Information and news about innovations

Global Soap Project Brings Hygeine to Those in Need
The Global Soap Project, an innovative non-profit based in Atlanta, Georgia, recognizes the importance of good hygiene – and is using that to help poverty-stricken communities around the world stay clean.

Recognizing how many bars of soap North American hotel chains distribute, and how many of those go to waste each year, the Global Soap Project works to combine recycling with global health. The organization collects bars of soap from hotels that would otherwise be thrown away, sanitizes the used bar, and re-purposes this into new soap that is then distributed “to vulnerable populations around the world such as refugees, orphans, and disaster victims.”

The organization states that nearly two million used bars of soap are left in hotel rooms throughout North America every day, and have more than 1,100 participating hotels in the program. Although they do not accept soap from individuals and families, the Global Soap Project says that they have given out over one million bars of soap in over 29 countries since 2009, while at the same time keeping 250,000 pounds of soap out of American landfills.

More importantly, the Global Soap Project acknowledges that the use of soap can prevent death due to diarrhea and upper respiratory illnesses by up to 40 percent and that 1.4 million deaths can be prevented each year by washing hands with soap. Children are the main benefactor in the organization’s mission, as the leading cause of preventable deaths in African children is lack of sanitation and clean drinking water.

The Global Soap Project plans to deliver nearly two million bars of soap to communities in need throughout the world in 2013.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Global Soap Project

U.S. Solar Company Expands International Development to Latin America
SolarReserve, a U.S.-based solar company, has announced its expansion into Latin America for international development purposes. The company opened up an additional office in Santiago, Chile, as part of an effort to “provide cost-effective, clean energy solutions worldwide.”

SolarReserve plans to focus primarily on solar energy opportunities in the growing mining sector throughout the region, and will also be developing large-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) projects, as well as photovoltaic projects.

Company CEO, Kevin Smith, stated that the move to Latin America was a logical next step considering the benefits of clean energy development in the region, including the abundant solar insulation, inclusionary energy policies, and the expanding mining sector. He also said that although hydropower and wind power are already established sources of clean energy in Latin America, solar is only more recently gaining a foothold.

Smith also stated that SolarReserve hopes the installation of solar energy will help provide a more consistent and reliable energy source to the region, along with a cleaner source of power from an environmental standpoint.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Power Engineering

13-Year-Old Developed Lion Lights to Protect Cows
13-year old Richard Turere developed Lion Lights to protect his cows. Growing up in the Masai community near Nairobi, Kenya, Richard was responsible as a young boy for taking care of his father’s cows. In an area of poverty, livestock is very valuable to individual families and the loss of a cow or bull can be devastating.  The Masai community borders the Nairobi National Park which has little fencing to keep the animals in, resulting in the death of some cows by lions that had wandered out of the park.  Richard knew there had to be a solution and after trying several methods to try to deter the predators, he concluded that lions were afraid of moving light. When Richard would walk around the cow pasture with his torch, the lions would stay away.

Taking an old car battery, a blinking light, and an old flashlight, Richard used solar power to run a system that randomly blinks lights throughout the night. He calls them Lion Lights. In the last two years since he set up his Lion Lights, his family has had zero problems with lions. Richard has also installed the Lion Lights in several of his neighbor’s pastures.

The invention has led Richard to the opportunity to attend a well-known school and landed him a TED talk.  It can be viewed here. An impressive 13-year old, Richard’s ability to solve a problem in his community is an excellent example of the importance of equipping and empowering communities to lift themselves up and provide for their own needs. Rather than a handout, this community was changed by the invention of a then 11-year old boy.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: TED

Ethiopia Embraces Bamboo
According to the government of Ethiopia, the country is experiencing an industrial boom due to the supply of bamboo, foreign investment, and interest from foreign markets.

Although there has been no existing bamboo economy in Ethiopia, minister for agriculture and rural development Mitiku Kassa has said that the country now has the right mix of resources, foreign interest, and investment to create an industry from the 2.47 million acres of bamboo previously untouched.

Africa Bamboo, a public-private partnership between Ethiopia and a German development group, plans to invest over $10 million into manufacturing for bamboo flooring products. Associate engineer Felix Boeck of Africa Bambo commented that there was much market potential for bamboo in Europe. “We believe that there can be a reliable and effective supply chain built here in Ethiopia to create a bamboo manufacturing industry,” said Boeck.

Unlike traditional wood sources, bamboo is fully sustainable and sees regrowth within three years. In comparison, trees can take up to 30 years until they are mature enough to harvest again for wood. Many local farmers hope to capitalize on the booming bamboo industry in the country, and hope that foreign investment is available to small-scale growers.

Other organizations are stepping in to ensure that the government of Ethiopia recognizes the vast potential that bamboo has to create economic growth and development.

Christina Kindlon
Source: Guardian

USAID Helps Fund Research for Heat-Tolerant Wheat
As part of the United States’ initiative to ensure food security, Feed the Future, USAID is funding research at Washington State University that will aim to create heat-resistant varieties of wheat better suited for harsh climates around the world that struggle with adequate food sources. Researchers hope to obtain the first temperature-tolerant breed of wheat within five years.

Also taking part in funding the research is the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR).

Because a wheat plant’s productivity falls significantly at temperatures above 82 degrees, researchers will study certain breeds of wheat to determine and then isolate the genes associated with the ability to tolerate higher temperatures. The research will take place in the North Indian River Plain, where issues such as food scarcity and a booming population of over 1 billion people are stretching resources extremely thin.

Although the North Indian River Plain will be the focus of the research, participants acknowledge the impact that heat-resistant varieties of wheat can have in a world of impending climate change and global warming, coupled with increasing populations on nearly every continent.

Kulvinder Gill, project director, stated “The newly developed ‘Climate Resilient’ cultivars will be better equipped to deal with these challenges. The project will benefit all wheat-growing regions of the world, as heat during flowering is an issue in most of the wheat-growing regions.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

Nigeria Uses Geolocating to Prevent Mortality in Childbirth
The UK Department for International Development has found an innovative way to use geolocation technology in developing countries and is now using GPS tracking to study and prevent child mortality rates in Nigeria.

ORB International, the firm that administered the study with funding from the Department of International Development, used GPS data showing proximity to clinics in order to show what effect distance had on child mortality rates during birth. The goal of the study is to encourage women in Nigeria to give birth at a clinic instead of in their homes.

“By interviewing people where we knew clinics were funded, and also a matching sample where they weren’t, then overlaying that data on satellite maps, we could show the effect of distance on mortality very effectively,” explained Johnny Heald of ORB.

ORB employs experts at using geolocation technology to gather data in the developing world and conflict states. In a separate project, they used GPS to track Joseph Kony’s LRA and their movement patterns in order to determine where they would show up next.

Although there are concerns relating to the widespread use of GPS data for tracking individuals and the risks associated with such, ORB acknowledges that geospatial data can be very useful as well as potentially dangerous.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian

Instead of using the traditional nitrogen-rich fertilizer typically used to encourage crop growth, researchers in Nepal are experimenting with an unlikely candidate for fertilizer: human urine.

Urea, which is typically used as fertilizer, was found by researchers in Nepal’s capital to be inferior to human urine in fertilizing crops. As part of their research, compost was mixed with different types of fertilizer sources, including urine mixed with compost, and the combinations were tested on pepper plants. The plants in which a mix of urine and compost was used grew the tallest plants that bore the most peppers.

Scientia Horticulturae, who released the study, attributed the positive affect of the unique mixture to “reduced nitrogen loss and enhanced availability of organic carbon in the soil.” The researchers conclude that human urine could be a possible alternative to traditional fertilizers in enhancing sustainable agriculture.

The study goes on to point out that although the use of urine may enhance crop growth, the use of it alone is not sufficient to have a positive effect on plants – it must be used in addition to compost. Currently in Nepal, farmers are applying urine directly to soil, which is not efficient.

Urine alone does not contain organic matter to become a viable source of nutrients for crops, but does provide “faster-releasing nutrients that complement slow-release nutrients from compost, which has a higher content of organic matter and beneficial microbes.”

Researchers acknowledge that although the combination of urine and  compost is sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective, marketing this to farmers may be difficult due to “cultural factors” and reluctance of farmers to handle human urine. Experts also cite that government subsidies to mineral fertilizers will stand in the way of widespread use of urine in agriculture.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian

Australian crowdfunding site, ChipIn, is being used to raise money to provide rural Indian slums with solar powered lights. ChipIn has joined forces with Pollinate Energy, an NGO dedicated to providing sustainable and renewable energy sources to rid India of energy poverty. Pollinate Energy’s goal is to crowdsource funds to support the purchase of five franchises that will sell solar lamp kits for tent slums in Bangalore, India.

Pollinate Energy’s goal is to provide the community members with a month-long training program, initial hardware, and continuing support systems to ensure long-term success – as opposed to simply providing members of the community with solar lamps.

Crowdfunding has rapidly gained in popularity in recent years, and has become an efficient way to fund renewable energy projects in supporting energy-poor communities in developing countries. Pollinate Energy says that the funding is needed, as they found nearly “3,400 families without power in a 6-mile radius.” Information released by the government backs up these numbers, with a recent report citing that 1 out of every 6 urban Indian lives in a slum, a majority of which are not even connected to the power grid at all.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Clean Technica

New Vaccine Aimed at Preventing Endemic
Throughout many developing nations, foot and mouth disease is considered an endemic in livestock; especially in Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. Previously, the only vaccines for foot and mouth disease were very fragile and had to be created inexpensive labs with the proper equipment, and needed to be kept refrigerated in order to stay “alive,” preventing possibilities of any long-distance transportation.

Now, researchers have created a synthetic version of the foot and mouth vaccine that does not require refrigeration, making it much more accessible to rural areas where the disease is common. The new vaccine can be transported and even created in developing countries since it can withstand varying temperatures.

Within the last few years, the UK, South Korea, and Japan were all victims of an outbreak of the virus that had originated in Asia. The foot and mouth outbreak in the UK cost the country an estimated 8 billion pounds.

The researchers’ goal of having the foot and mouth vaccine distributed globally in order to stop the virus at the source instead of waiting for an outbreak will now be much more practical with this synthetic version. Scientists say that the new version could be widely available within 6 to 8 years. Researchers are also working on synthetic vaccines for diseases that affect human populations, including polio and human hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian

Mozambique Uses New Technology to Fight AIDS
In Mozambique, 11.5% of 15 to 49-year-olds are HIV positive, and half of the untreated children who are HIV positive die before they reach the age of two due to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Now, new technologies to help diagnose and assess rural, poor citizens of Mozambique are being used by three different aid organizations.

UNICEF, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), have been administering new tests that will rapidly increase the speed of diagnoses in children and also test other patients’ immunity levels. The new tests do not require a high level of technology, making it easier for health workers to administer the tests in rural areas, and are able to tell workers when a patient needs to switch antiretrovirals.

Normally, the HIV tests used in Mozambique take a spot of dry blood for testing with results taking nearly two months, with some patients never returning to find out the results. In addition to taking much longer, these older testing techniques are much less accurate than the current tests. The new technology takes no longer than an hour to determine if a patient is HIV positive.

Although the new technology helps the speed of return time of diagnoses, determining whether children in Mozambique are HIV positive is still a challenge as two types of tests are needed to determine if the antibodies of a newborn are from the mother or in the child’s blood itself. Aid groups hope to increase health infrastructure in the country to have the ability to offer both types of tests to patients.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian