Energy in EgyptThe poverty rate in Egypt rose to 32.5%, or 32 million people, in 2018. Energy use is rising in Egypt by 6.5% per year, but a disproportionate reliance on finite gas and other conventional energy resources has placed the future of Egyptian energy sustainability and environmental goals at risk. Under the Egypt Vision 2030 initiative, the country has recognized an important need to reduce carbon emissions. This, along with the country’s abundance of sunlight and wind, means that Egypt could very well move toward dependence on renewable energies. This is increasingly important as the growing demand for electricity has exposed the lack of access in Egypt, especially in rural areas. Lack of access to electricity is an issue that the world’s impoverished face and renewable energy in Egypt could be key to alleviating poverty in the country.

Shifting to Renewable Energy

The Egyptian Government began its shift toward energy security through increased renewable energy in 2014 when it partnered with the World Bank to institute energy sector reforms and attract $2 billion worth of investment in renewable energy sources. Before that, the government had large, inefficient fuel subsidies that outweighed expenditures on social protection, health and education and did not even target the Egyptian impoverished. This time period also saw frequent power shortages, which contributed to overall social unrest.

By committing to generating 20% of electricity through renewable energy sources by 2022, the Egyptian government showed a comprehensive commitment to energy sector reform. This has helped to create a welcoming political and economic environment for private sector investment, strengthening the shift toward renewable energy in Egypt, which creates the spillover effect of helping the country’s impoverished whom energy shortages may more severely affect.

The Benban Solar Park

The result is several large deals with international banks to finance projects like the Benban Solar Park, which will be the largest solar project in the world once complete. The government received more than $650 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, to construct the 13 solar power plants that are part of the project. This new initiative will provide power to more than 350,000 Egyptians and create about 6,000 jobs for building greater renewable energy in Egypt.

Other Benefits of Energy Reform

The partnerships with the World Bank and the IFC have other benefits, like freeing government spending to go toward social initiatives. By instituting energy reforms, the Egyptian Government was able to double spending on social protection for the poorest 20% of the population. So, while projects like the Benban Solar Park will themselves contribute to a cleaner, more efficient energy security that will benefit those living in poverty, the means by which these projects are funded also enable the government to focus more of its spending on alleviating poverty.

Energy Reform and Poverty in Egypt

The Egyptian Government has partnered with international institutions like the World Bank to reform its energy sector. Past overdependence on gas and oil along with inefficient fuel subsidies placed Egypt’s future energy security at risk while exacerbating problems the nation’s impoverished face daily. The country has shown a commitment to clean energy initiatives, which benefit Egyptians living in poverty in two main ways. First, the initiatives increase access to power and electricity. Many of those living in rural communities do not have consistent access to electricity, so this reform directly benefits them. Additionally, it benefits the impoverished indirectly by freeing up government spending for increased expenditure on social protection programs. Thus, the future of renewable energy in Egypt is bright and it has the potential to alleviate the struggles of millions of Egyptians.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

SunBox Solar Kits For the 1.9 million Palestinians who live in the Gaza strip, electricity is a privilege. Due to a lack of available energy, people experience regular blackouts that disrupt their daily lives. These blackouts keep residents from fully enjoying the benefits of electricity, such as regular internet access and lighting. Fortunately, local engineer and entrepreneur, Majd Mashhawari is bringing cheap electricity to families through her new invention, SunBox. Mashhawari’s SunBox solar kits provide clean solar power to households, providing off-the-grid energy and internet access.

Electricity in Gaza

One diesel power plant produces almost all electricity for Gaza but it is not able to produce enough electricity to power the region at all times. Because of restrictions on exports and imports in Gaza, the plant only has access to a restricted amount of imported fuel. As a result, it has been forced to implement a system of rolling blackouts. According to SunBox founder, Mashhawari, hospitals in Gaza receive 10 hours of electricity a day, which the hospitals can afford to supplement with private generators. Everyone else lives on three to five hours of electricity a day unless they can pay for a generator.

If people in Gaza had reliable access to electricity, they would be able to cook, refrigerate food, run businesses effectively, access the internet and study after dark. The first two activities boost health, while the latter three increase earnings and success. Access to electricity has a strong impact on reducing poverty.

SunBox Solar Kits

SunBox solar kits could be the key to ending Gaza’s electricity crisis. SunBox has provided solar energy for 300 families since the company’s launch two years ago. Its solar kits have produced 600,000 watts of energy so far. As a small business, it employs 35 people, helping to combat Gaza’s high unemployment rates.

SunBox solar kits consist of one or two solar panels, a battery and a solar device. The panels are attached to the roof of a building and the solar device provides internet access and a plug-in for electrical devices. These kits provide 1,000 kilowatts of solar energy to consumers in a region where most days are sunny. The battery typically takes only three hours to recharge fully.

Business-wise, SunBox has profited from its “sharing is caring model.” People who cannot afford to pay for the $350 kits can buy the kit with other families, sharing the costs and the electricity. SunBox has also installed kits at desalination plants, helping to power the creation of clean water.

Female Entrepreneur: Majd Mashhawari

SunBox is the brainchild of Mashhawari, who understands the need for better electricity in Gaza because she grew up there. The territory began conducting electrical blackouts when she was 12. Mashhawari went on to attend the Islamic University of Gaza, where she majored in civil engineering. She has put her degree to good use, developing two products so far that help tackle Gaza’s unique infrastructure needs. These products are GreenCake and SunBox.

Mashhawari’s first product, GreenCake, was a building block made from ash and rubble. The Israel-Hamas war in 2014 had damaged many buildings in Gaza and rebuilding was difficult because of limits on cement imports. Mashhawari saw the need for cheap building materials that could be made from domestically available substances. Her team conducted experiments, eventually designing a cheap, durable building block made from ash and rubble, two elements that were abundant in Gaza. After her success in launching GreenCake in 2016, Mashhawari went on to create SunBox in 2018.

Mashhawari’s work has come to wider attention because of a TED Talk she gave in 2019 about her inventions. During her TED Talk, Mashhawari touted the success of her products and the need to find creative solutions to difficult problems. She also recalled that when she attended university, her school’s civil engineering program had a female-to-male ratio of one to six. Mashhawari stressed her devotion to supporting other female scientists, proudly describing how SunBox was hiring and training both female and male engineers.

Local Inventions Address Poverty

Mashhawari’s products show the inventiveness of local entrepreneurs and their ability to create solutions that are tailored to their region. She developed her products to address the specific needs of her fellow people, granting them a better way of life. Her designs are cheap and environmentally friendly and because of her dedication to hiring female engineers, her company supports female education and economic empowerment. In the fight against global poverty, it is encouraging to be reminded that there are locally developed, environmentally friendly and cost-effective solutions.

– Sarah Brinsley
Photo: Flickr

The GCEEPA whole 940 million people, or 13% of the global population, do not have access to electricity. This is the central challenge that The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP) is facing.

The Global Commission to End Energy Poverty (GCEEP)

The GCEEP is a smorgasbord of innovators and leaders composed of utility companies, off-grid companies, multilateral development banks, academics and individuals across many different sectors. Drawing from key decision-makers such as former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and Africa Development Bank president, Dr. Akinwumi Adisina, the GCEEP is in a unique and leveraged position to influence governments around the world to take a better-informed approach at tackling energy poverty.

The Global Impact of COVID-19

Operating under the leadership of the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, the GCEEP issued a report in early December of 2020, stating that COVID-19 has resulted in a new wave of complications in the fight against energy poverty. COVID-19 could result in an additional 100 million people losing access to electricity because of exacerbated financial hardship.

Defining Energy Poverty

Energy poverty is defined as a lack of access to reliable and affordable energy sources. Energy is the foundation through which a place can build a healthy, financially stable community. As the COVID-19 pandemic has proven, energy is at the core of modern health care and treatment. Countries that lack access to electricity, or the financial capabilities to afford electricity, struggle to recover in several aspects. Access to energy is a key indicator and crucial aspect to eradicating global poverty.

