Climate Solutions from South Africa, Kenya, and Bangladesh

In Copenhagen, the question of climate equity will be contentious. But communities in the Global South aren’t waiting for an international agreement. They are turning to sustainable, climate-friendly solutions to address a problem they did little to create, but must nonetheless help to solve.
Harvesting Rooibos, photo by Christof Kessemeier

Harvesting rooibos for tea just outside Wupperthal in South Africa.

© Christof Kessemeier.

South Africa: Drought Forces New Farming Methods

Little more than a decade ago, after the fall of apartheid, the native South African cultivators in the villages of Wupperthal and Heiveld formed rooibos cooperatives and began selling their Fair Trade certified tea around the world.

But in the last few years, the cooperatives have been coping with the effects of a changing climate. Higher temperatures and severe droughts decreased yields and eroded the soil.
The co-ops turned to sustainable farming practices as a way to confront the climate challenges. In the spring of 2009, farmers dug irrigation ditches and started to grow a diverse variety of plants around the fields to enrich the soil and stop erosion. The irrigation also provides water for trees that shelter their tea fields.

“Their efforts to cope are an indicator of what is to come for all of us eventually,” says Rodney North, a spokesperson for Equal Exchange, the international Fair Trade co-op that sells the farmers’ tea. “[They are] a reminder that we ought not sit idly by while others suffer the consequences of the forces we’ve set in motion.”  — Jeff Raderstrong

Kenya: Rural Residents Build Hydropower

An electricity company is fueling a small revolution in rural Kenya. Kiangurwe, a community in the country’s Central Province, is saying no to expensive kerosene imports and to the regional power corporation, Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). Instead, residents are harnessing their own natural resources and organizing themselves to fulfill their needs independently.

Their solution: small hydropower, through a company called GPower. GPower’s co-founder, Nyaga Ndiga, says the company’s work “is not just about [providing] power, but also about change.”

Local residents volunteer two days a week to build a hydro dam and help fund the project through weekly 90-cent contributions. Once the project is complete, members of the community will staff the organization that runs the dam, and those who helped build it will receive dividends. Subscribers will pay an average of eight dollars a month for 53 kilowatt hours.

A local funding system aims to ensure sustainability. Eight percent of the project is paid for by wealthy local tea and coffee farmers who have bought shares in GPower Ltd. Donors and subscribers will pay the other 92 percent.

GPower’s first dam will open in late December, providing electricity to about 110 people. By the end of 2014, a total of 11 hydro dams are planned to be up and running on the Thiba River, reaching a total of 11,000 households, 13 schools and two hospitals.   — Siena Anstis

Bangladesh: New Energy Sources for Light, Cooking

Electricity is out of reach for three out of four Bangladeshis, who burn kerosene for light and biomass for cooking. Natural gas supplies in this country of 160 million people are projected to peak within the next five to 10 years.

Now, through Grameen Shakti, a subsidiary of Grameen Bank (winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize), some 10,000 to 15,000 photovoltaic solar energy systems are being installed in rural areas each month. The organization is also setting up biogas (methane-based) systems for cooking and high-efficiency, low-smoke hearths made of clay.

Using a market-based, microcredit loan approach, by 2015, Grameen Shakti aims to install 7.5 million solar, 2 million biogas, and 20 million improved cooking systems. The organization also is focused on generating 100,000 green jobs for women, mostly related to the manufacture and maintenance of solar panels.   — Rik Langendoen


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