28 JUL 2019

Will fighting climate change curtail freedom?

One obstacle to addressing climate change is that many of us worry about maintaining our high-energy lifestyles.

Many people around the world enjoying large vehicles and unlimited air conditioning. If we act to curb greenhouse gas emissions, will we have to change our way of life?

At the heart of this question is the fundamental ideal of freedom — that the individual, not the government, best determines how he or she should live.

It is important to understand that freedom is not simply the ability to act according to whims. To be truly free is to act in accordance with a vision of the good —what is a good family, a good society, a good nation. True freedom is about living according to our highest aspirations about what is good and just in society.

Today, many people are reluctant to do anything that might be inconvenient. Since when did convenience become our highest aspiration? Is there no higher calling that can bring us together?

There are two visions of freedom that are before us today, with respect to climate change.

The “status quo” supports the use of fossil fuels as long as possible. Our lifestyles do not change much with this option – unless our family is hit with a hurricane, a flood, a drought or a heat wave.

When these natural, climate-related disasters happen, with more frequency and severity than in the past, governments are left to pay for emergency responses and recoveries. 

And what about our children? As we embrace the status quo, carbon levels in the atmosphere continue to rise. Ice in the Arctic and Greenland melts. Sea levels continue to rise.

The International Panel on Climate Change predicts more droughts and food shortages, waves of climate refugees disrupting security worldwide, and mass die-offs of plants and animal species. The freedom of our children, and their children, will be greatly reduced.

Is this our vision of the good society? Does this sound like the path of freedom?

What is the vision of freedom advocated by those who want dramatically reducing carbon emissions? It’s a future in which our relationship with nature is as rich as it is today. It’s a future in which we can bird-watch, hike, fish and hunt, snorkel, boat and swim in a landscape that is full of healthy native species.

Energy will come from the sun, the wind and the waves, without polluting our land, our air, our water.  Transportation may look entirely different than today. With new forms of shared and automated mobility, we will be able to travel wherever we want, whenever we want, but with much less risk of being injured in a car crash.

If we act, our society will face massive changes. But these changes will ultimately enhance our freedom. We will live in a world that is safer and in better balance with nature. We will keep our planet livable, not just for humans, but also for the plants and animals with whom we share the Earth.

Continuing to embrace the status quo will result in a more dangerous world where our lives and homes will face greater risks with each passing year.

The vision for the future is yours to choose. On which side will you stand?

By Louis Merlin and Susan Kaye / Citizens’ Climate Lobby

19 AUG 2019

Need to Know: Top 10 facts about world humanitarian day

  1. World Humanitarian Day is a United Nations initiative that aims to honor humanitarian efforts worldwide and raise awareness of supporting people in crisis.
  2. In December 2008, the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly designated August 19 as World Humanitarian Day.
  3. The date of August 19 was chosen as it marked the anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, in which 22 people lost their lives.
  4. This year’s theme for World Humanitarian Day focuses on “Women Humanitarians” and their contributions to making the world a better place.
  5. Women make up a large number of the world’s humanitarian workers, many of whom are working in difficult conditions, including Afghanistan, South Sudan and Syria, among others.
  6. Globally, more than 7 million children in 2018 were provided with emergency education in more than 20 countries around the world.
  7. The UAE was last year named as the world’s biggest donor of official development assistance (ODA) after contributing a total Dh19.32 billion to humanitarian aid in 2017.
  8. Natural disasters and climate change affect 350 million people on average each year and cause billions of dollars of damage.
  9. In 2018, global humanitarian funding reached a new high of $22 billion, surpassing the $21.5 billion raised in 2017.
  10. According to the UN’s Global Humanitarian Overview 2019, nearly 132 million people in 42 countries around the world will this year need humanitarian assistance, including protection.

Source: United Nations

28 JUL 2019

Why innovative technology is key to delivering energy access for all?

Meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is still a long way off, in particular SDG 7 – energy access for all. Progress has been made to close the energy access gap but there are still almost 1 billion people without electricity.

BBOXX’s vision is to use innovative technology to tackle this challenge. It is unacceptable that in the 21st century there are still people across the globe without electricity, and many more without reliable access. Electricity is a basic need – and living without it is a major hindrance to achieving a better quality of life and fostering economic development. 

The falling price of solar batteries and storage methods combined with the uptake of mobile money has meant that for the first time clean energy such as pay-as-you-go solar is now cheaper than alternatives in Africa. The conditions are ripe for BBOXX to leapfrog costly traditional infrastructures in favour of smarter solutions. 
Improving lives and unlocking potential through access to energy 

Having established operations in 12 African countries to date, BBOXX has delivered clean, affordable electricity for the first time to nearly one million people, powering the growth of communities and businesses. 

Winning the Zayed Sustainability Prize for Energy in January is testament to the way the company is making a meaningful difference to people’s lives around the world. Funds from the Zayed Sustainability Prize will enable the company to further invest in innovation, scale up and accelerate the roll-out of affordable, clean and reliable energy to previously underserved communities.

BBOXX recognises that electricity is the entry point to other utilities and value-added services that would never have been possible without the prerequisite of electricity. Energy provision creates demand in other areas – such as gas, water, internet and finance – a demand which the company also seek to meet.

To that end, BBOXX has developed cutting-edge products all managed via BBOXX Pulse. Pulse is a comprehensive management platform which allows the company to manage customer service, the maintenance of solar home systems and other key functions across vast and often remote locations. Pulse harnesses data, pioneering technology and machine-learning – all essential to scaling up and providing energy as a service to many more people. 

Contributing to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Urgency is required to meet the UN’s SDG global targets for 2030. As a leading next generation utility, BBOXX directly contributes to SGD 7 – ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. 

When BBOXX customers switch from kerosene and other fuels to clean energy, this also brings average annual savings of $200 per household. Off-grid solar is not only cheaper for customers than kerosene and traditional fuel alternatives, but also has the added benefits of being safer, healthier, more reliable and better for the environment. Additionally, the systems are available on a pay-as-you-go basis via mobile money, which is best suited to individuals from low income backgrounds as they only pay for what they use. BBOXX has also worked with governments to launch the roll out of subsidies.

It is estimated that oil consumption via traditional kerosene lamps worldwide are responsible for 190 million tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas per year. BBOXX’s solar home systems are helping to displace more than 86,720 tonnes of CO2 annually. This reduces greenhouse gases and contributes to SDG 13 – combatting climate action. 

In addition, the company contributes to meeting SDG 8 – decent work and economic growth; SDG 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure; SDG 10 – reduced inequalities; SDG 11 – sustainable cities and communities; and SDG 17 – partnerships for delivering the goals. 
Vision for the future 

BBOXX has bold ambitions to positively transform the lives of even more people and unlock potential across the developing world through access to energy. In order to do so, the business is scaling rapidly by forging strategic partnerships with global telcos, energy firms, investors, governments and technological partners. For example, BBOXX is already working with Orange in West Africa, EDF in Togo and GE in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

BBOXX has also gone a step further in articulating the vision for the future. This year in Sikpe-Afidegnon, a village in Togo, BBOXX launched its community of the future called “Tomorrow’s Connected Community”, alongside EDF, the company’s partner in Togo. This village runs on a micro-grid as well as solar home systems, providing access to a range of utilities including clean cooking solutions, internet services and water pumps. It showcases BBOXX’s complete solution to meeting the developing world’s energy challenges.

While meeting the UN’s SDGs is a huge challenge, BBOXX is convinced that using innovative technology is the key to achieving energy access for all and 100% electrification for the first time in Africa. 

By Mansoor Hamayun, / CEO & Co-Founder of BBOXX

28 JUL 2019

Community-led transformation: The key to sustainable rural water supply and management

Today, more than 780 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Most of these underprivileged live in rural areas. While there are considerable improvements in countries such as China, the overall global situation remains dire. Such low levels of access to safe drinking water in rural areas ultimately affects urban areas negatively due to pollution of water sources, higher healthcare costs and the impact on the food chain, among other factors. 

It is commonly held that the water and sanitation needs in developing countries, especially in rural areas, can only be met by large investments in infrastructure by the public sector and large private utilities companies. However, the low population density and lack of funds cannot limit the reach of conventional centralized water treatment systems and networks. As a result, major technology, business models and funding model innovations will be needed to address this major water, environmental and social issue.

There has a been a major push by governments, aid organizations and multi-lateral institutions to provide water and sanitation services to rural communities in developing countries such as India, which contains the world’s largest population without access to clean water and basic sanitation. 

While the intent of many such initiatives are commendable, the current models suffer from several limitations: 

  • Standalone interventions, such as hand pumps or bore wells without recharge, building of toilets without water supply and management of human waste;
  • Lack of community engagement, mobilization and capacity building, leading to long term maintenance problems;
  • Insufficient deployment of appropriate technology, especially for treatment of contaminated water and wastewater;
  • Inadequate education and social change towards improved sanitation practices, leading to unused or misused toilets;
  • Governance problems in deployment and accountability of funds allocated;
  • Failure to address an important root cause of the problems – lack of livelihood improvement opportunities.

The Community Led Transformation for Water, Sanitation, Wastewater and Livelihoods was started by ECOSOFTT in India. The basic principles of the program are:

  • 100% inclusion: No family or unit is left out;
  • 100% engagement: The whole community has to participate, contribute and work individually and collectively;
  • Self-governance: The community has to take care of their own progress and development with commitment to undertake development work on an ongoing basis;
  • Caste and gender equality: Women and men of different social strata will participate equally and have equal rights;
  • Value-based commitment: Skill-based training and agreement on areas that are non-negotiable for community benefit, such as no open defecation, no pollution and contamination of water sources, involving themselves in open vocational training and improving their livelihoods

CASE STUDY

SILUA VILLAGE, CENTRAL INDIA

 

  • Early Conditions
    Silua Village, with a population of 200 in 36 households, was at the bottom of pyramid. On average, each family lived on less than US$5 per day. The only source of water was a polluted rivulet and scattered hand pumps, which ran dry during the summer. Often, the villagers, especially women, had to spend two to four hours a day fetching (contaminated) water. There were no toilets; everyone practiced open defecation, which contaminated water sources further. 
  • Project Execution
    A Community Led Transformation program was initiated by ECOSOFTT in 2013. The key activities in the project over a nine-month period included:
  • A comprehensive survey of each household, including demographics, employment and income level, education, health, access to energy, water and sanitation;
  • Engagement and buy-in from village elders;
  • Development of model toilets;
  • A written agreement signed by the head of each household to participate in the program;
  • Collection of INR1,000 (US$15) per household towards a village corpus fund that was managed by the village itself;
  • Training of villagers to build and maintain the system;
  • Design and supervision of construction of water tank, toilets and mini-network

 

  • Results

The project provided critical and sustainable access to water and sanitation for Silua Village. In tangible terms, the following were delivered:

  • Clean water supply through local bore well to each person at 75 litres per capita per day;
  • One toilet and bathing room for each of the 36 households;
  • A wastewater treatment system that enables ground water recharge and nutrient recovery for sustainable eco-friendly development;
  • Improved livelihood opportunities for villagers through vocational training for young men and women;
  • A village council with full gender and caste equality that takes charge of governance and infrastructure maintenance;
  • Personal hygiene, health, menstrual health, nutrition, education and well-being awareness through partnerships with other NGOs.

The approach to water management and sanitation is also holistic and integrated, with management of "Source to Source" by sustainable extraction of water, and recharge of groundwater through treatment technology based on nature-based principles.

As demonstrated by the villagers in Silua, the integrated and sustainability-driven approach to Water, Sanitation, Wastewater and Livelihoods is the key to success in rural water management. It dispels the myth that rural communities are unwilling and unable to contribute financially for their water needs. Silua has become a model village and the villagers’ lives have been transformed, while there is now recognition from aid organizations, local and state government to scale up the model.

In addition to project funding, it is implementation capacity that will become the imperative to scale up this successful model across India and other developing countries. Given the massive needs, more participants from all sectors, including corporates, individuals, students and last-mile entrepreneurs will be needed in this movement.

By Marcus Lim and Stanley Samuel / Co-founders of ECOSOFTT