Indonesia's Natural ResourcesIndonesia is a bountiful country full of natural resources, such as coal, copper, gold, oil and natural gas. However, regardless of the strides Indonesia has made toward lowering its greenhouse gases emissions, it has been a challenge for the country to become “energy- and food- secure while also protecting forests.” The World Resources Institute (WRI), an environmental think tank, supports the efficient use of Indonesia’s natural resources by assisting the government through analyses and advice for the most equitable way to use the county’s land.

Green Development

The premise of the green development framework is to keep current and ongoing development projects underway in order “to keep within this ecological “carrying capacity.” Propelling this shift in Indonesia’s natural resources paradigm is the government’s acknowledgment that the rate at which the country is plowing through its natural resources is not sustainable for the future.

Shortages in housing, water and food are just a few examples of the environmental and public health consequences that the current usage rate of natural resources has on development. Some concerns lie at the regional level rather than the national. For example, the islands of Bali and Java are at a critical level when it comes to their water resources.

The new course of development includes initiatives to hone in on major areas such as water, fisheries, energy and transportation, agriculture and peat. The key goal is to find “a balance between [economic] growth and environmental carrying capacity.” WRI Indonesia is working with the private sector to convert peat restoration into “viable” opportunity for business.

The Ocean

Being a well known marine nation, another pertinent Indonesian resource is the ocean. “The country’s waters support over 3,000 species of bony fishes and more than 850 sharks, rays and chimaeras,” and the fishing industry employs roughly 12 million Indonesians. Despite the many benefits of fishing, avoiding the exploitation and loss of fish needs to be a significant area of focus.

In some rural parts of the country, the water toxicity has increased significantly due to the runoff of pesticides and fertilizers as well as an increase in algae in the riverbeds. This has led to an unfortunate loss of marine life. To help solve the marine pollution crisis NGOs, activists and community groups have made efforts to clean Bali’s beaches. In 2017, volunteers collected 40 tons of trash from several different beaches. Further environmental reforms will be necessary to prevent toxicity from reaching the beaches.

Low Carbon Development

In an effort to account for its ecological carrying capacity, Indonesia has set in place the KLHs or Strategic Environmental Assessment. This assessment is carried “out prior to issuing permits for land or forest management”  as a way of weighing the environmental impact of the companies requesting the permits.

Indonesia has set a bold and challenging goal in its first-ever low carbon development and green economy framework. The plan will focus on the energy and land use sectors of five different areas. The end goal of the green development plan is to continue to grow economically, but find “a balance between growth and environmental carrying capacity.”

Research suggests economic benefits as high as $26 trillion are foreseeable if strong stances are taken in climate change. These benefits include “new jobs and better health outcomes globally.” The new green development framework could propel “rapid economic growth, reduce the poverty rate and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.” The way forward for Indonesia’s natural resources and economic development goals could be further improved with support from other nations.

Without a doubt, Indonesia’s natural resources play a major role in the country’s economy and livelihood. The pledge to transition to a more sustainable economy and green development characterizes the brave nation that is Indonesia. The green development framework paves the way to preserve and celebrate the history of the country for generations to come.

Karina Bhakta

Photo: Flickr

India's organic revolution In northeastern India, nestled between Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and West Bengal, lies Sikkim. Sikkim is an Indian state that has been making news since 2016 when it became the world’s first fully organic state. Sikkim won the prestigious U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Future Policy Gold Award, known as the “Oscar for best policies,” which honors achievements made towards ending world hunger. “An organic world is definitely achievable,” explained Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar at the awards. Could India’s Second Green Revolution be organic?

The First Green Revolution

Along with many other developing countries, India overhauled its agricultural systems in the 1960s and replaced them with a western industrial model that relied on expensive technology, GMOs and agri-chemicals. By narrowing the crop variety to mainly corn, wheat and rice, Asian countries doubled their grain yield and cut poverty in half. As time has passed, however, the Green Revolution proved to be problematic for many developing countries. Though it has spurred incredible grain production and increased income in rural communities, it has also polluted the environment, depleted the water table and created economic disparity.

Because genetically modified wheat and rice require more water than their organic counterparts, Indian farmers have been draining the groundwater supply, causing the water table to drop approximately three feet each year. Intensive farming has also exhausted the soil, depleting it of nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. Farmers now use three times the amount of fertilizer that they used to for the same crop yield. Many farmers find themselves in debt because they cannot keep up with the costs of new water pumps, patented seeds and fertilizer. This is why states like Sikkim are calling for an organic Second Green Revolution.

The Sikkim Revolution

Sikkim has reversed the industrial farming policies of the Green Revolution at a time when governments and philanthropists are calling for a Second Green Revolution. Chief Minister Kumars believes that countries should not “carry out any kind of development work and business at the cost of the environment.” Still, there has been much debate about what a Second Green Revolution should look like. Should countries increase reliance on genetically engineered crops and pesticides or move towards more sustainable but lower-yield organic practices?

The transition to organic farming in Sikkim has helped 66,000 families and increased rural development and sustainable tourism. A movement to invest in sustainable farming practices is growing around the world, leading institutions like the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to invest in organic farming. IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo has stated that reversing conventional farming practices can fight food insecurity while improving nutrition and alleviating poverty. Though organic farming systems produce 10 to 20 percent less than conventional systems, they regenerate the soil and create fewer environmental costs.

An Unconventional Compromise

With the world poised to reach a population of more than nine billion by 2050, there is debate as to whether organic agriculture can feed the whole world. Industrial technologies and pest-resistant strains of rice and wheat have undoubtedly helped feed a rising population and reduce global poverty over the last 50 years. A recent meta-analysis of 66 studies comparing conventional and organic agriculture found that a Second Green Revolution needs the best of both systems. Though organic farming greatly increases the productivity of soil, making it more resilient to climate change, genetically modified crops could also play an important role in certain areas since they are designed to endure droughts and saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels.

At the end of the day, conventional or organic, there is actually plenty of food to go around. Global agriculture produces 22 trillion calories every year. If food were distributed equally and not wasted, every person on the planet could consume 3,000 calories a day. Though this may never be the case, organic states like Sikkim are choosing to make their calories count, by making them pesticide free and environmentally friendly. Whether India’s Second Green Revolution will be organic is still unsure, but Sikkim is setting a powerful precedent, and other states and countries are following suit.

Kate McIntosh

Photo: Flickr

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

Five Ways Environmentalism Fights Poverty

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

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

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

5 Areas Developing Countries Lead the WorldUpon initial inspection, developing countries face many obvious challenges, some of which obscure the progress being made. The realities of poverty can sometimes force this progress; after all, from the bottom, there’s only one way to go: up. Developing countries lead the world now in ways unforeseen perhaps a decade ago, and in some ways have even distinguished themselves on the global stage. Five areas serve to highlight where these countries are outperforming the developed world.

5 Areas in Which Developing Countries Lead the World

  1. Renewable and Sustainable Energy
    On the rocky fringes of a global landscape, developing countries lead the world down some of the most implausible of paths. One such pathway grows greener than others. According to World Bank, an international financial institution that finances capital projects in countries throughout the world, Mexico, China, India and Brazil are among the leaders in sustainable energy policies.In Scoring 111 countries on policies that support energy access, World Bank analytics called Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) took into account each country’s energy access, efficiency, and policies. Vietnam, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania also received praise for their efforts.Perhaps one reason for this trend could be the falling costs of solar energy, allowing for developing countries to reach their most isolated residents. Whatever the reason, developing economies invested in renewable energy to the tune of $177 billion in 2017. That’s a 20 percent leap in one year.
  2. Election Technology
    In places like Nigeria, electronic voter identification takes precedence over traditional work, while elsewhere, in developed countries like the U.K., the digital jump still hasn’t been made.While the electronic “fixing” of an election may be possible, the likelihood of it working in a persuasive manner depends largely on the closeness of an election. And while elections in places like Kenya meet opposition and challenge, Africa still finds itself ahead in the popular vote, so to speak, when it comes to digital voting technology.
  1. Mobile Money
    Developing countries lead the way in the implementation and use of mobile money technologies as well. Remarkably, Kenya has hit the decade mark with its M-Pesa mobile money service, but it is not alone in this growing trend among developing nations.In a 2017 report by Groupe Spéciale Mobile Association (GSMA), an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators the world over, 277 million registered mobile money accounts dotted sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2016. These services generated $110 billion of economic value and helped to support more than three million jobs.
  2. e-Commerce and Trade
    Commercial transactions conducted electronically online, referred to as e-commerce, might often be associated with advanced economies. However, developing countries also lead the way in this area, in nations like Columbia, Argentina and Nigeria.In fact, in Latin America alone, e-commerce is expected to see growth of nearly 20 percent over the next five years. What does this mean for a developing economy? It means growth opportunities and greater integration within the world’s markets.In terms of countries opening themselves up to trade, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines take center stage. According to the World Economic Forum, an organization that engages world leaders to shape agendas, these countries have now displaced the traditional powerhouses.
  3. Positivity
    A recent poll by Gallup International, a leader in economic and market research, shows that the external powers of money may not necessarily translate to intrinsic happiness. The poll found that optimism came from places like Nigeria, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.When asked questions about prospects for the future or personal happiness, confidence abounded in places like Mexico, despite grim financial outlooks for the country. Maybe money can’t buy happiness.

Despite lingering stereotypes and growing pessimism in our world, developing countries lead the world in several different areas, and while the change in perception may be gradual, reality dictates a much quicker realization: developing countries make strides every day, and in some cases, set the standard.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

Eco-Schools Impact UgandaEco-Schools around the world positively impact the environments and communities around them. Specifically, Eco-Schools impact Uganda through student, parental and community education and engagement.

The Eco-Schools program was developed within Agenda 21 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Agenda 21’s objective was to develop a plan of global action concerning every area that carries a human impact on the environment. The three goals of the objective were to reorient education towards sustainable development, increase public awareness and promote training.

Through the implementation of the Eco-Schools program, the United Nations believed that they could achieve these objectives by creating easy access to environmental and development education beginning with young students and continuing education into adulthood.

Eco-Schools Impact Uganda Through Three Programs

Eco-Schools are structured through three programs: the Seven Steps Framework, the Eco-Schools Themes and Assessment for the Green Flag.

The Seven Steps Framework sets guidelines to ensure success within Eco-Schools. However, the Eco-Schools program recognizes that each school is unique and the framework should be adjusted to fit their individual needs. Concluding with producing an Eco-Code, this framework encourages schools to pursue a reliable and realistic course of action.

To provide guidance and a grounded purpose, Eco-Schools choose a theme that aligns with their objective. There are 12 main themes, including global citizenship, climate change and water.

Once a school has successfully implemented the program for two years by completing the seven steps and working through their theme, they can apply to be awarded the Green Flag. An initial assessment takes place to determine if the school met qualifications to be awarded their first Green Flag, and then yearly assessments take place.

In Uganda, Eco-Schools were first implemented in 2006. In the Eco-Schools Best Practice Report, Uganda showed a wide range of improvement in environmental engagement and education within their students, parents and communities.

Effects on Student Learning

The report noted that dropout rates at Eco-Schools were lower than those at non-Eco-Schools. In addition, they learned that student learning and comprehension increased through the final examination. For example, in St. Kagwa Primary School, attendance increased from 902 to 969 students in 2016, accompanied by an increased student pass rate, from 93 student graduates to 129.

Eco-Schools impact Uganda by empowering their learners and building the qualities for successful future leaders by teaching responsibility and commitment.

Encouraging Parental Involvement

By training parents on the program as well as students, Eco-Schools empowered parents to involve themselves in their child’s learning environment. In general, the report found that parents showed more enthusiasm after they understood the Eco-Schools program, which led them to encourage their children to pursue a quality education.

Muguta Moses, head teacher at Rukondo Primary School, stated, “In my opinion, the most significant change is that it’s enhanced parental involvement in the school. Parents have come to realize their roles and responsibilities in the education of their children.”

Community Cooperation and Support

Eco-Schools impact Uganda through providing the opportunity for the community to engage with their work. Micro-projects are monitored not only through the schools, but also on a district level. Through these projects, water, sanitation, health and access to better nutrition have improved. Eco-Schools also implement projects that the community is involved with directly, such as planning community flower and vegetable gardens. By positively impacting citizens outside of the schools, students create a connection to the community.

The Eco-Schools program guides schools through structured plans while also holding them accountable for their projects and operations. Eco-Schools impact Uganda and other countries through educating, increasing environmental interest and growing the quality of life in their communities.

By 2019, Uganda aims to have 15 Eco-Schools implemented, resulting in 120,167 trees planted, 2,000 wood-saving stoves manufactured, 2,560 farm families reached and 200 Eco-Enterprises created.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Google

The Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization whose aim is to make the planet green again through fighting deforestation and preventing soil erosion. It engages the community, especially women, in its process and, in return, compensates participants with a small monetary payment. It has now become an international platform for women’s empowerment through the conservation of natural resources.

The Green Belt Movement was started by the late professor, Doctor Wangari Maathai, who founded the organization in 1977 in Kenya. Dr. Maathai is a recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman to receive such an honor. She is also the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in East and Central Africa. Dr. Maathai witnessed the struggles of rural Kenyan women with finding drinking water, food and firewood, saw the connection between deforestation, scarcity of rainfall and food insecurity and wanted to address the problem as a whole. She encouraged men and women to practice reforestation, binding soil to prevent soil erosion, food processing, beekeeping and many more sustainable values.

The Green Belt Movement has also dealt with larger issues in the daily lives of Kenyans. It has protected public lands from private landowners, known as “land grabbing.” It has trained farmers with simple techniques to grow indigenous vegetables and fruits that are sustainable in harsh environments. It also uses a water-shed based approach to harvesting. Furthermore, the Green Belt Movement launched the Community Empowerment and Education program, which helped to educate common people on the environment, natural resources and civics.

Since its foundation in 1977, over 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya. The movement also invented a method of spreading ideas among the community through “trainers of trainers.” In 2015 alone, over 200 women who participated in training from the Green Belt Movement have gone on to train over 20,000 members of their communities, thus assisting in the spreading of the Movement’s ideas. The Green Belt Movement has addressed important issues such as deforestation, climate change and women’s empowerment, gaining international status in the process.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

Shell and GravityLight Illuminate Off-Grid Regions in KenyaWhile access to electricity does not yet span the globe, the force of gravity is universal. The GravityLight Foundation has taken advantage of Newtonian physics to create a cost-effective light source that runs on gravity. Simply by lifting a weight and letting it descend, GravityLight can provide light and transform impoverished homes.

In 2015, GravityLight’s inventive engineering earned it the Shell Springboard Award, a grant of nearly $200,000 used to fund innovative businesses with low carbon footprints. Together, Shell and the GravityLight Foundation have successfully put GravityLights into production and introduced them to 50 communities in Kenya.

Kenya, which has one of the largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, has expended considerable effort to create an impressive power sector. In just four years, Kenya has increased the amount of households with access to electricity from 25 percent to 46 percent. Kenyan companies such as KenGen are working to utilize renewable energy sources, and geothermal energy looks promising.

A capacity of approximately 2,295 MW is available on Kenya’s power grid. However, off the grid, in remote areas of the country, only 11.5 MW are currently available. The Shell and GravityLight partnership intends to provide electric light to those off-grid regions in Kenya.

Electricity is crucial to improving the lives of the world’s poor. Access to light alone improves education and the economy by allowing people to study and work after daylight hours. However, the resources required to produce light can be extremely expensive, especially for those living in poverty. The world’s poor spend an estimated 30 percent of their income on kerosene needed to burn in lamps. GravityLight eliminates the need for kerosene to produce light, which is not only cheaper but also safer. Kerosene fumes are known carcinogens that are toxic for both humans and the environment.

Because the GravityLight Foundation uses local people and businesses to organize the sale of its product, marketing for GravityLight supplies Kenyans with jobs. By providing employment, GravityLight is bringing bright futures as well as bright homes to off-grid regions in Kenya.

Shell and GravityLight are not the only groups seeking to improve energy accessibility in order to aid impoverished populations in Africa. In 2015, the same year GravityLight won the Springboard grant, the U.S. government passed the Electrify Africa Act. The act aims to provide 60 million households and businesses throughout Africa with electricity.

Around the globe, 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity. If GravityLight’s debut in Kenya is successful, the foundation plans to continue spreading light throughout the world.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Green Revolution in AfricaAs climate change threatens to alter weather patterns around the world, farmers face the challenges of increased frequency and intensity of droughts. Reliant on rainwater for crop production, these communities often struggle to produce food levels sufficient for even a subsistence farming lifestyle. However, drought-resistant crops may be the solution to negating the effects of these issues and ushering in the new green revolution in Africa.

In 2006, the DTMA (Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa) Initiative was launched with the aim of increasing crop output and negating the effects of drought in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The project has brought together all types of communities, from local agricultural groups and seed producers to research institutions and NGOs.

Of course, this ultimately raises the most the most important question of all: has the new green revolution in Africa succeeded?

“Green Revolution” is a term defined as the increased production of crop yields through the use of improved technological application, the use of pesticides and better management. There are a few areas where this definition applies more to the successes of the DTMA Initiative. In 2015, the drought-resistant maize improved crop output in 13 countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and others. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has reported that hybrid seeds will benefit an estimated 2.5 million people in the region.

“I was truly amazed. I harvested 110 kilograms of maize from the tiny demonstration plot,” 61-year-old farmer Jotham Apamo, whose farm previously yielded a mere 10 kilograms, told WIPO Magazine. “[Before] there was hardly any gain for me. I was pushed into debt. I couldn’t feed my family or pay for my children’s school fees.”

In the meantime, Kenyan scientists at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have been studying and perfecting the creation and application of this crop (as well as studying disease-resisting properties) since 2013. Researchers have stated that the hybrid seed responsible for Africa’s next green revolution will be available later this year.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr

Environmentally Responsible Fishing
Around the world, the fishing community is particularly vulnerable. Just over 96 percent of fishers live in developing countries and many of them live in substandard conditions of poverty. However, environmentally responsible fishing has the potential to alleviate environmental concerns as well as poverty of fishermen.

Part of the reason that fishermen face such tenuous financial circumstances is the unstable nature of the profession. The fisherman’s boat and equipment are the most valuable possessions but also their most vulnerable. The unpredictable nature of the sea means equipment may be damaged at any moment and halt the flow of income.

Furthermore, fishermen in Africa, Asia and Central America are at least five times more likely to be infected with HIV due to their mobility. These circumstances often lead to overcrowded and unsanitary living conditions and poor access to education and health services. Over and above these problems, the damaging environmental effects caused by this cycle of poverty has not even been explored.

It is understandable that many fishers are not focused on environmentally responsible fishing practices. People struggling to survive today are less likely to focus on long-term environmental effects. However, depletion of resources will ultimately push them further into poverty.

Therefore, it is imperative that fishermen consider how they can practice environmentally responsible fishing as it will help to alleviate the poverty that they face. Latin American nonprofit company MarViva aims to help fishermen with this objective. As the organization’s co-director said, “we are not dealing only with an environmental problem, but also with significant institutional, social, and economic challenges that require serious attention and integral long-term solutions.”

MarViva is working for these long-term solutions with a two-part initiative. First, they teach fishermen the advantages of responsible fishing practices that may appear as more expensive or labor intensive in the short-term. For instance, investing in ice may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it ensures that fish stay fresh during transport and money is not lost due to a spoiled product.

They are also encouraged to use smaller hand lines instead of large gill nets. When gill nets are used, the caught fish are already dead and may be damaged. While gill nets seem to catch a larger amount of fish at once, they may sell for a lower price due to damage that may have occurred. Hand lines result in higher quality that will translate to a higher selling price.

The second part of the initiative focuses on traceability of product. If fishermen present the source and journey of their fish to the market, they can distinguish their product as one that was caught and handled responsibly. This means that it can sell for a higher price than fish of questionable or unknown origin.

Through its initiative, MarViva has increased the availability of high-quality products and the practice of responsible fishing. Raising awareness of how to protect the ocean’s precious natural resources is a highly important endeavor. Equally important is the fact that fishermen who depend on the ocean’s resources can protect those as well as alleviate the poverty that they face.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr

Pedaling Out of Poverty: Bamboo Bikes Help the Poor and Unemployed
Pedal Forward, a social enterprise company founded by Matthew Wilkins in 2012, is helping the poor in the U.S. and Africa ride into a brighter future. Wilkins and business partner Chris Deschenes wanted to create a reliable mode of transportation that was sustainably manufactured and cheap to buy. Their answer to the problem? Bamboo bikes.

“I remembered I had bamboo in my backyard growing where I grew up in Long Island, and I did some Googling and saw that people have been building bikes out of bamboo since the 1890s,” Wilkins said to the Hatchet. “It just never really caught on.”

Pedal Forward exclusively hired the underemployed and homeless for its workforce through the Back on My Feet organization, tasking them with the construction of the bikes themselves. Their New York warehouse was purchased through the $44,748 the duo earned on Kickstarter last February, and construction of the bamboo bikes is currently well underway.

Over 70 percent of the world’s poor lives without adequate transportation, according to Pedal Forward’s mission statement. Wilkins hopes to manufacture bikes in Tanzania and Uganda to bring affordable transportation to the poor there. In the meantime, however, Pedal Forward has been buying bikes from local vendors and distributing them to orphaned children and farmers so they can sell goods in markets.

“It’s combining my two favorite things which are bikes and building things, but at the same time it has a huge impact to a ton of people around the world,” Wilkins said to the Hatchet.

The bamboo used by Pedal Forward has been treated to make it four times more shock absorbent than carbon fiber and have higher tensile strength than steel. It also grows at the sustainable rate of one meter per day, earning it the name Iron Bamboo.

On top of being strong, the bamboo is good for the environment and easily recycled, making it cheap, green and created for a good cause. It took Wilkins three years to perfect the prototype of the bike after he won best business idea at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in 2012, thus delaying Pedal Forward’s commercial start to 2016.

The first bamboo bikes are set to sell for $499 this September on their website.

Regina Park

Photo: Flickr