Solar Energy is Transforming Africa
Photovoltaics panels, more commonly referred to as solar panels, are often cited as the best way to decarbonize the world’s energy grids and reduce emissions. According to MIT, the price per solar cell has decreased by 99% since 1980. These incredibly low costs have now unlocked the use of solar panels for the world’s poorest continent, Africa, with incredibly positive ramifications for the local environments of its citizens and the international effort to reduce emissions. Beyond emissions, however, cheap solar energy also improves the prospects for poor and rural Africans to access electricity, opening new opportunities to enhance standards of living and reduce poverty rates. With the majority of the world’s poor now located in sub-Saharan Africa, these cheap panels, along with the innovative thinking of African communities across the continent, have created new use cases for solar energy that are increasing water security, improving rural access to electricity and increasing economic resilience for Africa’s developing economies. Here are three ways solar energy is transforming Africa.

3 Ways Solar Energy is Transforming Africa

  1. Kenya’s Solar Desalination Plant: Kenya, a former British colony located in eastern Africa, is home to a population of approximately 50 million people. With an annual population growth rate of 2.2%, Kenya has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world and is set to see a population of 85 million by 2050, according to the World Bank. While a significant amount of Kenya’s population growth will be in urban developments, only 28% of Kenya’s population is urban today, meaning that Kenya’s government will need to find ways to provide water and energy infrastructure for its rural communities for decades to come. One small Kenyan fishing village known as Kiunga, home to about 3,500 individuals, has found a solution. Partnering with an American NGO known as GivePower, this village uses solar panels to desalinate ocean water, with the capacity to deliver water to 35,000 residents, 10 times the village’s current population. Today, over 300 million sub-Saharan Africans struggle with water insecurity, often leading to conflict and instability that causes poverty, according to global NGO The Water Project. Developments that can reduce such insecurities can go a long way in improving the future for Africa’s poor. While much more progress needs to occur on this front, this village of Kiunga is providing a template for villages across Africa to harness the power of the sun for water security.
  2. Tanzania’s Rural Mini-Grids: Tanzania, a neighbor of Kenya and a former British and German colony, is home to about 58 million people. Tanzania is East Africa’s largest nation and is home to its largest population and its lowest population density. With its urban population constituting only 35.2% of the country, Tanzania faces the challenge of providing electricity to rural communities far from its city centers. Solar power is uniquely capable of delivering power to these rural communities, and Tanzania has embraced new economic models called “mini-grids” in order to deliver this power. While traditional fossil fuel power plants rely on extensive supply chains and infrastructure in order to deliver electricity, in part due to the weight of the fuels, solar panels generate power on-site, directly from the sun. These “mini-grids” allow small Tanzanian villages to afford electricity for the first time, creating opportunities for rural education and improving security, ultimately contributing to the reduction of rural poverty in Tanzania. Although the current situation is poor, with more than 70% of Tanzanians lacking access to electricity, by 2040, 140 million Africans – including many in Tanzania – will get electricity from these mini-grids, according to the World Resources Institute.
  3. Morocco’s Mega Solar Plant: The North African nation of Morocco is becoming an increasingly important economic power in Africa, with a growth rate of nearly 4.1%. Despite this progress, however, Morocco’s rural poverty rate remains high at 19%. Though one cannot fault Morocco for prioritizing its economy over its environment, given its current poverty rate, Morocco has committed to ramping up its solar energy production, seeking a 50% renewable energy capacity by 2030. The benefits of this development, however, are more than environmental, as Morocco is now a net energy exporter to Europe, decreasing its domestic electricity costs and enhancing its economic resilience, all while improving its economic and political relationships with Europe. Thus, Morocco has used solar energy to not only maintain its commitments to emissions reductions but also as a tool to diversify its economy, allowing the nation to not only lift its citizens from poverty but to sustain its citizen’s incomes in good times and bad.

