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Jun 13

Nobel Laureate 2006, Dr. Muhammad Yunus Joins Dr. William Yager at Microcredit Summit Colombia!

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel


GreenMicrofinance has organized  four panels for the Microcredit Summit Campaign...
from Halifax, Chile, Bali and now Colombia! 
GreenMicrofinance appreciates the support of USAID, microLINKS, and the Microcredit Summit Campaign in collaborating with us over the past years in promoting 'environmentally sustainable microfinance'.

GreenMicrofinance Director, Dr. William Yager, joined Dr. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate 2006,  on a panel focused on "microfinance and the environment" at the Microfinance Summit in Cartagena Colombia.  Dr. Yager, with the support of USAID, was one of the 1,000 delegates attending the Summit.


 Dr. Yunus chaired the panel, entitled "How MFIs and their Clients can have a Positive Impact on the Environment!"  
Dr. Yager commented on the environmental risks facing microfinance clients.  With a new paradigm shift, he emphasized that paying attention to the environment = enhanced productivity
Dr. Yunus closed the session with the following key points:   

  • Global Warming was created by us, we can solve it just by stopping what we are doing wrong.

  • The Poor are not the cause of Global Warming, they are the victims.

  • Technology is key. 

  • Government can do more harm: Subsidies stifle creativity and market sustainability, taxing ecological solutions.

               City Dump  - Guatemala                                                                   Hotel Waste Bio-gas Plants - India

Nobel Laureate 2006
Microcredit Summit Webcast - Colombia
microLINKS Blog - Colombia

Jun 02

Improved Cookstoves, Cartoon Edition

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

Hat tip to Andy Lubershane whose work is featured at WorldChanging - he does comic book style presentation of big solutions to big problems. Here is Andy on Improved Cookstoves:

May 22

Find us in the May Environmental Issue of MicrofinanceFocus Magazine!

Posted by:

Two of our recent pieces -- the CGAP article "Microfinance and the Environmental Bottom Line" .

You can download the entire issue from MicrofinanceFocus' homepage, www.microfinancefocus.com


Many thanks to Vikash Kumar, Managing Editor & Executive Director of MicrofinanceFocus, for taking great interest in GreenMicrofinance and coordinating our participation in this issue. 

May 12

MicrofinanceGatewayTells the World about Environment and Microfinance

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch


Donors and investors can build capacity for green microfinance by providing necessary technical assistance and by supporting environmentally sustainable microfinance projects. For example, the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO) has developed evaluation criteria and tools to help MFI's assess and manage the social and environmental impacts and risks of microenterprises. CIDA has also produced an Environmental Sourcebook for MFIs. IFC, Triodos, Calvert, Shell Foundation, and EBRD are among other donors who are including the environmental bottom line on their agenda.

In this article, we explore some of the eco-microfinance initiatives promoted today, such as:

  • Green microenterprises
  • Renewable energy entrepreneurship
  • Carbon credit aggregation

Green microenterprises

Eco-friendly microenterprises can provide sustainable sources of income to microfinance clients, including the production of organic fertilizers and biomass charcoal briquettes, clean energy cookstove fabrication, and handicrafts made from sustainably sourced materials. Various industry standards, from groups like the Forest Stewardship Council, provide guidelines on “sustainable sourcing.”

MFIs that deal with agricultural clients can seek partners that will help clients adapt to evolving conditions through the adoption of environmentally-friendly farming techniques. Organizations, such as Sustainable Harvest International, help by providing key technical support. Subsidy can also play a positive role as clients shift their approach to a more eco-friendly standard.

Engaging in environmentally sound business practices can:

  • Help microentrepreneurs preserve and protect their long-term income
  • Protect the health of communities
  • Lower overhead for microenterprises
  • Enable MFIs to invest in a growing market that meshes well with the agendas of triple-bottom line investors.

Cooking over a wood fireRenewable energy entrepreneurship

Microfinance clients often use fossil fuels like natural gas and petroleum as sources of energy. These fuel sources contribute to the greenhouse gas problem, the degradation of local ecosystems, and cause health problems. Implementing renewable energy systems, like solar, wind, and biogas can offer great cost savings, as well as health benefits. MFIs offering personal consumption “energy loans” can help microfinance clients leverage these resources for their homes and businesses.

Renewable energy can also be a source of income for a new class of business – renewable energy microenterprises. Social and environmental entrepreneurs from the industrialized world are helping to create this microentrepreneurship opportunity. For example, Barefoot Power is a socially-conscious business that employs microentrepreneurs to distribute solar-powered products and systems in the developing world.

Grameen Shakti is a nonprofit with the mission of eliminating energy poverty with renewable-energy entrepreneurs. They support programs in solar energy, biogas, and improved cookstoves, which include training and capacity building for entrepreneurs who promote the systems, as well as financial products tailored for renewable energy uptake. In the micro-utility model, one entrepreneur will install a solar system and sell power to those in the community who cannot yet afford to invest in their own.

In the fieldCarbon credit aggregation

Carbon credit aggregators, like MicroEnergy Credits and E + Co, work with MFIs that provide renewable energy loans to clients. Each loan can be translated into a small carbon credit. Though these credits are too small to be traded on the multi-million or billion dollar carbon markets created by the Kyoto Protocol, aggregators bundle these credits and then sell them on the voluntary carbon market to net polluters. Carbon credit aggregation offers:

  • Financial rewards for MFIs that provide energy loans, creating an incentive to continue greening products
  • A better standard of living, and more control over energy resources, for clients who switch to renewable sources of energy for their homes or businesses
  • Business opportunities for microentrepreneurs who supply renewable energy services or systems


The conventional path of economic development has tied greater prosperity to increased energy consumption, with its corresponding negative environmental impact. This does not have to be the case. MFIs can contribute, along with their clients, to solving the crises we face today. Microfinance clients continue to be impacted by global climate change and environmental degradation, but we are also seeing that they can be part of the way forward.


Apr 18

"On Thin Ice" ...climate change and glaciers!

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Namaste!   My four children have all graduated from Woodstock School located in the Himalyan mountains in northern India during the time we lived in rural Nepal.  Over a span of 7 years various family members trekked and enjoyed these majestic mountains.

It was with great interest I watched "On Thin Ice", this one-hour PBS special on NOW.  It is an alarming  report on glaciers.  


Seventy-five percent of the world's fresh water is stored in glaciers, but scientists predict climate change will cause some of the world's largest glaciers to completely melt by 2030. What effect will this have on our daily lives?

Environmentalist Conrad Anker, one of the world's leading high altitude climbers, warns, "We can't take climate change and put it on the back burner. If we don't address climate change, we won't be around as humans."

Apr 08

CGAP Report on Microfinance and Climate Change

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Congratulations GGAP on a MUST READ!

...for the April 2 Report on Greening Microfinance: Clients and the Climate of Change

With environmental challenges-from drought to flooding-disproportionately affecting poor people's livelihoods, microfinance institutions have a strong incentive to mitigate the risks of climate change while helping their clients adapt to that change, argues Paul Rippey, the author of the latest report from CGAP on microfinance and climate change.

...to Paul Rippey, on the well-written article,  Microfinance and Climate Change: Threats and Opportunities.   Great work, Paul!

"Within microfinance, the word ‘sustainable' has tended to be used in a very narrow way, mainly referring to institutions that are financially viable," says Rippey. "But just as many MFIs have added social performance to their bottom line, they should also consider how their actions-and those of their clients-can help combat climate change."

Thank you, CGAP, for making mention of GMf in the Report and as an Additional Resource on your Feature page.  

Apr 02

Princeton Students Display a Wide Knowledge Base - Soon to be Shared in our University Forum

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch


Students at college entered last fall with the Bush administration in place resisting any climate change policy and a flush financial system.  Now just one semester later there is a new president, new policies and green stimuli afoot, and a financial system in tatters.  Fortunately, as one student described, they're in a bubble and somewhat insulated from trauma. 

However, tonight's group of Princeton students is surely not ivory tower elitists.  They are applying their prodigious brain power to some of the world's really big challenges and learning together through the Princeton Microfinance Organization. The span of subject they're studying emphasizes to me just how many disciplines are soon-to-launch University Forum will encompass.  Hearing all the fields represented at today's program was very impressive: financial modeling (Princeton actually has a Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering - which will likely be doing some Re-Engineering), a chemist working on solar energy, an electrical engineering major focusing on design that requires people to be more efficient, a student focusing on environmental justice, a graduate student in Development.  These all link to aspects of GreenMicrofinance.The once exception was the astrophysics major - but she is entitled to have interests outside her major!

Probably the most surprising, and informative for all of us, was a student doing a project on biochar; she elegantly explained this carbon sequestering soil improvement medium to us all!

Stay tuned.  You'll be hearing more interesting things from this group, I am sure.  You can see us up above, not actually IN Africa, but at the Woodrow Wilson School.

 PS - great planning work, TIng-Fung!

Jan 22

Grameen's Clean Energy Program Wins Zayed Prize

Posted by: Betsy Teutsch

Betsy Teutsch

 Journalist Marc Gunther is the guru of sustainability and is reporting from Masdar City at the Abu Dhabi World Future Energy Summit, where he met up with Dipal Barua, managing director of Grameen Shakti which just received the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

Here is Marc's column which you can read at his blog, as well:

 grameen shakti"Sustainable development" is a buzzword tossed around by the UN and global NGOs. Typically it's no more than a buzzword or, at best, a distant goal. Anyone who can actually promote development in a way that's sustainable deserves a prize.

That's why Dipal Barua just got one.

Barua is managing director of Grameen Shakti, a nonprofit in Bangladesh that adeptly marries two goals: helping people escape poverty and protecting the planet.

This week, Barua was named the winner of the first $1.5 million Zayed Future Energy Prize, an annual award established last year by the government of Abu Dhabi in an attempt to promote energy innovation.

Grameen Shakti-the word comes from a Sanskrit root meaning energy, force or empowerment-has enabled as many as 2 million people in Bangladesh to light their homes using solar power. It has helped thousands more use chicken or cow dung either to make electricity or as a fuel in cook stoves that are efficient, safe and clean.

Like the new president of the United States, Barua also sees renewable energy as a way to create jobs.

"One hundred thousand green jobs is my dream," he told me, when we met during the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Barua, who is 54, started Grameen Shakti in 1996. A self-sustaining nonprofit that runs like a business, Grameen Shakti was spun off from the better-known Grameen Bank, which with its founder, Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2006. Barua, who has been with Grameen Bank since its beginnings in the 1970s, remains an executive there.

Barua told me that about 70% of the 150 million people who live in Bangladesh have no electricity. They typically use polluting kerosene lamps to light their homes at night.

"I tell them that for the cost of kerosene, you can buy a solar system," he said.

The economics work like this: Total cost of a rooftop solar photovoltaic panel (imported from Japan), a battery and the required electronics is about $350 to $400. Customers typically put 10-15% down and pay the rest in monthly payments for three years. By then, they own a system that should last 20 years, without fuel costs. The panel makes enough electricity to power a few lights, a black-and-white TV and, most important, a cell phone. "Everyone wants a mobile phone," Barua says.

Some systems are shared by several homes, while others are used to power small businesses. About 200,000 have been installed, and the business is growing fast. A $750,000 loan from the World Bank helped get Grameen Shakti started, but the operation now pays for itself.

"Any profits, we recycle," says Barua.

Grameen Shakti has about 3,000 employees, most of them women who are trained to maintain and repair the solar systems. Several years ago, the NGO expanded to offer a biogas program, which uses cow dung or poultry waste to make electricity. The organization also makes and sells cooking stoves that reduce indoor air pollution and burn less wood, reducing deforestation.

Barua told me that Grameen Shakti is exploring the business of carbon finance, as an additional revenue source. The nonprofit would sell carbon credits-based on how many tons of CO2 its products prevent from entering the atmosphere-to companies or people in the west who want to offset their own production of greenhouse gases. Grameen Shakti has talked with the World Bank and with Climate Care, a carbon developer now owned by JP Morgan Chase, about selling credits either into the voluntary or regulated market.

So is this really sustainable development? Up to a point. Of course it's a good thing for poor people get electricity from solar power. The thing is, the electricity powers a mobile phone or TV that isn't sustainable, and then one thing then leads to another and, before you know it, Grameen Shakti's customers will be wanting iPods and dishwashers and cars, just like the rest of us. No wonder sustainable development remains such an elusive goal.


Jul 30

My Chat with Ingrid Munro

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Over the past days we have been video-taping various folks here at the conference. I had the privilege to meet and chat with Ingrid Munro founder of JamiiBoro in Kenya, a member organization that works with and uplifts street beggars.
The story of those who have been supported by JamiiBoro is an inspiration – whether through microfinance program or through her housing program and Levuka, a program for alcoholics. Another amazing initiative is Kaputei Town, a housing initiative for some 2,000 families, that will provide employment, housing, and a safe environment in which to live. Ingrid was able to secure around 290 acres of prime land in Kisaju for this project.
Beyond the conversation of our work over the past 28 years with the poor, two white-haired grandmothers here at the Summit shared stories of our children and grandchildren.
Ingrid has 5 children, some of whom were adopted.  My oldest son and his wife from Vermont are adopting Poojah, an Indian six year old girl who was abandoned in the streets of New Delhi two years ago. She will be my eighth grandchild and will be well loved.  As I encounter street beggars and children again, I will always be reminded of both Ingrid’s work and Poojah’s early years.

Jul 29

Panel: Microfinance, Their Clients, and Clean Energy

Posted by: Elizabeth Israel

Elizabeth Israel

Today was a breakthrough!  Since 2002, GreenMicrofinance has been participating and leading panels on microfinance and the environment at various Microcredit Summit gatherings- Bangladesh 2004; Chile 2005, Halifax 2006, and today in Bali. 

During today's session on Microfinance, Their Clients, and Clean Energy: Making a Positive Impact on the Environment there was a definite shift in interest and ‘energy' around the topic.  THE LIGHTS ARE ON!

Craig Wilson from The Foundation for Development Cooperation based in Australia and my colleague, Kathleen Robbins from GreenMicrofinance, provided a macro overview of moving forward with clean energy and the microfinance.   

We then shifted to the local perspective.  Paul Thomas, Founder and Exective Director,  Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), India, and Chitta Ranjan Chaki, Deputy General Manager, Grameen Shakti, Bangladesh, both provided very comprehensive overviews of their clean energy initiatives.  

ESAF in partnership with GreenMicrofinance is developing a clean energy lending program; they recently completed a market survey of 1,200 clients in four States in which they work.  A couple of highlights from the survey include:

  • Majority of these people use firewood for cooking purposes; even if they do have LPG connections they prefer to use firewood stoves (comparatively cheaper source)
  • Waste generated in each household could be processed to produce renewable clean energy.

One I can't help but be impressed with the work of Grameen Shakti, which incorporated in 1996, and which provides energy services in remote rural areas of Bangladesh. GS sells, installs, and maintains solar photovoltaic systems, and has biogas, solar thermal, and wind programs.  

The session was very well attended with about 45 participants from government, NGOs, energy service providers, national banks, advocacy groups, and microfinance institutions.  We invited the group to post on this blog some of their thoughts and questions to further the dialogue on this panel theme.   

From my own perspective, I think we need to clearly identify our vision within the microfinance sector, continue to develop innovative solutions, and promote champions (like Paul Thomas and Chitta Chaki), who will reenergize communities to work together to conserve our natural environment and to promote environmental justice.  

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