Information and news about sustainability

Hunger and Poverty in the UAETo alleviate food insecurity and poverty and reach the 2030 goals of the Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is using technology to increase the efficiency of farming and irrigation techniques. Throughout 2020, the UAE explored new and innovative solutions to reduce poverty and hunger. Solutions such as drone mapping, mobile applications and AI crop sensors have been crucial for mitigating food scarcity and eliminating hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Drone Mapping

Drones provide a solution to effectively map agricultural areas. Drone technology grants valuable agricultural information to farmers in order to better assess agricultural progress. Drones are able to collect important data such as soil type, salinity and livestock numbers as well as information on farming facilities. According to the company Falcon Eye Drones, drones speed up this data collection process, which typically takes years.

Moreover, farmers can use the information gathered to create agricultural plans. Drone mapping also helps with the allocation of resources. With more information about soil quality, farmers can effectively plan how to distribute water and chemicals for maximum impact. Drones also allow for crop monitoring, enabling farmers to predict agricultural outputs well in advance. Drone mapping saves resources and increases agricultural output, effectively helping to reduce hunger and poverty in the UAE.

Mobile Applications

The FreshOnTable application is another innovation reducing poverty and hunger in the UAE. Through the digital application, users can purchase produce from local vendors and have it delivered straight to their door. This process drastically cuts the carbon footprint normally attached to food distribution. In the app, users are able to see the source of their food and choose from a variety of options.

According to Gulf News, this application also reduces food waste by giving customers the option of choosing “imperfect vegetables,” which are just as healthy as the more aesthetically pleasing options. By cutting down on food waste through technology, FreshOnTable provides a solution to food insecurity.

AI-based Sensors in Irrigation

AI-based sensors monitor the surrounding temperatures of crops to improve irrigation. The sensors can also test the level of humidity and water content in the soil. Irrigation systems are employed more effectively with AI-based sensors in use. Irrigation sensors limit water waste and help with sustainable water use.

Farmers have more knowledge of the soil quality and water content of their land, allowing for a smoother irrigation process. In turn, the process helps maximize crop output because farmers use the information gathered to make data-informed agricultural decisions.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority implemented a study between 2011 and 2013 to analyze the efficiency of smart irrigation systems that utilize AI technology. The results prove that the technology decreased water use by 10% in comparison to other estimation-based methods. Thus, smart irrigation systems are able to increase sustainability, save on costs and improve profitability for farmers. With better agricultural output, food insecurity is reduced.

The Future for the UAE

Overall, these technological innovations stand as examples of how technology can help solve hunger and poverty in the UAE, two deeply interconnected issues. Without drone mapping, the UAE would spend years collecting environmental data that can drastically improve agricultural outputs. In addition, food waste would be much higher without mobile applications to bridge the gap between farm and table. AI sensors maximize agricultural efficiency by reducing resource wastage. As countries strive to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, technology-oriented solutions will help accelerate progress, bringing the international community closer to eliminating global poverty.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Flickr

Johannesburg Zero-Waste Grocery BusThe COVID-19 pandemic has made life more challenging for everyone, including the people living in South Africa’s largest city. Johannesburg inner-city residents are especially vulnerable during this pandemic due to unemployment and food insecurity. But there is hope. The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus has a mission of bringing healthy food to locals in a sustainable manner.

From Idea to Bus

The idea of a mobile grocery store was imagined by founder Ilka Stein and her team at the social enterprise ForReal. Starting in 2020, Stein and the 12 young volunteers of the ForReal team transformed an old bus into a mobile grocery store in just three months. Inside the “skhaftin bus,” metal containers are filled with dry foods, such as lentils, black beans, oats, samp, spices and brown sugar. The concept of the skhaftin bus is to bring your own “skhaftin,” a South African slang word for “lunchbox,” and fill it with the items you need. In addition to dry foods, the Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus has paired up with Bertrams Inner City Farm to provide fresh local produce, bread, juices and sauces. Stein believes that this bus will provide many locals with access to nutritious food in an affordable and eco-friendly way.

Fill Up with Food

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus plans on operating three days a week. During these three days, customers can come to the bus to pick up needed food. Procedurally, the inner-city residents bring their skhaftin and enter the front of the bus, spoon out dry goods from metal containers, pick up desired produce and finally head to the register. At the register, the customer pays according to the weight of the skhaftin and leaves through the back of the bus. Not only is it a quick food store, but it is also an environmentally conscious store.

Customers bring their own containers, which promote a plastic-free shopping experience. Additionally, the products are placed in metal tins to avoid the unnecessary use of plastic. The concept of fill-it-yourself versus pre-packaged amounts saves people from overbuying and eliminates food waste. These features aid in helping the planet as well as the poor. By eliminating excess packaging, Stein doesn’t have to pay the extra costs incurred from packaging and can lower the overall price of the skhaftin. Further, the take-what-you-need model saves the customers from paying for food that will just go to waste.

Money Matters

The affordable prices definitely draw people to the Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus. Shoppers find they can typically get more food for less money when buying from the bus versus the local grocery store. This has been a major source of relief for those unable to find a job, especially during COVID-19 and its consequential high unemployment rates.

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus provides job opportunities in addition to providing affordable food to combat poverty. Currently, Stein employs three young people from the local area to work on the bus. Stein also ensures that the bus is mindful of the surrounding businesses. The team continues to test out new parking locations so as not to interfere with local shops. The bus aims to aid the local community fight against poverty in a contentious way.

Rolling Into the Future

The Johannesburg zero-waste grocery bus plans to keep its valuable service going even when COVID-19 is no longer part of the picture. Overall, this mobile grocery store is proving to be extremely beneficial to people of inner-city Johannesburg. The food is inexpensive, nutritious, unprocessed and free from single-use plastics. Ilka Stein and her team are actively helping alleviate poverty in South Africa, one lunchbox at a time.

Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

Social Ecology in RojavaRojava, also known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, is a region in Northeastern Syria. It was born out of the political instability that started at the beginning of the civil war in 2011. Surrounded by conflict, Rojava represents a rare success story of a war-torn region determined to help its local communities by reducing poverty through social ecology.

Rojava in Action

Rojava functions as a confederated system of local communities. Political decisions are implemented by democratic means and policy is decided from the ground up. Members of the immediate community have the first and final say on policies and practices that affect their communities directly. This political method of local autonomy relies on a specific degree of local sustainability and social responsibility. Communities take an active role in ensuring each member can access essential resources such as food and clean water.

Ecological sustainability is strong at play. Communities in Rojava aim to transform the landscape back into a more ecologically diverse and fertile area. This will mean reversing land practices inherited from the Assad regime. Groups such as the Internationalist Commune of Rojava, and its project, Make Rojava Green Again, focus efforts on this transformation. This is the crux of how Rojava hopes to reduce poverty through social ecology.

The Problem

Under the Assad regime, Northern Syria became deforested and transformed into monoculture croplands. One example of the practice is the deforestation of Afrin in favor of planting olive trees. This practice, along with the use of chemical fertilizers and unnatural water sources, destroyed the quality of topsoil and degraded the overall fertility of the land. Such practices also forced the population to rely on supermarket-based systems of distribution to purchase food and other essentials, decreasing local access to resources in favor of international markets. This form of politically-induced scarcity increased poverty rates in the Kurdish regions of Northeastern Syria.

Making a Change

After the withdrawal of the Syrian Government in 2011, lands once used for monoculture cultivation were expropriated by local farming cooperatives. These cooperatives form the basis of the economic system that now functions in Rojava. Each cooperative includes roughly 25 to 35 people. The priority of each cooperative is to provide for the basic needs of the region’s most impoverished citizens. The reallocation of resources and land back to local communities has seen success.

The localization of food production has notable environmental and social benefits. According to a study conducted in 2019, eggs supplied by local cooperatives required less than 2% of the monetary cost and energy needed for eggs supplied by modern supermarket supply chains. This means the people in Rojava have improved access to food, and, at a substantially reduced cost.

The Make Rojava Green Again project has spearheaded multiple ecological initiatives throughout Northeastern Syria aimed at reducing poverty by encouraging practices of ecological sustainability at the local level. Examples of such initiatives include efforts to rebuff rivers with the reforestation of native plant species. This will create wider access to clean water for communities that rely on such rivers. Other examples include reusing water for irrigation and planting urban gardens in order to grow food for impoverished members of the community who cannot grow their own. This will increase food security for otherwise vulnerable areas.

Continuing Forward

Despite the threat of military annihilation, Rojava continues to implement a green future for its citizens. Ecological initiatives have increased access to natural resources for populations in both urban and rural environments. The effort to reduce poverty through social ecology in Rojava is an ongoing initiative that requires international support if it is to survive. Nevertheless, Rojava has already demonstrated the effectiveness of such measures, and in doing so, has provided the rest of the world with a model for a green future.

Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

Self-sustainability in EritreaSalesian Missions, an organization part of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has provided the Don Bosco Technical School in Eritrea with funding to buy two cows. The funding, which also enabled students to buy food supplies, will help the school work toward self-sustainability. In the future, the Salesian missionaries hope to gain funding to purchase two additional cows and renovate the barn housing the cows. The funding is part of a long-term self-sustainability project. Members of the school and the community have also been growing their own vegetables, selling milk and making furniture to sell. Self-sustainability in Eritrea is important as nearly 70% of Eritreans live in poverty.

Don Bosco Technical School

The Don Bosco Technical School is located in Dekemhare, 25 miles away from the Eritrean capital, Asmara. The education facility teaches technical skills in “automotive work, general metal, general mechanics, carpentry, building construction, woodwork or furniture making, electricity, electronics and surveying.” The school also teaches courses in information technology and academic subjects. After completing a course, students participate in “military training for six months” and the Eritrean government allocates jobs to them. Salesian Missions’ funding plays a vital role in the school’s flourishing self-sustainability project.

Salesians of Don Bosco and Salesian Missions

The Salesians of Don Bosco is a global Catholic organization founded by an Italian Catholic priest, Don Bosco, to “serve the young,” especially impoverished and marginalized people. It is now the second-largest order within the Catholic Church. Salesian Missions, its U.S. developmental branch, is made up of more than 30,000 religious members dedicated to serving the world’s most impoverished people. Salesian Missions’ overall goal is to equip children with the skills needed to secure employment and achieve self-sufficiency in order to break cycles of poverty.

Poverty and Agriculture in Eritrea

Eritrea’s economy depends, in part, on agriculture. While agriculture makes up about one-third of the country’s economy, it accounts for about 63% of total employment. Eritrea’s agriculture sector is highly dependant on rainfall, making it a volatile sector due to increasing droughts.

According to the World Population Review, 69% of Eritrea’s population lives in poverty. Eritrea ranks fifth for global poverty, behind only South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau. Due to high rates of poverty, self-sustainability in Eritrea is the surest means of survival.

Eritrea is also known for its strict government. Dubbed by many as the “Africa’s North Korea,” Eritrea has been subject to several U.N. and EU sanctions, some of which have been lifted. However, Eritrea was recently hit with sanctions for human rights violations tied to the conflict in Ethiopia. As an isolated nation, Eritrea is cut off from many of the advantages of globalism and does not enjoy the same opportunities for global trade.

A Future of Self-Sustainability

Because of its high poverty rates and struggling agricultural sector, any funding into agricultural resources greatly helps the citizens of Eritrea, allowing them to work toward self-sustainability and thrive for far longer than short-term food aid would allow. Salesian Missions is doing important work since self-sustainability in Eritrea is vital for the survival of many.

– Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Flickr

sustainable brands fighting povertyThere are many sustainable fashion brands fighting poverty. In many countries, jewelry making is not only a tradition but also a way to make a living. Many poverty-stricken countries rely on fashion production to keep their economy going. Because of this, brands that provide their garment workers a fair living wage and safe working conditions help alleviate poverty in low-income areas. Sustainability lifts workers out of cycles of poverty by making long-lasting products from sustainable materials. The following brands produce fair trade products and are finding alternative ways to continue fighting global poverty.

ARMEDANGELS

ARMEDANGELS is a fair fashion brand that prioritizes producing contemporary and modern collections with fairly produced, eco-friendly and high-quality products. The company ensures high standards and fair working conditions by working with PETA, the Fair Wear Foundation and the Fairtrade Organization. Since 2011, the brand has been Global Organic Textile Certified (GOTS) and only works with regenerative and sustainable materials, which include organic linen, organic wool, recycled cotton, organic cotton and more.

In April 2018, the company founded ARMEDANGELS Organic Farmers Association to help small farmers transition from conventional cotton to organic cotton. The brand also strives in pushing for social change by engaging in political and environmental activism. Within its Greener Deal, donations were provided to organizations actively involved in climate protection in Europe and Germany. ARMEDANGELS also achieved climate neutrality and its CO2 emissions are two-thirds lower in intensity than classic fashion companies.

SOKO

SOKO is a certified women-led B-corp ethical jewelry brand that employs Kenyan artisans who produce collections for conscious consumers. This company believes that economic sovereignty and financial inclusion provide lasting impacts and actively works to reduce poverty and inequality. The brand works toward this goal with its virtual manufacturing platform. The platform connects 2,300 independent artisans with a global marketplace through mobile technology. The SOKO platform allows artists to receive orders and payments to hand-make products from upcycled and ethically sourced materials. Because of this network, workers can improve and preserve their cultural techniques at scale. They can also earn five times more than those employed in an average artisan workplace.

SOKO employees only work 50% or less of their total capacity. This helps them to avoid sole reliance on this particular sustainable fashion brand, to guarantee their freedom and to encourage sustainable, long-term economic sovereignty. Because of policies like this, the United Nations, USAID and the World Bank have endorsed SOKO for its social impact.

Nudie Jeans

Nudie Jeans is a Swedish denim brand founded in 2001 that produces 100% organic cotton denim collections for more than 50 countries. The company prioritizes environmental and social sustainability through its free repair services, resale of secondhand trade-in jeans and by paying its garment workers a living wage. Since 2016, Nudie Jeans’ stakeholders have verified that 3,400 workers have been provided additional payments to ensure a living wage. These payments expanded in 2019 to include workers employed in the spinning mills, knitting and processing units. This has the effect of creating a fair trade system throughout its supply chain.

Akola

Akola is a jewelry brand that uplifts Ugandan women by providing empowering job opportunities in Jinja, Uganda. Akola employs nearly 200 Ugandan women. By handcrafting each piece, female workers break free from poverty through fair-paying jobs that help them achieve economic independence. Because of this policy, positive economic impacts reverberate through families and communities.

The women are also provided with a holistic curriculum of programs. The brand offers training programs on leadership, financial literacy and skills to become self-reliant. This brand uses cultural techniques and local and sustainable materials such as upcycled palm leaves, cow horns and agave plants. The impact of Akola is shown by the fact that 66% of Akola-employed women own land or a home, almost 80% of Akola children are enrolled in school and almost 30% of Akola women are in community leadership positions.

These sustainable fashion brands fighting poverty help create solutions in the fashion industry. Supporting fair fashion can help garment workers escape the cycle of poverty.

Giselle Magana
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in the MENAThe Middle East and North Africa, or MENA region, is best known for its strategic location in relation to the lucrative fossil fuel market. Oil and gas have given many developing countries a fast track into wealth, causing rapid urbanization and social stratification. This is especially noticeable around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, in places such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran and Egypt. Now, more than 60% of the population lives in cities, but poverty is heavily concentrated in rural areas. Given the push to transition to renewable energy and the disaster potential posed by sea-level rise and other climate changes, sustainability in the MENA region is critical.

Recovery from Economic Crisis

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has started a significant economic downturn in this region. During the start of the pandemic and resulting financial crisis, the price of oil dropped sharply, even falling below $0 per barrel. This had a dramatic, negative effect on the overall economy and hinders the region’s ability to recover effectively.

In past financial crises like this one, carbon emissions routinely decreased, especially in 2009 by approximately 1.4%. In 2010, the decreases were more than offset, with emissions showing a growth of around 5.4%. An article published in Nature noted that during the COVID-19 lockdown measures global CO2 emissions decreased by 17%.

Programs for Sustainability in the MENA Region

This large decrease in emissions presents an opportunity to work toward sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. One way is by designating the financial relief and stimulus money to restart the economy to projects such as the Egyptian Pollution Abatement Programme (EPAP) which funds environmentally friendly services and projects. They are currently developing more sustainable fuel, funding hazardous waste management efforts and supporting various other technological innovations to reduce pollution. Similar programs exist in Lebanon and several other nations.

Ideally, these programs and other emerging jobs in green technology will more than replace any jobs lost from the oil and gas industry and increase opportunities for employment outside the agricultural sector. Non-farming activities in the water-constrained MENA region, reduce poverty, according to a study conducted by senior economists at the World Bank Group.

Alternatively, there are other initiatives to invest in sustainable land management practices. These could increase the profitability of work in the agricultural sector and lower the risk of poor weather leading to extreme poverty. For example, the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) program in Morocco aimed to diversify coastal economic activities in low-income areas. They encouraged algae cultivation and ecotourism in addition to normal fishing and farming. This made the community more resilient to potential unforeseen circumstances.

Looking Forward

In recovery from a crisis, the priority is usually to return to normal, but that kind of thinking sets back long-term goals that could greatly improve the quality of life and technological sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa. As another World Bank Blog article says: “Thinking ahead, therefore, the urgent focus on short-term needs should not overlook opportunities to achieve other longer-term goals (and avoid making longer-term goals even more challenging).”

– Anika Ledina
Photo: Flickr

South American Clothing Brands
Many young entrepreneurs in South America have employed local craftsmanship and design to create beautiful garments under ethical circumstances. These three sustainable South American clothing brands are not only exclusively elevating the fashion industry in the region, but are also providing jobs to locals.

VOZ – Santiago, Chile

The first of the South American clothing brands is VOZ, which is located in Santiago, Chile. This clothing brand’s main premise of employing Mapuche artisans is to create and design the garments. VOZ respects indigenous traditions and ancestral weaving techniques. As a result, it has become a pioneer brand in the region with ethical and sustainable business practices.

The designs are a product of collaborative and educational workshops for Mapuche women. In addition, VOZ has high-quality standards and sustainable materials. Furthermore, VOZ ethically and locally sources raw materials and fabrics from Temuco, Chile. These materials make sleek and elegant outfits for women. The entire supply chain employs Chilean work through this approach. Thus, local artisans are involved in the manufacturing procedure and the design processes of VOZ collections.

VOZ employed over 100 women artisans in its supply chain as of 2021. Additionally, these women have improved their quality of life as the brand pays them ethical and dignified wages. The CEO and founder of VOZ said, “A lot of brilliant women have not had the access provided to other Chileans, and this especially affects the way in which they can support their families. Offering a training program to these talented and motivated women is game-changing to the people here, and has a positive impact on the local economy.”

NIDO – Buenos Aires, Argentina

This slow fashion brand creates beautiful knitwear crafted from local sustainable wool. Additionally, this wool comes from the provinces of Chubut and Patagonia. Argentine weavers from the provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba make NIDO’s clothes. The merino wool is hand-dyed and woven in spinning wheels.

NIDO strives to maintain a personal link with the artisans and weavers, as most women working for the brand come from vulnerable poverty situations. Additionally, NIDO grants them a craft to make a living and earn a fair wage for their work. In this way, the brand manifests itself against fast fashion supply chains that create their clothing in sweatshops.

NIDO manages to employ artisans who receive fair salaries by charging an honest price for their sweaters and blankets. Thus, it has become a pioneer brand in Argentina that maintains an ethical supply chain. The company launched the school of textile crafts in Buenos Aires in 2016. It trained more artisans in vulnerable conditions and spreading traditional Argentine weaving techniques to younger generations.

Artemera – Asunción, Paraguay

Artemera is a new sustainable clothing brand that provides feminine clothing for women and girls. It has now expanded its collections for men as well. Artemera has made 100% artisanal garments with colorful Paraguayan motifs and textiles since 2016. Furthermore, local artisans hand-make collections, while founder Luciana Abente creates the designs.

While the brand started by exclusively making t-shirts inspired by national folklore, art and customs, the brand has now broadened its line to include pants, dresses and sandals with excellent quality ideal for the hot tropical climate. Moreover, one can attribute Artemera’s uniqueness in design to its quick success among locals and foreigners alike.

Artemera has donated a significant amount of revenue to social and environmental projects, such as the #ConservemosLoNuestro campaign. This business committed itself to a reforestation campaign in the Morombí national reserve in Eastern Paraguay, which is home to more than 60 endangered species. Furthermore, this collaboration protects forest resources and promotes tourism in the region.

These three sustainable South American clothing brands have significantly improved the lives of women and the economy. These companies have provided jobs for locals who are living in impoverished areas. Furthermore, the companies hope to expand their reach for the future.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Teaching Women Biointensive Agriculture
Kilili Self Help Project (KSHP) helps spread sustainable agriculture education to Kenyan farmers, most of whom are women. KSHP is a grassroots 501(c)(3) organization that is teaching Kenyan women biointensive agriculture. Millions of Kenyans struggle with hunger and food security. Many poor communities rely on small-scale farms for income and food for their families. Only about 20% of  Kenya’s dry land is suitable for farming and the population continues to grow by 1 million every year. As a result, Kenyan farmers are unable to keep up with demand.

Female Kenyan Farmers

Since 2008, all of the Kilili Self Help Project’s funding has gone towards the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya (G-BIACK). Biointensive agriculture is a simple and sustainable farming technique that allows farmers to produce a maximum harvest on a minimum amount of land. The World Bank estimates that up to 80% of Kenyan farmers are women. Men leave their wives in full control of the family farm. This is a result of them finding jobs elsewhere. KSHP and G-BIACK focus on empowering women who are struggling to feed their families.

Table Banking

Teaching women biointensive agriculture in Kenya is very important. Once a week, the group of women meets for “table banking.” This is apart from learning the GROW BIOINTENSIVE method. Each group member contributes 20 cents. The group then gives the sum of the contributions to one woman. The recipient spends the money on anything they want to help their family. The next week the recipient contributes their 20 cents to a different woman to do the same. G-BIACK  shares and spreads all of its teachings. This benefits more farmers and ultimately helps reduce poverty in rural Kenyan communities.

Farming’s Manual Labor

One of the challenges of traditional farming is how physically demanding manual labor can be. The GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center typically teaches women well into their 60s and even in their 90s. Many of them sing happily together as they learn. The GROW BIOINTENSIVE method is gentle on aging bodies. This adds to the sustainability of the technique. Proper digging uses body weight, gravity and a back and forth rocking motion to push the shovel into the ground. The process requires little to no force. John Jeavons trademarked the GROW BIOINTENSIVE farming method. He refined the “double-digging” step in soil preparation. This loosens and inflates the soil 24 inches down from the surface.

The deeper digging technique allows plants to extend their roots twice as far into the earth. Roots that extend deeper can reach more nutrients and water. This, in turn, produces a two to six-time higher yield. This technique uses a fraction of the space that farmers typically use in traditional agriculture.

Less is More

Jeavons believes, “In these days of difficult financial challenges globally, being able to do a lot with a little is the name of the game.” The Kilili Self Help Project and the GROW BIOINTENSIVE Agriculture Center of Kenya have empowered women and helped over 200,000 families become self-reliant. Families practicing biointensive agriculture no longer have to go to bed hungry. Farmers are able to sell extra crops for income. They also spread their knowledge throughout rural Kenyan communities. Increased biointensive agriculture directly decreases poverty. Teaching women biointensive agriculture and promoting it to other farmers also increases community health and food security.

Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr

renewable energy sources in VietnamOn November 25, 2015, the Vietnamese government adopted the Renewable Energy Development Strategy by 2030 with an outlook to 2050, in effect approving renewable energy as a viable and necessary plan. At its core, the strategy shifts Vietnam’s energy policy from focusing on fossil fuels to renewable energy by setting specific goals. After five years, the strategy has resulted in some profound successes: renewable energy sources in Vietnam have gone from non-existent to growingly important.

Renewable Energy Sources in Vietnam

The main driver of this shift comes from Vietnamese electricity demand outpacing its supply. Due to Vietnam’s incredible economic growth, its energy needs have grown significantly. For example, in 2020, Vietnamese electricity needs were 7.5% higher than they were in 2019. Overall, its electricity demand has increased by an average of 10% per year for the last five years.

Vietnam’s Plans for Renewable Energy

The 2004 Electricity Law is the prime legislation governing Vietnam’s energy sector. The Electricity Law requires the establishment of national power development master plans for 10-year periods. As the law instructed, the Vietnamese government released its National Power Development Plan for 2011 to 2020 in 2011. One can sum up the plan’s goals as securing Vietnam’s energy needs, improving connectivity in rural areas and increasing the national reliance on renewable sources of energy. The plan estimated that $150 billion in renewable energy investment was necessary to meet Vietnam’s rising energy demand.

The Vietnamese government, in a bid to promote the goals set out in this plan, issued a decision in 2015, approving Vietnam’s renewable energy development strategy up until 2030. In 2016, the government further revised it. The revised version guaranteed that 10% of the Vietnamese energy (excluding hydropower electricity) would come from renewables. The decision reassured the government’s commitment to a reduction of coal-fired energy.

In addition to issuing guarantees, it also laid out some new incentive-based policies to promote investment in the renewable energy sector. For example, it promises:

  • Import duty relief on imported materials used for renewable energy projects
  • A reduced corporate tax rate for companies working on renewable energy production
  • Land use incentives such as reduced or waived fees

Improvements and Progress in the Energy Sector

As a result of these plans and strategies, Vietnam has made significant inroads in increasing wind and solar energy contributions to its overall grid. In 2014, solar, wind and biomass gasification made up only about one-third of 1% of the country’s total installed capacity. Fast forward five years and these renewable energies now make up about 10% of the total energy supply.

In addition to developing solar and wind power, hydropower is already a renewable energy source that constitutes a substantial component of Vietnam’s energy sector. In 2019, it accounted for 46% of the electricity mix.

The government expects to build on this success by announcing the new 10-year National Power Development Plan 2021-2030 which will lay out the next steps and policies to further entrench renewable energy. The government has set renewable energy targets of 15-20% of total energy share by 2030 and 25-30% by 2045.

Even so, expectations have determined that coal will continue to be the dominant source of energy in the country. Although solar and wind power are a growing share of Vietnamese energy production, they have yet to grow faster than energy demand. Additionally, wind and solar energy are dependant on weather conditions and therefore only present intermittent solutions.

The Limitations of Hydropower

Additionally, although hydropower does generate more power than coal, its growth potential is stunted. Hydropower in Vietnam is mostly reliant on the Mekong-Delta, a river that many countries have access to. As a result, it is vulnerable to how other nation-states utilize the river with infrastructure projects that restrict the river’s flow and intensity. Hydropower projects are inherently limited because the government has only so much river access.

Meanwhile, coal presents a cheap and short-term solution to its supply deficit problem. In 2019, coal was 36% of Vietnam’s energy mix and is expected to remain around that proportion for the new National Power Development Plan 2021-2030.

The US as an Invaluable Partner

The United States is proving to be an invaluable partner in Vietnam’s transition to renewable energy as it has provided support, investment and guidance to the Vietnamese government. Specifically, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed to multiple projects to help Vietnam’s transition. These projects include:

  • Low Emission Energy Program (I): Providing support to the government in developing and implementing long-term renewable energy strategies (2015-2021, $16 million)
  • Low Emission Energy Program (II): Further support the government in transitioning to renewable energies (2020-2025, $36.25 million)
  • Urban Energy Security: Working with Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh cities to improve enabling environments for distributed energy deployment, mobilizing private investment and supporting the government in adopting innovative energy solutions (2019-2023, $14 million).

Renewable Energy Transition Progress

Vietnam still has a long way to go before renewable energy governs most of its energy sector. Still, it has made significant progress toward that goal. Renewable energy sources in Vietnam are growingly significant in energy policies and are a sustainable answer to electricity needs in developing countries.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Liquid Petroleum GasIn North Darfur, a region of Sudan, 90% of families use wood and charcoal to stay warm and cook meals. Burning wood and charcoal, however, has several negative effects. Practical Action, an international development organization, has partnered with the Women’s Developmental Association to provide these families with liquid petroleum gas stoves, which are cleaner and more efficient. The Low Smoke Stoves Project has been ongoing since 2014, significantly improving the lives of families in the Darfur region.

Negative Effects of Burning Wood and Charcoal

  • It hurts the environment by causing pollution and deforestation.
  • It produces a lot of smoke indoors, which can cause infections and illnesses.
  • The materials are expensive to buy, putting a financial burden on poor families.

Wood and charcoal produce a lot of smoke when burned, contributing to bad air quality and causing a variety of health issues that mainly affect the women and children in the home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, wood smoke causes particle pollution and releases pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The particle pollution caused by wood smoke can cause eye infections, chest infections and other illnesses that can be expensive to treat. Deforestation is also an issue in regions that rely heavily on firewood.

Other than the environmental and health concerns associated with burning wood and charcoal, there is also the financial burden it places on families. The materials are expensive to buy and do not cook efficiently. Women have to spend long amounts of time cooking instead of using their time for education and development.

Benefits of Liquid Petroleum Gas Stoves

Liquid petroleum gas stoves have a lot of benefits over traditional cooking methods with wood or charcoal. They produce less smoke and other pollutants, improving air quality and reducing infections and other illnesses in poor families. The stoves are more fuel-efficient, saving families 65% on their monthly bills. Liquid petroleum gas stoves also cook faster, giving women more time to engage in education and development.

Practical Action’s Low Smoke Stoves Project

Practical Action’s ongoing Low Smoke Stoves Project aims to educate regional communities about the dangers of burning wood and charcoal as well as replace those methods with more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient liquid petroleum gas stoves. The organization, partnered with the Women’s Development Association, has already placed 12,080 liquid petroleum gas stoves into homes in the North Darfur region. Since the beginning of the project, the area had improved air quality, less deforestation and lower carbon emissions.

This program works by giving eligible households a microloan to help them buy a liquid petroleum gas stove. While there is an initial cost, the stoves are more fuel and time-efficient so they quickly pay for themselves with the savings they produce. The stoves not only help improve the quality of life for families in North Darfur, but they also have long-term economic benefits, thus helping to lift people out of poverty.

–  Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr