indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso

Indoor air pollution from burning biomass is one of the 10 most significant threats to public health worldwide. Burkina Faso is one of the 21 countries most affected by indoor pollution. The country’s government has rolled out the National Biogas Program as part of its green economy initiative to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Globally, more than three billion people cook with wood or charcoal. Exposure to indoor smoke from burning biomass is linked to pneumonia in children and chronic respiratory diseases in adults.

About 86 percent of Burkina Faso’s energy comes from burning biomass like firewood and charcoal. In rural areas, this percentage is often even higher. Approximately 16,500 deaths per year can be attributed to indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

The National Biogas Program has the potential to reduce indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso. The government of Burkina Faso, led by President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, is working in tandem with Dutch NGO Hivos and Dutch development organization SNV to install 40,000 biodigesters by 2024. The government of Burkina Faso subsidizes the biodigesters so that the technology is more affordable for poor households. 

Biodigesters are enclosed structures that break down animal dung and food waste into methane gas. The biogas can be piped into a stove for cooking. The nutrient-rich compost left over can be used as fertilizer. So far, 8,000 biodigesters have been installed.

Each biodigester creates 3.62 tons of CO2eq emission reduction per year. Transitioning to biodigesters is particularly impactful for women and children, who often spend hours collecting biomass to burn and who are typically responsible for household cooking. Biodigesters protect this vulnerable group from the harmful health effects of indoor air pollution in Burkina Faso.

Approximately 85 percent of Burkina Faso’s population lives in rural areas and works in agriculture. For these agrarian households, biodigesters produce economic benefits. Farmers with biodigesters produce natural, high-quality fertilizer, eliminating the need to buy chemical fertilizer. One 6m3 biodigester produces 20 tons of compost per year. 

Fields fertilized with slurry from biodigesters produce greater yields. The slurry also increases the soil’s capacity to hold rainwater, which is particularly important during droughts. 

Additionally, some regions of Burkina Faso have experienced wood scarcity. Biodigesters protect owners from increasing wood fuel prices.

Biodigesters also create tangible environmental benefits. About 46 percent of Burkina Faso’s territory suffers from soil degradation. Harvesting wood for energy has created a deforestation rate of 105,000 hectares per year. Biodigesters replace wood-burning stoves and thus reduce the amount of wood that must be harvested for energy each year. 

The U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism has issued the first carbon credits in Burkina Faso. The World Bank’s Carbon Initiative for Development (Ci-Dev) program is now purchasing carbon credits created by the biodigesters. Ci-Dev will purchase 540,000 certified emission reductions through 2024. This revenue stream is used to lower the price of biodigesters and to extend the warranty on the devices. With the numerous benefits of biodigesters, they are sure to have an impact not only on air pollution in Burkina Faso, but on may aspects of its people’s livs.

– Katherine Parks

Photo: Flickr

Relative to global standards, Somalia’s electricity prices are very expensive.
Somalia, an East African country with a population of nearly 10 million, has some of the most expensive electricity in the world. According to an article by Al Jazeera, a kilowatt of electricity in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, can cost up to $1 per hour, which is five times more expensive than in Kenya, and 10 times more expensive than in the U.S.

In 1991, Somalia’s energy sector was destroyed.

Following the collapse of the central government, residents were forced to depend on diesel generators for individual households in the early 1990s. Many were left with absolutely no electricity.

Now, the seven electricity companies that exist are all privately owned. Most of them don’t have licenses and operate without paying taxes. “[The private companies] give you electricity when they want and stop it when they want,” said an ice-making factory owner, Abshir Maalin Abdi, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The individual companies also blatantly deny the customers’ accusations that they are being overcharged. But, the control of the cost is out of the hands of the poor, while the benefits are mostly in the hands of warlords and militias.

A high rate of unemployment

Electricity is a luxury because most of the country’s working population is jobless. According to the U.N., more than half of the country’s population (those between the ages of 15 and 64), is unemployed; the unemployment rate for youth is 67 percent.

In addition, 40 percent of Somalia’s population also lives below the poverty line. Many simply cannot afford electricity, and it is hard for businesses to make money and develop without affordable electricity prices.

What are the solutions?

The government of Somalia has developed a ten-year energy plan to improve the electricity sector, which will cost a total of US$ 803 million. It will involve the construction of new power plants and transmission lines that will boost electricity access in towns and homes, costing an average of US$ 0.50 per unit, according to a report by Geeska Afrika.

Some of the money will go towards funding training programs and will also provide alternative cooking solutions from charcoal use. The ultimate goal is to increase Somalia’s power capacity, and diversity the energy alternatives including solar and wind energy. This has the potential to lead to significant economic growth.

The government must also prioritize and improve the basic economic structure and poor social services, which fuel high unemployment rates of the younger generation.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Abdihakim Egeh Guled, deputy minister of energy and water resources, describes implementing a law to alleviate this problem. “The only thing we can do… is to bring about a legislation that will monitor these companies that provide electricity,” he said. Currently, the country has no laws regulating the electricity industry. Encouraging a drop in electricity prices could radically improve the lives of many.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr

Worldwide, nearly 1.3 billion people live without electricity. That’s about 18 percent of the global population, 97 percent of which live in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia.

Craig Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of Point Source Power, had a solution to this problem in the palm of his hand. Point Source Power created a device to harness thermal heat from cooking stoves and convert the energy into electricity. This invention was originally created for adventurers on camping trips so that they could charge their cell phones while on vacation.

However, he saw a much greater demand for the invention in developing countries, so Point Source Power produced the VOTO: a low-cost fuel cell that operates at cook-stove temperatures and converts biomass directly into electricity. This device includes a charger for cell phones and batteries, as well as an LED light.

In an interview, Jacobson said, “People view fuel cells as an advanced technology that only wealthy countries can afford. We see things differently. We’ve created a technology that uses inexpensive materials found in homes throughout developing regions of the world – biomass and cook stoves.” In addition, the VOTO fuel cells are very tolerant of contaminants such as carbon and sulfur, which would likely ruin other fuel cells.

The VOTO is easily integrated into the daily routine of the average person. Accessing electricity does not involve an extra step in their day; instead, it is a part of their time spent cooking. Jacobson added, “Cooking is something that has to be done every day. We have taken cutting-edge technology and matched it to this daily ritual.”

As of now, VOTO products are only available in Kenya. The goal is to have these fuel cells available in homes all across developing regions, increasing people’s overall access to electricity.

Hannah Resnick

Sources: Berkeley Lab, International Energy Agency, Launch, Point Source Power, Smithsonian
Photo: PointSourcePower

carbon footprint
It is a bold and innovative plan. A plan to reduce an entire country’s carbon footprint to almost zero, and Ethiopia plans on achieving it by 2025.  The scheme currently set into motion centers entirely around sugar.

Day to day life in Ethiopia relies heavily on sugar, from drinks to pastries, many of the daily activities of life require sugar.  So much so that Ethiopia can’t meet its own sugar demands and has to import 200,000 tons of sugar a year. The rising costs of petroleum used to refine the sugar has also increased the cost of sugar. Ethiopia does not produce its own oil and has to import petroleum as well.

Six years ago, the country decided to solve its own problems. It implemented hydroelectric, geothermal and wind energy. Ethiopia found it could produce molasses as a byproduct of sugar refinement. This molasses can then be turned into an ethanol-based bio-fuel. Co-generation, which is the use of agricultural waste to create energy, began to be explored as well.

There are currently three sugar plants in full production, which produce over 300,000 tons of sugar a year as well as 62MW of electricity due to co-generation and ethanol production. These numbers are a significant increase since the program began, when half of all power was used by the plant.

Gossaye Mengiste, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy, believes the country has the potential to produce 600MW of electricity once the 13 factories are complete.” Once complete, all 16 factories, including the three already in production,  are slated to generate enough exportable sugar to give it an earning projection of $300 million for the country.

In addition to making up the sugar deficit, there are almost no emissions produced by these sugar-based bio fuels when used in cars, stoves and generators. The elimination of car emissions is one of the biggest steps to reducing the country’s carbon footprint and achieving its stated goal of zero emissions by 2025.

These ambitious talks have come under fire by some, who say that it is a “condescending plan drawn up mainly by people living in highland areas but affecting the lowland population.” Sugar plantations require huge tracts of land. Pastoralists are the ones to which many officials are turning. The pastoralist people are southern nomadic groups that herd grazing animals from pasture to pasture. They comprise roughly 11 percent of the population and use about 63 percent of the land.

The Ethiopian Sugar Development Agency cautioned the government about this as early as 2008 saying, “Government’s strong support in clearly defining the policy with respect to bagasse energy development is critical to the successful achievements of substituting bagasse cogeneration for imported fossil fuels or diversifying electric energy source based on renewable energy source.”

Frederick Wood II

Sources: New Agriculture Trust, ESI-Africa, Gasand Oil
Photo: Flickr

Kenya is Going Green and Improving Its EconomyKenya is pushing a number of initiatives that could improve its green footprint, as well as its economy. In efforts to fight climate change and enhance development, Kenya, in the last ten years, has begun to implement a number of green initiatives that could have major benefits in the future. Kenya, in support of going green, has even added constitutional requirements to protect the environment.

One of these initiatives, entitled the Lake Turkana Wind Power project, is a very large proponent of wind-power.  In fact, this wind-power project is the biggest in the entirety of Africa. It is set to begin operating this year and is predicted to bring about 2,500 new jobs, as well as protect the environment. This alone is a great success for Kenya. And the Lake Turkana Wind Power project keeps on giving. The creation of an alternative energy source means lower energy costs, making it easier to produce goods and making services cheaper.

Another one of these initiatives, which offers similar benefits to Kenya, is the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project. Upon its completion in 2014, the Olkaria IV Geothermal Power Project will add 288 megawatts of power.

Green energy and power sources are desperately needed in Kenya, where polluting fuels, such as coal, are the current energy sources. Currently, 80% of Kenyans utilize wood-based fuels for their daily needs. This leads to a lot of waste going into the environment, as well as waste as tons and tons of trees are cut down and only a portion are used in the creation of charcoal.

Finding alternative fuel sources and coming up with the funding necessary to build farms like the Lake Turkana Wind Power project – which is 100% privately funded – is helping Kenya in their move towards being green and creating social equity. A lot of the benefits of such projects require long-term maintenance and support; yet they are important in making Kenya stronger economy.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: EcoMENA