Jeju Island Carbon-Free
At the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, the government of South Korea announced that it will launch a clean-energy project aimed at making Jeju Island carbon-free by 2030.  This government’s project falls under its greater 2030 initiative to reduce South Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent.

According to a 2019 study, South Korea is the seventh-largest greenhouse gas emitter and eighth-largest energy consumer in the world. The government developed grids during the second Jeju Project and is using them to determine the technology it requires to sustain the 2030 project to reduce its greenhouse emissions.

The First Jeju Project

The government launched the first Jeju Project in 2009. The project’s mission was to implement smart grids on Jeju Island to test the technologies necessary to aid new renewable energy sources. The project tested technology for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and electric vehicle charging stations. The government worked with 168 private companies and spent a combined total of $208 million to cover 6,000 homes in this project. Through building smart grids in Jeju, both the government and private companies worked to do the following:

 1.  Create a foundation for efficient energy consumption.

 2. Create the structure for an expansive distribution of electric vehicles.

 3. Manage clean energy.

 4. Provide new electricity services.

Utility services’ participants that utilized the smart grid could routinely check for and avoid residents who over-consume electricity. That way, they could utilize the system to optimize efficient electricity consumption on the island.

By utilizing smart grid technology, the South Korean government tackles its 2030 project to make Jeju Island carbon-free in the following three phases: transforming Gapa Island into a carbon-free model for Jeju Island, increasing Jeju’s renewable energy shares by 50 percent by 2020 and making Jeju a carbon-free island by 2030.

Second Jeju Project Set to Make Island Carbon-Free by 2030

In the long-term effort to make Jeju Island carbon-free, government municipalities implemented smart grids and renewable energy on Gapa Island as a pilot test. They installed two wind-power generators and solar panels for 49 of 97 homes. Moreover, they provided both electric vehicles and home energy management services for every home to preserve energy.

As estimated in future projections, Korea’s government will easily increase Jeju’s renewable energy shares by 50 percent in 2020. As estimated in the 2019 COE report, wind and solar power can provide around 6,561 gigawatt-hours of electricity on Jeju’s Island. In addition, Jeju Island residents collectively consume less electricity than these renewable energy sources can provide. Therefore, Jeju residents already have a surplus of renewable energy. By the year 2020, both the government and local investors will install “one gigawatt offshore wind power, 350 megawatts inland wind power and 30 megawatts solar power.” These will account for about 68 percent of Jeju’s total electricity demand of 5,268 gigawatt-hours.

Island Residents Experience Renewable Energy Surplus

Through launching smart grids on Jeju Island and increasing Jeju’s smart grids and renewable energy share, the South Korean government looks toward making Jeju Island carbon-free. The government plans to increase offshore wind power and electric vehicle use from 852 to 377,000. It will also implement 225,000 chargers on the island to meet this goal.

After the government implemented smart grids and renewable energy on Gapa Island for a Jeju Island pilot test, Gapa Island residents experienced a surplus of renewable energy. The two wind turbines implemented on the island generate around 500 kWh and the 49 solar panels produce 174 kWh. Since Gapa residents use around 230 kWh, the leftover energy keeps in an energy storage system (ESS) for later use.

Setting a blueprint, Gapa Island’s micro-grid pilot became an example for Jeju Island. With a successful sustainability track record on Gapa Island, the South Korean government looks toward making Jeju Island carbon-free and setting a clean energy blueprint for the world to follow.

Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Eco Cooler is Changing Lives in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is one of the worlds most populated countries and is also a country stricken with poverty. As of 2018, 21.8 percent of all people in Bangladesh were living below the poverty line. Sixty percent of the inhabitants of Bangladesh live in huts made of tin that become extremely hot in the summer months and in rural areas without access to electricity. Inhabitants of these areas often find it challenging to stay cool in the sweltering summer heat. Luckily, Ashis Paul, a Bangladesh native, invented an efficient, cheap way for people to cool down their homes. His invention, the eco cooler, is changing lives in Bangladesh.

