Too often people in developed countries like the UK who have access to energy all the time don’t give it a second thought. We flick a switch and the light comes in. We push a button and our cooker comes on. We turn a dial and our heating comes on. But in developing countries lack of access to energy keeps billions of people in poverty.
It is estimated that 1.3 billion people are still without any form of electricity and 2.7 billion people still cook over open fires. That’s the equivalent of the whole of the Chinese and Indian populations combined.
People like Mrs Sanchez, 27, a mother of four young children who runs one of only a handful of stores in Yanacancha Baja, an isolated village nestled in the highlands of northern Peru. Until the installation of a micro-hydro plant by Practical Action four years ago, candles, kerosene and firewood were Beatriz’s primary source of energy for light and cooking. Since the installation of the village’s hydroelectric plant, she has transformed her business, as well as the quality of life for her young family. ‘We used to close up at six o’clock’ Mrs Sanchez said. ‘There was no point staying open later because no one would walk around after nightfall. Now with the new streetlights people come and go until much later and we regularly stay open until eight, sometimes nine.’
Mrs Sanchez business and life has been transformed by energy. But billions of people aren’t so lucky.
To support the launch of our Poor Peoples Energy Outlook 2013 report we want to show all the ways that people in developed countries are reliant on energy and how it can transform the lives of people in developing countries. That’s why we need your help.
To highlight the crucial role that energy plays in all our lives we want to create a mosaic picture of the Earth from space composed of ‘energy enables pictures’ sent in by you.
Here’s an example of a mosaic picture…
And this image we want to use to create our energy enables Earth mosaic picture.
Have a look at our energy enables website www.practicalaction.org/energyenables for inspiration. Here you’ll find pictures of everything from making a cup of tea in the UK to solar panels in the Sudan.
We’ve also had some really wacky pictures sent in. Look out for the man riding a bike connected to a smoothie making machine and the dog which can send emails while their owner is down the pub!
Every picture will be used and we’ll send you a link to the finished Earth mosaic.No Comments » | Add your comment
I have just come across a thought-provoking set of photographs from Save the Children supporting their campaign on child poverty in the UK. You can find them at http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/what-poverty-means . They are all pictures of children living in east London and each child was asked to write down what poverty means to them.
The picture that stood out for me was of Amira, aged 8. Amira lists the things she wouldn’t have if she didn’t have electricity and she comments;
”I feel lucky that we have enough money to pay for electricity because we can enjoy stuff more than when we don’t.”
There are issues with access to energy in all countries of the world, and many of the solutions Practical Action are calling to help the 1.4 billion with no access to energy would translate to those living in energy poverty in the UK.
It struck me how similar Amira’s words are to the words we hear from Practical Action projects across the globe, and how many people living in poverty are so grateful to get basic access to energy.
For example, Mamdhur from Nepal
“Now we have electric lighting, we are very much relieved. We have more time to spend with our children and families, and no longer breathe in the smoke from the kerosene lamp that used to hurt our lungs. It was my dream to have lighting facilities in my village. The dark has turned to light.”
Practical Action can show in many of our projects that, wherever you live:
- Energy enables people to work their way out of poverty.
- Energy provides better access to education and other basic services.
- Energy improves health and wellbeing, especially for women and children.
Please Make Your Point that energy is vital for poverty reduction because it gives people the power to improve their lives at http://practicalaction.org/energyforall
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Have you heard the joke about the drowning man? You know the one in which a man is stuck on his rooftop during a flood and prays to God who first sends a rowing boat, then a motor boat and finally a helicopter to save him… *
In terms of the climate talks in Bangkok which have just finished on 5 September they will probably go down in history as being the motor boat. However, the next set of climate talks in Doha beginning on 26 November will definitely be the helicopter.
So what have the talks in Bangkok achieved? Commentators are divided from the United Nations who have, predictably, praised the talks as making “concrete progress” to the Bangkok Post who have said they have made no progress at all and ended in “stalemate”. The NGOs here represented by Climate Action Network International believe they have made technical progress, which could pave the way for an extension of the Kyoto protocol up to 2020 at Doha but that there are still a large number of unresolved issues on the table. These include the level of cuts different countries are willing to adopt, who is going to pay for climate change and whether the world can agree a new legally binding agreement post 2020. In other words the Bangkok talks have kept hope on climate change afloat – just.
I’ve been attending the talks on behalf of Practical Action and promoting our event at the next climate talks in Doha on 28 November called “Learning the lessons from flooding in climate adaptation”. It reflects the fact that for many vulnerable people around the world in flood prone countries like Thailand, the Philippines and Bangladesh, it is not a case of trying to stop climate change but living with it now.
Adaptation is an issue that has been little on the agenda in Bangkok but needs to urgently be in Doha. Many of the delegates I’ve spoken to here over the last week agree that climate adaptation must go up the UN’s agenda and there needs to be a much better balance when it comes to funding (currently only about 10% of climate finance is spent on adaptation). To do this, they have formed an Adaptation Committee which is due to meet for the first time immediately after the talks in Bangkok. A big part of their work will be to mandate countries to draw up National Adaptation Plans, both for developed and developing nations.
Nationally, the UK should be in a good position to do this, having formed an adaptation sub-committeee of its own following the passing of the Climate Change Act in 2008. Their latest report, published in July, on the affects of flooding and water scarcity, makes fastinating reading. Other developing countries will need more help in drawing up plans but the critical issue, like so many issues to do with climate change, will be who will pay for implementation of the plans.
At the moment for developing countries that funding is due to come from the Green Climate Fund. However, at present the GCF doesnt even have a bank account, let alone a means of distributing money. One of the key success criteria for the Doha talks will therefore be that developed countries including the UK make rapid progress in committing the $100 billion a year they have promised the fund by 2020 and ensuring that at least half goes on climate adaptation.
* A man was stuck on his rooftop during a flood. Despairing of any help he started praying to God. Soon a man in a rowing boat came by and shouted “Jump in, I can save you. The stranded man shouted back, “No, thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowing boat went by. Then a motor boat came by and the driver shouted “Jump in, I can save you.” “No thanks” shouted back the man ” I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the motor boat went by.
Finally a helicopter came and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” The stranded man again declined, convinced God would save him. So the helicopter reluctantly flew away. Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. In the next life he finally met God and angrily exclaimed “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. Why?” God replied, “I sent you a rowing boat, a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”No Comments » | Add your comment
Last year large areas of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, were underwater and on the verge of being evacuated. Fast forward nine months and from 30 August to 5 September the capital is host to the latest United Nations conference on climate change, talks which are also entering deep water. The outcome could determine whether or not the Kyoto protocol sinks or swims and with it many flood prone countries around the world.
The 2011 floods in Thailand were the worst in 50 years. Afterwards Thailands Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawtra, said “We need to learn a lesson from the big flood last year”. That lesson is that once rare and extreme weather events associated with climate change are increasingly becoming a part of everyday life for many vulnerable people around the world.
Thailand’s floods claimed over 800 lives, directly affected over 2.5 million people and cost the insurance industry an estimated $20 billion. It is a salutary lesson that the 164 delegates from around the world attending the Bangkok conference would do well to remember as they negotiate the agenda for the next round of climate talks in Qatar in November in their working groups and round table discussions.
In the plenary session Nauru representing the Alliance of Small Island States - the 44 countries whose very survival depends on getting an outcome said: “We have three months left to deliver a Kyoto plus outcome. It cannot be window dressing or full of accounting tricks and conditionality. Kyoto runs out on the 1st of January 2013. But there are still so many unresolved issues from ambition to the length of commitment period”.
Although the conference is not decision making, over the next week they will discuss a range of important issues from extending the existing Kyoto protocol which runs out at the end of the year to a detailed work plan for a legally binding climate change agreement post 2020. Also at stake are whether developed countries who did not sign the Kyoto agreement will adopt stringent targets, the role that developing countries should play in climate mitigation and funding new forms of climate finance including the Green Climate Fund.
I’m covering the talks on behalf of Practical Action and am lobbying the delegates to attend an event we have organised at the climate talks in Qatar on 28 November. Entitled “learning the lessons from flooding in climate adaptation” it will highlight the work that Practical Action is doing around the world with flooding victims in countries from Bangladesh to Peru. For many of them climate change is already a reality and whatever the outcome at Qatar, putting serious money into climate adaptation measures over the next few years will be critical.
The meeting at Bangkok will be critical to ironing out those details. A failure to do so will result in the Kyoto protocol being buried in the sand in Qatar.
At a recent meeting I heard from a group of Wiltshire climate change activists who were very angry about their local council’s recent decision to effectively ban wind turbines in the county (on health and safety grounds, in case a blade shears off and hits someone)
The Council seems to have been lobbied by some loud and persuasive NIMBYs. Opposition to wind farms in the UK is very vocal; amongst politicians, the media and celebrities and we don’t often hear from wind energy supporters. I was struck that the group I was listening to weren’t saying “Not in my back yard” and are actually very keen to see a wind farm in their back yards. They were, in fact, YIMBYs (saying “yes in my back yard” - and I was very proud of myself for inventing a new word). As it turns out, I hadn’t – there are YIMBY movements in Sweden and North America – but, even so, in the renewable energy debate we only seem to hear from some very noisy NIMBYs. We certainly don’t hear from millions of communities in Africa, Latin America and southern Asia who have no access to energy.
Wiltshire County Council’s health & saftety concerns would seem ludicrous to the communities we work with at Practical Action. These communities would see a wind turbine in their backyard (or a solar panel on their roof) as a real opportunity to get the energy they need to work their way out of poverty. They are definitely YIMBYs . In fact, if you could make an acronym out of it, wind turbines are “Essential In Millions of Back Yards”.
So, I propose that the #YIMBYs of the world must unite, if you are in Wiltshire, Kenya, Peru or Nepal make your voice heard for sustainable energy for local people.No Comments » | Add your comment
Collecting wood for a bonfire once a year can be a lot of fun, but imagine having to collect enough firewood to fuel your home all year round. And imagine if all your neighbours had to do the same. You wouldn’t be able to rely on picking up broken branches off the ground. Chopping down trees would be your only option.
This is the reality for around 2.5 billion people who still rely on traditional fuels for cooking and heating their homes. And on top of the burden of collecting fuel, many of these people ultimately pay for such basic energy provision with their lives.
The smell of smoke that permeates the evening air on the 5th of November is an evocative part of the bonfire night tradition. But imagine your kitchen filled with smoke from a basic three stone fire every day. Lung disease caused by indoor smoke kills more people than malaria, most of them women.
Practical Action works with poor communities to solve these problems. We help people make more efficient stoves that require less wood. We help people build smoke hoods that reduce indoor air pollution. We work with small business to turn agricultural waste into clean burning fuels for cooking and heating.
We are helping millions of people in this way, but we are also campaigning to help the billions that we cannot reach directly.
As partners of 2012 UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All we are raising awareness of these problems and calling on world leaders to commit to ending of energy poverty by 2030.
So before you lock your pets in the house, light the bonfire and write your name with a sparkler, we would like you to join our campaign: Make Your Point in support of Energy for All.5 Comments » | Add your comment
On a recent holiday in Sicily I visited the tomb of Archimedes, engineer and inventor of the 3rd century BC – famous for his ‘eureka’ moment. Born in the rich and powerful city of Syracuse, he benefited from the financial support of its ruler Hiero II.
He was considered the greatest mathematician of the ancient world and was responsible for many important discoveries. The Archimedes screw is still extensively used throughout the world as a method of raising water.
His home city of Syracuse was at war with Rome and under siege for two years with the result that Archimedes was obliged to devote a great deal of his time to the design of the machinery of war. He proved remarkably good at this. But imagine what he might have achieved if his work had been devoted to inventions for human good rather than human destruction.
In our sophisticated modern world we still devote a disproportionate amount of our budgets and great scientific minds to the pursuit of war. The technologies in which we invest most in the developed world are designed either to provide us with an even greater level of comfort and ease than we already enjoy or to destroy our enemies. And we expend vast sums in the destruction of our beautiful planet. Only a small proportion of our enormous wealth is devoted to finding solutions to the basic needs of more than a billion people in the world who live in poverty.
This is a great injustice and one which Practical Action is determined to address. Providing clean, sustainable energy systems, more easily accessible water supplies and better sanitation give poor men and women the opportunity to live healthier and more rewarding lives. Surely that’s worth fighting for?3 Comments » | Add your comment
If you’ve heard of a ‘slum’ chances are it’s Kibera.
‘Home’ to anywhere between 750,000 – 1 million people, Kibera is the largest informal settlement in East Africa (and yet it covers less than 2 miles).
The Kenyan authorities refuse to recognise Kibera and the people who live there, even though it’s one of the first things the decision-makers see in the morning from their grand houses on the hill over-looking the expanse of tin roofs. To acknowledge Kibera would mean that they have a responsibility to provide basic services; water, sanitation, education and electricity – which they won’t commit to.
And so the people exist without them. I use ‘exist’ purposefully. Kibera is, without question, the most miserable and maddening place I have ever visited.
I’m writing this blog late at night as I can’t sleep. Can’t quite process what I have seen. Can’t quite understand how and why families are forced to try and survive in such circumstances.
How is it possible that on this planet of ours, such poverty can exist alongside such plenty?
All that you have heard about Kibera is true … and ten-fold. Free-flowing faeces, huge mounds of waste, homes made from cardboard. No space, no privacy, no dignity. And, amongst all of this, hundreds and hundreds of children and hundreds and hundreds of ‘howareyou’s – an image I just can’t seem to shake.
And yet, there is also an underlying dynamism, energy and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s not life as we know it (and not, in my opinion, life as anyone should know it), but here businesses are established, families grow and people will fight to improve their lives.
But that’s despite, not because of, their circumstances.
I’m humbled, enraged and overwhelmed by Kibera, but the one thing I’m clear on is the need for solutions, however small.
… and thanks to Practical Action and other NGOs there are some. I’ll share them in my next blog (once I’ve had some sleep).
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Naomi is one in a million. Well, to be more specific, one in 3,917.
That’s how many families that have improved their lives (and homes) through a Practical Action energy access project in Western Kenya.
Specifically, we are working with women across Kisumu to introduce ‘fuel-efficient stoves’ (which require 50% less wood), ‘smoke hoods’ (which remove toxic smoke from the kitchen – which more often than not doubles as a bedroom) and ‘fireless cookers’ (which, as the name suggests, cook food without fuel).
… and one of these women is Naomi. I could tell her story as one of sorrow and struggle – widowed young, 6 children (3 adopted), a basic existence. But that wouldn’t be true. Naomi is a tenacious, self-made, magnificent woman working as a local mobiliser with Practical Action.
Under Naomi’s watch, 200 local women have been trained to make and install simple and effective technologies to reduce wood useage and remove smoke from the home.
I guess that doesn’t sound so dramatic if you’re reading this back in the UK. But, I promise you, having spent time today in a home cooking on an open fire (which brought tears to my eyes, in both senses), it’s life-changing.
But more than that, it’s life-saving.
With 1.4 million lives lost to indoor smoke each year, no wonder Naomi and the Practical Action team are so passionate. If you had a solution to such needless loss of life, wouldn’t you be too?No Comments » | Add your comment
Today I learned a new word – ”Siany” – this is the Swahili word for the communal land located on the outskirts of the village where local women are permitted to gather fuelwood for their household energy needs.
It is early morning on the first day of our week long fact finding visit to Kenya together with our delegation of three MEPs keen to know more about the reality of energy poverty in Sub Saharan Africa and to witness the numerous initiatives underway that are successfully delivering energy access to those who need it most.
We set off at sunrise from a small village on the outskirts of Kisumu, Western Kenya, together with a group of local women eager for us to understand exactly what it takes to provide energy for cooking for their families; for many of these women this is a daily task.
Our guide on this 3 Km hike is Naomi, a middle aged widow and mother of six (three her own, three orphans she has taken in) and one of the most inspirational women I have had the pleasure to meet.
While taking down branches and whole tree trunks with large machetes, Naomi and her fellow women fuelwood carriers describe the various problems associated with gathering fuelwood (tiredness from having to walk so far, the risk of injury and the added threat during the rainy season of leeches and water borne diseases when standing ankle deep in the swampy terrain).
This hazardous task falls solely on the women and children – mothers and daughters – as does the task of cooking with the fuelwood, often on 3-stone fires which emit toxic, health damaging smoke into the home.
We learned that in the local language, if a woman marries, people say that she is “cooking” – if you are a woman and you marry, then you cook – end of story.
In the next breath the women are singing about the wonderful “Upesi”, an improved wood burning stove which they now use to reduce fuelwood consumption and indoor smoke. They still need to collect firewood, but with the improved stove, at least it lasts a bit longer and the kitchen is less smoky.
The following day we have the chance to meet the exceptional women’s cooperative that makes the Upesi stove and hear about the challenges of running a thriving business in Kenya – no mean feat given the already heavy workload ofwomen who cook in Kenya.No Comments » | Add your comment