Supermodel and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Gisele Bündchen experiences energy poverty in Kenya
13 January 2012, London: To mark the launch of the UN’s Year of Sustainable Energy for All, global supermodel and UN Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen experienced the reality of energy poverty in a recent visit to Kenya.
In association with international development charity Practical Action and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the recently accredited ‘world’s greenest celebrity’ visited energy access projects in the country to get a direct insight into the lives of people living with and without energy.
During her stay, Gisele took part in a dawn firewood collection with communities in Kisumu, Western Kenya, who still cook on traditional fires that fill homes with toxic smoke. She also learned about the use of bio-gas (turning human waste into power) in East Africa’s biggest slum, Kibera, and witnessed how people are transforming their lives through the use of small-scale hydro systems – built and managed by local people.
According to the UN:
• One in every 5 people on earth lives without access to electricity and the opportunities it provides for learning and earning a living
• Nearly 3 billion people use wood, charcoal or animal waste to cook their meals and heat their homes, exposing themselves and their families to smoke and fumes which damage their health and kill close to 2 million people each year
• Sub Saharan Africa is the region most acutely affected by energy poverty and in Kenya just 18 per cent of homes have power.
With the launch of the UN Year of Sustainable Energy for All and the Rio +20 Earth Summit on the horizon, decision-makers are beginning to recognise energy access as essential for development. This trip was designed to raise the profile of the issue and help highlight the importance of energy access for development across the globe.
Practical Action works closely with communities, providing them with the skills, tools and confidence to challenge their poverty. For many, the dream of being able to access energy is a distant reality but by ensuring that development is owned by the community and is sustainable, people have the opportunity to work themselves out of poverty. For example, small-scale hydro schemes can provide a free, clean, source of power all year round and metal cooking hoods, which are cost effective and efficient, are proven to significantly reduce indoor smoke levels.
However, the lack of energy access across the globe has been cited by the UN as one of the greatest barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Based on current trends, by 2030, the same number of women, men and children will be living without modern energy as today.
To tackle this injustice, the UN-led Sustainable Energy for All initiative is promoting three energy goals for 2030: achieving universal access to modern energy services, doubling the historic rate of improvement for energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy in the energy mix.
Margaret Gardner, Director at Practical Action commented, “The international community recognises a number of basic rights: the right to water, the right to food, the right to health, the right to adequate housing, the right to earn a living and the right to take part in cultural life. Missing from this list is the right to energy. Yet, everyone needs energy to cook food, to heat the home, to earn a living, to benefit from good health and education services. Energy poverty denies people a basic standard of living, which should be available to all.
“As a UNEP Ambassador, Gisele recognises that no issue is more relevant to the future of the global economy, the prosperity and well-being of the world’s poorest people, and the preservation of our planet, than sustainable energy. Her passion, credibility and commitment to energy access will draw significant attention to this pressing development issue and help to ensure that in two decades time, every women, man and child has access to the power to challenge work their way out of poverty.”
For further information, please contact Becky Ribbans, Director at Badger PR, on +44 (0)7813 052230.
Notes For Editors:
Practical Action uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries and is this year’s UN official communications partner for the campaign “Sustainable energy for all”.
Our strength is our approach. We find out what people are doing and help them to do it better. Through technology we enable poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions. Thus transforming their lives forever and protecting the world around them.
By doing this each year we help around a million people break out of the cycle of poverty ….for good.