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Sustainable TechnologyTechnology is constantly evolving in the 21st century and through it, MPOWERD is alleviating the ailments that impoverished communities face. In 2016, 1.6 billion people across the globe lived without energy access. MPOWERD’s mission to bring sustainable technology to all points of the globe through practical, portable and affordable solar power impacts millions of lives each year. A dramatic reduction of communities without electricity as of 2019 suggests that 13% of the world’s population currently live without power. In addition, MPOWERD hopes to eradicate unaffordable energy costs and provide clean solutions to all of the world’s poor by 2030.

Form, Function, Empowerment

Since 2012, MPOWERD has reached over 3.7 million lives through sponsorship with community programs, disaster relief and health initiatives. The patented design of the “Luci” inflatable solar light reduces exposure to toxic kerosene fumes and provides light to those in crisis after storms. It also promotes healthy environments for the administration of medication, urgent health care and completion of schoolwork after sunset.

Moreover, MPOWERD focuses on helping women being more involved in their community and family decisions. Through a partnership with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, local ethnic groups in Kenya participate as resellers of the sustainable technology Luci lights in conjunction with E³Merge to stimulate investment in the local economy. The Maasai women cultivate spaces of undeniable empowerment where issues of Female genital mutilation, domestic violence and other inequalities are discussed. Additionally, alternative practices such as dance and song are now permitted in place of FGM due to newfound empowerment as business leaders.

Impact on Poverty

The distribution of the sustainable technology Luci lights fosters economic and social empowerment. Local craftsmen and women may work in the nighttime to create products for sustainable income without the worry of daylight. Furthermore, with a Luci light, children can study at night. This ensures the completion of homework and health clinics in rural areas can stay open late. In addition, workers who commute in the dark run less of a risk of injury. Women can feel safe from predators with MPOWERD’s compact light-source technology.

To put it simply, markets and businesses that stay open past daylight have the potential to earn more capital. As local markets thrive and expand, employment opportunities arise. Rural communities with limited trade commerce have more capital to exchange when electricity is not a concern. Thus, it allows freedom to invest in other pressing issues. According to the World Economic Forum, education is one of the most efficient steps to reduce poverty. In turn, reducing the need for basic electricity infrastructure allows for higher funding of various social programs. This includes agriculture, healthcare and education. As a result, it diminishes overall poverty.

Sustainable technology launches emerging nations into the global market through basic principles of infrastructure aimed towards poverty-reduction. The provision of portable solar lights in rural communities boosts local economies and establishes business expansion and stability. It also constructs safe environments where education and empowerment are centered at the forefront of improvement. MPOWERD is a force for good that does good through accessible sustainable technology in impoverished areas.

Natalie Williams

Photo: Flickr

With the goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025, Ethiopia is making major strides in promoting clean energy and sustainability. As part of its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the Ethiopian government is working on a variety of clean energy projects and initiatives to build and expand its clean energy production. Ethiopia‘s main source of clean energy is hydropower, but the country is also working to expand its thermal, solar and wind energy. Here are the top five facts about clean energy in Ethiopia.

Top Five Facts About Clean Energy in Ethiopia

  1. A Geothermal Energy Plan: Power developer Reykjavik Geothermal developed plans for a $4.4 billion project that will bring geothermal energy to Ethiopia. Starting in September 2019, the power developer is exploration drilling for two geothermal energy plants in the cities of Tulu Moye and Corbetti. Both plants would provide 500 megawatts (MW) of geothermal energy after completion, amounting to a combined 1000 MW of geothermal energy.
  2. Eliminating its Energy Deficit: The Ethiopian government is working with Scaling Solar to build solar energy plants and infrastructure. Scaling Solar is a World Bank-sponsored program that provides financial aid for emerging countries to invest in solar energy. By partnering with Scaling Solar, the plan is to build photovoltaic plants that would produce 500 MW of solar energy, which would be enough to completely eliminate the country’s energy deficit.
  3. A Climate-Resilient Green Economy Strategy: The Ethiopian government developed a strategy for building a green economy that fosters growth and sustainable development. Known as the climate-resilient green economy, or CRGE, the initiative includes expanding energy production from clean renewable sources, protecting forests and developing modern and efficient infrastructure in transportation, buildings and the industrial sector. CRGE is also working to improve farming practices and food security while reducing emissions. A green economy and better water and air quality will improve food security, public health and foster rural economic development.
  4. Hydropower Production: According to the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Ethiopia is the first producer of hydropower in Africa, having an installed hydropower capacity of 3,822 MW. In addition, Ethiopia is currently developing projects that will further increase its hydropower production. This includes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or GERD, which will generate a whopping 6,450 MW of hydropower energy once completed, nearly double the country’s current capacity.
  5. Wind Energy: The Ethiopian government is making strides in expanding wind energy. In 2013, Ethiopia opened one of Africa’s largest wind farms, the 120 MW Ashedoga plant, and continued the trend with the 153 MW producing Adama II in 2015. Currently, the Ethiopian government is working on a $300 million dollar project that involves building at least five more wind power plants. These plants would significantly increase Ethiopia’s output of wind power from 324 MW to 5,200 MW.

By focusing on clean energy generation projects, Ethiopia is working toward improving access to reliable sources of energy. Overall, only 40 percent of Ethiopians currently have access to electricity. 85 perfect of Ethiopians have access to electricity in urban areas but only 29 percent have access in rural areas. These top five facts about clean energy in Ethiopia demonstrate the country’s perseverance in fostering clean energy and expanding access to electricity. Access to clean energy will also foster economic growth, which is vital to Ethiopia achieving its goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2025.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Making Solar Power BetterSolar energy gives the old adage “make hay while the sun shines” a whole new meaning. Solar panels generate 227 gigawatts of energy world-wide. For reference, one single gigawatt can realistically power 300,000 first-world homes.

While a great option for anyone, alternative energy sources are especially important for people in poverty. In undeveloped areas, electricity is up to five times more expensive per kilowatt hour. The cost is higher due to infrastructure problems. The price of expanding the electrical grid in largely remote areas is often limiting, which encourages people to use fossil fuels instead. Kerosene, diesel and coal, the most common fuel sources, pose serious health and environmental risks.

Solar power is easier to install and is safer to use. Unlike wind and geothermal power, it is fit for use in essentially every climate that humans can inhabit. Reliable electricity allows impoverished areas to leap closer towards development. People can power cellphones, radios and televisions; refrigerate food, medicines and vaccines; turn on the lights; pump and clean drinking water; cook; irrigate crops and more.

While the safety and convenience of solar power are wonderful, its contributions to peoples’ lifestyles are what truly make the difference against poverty. Students who can study at night with the help of lightbulbs learn more and perform better in school. People with electronic devices can access the internet and its infinite resources. Refrigeration allows for food to keep longer and can help preserve medications for easier dispersal when they are needed.

Current Problems with Solar Power

For all of solar power’s benefits, there are still some glaring inefficiencies. While this renewable energy is cheaper in the long-run, upfront costs can be staggeringly high for people living in poverty. While dozens of outreach groups are working hard to provide help where it is needed most, it is still a hard technology to access.

Additionally, solar panels don’t always work at maximum efficiency. They generally use one of three types of semiconducting materials: monocrystalline, polycrystalline or thin-film. Their compositions differ, and though there are nuances to the use of each type, the options simplify to this: higher efficiency panels use the more expensive materials.

Lastly, traditional solar panels simply can’t work at night. With no radiation from the sun, there is nothing to convert into useful electricity. That means that individuals who use solar power at night must ration what they could generate during the day. Multiple days with little sunlight could also make a negative impact on overall energy stores.

Ways to Improve Solar Power

Fortunately, there are many people who continue to see the benefits of this technology and who are making solar power better.

A study released in early 2019 outlined a “material defect” in solar cells’ silicon that they named “Light Induced Degradation.” Solar cells used to have a 2 percent drop in efficiency from the first hours of use, no matter what the circumstances. Scientists identified the defect, caused by an interruption in the flow of electrons and are now working to fix it. Other researchers are seeking brand-new materials for use in solar cells, including “perovskites,” which are man-made crystalline structures.

Other scientists are striving to do the improbable: make solar panels that work in darkness. Researchers at Curtin University conceptualized a “thermal battery” made of a metal carbonate and gas storage vessel. When solar radiation stops, at night or in cloudy conditions, the gas is released from storage. It gets absorbed by the carbonate, producing more heat, which is then generated into electricity.

There are also changes on a societal level. For families that can’t afford to install their own solar panels, some communities offer alternative programs. Students can charge a battery using their school’s equipment during the school day, which is used to power lanterns when they get home.

More than 12 percent of the world still has no access to electricity. With the help of this complex technology and all of the people who are making solar power better, those without electricity can soon have a brighter tomorrow.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

access to electricityA common joke in Nigeria is that the acronym NEPA, for the National Electric Power Authority, actually stands for “Never Expect Power Always.” Indeed, less than half of people in Nigeria have access to electricity, and even people who do have power frequently get it for only a few hours per day. The government has estimated that lack of access to electricity costs the economy more than $29 billion each year.

“I cannot help but wonder how many medical catastrophes have occurred in public hospitals because of ‘no light,’ how much agricultural produce has gone to waste, how many students forced to study in stuffy, hot air have failed exams, how many small businesses have foundered,” writes Booker Prize-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. “What greatness have we lost, what brilliance stillborn?”

Post-Colonization and Lack of Electricity

Nigeria is not the only African nation to suffer from electricity shortages. In the last few months, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have all rationed electricity due to shortages. Difficulties with providing access to electricity are common in post-colonial countries. Colonization made countries poorer in general, due to the exploitative relationships between colonized nations and their colonizers. For instance, on the eve of its independence from Britain in 1945, India’s GDP per capita was lower than it was in 1600. This theft of resources has made it more difficult for post-colonial nations to invest in electrification. And even when colonial powers did implement electric grids, they frequently only bothered to electrify areas populated by colonists and settlers, rather than the native population, according to a 2018 study by Ute Hasenöhrl, a professor of history at the University of Innsbruck.

Finding Solutions

Luckily, there are solutions to these problems. A study by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Samuel Ayokunle Olowosejeje, at University College Cork found that switching Nigeria’s electric grid to solar energy could make it significantly easier to distribute electricity by reducing costs. In particular, the study found that switching to solar could reduce costs by up to 132 percent.

Even if resources can’t be invested in traditional electric grids, new technology provides opportunities to electrify in new ways. Prof. Hasenöhrl gives the example of an initiative by the government of Bangladesh that has provided almost four million people in rural areas with home solar panel systems. These allow people to enjoy the benefits of electricity without requiring as much investment in infrastructure.

The initiative in Bangladesh, called Solar Home Systems (SHS), has had a big impact: 12 percent of the population – more than one out of every ten people in Bangladesh – have benefited from the plan, according to an evaluation of the program by the Centre for Public Impact. Before the beginning of SHS in 2003, a common method that some people in rural Bangladesh used to light their homes was kerosene lamps, which are expensive to power and produce relatively little light in comparison to electric lighting. The Centre for Public Impact report also highlighted how the program’s engagement with existing grassroots community organizations was key to providing legitimacy to the project. The organizations’ pedigree helped overcome initial skepticism on the part of many rural residents.

Harnessing the Sun

Dr. Olowosejeje also points to solar panels for individual households, in addition to more traditional grid-based solar energy, as a potentially beneficial move in Nigeria. “[S]olar-based power generation…is the most technically feasible and cost-effective solution to the challenge of extending electricity to 80 million people [in Nigeria] who are currently without access to energy,” he writes. In addition, solar panels could even be a source of income: “Renewable technologies could also help to develop an electricity market where those producing surplus energy can sell it to those who have a shortfall.”

The damage wrought by colonialism has made it difficult for many countries to create adequate electrical grids. The recent spate of electricity rationing in several African nations is just one example of this problem. However, the good news is that solutions exist. One of them is single-home solar electricity systems. These systems can provide access to electricity, overcome the limitations of traditional power grids, and even create an additional revenue stream to help struggling families by enabling them to sell electricity to others.

– Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy Sector in India
In a deserted, rocky and barren land with temperatures up to 80 and 90 degrees Celsius, millions of silver-grey solar panels glimmer in the sun. This is a start of what is said to be the biggest solar power station in the world in Pavagada, a town located in southern India. This city is where a massive solar park is set to be built and is expected to produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 700,000 households. This is the start of a clean-energy revolution in the renewable energy sector in India.

The Renewable Energy Sector in India

The renewable energy sector in India is now the leader in creating a new revolution in solar energy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government aims to achieve 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar installations by 2022, of which 40 gigawatts is expected to come from rooftop installations. This emphasizes India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and its strong will to push for solar energy generation in countries with huge potential.

Solar energy serves as a clean and affordable form of the renewable energy sector that would help India cut down its carbon emissions as well as reduce its dependency on the import of crude oil (at least to some extent).

Although India has committed to going solar, challenges still remain. Infrastructure development, technological know-how, attracting foreign investment, procuring raw materials for solar panels and a lack of access to existing storage technologies remain huge obstacles. Despite these concerns, India has taken an initiative to make solar energy the focus of clean energy.

Foreign Direct Investment in India’s Solar Power

The boom in the renewable energy sector in India has attracted investors from abroad. The ambitious target of 100 GW by 2022 is tough, and to achieve this mission, India solar sector requires investment from foreign countries.

In 2015, the solar sector had secured more than $278 million through various avenues. The international business consulting firm KPMG forecasts that the market share of solar power in India would be 5.7 percent (54 GW) and 12.5 percent (166 GW) in 2020 and 2025, respectively.

Several countries look at investing in the renewable energy sector in India. In 2016, the U.S. and India partnered to launch the U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance (USICEF), an initiative to help promising distributed solar projects develop into viable investment opportunities via essential early-stage project preparation support.

Job Creation Through Renewable Energy Sector

The massive push for solar energy opened up ways of employment with hopes to reduce the poverty rate in India. In fact, 22 percent of the population or 270 million people live below the poverty line in India. Clean-energy jobs are seen as a game changer in India’s rural and urban areas.

There are various positions of job profiles that have opened up due to India commitment to go solar. Jobs like installation, operations and maintenance, sales and more. Many of these jobs provide steady incomes, healthcare benefits and skill-building opportunities for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

A report by World Resource Institute ‘Can Renewable Energy Jobs Help Reduce Poverty in India?’ states that in addition to improving energy security, enhancing energy access and mitigating climate change, renewable energy may be able to help reduce poverty by creating good jobs that poor people can perform.

The findings of WET report suggest that:

  • The majority of jobs in the sector are contractual and do not offer benefits or job stability.
  • Permanent jobs in the sector have the potential to reduce poverty, but they need strengthening before they become “good” jobs.
  • Most poor people face barriers to entry to training and the job market.
  • Few programs include features that help reduce poverty, such as capacity building, development of ownership opportunities or the inclusion of women.
  • The absence of data makes it difficult to establish connections between jobs in renewable energy and poverty reduction.

India depends heavily on fossil fuels. Energy production and consumption accounts for 58 percent of India’s greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to grow exponentially in the coming decades due to a rising energy demand associated with urbanization, better living standards and economic modernization. As a result, clean energy is the main focus for the government of India in the coming years.

Commitment to Positive Change

In order to meet the commitment under Paris Agreement, India must dramatically boost solar and wind power to light up millions of houses that still lack electricity. Due to the initiatives by the government of India, India is looking at renewable energy options and acts as a home for the  largest solar plants in the world.

The government schemes and policies have contributed in transitioning from fossil fuels to clean and green energy in India, and with solar tariffs falling to a record low, new government schemes to encourage rooftop installation has put India on the map in the renewable energy sector. Being a part of this renewable energy sector has the potential to create jobs, reduce poverty and propel India into the ways of the future.

– Preethi Ravi
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered appliances
Electricity is difficult to come by in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other places in the world. In 2016, an estimated 588 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 239 million people in India were without electricity. Slowly, more people are gaining access to electricity, specifically through solar-powered appliances and lighting.

Current Issues with Electricity

A lot of the rural cities or areas do not have electricity because they are not nearby to an electricity grid. People in Tanzania, like Lusela Murandika, power TV sets with diesel generators and other parts of their homes with charcoal, wood and other biomass.

Using resources like coal, charcoal, dung or wood as a source of electricity pollutes the breathable air that is needed to survive. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die from illnesses that are tied to air pollution.

Kerosene used in lamps is also a dangerous product to use. It produces soot and toxic smoke that “damages lungs and causes other serious health problems,” according to National Geographic. The use of kerosene lamps, especially ones that are homemade, are dangerous because thousands of children and adults die or are burned from them.

How Solar-Powered Appliances Are Changing Things

Technological advancements have made it easy for solar-powered appliances to become more readily available to purchase. Something as simple as a solar bottle light bulb runs around $2-3.

The solar bottle light bulb is “made out of a plastic bottle of purified water and bleach, [that] is sealed into the roof,” according to National Geographic. The water allows for light to be spread out in the room and the chlorine keeps mold from growing. The solar bottle light bulb not only works with the sunlight but it also works when the moonlight is strong as well. It allows for the people in the home to be able to do more within the household, like study, read or work inside.

Connecting people that live in rural areas to an electrical grid sometimes is not possible or it becomes too expensive to be able to afford. Electricity then becomes a luxury that people cannot afford. Sometimes, people wait years for a grid to be built near them, but having solar-powered appliances allows for them to have access to that technology much sooner.

Organizations Assisting the Distribution of Solar Power

In 2016, four U.S. foundations announced an initiative “to support efforts to bring reliable ‘off-grid’ or ‘mini-grid’ power—fueled by solar energy—to people in India who now are without it,” according to Think Progress. The foundations include Hewlett, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All four foundations have initiated a $30,000,000 initiative to fund the program and the Indian government is set to match this.

Furthermore, a company by the name of Easy Solar is helping provide electricity to the residents of Sierra Leone. This company is lead by Nthabiseng Mosia, Alexandre Toure and Eric Silverman. Easy Solar began in 2015 as a response to energy accessibility in Sierra Leone. In an interview from Business Report with Nthabiseng Mosia, she stated, “It’s often widely publicized that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. But in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of people (and 99 percent in rural areas) don’t have any electricity.”

With Easy Solar, appliances are set up so that consumers are on a rent-to-own basis, providing weekly payments. Some of the devices that the business offers are lights and mobile chargers as well as solar lanterns that have the capability of charging phones and offer more than 24 hours of light. The company’s appliances are not just limited to households but are also for businesses as well.

There are many organizations on the ground that are helping individuals obtain the necessary materials to be able to survive that will not cost them their lives. Solar-powered appliances are one solution that is helping eradicate poverty.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Corruption often makes headlines when somebody writes about South Africa. Given the court case in progress against the country’s former leader, it’s not hard to see why. Added to past historical events, oftentimes the media misrepresents South Africa.

But there is more to South Africa than meets the media’s eye. It is a place with much to celebrate. Covering these points of pride is important for the morale of a country. Although the media misrepresents South Africa, some less-common stories with good news have made it through the cracks:

Selling Avocados in Record Numbers

For a country’s economy, agriculture is oftentimes a driving force. That’s why it is good news that South Africa is expecting to sell record numbers of avocados in 2018. After experiencing a drought in previous years, it comes as both good news and a pleasant surprise.

South Africa supplies a large number of avocados to European countries. Those in the country’s avocado industry hope to keep this market while opening up new ones this year.

Leading the way in Eco-Tourism

Tourists are taking advantage of the beautiful South African climate, and South Africa is taking advantage of the boosted audience for educating on water conservation. 

South Africa is a world leader in conserving water in tourism-related facilities. The industry takes small, powerful measures to conserve water in restaurants and hotels. These measures rub off on those that visit the country. While the media misrepresents South Africa, ecotourism speaks for itself.

Making Breakthroughs in Renewable Energy

Recently, South Africa signed several agreements to drive renewable energy forward. The plans include constructing a new solar plant that will provide sustainable power for hundreds of thousands of South Africans. An agreement like this comes as no surprise, given the country’s focus on conservation.

For the U.S., this news is a much more productive story to read than those of corruption. The supplier of the solar power plant, SolarReserve, Inc. is a U.S.-based company. The good news for South Africa is both an economic and environmental benefit in America.

Improving Women’s Rights

Countries across the globe struggle with pay inequality. The unfortunate reality is that women, on average, earn less for performing the same work as men. South Africa is not immune to this problem, but the country has made considerable improvements for women. 

By several measures, South Africa is making success in closing the pay gap. Women are being encouraged to take part in the business sector like never before. South Africa has been making steady improvement in this area as nearly one-third of the women in the country now have senior management roles.

Beyond this, women are engaging in entrepreneurial activity. Various programs help women to establish themselves and run prosperous businesses. When women’s lives improve, everyone wins. For women’s rights, the rest of the world could learn a lesson from South Africa.

Even though the media misrepresents South Africa, there is good news for this country spanning from women’s rights to avocados. Despite sensational stories of corruption, the real South Africa endures and its legacy will continue to endure regardless of news coverage.

That’s good news.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Flickr

solar energy in ZambiaThe Republic of Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa with a population of over 16.5 million. A shocking 54.4 percent of this population lives below the World Bank’s standardized poverty line. Currently, Zambia is unable to effectively meet the energy needs of its citizens. As a result, the Zambian government, USAID, independent investors and NGOs throughout the U.S. and Europe are investing in solar energy in Zambia, as they believe it has the potential to greatly reduce poverty and contribute to meeting the country’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Problems with Current Zambian Energy Infrastructure

A majority of Zambia’s nationalized energy production is created using hydroelectric dams; however, the dams face many problems in terms of their reach and reliability. Dams in the country only provide power to 10 percent of the Zambian population. Furthermore, the dams become unreliable as drought conditions increase throughout southern Africa. Zambia’s climate pattern works around a wet and dry season. As the rainy seasons become shorter and less intense, the dams are not filled to capacity. Less water in dam spillways inherently results in less energy production and more frequent blackouts.

Consequently, a majority of Zambians rely on charcoal to meet their energy and heat needs. The need for charcoal results in widespread deforestation of the savannah woodlands that make up a majority of the Zambian natural ecosystem. As a result, habitat destruction decreases biodiversity, degrades the natural ecosystem services and damages what could be a lucrative Zambian ecotourism industry. Because of these problems, the Zambian government and outside investors are looking toward solar alternatives, recognizing the benefits of solar energy in Zambia.

 

The Solution:  Solar Energy in Zambia

Director of the Zambian Development Agency (ZDA) Patrick Chisanga and other branches of the Zambian government are teaming up with investors throughout the United States and Europe to provide funding toward solar energy in Zambia. The ZDA is currently negotiating a $500 million solar investment deal from an unnamed German company hoping to provide projects and products to the growing market.

In 2015, USAID Zambia and Power Africa provided $2 million of funding to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Scaling Solar project, which has contributed $4 billion in global solar investments, to further develop smaller-scale commercial and utility solar energy in Zambia. NGOs like the U.K.-based Solar Aid are currently working in conjunction with a group called Sunny Munny to develop solar projects and provide resources to the very eager Zambian communities.

Moving Toward the Future

Solar energy development in Zambia continues what is already a growing trend of technological leapfrogging throughout the African continent. Zambians understand that they may never be a part of the nationalized power grid and therefore readily accept solar energy infrastructure as a solution to this problem. In a report conducted by BBC in Jan. 2018, reporters describe buzzing excitement in villages after they set up their solar technologies and finally had access to their own non-biofuel energy source.

With the help of Zambian government action, USAID investment, private investment and nonprofits like SolarAid, solar energy in Zambia will help the country approach several of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: providing citizen access to reliable modern energy resources, building resilient infrastructure and protecting and restoring natural ecosystems within the country.

– Daniel Levy

Photo: Flickr

Slums
In 2001, 65 million people in India were living in slums without decent living conditions or any access to water and food on a daily basis. According to Berkeley research, more ore than 80 percent of the urban population in India cannot afford a concrete slab to be used as a roof.

For those who can afford a roof in slums, most of the time they are made of cement or metal sheets, which has a very bad effect on health and leads to poor quality of life. Witnessing such a lack of basic need, Hasit Ganatra, engineer and founder of ReMaterials, conceptualized a new type of roof named ModRoof to improve lives in slums.

According to ReMaterials, ModRoof is a “modular roofing system” that can improve shelters in slums and village homes in developing areas. Eco-friendly, easily removable and simple to install, it is also designed to be strong, waterproof and fire-resistant.

In addition, ModRoof is available for a low cost. Payable through microfinance companies, a very popular system in developing countries, the program solves the main obstacle to better facilities in worldwide slums: the price.

ReMaterials is currently considering embedding solar cells in ModRoof, which would allow houses to have power LED lights and outlets to charge phones. Employing solar power with ModRoof would be a huge step forward, as providing electricity to these shelters could assist in lifting the residents out of poverty.

“Worldwide experts told us to give up; they said we’d never do it,” said Ganatra in an interview with BBC. “But when you see this sort of problem [in the slums] you have to do something about it.”

Thus, the stark blue rooftop from ReMaterials is set to change lives. With continued persistence from Ganatra and his team, ModRoof will allow families living in slums all around the world to sleep in a safer, warmer environment.

– Léa Gorius

Photo: Flickr