There are many building blocks necessary for a modern society to survive and thrive. These include access to clean air, clean water, nutritious food, quality education and modern technology. In order to have many of these things, another key necessity must be present. This missing piece of the puzzle is electricity. Impoverished areas worldwide cannot provide electricity to citizens, partly because they cannot acquire the materials necessary to produce electricity. Traditionally, fossil fuels are harnessed using equipment to obtain them, then converted using generators, and other materials, such as batteries, are used to store the electricity prior to its use. Given the high costs of the many resources necessary to do this, countries cannot provide the electricity, and therefore local people suffer in many ways. There is, however, solutions to providing electricity in a cost and resource efficient manner. Places in southeastern Kenya are turning to one potential solution to this money and resource issue, which is solar power.
Kitonyoni, Kenya is turning to solar power because it will be a reliable resource that can be used for years to come to provide electricity to its people. Rather than constantly pouring money into obtaining coal and converting to electricity, the solar energy plant can be established, and maintained for a reasonable cost while causing a significantly smaller negative impact on the environment than previous electricity methods would. The environment would also benefit from the solar plant because the canopy would also act as a rain collector that the local population could use throughout the year. Not only would the solar plant provide environmental benefits, it would also provide benefits to the economy and job market. The solar plant is maintained by the local cooperative, which provides jobs to local citizens. Health centers could provide around the clock care to patients, and be able to communicate with other centers more easily. Students in schools would have access to light and resources throughout the entire day without having to use gas lamps or strain their eyes from dim lighting. Over 50 businesses would also have access to the electricity from the solar plant, therefore allowing them to provide service for longer hours.
Ultimately, Kitonyoni’s move to establish a solar energy plant is a step in the right direction. The environmental benefits from using this form of energy are plentiful, and the benefits to the people are even more tremendous. Up to 3000 local citizens would benefit from the electricity provided, and would benefit from the improved health care, education, and economy the solar plant would provide. Given the tremendous benefits for Kitonyoni that solar energy can provide, it is clear to see that solar energy can be the key to improved life and success in many other areas throughout the world.
For the last few months, Ethiopia has been experiencing a drought stronger than any other in the region throughout recent history. Fostered in part by particularly strong El Niño conditions, the drought has left millions of people in need of help from global government and humanitarian agencies. In an economy with such a strong agrarian basis as Ethiopia’s, the resulting crop failures and other agrarian catastrophes have completely devastated the economy. Many people in the country have been unable to afford basic life necessities, with many even being forced to kill off their animals for food.
Executives of the UN World Food Programme have visited Ethiopia to assess the damage of the drought first hand, subsequently announcing that it is in need of immediate aid to help manage the effects of the drought. Unfortunately, the UN did not have the monetary resources to provide the quantity of aid required, forcing them to plead other countries to pitch in and help.
This crisis highlights the importance of international awareness of drought-caused famine and outlines the need for more privileged countries to provide aid. The United States, Canada, and several European nations, as a part of the UN, have provided or will provide resources to Ethiopia and its people to alleviate the effects of the drought.
This is not the first time Ethiopia has experienced drought. The El Niño conditions in 2002 caused a similar situation to the farmers of Ethiopia, inhibiting their ability to grow crops. The required aid did not arrive in Ethiopia until Early 2003, dramatically increasing the rate of acute malnutrition. The UN has assessed what occurred in 2002 and 2003 and has established a plan so that Ethiopia will receive the aid they need promptly by way of private donations.
As time goes on, the demand for raw materials and natural resources is steadily increasing. Recently, this demand has turned it’s focus to the untouched precious resources located on the African continent. Given that Africa is home to over 60 metals and minerals, and provides 30% of the world’s reserves, it has become the center of attention for many major industrial countries. Industries based in places like China and India have turned their focus towards securing raw materials from across the African continent.
A variety of minerals and materials that are commonly found in Africa are in high demand for the rest of the world. The consumerist sensation of having the latest technology is behind this high demand. Everything from the next iPhone to the hippest hoverboard requires an abundance of raw materials. These minerals and materials include uranium, used for nuclear energy, platinum, used to make jewelry, and nickel, used to produce stainless steel, magnets, coins, and rechargeable batteries. The procurement and processing of these materials pose a problem for the environment of Africa. Processes like surface mining, strip mining, and solution mining are not only degrading the soil but are also making the soil very susceptible to erosion. Erosion caused by mining leads to further problems such as runoff into nearby water sources, resulting in harmful materials in the drinking supply. Additionally, any heating methods, such as burning coal, used to secure these minerals release dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The impacts of taking raw materials from the African continent are causing a plethora of problems for this continent. Everything from soil depletion to dangerous runoff has negative effects on the environment, and can lead to serious long-term damage for both the land and the people.
For as long as Zambians can remember, Lake Tanganyika has provided food and income to the people living on the shores. Recently however, as the population surrounding Lake Tanganyika has swelled, the numbers of fish living near the surface have dwindled. Fishermen and women are having to cast their nets much deeper than ever before, and travel much farther into the lake in order to bring up enough to provide for the community.
A major reason for the declining fish population is the type of net being used to fish. The fishing communities are more commonly using mosquito nets, which are made of an extremely fine mesh. This mesh, unlike conventional fishing nets, does not allow the baby fish to escape, causing a serious decline in the population. The fishermen are only searching for a handful of different species, but the mosquito nets catch everything, leading to destruction of the lake ecosystem.
A large portion of Egypt’s economy directly stems from the prominent tourism industry in the region. Unfortunately, the economy has taken its toll on the local environment. The country relies on the Nile for almost all of its water supply, but the water has been compromised by industrial and agricultural waste, sewage, and municipal wastewater runoff. In addition to the water pollution, the large numbers of tourists threaten the fragile desert areas and marine wildlife around the Red Sea coast.
With the rise of environmental problems, the tourism industry is at serious risk of decline. Without the income, Egypt’s economy is in as much danger as their environment. Unless Egyptian policy makers can act quickly, history may no longer be open for viewing.
Over half of household income in Tanzania comes from illegal deforestation practices, cutting down the trees for charcoal production. In a place where poverty is widespread and there are extremely few options for making money, this charcoal production is heavily organized by groups of armed loggers stripping the forests. According to the UN Food and Agriculture’s most recent Global Forests Assessment, Tanzania has been losing forest at a rate of 400,000 hectares (almost one million acres) per year. This practice is resulting in extreme loss of biodiversity and soil erosion.
Fortunately, there is a solution! Rural beekeeping has the potential to become a financially appealing alternative to low-income families. However, traditional beekeeping in Tanzania is extremely time and labor intensive, so Tangayika Apicultural, an organization working primarily with women’s initiatives, is providing women with more technologically advanced hives to get the process started. The founder of Tangayika Apicultural, Philemon Kiemi says that "women in rural areas are more sensitive in the handling of their families than men, so if you work and support the women, you are supporting their families too." Hopefully the newly distributed bees will allow the trees to grow and biodiversity to flourish.
Article Source: tz_soil_mgmt_biodiv_kaihura.doc
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_the_Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo
Although deforestation is not as drastic in the Democratic republic of the Congo as it is in other African countries, there was a fear that soon deforestation would escalate to drastic amounts in the near future. This fear arose from the long standing tradition of slash and burn farming, which involves cutting down trees and burning large plots of trees. The ash from the trees makes the soil very fertile and good for growing crops. This type of farming has steadily become more popular, and the fear is that it will soon be a major problem in the Congo. The main area that this is concentrated in the Kinshasa and Bas-Congo provinces, around mid-sized cities. The local impacts of these areas are significant. However, due to some reserves, parks, and other measures taken to try to preserve some of the forests in the Congo, it is now becoming more widely believed that the slash and burn farming will not have a global effect in the Congo.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: Overfishing Issues in the Waters off of West African Coasts
Once upon a time, waters off the West-African Coast were teeming with all types of marine life: reefs, dolphins, whales, sharks, and a massive amount of fish. However, this is no longer the case. Because of overfishing, the population of marine life is decreasing drastically. The population of fish in West-African waters is being depleted so drastically that the fish cannot reproduce fast enough to sustain a population. The reason behind this is that European and Asian fishing fleets have moved into West-African waters, due to the fact that the waters around Europe and Asia have already been depleted of their fish populations. Also, authorities estimate that around one third of these fishing fleets are fishing illegally.
The fishing fleets that are fishing legally aren’t any better than the illegal fleets. Legal fleets use machines to fish that take too many fish out of the water. The reason all of these fleets are legal is because African governments hope that they will provide excess jobs and boost the local economies. However, this is not the case, because all of the catches have been sold to far-off countries, not local countries in Africa.
Some proposed solutions to the issue include banning fleets from other countries fishing in African waters, and alternatively having locally owned and sustained fishing companies that will use proper protocol when fishing in West-African waters.
Common to other parts of the world, South Africa generates over 85% of its electricity needs through coal fired power plants. Unfortunately, the 16 plants spread throughout the large country in the base of Africa have recently been accused of directly causing over 2,700 deaths per year over the last several years. This problem, while directly affecting South Africans every day, was only brought to global attention last year by a report produced by Greenpeace. Through further examination of the situation, several stories have been brought to light. In particular, the community of Masakhane in the northeastern part of South Africa has been facing serious health issues throughout. Most residents of Masakhane do not have access to electricity, but are afflicted with life-threatening asthma as a direct effect of living in close proximation to the plants. In many cases, afflicted persons are no longer able to work due to the severity of their conditions.
The main component of coal that causes so much damage is particulate matter, or PM. Nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, and sulfur dioxide, or SO2, are also factors, although they are not as dangerous as PM. Sulfur dioxide is hazardous pollutant that harms the respiratory system with prolonged exposure, and NO2 is concretely linked to reducing lung function, like the development of asthma. However, PM is the most dangerous because it is very small particulates that are inhaled that embed themselves in the lungs, and sometimes in the bloodstream. A common effect from this embedding of particles over long periods of time is respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, and even lung cancer. Those with weakened immune systems are even more at risk, like children and adults that are HIV positive.
Additionally, coal fired power plants are the number one source of carbon emissions, which contribute heavily to our warming atmosphere. The average coal power plant emits around 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. Multiple that by the 16 plants located across South Africa, and we have total emissions of around 48 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Carbon interferes with ozone in the atmosphere, trapping more heat and gradually raising the global temperature.