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Oct 21
2009

"Microfinance and Climate Change" USAID Forum Summary by Betsy Teutsch

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Microfinance and Climate Change: Can MFIs Promote Environmental Sustainability The Summary was authored by our own Betsy Teutsch, GreenMicrofinance, Director of Communication.  Great work, Betsy!

This report summarizes key themes and “lessons learned” from the “Microfinance and Climate Change: Can MFIs Promote Environmental Sustainability?” Speaker’s Corner, held November 18-20, 2008.  Nearly 200 participants from over 40 countries participated in this discussion hosted by GreenMicrofinance, allowing participants to connect and learn about each other's activities.

Energy-Efficient Cookstove

Oct 08
2009

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

Boy who harnessed-3Dcover on white

William Kamkwamba, raised in a village in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries. He dropped out of school at age 14 due to famine - his family was forced to choose between food or school for their son.  He poured through books at a local mini-library, and - inspired by a picture of a windmill - set to work fabricating one from salvaged objects.  A new book chronicles his story.  Now 22, he is featured on none other than Jon Stewart - check him out!

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arD374MFk4w 400x300]

Sep 25
2009

Application of Solar Pumps

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Solar Pumps operate anywhere there is Sun ray. It will not run when there is rain but there is no need of pumping water when it rains. 

OFF GRID refers to a power system that generates electricity such as power from a Solar PV array. The electricity produced is stored in Batteries for later use and the energy system isn't connected to the utility Power Grid. In the Developing World, where there is abundant sunlight and a large rural population without the proper infrastructure to develop an electrical grid, PV is very attractive option because of its modular features, its ability to generate electricity at the actual point of use, its low maintenance requirements and its non-polluting technologies. PV is also important to rural health clinics in developing countries. These clinics require electricity for lighting, vaccine refrigeration and water pumping and purification. PV has proven to be a reliable system for these isolated clinics. Even If you live in urban areas where grid is serving only a part of your requirement or facing power disruption and power outage then it is a good option to install OFF GRID solar power system to fulfill your power requirement when needed.

Imaj Enterprise

 

 

Sep 16
2009

Aora-Solar's Dream: An Energy Array in Every Village....

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

Yuval Susskind, a rising Israeli greentech star, would like to put an Aora solar tower and array in every village in Africa. His company's innovative design meets the gap between household solar panels and utility-sized giant solar farms.  The system creates energy 24 hours a day; if the solar supply is insufficient, the system can run on biofuel or other non-fossil fuel sources.  So a whole village, if the funds were available for launching the system, could be truly ENERGY INDEPENDENT.  No waiting around for the grid to arrive - in a few decades at the earliest!

Pictured here is their installation in the Arava desert in Southern Israel.which supplies Kibbutz Samar, an agricultural collective with around 230 residents.  The hope is that this type of innovative technology designed for our resource-constrained world will be accessible to the world's poorest communities....

 

Sep 02
2009

World's Poor are the Most Vulnerable Victims of Global Warming

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

Some headlines just fail to surprise, like the recent one announcing that "low income workers are often cheated out of their wages."  Unfortunately, the fact that global warming's greatest impacts are on the world's poor is not really news; we at GMf are well aware of this terrible truth.  But this recent article in mainstream USA Today sums the situation up well:

   Global warming will fall heaviest on the desperately poor, finds a study of agricultural economics.

Released this week in Environmental Research Letters, the study led by Syud Ahmed of The World Bank in Washington, D.C., looked at the economic impacts of increases in atmospheric temperatures and climate variability, droughts, floods and storms, projected for the last three decades of this century across 16 developing nations. They based the estimate on the economic effects of similar weather in those places from 1970 to 2000.

"We find that extremes under present climate volatility increase poverty across our developing country sample -- particularly in Bangladesh, Mexico, Indonesia, and Africa -- with urban wage earners the most vulnerable group," write the authors. "We also find that global warming exacerbates poverty vulnerability in many nations."

Farmers in poor nations actually see their wages increase under global warming, says study co-author Noah Diffenbaugh of Purdue University, as the price of grain goes higher in nations experiencing more drought, but city dwellers, who spend much of their income on food, do worse.

The study fed projections of climate effects in two future scenarios produced by the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report into its economic forecasts. One was a hot, "business as usual", scenario, with industrial emissions of greenhouse gases continuing unabated into the future. The other was a "low emissions" model with limited emissions of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere. Poverty was worse in the high-emissions model, Diffenbaugh says.

"IPCC identified the poor, the elderly, and the very young as the most vulnerable categories of people on the planet ... regardless of location, as Katrina and the European (2003) heat wave taught us," says economics professor Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University, an author of the IPCC report. "Nonetheless, the most vulnerable are more likely to live in developing countries where they face multiple stresses.  For many, climate change itself is a source of multiple stress because it is manifest in so many different ways."

However, climate scientist David Battisti of the University of Washington in Seattle is critical of the study, explaining by email that "the climate models do a poor job at simulating rainfall in many places...As well, the climate models do an extremely poor job at estimating natural variability and extreme events in temperature and precipitation. In particular, they overestimate the variability in summertime temperature and extreme events. Without correcting for these biases -- which are ubiquitous in the climate models -- it is very likely that the extreme event information input into the impact models is grossly exaggerated," Battisti says.

But Diffenbaugh notes that the poor in developing countries, who live on less that a dollar a day, have been vulnerable historically to climate swings, as seen in the study's look at numbers from the 20th century. "These folks are already vulnerable to climate, so climate 'change' seems unlikely to make things better for them."

By Dan Vergano

Aug 26
2009

Energy Meeting Women's Needs!

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel


Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of our Time
New York Times Magazine
August 23, 2009

WHY DO MICROFINANCE organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular pay checks? One reason involves the dirty little secret of global poverty: some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes but also by unwise spending by the poor — especially by men. Surprisingly frequently, we’ve come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net; the mother says that the family couldn’t afford a bed net and she means it, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar, spending $5 each week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reflection on the NY Times Article....

WHY IS MICROFINANCE AND THE ENVIRONMENT important to women today?  How can micro-finance be used for Energy Meeting Women's Needs?   

Aug 06
2009

Barh Koh ESDA in Chad: Preserving Forests while Enhancing Quality of Life

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

Barh Koh ESDA in Chad approaches poverty relief through environmental protection, working to provide environmentally safe alternative energy sources to the disadvantaged inhabitants and refugees in the region of Maro in southern Chad. The group's focuses on cooking and indoor lighting, to help reduce dependence on firewood, thereby reducing deforestation. 

Their plan of action shows the many ways clean technology can transform life in off-grid villages - providing power and preserving habitat.  It's always good to read about clean energy's impact on the ground!  As a northern city dweller, protection from reptiles is not something I've ever needed to contend with! (#3)
1) Providing solar cookers/ovens to poor rural families.
Solar cookers cost approximately $40 while solar ovens are in the vicinity of $300; which constitute a very small investment to help relieve poverty and save the environment at the same time. Solar cookers and stoves are safe; they cause no danger of fire, burns or smoke inhalation associated with wood burning.
2) Providing solar lanterns for poor families and students. A set of two solar lanterns can cost around $40 to $60, including shipping and handling. Solar lanterns are eco-friendly and will reduce the risks of fire hazards associated with kerosene lamps and firewood burning. A solar lantern will also enable a rural student to study and do homework after sunset. Solar lanterns also provide indoor lighting in the otherwise dark rural dwellings.
3) Providing solar flashlights to poor families and students. A single solar flashlight could save lives in a rural family that spends its evenings and nights in perpetual darkness, subject to all sorts of insects, reptiles and other elements. A solar-powered flashlight costs between $20 to $30 and can make a significant difference in a rural villager's life.

(H/T to DevelopmentCrossing).

Jul 14
2009

Sustainable GREEN Microfinance - an Attainable Goal

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

 Teasing out the meaning of "sustainable microfinance"

Christian Science Monitor

"There is nothing intrinsic about microfinance that makes it green. The author’s assertion is simply incorrect and ’sustainable’ in the business sense does not necessarily equate to environmental sustainability. A microentrepreneur may use chemicals that are bad for the environment, they may use farming techniques that create run-off, they may cook on inefficient stoves, they may use mobile phones that are difficult to recycle, and they may drive taxis that spew pollutants into the air. It will take a concerted effort by microfinance providers to adopt and enforce environmental lending criteria into the approval process and they will need to work more closely with environmentalists and green technology providers for there to be a significant role for microfinance in improving the environment. I am all for this."

- Elizabeth Wallace

Jun 23
2009

Reflections From the Colombia Microcredit Summit: A Q&A With GMf Director William Yager

Posted by:

 

 

 

 On June 10th, GreenMicrofinance’s William Yager, Director of Sustainable Microenterprise Development, participated in the panel, “How MFIs and Their Clients Can Have a Positive Impact on the Environment,” moderated by Muhammad Yunus at the 2009 Latin America-Caribbean Regional Microcredit Summit in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.  Upon his safe return, Bill imparts his experience and reflections from the conference:

 

GMf: What are some of the key underlying ideas reinforced by the Colombia Summit?

WY: This particular context was not emphasized during the conference, but kept coming to mind as I listened to a truly remarkable succession of presenters. The background data are stark and unforgiving – the absolute number of poor is actually growing, since more than nine out of every ten births occur in what we know as the "third world"; to call it the "developing" world is, in most cases, truly euphemistic.  Global aid programs are overwhelmed. In the wake of the global economic crisis perpetrated by the rich, giving has been reduced dramatically. The poor suffer inordinately in such an atmosphere and have no power to affect their fate.  Income (if there is any) is down and prices are up drastically. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider, illustrating decisively the human capacity for delusion and short-term self-aggrandizement.

 

Nevertheless, microentrepreneurship, and the enabling support of microfinance institutions, has emerged from the periphery to the mainstream, not only contributing substantially to country economies but also contributing immeasurably more to human well-being.

 

GMf: How do you see microenterprise development as a tool in combating global poverty and having a positive impact on the environment?

WY: As outlined elsewhere, microenterprises have the potential to enhance self-esteem, intellectual development, discipline and a spiritual connectedness, as well as economic self-sustainability. For those who may not have the entrepreneurial bent, there is the new potential of employment in successful and hopefully growing enterprises.

 

This phenomenon of microenterprise as a powerful tool in combating global poverty was given significant impetus by the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank. We were indeed privileged to have Professor Yunus as a plenary speaker at several sessions and especially to have him as the chair of our panel on "How MFIs and Their Clients Can Have a Positive Impact on the Environment." The audience was swelled at least as much to be in his presence as to absorb more on the topic.

 

Professor Yunus, in his characteristically succinct style, said that our polluted environment is "a mess" created by humans, and in need of human innovation to solve the problem.

 

Consequently, the relevance of the mission of GreenMicrofinance is undeniable.

 

GMf: What thoughts do you have now as you reflect on meeting those at the conference who are dedicated to microenterprise development as an answer to ending poverty?

WY: On reflection, I would leverage that diagnosis to include global poverty as well. The greed and thinly disguised motivations of the wealthy have continued to marginalize and exploit the poor. The inescapable conclusion is that the stubbornly elusive solution to poverty lies within the human capacity not only for compassion and empathy, but perhaps more importantly for the justice and empowerment that can come from microenterprise development.

 

Beyond hope, the tangible implementation of real progress was palpable in this group of dedicated people from all over the world. The conference participants seemed to be bathed in a vision for the future – that poverty could actually be eliminated. Their reported experience on the ground was striking, yet they actually entertained the feasibility of ending the phenomenon, having existed for all of recorded history, called poverty…

 

The unleashing of the human spirit and tapping of fundamental human potential will leapfrog anything that anyone thought possible. What a gift to be sitting among over a thousand of like-minded individuals, from at least 47 countries, many of whom experienced over long periods of time, in the trenches working directly with the poor, with all the frustrations and realism that test anyone’s idealistic commitment! The Summit was goal oriented, experienced, realistic, and without platitudes – inspiring.

Jun 22
2009

A Good Read - Portfolios of the Poor

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Tagged in: Poverty , Microfinance , Impact , Environment

Elizabeth Israel

 

(Please see Sarah Ban's blog post on June 18!)

Portfolios of the Poor How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day

By Daryl Collins, Jonathan Morduch, Stuart Rutheford, & Orlanda Ruthven
Princeton University Press

Indispensable for those in development studies, economics, and microfinance, Portfolios of the Poor will appeal to anyone interested in knowing more about poverty and what can be done about it.

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