pledge to spend at least $360 billion on renewables by 2020.

The share of renewable energies in the global energy market is expected to grow up to 20 percent by 2023, and developing countries are expected to play a large role in this growth. The usage of bioenergy, energy generated from biomass fuels, is also expected to decrease as solar and hydropower become more efficient.

Conclusively, the future of renewable energy in developing countries appears quite promising. Although it would be too optimistic to not acknowledge developmental challenges such as efficient energy storage, through ingenious thinking and adventitious ideas, developing countries are likely to continue to be on the forefront of achieving the goal of carbon-neutral global energy consumption.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Djibouti

Djibouti, located in East Africa and bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, has a population of nearly one million people. In 2013, Djibouti announced Vision 2035, a comprehensive plan to use exclusively renewable energy and achieve universal access to reliable electricity. If successful, Djibouti would become the seventh country in the world and the first African country to achieve 100 percent renewable energy.

Djibouti’s Energy Infrastructure Today

Right now, Djibouti faces several roadblocks in its path toward renewable energy. For example, much of Djibouti’s energy comes from volatile imports. Around 65 percent of Djibouti’s electricity comes from Ethiopia. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), this reliance on imported energy leads to price volatility that can hamstring economic development plans. Much of Djibouti’s remaining energy comes from its own geothermal, solar, wind and biomass sources. However, much of this electricity is unreliable. According to USAID, 100 megawatts of electricity that Djibouti consumes, only 57 megawatts are available to serve the population because of underdeveloped energy infrastructure. In addition, only 60 percent of Djiboutians have access to electricity. There is a large disparity in access between urban and rural areas, with far more city dwellers connected to the grid than those in rural areas. In total, 110,000 households in Djibouti without electricity.

Potential and Progress

Despite these hurdles, Djibouti has a remarkable potential to increase domestic renewable energy production. Djibouti has the natural capacity to produce 300 megawatts of renewable energy annually—triple what it produces today. The country has abundant solar radiation for the creation of solar farms and many opportunities to harvest geothermal energy, such as the rifts of its two largest lakes, Abbe and Assal.

Since the 2013 commencement of Vision 2035, much of this potential has been actualized. The creation of the Djibouti Geothermal Power Generation Project, a power plant in Lake Assal, was announced in 2013. In 2018, construction began after $50 million in funding was secured by the World Bank and other financiers. Moreover, a $390 million solar farm is under construction in southern Djibouti as a result of a public-private partnership between Djibouti’s Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and Green Enesys, a German renewable energy firm. Djibouti is already beginning to reap the benefits of renewable energy investment projects. The World Bank reports a four percent increase in access to electricity from 2013 to 2017—the largest sustained increase in over two decades.

The Importance of Renewable Energy

There are many important benefits to Vision 2035 if it succeeds. Access to energy is essential to economic growth. The World Bank reports that reliable energy is critical for several aspects of development such as “health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods and poverty reduction.” Better electricity is vital for sustained progress in Djibouti.

Additionally, Vision 2035 offers a framework of sustainable development that maintains the integrity of Djibouti’s natural ecosystems. By harnessing energy from renewable sources, Djibouti can reduce poverty without depleting its forests or relying on imported coal or oil. By becoming the first African country to use 100 percent renewable energy, Djibouti has the opportunity to become a leading international voice in sustainable development.

– Abraham Rohrig
Photo: Flickr

Garbage for Electricity

Addis Ababa, the rapidly growing capital of Ethiopia, has had only one dump site for garbage. The Koshe dump site developed into a giant landfill over many years of unregulated dumping. A very literal mountain of garbage built up, filling roughly 36 football fields worth of land with waste. This problem came to a head when a garbage “landslide” wound up killing 114 people, many of them scavengers who had come to the dump in the hopes of finding something useful.

The dump was more than an eyesore. It was also a health hazard due to its creeping into populated areas, limiting living space where rapid expansion was a constant. The landfill also polluted nearby rivers, as well as the air with methane gasses from rot and decay.

The Reppie Power Plant

To solve this problem, Samuel Alemayehu put forth an idea for a way to transform the dump into a useful energy source. He proposed a plan to create a garbage incineration plant specifically for the purpose of creating electricity by burning the offending garbage. The Reppie Power Plant is meant to be the first of its kind, with others to follow as similar solutions in other cities.

“We believe these plants will create for African megacities a modern, multipurpose infrastructure… which will enable them simultaneously to dispose of waste, generate sustainable energy, clean, and reuse water, recycle valuable resources, generate industrial grade steam for use by other businesses, and, most importantly do all this in one facility located safely within city limits,” Alemayehu said.

A coalition of Ethiopia’s government and several international companies funded the Reppie Power Plant. It was modeled off similar plants from Europe and France, and the project was officially launched in 2017. The plant officially went operational the following year. The Reppie Power Plant is designed to process 1,400 tons of waste every day, which comes to roughly 80  percent of the city’s waste, all while producing 30 percent of the city’s electricity. It does this by burning the garbage to boil water, and the resultant steam turns massive turbines to produce the electricity.

The Reppie Power Plant is still operating, despite being shut down for three months in 2019 due to a dispute between contractors and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP). It has also succeeded in inspiring other nations to adopt the same model. In Kenya, an incineration plant has been greenlit which is modeled directly off the Reppie Power Plant, with the equivalent of 197 million USD dedicated to the project. It is no surprise, since such plants simultaneously clear living space, eliminate sources of pollution and disease, eliminate eyesores and produce electricity. So long as it continues to operate properly, the Reppie Power Plant is likely to have a lasting positive effect in its own city and, as others follow its example, in other countries and cities around the world.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

10 Disturbing 10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty
Global poverty is one of the most pressing issues currently facing the international community. Individuals mired in poverty often lack access to clean food and water and many do not receive proper health care or education. Listed below are 10 of the most disturbing facts about global poverty.

10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty

  1. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The world’s current population is roughly 7.5 billion people meaning that almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. This $2.50 often has to support not just single individuals but entire families.
  2. Approximately 2.4 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. This is often a result of poor infrastructure and a lack of monetary investment by governments into adequate sanitation facilities. These conditions often lead to individuals engaging in unsanitary practices such as open defecation, which can lead to the contraction of diseases like diarrhea and cholera. Developing countries, however, are looking at developing many technologies to help improve sanitation. One such technology is the Janicki Omni Processor (JOP), which turns human waste into clean, drinkable water. The JOP has been successfully implemented in Dakar, Senegal and is likely to expand into other countries in Africa soon.
  3. About 1.5 billion individuals worldwide have inadequate shelter. This has a number of causes including lack of job and education opportunities. Many of these individuals live in slum settlements in large cities like Mumbai and Cairo.
  4. More than 757 million adults worldwide are illiterate. Many poverty-stricken individuals do not have the resources to receive a proper education, which limits their future job and income prospects. This, of course, perpetuates the cycle of poverty. However, organizations are doing significant work to help solve this problem. In 2015, the nonprofit organization, Worldreader, launched the Read to Kids initiative, which reached 200,000 families across India. The initiative leveraged the increasing popularity of mobile phones in the country by creating a free app that provides users with an expansive library of books.
  5. Currently, 780 million people live without access to clean water. Many of these individuals have to resort to drinking dirty, contaminated water, which can result in the transmission of numerous harmful waterborne diseases. To make matters worse, this water is often far away, requiring long journeys to obtain it. This prevents individuals from attending schools or working, furthering the cycle of poverty. With that said, afflicted countries are making good progress towards ensuring more individuals have access to clean drinking water. Much of this progress has come via the implementation of technologies like rainwater catchment systems and sand dams, both of which have proven to be effective, sustainable solutions for communities throughout the developing world.
  6. Sixty-four percent of the world’s extreme poor lives in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There are various hypotheses as to why these five countries have such high rates of poverty. Many point to corruption, as well as poor government policies and inadequate education systems as the main culprits. However, countries are making progress towards the alleviation of many of these issues. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has received praise for his anti-corruption efforts while in office; additionally, the government of the DRC has made major strides in its educational system over the past 17 years (70 percent of children now complete primary school, compared to 29 percent in 2002).
  7. There are more than 820 million chronically malnourished people worldwide. While the world produces enough food to feed everyone, the distribution of this food is grossly unequal. Individuals in rural communities suffer the most as they often have to resort to growing their own food (subsistence farming) due to the lack of accessible, affordable food sold nearby.
  8. Approximately 1 billion people do not have access to proper electricity. While electricity is readily available in most wealthy, industrialized countries, hundreds of millions of individuals that go without this luxury every single day. However, initiatives such as the Electrify Africa Act (2016) are aiming to change this. The EAA will provide 50 million people throughout sub-Saharan Africa with access to reliable electricity by 2020.
  9. More than 3 million people worldwide die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. While coverage has improved in recent years, many individuals still do not have access to proper health care to receive critical vaccinations. As a result, preventable diseases such as measles and tetanus, as well as whooping cough, have persisted in many developing countries.
  10. Children make up more than 40 percent of the world’s extreme poor. Child poverty is one of the biggest contributors to the poverty cycle as children who grow up poor are unlikely to be able to obtain a quality education, meaning that when they have children, their children will likely be in the same situation that they were once in. Preventing this cycle is one of the main areas of focus for poverty reduction campaigns around the world. UNICEF’s Schools for Africa Initiative is a good example of these efforts. By helping to build schools and train teachers, the initiative has provided more than 21 million children with the opportunity to pursue an education.

While the list above detailing 10 of the most disturbing facts about poverty may be slightly depressing, there is hope for the future. Since 1981, the percentage of the world population living on less than $1.25/day has decreased by nearly 30 percent. In addition, new technologies and agricultural practices promise to make it easier than ever to obtain access to clean water and nutritious food. However, as detailed in this article, billions of individuals still suffer from extreme poverty every day; as such, it is imperative that progress continues towards eliminating global poverty.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Solar power in Developing countries
Since its inception 45 years ago, the Barefoot College has trained 1430 people from poor communities to install and maintain solar-powered electrical systems. This was mainly started with the aim of introducing solar power in developing countries.

The most remarkable fact of this program is that all of the students in the solar engineering program are women and they enter with absolutely no prior formal education. These solar engineers return to their villages with a sense of opportunity and independence not only for themselves but also for the community at large.

The founder of the program, Bunker Roy, recognized that the people living in the poor communities are immeasurably knowledgeable about the world around them and the needs of their people. Roy’s vision to bolster the use of solar power in developing countries started with the construction of the first Barefoot College in Tilonaia, India in 1977. It now operates in 100 countries around the globe and 15 states throughout India.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Afghanistan

According to ALCS 2016-17 survey, only 26 percent of the population in Afghanistan had access to the electrical grid in the years 2011-12. In five years, that number got increased by five percent with around 31 percent of the population enjoying access to the grid. Yet, this access was heavily concentrated within urban areas. The majority of the people living in rural regions of Afghanistan were still yearning to come out of the dark.

The idea of Barefoot College – to enhance the use of solar power in developing countries – became a boon for many in the rural areas. In 2007, merely 2 percent of the households in Afghanistan were powered using solar panels. Today, that same figure has reached 59.4 percent at a national level and 73.2 percent in rural areas. While it’s impossible to tell how much of this success can be attributed directly to Barefoot College, Bunker Roy and his colleagues have undoubtedly made a significant impact.

In his 2011 TEDTalk, Roy shared the story of three illiterate Afghan women who had never left their homes. They came to India and trained to become solar engineers. On returning to Afghanistan, they electrified 100 villages, set up workshops and trained 27 more women to follow their footsteps.

One of the three women, a 55-year-old named Gul Bahar, provided solar electricity to 200 houses herself. She also took the opportunity to educate the head of a large engineering department in Afghanistan on the difference between AC and DC.

Today, more than 84 engineers have been trained by the graduates from Barefoot College to provide a fundamental service to thousands of Afghans in need. Afghanistan is now well on its way to becoming a fully electrified country with 97.7 percent of households having access to electricity. The difference between the electrification of rural and urban homes is also quickly disappearing.

Impact of the Barefoot Program in Honduras

Access to electricity in urban areas of Honduras has reached 100 percent, but one-quarter of the people living in rural areas are still living without it. These same areas are also subject to extreme poverty, severe droughts, and increasing uncertainty in the agricultural industry. Without access to electricity, families are dependent on kerosene lamps that provide poor light, emit toxic chemicals when burned and increase the risk of fire outbreaks.

With help from the Indian Government and the Small Grants Program (SGP), Barefoot College sought to improve the dire situation that the agrarian communities of Honduras find themselves in. Four women from different corners of Honduras were chosen to travel to the original Barefoot College campus in Tilonia, India. Iris Marlene Espinal, Carmen Lourdes Zambrano Cruz, Alnora Casy Estrada and Ingrid Miranda Martinez came to the campus without knowing how to read or write. However, through their practical knowledge, strong will and rugged resourcefulness, they returned home as solar engineers.

These four women have successfully installed 207 85-watt solar panel systems that power lamps, televisions, radios and cell phones for 54 families across Honduras. Without this new technology, the children of a small village called Los Hornos were unable to study indoors even during the day and were showing signs of respiratory issues. To further improve the quality of education for young children in Honduras, the engineers are installing solar systems in schools. The teachers there can now utilize modern technological tools in their lessons.

Seemingly small, incremental changes, like the introduction of solar power in developing countries, have massive implications for the quality of life in poor communities. As Alorna Casy stated in an interview with the UNDP, “We brought back a lot of knowledge to benefit our communities and, in a sense, to help them to escape from poverty”.

Enhancing Access to Solar Power in Developing Countries

In 2016, Barefoot College began the Pacific Island Solar initiative and is still working toward the initial goal of providing new technologies to 2,800 houses across 14 Pacific Island Countries. To date, 10,000 solar installations have already been completed and the construction of a Barefoot College located in Fiji has been approved. The institution is, thus, unstoppable in its mission to revolutionize the use of solar power in developing countries.

The new campus will provide solar engineering training alongside courses in Digital Technology Skills, Financial Literacy and Inclusion, Environmental Stewardship, Women’s Reproductive Health and Nutrition, Micro-enterprise Skills and much more.

Bunker Roy built his first college with the help of 12 “barefoot architects” who couldn’t read or write. Since then, the institution continues to empower those who lack resources but are intelligent enough and in desperate need of a future that fully utilizes their potential. Thus, the idea of enhancing access to solar power in developing countries will definitely spread light in many more dark corners of the world.

John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

10. Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Poland
Poland’s future is in jeopardy. More specifically, the future of Poland’s youth is in jeopardy. While the country is dealing with difficult poverty issues, the youth of Poland face uncertainty in job perspective. Detailed in this list of the top 10 facts about poverty in Poland are the contributing factors to today’s crisis, as well as possible improvement in the future based on the projected increase of foreign aid to Poland.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Poland

  1. The CIA World Factbook estimates that 17 percent of Poland’s population is under the poverty line. The World Data Group defines the poverty line as earning anything below $1.90 per day. Poland’s total population is 37.95 million people, which means that there are 6.4 million people in poverty. To put this into perspective, that is the number of people that currently live in Indiana.
  2. According to the World Bank Data, unemployment in Poland is around 14 percent and among the young population, it is 25 percent. This level of unemployment was reached in small towns like Tarnobrzeg due to leaders prioritizing failed tourist attractions over the actual sources of employment and money. For example, the leaders of Tarnobrzeg shut down their mines to replace them with an artificial lake. The lake was only able to be used during the two warmest months of the year, hurting the town’s economy badly.
  3. While the average salary of Polish citizens is at an all-time high (around $963), the minimum wage is less than half of the average. Average rent across Poland ranges from $272 to $816.
  4. Many citizens give a large chunk of their paycheck to heating companies to stay warm during Poland’s harsh winters, resulting in a lesser amount of money to meet other survival needs. The average cost of heating in Poland is $180.
  5. Young people in Poland struggle to keep long-lasting employment because many agencies use temporary work. In the World Bank Data coverage of poverty in Poland, the story states that 27 percent of the young population faces “junk contracts” that do not help their living situations. “Junk contracts” are temporary contracts for workers that do not offer a stable income, a source of long-term financial stability or any health benefits. These job prospects are so terrible that around one million people between the ages of 15 and 24 travel abroad to earn higher wages. Between 2009 and 2011, only 40.3 percent of temporary workers were able to get permanent jobs, according to the Social Diagnosis survey.
  6. Education is becoming the important focus for young people in Poland. Despite 80 percent of the youth population attending schools that lead to higher education, future employers are uninterested in these dedicated students and fail to train them instead. Social Europe’s report on youth unemployment in Poland claims that less than 23 percent of Polish companies cooperated with a school or a center for practical training.
  7. World Bank Data claims that Poland’s economy grew 81 percent between 1990 and 2010. However, the wage gaps between the wealthy and those below the poverty line also grew. Scientific Research Journal found that “rising income inequalities were exacerbated as Poland’s economy grew and private ownership expanded”.
  8. Approximately 35 percent of children under the age of 17 rely on government assistance. Not only that, but World Socialist Web reports that 3 percent of families with more than one child cannot afford to feed all members of the family. The Polish government only plans on allowing approximately $220 million in government funding each year until 2020.
  9. In 2015, World Bank Data released a report claiming that spending programs in support of low-income families in Poland are well targeted and that they mostly benefit low-income households. While this is a great start, Poland must expand its assistance to the poor. World Bank Data stated that a solution to this problem would be for the government to investigate the causes of this high poverty level and start there. Some government assistance programs realize that this is an important step and have suggested the implementation of a family cash bonus entitled Rodzina 500+. This step will also look into how to restructure the system so that low-income families are the first to receive support.
  10. According to USAID, the U.S. gave Poland approximately $13 million in 2016. However, a large portion of the funding is going towards the military. The amount of aid going to Poland has substantially dropped in the last 15 years. On average, the U.S. gave between $50 million and $80 million until 2015. In 2016, $11 million went to military aid and a grand total of $6,400 went to maternal and child health.

Poland’s poverty crisis is not quite at a catastrophic level. The people are surviving and the government is acknowledging the crisis. These top 10 facts about poverty in Poland attempt to show the spectrum of issues and possible solutions for Poland. Poland’s government, as well as the U.S.’s foreign aid system, can help the underprivileged and prevent this situation from worsening.

– Miranda Garbaciak

Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in Africa
It is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr