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Posts Tagged ‘development’

2010 Ashden Awards: Sustainable solutions making good business sense

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 16th, 2010

Source: Forum for the Future

From “Sustainable solutions that make good business sense” by Martin Wright:

In a small farm on the hills above Nairobi, a slender woman in a flower-patterned headscarf is gently, politely shattering myths. Standing among the fruit trees on her shamba (smallholding), Mary Waringa Nguku dispels two of the most common clichés trotted out about the developing world. First, that people in Africa and elsewhere are too busy worrying about day-to-day life to share the West’s obsession with forest loss or climate change. “We cannot trust the weather any more”, she tells me. “It doesn’t rain like it used to, and the rivers are drying out. We do not always have the water we need… The forests are less, so we are going short of wood and it is more expensive. That is why, when I saw the biogas at my brother’s farm, and he told me how much money he was saving, I really wanted to give it a try.”

That last remark gives the lie to the second myth: that sustainable solutions always cost more than unsustainable ones. Mary is among over 200 customers of Skylink Innovators, a local Kenyan company which is installing biogas energy plants in the nation’s schools and even two of its prisons. The plants use a mixture of cow dung and human waste to produce cooking fuel via a process of anaerobic digestion (AD). It’s a well-established technology which tackles several problems at once: it provides clean fuel in place of smoky firewood for cooking; it helps to reduce pressure on dwindling forests and cuts out the greenhouse emissions from burning wood; and it saves people money. Once the biogas plant is in place, there’s no need for firewood. Many farmers save at least as much again on chemical fertiliser, too, as the nutrient-rich residue from the digester does the job just as well. Most plants pay for themselves in a couple of years. All of which makes it a sound business prospect for the likes of Skylink’s founder, Samwel Kinoti. “My father was a pioneer of biogas on his farm, so I grew up with it. I saw the beauty of it, and I knew others would, too.”

It’s this combination of entrepreneurship and environmental good sense which has won Skylink one of the 2010 Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, presented by David Attenborough at a ceremony in London. The Ashden Awards celebrate local sustainable energy success stories in both developing countries and the UK. In doing so, they echo and amplify Mary Waringa’s mythbusting, turning the pursuit of sustainability from something worthy into pure common sense.

Read the rest of this article by Martin Wright on Green Futures for more about biogas, solar energy systems and community empowerment.

Low-Income Nations: Becoming Climate Resilient

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on August 3rd, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Leapfrogging into a Carbon-Light Future: The End of High-Carbon Prosperity and How Low-Income Nations Are Becoming Climate Resilient” by Martin Wright:

The idea that Africa could somehow leap to a boom economy will strike some as hopelessly wishful thinking. But the seeds of this possible future already exist.  The combination of solar power, mobile phones and IT, for example, is already transforming the economic prospects for villagers across the continent. A simple piece of software enabling the transfer of small amounts of money instantly and cheaply by mobile is plugging remote rural backwaters into the global economy as never before. Millions are saving money, time and their health by switching to clean, efficient sources of energy – from solar to biogas, biomass to hydro. Agricultural innovations, too, are mushrooming, from water harvesting and hydroponics to the precise application of fertilizer and irrigation via GPS.

All such breakthroughs have one common characteristic: they are low-carbon technologies. The phrase has a rather worthy feel – especially when applied to developing countries. But it masks an intriguing possibility: that low-income nations could outflank the industrialized world, skipping the heavyweight, fossil fuel-dependent economic model and leapfrogging into a carbon-light future.

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Sharing Knowledge: Farmer-to-farmer videos

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 5th, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “Innovation of the Week: Messages From One Rice Farmer to Another” by Alex Tung:

Some 80 percent of the world’s rice production is grown by smallholder farmers in developing countries, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). From Bangladesh to Benin, these farmers continue to develop different solutions to improve the process of rice production. These methods include using flotation to sort seeds, and parboiling, which removes impurities and reduces grain breakage. The Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) has developed a simple solution to help farmers share this knowledge: Farmer to farmer videos

Working with researchers, rice farmers and processors, they have developed a series of videos to instruct farmers, including, manual seed sorting manually and by flotation, seed drying and preservation in Bangladesh; rice quality and parboiling in Benin; land preparation for planting rice in Burkina Faso; and seedbed preparation, transplanting, weeding and soil fertility management in Mali.

Farmers in Guinea watched videos of Bangladeshi women creating solutions to improve the quality of farm-saved rice-seed. “The farmers pay a lot of attention to the quality of their seed that they store for the next season,” said Louis Béavogui, researcher at the Institut de recherche agronomique de Guinée (IRAG). “Watching the videos on seed has stimulated them to start looking for local solutions to common problems that farmers face. It is by drawing on local knowledge that sustainable solutions can often be found at almost no cost.”

To pique farmers’ interest in the project, AfricaRice researchers approach them with videos on topics relevant to that particular region. And farmers are involved in the production of the videos from the very beginning, helping researchers decide which methods should be highlighted. Edith Dah Tossounon, chairperson from a rice processing group in Southern Benin, was one of the many women who demonstrated how to parboil rice in a video.

The strong presence of women in the videos also helps local NGOs and extension offices—which tend to be made up mostly of male agents—engage women’s groups. A survey of 160 women in Central Benin comparing the use of video with conventional training workshops showed that videos reached 74 percent of women compared with 27 percent in conventional training. Women who watched the videos worked with NGOs to formulate requests for training in building improved stoves and to seek financial assistance to buy inputs such as paddy rice and improved parboilers that allow rice to stay above the water during steaming, so more nutritional value is preserved. More than 95 percent of those who watched the video adopted drying their rice on tarpaulins and removed their shoes before stirring the rice to preserve cleanliness and avoid contamination, compared to about 50 percent of those who only received traditional training. In addition, illiterate woman could easily learn from the simple language and clear visuals of the examples shown in the videos.

Read the full article by Alex Tung, and for more about innovative ways to share knowledge among rural populations, see Acting it Out For Advocacy.

Second Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference

Posted in Events by Devin Maeztri on June 17th, 2009

Reclaiming Vacant Properties

Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference is organized by the National Vacant Properties Campaign.
Press Release of the conference can be downloaded from Smart Growth Around America.

“The National Vacant Properties Campaign was created in 2003 to help communities prevent, manage, and successfully redevelop vacant and abandoned properties – all to create more vibrant, thriving neighborhoods. We believe that such efforts yield more affordable housing opportunities, major fiscal and economic development benefits, and reduced threats to our public health, safety, and the environment. The Campaign is led by Smart Growth America, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, and the Genesee Institute.”
To find out more about the campaign visit National Vacant Properties Campaign.

Launch of new Environment, Health and Development research network

Posted in Research by fedwards on March 23rd, 2009

A new Environment, Health and Development research network has been launched in 2009, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. Please see the website:

There will be an inaugural conference in June 2009. This will comprise an electronic conference and a symposium, where we will particularly explore the role of social science perspectives on themes linking environment, health and development, discuss different analytical approaches, and discuss ways forward for the network. The website gives details of how to join the network and how to apply for the symposium.
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Research on climate change policy in The Journal of Environment & Development

Posted in Research by fedwards on November 19th, 2008

A new issue of The Journal of Environment & Development has recently been published and is available online: 1 December 2008; Vol. 17, No. 4. Topics include a range of research based on climate change politics in places such as Germany, China, California and Japan. Click here to access the table of contents.