REBTEL: The power of the Sun

  
In the last few years, the rise of Nigeria’s economy to become the largest in Africa has often been heralded for overcoming numerous systemic obstacles but there remains one obstacle which many believe holds the country back: a chronic shortage of power supply.

With about 90 million Nigerians living without power, citizens are forced to live on expensively maintained generator sets. The effect of the lack of electricity is significant as it continues to hamper economic growth and hurts investor confidence. However a partnership between the World Bank, International Financial Corporation as well as local banks and energy firms in Nigeria could help assuage the pressing issue.

The Lighting Africa Project, as it has been tagged, will focus on helping to develop a private sector that will provide electricity, using solar power, to up to a million households in Nigeria. The project will target households without access to the national grid in rural communities over the next five years.

To make this happen, the World Bank will play a key role as it will provide low-interest financing for investors and energy firms involved in the partnership. One of the major goals of the project is to reduce the heavy dependence on kerosene lamps and gasoline-powered generators which pose various health and environmental risks.

A better bet

Exploring solar energy could be a more realistic option to fix some of Nigeria’s power issues since building new national grids could cost billions of dollars. In the long-term, alternative clean energy will also help the country meet its ambitious plan to down emissions by as much as 45% by 2030 as part of the landmark climate change deal reached in Paris last week.
In line with this, Nigeria recently announced a ban on low-cost generators citing health risks caused by emissions and fire hazards. It also stepped up its national renewable energy program through an agreement with the United Kingdom in October.

A similar trend is visible across most of the continent as the African Union recently announced a $20 billion investment in renewable energy over the next decade. One example of a viable private sector solar model is M-Kopa in Kenya where the pay-as-you-go solution already reaches 275,000 households with plan to reach serve one million homes in East Africa by 2017.

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The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit

  
The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit is a majority women group of rangers, founded by Transfrontier Africa to protect the Olifants West Region of Balule Nature Reserve, part of Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa. The area where the Black Mambas operate is a free-range savannah ecosystem with open borders to the Kruger National Park. The highly endangered Black Rhino and also the endangered white rhino are strongly represented in the area.

Since the unit went into operation in 2013, the number of rhinos lost to poaching has plummeted, snaring and illegal bush-meat incidents have been reduced by 75 per cent, and nine poacher incursions have been detected, leading to the arrests of the offenders. The 26 unarmed members of the unit conduct foot-patrols, observations, vehicle checks and, road blocks, as well as educating their peers on the importance of conservation and gathering intelligence from their communities.
Restoring dignity and self-worth, and empowering communities to play their part, is a crucial component of efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade across the globe, and the Black Mambas are an outstanding example of success. Their brave actions are sending the message to others in South Africa and beyond that communities themselves can prevent the illegal wildlife trade—which threatens not only iconic species such as rhino and elephants, but puts money in the hands of criminal gangs, thus increasing insecurity, and threatens livelihoods.

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The Girl Effect

The Girl Effect is a movement based on the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world. It’s about getting girls on to the global development stage and driving massive resources to them. It is based on the common belief in the field of International Development that when given the opportunity, girls and women are more effective at lifting themselves and their families out of poverty, thereby having a multiplier effect within their villages, cities, and nations.

When girls are specifically included in education, health and economic investment, the world has a better chance of preventing issues such as child marriage, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty. But girls still need the world to listen to them and invest in their potential.

Today the Girl Effect is driven by hundreds of thousands of supporters who believe in the potential of 250 million adolescent girls living in poverty. Girleffect.org exists to help this community continue to make a powerful case for supporting girls, by equipping them to do the best work with and for girls.

Find out how you can make a difference at http://www.girleffect.org. Thanks for reading!

The Hello Hub: Nigerian Free Solar Powered Education Kiosk

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Seven months after terrorists kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, many local students are afraid to go to school. In other parts of the country, children don’t go to school because schools don’t exist; cities and villages can’t afford enough teachers. Across the nation, more than 10.5 million children aren’t in school, more than in any other part of the world.

One Nigerian city now has a prototype of a new type of education that doesn’t involve a school or teachers. The Hello Hub is an outdoor computer kiosk hooked up to free, solar-powered Internet and filled with hundreds of educational games. It’s rugged enough to handle dust storms, rain, and thousands of users. Built and owned by the community, it’s available for anyone–adults or children–to use anytime.

The project was inspired in part by Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED Prize winner who argues that schools as we know them are obsolete. Mitra has shown in experiments that self-directed learning works; children in slums or remote locations who were given a computer, and zero instruction, were able to teach themselves things like English and even the basics of biotechnology. In those experiments, the computers were eventually lost or broken, so the Hello Hubs take a different approach.

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“We don’t show up in a community and build a Hello Hub for them,” says MacMillan. “If we were to do that, it would take a day to knock up a Hello Hub, put it on Facebook, and get out. But it wouldn’t last, and I don’t think people would value it or use it as much as they do. I think it would be likely to go unmaintained after a while–that’s what Mitra’s research shows.”

Instead of giving a donation, the project involves the entire community. “We take parts of the tech and the expertise, but we don’t have what we need to complete it,” MacMillan explains. The community has to help negotiate for the solar power, find the land, feed and transport the visitors from the organization–and help build the computer kiosk from scratch, sometimes building and taking apart the server several times so everyone who wants to can learn how it works.

Find out more at http://www.hellohubs.org, thanks for reading.

The Plight of The Amazonian’s Indigenous

The Brazilian government is building the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River, a major Amazon tributary. Now over fifty percent complete, the Belo Monte Dam complex is designed to divert eighty percent of the Xingu River’s flow which will thus devastate an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest and cause the forced displacement of up to 40,000 people. This project gravely impacts the land and livelihoods of thousands of riverine, urban families and communities, and indigenous peoples from several neighboring areas.

The Xingu River basin is a living symbol of Brazil’s cultural and biological diversity; it is home to 25,000 indigenous people from 40 ethnic groups. The Xingu flows north 2,271 kilometers from the central savanna region of Mato Grosso to the Amazon River. Nominally protected throughout most of its course by indigenous reserves and conservation units, the Xingu basin is severely impacted by cattle ranching and soy monocultures. Belo Monte is the first in a planned network of mega-dam projects which will pose additional devastation to an already threatened region.

A project hailing from Brazil’s military dictatorship, Belo Monte continues to exhibit the same alarming authoritarian tendencies associated with this brutal regime. To understand more about the history of this project, explore an interactive timeline, which chronicles thirty years of injustice surrounding the approval and construction of the mega-dam.

Since the initiation of construction in 2011, the city of Altamira has witnessed a massive influx of migrants, provoking a spike in criminal activities, as well as the collapse of health, education, and sanitation services. Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy set December 15th as the date to auction the construction of the massive São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the first in a series of large dams slated for construction on the Tapajós River, one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries. The announcement immediately provoked the condemnation of local indigenous peoples, who criticized the federal government’s failure to ensure respect for their rights, as guaranteed by the Brazilian Constitution and international human rights agreements.

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The move enflamed tensions in this precarious and remote region, while portending conflict with the region’s threatened indigenous peoples, particularly the Munduruku people, one of the largest surviving Amazonian tribes, whose territories and communities span much of the Tapajós basin.

In response to the announcement, the indigenous organization Movimento Munduruku Ipereg Ayuissued an open letter denouncing the Brazilian government’s “lies”, citing a recent meeting with high-level federal officials who promised that the dam would not proceed without a process of free, prior, and informed consultation with indigenous and traditional communities. Domestic law and international human rights agreements such as International Labor Organization Convention 169 (ILO169), to which Brazil is a signatory, require such consultations.

“We know that prior consultation should take place before any decision concerning the dam,” affirms the Munduruku statement, which demands the immediate cancellation of the auction. “Is the government throwing ILO169 in the garbage? Once again the government shows that it does not aim to dialogue with us.”

“This decision is another enormous blow to the indigenous right to consultation, just as we’ve seen with the Belo Monte dam,” said Maíra Irigaray of Amazon Watch. “President Rousseff’s administration’s disregard of Brazil’s traditional populations is shameful.”

The announcement of the São Luiz do Tapajós dam auction comes on the heels of an escalating controversy over the ambitious Amazon dam-building plans of the Rousseff government. Recent mega-dam projects – such as Belo Monte on the Xingu River, and Santo Antônio and Jirau on the Madeira river – have been plagued by major construction delays and massive cost overruns, in addition to serious socio-environmental impacts that have been left largely unmitigated by dam-builders. Suspicions of corruption within the dam industry have been heightened by a recent scandal involving Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobão, accused with grafting kickbacks from the state oil company Petrobras, which he oversees.

Find out more at http://www.amazonwatch.org

Ancestral Healing Through Our Community

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When we consciously relate to our ancestors, it can be a tremendous source of healing, guidance and companionship. It can help us to relate more positively in our communities. Making it a daily ritual to honor the people who have come and gone before us is so important for any kind of spiritual work. It opens the door to a part of ourselves we haven’t yet healed or acknowledged. Even if you do not know anything about your lineage or blood family, try to find the place inside yourself to honor those who have come before you. Honoring our ancestors includes not only our blood relatives. We can draw upon strength of anyone who has come before us to inspire or influence. Writers, artists, healers, activists, etc.

Now is the time to strengthen our bonds within our communities. When people come together with a common intention or purpose, we can make huge changes and empower one another. There are many forms of community and many ways to come together for a purpose. Find a way of connecting that works for you.

We’re in a time where the news is full of scarcity, violence and corruption. How can we make room for abundance and call in the wisdom of our ancestors? What can we do personally to support and strengthen our own community? How can we stand up for those who are not being heard? For the people who are struggling everyday just to survive and for their basic rights. For those of us who have more choices and have more options, how can we show up even more for those people whose voices aren’t heard?

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Pop-up Park Bench Shelters: Helping The Homeless

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Trying to stop the homeless from taking shelter on the street by placing strategic spikes in the ground might be absurd, but the attitude isn’t unique. (After all, forcing the homeless out of cities before major global sporting events could even be called something of a tradition.) Last year, one advertising agency decided to point out something even more absurd: The fact that people have to sleep on benches in the first place.

In 2013, Canadian firm Spring Advertising approached the RainCity Housing and Support Society, a local shelter and advocacy organization in Vancouver, with an idea for modifying bus stops and park benches. Instead of trying to discourage the homeless from sleeping on them, they’d welcome them to stay.

As a result, the creatives ran a campaign with park benches that folded out like airplane tray tables into miniature shelters. By day, one version of the benches read, “This is a bench.” But at night, the dark revealed a different message: “This is a bedroom.”

Rob Schlyecher, Spring’s co-founder and creative director, explains that the campaign was intended to draw attention to the lack of housing and mental health resources for Vancouver’s homeless population. The city has a particular problem with homelessness because it’s the one of the few areas in Canada that doesn’t freeze in the winter, he notes.

But Schlyecher also has a very realistic sense of where the campaign falls in the spectrum of housing solutions. It’s a small action, he says, part of a program the agency has run since its inception, called “strange acts of kindness.” This year, Spring is forgoing awards ceremonies and donating the money that would have been spent on travel to local charities instead.

“The advertising industry doesn’t really give a lot back to the community, and we felt like we wanted to change that,” Schleyer says. “We’re not doing very much. We’re not Mother Theresa. We just feel that when we’re not using our skills to sell products we’d like to use them to help people.”

Thank you for reading.