The Eco Cooler

The reason that the eco cooler is so cost-efficient is that it comprises of objects that are always around and easy to find. These objects are old soda bottles. People do not regularly practice recycling in Bangladesh so the number of old soda bottles on the street is high. To assemble the eco cooler, Ashis Paul cut the soda bottles in half and placed them on a board with holes in it. After he mounted the cut bottles onto the board, he placed the board over a window with the wide end of the soda bottles facing outside of the house.

The Way the Eco Cooler Works

The science behind the eco cooler is somewhat simple. The idea of creating the eco cooler came to Paul when he overhead his daughter’s physics teacher giving a lesson about how when a gas expands rapidly, it cools. The more scientific term for this phenomenon is the Joule-Thomson effect which has to do with the gas temperature dropping when it expands rapidly. When the air enters the house through the large end and passes through the small end of the soda bottle, the pressure drops and the cooling occurs, making the air on the inside of the house cooler than on the outside.

Paul claims that the eco cooler is changing lives in Bangladesh by reducing temperatures to up to five degrees celsius, but a scientific study that mimicked the design of the eco cooler claims that the device can only cool rooms up to two degrees celsius. Still, two degrees celsius is a noticeable difference.

Partnership with Grey Dhaka

Grey Dhaka is a communication company in Bangladesh that teamed up with Paul to spread the news about eco coolers, helping distribute them to civilians. Grey has also posted videos online detailing how to create these eco coolers. Since the birth of this invention, Grey Dhaka and Paul have installed eco coolers in 25,000 homes in Bangladesh and are helping many people fight the extreme heat of the summer months.

The eco cooler is changing lives in Bangladesh. It is a cheap solution for beating the heat and is accessible to everyone, even those living in poverty. Simply making an eco cooler also benefits the planet by providing an alternative use for plastic bottles that would otherwise be considered waste. The eco cooler is a green, sustainable alternative to regular air conditioning and it also helps fight the energy crisis, which has to do with using limited resources to create energy.

– Joslin Hughson
Photo: Flickr

poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica
While Costa Rica is a country filled with natural beauty and vibrant culture, the small Central American nation is not immune to poverty and other issues that involve human rights and living conditions. Approximately 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and Costa Rica continues to be a source and destination for human trafficking and forced labor. Costa Rica is currently classified as a Tier 2 Watchlist country according to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning that its government does not fully comply with anti-trafficking regulations and NGOs complete more progressive work than the government itself. That said, the government has taken an alternative approach by attempting to combine the issues of poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica, one that it hopes will assist in both the conservation of Costa Rica’s rich ecosystems while simultaneously reducing its poverty levels.

Environmentally-Conscious Poverty Initiatives

Costa Rica’s government has made a concerted effort to combat its poverty and modernize its economy without harming its most important resource: its vibrant environment. From instituting cleaner industrial and agricultural practices to creating more jobs by embracing its growing tourism industry, Costa Rica has eclipsed the impoverished fate of its Central American neighbors and will continue to develop into an efficient and comfortable society.

Costa Rica has implemented programs that aim to benefit the economy, the environment and the nation’s individuals and families. For example, the government has instituted a system centered around payments for environmental services (PES) that incentivizes greener practices for industries like agriculture in exchange for payments from the government. PES works especially well for farmers and other landowners because it gives them the opportunity to receive financial rewards for assisting or maintaining environmental services that benefit other Costa Ricans and the environment.

Most of the advantages come in the form of tax compensation and write-offs, which helps poorer farmers by decreasing their tax burdens. The system’s environmental impact has been large too, as nearly one million hectares of forested Costa Rican land has been a part of PES since its start in 1997. This means that more Costa Rican land and wildlife are receiving protection, thus also allowing for agriculture and tourism industries to thrive and provide job opportunities for Costa Ricans.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way in which the Costa Rican government has aimed to combat poverty while simultaneously helping the environment is through the encouragement of the formation of more agricultural cooperatives. From coffee beans to pineapples, Costa Rican farmers are continuing to form more organized cooperatives to ensure that they see a more bountiful financial return on the production of their respective crops. For instance, a cooperative called CoopeTarrazú has grown to over 400 coffee farmers, all of whom process and market their crops as part of the cooperative. Cooperatives like these not only give farmers the opportunity to make more money, but they also become valuable consultation resources for the government and NGOs interested in implementing any sort of programs involving crops like coffee.

Ecotourism

Aside from specific initiatives and organizations, Costa Rica has also been investing in its ecotourism industry as one of the country’s biggest assets. Many people from around the world travel to Costa Rica to take in the nation’s natural beauty and diverse wildlife, so the government knows that increasing the quality of its tourist attractions and facilities will allow it to attract and take in more tourists. This creates a positive cycle that creates many jobs (such as tour guides), keeps tourists coming to the country and maintains protection of the environment. The government began efforts to protect the environment in the 1990s, and since then, it has instituted many laws and regulations that protect this asset. In fact, Costa Rica outlawed hunting for sport in 2012, a move that protects the balance of the ecosystem, forests and fertile farmland.

Protection for the Future

Like many other countries, Costa Rica experiences an urban-rural poverty divide. Approximately 30 percent of rural homes fall below the poverty line compared to more than 19 percent of urban homes. That said, Costa Rica has made progress in terms of combatting rural poverty while also pushing and incentivizing greener practices for poorer farmers and landowners. Though many issues require solving, the government has clearly found an effective way to address both poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica at the same time, thus creating a sustainable economic climate with more opportunities for farmers and rural landowners to emerge from poverty.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Plastic in Exchange for EducationPlastic pollution is one of the worst global environmental issues to date. On average, around 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year and most of it is not recycled. This unrecycled plastic becomes waste on land, in rivers and oceans, and can be consumed by multiple breeds of animals. Scientists predict that if nothing is done about the production or lack of recycling plastic, the ocean will more than likely have more plastic in it than fish by the year 2050. Poverty-ridden countries are more susceptible to having plastic waste filling their streets and water sources, which is why many areas in these countries are turning to a new solution to both end plastic pollution in their country and decrease their poverty rates.

Many schools in poverty-ridden countries have begun to accept plastic in exchange for education by using the waste as payment for school tuitions. Nigeria is ranked 11th in the world for plastic pollution and it is estimated that nearly 450,000 megatons of plastic waste are discarded every year in the city of Lagos’ water sources alone. Because of this, a partnership with Africa Clean Up Initiative (ACI), RecyclesPay and Wecyclers has allowed parents to start paying their children’s tuition with the plastic waste they collect. How much tuition is covered depends on the amount of waste brought in each week; the more that is brought in, the more tuition is paid for. This helps parents relieve financial burdens and to be able to use what little money they have on school materials while the plastic waste they collect and turn in pays for their child’s tuition.

In 2016, Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar opened a school in India where parents could pay for school tuition by bringing in 25 pieces of plastic waste to school each week. Their plan was to help children receive an education while also cleaning up their town from plastic waste. At the time the school opened, most children were being sent to work rather than attending school because parents either could not afford the education or they could not afford to care for the entire family. This initiative has since been extremely well-liked by the community, and its popularity has grown. The curriculum focuses on generic education practices but also includes curriculum on environmental issues and the importance of keeping the community clean. Because of the positive impact and growth of using plastic in exchange for education, the couple plans to open 100 similar schools within the next five years to increase education in India.

Reducing plastic pollution while improving children’s education is one step closer to resolving plastic pollution and ending world poverty with increased educational opportunities.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Unsplash

Indonesia's Natural Resources

Indonesia 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 Poverty
A 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 World
Upon 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 Uganda
Eco-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 the 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