Poverty remains a significant problem in Africa, with more than half of the world’s deeply impoverished peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa. However, through remarkably low costs and a variety of unique use cases across Africa, solar panels are now increasingly capable of delivering energy, water security and economic growth. From LED-powered lights in rural African schools to increasingly reliable electricity for African small businesses, solar energy is transforming Africa by contributing to its economic rise and modernizing its rural life. And, with solar-powered desalination moving from fiction to reality, water security is increasingly possible across the continent, leading to greater community stability and resilience. All of these factors play an essential role in decreasing poverty rates and improving the quality of life on Earth’s poorest continent. Sunlight, it seems, will brighten Africa’s nights in the future.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: UN Multimedia

Education in Kenya
Kenya has seen great success in combating poverty, with the national poverty rate declining from 46.8% to 36.1% between 2005 and 2016. Over this same period, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.3%. An increased focus on education accompanied this economic success. In line with this new focus — changing education in Kenya is now at the forefront of one nonprofit’s agenda.

Educational Improvements and Barriers

Increased education and poverty reduction closely connect in the developing world. Education gives students the skills to seek better-paying jobs and improve their lives. Acknowledging this, the Kenyan government opted to make primary education free in 2003. It followed up by making secondary education free in 2008 as well. Due to these policies, 94% of rural Kenyans younger than age 13 now enroll in school. However, the quality of education these students receive is highly variable. For example, only 47% of primary school graduates can successfully test into secondary school.

Challenges exist because while school is free, poor children often struggle with difficult home environments. They often must support their families at the expense of their education. Additionally, weak oversight and insufficient government support mean that many areas suffer from poor quality education, lacking recourses or qualified teachers.

Flying Kites

Flying Kites is one organization with the aim of changing education in Kenya — specifically, education quality. The organization is a Kenyan nonprofit that runs a program to educate teachers and works with Kenya’s ministry of education. Importantly, it is trying to make education more accessible to poor students. Flying Kites partners with “high potential, resource-poor” schools to invite teachers to attend workshops and sit in on classrooms at the Flying Kites Academy. These teachers go through a program to teach them how to improve their classrooms and provide more support to students.

The Borgen Project recently had the opportunity to talk with Katie Quinn, the Director of Operations in the U.S. for Flying Kites. She explained how Flying Kites originally began in 2007 with a primary school catered toward disadvantaged students in central Kenya. Today, its school has evolved into one of the highest regarded academies in Kenya. Flying Kites is attempting to replicate that success across the country.

So far, Flying Kites has seen great success in improving education in Kenya with its Teacher Training Center. It evaluates the classroom skills of incoming teachers and has found that only 12% of them are proficient in all skills. However, after a year in the program, 67% of teachers achieved classroom proficiency.

According to Quinn, focusing on teachers is the best way to improve the education system.“The delivery of quality education by engaged and supported teachers dramatically improves student outcomes, empowering even the most vulnerable students to become curious and critical thinkers and to develop the skills they need to become life-long learners and positively impact their families and communities.”

Flying Kites’ Approach During COVID-19

COVID-19 has undoubtedly been a disruption to the lives of Fly Kites’ students. However, the organization is working hard to make sure that every student stays on track. It has provided direct relief to more than 6,000 local families. Also, it has been distributing meals to students in need. The organization has also pledged to cover all back-to-school expenses for students at its partner schools. This will include uniforms, school supplies and more. It hopes to guide its students through this difficult time and ensure that none of them give up their education.

Once the pandemic ends, Flying Kites hopes to continue to expand its reach to schools — changing education in Kenya. Quinn explained how the organization is planning to create a “model schools district” by working with all 45 local primary schools as well as the Kenyan government. The aim is to create a better environment for teachers and their students. By doing so, Flying Kites seeks to create a repeatable model for education in Kenya that improves student outcomes and creates better opportunities to escape poverty.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Rift Valley FeverIn 1999, NASA scientists theorized that at some point soon, they would have the ability to track outbreaks (via satellite) of Rift Valley fever (RVF). This disease is deadly to livestock and occasionally, humans, in East Africa. They already knew the method needed but did not yet have enough data. NASA scientists had already surmised that outbreaks were directly related to El Niño weather events and knew that areas with more vegetation would breed more disease-carrying mosquitoes. To see the exact areas that would be most at-risk, satellites would need to track differences in the color and density of vegetation, from year to year.

Prediction of Rift Valley Fever

In 2006, NASA scientists predicted and tracked an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in East Africa. Unfortunately, even with intervention efforts, the 2006 outbreak led to the deaths of more than 500 people and cost the regional economy more than $60 million. This was due to export restrictions as well as livestock deaths. However, the aim of researchers was not to entirely stop that outbreak. The results of that mission gave researchers confidence that they could predict the next outbreak even better the next time.

Ten years later, the NASA team successfully predicted the location of the next potential outbreak and warned the Kenyan government before the disease could strike. Thanks to the combined efforts of NASA and the Kenyan government, Kenya saw no outbreak of Rift Valley fever in 2016. This, in turn, saved the country millions of dollars and protected the lives and livelihoods of rural farmers, throughout the country.

Focus on Cholera

With the success of Rift Valley fever prediction in 2006, NASA researchers became confident they may predict all disease outbreaks. Moreover, they believed they could halt them, using satellite technology. Researchers are especially focused on neglected diseases like cholera which are connected to environmental conditions and hit developing countries and impoverished people the hardest. Newer satellites add the ability to measure variables like temperature and rainfall. This enables researchers to use more than just the visual data, used in the initial Rift Valley fever predictions. Consequently, this significantly improves their models.

Cholera is perhaps the most promising disease, analyzed by new scientific models due to its scale. Nearly 3 million people contract and almost 100,000, die each year. Moreover, it spread directly links to weather events. There are two distinct forms of cholera, endemic and epidemic. Endemic cholera is present in bodies of water primarily during the dry season. Also, communities living along coasts are typically ready for the disease. Epidemic cholera comes about during extreme weather events like floods and inland communities are often unprepared for the disease. Both forms of the disease proved to be perfect candidates for modeling by disease researchers. In 2013, a NASA team successfully modeled cholera outbreaks in Bangladesh.

The Yemen Model

The real test of the NASA team’s predictive models would come in 2017. The use of the model in Yemen proved to work near perfectly. Researchers predicted exactly where the outbreaks would occur, nearly a full month in advance. The success of the model in impoverished and war-torn Yemen is especially notable. This is because it could mean less of a need for more expensive and dangerous methods of disease research. Instead, early warning systems are an implementable option. Even if they fail, medical professionals can send vaccines and medications to exactly the right locations. Cholera outbreaks and their disproportionate death rates among the global poor will hopefully soon be a thing of the past.

By halting outbreaks before they begin, international aid lends itself more efficiently. Information is valuable and the more information poverty-fighting organizations have, the better they can spend their dollars to maximize utility and help the most people. As satellite technology advances along with newer predictive models, preventing disease outbreaks could save developing economies and aid organizations hundreds of millions of dollars each year, along with thousands of lives.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

testing and povertyDoing away with certain high-stakes exams could help alleviate poverty. The pandemic has forced many to consider alternatives to what was the status quo, including high-stakes exams used in education systems around the world. These popular exams have roots as far back as the selection of civil servants in ancient China. During the past two centuries, the number of educational systems that make use of high-stakes testing has grown. Exams may be useful as a means of helping students, parents and educators understand how the student is doing. However, they become high-stakes when decisions regarding admissions and advancement rely on exam results. Eliminating high-stakes exams could reduce both testing and poverty.

The Positive and Negative Consequences of Testing

Research has shown that there are positive and negative impacts of high-stakes testing. The benefits of high-stakes examinations include concrete educational standards and assistance for students who perform poorly. On the other hand, disadvantages include a narrowed curriculum, cheating and policies that disproportionately impact minority students.

According to the World Bank’s Public “Examinations Examined,” “[It] is difficult to make the case that examinations, whatever the motivation in their introduction, played a major role in the promotion of equity.” With an emphasis on testing and poverty in contemporary education, understanding how high-stakes exams reflect inequity may help educators better assist disadvantaged students.

Testing and Poverty

High-stakes testing puts pressure not just on students, but also on parents, educators, schools and  governments. These pressures affect those with low socioeconomic status the most. Students from low-income families often face cognitive, emotional and social developmental deficits induced by poverty and stunting. The effects of poverty and stunting turn into a 19.8% deficit in adult annual income.

Low-income families also often lack the financial resources to pay for their student’s academic success with tutors, textbooks and materials. Moreover, educators and schools may focus their efforts on more advantaged students. Studies in Zambia, for example, reveal that advantaged students tend to do better than poor students.

Furthermore, public spending on education is higher in wealthier communities. One reason may be because the government rewards schools that perform better in high-stakes exams with additional funding. Many of these schools, comprised of students from high socioeconomic statuses, tend to have more resources than their low-income counterparts.

This lack of spending directly connects testing and poverty, as using testing to measure success gives fewer resources to underprivileged students. A report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity reports that 330 million students are in school but are not learning the basics. This may be connected to poor quality teaching or poor resources, which can result from measuring success with tests. Ultimately, being poor has become closely connected to poorer exam performance. Indeed, “Large scale assessments in exam subjects and grades routinely show a steep ‘social gradient’ in performance,” according to the Center for Global Development.

Doing Away with High-Stakes Exams

Education is central to reducing poverty. For example, individual income increases by 8% for every year that one goes to school. More specifically, having a secondary education in Tanzania decreases by 60% the chance that a working adult will be poor.

Recognizing the benefits of education and the consequences of testing and poverty, schools could eliminate some high-stakes exams. Countries such as Kenya and Singapore, as well as most Caribbean countries, use tests to determine a student’s placement in secondary schools. Yet those who made it into secondary schools in Kenya obtained employment benefits, decreasing low-skill self-employment, compared to those who did not. According to the IMF,  “increasing [the] average years of schooling and [the] reducing [of] inequality of schooling” can significantly reduce economic inequality.

If primary and secondary education were universal, extreme poverty could lessen by half. To make this happen, developing countries dealing with the pandemic should consider doing away with certain high-stakes exams. This will allow poorer students to contribute to human capital.

The Good News

While it took 40 years for American girls’ enrollments in education to increase from 57% to 88%, it took Morocco 11 years. Yet, in 2013 there was a disparity in the net enrollment rate in lower secondary education. Though 79% for boys in urban areas were enrolled, the rate was only 26% for girls in rural areas.

Since 2007, Education for All (EFA) has provided girls in Morocco’s rural communities of the High Atlas mountains the opportunity of secondary education. The organization’s provision includes nutritious meals, hot showers, beds and access to computers. EFA has at least 50 girls who are enrolled at university.

While this work is laudable, governments may be able to provide similar results by doing away with high-stakes testing. When exams act as a gatekeeper to advanced education, they reproduce cycles of poverty. All students must have access to equal education in order to escape from poverty.

–  Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr

sanitation during covid-19COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is often spread through airborne droplets released by breathing or talking and by touching infected surfaces. Good hygiene is therefore an initial line of defense in preventing viral infection. However, hand washing requires access to clean water and effective sanitation. While COVID-19 has changed the way people think about hygiene, the lack of access many people in developing countries have to sanitation during COVID-19 remains the same.

Water Crises and Sanitation During COVID-19

More than one half of people around the world do not have access to high-quality sanitation facilities. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated this already tenuous water and sanitation situation in many parts of the world. Areas with hotspots, like Cairo and Mumbai, are often crowded with restricted public services.

To manage the immediate effects of COVID-19, governments in developing countries have turned to various short-term solutions. For example, Rwanda has installed mobile hand washing stations, while South Africa has begun to use water trucks. The Chilean government has also suspended water and sanitation charges for citizens. In a pandemic, automated water management systems are especially helpful in reducing loss, expanding access and preserving social distancing. In addition to these governmental reforms, many companies have used technology to shore up water and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries. Here are five organizations looking to improve sanitation during COVID-19.

Five Companies Improving Water and Sanitation During COVID-19

  1. Wonderkid: This start-up delivers smart solutions to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The organization supplies water management software to utility companies to help address customer problems, billing, payments and running water meters. Wonderkid’s smart water meters track non-revenue water that does not reach the customer or leaks out of faulty pipes. Thus, Wonderkid allows water utilities to function more effectively and service more people. As of 2018, Wonderkid had expanded to help 36 utility companies in Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi and Liberia.
  2. CityTaps: This organization provides poor families in Niger access to water at a much cheaper price than water vendors. Its smart water meters give water utilities more financial stability. Importantly, they can then expand their services to more poor families. This allows companies to meet the current needs for effective hygiene to fight COVID-19.
  3. Drinkwell: Impoverished people in Dhaka, Bangladesh often rely on illicit or expensive water sources. The social enterprise Drinkwell, a brainchild of American English Fulbright fellow Minjah Chowdury, provides water through ATMs. Drinkwell works with mobile service provider Robi Axiata and Dhaka WASA, a local water utility, to do so. It is also collaborating with Happy Tap, a mobile hygiene provider, to provide hand-washing services to people in Bangladesh.
  4. Sangery: Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) like Sanergy are an up and coming sanitation alternative for people in low-income areas. These systems are simpler and cheaper than sewer systems, but they are also cleaner than latrines and open defecation. CBS systems use a container to capture waste, which then turns into fertilizer. Sanergy uses this technology to resolve the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Run by three M.I.T. students, the company provides Fresh Life Toilets that fit into cramped urban dwellings and empty safely. The ability to have a private toilet is essential in practicing social distancing during the pandemic. During COVID-19, Sanergy has also provided 18 hand-washing stations that allow residents to practice good hygiene.
  5. Mosan: Similar to Sanergy, Mosan is a sanitation project based in Guatemala that provides container-based system toilets to people’s homes. The toilets have a durable, urine-diverting design, which keeps urine and feces in separate containers. They cover feces with dry materials like ash instead of water and eventually recycle them into usable fertilizer material. Such innovations make it more likely that people will stay at home during the pandemic. Additionally, Mosan is providing contactless pickup of containers to encourage people to stay home and social distance.

The Future of Sanitation in Developing Countries

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in global abilities to provide safe, clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now, many people lack the water they need to combat the coronavirus. While it is not clear if COVID-19 can spread through human waste, proper sanitation also stops the spread of infectious disease in general.

By shoring up water services and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries, governments and other organizations in have provided stop-gap solutions to water and sanitation issues. Technologies like digital water meters, water ATMs, container-based toilets are now saving lives in a new way. Because they help people stay home and keep clean, these solutions allow developing countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

ugly foodSome countries are creatively battling hunger and food waste by repurposing and rebranding unappealing produce as “ugly food” in Africa. Two projects in Kenya and South Africa demonstrate an interest in reducing food waste to relieve food insecurity.

The Serious Problem with Food Waste

While hunger remains a pressing issue around the world, nearly one-third of all food that is grown or produced is thrown away before it can reach anyone’s dinner table. On the African continent, nonprofits and governments are confronting food waste as a barrier to relieving widespread hunger. These groups focus on improving data collection, promoting sustainable practices and improving food policy to reduce food waste after production.

Adaptability and innovation are key. The Minister for Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development of Zimbabwe, Joseph Made, recently stated, “Obviously, new strategies and approaches are needed to reduce food losses and waste, especially due to the rapidly changing nature of agri-food systems and rapid urbanization.”

A New Approach to Reducing Food Waste

One increasingly popular approach to food waste is encouraging the use of unappealing or “ugly” foods. Ugly foods are fruits, vegetables or other food products that farmers, markets and shoppers reject due to discoloration or misshapenness. While perfectly edible and nutritious, these foods are unmarketable, so markets throw them away. In countries such as the U.S. and France, a growing number of businesses are buying ugly produce from farmers and markets and reselling them to shoppers who want to end excessive food waste.

Nonprofit Work Meets Ugly Food in Africa

In many African countries, nonprofit organizations are finding ways to repurpose unappealing foods to reduce food waste and end hunger. In South Africa, for instance, food waste is a huge problem. About 44% of all foods wasted in South Africa are fruits or vegetables. However, Slow Food is a nonprofit changing that. Through an initiative called World Disco Soup Day, Slow Food sponsors festivals in many cities around the world, including Johannesburg, where ugly vegetables are brought in to make an eclectic, community soup. By feeding the community, World Disco Soup Day raises awareness about food waste and teaches people how to use unappealing produce.

Similarly, according to the United Nations, “farms in Kenya reject up to 83 tons of perfectly nutritious vegetables simply because they are considered too ugly and off-putting for consumers.” An initiative sponsored by the World Food Programme is trying to change that by feeding schoolchildren with fruits and vegetables that would have been thrown away. This project in Nairobi, Kenya has been able to provide school lunches for over 2,200 students.

While still new, the ugly food in Africa movement is growing as a means of reducing food waste and hunger. Organizations like Slow Food and the World Food Programme are leading the way by using creative approaches to feeding communities.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Unsplash

cash grants in Kenya
If you have ever wondered what good remittances do for poverty reduction, a study done by the researching nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) could help put things in perspective. Researchers at IPA evaluated the economic progress of Kenyan villages from 2014 to 2017 after families were given unconditional cash transfers or UCTs. The cash grants in Kenya were provided by a charity organization called GiveDirectly.

The results of the study highlight the potential UCTs have to financially elevate communities around the world. However, when dispersed without careful consideration, some aspects of cash transfers can be detrimental. Let’s discuss GiveDirectly’s trial and why it was successful in initiating great economic stimulation in Kenya.

The Logistics of the Study

The study took place in villages surrounding Lake Victoria in Siaya County, Kenya. To avoid a concentration of funds, researchers categorized villages by two groups: villages with high saturation and low saturation status. Random assignment appointed two-thirds of high saturation villages and one-third of low saturation villages to the trial. As an extra measure to confirm financial need, GiveDirectly only chose families residing in homes with a thatched roof; about one-third of households qualified.

GiveDirectly provided money transfers in intervals to a family member, totaling 87,000 KES, or 1,000 USD. Data was recorded through baseline and closing surveys taken by the participating families and local business owners. The surveys covered topics such as “household financial, physical, and mental well-being, business performance, changes in market prices, and the provision of local public goods.”

Cash Grants in Kenya: The Results

The increase of income stimulated a surge in spending from recipient families. For the most part, these expenditures occurred in the region. Business disclosed that 86% of their clientele were from local or neighboring villages.

The increased consumption had a spillover effect, as non-participant households also saw an influx of income. According to their report, GiveDirectly claims that having higher local enterprise revenues, “in turn, appears to increase the income of local untreated households, leading to higher spending on their part.” The grants created a pattern of earning and consuming that resulted in overall higher cash flow in the area.

Furthermore, participant households across the board showed “higher levels of psychological well-being, food security, education, and security.” Increasing their financial security had an overall positive impact on many other aspects of their lives.

Why it Worked

Before the 2014 study, UCTs previously given by GiveDirectly were also proven to generate economic stimulation in Kenya due to rising consumption and investments. To fully understand the results of this study, it is important to note a few specific factors.

First, GiveDirectly provided UCTs rather than conditional cash transfers, or CTTs. The World Bank defines CCTs as being “contingent on behaviors like school attendance and visits to health clinics.” These requirements do not come as easily to some families as others, especially those living remotely. In contrast, UCTs provide financial support to families without burdening them with specific requirements that they may be unable to meet.

The location also played a big role in the success of this trial. GiveDirectly chose families from an area containing a major national road that IPA determines may be one of the reasons for economic overspill. The IPA report also depicts Kenya’s traditional “harambees,” gatherings meant for community fundraising, as another cause for the balanced wealth distribution.

Moving Forward

The economic stimulation in Kenya proves the efficiency of tactful cash grants. GiveDirectly’s accomplishments in poverty alleviation are just a fraction of what is possible. Moving forward, if more funds are devoted to foreign poverty aid, it is possible for such results to be seen on a global scale.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

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

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

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

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

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

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

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

3d printed prostheticsGuillermo Martinez is an industrial engineer from Madrid, Spain, who saw a need for upper extremity prosthetics in poverty-ridden communities. His journey began in 2017 with an investment in a small-scale 3D printer in Spain. Martinez learned how to use the printer with robotics and device-building videos, but he quickly stumbled upon a tutorial for a one-hand prosthesis. The prototype he created as a result sparked an interest in producing prosthetics for those in need, especially once he realized that the 3D-printed prosthetics cost just $50 to produce.

3D-Printed Prosthetics from Madrid

When he’d successfully produced a functional prosthetic arm, Martinez took a trip to the Bamba Project orphanage in Kenya. The World Bank noted that as of 2016, 35.6% of the population in Kenya lives on less than $1.90 per day. Martinez saw an unmet need for Kenyans who could not afford a prosthesis. With this new self-taught skill, he asked for volunteers to notify him of impoverished people who needed upper extremity prosthetics. The pictures that he received in response guided the 3D-printed prosthetics he made for orphans and the impoverished in Kenya.

Martinez relied on trial and error to produce functional prosthetics with low-cost materials. He utilized a combination of plastic, high-tension wires and rubber bands to produce a functional product. Each prototype only weighs about 10 kilograms and is completely collapsible for ease of transport. But Martinez began to investigate if it was possible to 3D print locally in impoverished communities instead of transporting the prosthetics. Seeing conditions in developing countries, Martinez recognized a slew of obstacles in his way, from a lack of education and unpredictable power outages. However, these obstacles did not deter Martinez from beginning the nonprofit organization AYUDAME3D.

AYUDAME3D

AYUDAME3D is a fairly new nonprofit organization that began with the hard work of just four members and has gained over 60 volunteers globally. Its goal remains to produce 3D-printed prosthetics for people in need. So far, AYUDAME3D has produced more than 250 prosthetic arms in more than 40 countries. The majority of requests originally came in via email, social media or connections with NGOs. But the organization understood that it needed to use the media, social media and partnerships with other nonprofits to reach a wider range of communities.

Additionally, AYUDAME3D provides a centralized space for volunteers and impoverished communities to have direct contact with the organization. This allows it to disseminate information about the guides for shoulder, elbow and wrist prosthetics. Furthermore, the organization’s online form allows people to expand on limb specifications and provide visuals as needed. It also lets NGOs explore a possible partnership with AYUDAME3D. Finally, the NGO is growing its impact with a 3D printing curriculum for in schools in impoverished communities.

The Impact of 3D-Printed Prosthetics

These 3D-printed prosthetics from Madrid have had a profound impact on those missing upper extremity limbs. Robert from Kenya is one of many who stood to benefit from a prosthesis, having only one arm. Martinez printed a prosthetic in multiple pieces and brought it to Kenya to test its fit for Robert. Since this was one of Martinez’s first prosthetics, he had to adapt his process while learning about muscular weakness and other factors in Robert’s community. But this learning curve has created a well-established process at AYUDAME3D that is constantly adapting to new prosthetic situations.

AYUDAME3D also provided a helping hand when the coronavirus pandemic hit Spain. When the government declared personal protective equipment emergencies, the organization received a flood of requests for 3D-printed face shields. Accordingly, the nonprofit switched from printing prosthetics to personal protective equipment. So far, AYUDAME3D has distributed 9,115 face shields to over 150 organizations.

In an interview with Business Insider Espana, Guillermo Martinez expressed that 3D printing prosthetics started as a fun idea that developed into a way for him to help impoverished communities. Martinez didn’t believe that he would find a large number of people needing upper extremity prosthetics, but he discovered that many Kenyans sought them when he arrived.  To meet this need, AYUDAME3D continues to produce 3D-printed prosthetics for impoverished communities worldwide.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr