Addis Ababa? It may take you a second to place that city name, but, yes, it’s the capital of Ethiopia. Not exactly Paris, Milan, or New York, but the Hub of Africa Fashion Week event this week is a testament not only to Africa’s growing recognition of itself as a world economic force, and also to the idea that the continent is ground zero for many global environmental challenges. This week’s show incorporates both notions with its focus on eco-fashion.
It’s World Water Day, so in celebration, I’ve found a number of cool stories about water-related technology, including a ocean-going drone, and clean water from poop (really!).
I’m sure it wasn’t lost on the organizers of this year’s Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital that the second week of screenings and events overlapped World Water Day on Thursday. Of course, it was probably also easier to book space in conjunction with this particular environmental event than one occurring, say, next month (which…
Heat and lighting are necessary elements for survival beyond bare-bones subsistence; in the developing world, however, these two necessities require a lot of labor for fuel sources that threaten the health of people who use them, as well as the planet. Women spend hours each week collecting wood for cooking, and lights, where available, are almost always powered by kerosene. Various social enterprises have worked to tackle the first issue with clean cookstoves; others are now stepping in to address the need for clean lighting with a variety of solar-powered technologies.
Ever finished a bowl of tapioca and thought “Boy, if they ever brewed that into a beer, I’d buy a six pack!” Monster brewer SABMiller (which makes Miller Lite, other Miller products, and a ton of other beers) now has you covered: their new Impala lager is made with 70% cassava, tapioca’s main ingredient. But, no, it’s not a gimmick to rope in pudding lovers; rather, Impala represents an effort by the conglomerate “to create a portfolio of high-quality, affordable beers made using locally-sourced raw materials for lower income consumers in Africa.”
When Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work founding the Greenbelt Movement, the word “pioneering” got thrown around a lot, and often applied to the Nobel laureate’s gender. Maathai was a pioneer, but not because she was woman: if anything, social entrepreneurship involves recognizing the value of activities often denigrated as “women’s work.” This year, the United Nations Environment Programme’s SEED Award continued this fallacy with its creation of a “gender equality” prize: just a quick look at the 34 other social enterprises it recognized with awards this year shows that when it comes to creating businesses around activities that value people and planet while creating a profit, women seem to “get it” much more often than their male counterparts.
Last month, I dug into a relatively new phenomenon: the purchase of arable land in the developing world by countries that have largely exhausted their own farm lands and/or aquifers. Done in the name of food security, these wealthier countries are often cordoning off, if not outright displacing, small subsistence farmers from land they could use to meet their own needs…
Quick: think of something that Africa has in abundance. Given the tenor of most of the news we get from the continent, answers like poverty, disease, and social unrest may pop into your head. All of those answers are correct, unfortunately, but governments around the world, as well as investors, are seeing something else: land, particularly farmland. With aquifers falling beyond their refresh rates and soil fertility eaten up by erosion, over-farming, and/or deforestation, many governments are looking for new places to grow food. And Africa, as it has for centuries, is looking ripe for exploitation. According to the World Bank, “approximately 56 million hectares of arable land has been purchased or leased worldwide, 70% of which took place in Africa…
The growth of deserts, mainly through deforestation, increased animal grazing, and climate change, has created greater food insecurity for some of the world’s most impoverished people. In Senegal, an innovative program funded by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is using native acacia trees as a weapon against expanding deserts and drylands… while also creating agricultural and economic opportunities.
When you think of international leadership towards a green economy, countries in Europe and Asia probably first come to mind: Germany’s leading the pack in terms of implementing clean technology, and China’s right there in terms of manufacturing it (even though it has a ways to go with its own environmental challenges). You might have a tough time thinking of an African nation contributing to the concept of economic growth through environmentally benign practices… and yet, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme, nations such as South Africa and Kenya are creating green economic models that could serve as templates for other countries, both developing and developed.
Extreme poverty, opens sewers, and lots and lots of trash: all are a part of normal conditions in Kenya’s Kibera. One of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera’s lack of sanitation services (or almost any government services) makes it a hotbed for disease. But an organization based within the community, Ushiriki Wa Safi, has implemented a concept that can help with at least one aspect of the unhealthy environment: using the massive piles of trash as fuel for community cookers for residents.
New schools, even really nice ones in developing countries, don’t necessarily make headlines without endorsement from celebrities and Academy for Girls in Lilongwe is no exception. While Madonna and her organization, Raising Malawi, haven’t always received praise (her 2006 adoption was infamously criticized as “akin to slavery”), hiring New York-based architectural group Studio MDA to design Academy for Girls is definitely a step in the right direction.
Founded in 1847 as a home for former African-American slaves, the West African nation of Liberia has welcomed generations of expatriate Americans fleeing racism. One such immigrant was Earnestine “Amma” Smith, who settled in the capital, Monrovia, in 1958. An educator and landowner, Amma fled her new home during the recent deadly civil wars.
Since its release last month, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind has been regarded by pretty much everyone as one of the most inspirational stories in recent history. It was Amazon.com’s Best Book of the Month in September, and I haven’t been able to find a single bad review about it. If you don’t know about William Kamkwamba, now a TED Fellow and world famous inventor, you’re truly missing out.
Can business save the world? Those who answer “Yes” don’t just include industry trade groups and chambers of commerce: the SEED Initiative, a joint project of the United Nations’ Environmental Programme and Development Programme, along with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “identifies, profiles and supports promising, locally-driven, start-up enterprises” in the developing world that are focused on alleviating poverty and managing natural resources more sustainably.