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Digital GAP Act
For the developed world, internet access has become a standard part of everyday life. Currently, 80 percent of individuals living in the developed world have access to the internet and this number is growing. However, in the developing world, a mere 40 percent of individuals have access to the internet due to a lack of infrastructure. This number decreases to 11 percent when looking at the world’s least developed countries. In order to promote global economic growth and job development, the U.S. has introduced the Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act, a bill that would encourage broadband (high-speed) internet access throughout the developing world.

Purpose of the Digital GAP Act

Ultimately, the Digital GAP Act would fund the infrastructure needed to provide broadband internet access throughout the developing world. The goal of the bill is to provide four billion people living in both the urban and rural areas of developing countries with first-time access to the internet by 2027. The benefits of the Digital GAP Act are manifold. Supporters of this bill hope that fixed access to the internet will “catalyze innovation, spur economic growth and job creation, improve health, education, and financial services, reduce poverty and gender inequality, mitigate disasters, and promote free speech, democracy and good governance.” In short, the Digital GAP Act has the potential to be revolutionary because the ability to access all different types of information with the click of a button would drastically transform the developing world.

Who is Spearheading the Bill?

The Digital GAP Act is a bipartisan bill. Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX-Six), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-Seven) introduced it on February 26, 2019. Additionally, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA-30), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN-Three) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-Six) have cosponsored this bill.

On May 20, 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Digital GAP Act. The Senate now needs to pass the bill and President Trump must sign it. The government has reported that there is an 85 percent chance of Senate passing the bill.

The Installation of Broadband Internet

The developing world will gain access to the internet through a build-once policy. In order to fund this initiative, both the public and private sector will invest in roads and other critical infrastructure in order to ensure that the infrastructure will last and that workers install it adequately the first time. The goal is that this infrastructure will be able to reach the poor rural areas of the developing world. Without actively targeting rural areas, only the major cities would gain internet access, leading to heightened wealth disparity. Without promoting the development of all areas, sustainable development cannot be achieved.

The Way the Digital GAP Act Will Benefit the Economy

By providing internet access to more than four billion people throughout the world, the global economic output would increase by approximately $6.7 trillion and raise over 500 million people out of poverty. This initiative would greatly advance the United States’ foreign policy interests because global poverty reduction helps foster resilient, democratic societies, which promote national security and global economic growth. According to the World Bank, “Raising Internet penetration to 75 percent of the population in all developing countries would add as much as two trillion USD to their collective GDP and create more than 140 million jobs around the world.” The bill also anticipates bringing 600 million more women online. Currently, there are 23 percent fewer women online than men. According to the U.S. government, these women would contribute between $13-18 billion in annual GDP across 144 countries.

The Digital GAP Act is a long-term investment. While many foreign aid initiatives look to reduce immediate suffering by providing food aid or funding for crisis relief, the Digital GAP Act looks much further into the future. In other words, the goal of this bill is not to temporarily mitigate poverty, but to end it altogether by promoting avenues for economic growth and job development. However, both forms of foreign aid must work together, for the long-term benefits that this Act could provide are irrelevant if the people do not address the immediate needs of those living in extreme poverty.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sardinia
Sardinia, Italian Sardegna, is an Italian island in the mediterranean sea that is no stranger to poverty. The economic hardship increased after the 2008 recession. Beginning in 2010, a variety of workers and artisans found themselves at risk of losing their jobs. For example, shepherds and independent farmers were losing business to larger farming companies and small entrepreneurs and independent contractors had to compete with privatization. So, they took to the streets of the regional capital city in Cagliari in protest. Now, Italy is looking to sustainable development and ecotourism to alleviate poverty in Sardinia.

Poverty Overall

Italy really began showing signs of economic recovery in 2017. In the first quarter of 2017, its GDP went up 0.5 percent, business morale was at its highest in a decade and export volumes had risen 2.8 percent over the first eight months of the year. The economic recovery, however, has not played out evenly. Life is getting worse for many Italians. The number of Italians living in extreme poverty had increased from 4.7 million in 2016 to 5 million by the end of 2017 despite that fact that the economic recovery has slowly been gaining traction on a macro level.

Poverty in Sardinia did not skip a beat. The percent of poor individuals living in Sardinia increased from 16 percent in 2016 to 21.4 percent in 2017, according to ISTAT. To compound the issue, the unemployment rate in Sardinia was 17 percent in 2017, which was considerably higher than Italy’s overall 11 percent rate in 2017. The island suffers from high emigration, a negative rate of population growth and a low population density of 40 inhabitants per square mile, which is almost one-third of the average in Italy.

Despite the issue of poverty in Sardinia, the inhabitants of the island live a very long time, especially in the village of Tiana where the proportion of centenarians is found to be 3 times higher than in other parts of Italy. Researchers believe this is true because of the social fabric of the region. The elderly in Tiana tend to lead longer and happier lives because of the degree of social interaction they enjoy. Italy is working to improve condition on the island by capitalizing on the history and culture of the region.

Efforts to Combat Poverty in Sardinia

To combat poverty in Sardinia and promote economic development, the country has embraced a model of sustainable development. In 2013, the island became the first sustainable destination in the Mediterranean. Part of Sardinia’s commitment to sustainability comes from the fact that the island is a huge promoter of green energy, hosting more than 2000 companies in the green supply chain and using renewable energies through its numerous wind and solar farms.

Ecotourism is gaining momentum on the island. Almost 200,000 more tourists visited the Sardinia in April and May 2017 than in the previous year during the same time. Sardinia’s beautiful coasts boast nearly unspoiled beaches and reefs. Tourists can go diving to see the protected marine life or one of the many underwater archeological sites in the region. There are a variety of things to do and see on the different islands in Sardinia depending on the interests of the tourists.

Tourism in the summer months is very popular and helps to combat low employment rates. The ecotourists and elites that visit the island during the summer months bring employment and capital to the coastal regions of the island, but the interior does not benefit from summer tourism. Sardinians living in the interior have recently taken strides to develop a cultural tourism industry. Sardinians who live in the interior believe there is an opportunity for increased tourism since the heritage of the island–cultural, linguistic, artistic and musical–has been fiercely preserved. They have begun attracting tourists to the interior by hosting successful festivals that draw out the unique characteristics of each region.

Although there is still a significant number of people living in poverty in Sardinia, efforts are underway to greatly alleviate the situation by capitalizing on the island’s beauty and rich cultural history. Ecotourism and sustainable energy are going a long way to improve the living conditions in Sardinia and bring in new business opportunities to continue building a prosperous economy.

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

sustainable developmentNot so many people are aware that poverty exists in almost every place in the world, and not so many people realize what it means to be living in extreme poverty. Most commonly pictured is a group of poor, dirty people who are noticeably hungry and ill in their thin stature.

The sobering truth is, though, that many of the poorest people in the world actually live this kind of life. In order to improve such conditions, it is necessary to include environmental contributors to methods of sustainable development.

Health and Environment

The standard of living generally entails compilation and analysis to self-reports on the overall satisfaction of life, wealth and health statuses. A multitude of people living in extreme poverty report that they are unsatisfied with their living conditions. Around 25 percent of respondents to a survey said that a family member was in need of medical attention. Rates of people working more than one job, not having desired personal possessions and electricity were also gloomy.

Various ailments among those living with the lowest standards of living exist hand-in-hand with the state of that environment. For example, treating a patient for diarrhea is not too draining of a process, but finding the cause of diarrhea within that individual’s environment and eliminating that cause requires a higher amount of patience.

In the text below four examples of environmental inadequacies that exist in most areas of extreme poverty are presented, each with their own issues. Along with them is a key to moving forward in the sustainable development of these communities.

Water

Contaminated drinking water, poor hygiene and lack of sanitation are common water-related issues for people in many parts of the world. Unsafe water leads to many issues such as diarrhea, nausea, cramps, dehydration and other gastrointestinal related illness.

In order to implement safe water into sustainable development, proper infrastructure needs to be taken into consideration. Plumbing is a basic necessity to transport and store water safely.

World Vision is an organization that helps communities in need get working wells. SODIS is a solution that gives people a way to become self-reliant in preparing their own safe drinking water.

Indoor Air Quality

Air in homes or commercial areas unsuitable for breathing is frequently caused by the burning of solid fuels, smoke or other toxins. These conditions lead to respiratory infections, chronic pulmonary disease, asthma and even cancer. Such conditions lead to around 1.6 million deaths each year around the world.

Burning of safer (liquid) fuels would be the most effective and sustainable development solution to this condition. Other changes to occur would include ventilation systems and changes in heating and cooking appliances.

Pesticide Use 

Inadequate monitoring of dangerous pesticides has become an issue mostly only for underdeveloped areas. Due to the lack of regulations or means to enforce any regulations that are in place, struggling countries are ill-equipped to fight this battle. Contact with some of the most dangerous pesticides or contamination of foods, soil and water is poisoning people, causing as many as 335,000 deaths per year.

The most important way to combat this challenge is to educate policymakers and landholders in these areas of danger and offer a safer solution, such as approved pesticides.

Improper Land Use

Insufficient agriculture techniques, overhunting and deforestation all lead to disaster for those involved. When people are struggling for survival, sustainability becomes a luxury. When land is overused to degradation, there becomes an even more severe shortage of resources to compete for, meaning hunger and chronic malnutrition all can lead to a plethora of health issues.

Implementing more sustainable development for farming and agricultural can make a huge difference in this area. Programs such as the Global Food Security Act have been put into place to directly aid in global hunger.

Campaigns like The Borgen Project exist for the good of recognizing and reducing global poverty. Developed nations around the world have policies for foreign aid. Sometimes the goal is empowerment, education, improved health, decreased hunger or helping a nation enter the international market.

Every part of these goals is important to end poverty, and another concept of incorporating environmental awareness with health policies is becoming more popular when addressing sustainable development.

There is a multitude of treatable issues in undeveloped nations. For example, if people had access to vaccines for a given disease, then that disease could be directly managed by simple preventative care. Even though difficult health problems exist, undeveloped nations are making steady and sure progress towards truly improved health care.

– Heather Benton
Photo: Flickr

houses made of plastic
When it comes to environmental preservation, plastic represents a huge global problem. The average American or European throws away 100 kilograms of plastic per year, as reported by the Worldwatch Institute in 2015. The plastic waste issue not only affects the environment but also increases poverty. Fortunately, initiatives all around the world are trying to fight plastic pollution by promoting recycling while also reducing poverty by building houses made of plastic.

Conceptos Plasticos

This Bogota-based company produces low-cost houses made of plastic; each one averages around 430 square feet. Since 2010, Conceptos Plasticos has been building temporary and permanent homes, shelters, classrooms, community rooms and other buildings in Colombia.

Founded by Colombian architect Oscar Mendez, the company transforms the recycled plastic into Lego-like bricks that are easy to assemble and contain additives that make them resistant to fire and earthquakes. Its clients are the government, non-governmental organizations, foundations and private companies, who pay for housing solutions in the communities where the houses are built. Each house costs the equivalent of $130 per square meter.

Conceptos Plasticos provides the materials to be used by the communities and gives people training on how to build the houses. A home for a single family is built by four people with no experience in construction and takes only five days to be built. In 2015, the Colombian startup helped build a shelter for 42 families displaced by the violence in Guapi, Cauca, recycling a total of 120 tons of plastic.

EcoDom’s Innovative Houses Made of Plastic

In Mexico, every year 800,000 tons of plastic waste is produced and only 15 percent is recycled. To minimize this problem, Carlos Daniel Gonzalez founded the Mexican startup EcoDom, which means “Eco House”. The company recycles everything from soda bottles to toys and turns it into material to build houses made of plastic. It works with local trash collectors in Puebla to achieve its goals of reducing plastic waste as well as improving Mexico’s economy through affordable housing.

EcoDom turns plastic, as well as cardboard, into four different products to structure a house: thermal wall, concrete roofing, thermal roofing and structural beams. Weekly, the company recycles 15,000 kg of solid waste and turns it into 1,200 prefabricated walls, flooring and structural roofing.

EcoDom is helping reduce the number of Mexican people living in poverty, which currently stands at 63 million. So far, the startup has built more than 500 houses out of recycled plastic at a cost of less than $300 each.

Fundación Eco-Inclusion

The Eco-Inclusion Foundation is an Argentinian network of NGOs that manufactures ecological bricks made of plastic. Founded in 2014 by entrepreneurs Leandro Miguez, Leandro Lima, and Fabio Saieg, the organization works to reduce plastic waste and have a social impact by building houses out of the recycled plastic.

Eco-Inclusion has 45 plastic collecting spots in four cities. They turn every 20 plastic bottles into one brick and can produce 20 bricks in one hour. The plastic bricks have the same characteristics as a regular brick. They are also light, insulating and are made with a production process that does not damage the environment.

The bricks, built in partnership with Ceve-Conicet, are used to build community spaces that help the most impoverished people of Argentina. Right now, with the help of volunteers, the trio of entrepreneurs is building a dining hall and bathroom for an Argentinian soccer club, attended by hundreds of children.

If more people support these projects, two huge global issues can be minimized: plastic waste and poverty. It is a way of both helping the environment and improving people’s living conditions.

– Júlia Ledur

Photo: Flickr

social gastronomy “Food should not only taste good but also do good for society.” With this motto, Gastromotiva has been helping people in conditions of vulnerability and social exclusion through something as simple as food. Since its foundation in 2006 by chef David Hertz, the Brazilian organization has impacted more than 100,000 people globally through education and social gastronomy initiatives.

How Gastromotiva is Helping Those in Need

According to an April 2018 report published by the World Bank, 50 percent of the Brazilian population between ages 19 and 25 is vulnerable to poverty. In this scenario, Gastromotiva uses the power of education, food and gastronomy as a social change agent. The organization acts on three main areas: education, social gastronomy and food waste reduction.

The first project created by Gastromotiva was vocational kitchen training, culinary classes offered for young low-income people at no charge. During the four-month intensive program, students learn not only technical skills but also concepts such as eco-gastronomy, food waste cooking and personal development. After graduating, they are presented with a variety of employment options at Gastromotiva partner restaurants. This way, students become multipliers and empower others by disseminating their knowledge about social gastronomy in their own communities. So far, 4,000 people have graduated.

In addition to the culinary classes, Gastromotiva also offers food entrepreneur classes and acts on the social gastronomy movement, a human-centered solution to generate opportunity, dignity and inclusion through food. The movement involves establishing partnerships with other organizations, gastronomic businesses, chefs and companies all over the world.

“Social gastronomy goes beyond one chef, one meal, one Michelin star,” explains David Hertz in a TED Talk. “When we are all connected we can feel love and respect and with food, we can transform millions of lives.”

Current Endeavors in Social Gastronomy

Most recently, Gastromotiva launched Reffetorio Gastromotiva, a restaurant school in Rio de Janeiro created by chefs Massimo Bottura, David Hertz and the journalist Ale Forbes, to fight food waste, malnutrition and social exclusion. At Reffetorio, chefs host workshops and gastronomy classes and also prepare 450 three-course meals for homeless people every night with food that would otherwise be wasted.

“We give these people not only quality food but also a moment of peace and dignity when they feel like human beings,” said Gastromotiva’s CEO Nicola Gryczka in an interview with The Borgen Project. Gastromotiva collaborates to achieve, until 2030, various Sustainable Development Goals defined by the United Nations, including no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities and partnerships for the goals.

Looking Toward the Future

Besides Brazil, Gastromotiva is currently present in three other countries: Mexico (Mexico City), South Africa (Cape Town) and El Salvador (San Salvador). This year, the management team plans to expand the project to Colombia, Argentina and Turkey, where it will implement a program focused on refugees in partnership with World Food Programme.

Gryczka says that the organization is constantly looking for partners in different countries that can help spread the message of social gastronomy and minimize different global problems.

“Because it’s something that impacts all our lives, food is the easiest way to help people find solutions for social issues, such as hunger, poverty, malnutrition and unemployment,” she points out. This is what Gastromotiva means by “food should do good for society.”

– Júlia Ledur

Photo: Flickr

Eco-Schools Impact Uganda
Eco-Schools around the world positively impact the environments and communities around them. Specifically, Eco-Schools impact Uganda through student, parental and community education and engagement.

The Eco-Schools program was developed within Agenda 21 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Agenda 21’s objective was to develop a plan of global action concerning every area that carries a human impact on the environment. The three goals of the objective were to reorient education towards sustainable development, increase public awareness and promote training.

Through the implementation of the Eco-Schools program, the United Nations believed that they could achieve these objectives by creating easy access to environmental and development education beginning with young students and continuing education into adulthood.

Eco-Schools Impact Uganda Through Three Programs

Eco-Schools are structured through three programs: the Seven Steps Framework, the Eco-Schools Themes and Assessment for the Green Flag.

The Seven Steps Framework sets guidelines to ensure success within Eco-Schools. However, the Eco-Schools program recognizes that each school is unique and the framework should be adjusted to fit their individual needs. Concluding with producing an Eco-Code, this framework encourages schools to pursue a reliable and realistic course of action.

To provide guidance and a grounded purpose, Eco-Schools choose a theme that aligns with their objective. There are 12 main themes, including global citizenship, climate change and water.

Once a school has successfully implemented the program for two years by completing the seven steps and working through their theme, they can apply to be awarded the Green Flag. An initial assessment takes place to determine if the school met qualifications to be awarded their first Green Flag, and then yearly assessments take place.

In Uganda, Eco-Schools were first implemented in 2006. In the Eco-Schools Best Practice Report, Uganda showed a wide range of improvement in environmental engagement and education within their students, parents and communities.

Effects on Student Learning

The report noted that dropout rates at Eco-Schools were lower than those at non-Eco-Schools. In addition, they learned that student learning and comprehension increased through the final examination. For example, in St. Kagwa Primary School, attendance increased from 902 to 969 students in 2016, accompanied by an increased student pass rate, from 93 student graduates to 129.

Eco-Schools impact Uganda by empowering their learners and building the qualities for successful future leaders by teaching responsibility and commitment.

Encouraging Parental Involvement

By training parents on the program as well as students, Eco-Schools empowered parents to involve themselves in their child’s learning environment. In general, the report found that parents showed more enthusiasm after they understood the Eco-Schools program, which led them to encourage their children to pursue a quality education.

Muguta Moses, head teacher at Rukondo Primary School, stated, “In my opinion, the most significant change is that it’s enhanced parental involvement in the school. Parents have come to realize their roles and responsibilities in the education of their children.”

Community Cooperation and Support

Eco-Schools impact Uganda through providing the opportunity for the community to engage with their work. Micro-projects are monitored not only through the schools, but also on a district level. Through these projects, water, sanitation, health and access to better nutrition have improved. Eco-Schools also implement projects that the community is involved with directly, such as planning community flower and vegetable gardens. By positively impacting citizens outside of the schools, students create a connection to the community.

The Eco-Schools program guides schools through structured plans while also holding them accountable for their projects and operations. Eco-Schools impact Uganda and other countries through educating, increasing environmental interest and growing the quality of life in their communities.

By 2019, Uganda aims to have 15 Eco-Schools implemented, resulting in 120,167 trees planted, 2,000 wood-saving stoves manufactured, 2,560 farm families reached and 200 Eco-Enterprises created.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Google

sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea

Agrarian-minded agents have shared farming methods online that enable sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea for traditional tribespeople who grow Tabernanthe iboga, a shrub that has many uses in traditional tribal medicinal practices.

One important use of Tabernanthe iboga is to provide hunters and fisherman with stamina and a reduced need to eat and drink as they are hunting and fishing. Iboga also has a lot of other medicinal properties that make its cultivation and use important to the people who live in Equatorial Guinea and surrounding areas. Tabernanthe iboga has been shown to help with diarrhea and various disorders of the mind, and some traditional healers even claim that it helps lessen pain in people who have AIDS.

The Internet Helps Iboga Growers

Before learning new farming methods that encouraged sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea, some of the farmers growing Tabernanthe iboga employed more environmentally destructive slash and burn methods to harvest the plant. Through self-agency by using information about farming available online, the farmers learned about the importance of not removing the whole plant so that the crop can continue to grow in the future, and the need to replace the soil so that the nutrients required to grow the plants do not get destroyed.

The farming methods that were shared online by agrarian-minded agents and used by Iboga growers provide a beacon of light that promotes and supports sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea. However, companies that are not agrarian-minded have passed laws that restrict farmers in Equatorial Guinea from sharing their seeds with other farmers. Such laws, which are designed to protect the profits of biotechnology firms that have created new seeds, hurt farmers in developing countries.

Seed Sovereignty Addressing Restrictions

A political movement called Seed Sovereignty is attempting to repeal the legislation that makes it a crime to save and share seeds. This movement is attempting to restore the right to use seeds to the farmer so that sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea and other areas of the world is possible without needing to buy new seeds each year.

Farmers who violate the law and decide to share the seeds from their harvest with other people can go to prison. In some areas of Africa, the farmer who defies the law by sharing his seeds can spend up to 12 years in prison. Agrarian-minded agents take the opposite approach and empower farmers in places like Equatorial Guinea to protect the plants they grow by sharing their seeds and environmentally-safe farming techniques with others rather than putting them in prison for sharing their knowledge with other people.

An Online Repository of Sustainable Agriculture in Equatorial Guinea

The promotion of methods that support sustainable agriculture practices is needed to help preserve biodiversity and empower farmers in impoverished areas of the world. They offer this help by sharing the knowledge required to farm without destroying the environment so that farmers can produce without worrying about destroying the natural resources that they depend on for food and medicine.

Farmers in Equatorial Guinea have access to new methods to sustainably grow Tabernanthe iboga because of the information shared online by agrarian-minded agents. Tabernanthe iboga is an important plant in Equatorial Guinea, it is a part of their rich culture, and farmers can ensure that Tabernanthe iboga will always be there by growing it using sustainable farming methods.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Google

Africa’s water problemTo address Africa’s water problem, tech startups like HydroIQ are stepping in to digitize the water accessibility and billing system for consumers.

According to the U.N., two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025, and the majority of these people will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The African region already faces constant problems due to the scarcity of water that sometimes never reaches the consumers.

In Africa, as much as 50 percent of the water supplied by utilities is lost before actually reaching the consumer, all because of an inefficient and poorly managed distribution network. Additionally, the cost burden of water losses is borne by the consumers, making the whole experience expensive and troublesome.

To address Africa’s water problem, HydroIQ intends on making water more accessible to the people of Africa through technology. Powered by three major technologies, the Kenya-based water-monitoring startup relies on the internet of things, data analytics and payment automation.

Named the top African startup of 2018 by Startup.Info, HydroIQ is also the world’s first virtual water network operator. The company was founded by two entrepreneurs, Brian Bosire and Victor Shikoli, who are determined to revolutionize the access and distribution of water in Africa.

HydroIQ works by using a smart metering device that, when plugged into the existing water supply network, can turn the traditional water system into a smart water grid. It can be installed in households to track consumption in real-time. In this way, consumers only pay for what they use. The payment for the consumption is also digitized and made easy – its pay-as-you-go basis is powered using mobile money. Additional benefits allow consumers to receive notifications when the water is running low. The real-time leak detection also sends alerts for early detection and prompt action.

According to sources, as much as 45 percent of revenue is lost due to lack of infrastructure and poor bill payment systems. With HydroIQ, such barriers can be overcome and consumers can pay with the most preferred mode of payment, mobile money. The company has partnered with local water utilities to address the issue of water access across Africa.

Innovative tech startups can help Africa achieve sustainable development and efficient water management across cities. Globally, Africa is urbanizing at a very fast pace and fixing the water problem is becoming increasingly important. According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return between $3 and $34.

The startup intends on solving Africa’s water problem by making its business model sustainable, scalable and adaptable through the use of digital technologies. By focusing on providing African consumers the ease and convenience to pay for what they use, the digitized process will further reduce the upfront costs for the consumers, delivering a high standard value to its customers.

In 2018, HydroIQ will install meters in 1,500 households and intends on expanding and developing market insights to cater to the consumers’ needs. With a goal of reaching 34,000 homes by 2019, it aims to grow over 300,000 in the next five years.

As more and more tech startups step forward to address crucial issues like Africa’s water problem and the region’s credit access problems, it is not surprising that a combination of innovation and investment may soon bring a positive change to the daily lives of consumers.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr

One Woman's Solution to the Trash Crisis in NigeriaNigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with more than 180 million residents within its borders. Fortunately, population growth is not the only growth that Nigeria has been experiencing. Over the last decade, Nigeria’s sizable population has gone to work, quite literally. Sustained growth in the finance, communications, technology, entertainment and service sectors led Nigeria to eclipse South Africa as the continent’s largest economy in 2014. Economic growth is certainly a positive indicator for overall development, but the country’s rapid market expansion is exacerbating the trash crisis in Nigeria, one of the country’s most pressing challenges.

Nigeria’s problem with urban waste management has been mounting for quite some time. Inadequate funding for waste management, poor policies, limited infrastructure and a dearth of professionals with the know-how to address this issue have had undesirable consequences for Nigeria. Urbanization and development have piled on additional issues. Car emissions are unregulated, and Nigerians often turn to generators that emit harmful fumes because of spotty electricity. To combat the trash crisis in Nigeria, many citizens have adopted waste burning as a regular practice. As a result, the country is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world.

Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, has become somewhat of a poster child for the global trash crisis. As trash piles built up on the streets and pollution worsened, one woman from the city found a solution while studying abroad at MIT. A Lagos native, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola relocated to the U.S. to pursue an MBA at MIT. What started as a school assignment grew into the lauded social enterprise known today as Wecyclers.

Adebiyi-Abiola launched Wecyclers in Lagos in 2013 as an answer to the trash crisis in Nigeria. Wecyclers is a low-cost social enterprise that incentivizes recycling for the residents of Lagos’ low-income communities. The process is simple:

  • Lagos households sign up for the recycling collection service online.
  • Participants separate recyclables according to Wecyclers’ guidelines for collection.
  • Wecyclers employees travel on cargo bikes to collect the recyclables once a week, and award points based on weight via an SMS platform.
  • Once participants accumulate a certain amount of points, they can redeem them for various prizes including household goods, electronics and even cash. Wecyclers has teamed up with major brands like Coca-Cola to provide rewards.
  • Wecyclers sells collected recyclables on the market to large buyers of recyclable materials.

Wecyclers’ waste-to-wealth model quickly became a success. Wecyclers recycled more than 525 tons of waste in its first two years. Since launching, the company has enjoyed partnerships with the Lagos Waste Management Agency and corporate sponsors like DHL, Oracle and Unilever. Wecyclers has also received widespread recognition, recently earning the Le Monde Smart-Cities 2017 Global Innovation Award among others.

Since its inception, Wecyclers has expanded beyond a community rewards-for-recycling program. Today, Wecyclers provides both residential and commercial waste collection. The company also conducts sustainability training and consulting for organizations, helping corporate clients and donors develop and implement socially responsible initiatives. Wecyclers has benefited community members and various stakeholders in numerous ways, transforming the old adage: one person’s trash may very well be their treasure.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr