Low-Cost Power in India
Millions of people around the world own smartphones, tablets and laptop computers, all of which batteries power. Inevitably, as these devices age, their batteries degrade and lose capacity.  Nevertheless, even after one grows tired of constantly hunting for the charging cable and decides instead to buy a new one, it turns out that the old battery, the same “dead” battery that will likely end up in your garbage can, just might have some life in it yet. One start-up company has emerged on exactly that premise. With offices in Germany and India, Nunam (which means “for the future” in Sanskrit) repurposes lithium-ion batteries to produce new energy storage systems and provide low-cost power in India. Funding from the Audi Environmental Foundation has recently allowed Nunam to complete a prototype and offer its units for free to street vendors in Bengaluru, India.

Nunam’s Innovation

Founders Darshan Virupaksha and Prodip Chatterjee met in 2017 when both men were looking to apply their technical backgrounds in ways that could create real social impact. Deciding that energy access was an issue they wanted to tackle, they created their lab in Bengaluru and began testing different types of batteries. Eventually, they settled on the lithium-ion cells that power laptop computers and are easily acquirable from scrap dealers.

Containing several dozen of these “second life” batteries, each of which still possesses at least two-thirds of its original capacity, Nunam’s prototype is smaller than a briefcase. Yet these units provide enough energy for Bengaluru’s street vendors to light their stalls after dark and to charge their cell phones.

Nunam’s Prototype

Nunam has also developed a different prototype in collaboration with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a research organization based in New Delhi that is concerned with energy, the environment and sustainability. This second model comprises electric-vehicle batteries and can provide energy to multiple shops at the same time. One unit inside an electrical shop, for instance, powers another 39 stores in the nearby vicinity. In addition, as the owner of the shop pointed out to The Better India, Nunam’s energy devices are cost-effective. Even for those who cannot pay for electricity, a daily supply of candles can cost upwards of 10 Indian rupees, while Nunam’s unit reaches 40 shops for one-third of the price, thus providing low-cost power in India.

Plus, by reusing batteries to generate electricity, the new devices reduce waste and pollution. Many countries currently recycle less than 5% of lithium-ion batteries; despite their remaining energy capacity, most discarded batteries simply end up in landfills. In a further effort to minimize its environmental impact, Nunan has also developed an app that allows its engineers to keep track of their energy units and to observe the battery cells’ condition. Once Nunam sees that the batteries are nearing the end of their capacity, it retrieves the unit and then recycles the fully depleted batteries.

Addressing Energy Access

Although the company is still in the process of development, its creation of energy storage systems that are both affordable and environmentally friendly has important implications for issues surrounding poverty and energy access. In India, although the government has made enormous strides in expanding the reach of power grids, roughly 2.4% of households do not have access to electricity, with most of these concentrated in rural areas. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), households without electricity pointed most often to their inability to afford the expense, while others were simply beyond power grids’ geographical reach.

Thus, one wonders if Nunam’s cheap, portable units could offer a potential solution for people who lack access to electricity, even if they live in rural settings. At present, the storage systems can power only low-wattage devices for several hours at a time, but before 100% of Indian households undergo electrification, even charging a smartphone or lighting an electric bulb can bring huge benefits.  Especially in the latter case, students are able to continue their schoolwork after dark while adults (like how it provides low-cost power in India to the street vendors in Bengaluru) can engage in productive activities to generate income.

Looking Ahead

Furthermore, Nunam’s founders hope someday to expand their operation within India and in other developing countries. Globally, more than 1 billion people lack access to light, with most living in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. While households must spend valuable time and resources procuring fuel, doctors struggle to treat patients after sunset, and pollution from indoor fires and kerosene lamps causes millions of deaths.

Therefore, by providing low-cost energy and reducing waste and pollution, Nunam’s innovation tackles several of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at once. Since ending global poverty necessitates ending light and energy poverty, too, it will be exciting to watch the start-up strive to live up to the promise of its name: “for the future” indeed.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Africa
Africa is only responsible for 3.2% of energy usage within the global landscape. Africa suffers from energy poverty, or the lack of access to modern energy services, despite the natural abundance of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. With the potential to generate up to 11,000 GW of electricity, the continent has the means to utilize solar power, wind energy, natural gas, hydroelectricity and fossil fuels and eliminate energy poverty in Africa.

Challenges for Energy Access in Africa

Despite the potential energy Africa has access to, several factors prevent a permanent resolution to energy poverty in Africa. The primary reason comes from federal involvement in energy generation and distribution, or the lack thereof. Poor planning and distorted energy regulation led to persistent electricity inconsistencies in different regions, leading to the state allowing monopolies to run resources without initiating proper federal oversight. To accommodate for the lack of power, many locals turned towards fossil fuels, such as gas and oil, which are unsustainable and environmentally insufficient.

This was common throughout Africa, as many African governments reluctantly accepted the privatization of energy industries. For example, Nigeria’s government split up its central power system and divided it between two private bodies of supply chains and private investors. The government kept control of the national grid system, which receives generated power and facilitates distribution to each private sector. This essentially means that the generation and distribution of energy are privatized, but the government holds the transmission and division of that energy.

Some see this system as problematic because the government holds too much power between the two privatized entities. This makes these privatized entities seem less susceptible to market incentives and like rather corrupt political policies. It defeats the purpose of privatized sections, which should normally encourage competition between private organizations and work towards innovation and consumer efficiency. However, this system does the opposite, and limits the energy capacity to one segment, leaving any excess to waste.

Repercussions of Poor Energy Access

Considering this inefficient system of energy distribution, the repercussions have created a large contrast between certain regions and social groups. Urban areas have access to 70% of the total energy supply in comparison to the rural usage of 20% or less. Other disparities exist between genders and age groups, as women and children in Africa suffer from respiratory diseases that directly link to energy poverty. For example, poorly designed cooking devices that stem indoor biomass cooking have shown causation to health consequences.

The Effect of COVID-19

COVID-19 has also contributed to the increase of energy poverty in Africa and will continue to have negative effects on Africa’s recovery. The virus not only caused 6,524 deaths in Africa out of 175,503 confirmed cases but also continues to threaten Africa’s access to proper sanitation and clean cooking facilities. The pandemic has also halted global intervention to increase energy efficiency, because a majority of resources are largely going toward the COVID-19 response. Considering energy poverty in Africa stems from the lack of political reforms and the pandemic, how can Africa address the issue?

Solutions

John Ifediora, a professor of economics emeritus at the University of Wisconsin System, as well as a researcher, law attorney and economist, suggested several political changes to combat energy poverty in Africa. He highlighted the significance of regulating and normalizing the use of solar power and wind energy and lessening the reliance on fossil fuels to provide sustainability within local communities.

He also suggested that governments reform their cooperation with private companies, taking advantage of their economic tendencies and competitiveness. By allowing one private organization to take over sections of Africa and facilitate the generation, transmission and distribution of energy, self-regulation will develop among those companies as they keep to affordable prices, energy commerce and competitive innovation.

Dr. Vera Songwe, the U.N. Undersecretary-General and expert on Africa, also added that certain global programs are working to implement assistance to promote energy access in Africa. Global Commission to End Energy Poverty, Economic Commission for Africa and global projects such as Start-Up Energy Transition Programme are constantly working to implement an efficient energy distribution system for Africa.

Energy poverty in Africa is a major factor that hinders the progression of health, economy, education and agriculture, and fuels global poverty in general. Though it is crucial for Africa’s political policies to address and respond to this issue, more organizations are working to combat energy deficiency and implement self-sustainable solutions to help locals in the long-run.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Tanzania
Poverty eradication in Tanzania has seen success with the country’s poverty rate falling from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. The country requires more renewable energies including solar, biomass, hydro and wind in order to create jobs and lower unemployment. Agriculture is the main part of Tanzania’s economy today and is a significant consideration when thinking about renewable energies. Here is some information about poverty eradication in Tanzania.

Poverty in Tanzania

The 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment of overall poverty eradication efforts in Tanzania shows that the country has made steady gains in lowering the overall poverty rates between 2011 and the present. In fact, poverty decreased by 8% in 10 years, down from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. Most of the reduction in poverty was in rural areas and outside urban Dar es Salaam. However, the eradication of poverty in Tanzania has slowed down since 2012. For example, the economic growth on poverty reduction went from a 1% decline annually to 0.3% yearly since 2012-18. As a result, for every four Tanzanians who rose above poverty levels, three more Tanzanians fell into poverty. One reason for this is that families have a large number of dependents and less access to resources that would assist with basic needs, limiting their ability to access employment.

Poverty eradication in Tanzania has been successful based on the measures to eradicate poverty. For example, many in the country are using solar power now. While poverty and living conditions, in general, have experienced steady improvement, only 29% of Tanzania has access to electricity with 10% going to rural Tanzania and only 7% going to poorer families.

Facts About Energy and Energy Poverty in Tanzania

  1. Tanzania’s Energy: Tanzania generates its energy mostly from natural gas (48%), hydro (31%), petrol (18%), biofuels (1%) and solar (1%). Solar implementation would be beneficial to Tanzania region-wide, considering that its current sunshine hours range between 2,800 and 3,500 per year. The global radiation is 4-7kWh per m2 per day.
  2. Untapped Renewable Energy Sources: Tanzania still has a vast amount of untapped renewable energy sources that include biomass, hydropower and wind sources, as well as ample sunlight. Some of the country’s efforts to implement the use of solar power has been paying off greatly. For example, in rural areas, people are using 33% solar energy in contrast to urban areas that are only using 14% solar power. Meanwhile, the World Bank stated that “Despite some improvements, about 45 percent of households still rely on such inefficient lighting sources as torches and kerosene. Tanzania energy situation – Solar efficient energy sources for cooking has also improved slightly, but over 80 percent of all households, and more than 90 percent of rural and poor households, continue to rely on firewood and charcoal.”
  3. Biomass, Hydro and Wind: Biomass challenges facing the population include limited technical knowledge, lack of financial facilities for investment purposes into renewable energy and limited knowledge of the population’s different energy options to calculate cycle cost and make the best use of biomass renewable energy. Hydro is also a highly dependable source of renewable energy for Tanzanians, however, there is an area for growth and opportunity to utilize a different renewable source such as wind power. If, for example, the country does not have much rain, it might choose to depend on another source for energy, such as wind, although wind power has been slow to evolve.

Amplifying Employment Through Agriculture

A World Bank article looked at how Tanzania has reduced poverty and improved its economy over the last decade. However, it also uncovered that a large number of the population is still at risk of falling into poverty. Without sufficient job growth, the Tanzanian population, which is only growing larger, could experience trouble. The unemployment rate went down to 9.7% in 2020, showing considerable improvement in comparison to the unemployment rate of 10.3% in 2014. Urban areas show less stability regarding consumption inequality and inequality opportunities than rural areas. The need for increased education and general awareness to the entire population is why it is prudent to understand the renewable energy options available and get the population of Tanzania up to speed on the technology available to them, along with real resources.

The Tanzanian government’s Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and the Five-Year Development Plan (FYDP II) aim to eliminate poverty and sustainably industrialize with the goal of Tanzania becoming a middle-income country by 2025. As a result, the Tanzanian government is turning its attention to agriculture in order to increase the country’s socio-economic development, as outlined in the Second Agriculture Sector Development Program (ASDP II). Some of ASDP II’s goals are to increase commercialization, prioritize commodity value chains and mobilize capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture. Agriculture drives about two-thirds of jobs in Tanzania and three-quarters for those in poverty meaning that the improvement of the sector is necessary to the creation of more and higher-quality jobs in order to reduce poverty.

Agriculture is and has been one of the mainstays economically. It also accounts for about a quarter of Tanzania’s GDP and makes up two-thirds of the jobs. It is prudent that Tanzania takes enhanced measures to improve the strategy and ensure the creation of more jobs according to The World Bank. Plenty of room exists for innovation and increased job creation to meet the acceleration of population growth. The focus goes back to the need to help Tanzanians understand and gain awareness of how to implement “commercialization, prioritizing high-potential commodity value chains, and mobilizing capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture.”

Looking Ahead

As the world progresses globally in technology and trade, the question becomes, will the Tanzania population keep up? Many in rural areas still have employment in agriculture. Agriculture employment opportunities will continue to exist, but with more advanced equipment, thereby, creating more production opportunities to increase employment opportunities.

– Kathleen M. Hellem
Photo: Pixabay

Livelihoods in Brunei are ImprovingBrunei is an independent Islamic sultanate on the northern coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Some statistics about the country still remain unknown like the percentage of Bruneians that live in poverty. This is due to the fact that Brunei still does not have a poverty line as of 2018. However, one can use other means to measure Brunei’s poverty. Additionally, other data can help ascertain whether or not livelihoods in Brunei are improving their unquantified impoverished situations.

One way to look at this is the Economic Freedom Index Score (EFIS). One can think of this as Bruneians’ freedom of choice as well as their ability to acquire and use goods. Brunei’s EFIS is 66.6, and it ranks 61 out of 180 countries. Singapore, the top country, comes in at 89.4, making it the world’s most free economy in the 2020 Index. Then there is North Korea, the bottom country, which has a score of 4.2. Despite Brunei’s moderate EFIS score, the country is working to boost that number. Here are three ways livelihoods in Brunei are improving.

1. Self-Empowerment Initiatives

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah says Brunei has drafted “self-empowerment initiatives” to create more job and entrepreneurship freedoms. Oil and gas production supply 90% of government revenue and 90% of exports. However, these industries have limited job opportunities.

Now, the country strives for economic diversification to reduce reliance on oil and gas. To support these endeavors, the administration will simplify the processes to start a business and develop business regulations. The most significant changes were amending certain laws allowing businesses and investors to operate without a license and reducing the wait times for a business to open.

2. Employment

Unemployment rates — regardless of education level — are high. Although, Bruneians with a vocational background have the highest rates of unemployment. The youth are also at risk of higher rates of unemployment. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the unemployment rate among young Brunei increased from 25.3% to 28.9% in 2019 — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was the highest percentage.

A suggestion from the IMF is to invest in technology and digitalization to capitalize on the tech-savvy generation. Also, the Manpower Planning Council is setting up a labor-management information system to lower unemployment among college graduates. This will be a cooperation between government agencies, the private sector and education institutions to ensure the turnout of employable graduates.

3. Welfare

The Sultan also says that people’s welfare is of utmost importance. This assertion stems from taqwa, the basic Islamic principle of God-consciousness together with brotherhood, equality, fairness and justice. This concept is the basis of true Islamic societies.

With this in mind, livelihoods in Brunei are improving by adjusting the financial aid requirements. This effort attempts to lift benefit recipients out of poverty and continue to provide assistance to citizens who need it. With these new rules, the government will be able to map welfare recipients and learn where there is a need to advance workforce skills and job opportunities. The implementation of this new system is more important than ever before due to COVID-19 and an expected increase of benefit recipients. Now, however, Brunei authorities can better prepare themselves to leave no one behind, per taqwa.

Overall, livelihoods in Brunei are improving. The administration has focused itself on economic diversification to be less reliant on oil and gas. The unemployment rate has increased, but the country is undergoing steps to combat that with education and jobs. Also, Brunei is updating welfare programs to include further applicant information. This will assist in financial help as well as learning where education or job options are a factor in poverty.

These changes could create a cycle of prosperity and bring more Bruneians out of poverty. However, Brunei needs to create a poverty line. That way, it can more accurately assess its poverty situation and how much progress it still needs.

Heather Babka
Photo: Flickr

EcovillagesGreen growth refers to economic growth through the use of sustainable and eco-focused alternatives. These “green” alternatives benefit both the economy and the environment all while contributing to poverty reduction. Ecovillages are a prime example of an environmentally conscious effort to address global poverty. They are communities, rural or urban, built on sustainability. Members of these locally owned ecovillages are granted autonomy as they navigate a solution that addresses the four dimensions of sustainability: economy, ecology, social and culture.

The Global Ecovillage Network

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) recognizes that all four facets of sustainability must be addressed for maximum poverty reduction. Solely focusing on the economic or environmental impact will not yield optimal results. Embracing, not eliminating, the social and cultural aspects of sustainability should the aim of all communities in order to move toward a better future.

The development of sustainable communities around the globe is a commitment of the GEN. The organization’s outreach programs intend to fuel greater global cooperation, empower the citizens of the world’s nations and develop a sustainable future for all.

Working with over 30 international partners, GEN focuses on five defined regions. GEN Africa was created in 2012 and has overseen developments in more than 20 communities across the continent.

A Focus on Zambia

Zambia is one the countries garnering attention. Over half of Zambia’s population — 58% — falls below the $1.90 per day international poverty line. The majority of the nation’s impoverished communities live in rural regions.

Zambia’s government addresses these concerns by integrating the U.N.’s sustainable development goals into its development framework. With a focus on economic and ecological growth, Zambia could lay the groundwork for the success of its’ ecovillages.

Planting the Seed

The Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme recognizes youth as the future keepers of the planet. As well as Zambia, the program has chapters in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The focus is on establishing regional networks to strengthen sustainable efforts. The Zambia chapter along with its 17 newly joined organizations work toward the goal of educating and encouraging communities to find sustainable methods of food production.

ReSCOPE seeks to connect schools and their local environments through the Greening Schools for Sustainable Communities Programme. The program is a partnership between GEN and ReSCOPE and has received funding from the Scottish government. Through education and encouraging sustainable practices, Zambia’s youth have an active role in ensuring future growth.

Greening Schools

Greening Schools strengthens the communities of four schools — the centers of resilience and a source of community inspiration. Beginning with nutrition and food security, students are able to play a part in developmental change. Their hard work includes planting of hundreds of fruit trees. The schools became grounds for hands-on agricultural experience and exposure to the tending of life.

However, the impact was not restrained within the schools. The greening schools inspired local communities to make seed security and crop diversification a commitment. In 2019, these communities “brought back lost traditional crops and adopted intercropping and other agroecological practices.”

As part of their sustainable development goals, the U.N. recognizes the value of investing in ecovillages. Goals 11 and 12 stress the importance of sustainable communities and responsible consumption and production respectively. Educating and advocating for youth to take part in ecovillages addresses this matter.

Coming generations will determine the future, and the youth wield the power to address global concerns like sustainability and poverty. Ecovillages are a great new way to break the cycle of poverty.

Kelli Hughes
Photo: Unsplash

solar microgridsThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) helped establish three solar microgrids in rural Yemeni communities. Earlier this year, the British charity Ashden honored the scheme as one of 11 recipients of its prestigious Ashden Awards. These annual awards recognize initiatives whose efforts to deliver sustainable energy have produced important social and economic advantages.

Solving a Fuel Shortage and Economic Crisis

Yemen’s energy infrastructure cannot transport power to rural towns and villages. Thus, many of these communities depend upon highly-polluting diesel generators. However, longstanding conflict and crippling embargoes have made fossil fuels scarce and expensive. Moreover, oil prices have fluctuated in recent years, and poverty has skyrocketed. This crisis has affected approximately three-quarters of Yemen’s population. Current estimates indicate that more than two out of five households have been deprived of their primary source of income. It’s also been found that women are more acutely impacted than men.

Now, the energy situation is shifting. The UNDP has provided funding and support to three different groups of entrepreneurs that own and operate solar microgrids. The three are located in Abs in the district of Bani Qais in the northwest and in Lahij Governate in the south. Their stations provide clean, sustainable energy to local residents and at a much lower price. The solar microgrids charge only $0.02 per hour as opposed to the $0.42 per hour that diesel costs.

Such savings for households and businesses have greatly impacted the local economies. Not only can people work after sunset, they also possess more disposable income. According to Al Jazeera, approximately 2,100 people have been able to save money and put it toward creating their own small businesses. These include services for welding, sewing, grocery stores and other shops. So far, a total of 10,000 Yemenis have benefitted from the energy provided by the three solar microgrids.

Empowering New Leaders in Business

The entrepreneurs who founded and now run the microgrid facilities in Bani Qais and Lahij Governate are young men. However, the power station in Abs is completely owned and operated by women. These Abs women receive training in necessary technical skills and study business and finance.

Some expected the scheme to fail due to the sophisticated knowledge it required and the relative inexperience of the facilities’ operators. Well, one year has passed, and the solar microgrids are running at full capacity. The project thus offers a valuable model for creating jobs in a country where civil war has shattered the economy and hobbled basic infrastructure.

Specifically for the women in Abs, though, a steady income and the ability to provide a much-needed service have increased their self-confidence. These women can feed their families and use the university educations they each worked for to a great extent. As the station’s director explained, their work has even earned them the respect and admiration of those who used to ridicule them for taking on what was once considered a man’s job.

Looking to the Future

The success of the UNDP’s project’s first stage shows a possible solution to Yemen’s problem of energy scarcity. The UNDP now works to find funding for an additional 100 solar microgrids. Since civil war began in 2015, both sides have tried to limit each other’s access to the fossil fuels that Yemen depends upon. Pro-government coalition forces have prevented ships cleared by the U.N. from unloading their cargoes in the north. On the other side, Houthi-led rebels have recently suspended humanitarian flights to Sanaa, the country’s largest city and its capital. This is all in the midst of hospitals struggling to care for patients during the pandemic.

The UNDP’s solar microgrids are a source of hope among the many conflicts plaguing Yemen. More still, it is likely others will soon follow in the footsteps of the three initial young entrepreneurs. These solar microgrids stations have empowered Yemeni communities to build better and more sustainable futures and will for years to come.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Ikea’s Second-Hand Furniture
Starting November 27, 2020, Swedish furniture giant IKEA will start its unique buy-back scheme. The idea is to allow customers to return IKEA products, receive a voucher in return for the exchange, then resell the furniture pieces at 50% of the original price. Spanning across 27 different countries, IKEA is trying to take a stand against the excessive consumption trends that Black Friday promotes. This scheme displays a prime example of how IKEA has increasingly involved itself in the humanitarian sector, and actively fights against environmental challenges, poverty and unsustainable living practices. IKEA’s second-hand furniture store initiative is just one example of these efforts.

How IKEA’s Second-Hand Furniture Store Initiative Works

IKEA plans on taking back unmodified, clean upholstery products. It will then resell these products in the AS-IS department or it will recycle them if it deems them unsellable. In late 2020, IKEA’s first entirely second-hand furniture opened in Eskilstuna, Sweden; the overarching purpose of the buy-back scheme and the second-hand store in Sweden is to push toward the company’s goal of becoming a completely circular and climate-positive business by 2030. Not only do these initiatives help the environment, but they also benefit people around the world in poverty. The staggering price drop on repurposed furniture will greatly benefit those who typically could not afford furniture pieces. Considering the great range of this global initiative, lower socioeconomic classes will greatly benefit from this second-hand furniture scheme.

IKEA’s Humanitarian Work

IKEA has been gradually increasing its presence in the humanitarian sector, from its support of organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children to the opening of its own advocacy humanitarian organization called the IKEA Foundation. Grounded in the IKEA Foundation Ethical Framework, the company prioritizes cost-consciousness, responsibility, leadership, renewability and caring for people and the planet. The IKEA Foundation strongly supports many causes, such as:

  • The Environment: IKEA is calling on governments, corporations and philanthropic groups to help reverse the damage that people have done to the environment.
  • Agricultural Livelihoods: IKEA values planet-positive approaches to agriculture that regenerates resources, enhances biodiversity and improves farmers’ incomes.
  • Renewable Energy: IKEA invests in renewable energy programs in parts of Africa and Asia that center their work around people living in poverty.
  • Special Initiatives & Emergency Responses: The corporation provides unrestricted emergency funding to its partner organizations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Employment and Entrepreneurship: IKEA invests in programs that aid youth, women and refugees who face employment barriers in East Africa and South Asia. It also supports the expansion of existing and growing businesses.

Preventing Child Labor

One particularly inspiring cause of the IKEA Foundation is to eliminate and prevent child labor across the world. The IKEA Foundation contributed to the efforts of Save the Children and UNICEF to reach children in 25,000 villages in Pakistan and India, and as a result, was able to help 16 million at-risk children in 2017. Another example of IKEA’s passion for helping the less fortunate was in 2009 when it donated $48 million to UNICEF to promote the survival of India’s most vulnerable populations of women and children. It raised this large sum through an IKEA Social Initiative, which fights for every at-risk child’s right to a healthy childhood and secure education.

IKEA has shown its ability to generate substantial results through its various humanitarian initiatives. With a variety of motivations behind its advocacy actions, ranging from climate sustainability to child poverty, the furniture company has shown that it is using its corporate success to aid in global issues. The buy-back scheme is yet another example of the company utilizing its global presence; while the initiative spans 27 countries, many people of lower socioeconomic classes, as well as the environment, will benefit from IKEA’s second-hand furniture scheme.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Burundi
Ranked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations Development Program’s human development index, Burundi is amongst the world’s poorest countries with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. However, poverty eradication in Burundi is possible through the granting of energy access.

Burundians live a very agrarian lifestyle with 80% of the population having employment in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population living in rural areas. Of the population of 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity. Meanwhile, 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. This is not sustainable as 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year.

The Challenges of Burning Firewood in Burundi

Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to contribute to the sourcing of firewood. Only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation, and thus increases carbon dioxide levels. Resulting smoke contributes to poor air quality.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. In fact, 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. The cost of malnutrition in Burundi is recorded at USD$102 million per year.

The Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Initiative

For a more sustainable program, the government joined with the World Food Program (WFP) in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative that introduced fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy access for poverty reduction in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi in the following areas:

  1. About 485,000 persons and counting have already benefitted from the fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. The SAFE program has implemented institutional stoves that have already reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools in Burundi.
  3. The stoves now allow for each batch of firewood to have up to five times the utility it had before, with each Burundian family having an 11.5 kg daily reduction in the need for firewood.

Still, the country remains primarily dependent on biogas from firewood and this initiative has only lessened its costs to society rather than eliminating firewood dependence. As a result, the Burundian government has now turned towards alternative innovations to promote energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi.

Fortunately, the location and climate of Burundi lend well to renewable energy generation mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi is actively partnering with energy investors to build its private sector and grow its other industries, commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Expanding beyond a primarily agrarian society promises substantial growth for the economy of Burundi, providing a framework to lift Burundians out of the poverty cycle.

Hydroelectric Power Energy Access in Burundi

Located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region, surrounded by far-stretching rivers such as Malagarasi (475 km) and the Ruzizi (117 km), Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1,700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, Burundi is still relying on outdated hydroelectric power technologies that can only serve 9% of the population. Moving forward, Burundi has begun to make strides in energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi through the following hydroelectric power development projects:

  1. Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River (RoR) system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company (RPCL) developed it with financial support from multi-national development leaders along with the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and intended 675GWh of average energy production, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade that the Kivu Lake feeds. One of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region, Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: A partnership among Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda, the Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV has been commissioned to be a 287-MW capacity hydropower project. The African Development Bank Group has already approved a USD$8.9 million grant to support the development.

Solar Power Energy Access in Burundi

Being located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters, and an average 2,000 kWh/m2.year of sunshine, Burundi holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

Granted success, millions of households and industries in the region will have energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity should improve the quality of basic social services like health, education and security services in the region. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions, lessening of deforestation from lower dependence on firewood and thereby an increase in the living conditions of the regional population, breaking the poverty cycle in Burundi.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

SDG 7 in Costa Rica
Costa Rica ranks 35th out of 193 countries in the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Report. This is quite an impressive feat for a Central American nation of just 5 million people. Especially when compared to its southern and northern neighbors — Panama and Nicaragua, which rank 81st and 85th, respectively. While challenges remain for many of Costa Rica’s sustainable development goals, the country is doing a remarkable job of achieving and maintaining SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Costa Rica is often lauded as one of the greenest nations on Earth and is consistently viewed as a case study in the development and application of renewable energy. Below is a brief update on three components of SDG 7 in Costa Rica, i.e. affordable and clean energy.

Population with Access to Electricity

The latest U.N. estimate finds that 99.6% of Costa Ricans have access to electricity. This is great for not only the government (in their attempt to achieve the SDG 7) but for everyday Costa Ricans who have a steady stream of electricity. Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in the methods that it uses to generate power; 98% of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In breaking down this 98% figure into its parts — 72% is hydropower, 16% wind, 9% geothermal and 1% biomass/solar. This virtually universal access to electricity from renewable sources is the basis for providing affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica.

Access to Clean Fuels & Technology for Cooking

Clean cooking fuels and technology are classified by the SDG report as those that lead to fewer emissions and/or are more fuel-efficient. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kerosene is not a clean fuel. The SDG panel (composed of experts from the WHO, International Energy Agency, World Bank and other prominent organizations) estimates that nearly 3 billion people use “traditional stoves and fuels” which pose risks to human health, the environment and the climate.

Additionally, estimates point to household air pollution as the cause of death for 4.3 million people per year. Costa Rica’s nearly universal access to electricity and its foundation in renewable energy sources affords more than 93% of households access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In contrast, just over 50% of Nicaraguan homes have access to clean energy and technology for daily cooking. Among Central American nations, Costa Rica leads the way in terms of progressing towards this fully realized, key component of SDG 7.

CO₂ Emissions: Fuel Combustion for Electricity & Heating

Costa Rica is bested in this statistic by only two nations in all of North and South America (Paraguay and Uruguay). While the SDG report lists Costa Rica as “on track” toward reaching zero emissions in this category, Costa Rica’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion for electricity and heating are marginally higher than its emissions in 2000. In this regard, SDG 7 in Costa Rica has room for improvement. However, both numbers are still lower than about 90% of all U.N. nations.

A Commitment to Further Progress

Affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica is a shining example of the country’s progress and strengths within its annual SDG report. This is due to Costa Rica’s stunning foundation of renewable energy and its commitment to developing and providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy to citizens. The Ticos (native Costa Ricans) recognize the need to go even further and are dedicating themselves towards becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050 — with their recent Decarbonization Plan. Costa Rica is a model for countries seeking a shift towards clean energy amid the stark realities of the 21st-century climate situation.

Spencer Jacobs
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Fight Against Global Poverty
While every country in the world is diverse and faces a number of different problems, the struggle to fight against global poverty is something all nations can relate to. According to the World Bank, 10% of the world lives on less than $1.90 a day.

Evidently, all nations must find a way that fits their specific needs when addressing poverty. However, there are some governments that lack the resources and therefore the ability to reduce poverty in their respective nations. Because of this lack of resources, the rates of poverty in these undeveloped countries are only getting worse. In fact, according to the Human Development Report, 54 countries in the world are poorer now than they were in 1990. As a result of this recurring issue, the governments of many developed countries have taken on the burden of addressing poverty not only in their own country but in the aforementioned developing countries as well. Specifically, the United States has done a lot of work to fight against global poverty.

The United States’ Role in Fighting Global Poverty

The United States has the world’s largest national economy and is a highly industrialized nation. Therefore, it makes sense that the country has taken on the responsibility of helping to fight against global poverty. The United States has been a major player in the fight against global poverty for a very long time. President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech largely addressed the United States’ role in diminishing global poverty and his pledge to help do so.

There are a number of ways the United States has contributed to eradicating worldwide poverty. One major way the United States has helped feed the world is by feeding farmers and their families. Farmers of the world are vital to the world’s economy as well as the world food supply. However, these small plot farmers that the world’s agricultural system depends on often struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.S. program Feed the Future has helped close to 7 million farmers boost their harvests and keep their families fed.

The United States has also worked to fight against global poverty by encouraging banks to loan to “risky borrowers” through its work with Feed the Future. Being able to borrow money allows farming families the ability to make investments that will help them grow. For instance, the U.S. government worked with Feed the Farmers to help about 17,000 farmers and small entrepreneurs benefit from rural loans and grants in Senegal which led to access to better seeds and modern equipment, as well as weather-indexed crop insurance and helped negotiate favorable contracts with commercial mills.

Criticisms Over the United States’ Handling of Global Poverty

On the other hand, the United States has received some criticisms claiming that it can do much more to help fight against global poverty. Many Americans incorrectly estimate that about 20% of the United States’ federal budget goes to combating global poverty when in reality, less than 1% of the budget goes towards this cause. Consequently, the U.S. government receives a lot of criticism for not making the fight against global poverty a greater priority since it seemingly has the resources to do so. In fact, according to the Baltimore Sun, the United States has the ability to prevent 25,000 children from dying each day and should make efforts to do so.

How the US Could Provide Energy

There are many ways poverty experts believe the United States could be doing more to reduce global poverty rates. For instance, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of energy, producing 12.16 barrels of oil every 24 hours. This could provide an opportunity to help fight global poverty. For example, in 2019, over 1 billion people did not have access to electricity worldwide and life expectancy for those without electricity was 20 years less than those who did have electricity. Since the United States has become a leader in energy production, many citizens take having electricity for granted not realizing that access to electricity connects to so many other aspects of a human’s well-being such as child and maternity mortality, public health, economic growth and education, etc.

With technological advancements, the United States is increasing its reserves of energy resources faster than it is depleting them, and therefore, has the power to bring great numbers of people out of poverty worldwide. Over 3.8 million people die every year from indoor pollution due to burning wood, kerosene and/or animal dung for cooking or heating homes. Half a million people die each year from contaminated water and even more die each year from preventable illnesses that emerge due to a lack of heat in the winter.  If the U.S. were to export its excess supply of energy sources, all of these numbers would likely decrease along with rates of global poverty.

Looking Forward

It is clear that as a leading world power, the United States has a responsibility to help in the world’s efforts to decrease rates of global poverty. While many praise all that the United States has already done to combat this issue over the country’s history, there are many people who criticize the government’s lack of funding towards lowering rates of global poverty. This leaves the United States with the option to use proposed ideas, such as using its abundant energy sources to lower rates of global poverty, to increase its efforts to reduce global poverty or to disregard their critics and continue to help in the manner that they have been for years.

– Danielle Wallman
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