The GCEEP’s 2020 report on electricity access calls for governments around the world to consider energy poverty a serious issue that demands an expeditious and large-scale response.

Boasting an MIT-led research team and a practical, on-the-ground approach, the GCEEP’s strategy directly engages government leaders, investors and stakeholders in the power sector.

This approach is the Integrated Distribution Framework (IDF). Focusing on what the report calls the “weak link” in power systems across the world, the IDF aims to address problems in distribution and large-scale electrification through business models that are feasible and actionable.

Key Principles of the IDF:

  • A commitment to universal access. This requires the permanence of supply and the existence of a utility-like entity with the responsibility for providing access in a defined territory.
  • Efficient and coordinated integration of on- and off-grid solutions like grid extensions and mini-grids.
  • A financially viable business model for distribution.
  • A focus on development to ensure that electrification produces broad socio-economic benefits such as better delivery of critical public services in health and education.

The GCEEP believes that ending energy poverty is an achievable goal. As the GCEEP co-founders sum it up, “Only by ending energy poverty can we end poverty itself.”

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Success in Honduras
Despite fast economic growth, the country of Honduras still suffers from high poverty and inequality. According to the World Bank, 48% of people live in poverty in the country, with 38% in urban areas and 60% in rural areas. However, in recent years, the success in Honduras is worthy of noting.

The Situation

Inequality is the highest in the world in Honduras. Inclement weather, such as regular droughts and heavy rain, affects the poor the most. In addition, violence is rampant. In 2018 alone, Honduras had 38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has worsened Honduras’ economy. Due to the global shutdown, predictions have determined that the gross domestic product of Honduras will decrease by 7% in 2020, because of the sharp decline in trade, investment and consumption. The worsened GDP in the United States, Honduras’s partner in trade, has not helped matters. It will affect all classes, and especially the poor, according to the World Bank.

The Abundant Life Foundation

In response, the World Bank has initiated many U.S.-funded projects to aid the weakened economy with success in Honduras but one organization that has also never stopped giving aid is the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF). This highly successful organization creates opportunities for Hondurans so they can live a better life through long-term community development, education and conservation. Since 2007, the founders of Abundant Life, authors and poverty experts David and Brenda Dachner, have created programs that work closely with island residents to create environments that foster personal and community growth. The Foundation has served the Bay Islands of Honduras with the utmost commitment.

Community Development and Housing

Community Development is one pillar that the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. It has a project that is an affordable housing community called Los Sueños: The Dreams that has seen success in Honduras. At Los Sueños, not only does the Foundation provide dignified housing, but an entire community setting where families can thrive, not just survive. This is the first planned community in Roatán and has a K-12 school, a church, sports court and Ag Farm.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, co-founder Brenda Dachner stated that “2021 will also bring a library and computer center, our new ALF office, and the first public park on the island. Future plans also call for a Cultural Center to preserve the heritage and culture of the English-speaking islanders, and a daycare center so the many single moms who will be living in our community can safely leave their children while they work to take care of their families.”

The Abundant Life Foundation is currently responsible for the building of 24 of 80 homes, with 11 families waiting to move in by Spring 2021. For the selection process, families go through an application process, a debt screening with the bank, a personal interview and home visit and criminal background check, before an anonymous selection committee of reputable islanders with ALF make the final selection through a collective vote.

Bringing Electricity to Honduras

Electricity is also a problem in Honduras. In response, ALF has created other community projects which include the distribution of solar-powered Luci Lights to communities with little to no electricity. This has reduced house fires from those who use candles in their wooden homes. It also helps families save money as electricity is expensive on the island.

Also, a bag program with the community of St. Helene where ALF taught the local women there to crochet purses and other items out of recycled plastic bags. Through this program, 90% of the sale of products went back to the woman, whose product sold while ALF maintained 10% and put it into a community fund. To date, the women have sold over $30,000 of products. With the Fund money, a year ago, the community voted to use it to bring electricity to each home in their village, including their church. “No more dangerous candles at night,” claimed Brenda Dachner, “and no more noisy, expensive diesel generators.”

Providing Support for Students

The second pillar of the Abundant Life Foundation is education. Since the organization’s first days on the island, it has provided scholarships and support to students to pursue a better education, including sponsoring three high school graduates to university programs, two of whom attended in the States. ALF built two schools (K-6 and K-12), provided support to students and teachers and operated a Bilingual Literacy Program in communities across the island to promote English literacy among residents. “It is important to promote and support English on this island as, first of all, it is their native language that is quickly being lost, but also, with tourism as the primary source of income, it is pertinent for jobs and their financial well-being,” Brenda Dachner told The Borgen Project.

Conservation

Finally, Conservation is a pillar the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. Roatán sits amidst the Meso-American reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world, and is its primary source of income via the tourists that come to see it, and locals living off of fishing for themselves and for trade. It is vital for the long-term financial well-being of local islanders that the reef be healthy and vibrant. Not surprisingly, however, the health of the reef is deteriorating. ALF partners with the Roatán Marine Park and other reputable organizations to promote the protection of the reef around the Bay Islands and seek to educate tourists to eliminate ignorance, and locals to reduce apathy.

ALF operates both as a 501(c)3 in the United States and as a legal NGO in Honduras. As such, although headquartered in Austin, Texas, the Abundant Life Foundation has a local team in Roatán, currently composed completely of native islanders who oversee all its projects and provide input, ideas and suggestions with projects and programming.

“We are very proud of this,” states Brenda Dachner to the Borgen Project, “as it has always been our desire to let Hondurans help Hondurans.”

With a focus on long-term solutions in community development, education and conservation, the Abundant Life Foundation hopes to provide the very opportunities islanders need to create their own abundant lives. This sparkling success in Honduras, like island water, has created rippling effects to end poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy in Rural Madagascar
Tech companies Groupe Filatex and Bboxx are teaming up to extend their solar panel services to rural Madagascar. The companies aim to install 170 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2022. In a country that receives about 2,800 hours of strong sunlight every year, implementing solar energy in rural Madagascar can be a “viable way to go.” Roughly 85% of Madagascar’s population has no access to electricity and they do have a national grid. Providing solar energy in rural Madagascar can give the people of Madagascar electricity, thus improving their way of life and reducing poverty.

Solar Energy Versus Fossil Fuels

Some argue that implementing solar energy can help alleviate poverty. Providing “access to a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water.” Some consider it a better alternative to the current option of expanding electricity. The current option involves fossil fuels, which can be impractical and expensive.

Also, solar energy can be a cheaper option compared with fossil fuels. Many villages in Africa use kerosene lamps as a source of light. Kerosene can cost a household from $40 to $80 per year, compared with solar lamps which can cost between $27 and $35. Kerosene can also emit pollutants proven to be dangerous to health. Examples of these health hazards are respiratory and eye infections, kidney or liver problems, and house fires.

Solar Energy Benefits

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can be the first step out of poverty by providing new skills and sources of income. An example of this is Barefoot College’s program for “solar engineers.” These engineers are from rural areas and are taught to install, repair and maintain solar lighting units to promote rural solar electrification. Consequently, this boosts incomes for poor villages.

Solar energy in rural Madagascar can help reduce current poverty levels. About 75% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is higher than the regional average, which is 41%.

Growth in Economic Development

Despite the high poverty rate, Madagascar has experienced a growth in economic development. During the past five years, Madagascar’s economic growth increased to around 5%. This was due to a peaceful transition after years of political instability and economic stagnation. The peaceful transition was considered “instrumental to this economic revival.” It contributed to “restore investor confidence, reopen access to key export markets, reinstate flows of concessional financing and encourage structural reforms.”

Implementing renewable energy is not new to Madagascar. In 2014, the Madagascar government decided to take on intensive reforms. With the help of the World Bank, the government started the Electricity Sector Operations and Governance Improvement Project (ESOGIP). The objective of the project is to increase production capacity and reduce energy loss. It also aims to expedite progress on renewable energies to provide a reliable, more affordable alternative to expensive and environmentally unfriendly diesel generators. The goal is to provide energy access to 70% of households by 2030.

The World Bank offers many solutions to reducing poverty in Madagascar. One of the main solutions is providing electricity. The more affordable, electrification in rural areas — the better the quality of life will be for citizens of Madagascar.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in the Philippines
Electricity in developed countries is free-flowing and abundant, but there is a struggle to find a reliable and consistent power source in developing countries. In the Philippines, there is a struggle to provide the people there with sustainable electricity, particularly in rural areas. Reliable energy sources are a constant problem for those trying to live their daily lives and create a steady local economy.

The Situation

Nearly 30% of Filipinos do not have access to electricity or experience brownouts. Brownouts are unintentional or intentional drops in the amount of voltage that an electrical grid puts out. This reduction in electrical power occurs when there is an increased use of electricity and too much demand on the system. At times, energy providers will deliberately reduce the amount of power to avoid a full blackout of the entire system. Brownouts are common occurrences in the Philippines and can severely impact the lives of the people and those who rely on a rural-based economy.

Economic Impacts

According to a study that the Philippine Institute of Development published, those in rural households who run their own businesses would benefit directly from a steady stream of electricity going to their homes. For example, farmers who operate in rural areas will be able to increase production on their farms by bringing in equipment that can run during the day and night. This type of access could also allow them to expand their businesses into food processing and food storage to bring additional income to their household. Electricity in the Philippines can be a significant determinant in the daily lives of business owners.

Solutions

Despite the current state of access to electricity in the Philippines, there are signs of significant growth and improvement. The Philippines Development Plan for 2017-2022 has set a target to achieve universal electrification by 2022. A company called Solar Philippines that operates out of Manila is making strides to reduce brownouts and lack of electricity access. It has installed a solar-powered battery farm in Paluan, a remote area of the country that had previously had no access to electricity. Now, this area has enough consistent electricity for the nearly 20,000 people who live there. The company hopes to build solar farms like these in every town in the Philippines and provide lost cost electricity for those who use it.

Recently, the company proposed replacing the coal power plants currently in use throughout the country with 5,000 MW solar farms to provide clean energy. With these solar panels, the Filipino government will be able to save over 20 billion pesos in subsidies, which can go toward other programs to help the countries poor.

Brownouts are a severe problem for those living in rural areas of the Philippines. Economic growth must occur so that the country can improve the electricity it provides. Solutions are available that will give millions of people access to electricity in the Philippines, improving the lives of those who so desperately need it.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Power Production
Development programs often emphasize distributing a needed resource to as many people as possible. Once a program or company finishes with an area, it moves onto the next one. However, that strategy risks leaving people in poor, especially rural areas with infrastructure they may not know how to keep up. One such infrastructure is power production.

Electric Supply in Nigeria

Take the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as an example. It was owned by the government, was the only centralized electric company there and contributed to less than 1% of the country’s GDP. In the U.S., electricity production and movement accounts for five times that GDP percentage. As the country with the second-most total economic activity in Africa, PHCN is a significant player and has the potential to be a leader for the rest of the continent. The inefficiency of power production and the deterioration of existing lines and plants, however, seriously hurt growth. Most Nigerians, if they have power at all, can only use it erratically. If they want a steadier supply, they must rely on fossil fuel generators, which is simply unattainable for many low-income families and groups.

Proposed Solutions for Reliable Electricity

The lack of consistency in power production hurts far more than it may initially seem. If the industry cannot produce with regularity, other countries will outcompete Nigerians in most cases, compounding the issue of growth already present. Even when the industry does get power, it is more expensive because so much of it is lost – the system is currently working at 1/3 capacity, producing less than 3,900 MW for the whole country. With all these issues, it’s obvious that there needs to be a change. Some solutions that the government and other groups proposed are:

  1. Privatization: In theory, letting in investors should allow people to run the power sector of Nigeria with much more efficiency. Additionally, it can reduce the amount of corruption by separating power production from a not-so democratically elected government. This happened in 2012 when control passed to many oligarchs in the Nigerian GENCO group. However, privatization may widen the income gap between the rich and poor, where the top 1% already have 82% of the country’s wealth.
  2. Grants: Many organizations can give money to improve the general infrastructure directly. The World Bank gave Nigeria one such grant in 2018 of around $500 million. This money focuses on increasing access to and stabilizing the already existing power grid that supports 50% of the population. Although $500 million may seem like a lot of money, it’s an investment that can pay off for American and other developed countries’ businesses, as Nigerians can make more wealth and spend it in other parts of the world.
  3. Rethinking the System: The limited amount of energy-producing plants creates an opportunity for alternative energy solutions. Nigeria could invest in greener energy solutions, such as solar panels and wind turbines that produce power locally. Since long-distance power lines lose 7% of their energy, localizing production could save hundreds of megawatts, increasing stability and accessibility. This could also reduce environmental challenges due to greenhouse gases.

Improving access to electricity in developing countries like Nigeria is no easy feat. However, teaching proper maintenance techniques is essential no matter what path the country decides to take. That’s how power will get to the last 50% of Nigerians and be stable for everyone in the nation.

Michael Straus
Photo: Flickr

Zindagi Gulzar Hai
“Zindagi Gulzar Hai” is a popular Pakistani drama based on a book by Umera Ahmad. While the drama first aired on Hum TV in 2012, it is now available on YouTube and Netflix with English subtitles. Since then, the drama has captivated the hearts and minds of an international audience, winning one award after the next. While the drama is first and foremost a love story, what many fans fail to remember is that it provides great insight into poverty in Pakistan. This article aims to draw a comparison between the characters and the lives of millions of people in the country.

Plot Summary

The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” depicts a love story between a lower-middle-class woman named Kashaf Murtaza and a wealthy Pakistani man named Zaroon Junaid. A single mother raised Kashaf and her two younger sisters. Their father abandoned them and remarried after their mother could not produce a male heir. This led Kashaf to distrust men from an incredibly early age, but it also gave her the incentive to receive an education and become self-dependent like her mother.

When she grew older, Kashaf received a scholarship to a prestigious university where she met a man from a wealthy Pakistani family named Zaroon. She instantly grew to dislike him due to his flirtatious and jealous nature once Kashaf outperformed him on several occasions. While Zaroon did not like her at first, he began to see wife-like qualities within her and eventually convinced her to marry him. As the drama progresses, it is clear that there are many differences between his wealthy lifestyle and her lower-middle-class background. Not only do these differences communicate the coexistence of two alternative realities in Pakistan, but they also reveal the challenges that millions of people face in the country today. Here are four aspects that the story reveals about poverty in Pakistan.

4 Aspects that “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” Reveals About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. Polygamy: In the drama, Kashaf’s father married twice because his first wife could not produce a son. While polygamy is not common in Pakistan, it is legal as long as a man obtains permission from his first wife. However, many women, especially in rural areas, do not know that their husband’s second marriage is conditional on their approval. Others fear acting against their husbands because they are economically dependent on them and because of the stigma surrounding divorce in Pakistani culture. This makes the practice problematic.
  2. Education: When Kashaf entered a prestigious university, her father insisted that her mother focus on getting their daughters married instead of having them receive an education. Unfortunately, his mindset is not uncommon in Pakistan. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 22.5 million children are not in school within the country. This includes one-third of primary school-aged girls and about 87% of girls in grade nine. Not only does this problem disproportionately affect females, but it also makes Pakistan one of the worst-performing countries with respect to education.
  3. Lack of Clean Water: When Zaroon visited Kashaf’s home soon after their marriage, the water stopped running while he was washing his face. This reflects how Pakistan is one of 36 countries in the midst of a water crisis. Currently, there are less than 1,000 cubic meters of annual water availability for every person within the country. About 80% of those living in 24 major Pakistani cities do not have access to clean water. One can say the same for 16 million people living in the slums of Karachi. This is due to an increase in population, environmental challenges, mismanagement of water systems in the agricultural sector and the overpriced cost of the water that water trucks provide. If resources within the country continue to decline at this rate, the country will be scarce of water by 2025.
  4. Electricity: When Zaroon spends his first night in Kashaf’s home, the electricity goes out. While Kashaf and her family are used to living without air conditioning in Pakistan’s heated climate, it is clear that Zaroon is not. Approximately 25,000 megawatts of electricity are necessary for Pakistan, and the need increases by more than 5% each year. However, the government has only been able to supply 20,000 megawatts of electricity so far. This has left millions of Pakistanis without electricity at any given time.

The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” highlights the challenges that millions of people face as a result of poverty in Pakistan. This will inevitably spread awareness about the problem, instigate much-needed conversations and inspire the world to take action.

– Rida Memon
Photo: Flickr

Electricity in Iraq
The electricity shortage in Iraq is a major problem for ordinary citizens. Since the fall of the Saddam regime, the government has been unable to keep up with demands for electricity, a particularly painful issue during the summer’s crushing heat. The failure began when agencies of coalition forces took control of Iraq after the disposition of Saddam. A 2011 report by the United Nations indicated that the daily demand for electricity in Iraq was 6,400 MVV, while the supply of output was 4,470, creating a supply gap. “Moreover, during the summer, it was reported that demand would frequently go up in the range of 6,600 to 7,500 MVV. As a result, up to 40% of electricity demand was not being met during these critical times when people were suffering.

Understanding the Electricity Shortage

The electricity shortage in Iraq exists for many reasons. The first comes from the damages inflicted on the country over the course of various wars and invasions. A 2007 Government Accountability Office report indicated that due to the damage of the Gulf War, the production of electricity in Iraq dropped from 5,100 megawatts to 2,300 megawatts. After 2003, Iraq’s energy and electric infrastructure underwent a series of attacks from non-state actors such as Al-Qaida in Iraq (known today as the Islamic State).

Another challenge to accessing electricity in Iraq is corruption and illegal activity. Approximately half of Iraq’s national budget went into paying the salaries of civil servants. The IMF estimated that Iraq would need $88 billion for reconstruction and infrastructure alone; nearly $50 billion is going to the salaries of government employees. Electricity in Iraq is often dependent on oil revenues. U.S. State Department reports indicated that up to 30% of Iraq’s refined fuels go into the black market. There is also widespread mismanagement and mishandling of the infrastructure that provides electricity. The country loses between 30-50% of electricity in Iraq due to inadequate systems of energy. For example, some of Iraq’s electricity is sourced from power plants that date back to the 1980s and are unable to meet the massive energy demands that people expect them to.

Effects on the Ground

How does this affect the working class of Iraq? Not everyone can afford a private generator—a now booming business in Iraq that closes the gap between public demands and government deliverables. Buying those private electricity services is simply not an option for many of Iraq’s poor, which makes life extremely intolerable for these families. Some have reported that they cannot use a fridge, wash clothes or even store food without it going bad overnight. These conditions of corruption, political gridlock and poor living conditions are the cause of massive protests in southern Iraq, one of the country’s poorest regions. The heat only fuels the anger of the protestors.

Finding Solutions

While the situation might seem hopeless, there are those working on solutions to the problem. In 2019, the government announced plans to privatize electricity, which could combat the issue by reducing the deficit and stimulating economic growth. Others suggest that addressing problems directly might alleviate conditions. They suggest tackling the country’s corruption and reliance on unreliable infrastructure. Oil energy production is also a solution that can bankroll the electricity demands.

The most important thing is to ensure the efficient use of these resources and to prevent their trade on the black market. Some of the country’s neighbors are also helping provide electricity. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (including Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) are moving forward on a deal to provide electricity to Iraq and distance it from the Iranian supply. Regardless of political implications, the effort is still helping Iraq manage its electricity shortage.

Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr