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Sustainable Solutions for Developing Countries
When discussing issues such as sustainability, one should keep in mind that everyone has a different experience. Throughout the world, all people count on various resources, environments and cultures, amongst other things, that make it impossible to find a one-size-fits-all solution.

In today’s world, it is essential to look at the common denominators when trying to find environmental solutions. Doing so provides a guide to finding solutions that are sustainable in diverse circumstances. This mindset becomes particularly relevant when referring to developing countries because solutions accessible to people in developed countries might not be an option for those in nations that are not. To find truly sustainable solutions, it is important to take into account the planet, as well as how these solutions would impact the people. This piece will discuss three sustainable solutions that developing countries have implemented and why these have been successful.

WeCyclers

WeCyclers is a for-profit company in Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos is on track to become the third-largest economy in Africa. However, 8.5 percent of the population is still poor and 20 percent is vulnerable to poverty. WeCyclers offers a recycling service using low-cost bikes. The organization allows homes to generate value from the waste they produce. WeCyclers began in 2012 when the city collected only 40 percent of its waste and recycled only 13 percent.

Recycling firms in Lagos face many supply constraints, so the WeCyclers solution is vital for both the environment and the people. When people live in conditions that do not involve a formal system of waste collection, they are at risk of diseases such as malaria and cholera. Trash can create water pools that are optimal conditions for disease vectors to breed. In addition to this, they are also at risk of property damage and psychological stress. Waste that places do not deal with forces residents to walk through obstructed roads and come across frequent trash fires.

WeCyclers built its platform on a fleet of cargo bikes called wecycles. Today, it also includes tricycles, vans and trucks and its collectors use them to pick up waste from people’s homes. As people give material, the service rewards them with points per kilogram of recycled waste. People can exchange these points for things such as food and household items.

Netafim

Netafim, the second of the sustainable solutions for developing countries, is a precision irrigation solution in Israel. It increases yields while saving water and cutting costs. The system consists of dripping precise amounts of water right at the root of the crops through a tank that uses gravity. Therefore, it minimizes not only water waste but electricity use as well. It is also commercially viable considering that it has a payback time of about a year.

The company is facing three challenges that are essential to the future of the planet. These include water scarcity and contamination, growing demand for food and the need for arable land. Netafim has spread across 110 countries and has 17 manufacturing plants worldwide. It has irrigated over 10 million hectares of land, as well as produced over 150 billion drippers.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha implements school boats in Bangladesh. This initiative grew from the recognized need to take action against worsening floods around the world. This particularly relates to the prediction that rising sea levels could displace over a million Bangladeshis by 2050.

One of the flooding consequences is children not being able to attend school for long periods. This challenge, in turn, makes it difficult for them to escape poverty, as they are not receiving a quality education. Therefore, by building these solar-powered school boats, the initiative secures learning even in flood-prone regions. Nigeria, Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia have all replicated this model. The organization “teaches women and girls on new skills, sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and women’s rights.” A doctor and a farmer are also on board, which allows them to grow vegetables and raise fish and ducks.

Solutions such as WeCyclers, Netafim and Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha not only help the environment but people too. The common denominator that results in their success is seeing them as mutually exclusive: there is no sustainable way to help the environment without helping society as well.

Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Plastic in Exchange for EducationPlastic pollution is one of the worst global environmental issues to date. On average, around 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year and most of it is not recycled. This unrecycled plastic becomes waste on land, in rivers and oceans, and can be consumed by multiple breeds of animals. Scientists predict that if nothing is done about the production or lack of recycling plastic, the ocean will more than likely have more plastic in it than fish by the year 2050. Poverty-ridden countries are more susceptible to having plastic waste filling their streets and water sources, which is why many areas in these countries are turning to a new solution to both end plastic pollution in their country and decrease their poverty rates.

Many schools in poverty-ridden countries have begun to accept plastic in exchange for education by using the waste as payment for school tuitions. Nigeria is ranked 11th in the world for plastic pollution and it is estimated that nearly 450,000 megatons of plastic waste are discarded every year in the city of Lagos’ water sources alone. Because of this, a partnership with Africa Clean Up Initiative (ACI), RecyclesPay and Wecyclers has allowed parents to start paying their children’s tuition with the plastic waste they collect. How much tuition is covered depends on the amount of waste brought in each week; the more that is brought in, the more tuition is paid for. This helps parents relieve financial burdens and to be able to use what little money they have on school materials while the plastic waste they collect and turn in pays for their child’s tuition.

In 2016, Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar opened a school in India where parents could pay for school tuition by bringing in 25 pieces of plastic waste to school each week. Their plan was to help children receive an education while also cleaning up their town from plastic waste. At the time the school opened, most children were being sent to work rather than attending school because parents either could not afford the education or they could not afford to care for the entire family. This initiative has since been extremely well-liked by the community, and its popularity has grown. The curriculum focuses on generic education practices but also includes curriculum on environmental issues and the importance of keeping the community clean. Because of the positive impact and growth of using plastic in exchange for education, the couple plans to open 100 similar schools within the next five years to increase education in India.

Reducing plastic pollution while improving children’s education is one step closer to resolving plastic pollution and ending world poverty with increased educational opportunities.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Unsplash