SDG Goal 16 in Germany
With an index score of 80.8, Germany ranks fifth among all U.N. member states for progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The strategies and efforts for SDG Goal 16 in Germany, particularly help it to stand out as an international spearhead for sustainable development.

What is SDG Goal 16?

SDG Goal 16 calls for countries to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Global progress is measured via the Sustainable Development Report, which includes the following indicators for SDG Goal 16:

  • Homicide rates
  • Percentage of unsentenced detainees in the prison population
  • Percentage of population who feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live
  • Qualitative assessment of property rights
  • Percentage of children younger than age 5 with birth registrations
  • Corruption Perception Index
  • Percentage of population ages 5 to 14 involved in child labor
  • Exports of major conventional weapons
  • Press Freedom Index
  • Persons held in prison

For all but one of these indicators, Germany is on track to maintain SDG Goal 16 achievement, rendering its progress towards this goal substantial. According to the German Federal Association for Sustainability, the country has adopted several measures to ensure the achievement of SDG Goal 16 in Germany. Moreover, Germany’s progress may allow it to serve as a model for other U.N. member states.

A Closer Look

Germany’s role on the world stage has been critical towards fulfilling the SDGs by 2030. The country’s National Sustainability Strategy of 2016 has been central to its achievements thus far. The strategy covers additional goals for development cooperation and outlines a long-term process of sustainable development. Although originally introduced by the German government in 2002, the country revised its strategy in 2016 to align with the SDGs. Now, Germany regularly revisits its principles and parameters every two years.

Updating the National Sustainability Strategy in 2018 was especially effective for SDG Goal 16 in Germany. The changes introduced objectives that refocused international development and institution-building. Some of the panel’s recommendations included increased accountability and transparency in international financial institutions. Further recommendations also included support for sustainable practices, internationally. Importantly, the peer review also called for the incorporation of sustainable development in curricula throughout all levels of the education systems. This demonstrates Germany’s clear commitment to building sustainable, inclusive institutions for the long-term.

Notably, the indicator trends for SDG Goal 16 in Germany also suggest positive outcomes in sustainable development and institution-building. The country has a Press Freedom Index of 14.60 and a Property Rights value of 5.31. The country also achieved a long-term objective in 2018, i.e., 100% of children born (younger than age 5) had their births registered with the relevant national civil authorities.

Recent Updates

Germany’s federal government intends to further update its National Sustainability Strategy in 2020, taking into account the expert advice from another peer review. As for the SDG Goal 16 indicators, exports of major conventional weapons is an area in need of improvement for Germany — given the country’s index of 2.04 in 2019. German arms exports increased by 65% during that year, whereas the previous three years saw consistent decreases.

Despite this, Germany remains “committed to peace and justice worldwide” when promoting sustainable development practices. From protecting human rights to forwarding inclusive governance, the country remains on track for achieving SDG Goal 16 by the year 2030.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Egypt
Innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt have taken a sustainable and decentralized form in the last four years. Through local initiatives and collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt has incorporated social welfare and development programs aimed at improving the standard of living in its poorest governorates and providing a permanent path out of poverty for future generations.

With Egypt’s poverty rate rising to 5% in 2019, how exactly does Egypt plan to have a “competitive, balanced, diversified, and knowledge based economy” that would eliminate poverty by 2030?

UNDP Sustainable Development Strategies

One significant innovation in poverty eradication in Egypt is the UNDP’s adoption of a social entrepreneurial and minority centralized model. Through partnerships with Egypt’s public sector, private companies and civil society, the UNDP not only helped prioritize economic development but also made women, children and disabled people a focal point.

  1. The GSER Program: The GSER program under the Misr El-Kheir Foundation, a nonprofit development institution in Egypt, organizes social innovation camps with UNDP’s support. Youth from all parts of Egypt co-scheme solutions to improve the livelihoods in Fayoum’s fishing community, one of Egypt’s poorest governorates. Accomplishments include a redesigned shrimp peeling table for fishermen’s wives, which advanced hygiene and shell quality in Fayoum.
  2. The IBM Academic Initiative: The IBM Academic Initiative invested $70 million with the objective of providing over 25 million Africans free digital skills training and launching one of its regional offices in Egypt. UNDP’s contributions will help Egypt cultivate a STEM-oriented workforce through access to IBM’s cutting edge tools and course material.
  3. The Game Changer Fellowship: The Game Changer Fellowship is a one-year program that provides incubation support to aspiring Egyptian game designers through a partnership between UNDP Egypt and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston, U.S.A. This has enabled Egypt’s youth to uniquely approach development challenges by stimulating behavior change. Given that 84% of Egypt’s unemployment rate comprises young men and women, such initiatives are imperative in enhancing human capital in order to prevent an underdeveloped workforce.
  4. The Mobile Ramp App: The Mobile Ramp App helps Egypt’s disabled community lead easier, more integrated lives. UNDP partnered with Fab Lab Egypt and the Misr El-Kheir Foundation to launch a media campaign that promotes and teaches sign language as well as maps out locations with available ramps.

J-PAL’s (Abdul Latif Jamil Poverty Action Lab) Innovative Research

Despite these innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, reports determined that there were 32.5% of Egyptian citizens living below the poverty line in 2019. According to J-PAL, a global research center aiming to reduce poverty, this extreme poverty figure of 32.5% indicates that the policies and programs designed to alleviate Egypt’s poverty are not as effective as they could be.

In order to achieve successful innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, J-PAL’s MIT branch is launching a research center at the American University in Cairo. Through research and professional training to inform evidence-based policies and engage governments and relevant NGOs, Egypt will establish a culture of empirical policy making so that it can adequately evaluate the efficacy of its plans. 

Institutionalizing Social Innovation and Sustainable Development

While international efforts facilitate innovations in poverty eradication in Egypt, government and grassroots organizations in Egypt have adopted technological and sustainable based solutions to economic problems through their own localized projects and findings.

  1. The Egyptian Government: The Egyptian government is investing EGP 47bn ($3 billion) to Upper Egypt governorates in its 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a 50% increase from 2019, representing 25% of total government investments.
  2. The Takaful and Karama Program: The Takaful and Karama program provides income support to the poor through a conditional and unconditional cash transfer program that aims to increase food consumption and necessary healthcare. Nevin al Qabbaj, the Social Solidarity Minister, reported that by 2020 around 2.5 million Egyptian families have benefited from the program.
  3. SEKEM: SEKEM, an Egyptian sustainable development organization, is working with the Egyptian government to implement Egypt Vision 2030. The plan includes 12 “pillars” targeting economic development, social justice, innovative research, education, health and the environment. Additionally, along with local NGOs, SEKEM has revitalized Egypt’s desert land and developed its agricultural businesses using biodynamic methods.

Egypt’s ability to mitigate poverty across all demographics using sustainable, innovative and ethical practices is testimony to its economic and cultural prosperity. Egypt’s innovations in poverty eradication are unique in that they exemplify the duality of individual, entrepreneurial growth in the private sphere and collective, righteous leadership in the public sphere.

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

sustainable development in the philippines
The Federation of Peoples Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC) is a group of 154 cooperatives and civil society organizations in the Philippines — focused on improving the lives of marginalized people. They provide financial support, technical training and partnership opportunities to local business enterprises to promote self-reliant, sustainable and peaceful communities.

Origins of the FPSDC

The FPSDC grew out of the Partnership for Development Assistance in the Philippines Incorporated (PDAP) and its Central Loan Fund (CLF). Filipino and Canadian NGOs established the PDAP in 1986 to aid local organizations in the development of autonomous communities of marginalized peoples in the Philippines. The CLF facilitated financial assistance relationships among PDAP member organizations. In 1998, 21 PDAP NGOs and cooperatives expanded the CLF to create the FPSDC.

The 4Ps

The FPSDC names “People, Planet, Prosperity and Peace” as the canons of sustainable development in the Philippines. Their efforts focus on providing local businesses fair market access and sustainable growth opportunities to promote local prosperity and instigate social change — which in turn, engenders peaceful communities and inter-community relationships. The FPSDC gives member organizations the tools to develop self-reliant economic and social support within marginalized communities in the Philippines.

FPSDC Services & Digital Presence

FPSDC offers five unique services. The cooperative housing service promotes sustainable development in the Philippines through the construction of affordable and environmentally-conscious homes, in food-secure communities.  The product distribution and marketing service helps local businesses enter competitive markets and encourages their commitment to environmental and social consciousness. The federation places particular emphasis on expanding opportunities for farms like Farms and Cottages, which the FPSDC helped to introduce to 457 supermarkets in Manila.

The socialized credit service offers a variety of loans to help businesses committed to job creation and sustainable development in the Philippines generate and reinvest money. The investment facility service manages organizations’ investments in marginalized communities. Their main goal is to help optimize wealth generation for both the financiers and the communities.  Finally, the institution-building service helps FPSDC organizations expand their institutions and their influence in marginalized Filipino communities.

In conjunction with the RedRoot Artists Cooperative and the Cooperative Development Authority, the FPSDC created a website to disseminate products made by cooperatives in the Philippines. E-cooptrade.coop, for example, markets primarily locally produced and organic products. The website also promotes local social organizations.

FPSDC Co-op Ville

The FPSDC continues to build a cooperative housing development in Barangay Mambuaya Cagayan de Oro City as a resettlement community for victims of Typhoon Sendong. A massive typhoon struck the Philippines in 2011 from December 16 to 18 — killing more than 1,200 people and leaving more than 60,000 homeless. The FPSDC Co-op Ville houses 130 families on 2.5 hectares of land in addition to a multipurpose hall, courtyard, health center and education center. The federation is now building a bed and breakfast in the village to serve as a self-reliant business opportunity for the community.

Empowering Communities to Prosper

The FPSDC organizes, connects and offers financial and marketing support to enterprises committed to the sustainable development of marginalized communities, in the Philippines. The opportunities provided by the federation put power in the hands of the people it serves. These opportunities then foster independent, prosperous and sustainable communities among the most disadvantaged people in the Philippines.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

  Microgrid technology in African countriesIf you take a trip to Google Earth’s nighttime view of the world, you’ll see areas like the United States, Europe and Japan bursting with light. In these countries, electricity freely flows through a massive electrical grid, whirring through power plants and millions of electrical wires. Alternatively, satellite images of the African continent’s 54 countries show vast dark areas with a few scattered hotspots. However, this unequal spread of electrification may change in the near future. Microgrid technology in African countries is powering thousands of community’s electrical needs. The African continent’s electrification illustrates the broader trend of sustainable energy’s emergence in the developing world.

What is Microgrid Technology?

In simple terms, microgrid technology is a decentralized version of the massive electrical grids that exist in most developed nations. More definitively, a microgrid is “a local energy grid with control capability” that can work autonomously to both produce and supply power to small communities. The autonomy of microgrids limits the negative aspects of larger power grids, such as rolling blackouts.

In developed countries, certain essential businesses use microgrids to ensure a stable power source. For example, hospitals use microgrids in case a natural disaster would cut off power to large scale power grids. In many developing nations, governments are eagerly implementing microgrid technology in areas without pre-existing infrastructure.

Another benefit of microgrid technology is the easy integration of renewable energy sources. Presently, companies building microgrids in developing nations tend to rely on solar or wind energy due to their growing cost-efficiency. Peter Ganz, who studied microgrids through his master’s program in environmental management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and currently works as Senior Energy Storage Analyst at EDF Renewables North America, said that “The idea that many businesses have in developing countries is to make these microgrids sustainable. This is so that, as developing countries gain energy access, they’re not stuck with this large fossil-reliant grid that we’re dealing with here in the United States, the EU and other large, developed nations.”

Africa’s Need for Electricity

Many companies like PowerGen, Energicity and Tesvolt are installing microgrids in several African nations to power homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. Many regions of Africa provide the ideal environment for sustainable solar energy. In addition, the overall cost of installing microgrids has dropped an estimated 25 to 30% since 2014.

Centering on Africa for microgrid technology development is necessary for worldwide electrification. Today, 13% of the world’s population does not have access to electricity. In particular, sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost two-thirds of the world’s population without power.

In the mass movements for sustainable energy around the world, developing nations without existing electricity infrastructure see some advantages. Due to this lack of infrastructure, developing communities can begin to electrify local homes, businesses, and services with renewable sources. The integration of renewable energy into the grid will effectively prevent any future need to rely on fossil fuels.

PowerGen’s Work in African Nations

Founded in 2011, PowerGen is one of the main organizations serving on the frontlines of microgrid development in African nations. With a mission striving to provide “cleaner, smarter” and “decentralized” energy to Africa, PowerGen has installed sustainable energy utilities for more than 50,000 Africans who previously lacked electricity. The organization is far-reaching, deploying microgrids in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Benin and Niger. PowerGen has also set up offices and planned projects in several other African countries The company also develops commercial and industrial (C&I) solar power for more widescale, sustainable electricity.

According to a statement by PowerGen CEO Sam Slaughter, the organization’s microgrids “typically serve 100-500 connections” and “have a geographic radius under one kilometer.” The grids can power anything running off electricity including refrigerators, TVs, electric cars and mobile phones. The payment is affordable for African users who use an easy “pay-as-you-go” system via “mobile money telecoms services” or cash.

PowerGen hopes to expand energy access to one million more Africans by 2025. One of the biggest challenges in installing new power in the continent is government cooperation and acceptance of microgrids, but the organization is actively working to broaden its microgrid coverage everywhere.

Importance of Smart Power in Developing Nations

In the mass movements for sustainable energy around the world, developing nations are actually at an advantage; since many developing communities have no or unreliable access to electricity, they can begin their energy journey with renewable sources, effectively cutting off reliance on fossil fuels in the future.

“Our electric grid is very much the product of a time before renewables when most, if not all, generation was from carbon-intensive fossil fuels,” said Ganz. “Now that we have developed technologies that are carbon-free or carbon-neutral, it would be great to help these [developing] countries achieve the levels of grid resiliency and electric reliability that we [in developed countries] have without the carbon intensity.”

– Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

Ecobricks Turning Waste Into InfrastructureAs the population grows, environmentally-friendly building materials are becoming more and more necessary. Ecobricks are just that. Ecobricks are reusable building bricks that are made by packing clean, non-recyclables (including single-use plastics and styrofoam, which can be toxic to the environment) into a plastic bottle. The bottles are then used to build things such as furniture, walls and buildings. Ecobricks are a mechanism of turning waste into infrastructure.

Ideally, a long-term solution to protect the environment would require a massive decrease in global production and the use of single-use plastic. Ecobricks do not offer a solution to this problem; however, they are an efficient short-term solution for plastics that already exist or are currently in production. In addition to upcycling plastic, the process of making Ecobricks is far better for the environment than the brick and cinder block. This makes putting industries in developing countries a cheaper option for building material.

Ecobricks In Latin America

Communities around the world are turning to Ecobricks as an efficient and responsible option for building infrastructure affordably. Hug it Forward is an organization working in Latin America that focuses its attention on access to education and how modern consumer culture generates billions of tons of inorganic waste on a yearly basis.

The organization uses Ecobricks as a solution to both by constructing bottle classrooms with the materials. These classrooms provide safe and comfortable learning environments at a lower price than if they were to be strictly brick and mortar structures, and it is more environmentally-friendly. Hug it Forward believes that working with communities to implement these classrooms is an investment in the community’s resilience and self-empowerment.

Ecobricks in Africa

Ecobricks are building infrastructure in Africa. Greyton, a township in South Africa, is the country’s first transition initiative in an effort to address the issues many townships face as a result of apartheid and social inequalities. These issues include a lack of affordable housing and effective waste management systems. The goal of this transition initiative is to turn Greyton into an eco-village through projects like creating community gardens and banning plastic bags.

Ecobricks are a huge part of Greyton’s efforts and are being used to build schools, furniture and other necessities. At the same time, they reduce the number of non-recyclables that would make their way to nearby landfills. The township has even started a Trash to Treasure Festival, which is a music festival that increases environmental awareness. At this festival, people make, exchange and even submit Ecobricks to win prizes. After each festival, the Ecobricks are added to Greyton’s infrastructure projects, such as adding an Ecobrick classroom to the town.

Eco-Future

Ecobricks are building resources that are affordable and better for the environment. They provide attainable infrastructure for the communities that need it most. These bricks are an effective short-term solution to the abundant non-recyclables littering the planet. They are an avenue of development for communities around the world. Ecobricks are a sustainable solution that provides resources by turning waste into infrastructure.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity
More than 1 billion people live in areas with water scarcity or the lack of access to freshwater resources. However, current innovations are tackling water scarcity in creative and environmentally friendly ways. Here are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity.

5 Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity

  1. Solar-powered Water Pumps: These pumps use energy from the sun to power electric pumps, which extract water from the ground. The price and technology have evolved in recent years, allowing solar-powered water pumps to be a more affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable solution to water scarcity. Solar panels last approximately 25 years, requiring little maintenance throughout this lifetime. Also, the cost of solar panels that the pumps use has decreased by 80 percent. Solar-powered water pumps are most viable in areas with high solar insolation, particularly, many developing nations in Africa, South America and South Asia. Specifically, solar-powered water pumps have alleviated water scarcity for 40,000 people in Marimanti, Kenya, a country with annual sunshine.
  2. Solar-powered Desalination Units: Desalination technology harnesses energy from the sun and converts seawater into fresh, potable water. A system that Solar Water Solutions, a Finland-based startup, designed produces up to 3,500 liters of water per hour. Additionally, the system does not require batteries or oil-based fuel and it does not impart a large carbon footprint. Additionally, Solar Water Solutions has placed solar-powered desalination units in Kenya and Namibia. The desalination units are providing cheap, clean water to local communities. Additionally, large scale implementation of the technology could help solve water scarcity.
  3. Fog Catchers: Mesh nets trap freshwater from fog and eventually drips into the collection trays. A piping network then carries the water to the village. This system is free, clean and environmentally sustainable. People are using fog catching systems to provide water to communities in Chile, Peru, Ghana, South Africa and more. The largest fog catcher project is on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in southern Morocco.  Every day, about 1,000 people use water that fog captured for everything from drinking to agricultural use. 
  4. Portable Filters: In particular, one Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen, has developed a portable water filter. Lifestraw is a gravity-powered plastic tube, that people can use as a drinking straw. The filtration system eliminates protozoa, bacteria, chemical compounds and dissolved metals. Each Lifestraw can filter up to 4,000 liters of water — enough potable water to last three years for one person. Additionally, this portable filter eliminates the need for single-use plastics and fuel-combustion for water sanitization. Further, LifeStraw has partnered with the World Health Organization and the United Nations to alleviate the shortage of potable water for more than 64 countries, including Haiti, Rwanda and Kenya. 
  5. Drinkable Books: Each page of the drinkable book is a filter that turns raw sewage into potable water. The drinkable book houses silver and/or copper nanoparticles that kill bacteria when water passes through it. Motivated by a desire to create a water filtration system that uses greener chemistry, researchers designed the tool at Carnegie Mellon University. Field trials have shown that the drinkable book can eliminate 99 percent of bacteria in water. At the 25 contaminated water sources in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti and Bangladesh, these trials have been promising enough that people can distribute the drinkable book commercially. Each book holds enough filtration sheets to filter clean water for four years.

For the millions of people across the globe lacking access to clean water, these are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity. Technology like these has the potential to make a substantial difference in the world in terms of sustainable solutions for sanitation and access to water.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

Technological Sustainability
Technological innovations are changing the world. These innovations enable easier and more sustainable ways to support the Earth. Ensuring sustainable development includes technological innovations that improve the overall well-being of humans. It also requires a broad knowledge of technologies that can help advance people and organizations within the system. In order to create technological innovations for sustainability, there has to be a well-rounded understanding of the system. Once one has absorbed this knowledge, then they can create different technologies. These types of technologies include devices, methods, processes and actual practices. Technological innovations affect local communities in global areas as well.

Sustainable Development Goals

Technology is boosting the number of Sustainable Development Goals. This is creating solutions for social, economic and environmental threats. People have created many medical solutions through technological innovations. According to UNCTAD’s 2018 Technology and Innovations report, data analysis is aiding the response to disease outbreaks in different countries. In developing countries, some are using 3D printers to make custom-built prosthetic limbs for a cheap price.

Technological Innovation Devices

There are many other technological innovations that are promoting goals for the development of sustainability as well. Namely, one of those innovations includes the Zéphyr. Karen Assaraf, Julie Dautel and Cédric Tomissi created the Zéphyr, which acts as an eco-friendly generator. The device only uses water to inflate and capture solar energy from 165 feet in the air. Its purpose is to bring power to places that natural disasters have struck. In addition, the Groasis Waterboxx planting device is another technological innovation for sustainability. Pieter Hoff created the device which attempts to make growing crops in the desert possible and more efficient. It takes 90 percent less water than its traditional growing counterpart and people can use it in some extreme climates.

Initiatives for a Sustainable World

Along with technological innovations, there are also initiatives in place to create resources for a sustainable world. ENGIE Insight is a sustainable resource initiative working with businesses to reduce environmental impacts. ENGIE provides businesses with technology to support the reduction of their carbon footprint. So far ENGIE has worked with Gamestop and AMTRAK to assist in the creation of practices that reduce harm to the environment.

Additionally, in March 2018, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched its Industrial Development Report. This report promotes industrial development and argues that mass consumption of manufacturers will set a “virtuous circle of industrial development – comprising income creation, demand diversification and massification of consumption.” The report also acknowledges that manufacturing is a key provider of quality goods and has a positive impact on living standards. Further, this contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals by ensuring the sustainability of the environment.

Technological advances that support sustainability are very important and are a part of the solution to change the world for the better. As the world becomes more sustainable, poor and marginalized communities should experience increased opportunities. In addition, improving sustainability through technology is impactful beyond the restraints of socioeconomic status. It all starts with technological innovations that require efforts from the people and political powers to set in motion.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Modern Irrigation Technology in Turkmenistan
Large swathes of the world still rely on irrigation infrastructure as an integral component of agricultural production. According to the U.N. World Water Development Report of 2015, a global average of 70 percent of water use goes towards agriculture, encompassing both modern and traditional irrigation technology methods. Although modern irrigation technology continues to progress, historical and geographical circumstances remain impediments to the sustainability and efficiency of irrigation in some regions — including Turkmenistan.

The experience of the 20th century left the country with a decaying, unsustainable irrigation system, prompting a scholarly investigation into the subject. However, today, government initiatives — bolstered by international support —  have resulted in creative solutions to the country’s modern irrigation technology crisis.

Soviet Mismanagement

Turkmenistan, which attained independence from the USSR in 1991, lies at the intersection of West, Central and South Asia. Although agricultural land comprises 72 percent of Turkmenistan’s terrain, only 4.1 of that land is arable, while pasture lands encompass 67.8 percent. Irrigated land comprises 19,950 sq km out of the 469,930 sq km of terrain. As the Kara-Kum desert extends through 80 percent of the territory, the country depends heavily on the Amu Darya river as a water source.

Soviet rule initiated unprecedented changes to Turkmenistan‘s traditional irrigation system, the consequences of which would prove environmentally and economically unsustainable. The country is heavily dependent on the Karakum Main Canal, which includes channeled water from the Amu Darya river, leading to waterlogging and salinization. Compounded by poor drainage, this precipitated the abandonment of arable land at a rate of 46,000 hectares per year. The use of unlined irrigation canals and ditches produced loss rates of more than 30 percent, a consequence of neglect by engineers at the design stage.

However, upon independence, Turkmenistan boasted 1.3 million hectares under cultivation, accounting for 40 percent of the GDP. By this time, the clogging of irrigation canals from inadequately drained river sediment became a costly problem that dated equipment and reduced carrying capacity poorly addressed. It also contributed to the formation of uncultivable salt marshes. As of 2007, as much as 73 percent of irrigated land, in excess of 1.6 million hectares, suffered from salinization.

Early Modern Irrigation Technology Strategies

A study published in 2007 proposed several mechanisms by which Turkmenistan could ameliorate the devastation and inefficacy wrought by decades of water overuse and mismanagement. For instance, one proposed solution involves lining ditches with concrete or plastic to mitigate soil salinization, groundwater flooding and waste of water resources. The study also outlined technological advancements in techniques other than furrow irrigation, such as drip, sprinkling and subsoil irrigation. The study’s authors insist that costliness aside, these strategies and technologies would prove highly beneficial, increasing efficient water use, crop productivity and land usage while mitigating environmental harm.

Strategies that the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan and the Ministry of Agriculture successfully developed and implemented primarily concern the growth of cotton and wheat crops. Most significantly, by sowing and concentrating water and fertilizer between ridges and at the bottom of irrigation furrows and by rotating crops each year, irrigation is no longer necessary for draining purposes. Though distinct from the ditch lining proposal of the 2007 study, this strategy appears to combat the same leakage issues effectively. This process may save as much as 130 million cubic meters of water, thus ensuring efficient land and water use. Energy, labor and fertilizer expenditures are likewise more efficient under this system.

Recent Modern Irrigation Technology Strategies

The government of Turkmenistan has not worked on modern irrigation technology initiatives alone, but have involved international collaboration. For instance, a climate-resilient farming initiative for Turkmenistan, under the aegis of the UNDP, produced favorable outcomes. In 2014, a new law incorporated the UNDP’s suggested amendments and revisions to Turkmenistan’s Water Code. The same year, progress in community-based adaptation initiatives resulted in the introduction and development of community-oriented water-collecting techniques, water management strategies and irrigation services.

In another transnational initiative in 2017, specialists from Turkmenistan participated in a seminar on irrigation strategies in Israel that explored techniques Israel has employed in attaining agricultural success despite the harsh topography and arid climate. The subject matter of these seminars ranged from irrigation planning and greenhouse versus open irrigation to the use of drip and sprinkling styles of irrigation (the latter in line with the 2007 study above). The application of these techniques will improve efficiency and mitigate the negative externalities of modern irrigation technology in Turkmenistan. Successful administration of these strategies in Turkmenistan likely will, in the long term, increase crop yield, expedite economic development and reduce poverty in a large part of the population, as the example of Israel demonstrated.

Throughout the 20th century, Soviet irrigation practices in Tajikistan precipitated environmental degradation and economic decline. However, the introduction of modern irrigation technology in Tajikistan since independence has improved the economy and mitigated ecological harm. International cooperation and government initiatives now lay the groundwork for a more efficient, productive and environmentally conscious irrigation system. If efforts persist, the future of agriculture is bright for Tajikistan.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Tourism InitiativesThe United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) notes that tourism is capable of driving high economic status in developing countries. Three of the below initiatives are examples of how sustainable tourism can best support developing communities.  

3 Examples of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

  1. Cambodia’s Phare Circus
    First unveiled in 2013, the Phare Circus has drawn a large tourist and local crowd over the years and has even organized tours and private performances across the world. The stories they showcase through their acts are an authentic look into Khmer history and culture. By telling stories through performance, the circus promotes Cambodian art both domestically and overseas. The Phare Circus is an initiative of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang (PPSA), which translates to The Brightness of the Arts, a nonprofit school founded in 1994 with the mission of helping young people cope with war trauma through art. All students are able to participate for free and can even move on to work for the Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), the parent company of Phare and the Circus. Both the PPSA and the PPSE are true definitions of sustainable tourism. The circus returns 75 percent of profits to the educational program and school, who in turn work on creating employment opportunities for Cambodian artists. Like the circus, Phare’s other social businesses under PPSE, such as the Phare Productions International and the Phare Creative Studio, create a reliable income to sustain the school. 
  2. Hotel Bom Bom on Príncipe Island
    Hotel Bom Bom is a bungalow resort situated on São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located 155 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon. The hotel promotes water and recycling projects launched by the Príncipe Island World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO and invites tourists to take part in these programs. Hotel guests, for example, can participate by exchanging 50 plastic bottles for one “Biosphere Bottle,” a reusable type of water container, which guests can fill up at one of the 13 water stations around the island. In total, 220,000 plastic bottles have been collected since December 2013. Preserving the local environment positively influences the livelihood of the native community.
  3. Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil
    The native land of Prainha do Canto Verde, a coastal village located in the northeastern Brazillian state of Ceará has been threatened by illegal fishing and tourism development projects. As a result, the community decided to create its own tourism council in 1998. Since then, community tourism has come to represent 15 percent of the town’s source of income. Many of the initiatives they offer include “posadas,” or community inns, workshops and crafts, cooking, cultural activities and native fishing. The posadas are a true example of community-based tourism. Local residents offer up a few rooms in their homes to tourists. One posada, “Sol e Mar,” features a restaurant, garden, and six rooms which can accommodate up to 18 guests. Many families that run posadas end up registering with the Ministry of Tourism and joining the community’s council. It is an enriching experience for the locals that also improves living standards within the native community. Additionally, it allows locals to craft tourism activities and opportunities themselves so that there is little risk of endangerment to their culture. Overall, this tourism initiative in Prainha is actively working towards large goals to redistribute income and preserve the surrounding ecosystem of the village.

The Big Picture

When tourists support sustainable tourism, they are actively taking steps to meet locals, hear their experiences first-hand, and participate in greater causes to combat poverty in those regions. Sustainable tourism allows people to make a social impact on the place they are visiting and the initiatives mentioned above are just some of the few that are providing that opportunity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr