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Prisons With Green Solutions

An ingenious solution is helping Rwanda reduce the cost of running its bursting prisons, while improving conditions for the prisoners and helping protect the environment.

The country’s prison population soared to a peak of 120,000 suspects awaiting trial for their role in the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. The traditional court system, gacaca, is being used for national reconciliation, but the process is slow and costly for a country where 90 per cent of the population exist on subsistence agriculture, and where food production has dropped below 70 per cent of the levels needed for self-sufficiency (USAID).

But thanks to enormous, bee-hive shaped human manure digesters, a steady supply of biogas is on tap for cooking and lighting at prisons – the first country in Africa to do this. Five of the country’s largest prisons – two at Gitarama and one each in Butare, Kigali and Cyangugu – now have biogas plants producing 50 per cent of the gas needed to cook for prisoners. It has also saved half of each prison’s US $44,000 a year firewood costs. The money saved is being ploughed back into renovations to the prisons to improve conditions, and to provide more services like healthcare.

Biogas is produced from the fermentation of household or agricultural waste or animal or human feces, and has become a viable alternative when traditional gas sources become more expensive. The waste is placed in a 150 cubic meter beehive-shaped digester and fermented until a gas is produced. According to lead engineer on the project, Ainea Kimaro, 100 cubic meters of waste is turned into 50 cubic meters of fuel by bacteria devouring the manure in just four weeks.

The digesters are a project of the Kigali Institute of Sciences, Technology and Management ‘s Center for Innovations and Technology Transfer.

“Biogas kills two birds with one stone,” Kimaro told the BBC. It gets rid of all the human waste and helps cover the enormous costs of feeding so many prisoners. Prior to the digesters, the quantity of human waste was a real problem: it was flooding down hillsides and leaking into rivers and lakes.

A school, the Lycee de Kigali , also has a digester. “The methane gas is used to cook for 400 students and for operating Bunsen burners in the school laboratories”, Kimaro said.

Many would think this a smelly affair, but in fact the whole process isn’t that pungent. Most of the digester is underground and the gas produced burns a clean, blue smokeless flame. It is much cleaner than the smoke from firewood. The remaining sludgy residue is used as an odourless compost for soil. This is used in the prison gardens to grow maize, mangos, bananas and tomatoes – all of which ends up back on the prisoner’s plates, improving the quality of their nutrition.

“The firewood savings are excellent – they really make a difference for us,” a Cyangugu prison warden said, adding that the odour-free compost had done wonders for the prison gardens. “Look at all these bananas! This fertiliser really is the best,” he said to the BBC.

In Uganda, human urine and feces are being mixed with banana peels, algae, water hyacinth and poultry droppings to make biogas. In Uganda’s rural Mukono district, biogas is used for cooking, lighting pressure lamps and to power engines. The slurry left over is then used to fertilise the soil. For Ugandans, most of whom are rural dwellers, electricity is rare and petrol to run generators and refrigeration units is expensive.

“It keeps the environment free of organic wastes, is convenient, time-saving and reduces smoke-related illnesses often associated with the use of firewood,” said Patrick Nalere, country director of the Heifer Project International, an American NGO which shares livestock and knowledge to reduce poverty. “If the majority of Ugandans adopted biogas, we would preserve our biodiversity. People should exploit decomposing raw materials, which are free. Therefore, no monthly power tariffs.”

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2008

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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Het wilde oosten : reizen in het moderne Mongolië

Mongolië is voor veel mensen nog een mysterieus land dat vooral beelden oproept van woeste ruiters, uitgestrekte grasvlakten en nomaden. Het is een land waar de tijdstil lijkt te hebben gestaan. Als Jill Lawless arriveert in Mongolië treft ze een hoofdstad aan die veel westerser is dan ze had verwacht. De trendy geklede jongeren en moderne discotheken van Ulaanbaatar staan in schril contrast met de nomadische bevolking die nog in tenten op de ruige vlakten leven.

Het wilde Oosten is het onthullende reisverslag van Lawless’ verblijf in Mongolië waarbij je als lezer alle wetenswaardigheden over de lokale politiek, de diverse tradities en de historie van dit intrigerende land leert kennen.

De Canadese Jill Lawless werkte als redacteur in Mongolië bij de enige Engelstalige en onafhankelijke krant The UB Post. Zij schreef ook diverse artikelen over Mongolië voor internationale dagbladen. Momenteel woont en werkt ze als verslaggeefster in Londen.

Het wilde Oosten, Jill Lawless, net exemplaar (naamstempel op schutblad)
Rainbow Pocket. pocket, 255 pagina’s
ISBN 9789041707291

Amsterdam : Muntinga Pockets

Translation: Gert-Jan Kramer

ISBN: 9789041707291 9041707298

OCLC Number: 230800521

Published: 2008

“Jill Lawless trof enkele jaren terug een land aan dat veel westerser is dan zij dacht: Mongolië. In Het wilde oosten beschrijft ze hoe het land uit een eeuwenoude isolatie probeert te geraken wat tot fascinerende contrasten leidt….” de Volkskrant

s-Gravenhage: Rainbow Pocket

Translation: Gert-Jan Kramer

ISBN: 9055018597 9789055018598

OCLC Number: 67082971

Published: 2001

For most of us, the name Mongolia conjures up exotic images of wild horsemen, endless grasslands, and nomads — a timeless and mysterious land that is also, in many ways, one that time forgot. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongols’ empire stretched across Asia and into the heart of Europe. But over the centuries Mongolia disappeared from the world’s consciousness, overshadowed and dominated by its huge neighbours — first China, which ruled Mongolia for centuries, then Russia, which transformed the feudal nation into the world’s second communist state.

Jill Lawless arrived in Mongolia in the late 1990s to find a country waking from centuries of isolation, at once rediscovering its heritage as a nomadic and Buddhist society and simultaneously discovering the western world.

The result is a land of fascinating, bewildering contrasts: a vast country where nomadic herders graze their sheep and yaks on the steppe, it also has one of the world’s highest literacy levels and a burgeoning high-tech scene. While trendy teenagers rollerblade amid the Soviet apartment blocks of Ulaanbaatar and dance to the latest pop music in nightclubs, and the rich drive Mercedes and surf the Internet, more than half the population still lives in felt tents, scratching out a living in one of the world’s harshest landscapes.

Mongolia, it can be argued, is the archetypal 21st-century nation, a country waking from a tumultuous 20th century in which it was wrenched from feudalism to communism to capitalism, searching for its place in the new millennium.

This is a funny and revealing portrait of a beautiful, troubled country whose fate holds lessons for all of us.

  • Publisher : ECW Press; Illustrated edition (1 Jan. 2000)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 230 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550224344
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550224344
  • Dimensions : 15.24 x 1.6 x 22.86 cm
  •  Images © David South and Liz Lawless.

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Icelandic Credit Crunch Demonstrations 2008

Icelandic Humour Targets UK PM
Tensions were high as the Global Financial Crisis (2007-2008) roiled the world economy.

The unfolding Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, while caused by the collapse of the financial system, also presented an opportunity to apply the lessons learned in the late 1990s. The crisis was a roller coaster ride and provided a front row seat to what happens when too much debt and fraud overwhelms the financial system. A conference in Switzerland on African trade opportunities in 2008 was disrupted by the crisis as participants received frantic calls from London and New York and grabbed their bags and fled. Later that year I joined Associated Press foreign correspondent Jill Lawless in Reykjavik, Iceland as demonstrations erupted resulting from the collapse of the country’s banks.

Icelandic Humour Targets UK PM

Further Reading:

Learn more about the demonstrations and why they occurred (and find links to Jill Lawless’ on-the-ground reports from the demonstrations and the crisis) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Icelandic_financial_crisis_protests

Icelandic police tear gas protesters

By VALUR GUNNARSSON and JILL LAWLESS – Jan 22, 2009

Crisis response media from David South Consulting:

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

More on the Global Financial Crisis response: A Report from the UN Conference on the Social and Political Dimensions of the Global Crisis: Implications for Developing Countries (12-13 November 2009)

Just as now (2021) 2009 was a year in which the questions revolved around receiving a vaccine (for H1N1) and how best to affirm a person’s identity and citizenship.

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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Rebuilding After Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

It has been a year since the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China that killed more than 70,000 people.

China’s strongest earthquake for more than half a century, with a magnitude of 8.0 (en.wikipedia.org), it devastated large parts of the province of Sichuan. More than 10 million people were made homeless, most of them poor and elderly villagers (cities were not badly damaged).

Getting Sichuan back to normal is critical for not only the province’s people, but for all of China. Sichuan is China’s rice bowl, growing more food than any other province. But despite the abundance of food, Sichuan remains poor and has seen its working age population move away for work. If it is to have a viable future then its communities need to get back to normal as fast as possible – and its farming economy back to full production.

The unprecedented media coverage of the disaster meant people across China saw the scenes of devastation and have since contributed large donations to help with the reconstruction. The Chinese government has pledged to spend US $151 billion on reconstruction projects.

Finding ways to re-house people after large disasters has become an urgent issue over the last five years. From the Asian tsunami to Hurricane Katrina in the United States and multiple hurricane disasters in the Caribbean, restoring communities is critical for the health of the people and the economies they rely on. Experience has shown that temporary shelters have many drawbacks, being usually of poor quality for long-term habitation and a source of health problems.

The temporary shelters erected for the Sichuan homeless are unsuitable for long-term housing: the 12 square metre grey boxes – two sheets of aluminium sandwiching a polystyrene core for insulation – have no heating. The occupants roast inside in the summer and freeze in the winter. They are also located away from the main source of income: the farms.

The dilemma is how to build new, long-term houses that will not cost too much. Inflation has increased the costs of conventional building materials: bricks, cement and steel.

But the use of traditional building materials and home designs offers an alternative. By drawing on the abundant bamboo and wood in Sichuan and by building to traditional designs, cheaper but sturdy and beautiful homes can be built.

An average home now costs around 80,000 yuan (US $11,688). The Chinese government estimates the price is now 820 yuan per square meter for a new home: bamboo homes cost between 300 and 400 yuan per square meter. Government compensation is between 16,000 yuan (US $2,337) and 23,000 yuan (US $3,360) per family. The bamboo houses range in size from 75 to 200 square metres, and in cost from 22,500 yuan to 80,000 yuan for a very large home.

In Daping village, Pengzhou Town, original homes destroyed by the earthquake sit at the edge of a forested hill. Their frames are more or less intact, but the walls and roofs have collapsed. The new houses replacing them are large, two stories high and have solid grey clay tile roofs. The beauty of the designs stands out and sits in stark contrast to the temporary shelters and concrete buildings.

“There are 43 houses and two public buildings being rebuilt in this project,” says team member Hu Rong Rong of the Green Building Research Centre of Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology. “The design and the main building material are based on the ecological and sustainable habitat idea. The place (Sichuan) is rich in bamboo and wood. These natural materials are cheap and friendly to the environment. In some buildings we use light steel which can be also recycled.”

The new homes are built to earthquake resistance standards. Led by Professor LiuJiaping, a team of 15 people from the research centre and two from a design institute developed the home designs and supervised the training of local people. They were joined by 10 people from an NGO called Global Village of Beijing, who managed the project to completion.

“All the designs were discussed with the local people,” continues Hu. “We trained a local construction team, which means the local people would build their own houses by themselves. Both our research center and the local people were involved in developing the home design.

“To get the trust from the local people is a challenge in the project. We resolved it by showing our respect to the local people. Before we started our design we discussed with the local people many times to know what kind of house they like. We built the first house to make them believe us.”

Hu believes it is possible to replicate the homes across Sichuan.

“The design is suitable for other villages in Sichuan which have a similar climate and culture with this village. To rebuild sustainable houses after a disaster we should know well about the local life, environment and culture – try to find the useful technique which was used in their traditional houses and upgrade the traditional house to meet the need of their modern life.”

Others have not been as lucky as these villagers. In the village of Yuan Bao, Chen Jingzhong, 66, has had to build a makeshift shack: “They wanted to get us to build our own houses but they didn’t give us enough money,” Chen told the Telegraph Magazine. “All we could afford was this shack, which we built ourselves, with our own hands and without any help from anyone.”

ResourcesArchitecture for Humanity: By tapping a network of more than 40,000 professionals willing to lend time and expertise to help those who would not otherwise be able to afford their services, they bring design, construction and development services where they are most critically needed.
Website: www.architectureforhumanity.orgChinese Red Cross: The Red Cross Society of China is accepting donations for disaster reconstruction and is coordinating rebuilding efforts in Sichuan
Website:http://www.redcross.org.cn/ywzd/Gerd Niemoeller has developed flat pack, cardboard homes that can be deployed quickly after a disaster and can become permanent homes.
Website:http://tinyurl.com/6t6jtf and the company
Website: http://www.wall.de/en/homeGlobal Greenhouse Warming is a website that tracks extreme weather events around the world: drought, flooding, severe storms, severe winter, tropical cyclone, wildfires, and extreme heat waves.
Website:www.global-greenhouse-warming.comThe Building and Social Housing Foundation: An independent research organization promoting sustainable development and innovation in housing through collaborative research and knowledge transfer.
Website:www.bshf.org

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021