Over the past few years, the UNHCR has experimented with the use of green energy technology in developing countries as a way to create sustainable light, heating and jobs for the poor.
In 2013, the organization funded a solar-light and fuel-efficient stoves project called Light Years Ahead for Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad.
Sudanese refugees and Chadian locals were taught how to construct fuel-efficient stoves and then employed to make them for the community. The stoves do not use firewood, preventing deforestation.
The project successfully used green technology to create a functioning economy for impoverished refugees and locals.
This method of humanitarian aid utilizes skills from locals and refugees to create a functioning local economy.
Last year the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs published a paper titled “Humanitarian Innovation” emphasizing the importance of capitalizing on the innovation of impoverished people.
The paper identifies previous approaches to humanitarian aid stressing that historically the UN and other aid organizations use a “top-down” structure.
This structure tends to work in the short-term by depending solely on aid from external actors rather than empowering those in need.
Instead, humanitarian innovation uses a “bottom-up” approach by “recognizing and understanding innovation capacity within communities”, and “putting these communities and local systems at the heart of the innovation process, regardless of where ideas or resources originate.”
This “bottom-up” method has been proven successful, mainly by its high investment value. In 2014, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) announced a $41 million dollar investment in developing countries’ renewable energy projects.
The investments are meant to stimulate local economies by creating markets. The 2015 and 2016 loan qualification criteria for projects in countries is its ability to assist communities by creating jobs, generating income, helping public education and health, improving energy access, innovation, replicability and aligning with government priorities.
Sierra Leone, Samoa, Mali, the Republic of Ecuador, and the Maldives are some of the countries receiving loan investments.
More and more foreign investors are looking at funding renewable energy projects as a financially wise decision. Portfolio diversification allows investors to spread the risk of a project investment failing among less risking investments.
In other words, if a few projects succeed, a few failed projects can still be financially supported. This approach allows investors to safely invest in green energy projects in developing countries without severe risk.
Agricultural project investments, especially, show the potential to revert climate change, supply food for poor communities, and create jobs for locals, creates food security by using farming systems that are more resilient to climate change.
In addition, these investments reduce emissions and increase “agriculture’s potential to capture and sequester atmospheric carbon” which is harmful to the earth’s atmosphere. This agricultural system depends on daily maintenance from locals. Some locals are trained how to farm by green technology programs.
In 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which is part of the UN, and the European Commission invested €5.3 in Malawi, Vietnam and Zambia agricultural sectors to help with the transition into climate-smart agriculture.
Leslie Lipper, Senior Environmental Economist at FAO, says that, “Climate change offers the possibility for large-scale financing that’s directly linked to the agricultural sector to recognize the possibility for this environmental benefit, as well as the traditional agricultural products and markets.”
– Michael Hopek