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What is Food Insecurity?What is Food Insecurity? Food insecurity occurs when a person is consistently unable to get enough food on a day-to-day basis. This epidemic plagues millions across the globe, resulting in malnutrition, chronic hunger and low quality of health. When a person lives with hunger or fear of going hungry, they are considered to be food insecure. It is important to understand why food insecurity happens and what can be done to alleviate it.

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity can be broken down into three aspects. The first is food availability, which means having physical access to a food supply on a consistent basis. The second is food access, which means that a person has the resources, such as money, available to obtain and sufficient amount of food. The third is food utilization, which addresses how a person consumes food and whether or not they use the food available to maintain a nutritious diet. It is important to note that proper sanitation and hygiene practices also contribute to food utilization.

On average, more than 9 million people a year die from global food insecurity. Unfortunately, poverty and food insecurity have long gone hand-in-hand because people living in poverty are less likely to have sufficient resources to buy food or produce their own. Families without the resources to escape extreme poverty are likely unable to escape chronic hunger as well. There are several factors contributing to the large number of people who are food insecure.

  1. The steady growth in human population contributes greatly to the increase in food insecurity. With more people on Earth comes more mouths to feed. The rate in which food is grown simply isn’t able to keep up with the projected population growth.
  2. Another contributing cause of food insecurity is the global water crisis. “Widespread over-pumping and irrigation” are leading to a depletion of water sources needed to produce agriculture and produce. Water reserves in many countries have dropped drastically, directly impacting food supplies in these countries and others.
  3. Recent climate extremes and natural disasters also affect food supplies, ruining communities and the agriculture within them. Climate change has impacted crops, forests and water supplies, ultimately spiking prices in areas that are already affected.

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity impacts individuals, families and communities far and wide. Although the number of people living with hunger has dropped since the 20th century, there are still more than 800 million people in the world without food security. In developing countries, nearly one in six children is malnourished and poor nutrition accounts for almost half of deaths in children under five. While Asia has the highest population of food insecure people, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence with 25 percent of the population living in hunger.

Food insecurity can lead to many health problems if a person is not getting the nutrients they need. Malnutrition is an issue that can affect all aspects of one’s health. While food insecurity directly impacts all these people, it indirectly impacts the whole population. The problem of food insecurity is a product of behaviors that people do every day, and it has the ability to affect people who may not even know it.

Combatting Food Insecurity

Despite a large number of impending causes, there are still actions that can be taken in daily life to contribute to combating food insecurity. Urging the government to make nutrition programs that emphasize nutrition as a priority is one way to help in the fight. Even if someone is not exposed to food insecurity in their personal life, they can still put pressure on the government to make policies that could help people in developing countries fight this epidemic.

There are also a number of programs and nonprofit organizations that rely on donations and aid in order to make a big difference. The World Food Programme and World Health Organization are two examples of charities that devote time and resources to combating malnutrition and hunger. Donating food to a local food bank or volunteering at one are more hands-on ways to make a difference. Of course, an emphasis on foreign aid and public policy are two of the most impactful ways to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time.

While the numbers may seem staggering, there has been a 17 percent decrease in global food insecurity since the 1990s, but with awareness and effort, that number could be improved. There is reason to believe that, given the right tools and commitment, global food insecurity could become a more manageable problem in years to come.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Pixabay

Climate Resilience Project
Located in southeast Africa, Mozambique is home to 29.6 million people and almost 2500 kilometers of coastline. In February of 2000, a heavy rain began to fall that, in the coming months, would irreparably change millions of lives all across Mozambique. The unprecedented amount of rainfall caused all of the rivers that flow through Mozambique into the Indian Ocean to overflow, an event that has never happened in recorded history. Before the end of February, a massive cyclone made landfall in Beira and further inundated farms, businesses and homes in its path. Although the devastation aftermath reverberates into the present, organizations like the Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project works to improve and resolve some of the long-lasting effects.

The 2000 Flood  

The damages and loss of life of the 2000 flood were dreadful. Approximately 800 people died, 650,000 were displaced and 4.5 million were affected. The farmland and those that depend on it were hit the hardest from the disaster. Irrigation systems across the country were severely compromised and almost 1,500 square kilometers of land was destroyed. The repair efforts cost the government of Mozambique a total of $450 million, and the national GDP forecast fell from 7 to 1.5 percent.

Thirteen short years later, the southern region of Mozambique would again have to endure extreme flooding. On all fronts, this flood was not as severe as the 2000 flood, but there were still devastating consequences. The number of fatalities reached 117, 186,000 people were displaced and almost 500,000 were affected. The repair efforts cost a total of $512 million, 30 percent of which was spent solely on the agricultural sector. Up to this day, the people of Mozambique are continuing to recover from the economic impacts of these natural disasters.

Agriculture in Mozambique

Mozambique’s economy relies heavily on the success of its agricultural industry. Over 70 percent of the people living in Mozambique are employed in agriculture and the industry accounts for over 20 percent of the country’s GDP. There are 3.2 million smallholder farms in Mozambique, but only 400 commercial farms and most of these farms are located in flood- and drought-prone areas. In order to better utilize the potential of the industry and reduce poverty, more of these smallholder farms need to transition away from subsistence farming and make the move toward profit-oriented models.

A lack of modern technology in the industry has caused the crop yield to remain stagnant in recent years, leading to food shortages and the stunted growth of children in rural areas. The market is also experiencing volatile pricing, likely as a result of erratic rainfall patterns and the occurrence of droughts.

The government has supported and developed programs to promote agrarian mechanization, the use of new technologies and the modernization of farming practices in an effort to build a more stable and resilient agriculture industry. One such program initiated by the Climate Investment Fund and the African Development Bank Group is the Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project.

The Baixo Limpopo Irrigation and Climate Resilience Project

The Climate Resilience Project began in 2013 and sought to bring economic stability to thousands of farming families in southern Mozambique by investing heavily in modernization of key infrastructure. The floods left all of the irrigation systems that farmers depend on to protect their crops in horrible condition.

The project hoped to add extra drainage to combat flood waters, introduce higher standards for irrigation systems for both farms and roads and develop measures against sea level rise. In addition to the tangible improvements in infrastructure, another key component of the plan was to promote the transition away from smallholder farms toward a more resilient, market-based economy.

A total of $15 million was invested, and the program was aimed at addressing the needs of more than 8000 farming families. Through its five-year lifespan, the project improved over 2000 hectares of land for vegetable production and rehabilitated 30.3 km of roadways. The money invested was able to renovate storage and processing facilities for crops, purchase tractors and other machines for the farmers and build brand new pumping stations equipped with emergency generators in case of flooding.

The Climate Resilience Project’s Long-Lasting Impact 

Almost 500 farmers enrolled in the program and learned how to grow crops that are able to endure the erratic weather conditions in Mozambique. The average increase in income among these farmers is a staggering 150 percent.

Mozambique faces a great deal of uncertainty in the face of climate change. Eighteen years after an unprecedented natural disaster, the Climate Resilience Project has made considerable steps toward making the people of Mozambique more secure and in control of their future than they have ever been, but the coming years will undoubtedly test the strength of such progress.

– John Chapman
Photo: Flickr

Florence
It’s no coincidence that there is a new natural disaster in the news every day around the world — the earthquake and tsunami that just hit Indonesia; Typhoon Mangkhut in East Asia; Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas; monsoon flooding in Bangladesh; and Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle are just a few of the storms that saturate our daily media sources.

Scientists agree that rising sea levels and sea temperatures as a result of climate change are increasing the frequency and intensity of such disasters. Research shows that climate-change-related natural disasters will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries and citizens. These environmental events are just one example of the many ways that sea changes are hurting the world’s poor.

Rising Sea Levels Hurt Agriculture

According to a 2015 World Bank report, “agriculture is one of the most important economic sectors in many poor countries. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most sensitive to climate change, given its dependence on weather conditions: from temperature, sun and rain, through climate-dependent stressors (pests, epidemics, and sea level rise).” This effect is felt by farmers — usually the poorer citizens of poor countries — who find their livelihoods threatened by natural disasters and the heavy flooding that wipes out their crops.

When agriculture suffers, the price of food skyrockets. This change then leaves families who already struggle to acquire adequate nutrition in an even more dire situation. Statistics show that poor families already spend a huge percentage of their income on food, and the World Bank predicts there may be 73 million people pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 from the rising costs of food alone.

Rising Sea Temperatures Breed Disease

The World Bank report says a small rise in sea temperatures “could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5 percent, or more than 150 million more people affected. Diarrhea would be more prevalent, and increased water scarcity would have an effect on water quality and hygiene.”

People who don’t have access to clean water, generally people living in poverty, would be at the greatest risk of developing diseases and they often lack the resources to treat infectious or bug-borne diseases once a family member is infected. The report, which called for climate-informed development, concludes by saying that poverty reduction and climate change can’t be treated separately, as the two go hand-in-hand.

Refugees

There are over 1600 confirmed deaths in Indonesia after an earthquake and tsunami hit the island of Sulawesi on October 5th, 2018. In fact, the U.N. stated that over 190,000 people are in need of urgent help — aftershocks have caused the destruction of 2,000 homes due to mudslides and makeshift refugee camps are being set up. At the most basic level, these events are pushing already poor people into extreme poverty through the destruction of their homes, forcing them to resettle elsewhere.

A 2017 Cornell study found that rising seas could cause 2 billion refugees by the year 2100 (these are truly climate change refugees).  This means that around one-fifth of the world’s population will be made homeless by climate change. The effects will be felt most strongly by people living on coastlines, and those in the world’s poorest countries will suffer the most.

As the seas warm and rise, research shows that the frequency and intensity of these disasters will rise as well, forcing more and more people to abandon their homes.

Sea Changes and the Poor

Rising sea temperatures are a result of global warming’s effects on ocean habitats and the human communities that depend on them.

The authors of an article about how poor countries and fisheries are the most negatively impacted by warming seas found that, “despite having some of the world’s smallest carbon footprints, small island developing states and the world’s least-developed countries will be among the places most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts on marine life.”

Actions for the Future

Andrew King, a climate researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the author of a study from the AGU on global warming, argues that: “The results are a stark example of the inequalities that come with global warming…the richest countries that produced the most emissions are the least affected by heat when average temperatures climb to just 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] while poorer nations bear the brunt of changing local climates and the consequences that come with them.”

There are ideas for how to better protect these places in the future to be prepared for these sea changes. Long term, the solution will be tackling climate change head-on.

-Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Brazil Can't ContinueBrazil is a tropical sought getaway for anyone looking for adventure, fun, and possibly romance. Tourists from all over the world travel to Brazil in order to explore new places and find something new within themselves. For the people of Brazil, however, living in poverty in Brazil can’t continue.

Income inequality

After collecting data, researches have shown that Brazil is a vastly unequal country where inequality affects all corners and areas. Here’s a common example: in terms of ethnicity, or skin color, the people with the lowest rates of income, 78.5 percent, are black or mixed race, while only 20.8 percent are white.

A report by Oxfam International states that in Brazil, the six largest billionaire’s wealth and equity are exactly equal to 100 million poorest Brazilians.

If the labor market were to continue this path as it has for the last twenty years, women and men won’t be earning the same wage until the year 2047, with 2086 being the year where the income of blacks and whites stands equal.

In March 2017 alone, 17 million children under the age of 14, equal to 40.2 percent of the Brazilian population of this age group, live in low-income houses.

In 2017 the number of people living in extreme poverty in Brazil went up by 11.2%, rising from 13.45 million in 2016  to 14.83 million, based on data released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Definition of extreme poverty used in a research was set by the World Bank and is defined as an income per capita below $1.90 a day.

According to IBGE, in 2017, the wealthiest 1% of Brazil’s population earned 36.1 times more than the bottom half of the population, averaging a monthly income of nearly $8,000. The poorest 5% of Brazilians received an average income of around $11 a month comparing to $14 the year before. Income of the wealthiest 1% only dropped 2.3% in the same period.

Even with achievements in poverty reduction beginning to make strides in the past ten years, inequality still sits at a high level. Universal coverage in primary education was one of the biggest accomplishments for Brazil, but Brazil is struggling to improve system outcomes.

Positive trends

A major silver lining is that reducing deforestation in the rainforest and other biomes have made a great deal of impact in terms of progression from ecological damage. Still, Brazil continues to face development challenges such as: finding ways to benefit agricultural growth, environmental protection, and sustainable development.

Brazil played a huge role in formulating climate framework and has ratified the Paris Agreement. In that sense, the country has demonstrated its leadership role in international negotiations on climate change where many other countries came up short. With these significant contributions to climate change within its borders, Brazil has voluntarily committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 36.1% and 38.9% by 2020. Chances are big that Brazil will most likely reach projected numbers sooner.

Poverty in Brazil can’t continue, especially having in mind country’s potential for tourism and the amount of beauty and natural resources it has to offer. There is a solution, and as with most things, it rests in the most obvious place: understanding the scope of the problem and seeing it for what it truly is. Knowing nothing is hopeless because even hopelessness can’t exist without hope existing in a first place. This is how poverty is combatted. This is what the people of Brazil deserve: to hope and truly live.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

Are Natural Disasters Getting Worse?According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the amount of flood and storm catastrophes have risen by 7.4 percent annually in recent decades. With reports of excessive weather damage constantly in the news, it is important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? 

By definition, natural disasters are any form of catastrophic events induced by nature or natural activities of the Earth. Some examples include earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, droughts, tsunamis and tornadoes. The severity of such disasters is typically measured by the number of deaths, economic loss and the nation’s capacity to rebuild.

Many natural disasters are beyond human control. The constant motion of Earth’s tectonic plates initiates earthquakes and tsunamis. Fluctuation in solar radiation infiltrating the atmosphere and oceans give rise to storms in the summer and blizzards in the winter.

However, sometimes natural disasters aren’t so natural and are caused by humanity’s interference with the Earth’s system.

For example, as environmental pollution increases, humans are contributing more energy to the system; which strengthens the likelihood of repeated hazards such as flash floods, bushfires, heatwaves and tropical cyclones. 

So are natural disasters getting worse? The answer is yes. The number of geophysical disasters on Earth’s surface, like earthquakes, landslides and volcano eruptions, have remained steady since the 1970s. But the number of climate-related catastrophes has vastly increased. The amount of damage done to the economy due to these catastrophes has seen a steady upsurge.

There were triple the number of natural disasters between 2000 to 2009 as the number that occurred between 1980 to 1989. A large majority, 80 percent, of this growth is caused by climate-related happenings.

It may no longer be important to ask: Are natural disasters getting worse? But instead: Why are natural catastrophes getting worse?

The scale of disasters has swelled due to higher rates of urbanization, deforestation, environmental degradation and escalating climatic elements like high temperatures, extreme rain and snow and more brutal wind and water storms.

Dangerous events do not need to result in a tragedy. Limiting vulnerability and increasing the ability to respond to these disasters can save lives. Additionally, the continuous evolution of science and technology is making it more possible to anticipate disasters, provide aid quicker and allow for the rebuilding of cities in safer areas.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to KiribatiAlthough Kiribati’s land mass covers 811 square kilometers, its 33 coral atolls are spread over an area the size of the United States and the vast majority rise no higher than three meters above sea level. Kiribati’s small land mass and high fertility rate mean its main centers are severely overcrowded.

Unemployment rates remain high in the island nation and only 15 percent of children attend secondary school. Only two-thirds of the population has access to an improved drinking water source, and less than 40 percent have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Tuberculosis, dengue fever, leprosy and typhoid are major health concerns for Kiribati.

The United Nations lists Kiribati as an “endangered country” because of the dangers it faces from rising sea levels, contaminated fresh water supplies and poor waste management. There is a need for humanitarian aid to Kiribati because of significant development challenges, such as:

  • Limited revenue
  • High cost of delivering basic services, such as education and healthcare, to remote islands
  • Few employment opportunities
  • Climate change

Kiribati’s economy relies on overseas aid, income from fishing licenses and remittances from merchant seamen. Most of Kiribati’s inhabitants are employed in fishing and subsistence farming, but poor soil fertility limits production. Fortunately, new programs are focusing on humanitarian aid to Kiribati.

Caritas Australia implemented The Disaster Response and Preparedness program, funded by AusAID,  in four Pacific Island countries. The three-year initiative expands Kiribati’s capacity to prepare for and respond to disasters. Caritas Australia partnered with the Diocese of Tarawa and Nauru to train local young people to work with communities and raise awareness about the impacts of climate change.

Saltwater contaminates drinking wells and high tides destroy land crops, threatening the food security of communities dependent on subsistence agriculture in Kiribati. The Disaster Response and Preparedness program pairs young people with elders to identify strategies to mitigate these effects.

This initiative has given young people the opportunity to become strong advocates for their small island at international climate change forums around the world. Humanitarian aid to Kiribati has been handed off to the next generation.

– Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in LiberiaAgriculture is the backbone of any economy, but this is particularly true in Liberia. Over 80 percent of Liberians live in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. They rely heavily and primarily on small-scale subsistence farming for their income, nutrition, food and survival.

After decades of internal conflict, sustainable agriculture in Liberia was left unattended by policy and programs, thus very little positive change occurred. Farmlands shrunk, water resources were mismanaged and the distribution and production of food suffered. Liberia was also one of the countries hit the hardest by the Ebola virus, which took a toll on its agriculture.

Set of Challenges

A number of challenges have prevented sustainable agriculture in Liberia. From poor pest management and  lack of technology to the limited use of fertilizer and modern-day cultivation methods, Liberia lacks good quality farm inputs. Furthermore, due to poor road networks and high transport costs, there is little incentive to produce food beyond subsistence levels.

The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project

The West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP-Liberia) is a regional project supported by the World Bank and Japanese Government. It has helped fund the resuscitation of the Central Agricultural Research Institute, which is Liberia’s only agricultural research institute. Badly damaged during the country’s civil wars, this institute will support young Liberian scientists who have come to serve Liberia’s Ministry of Agriculture.

This project, funded by the World Bank, is looking to support sustainable agriculture in Liberia by progressing research in technology, production of adaptive seed adaptive and regulatory policy.

Climate Change Adaptation Agriculture Project

Since climate change has such a huge impact on agriculture, the Climate Change Adaptation Agriculture Project aims to increase the resilience of poor, agriculturally-dependent communities and decrease the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate change in Liberia. One of its major accomplishments has been addressing the deforestation in Liberia that has led to unsustainable agriculture practices such as charcoal/fuelwood production for energy in cooking and drying, logging practices and unsustainable mining practices.

In collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Energy Technology and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, this project has piloted production and use of energy efficient cookstoves and ovens for drying fish in Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount County.

These two projects are just some of the ways sustainable agriculture in Liberia is slowly but surely healing from years of turmoil and misuse. These efforts can create a better Liberia for both the land and its people.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr

WeFarmClimate change is a threat to humanity for a number of reasons. One of the most integral pieces of a functioning society is access to food and the means to cultivate it. As climate change continues to threaten weather patterns, soil, water, and air quality, it will be extremely important that farming practices are as up to date, sustainable, and efficient as possible. There are around 500 million small-scale farmers working today that live in extremely poor conditions. Access to technology and support for farming practices is scarce for farmers in remote locations or those who live in extremely poor circumstances. WeFarm, a peer-to-peer service is working to connect farmers in these situations to better arm them with knowledge and resources from other farmers around the world.

WeFarm is dictated by a few key principles. One of which is that information sharing will improve livelihoods. Millions of people are already armed with the tools to access information sharing technology such as cell phones. This “peer-to-peer” model has great power in that generations of farmers now have a platform to share information and expertise.

The concept of WeFarm came out of an experience abroad that led its founder to notice that agriculture-based societies were missing adequate information. There was so much knowledge to be shared, even between close communities, just no useful way to bring that information together and disseminate it to the public.

An important aspect of WeFarm is that no Internet connection is needed. SMS capabilities allow users to communicate by phone. Currently, about 90 percent of small-scale farmers around the world have access to such technology. With this statistic suspected to rise in the future, WeFarm is an effective and innovative platform in the agricultural world.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Kosovo: Story of Two LakesWater quality in Kosovo has been a topic of discussion in recent years. Kosovo’s two main water resources are the Badovac and Batlava lakes in the region of Pristina, which supply almost 1.8 million Kosovars with water. But climate change has strongly affected the lakes water levels, which have fluctuated from excessive water accumulation to drought levels in a period of two years.

New Infrastructure

These abrupt climate changes have impacted the almost 200,000 people who live in Pristina, the capital and largest city of Kosovo. For instance, in 2012 severe snow and blizzards affected the area, a year after, flooding impacted Kosovars and the year following that brought with it a drought.

In 2014, Kosovo lived through the worst water shortage in three decades, according to public officials in the country. Around 400,000 people in Pristina faced reduced drinking water supplies thanks to the low water levels of the Badovac and Batlava, a problem that directly impacted the water quality in Kosovo.

However, last year the lakes reached their maximum level, making the extraction of water difficult. The Kosovar system is based on pipes that work in conjunction with a water processing plant, some of which don’t have the capacity to process water when the Badovac and Batlava are at their highest levels.

To resolve the problem, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) informed that, the European Commission and the German Development Bank granted Kosovar around 17 million euros in order for the country to make improvements to the infrastructure of their water processing plant system and to guarantee water for its citizens.

They Planned to Poison The Lake

Kosovo’s government cut off the water supply from the Badovac reservoir in 2014 after police arrested several suspects linked to the Islamic State (IS) who were allegedly planning to poison the lake.

This reservoir supplies half of Pristina with water. The Guardian informed that policemen found a suspicious substance in the lake. Over the last two years, officials have identified 314 Kosovars who have joined the Islamic State.

Water Quality

Water quality in Kosovo is not perfect. In bacterial and chemical testing of the water, the Water and Waste Regulatory Office reported a 90 percent rate of purity, while the international standard is above 99 percent. Citizens are recommended to buy water instead of to drink it directly from the tap.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

How to Solve Energy PovertyThe entirety of human civilization uses 14 terawatts (14 followed by 12 zeroes) of power per year. Developed countries consume the majority of that total. The United States, although only 5 percent of the world’s population, accounts for 25 percent of its energy consumption. The lack of available power in underdeveloped countries fosters more demand for power at an unrealistic cost for families living on $2 or less a day. Low incomes combined with expensive and non-renewably sourced power fosters a cycle of energy poverty.

Nearly two billion people worldwide do not have access to modern energy. In less developed nations with prominent health crises, a lack of reliable energy sources can cause business owners to lose customers or even lead to the loss of life-saving vaccines. These communities rely heavily on burning coal, waste or wood for cooking, heating and light. To equip the underdeveloped world with modern energy options and enable the use of exuberant amounts of energy in the developed world would require roughly 30 terawatts of energy by 2050, according to experts.

The best formula to solve energy poverty has been widely debated. Some argue for coal plants, citing China as a success story. According to the U.N. Development Programme, China has helped millions of people out of poverty and to join the middle class by burning more coal. However, China is now also the leading nation in greenhouse gas emissions. The effects of burning coal are not limited to the environment. Smoke from burning coal and other biomass cause respiratory diseases that kill over 3.5 million people each year.

Alison Doig, the senior adviser on climate change at Christian Aid, warns that the poor are hit the hardest by climate change. An analysis by Cafod, Christian Aid and thinktank The Overseas Development Institute explains that the perpetuation of current coal-reliant energy policies risks leaving one billion people without access to electricity and three billion without access to clean cooking facilities by 2030.

The next options pit centralized distribution against distributed generation.

    • Centralized distribution follows the current electrical power management model with a central plant dispatching energy through transmission lines.
      CONS: The implementation of centralized power requires the construction of transmission lines and steep capital investments.
    • Distributed PV (photovoltaic or solar energy) has the capacity to supply power closer to the demand, eliminating transmission loss that might occur with transmission lines.
      CONS: Panel output intermittency cannot be directly managed and it is unclear how much distributed PV can be supported by an electrical grid.

Although arguing the cost-efficiency and sustainability of various solutions has made implementation of any one option near impossible, here are some suggestions to solve energy poverty:

A study released by the International Energy Agency and two U.N. bodies, the Development Programme and the Industrial Development Organization, states that energy poverty can be solved without breaking the banks of nations or contributing to the growing climate change issue. The study emphasizes “parts and patterns” as opposed to “packages and services”; that is, giving communities the capacity and training to solve their own energy problems. Providing energy to the poor as outlined in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals program would require only .06 percent of global GDP. Aiding the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity and the three billion who rely on burning biomass could be simpler than once estimated. According to the study, by 2030, electricity generation would only increase globally by 2.9 percent, demand for oil would increase by less than 1 percent and carbon emissions would be 0.8 percent above current projections.

Thomas Taha Rassam Culhane is a co-founder of Solar CITIES, a nonprofit organization that works with residents of poor neighborhoods in Cairo, Egypt and other African nations to install rooftop solar water heaters and small-scale biofuel systems. Culhane suggests that aid organizations use their financial clout to buy materials needed for small energy projects and distribute them at radically reduced costs.

The Sierra Club Energy Scorecard cites four key recommendations in response to failed energy poverty alleviation efforts by multilateral development banks (MDBs):

  1. Banks should increase funding for energy access projects to account for at least 50 percent of energy portfolio financing until the regions affected have 100 percent energy access.
  2. Banks need to increase funding for off-grid and mini-grid clean energy projects.
  3. The MDBs should establish clear criteria for defining “energy access” to improve consistency when measuring the efficacy of energy access projects.
  4. MDBs should commit to clearer reporting on energy access at the project level. Currently, project descriptions can be vague in regard to expected outcomes, using inconsistent measures that make it difficult to establish an understanding of activities and funding levels.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2014 to 2024 the “Decade of Sustainable Energy for All” and established the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2011. Research is still being conducted to determine the best methods to solve energy poverty, but with the help of aid organizations and the U.N., SE4ALL has made supporting universal energy access a priority.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr