Solar WashWith the rapid spread of COVID-19, public health and hygiene habits are being promoted unlike ever before. The importance of handwashing has been particularly emphasized as it is, according to The World Bank, “one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease,” including COVID-19. However, in many countries where access to clean water is rare, disease and unsanitary conditions present an even greater threat.

Access to Water in Ghana

In Ghana, more than five million people utilize surface water to meet their basic needs.  Utilizing contaminated water is often the only option many people have. However, it leaves populations vulnerable to water-related diseases, infections and illnesses. In many cases, this discourages populations from practicing handwashing, taking daily baths, and ensuring their body is sufficiently nourished. As a result, the transmission of water-related diseases increases. This establishes and encourages poor hygiene, sanitary and personal care habits.

Solar Wash

Two native Ghanian brothers, Richard Kwarteng and Jude Osei, have developed a solar-powered handwashing basin in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and “encourage regular hand-washing etiquette,” Kwarteng said. The invention, called Solar Wash, uses just a few components. It comprises of an alarm, a sink, a sensor, a faucet, a motherboard and a solar panel. Solar Wash resembles a regular hand-washing sink but works in an even more hygienic, sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Solar Wash’s sensors ensure users do not have to physically touch the faucet’s tap. First, upon sensing motion, the sensor dispenses soapy water and enacts an alarm for 25 seconds. This is in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). After the 25 seconds, the tap dispenses just enough water for users to conclude washing their hands. Solar Wash acts as a handwashing station for 150 people during just one charging cycle.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is working with Kwarteng and Osei. They are working to ensure the continuation of Solar Wash manufacturing and its accessibility to people in all of Ghana.

Global Potential of Solar Wash

Solar Wash emerged in Ghana as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, continued manufacturing and placement of the invention would greatly improve conditions around the world, particularly those living in poverty. Continued use of Solar Wash, or similar technology, would:

  1. Reduce the spread of water-transmissible diseases – According to the CDC, “about 1.8 million children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.” The spread of pneumonia and diarrheal diseases can be significantly reduced with proper handwashing practices, protecting “about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.”
  2. Offer a sustainable solution to the global water crisis – In 2019, about two billion people were living in a country engulfed by high water stress. In other words, there were about two billion people without access to enough water to fulfill their basic needs. To globally address the water crisis, the world needs an affordable, sustainable and accessible solution, which Solar Wash offers.
  3. Reduce global poverty – UNICEF and the WHO said, “over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.” This contributes to the spread of many diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19, diarrheal diseases, cholera, adenovirus and salmonella. By reducing the spread of these infections, illnesses and diseases, populations have a lower chance of being engulfed by poverty. They will be able to work, attend school and so forth.

Conclusion

Innovations like Solar Wash demonstrate simple but important practices and solutions needed to alleviate poverty. Solar Wash offers a simple, affordable and sustainable means of practicing handwashing with its simple build and technical structure. An innovation like Solar Wash can play an immense role in reducing health-related concerns in Ghana. It can also help throughout the world with continued production and implementation.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

The Lake Clinic
The Lake Clinic Cambodia, a free healthcare service that started in 2007, has helped nine different villages and more than 13,000 people in the isolated Tonlé Sap region of Cambodia. The Tonlé Sap area, in Southeast Asia, stretches 160 miles and holds more than 1 million people- all living in floating villages. These villages contain some of the poorest people in Cambodia. These communities face disease, poverty, and drastic change in weather temperaments. A majority of the people rely on fishing with a daily income of $2.50 a day. The Lake Clinic works hard to combat the poverty and health struggles amongst these communities.

Why is this Clinic Valuable?

According to The Lake Clinic, “a lack of education combined with limited access to hygiene and sanitation contribute to a huge burden of preventable diseases.” More often than not, there are no teachers or health care facilities. Due to drastic weather changes that make it expensive and dangerous to travel to receive health care, many go without. Thus, the Lake Clinic stepped in. However, traveling throughout the villages is difficult and expensive due to high fuel costs and a lack of adequate resources. The Lake Clinic uses old boats and technology, including inefficient solar panels, to do their work.

Funding Found and Established

The Honnold Foundation, run by Alex Honnold (rock climber, environmentalist and advocate), offered to help The Lake Clinic in Cambodia. The generous support of The Honnold Foundation helps to fund new solar panels of The Lake Clinic’s boat fleets they use to travel within the communities. Now “with an upgraded solar and battery system,” they also have the availability of better technology, such as ultrasound and electron diagrams. The Lake Clinic can efficiently provide better healthcare services to even more communities around the Tonlé Sap Lake area.

How The Lake Clinic is Using its Resources

Thanks to the solar panels and battery, the Lake Clinic has been able to expand the work it does, offering support and educational lectures about dental care, pregnancy, water sanitation, floating gardens, mental health, pediatrics and teenage care. Annually, they offer over 1,800 vaccines, almost 500 eye checks, over 600 dental treatments and almost 517 antenatal treatments. The Clinic has also been able to expand their operation, offering five clinics and six boats to the Tonlé Sap Lake.

Healthcare and poverty are inextricably related. Poverty increases the likelihood of disease, as resources for hygiene and sanitation are not accessible. Poor health can be a fatal result of poverty. Those living in poverty and impoverished communities are far more likely to struggle with hygiene, disease and malnutrition. They are actively fighting to work with solar panels to bring healthcare to the Tonlé Sap communities. These clinics on boats are offering solutions and help to those living within the Tonlé Sap region. Solar panels are not just an energy source, but a tool saving lives.

Hannah Kaufman
Photo: CND Pixabay

Reaching SustainabilityIn recent years, numerous developing countries are attempting to reach a certain level of sustainability. Countries within Asia, Africa and South America strive to increase urban development in several ways including solar energy use, organic farming and an increase in job opportunities. This will allow numerous countries to improve their economy and living situations. Here are three ways developing countries are reaching sustainability.

Solar Energy

Used in millions of industries, solar energy has the capability to take sunlight from the sun and convert it to useful energy. Several countries are focusing on the implementation of solar energy to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainability.

While solar energy can be quite expensive, Anzaga is a new technological platform that provides affordable solar systems for citizens within developing nations. Through flexible payment plans, the company has increased the usage of solar energy within 20 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, allowing over one million African citizens to obtain energy. Within the last decade, there has been a vast improvement in solar energy usage. For example, the World Bank approved two projects within Bangladesh, beginning the installation of more than 1.3 million solar home systems.

Between 2006 and 2010, China updated its five-year plan in which a large portion of investments was dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency. China hoped to decrease the per-unit GDP energy consumption by roughly 20% in comparison to 2005.

Organic Farming

Numerous developing countries have focused on the use of organic farming to attain their goal of reaching sustainability. There is evidence that organic farming and agriculture yields approximately 80% more than conventional farming. Scientists believe that organic farming is one of the most effective ways for a country to farm sustainably.

Moreover, numerous developing countries have focused on the technique of precision farming. Precision farming is the ability to create large amounts of produce within small-scale farms. Millions of citizens in developing countries practice the technique of precision farming within organic agriculture to potentially increase revenue.

Uganda has transformed certain methods of agriculture and used organic farming to reach sustainability. Uganda currently has the world’s lowest usage of artificial fertilizers and hopes to increase organic produce immensely to boost revenue and its economy.

Job Opportunities

Lastly, the focus on creating unique job opportunities for individuals is one of the ways developing countries are reaching sustainability. Higher employment rates improve not only the livelihood of citizens but the overall economy as well.

New sustainable urban planning is practiced within cities of Brazil. Due to the increase in population, job opportunities increase as new and innovative systems for urban planning are necessary. Specifically, the Bus Rapid Transit system exemplifies dedicated planning. The UN Environment reported that the system “provides an example of integrated urban and industrial planning that enabled the location of new industries and the creation of jobs.”

In India, the government also focused on alleviating poverty sustainably. It created the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in which rural citizens receive enhanced security within marginalized households. Hoping to alleviate poverty within rural areas, the act promotes maintenance and growth of rural areas, while providing jobs for rural citizens.

As numerous countries continue to develop, solar energy, organic farming, and new job opportunities are three of the numerous ways in which development is possible. By investing in development that allows the growth of cities in a manageable, sustainable way, countries are more likely to reach a state of national sustainability.

– Elizabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

solar energy in chinaThe People’s Republic of China is one of the largest global economies today. Since it was reformed in 1978 to open itself up to the world, more than 850 million citizens were lifted above the poverty line and GDP growth has been on average 10% a year. However, poverty is still a large problem in the country, as 373 million Chinese citizens live in poverty today. The Chinese government implemented the Solar Energy for Poverty Alleviation Program (SEPAP) in 2013 as a means of helping its most poor citizens.

5 Facts About Solar Energy in China

  1. Progress so far: Solar energy in China has already helped many provinces. Between 2013 and 2016, 211 pilot counties reported an average per capita disposable income increase of 7-8%. Counties were chosen for the initial phase of the program primarily for their solar radiation levels and secondarily for their local economic conditions. SEPAP had the greatest impact in the eastern part of the country and the poorest counties saw the greatest increase.
  2. Government plans: The government is planning to install more solar energy to alleviate poverty. After its initial success, SEPAP aims to install more than 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity across the country. The government plans to target the poorest parts of eastern China, where solar energy had the greatest impact in the pilot counties, and it estimates that the new solar energy will benefit more than 2 million people across 35,000 villages by the end of the year.
  3. Goals: The goals of SEPAP’s five year plan are ambitious. Officials intend to create a “new normal,” switching economic growth and services from an investment-led approach to a consumer-led approach. From 2015 to 2020, they plan to achieve an 18% reduction in carbon intensity, 15% reduction in energy intensity and have 15% of primary energy come from renewable sources. This is all part of promoting an “ecological civilization” that focuses on green policies and technologies.
  4. Finances: The financial side of the program has a lot to consider. SEPAP researchers believe that quality access to electricity and employment opportunities in solar energy should be considered as future policy as well. This is because the program may cost $4.2 billion throughout its five year implementation period, and research into the proper allocation of funds for solar energy in China must be conducted in order to preserve the economic effects.
  5. Poverty reduction: The community solar programs and similar renewable energy generation projects across the world all seek financial benefit from energy generation in order to alleviate poverty at the county or village level. Some of the revenue from these projects also go towards public welfare projects that reduce poverty as well.

Overall, solar energy programs are not an end all be all solution to China’s poverty problem. However, the communities they are able to provide with relief show significant improvement in income. Solar energy might not fix everything, but it does open up many possibilities in China’s future.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Flickr

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power
Approximately 840 million people lack access to electricity, most of whom live in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, around 300 million people live without electricity. In addition, the number is twice as high in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the majority of developing nations have enormous solar power potential. Almost all of Africa receives 325 days of strong sunlight a year. Countries in Central Asia have an average of 250 days of sunlight a year. Additionally, many nations are capitalizing on that resource to increase access to electricity and alleviate energy poverty. In 2017, the developing world surpassed first world countries in renewable energy production, largely due to investments in solar. Here are examples of five developing nations harnessing solar power.

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power

  1. China: China has more solar energy capacity than any other nation in the world, with 130 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV). If all the solar grids were to operate at once, it would generate enough electricity to power the entire United Kingdom several times over. In addition, China is home to many solar farms, including the world’s largest solar plant located in the Tengger Desert. The advent of solar power has directly benefited more than 800,000 poverty-stricken families. Since 2014, when the Chinese government launched a Solar PV for Poverty Alleviation Program, more than 7.9 gigawatts of power has gone to impoverished rural areas. These solar-powered facilities provide employment opportunities and boost household income, in addition to supplying affordable and reliable electricity.
  2. India: Although India’s power system is one of the largest in the world, per capita electricity consumption is less than one-third of the global average. This is largely due to the need for reliable, affordable and sustainable power. To alleviate energy poverty, the Indian government announced an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts of power. Additionally, around 100 gigawatts would come from solar by 2022. Starting with less than 1 gigawatt of solar in 2010, India has around 34 gigawatts of solar power today. In addition to alleviating energy poverty, estimates determined that this project could create over 670,00 new, clean-energy jobs.
  3. Bangladesh: Bangladesh is pursuing solar home systems and microgrid programs to alleviate energy poverty in rural areas. The country has installed more than 5.2 million solar-home systems. This provides electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people. In cooperation with the World Bank and other private organizations, the government supplies more than 1,000 solar irrigation pumps and microgrids. Off-grid solar power is rapidly transforming the lives of Bangladesh’s rural population, where more than a quarter still lack access to electricity. The introduction of solar power has brought reliable, sustainable energy to households, allowing families to work, study and go out after dark.
  4. Kenya: More than a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to electricity. In response to this challenge, the Kenyan government launched the Kenya National Electrification Strategy. This strategy outlines a plan to achieve universal access to electricity by 2022. Additionally, this roadmap emphasizes the importance of solar power as a means for electrifying rural areas. The government’s commitment to increasing access to clean electricity and partnership with private institutions is working to alleviate energy poverty. For instance, a local company called Solibrium provides affordable solar panels and lamps to more than 50,000 households. Another example is M-KOPA Solar, a private Kenyan corporation, that has installed 225,000 solar energy products in the country.
  5. Rwanda: Rwanda is home to Africa’s fastest built solar power project, which builders constructed within six months in 2014. The power plant has some 28,360 solar panels that produce 8.5 megawatts of energy. The grid increases Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6 percent and powers more than 15,000 homes. Other solar plants across the country provide sustainable and affordable electricity. Rwanda is conducting feasibility studies on the development of further solar power plants in Rwanda.

Energy poverty or the lack of, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. These five developing nations harnessing solar power are leading the way in turning the lights on.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr