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Innovative Ways to Collect Water from Air

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

World water resources are being depleted quickly as populations grow, urbanize and demand better living standards. Many scientists believe we are reaching peak water – the point at which fresh water is consumed faster than it is replenished.

According to Ensia (ensia.com), a magazine showcasing environmental solutions in action, 70 per cent of the earth’s fresh water reserves are locked up in snow or ice, and are expensive to tap and bring to the world’s water-stressed places. Of the remainder, most is in groundwater, soil moisture, swamps or permafrost, while just 0.3 per cent is easy to access in freshwater lakes and rivers.

By far the biggest user of water in the world – accounting for 69 per cent of the total – is farm irrigation. That’s a serious concern when considering the world will need to grow more food to feed an increasing population. Just 1 per cent of water is used for livestock, while 15 per cent is used for electricity generation and 7 per cent for manufacturing. More water is currently being pumped from underground resources than is being replaced from underground aquifers.

The average person needs to consume 0.6 to 1.3 gallons (2.72 liters to 6 liters) of water per day to survive in a moderate climate. For drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation, an individual needs 13 gallons (59 liters) a day (Ensia).

In many places, obtaining water requires a long trek to a well or stream. But non-desert climates have water as a resource readily available all around – trapped in the air. The clue to this resource’s existence is in the air’s humidity levels, the most visible sign of which is the dew that is found covering the grass and leaves every morning when people wake up. The trick is to extract that water from the air and create a steady supply of this essential resource.

Italian architect and designer Arturo Vittori (http://www.vittori-lab.com/team/arturo-vittori), a lecturer on aerospace architecture, technology transfer and sustainability, believes he has an answer.

Wired magazine (http://www.wired.com/2014/03/warka-water-africa/) reported that Vittori was inspired by a trip to Ethiopia, where he observed the daily struggle to get water. Access to water in northeastern Ethiopia often requires a long walk, which reduces the amount of time left in the day to do other things. Parents often take along their children, meaning the children cannot go to school. The time consumed by gathering water leaves people poorer and unable to dedicate more of their day to income-earning activities.

And there is no guarantee the water is safe to drink or free of chemical contaminants. This situation left Vittori pondering ways of coming up with an inexpensive solution that would eliminate the daily hassle of finding water and guarantee its quality.

The answer was a WarkaWater Tower (http://www.architectureandvision.com/projects/chronological/84-projects/art/492-073-warkawater-2012?showall=&start=1). The bamboo structure – which looks like an upended, latticework funnel – captures the dew and moisture in the air and collects it in a basket at the bottom.

The water collector is inspired by the Warka tree, or Ficus vasta (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficus_vasta). Native to Ethiopia, it is known for providing shade and as a rendezvous point for traditional gatherings.

A WarkaWater Tower stands 8 meters in height and is made from either bamboo or reeds. Inside, a mesh traps humidity from the air and the water drips down into a basket. One tower can gather around 94 liters of water a day. The water is right there in the community and not kilometers away, meaning time and energy saved for income-generating tasks.

A WarkaWater Tower is constructed in sections, which are assembled and then stacked on top of each other. The construction does not need special scaffolding or special machinery. Once the tower is in place, it can also be used as a solar-power generator.

The tower is still a prototype and Vittori plans to build two towers for a launch in 2015.

In Peru, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune (http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=700400&CategoryId=14095), another innovative solution to the water crisis has been developed by students at the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) (http://www.utec.edu.pe/Utec.aspx). The students have developed a highway advertising billboard that can draw drinking water out of the air. Inspired by a campaign called “Ingenuity in Action”, the students teamed up with a local advertising agency to design the billboard. It is capable of extracting water from the air and processing it through a filtration system as it flows down to a series of taps at the bottom.

The water-making billboard is at the 89.5 kilometer distance marker of the Pan-American Highway and has five electric-powered tanks that can hold a total of 96 liters of drinkable water. It is capable of providing enough water for hundreds of families. A true sign of our times!

Resources

1) How to Build a Rainwater Collection System. Website: http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Rainwater-Collection-System

2) The geopolitical difficulties of access to water covered in The Devil and the Disappearing Sea: A True Story about the Aral Sea Catastrophe by Robert Ferguson. Website: amazon.com

3) “Earth may have underground ‘ocean’ three times that on surface” from The Guardian. Website: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jun/13/earth-may-have-underground-ocean-three-times-that-on-surface

An article on the impact of the water crisis on food supplies. Website: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/09/enjoy-your-coffee-you-may-soon-not-be-able-to-afford-it

5) How to Make Water in the Desert. Website: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Water-in-the-Desert


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.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=waeXBgAAQBAJ&dq=Development+Challenges+February+2008&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsfebruary2008issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Recycling Waste to Boost Incomes and Opportunities

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

We all know that green is good, but often the best way to encourage recycling and other environment-improving activities is to put in place economic incentives. It is one thing to admonish people and tell them something is the right thing to do; it is another to make keeping a clean environment pay.

Many initiatives across the global South have proven it is possible to develop an economy of recycling and garbage collection in poor neighbourhoods. These economies take many forms and models.

At the most basic end of the scale are the desperate, survival-driven examples of recycling. In countries likeIndia, recycling can be purely a question of survival – people are so poor they can’t allow anything that might have income potential go to waste. Other countries are very familiar with large numbers of desperately poor people picking through garbage dumps and waste to eke out a living. Or, for example in Brazil, as in many other countries, it’s common to see poor and homeless people picking through garbage on the streets.

These are examples of degrading ‘green’ economies. But there other ways to encourage waste recycling that offer real income benefits and life improvements.

Brazil, a world leader in waste recycling and green technologies, has pioneered the recycling of plastic bottles, aluminum, steel cans, solid plastic waste and glass. And now energy companies inBrazilhave created credit schemes that encourage waste recycling while giving people real economic benefits in return for doing the right thing for the environment. The first scheme went so well, it quickly inspired others to replicate its programme in other poor communities.

Coelce (http://www.coelce.com.br/default.aspx) is a power company in the Ceará State in northeastern Brazil. The company is primarily engaged in the distribution of electrical power for industrial, rural, commercial and residential consumption. In 2007 it set up Ecoelce (http://www.coelce.com.br/coelcesociedade/programas-e-projetos/ecoelce.aspx), a programme allowing people to recycle waste in return for credits towards their electricity bills. The success of the programme led to an award from the United Nations.

The programme works like this: people bring the waste to a central collection place, a blue and red building with clear and bright branding to make it easy to find. In turn they receive credits on a blue electronic card – looking like a credit card – carrying a picture of a child and arrows in the familiar international recycling circle.

These credits are then used to calculate the amount of discount they should receive on their energy bill. The scheme is flexible, and people can also use the credits for food or to pay rent. In 2008, after its first yearthe scheme had expanded to 59 communities collecting 4,522 tons of recyclable waste and earning 622,000 reais (US $349,438) in credits for 102,000 people. People were receiving an average of 5 to 6 reais (US $2.80 to US $3.37) every month towards their energy bills.  A clear success leading to an expansion of the scheme.

Now in Ceará’s state capital, Fortaleza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortaleza), – population 3.5 million – there are more than 300,000 people recycling a wide range of materials, from paper, glass, plastics, and metals to cooking oil to get electricity discounts, according to the Financial Times.

In Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janeiro, a favela clean-up programme is being run by electricity firm Light S.A. (http://www.light.com.br/web/tehome.asp), which took its inspiration from the success of the Ecoelce experience.

The number of favelas, or informal slum neighbourhoods (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favela), in Rio is debated: according to the federal government, there are 1,020 favelas, while Rio’s housing department lists 582. The government has been trying to tackle the law and order problems in these neighbourhoods – many are plagued with violent drug gangs – and endemic poverty. It calls this programme “pacification” (http://brazilportal.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/rios-top-cop-talks-public-safety-policy-favela-pacification-program/) as it tries to bring law and order and boost economic development and social gains.

Recycling programmes are helping to bring improvements to life in the favelas by simultaneously cleaning up neighbourhoods and boosting household wealth.

Light S.A. is a Brazilian energy company working in the generation, transmission, distribution and marketing of electricity. It distributes to 31 municipalities inRio de Janeiroand has around 3.8 million customers.

According to the Financial Times, the Light project pays residents 0.10 reais per kilogram of paper and plastic (US .5 cents). It also pays 2.50 reais per kilogram of aluminum and lead (US $ 1.40).

Importantly for community relations, the scheme is open not just to favela residents but to nearby middle class neighbourhoods.

“The idea is to unite the community and the people living around it,” Fernanda Mayrink, Light’s community outreach officer, told the Financial Times.

The project has helped improve theSanta Martafavela ofRio, where police have been working since 2008 to take back the neighbourhood from the control of violent drug gangs. Community police officers can now do their job of taking care of safety for the 6,000 residents.

“You don’t see drugs and guns any more but you do see lots of rubbish,” Mayrink said.

“This project encourages recycling within the company’s concession area and at the same time contributes to sustainable development and the consumer’s pocket. Light wins, the customer wins (and) the environment wins.”

In Vietnam, the NGO Anh Duong (http://www.anhduonghg.org/en/) or “Sun Ray” shows schoolchildren how to collect plastic waste to sell for recycling. In return, their schools receive improvements and the students can win scholarships. It is estimated ruralVietnam is littered with 100 million tons of waste every year. Much of it is not picked up.

The project is operating in 17 communities in Long My and Phung Hiep districts in southernVietnam, mobilising children from primary and secondary schools. School children wearing their uniforms fan out in groups and collect the plastic waste. The money made from selling the plastic waste is being used to improve school facilities and fund scholarships for poor children.

In 2010, the project reported that 10,484 kilograms of plastic waste was collected by 26,015 pupils. This provided for 16 scholarships for school children.

The Anh Duong NGO was set up by a group of social workers with the goal of community development. They target the poorest, bringing together the entire community and seek out “low cost and sustainable actions”. The NGO has a mix of specialties, from agriculture to aquaculture, health, microfinance and social work.

“Close, but no cigar” some might say, but we were genuinely flattered to be shortlisted in 2014 for inclusion in the book Visual Storytelling: Infographic Design in News published by Images Publishing in Shanghai, China. It is a lovely book to look at and the quality of infographics chosen for the book is high so it must have been a tough call. It was further proof Southern Innovator was getting known around the world and gaining respect for its content and design. The excellent work done by our graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir speaks for itself.
Graphic Designer and Illustrator: Sólveig Rolfsdóttir.

Resources

1) A travelling exhibit, In The Bag: The Art and Politics of the Reusable Bag Movement, showcases bags and art produced by communities throughout the world and by individual artists. Website:http://www.unrisd.org/80256B3C005BE6B5/%28httpNews%29/D1AB353A91EC2466C125793600519C7B?OpenDocument

2) EPAP guide: Based on extensive research throughout Mongolia by UNDP, this guide includes the application of the Blue Bag project to Mongolia’s sprawling slum districts surrounding the capital Ulaanbaatar. Website:http://tinyurl.com/yfkn2dp

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.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=waeXBgAAQBAJ&dq=Development+Challenges+February+2008&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsfebruary2008issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

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

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

© David South Consulting 2022

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Kenyan Eco-Village Being Built by Slum-Dwellers

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

A Kenyan eco-village is helping slum dwellers to start new lives and increase their wealth. The community, Kaputei, is being built by former slum residents – some of whom used to beg to survive – and is providing new homes with electricity, running water and services like schools and parks. By building their own homes, with the help of affordable mortgage loans, the residents are able to make a big upgrade to their quality of life while acquiring real wealth.

More than 900 million people – almost a sixth of the world’s population – now live in urban slums (UN). This number will double by 2030 as a result of rapid urbanization in developing countries. Already in developing countries 43 per cent of urban dwellers live in slums, and the figure leaps to 78 per cent in the least-developed countries. The UN estimates it will take US $18 billion a year to improve living conditions for these people – and most of it will have to come from the residents themselves.

Kaputei is a project of Kenya’s largest and oldest micro-finance lender, Jamii Bora (www.jamiibora.org). Having enjoyed significant success in making loans to over 225,000 people – after starting out in 1999 with loans to just 50 beggars – it realized something on a larger scale was necessary to permanently transform the lives of poor Kenyans.

Jamii Bora’s founder, Ingrid Munro, saw the whole atmosphere of the slums as the biggest impediment to long-term life changes. “As long as you are living in the slums, you will never climb out of poverty,” she told The Independent newspaper. “Families of course need economic opportunities to rise out of poverty, but what good are they if you are still living in hell?”

Jamii Bora came up with the idea of building an entire community from scratch, and doing it in way that was affordable, ecological and sustainable, while building the wealth of the residents. Since 2007, the project has provided homes for 50 families; the target is to have homes for 2,000.

One former beggar who has built her own home is Clarice Adhiambo. An early client of Jamii Bora, she started to learn how to save, reaching her first goal of saving 1,000 Kenyan shillings (US $12.81). With Jamii Bora’s encouragement, she plowed this money back into buying some fish and selling it in the markets. Over time, she was able to grow her efforts until she was a regular market trader, and was borrowing as much as US $1,900 to fund various slum businesses.

Then came the Kaputei project. It has helped Adhiambo move from a 3 meter by 3 meter tin shack in the Nairobi slum of Soweto to her own home with running water: “So much water,” she told The Independent.

The new home is 50 square metres with two bedrooms, a sitting room and a bathroom.

Adhiambo pays US $36 a month for her mortgage — more than most people, because she wants to pay it off quickly. That compares to about US $20 a month in rent paid by many slum dwellers to live in squalor with poor services and quality of life.

Kaputei is a clever community project. Unlike attempts to build housing for the poor in isolation, Kaputei is based on neighbourhoods of 250 families each, with common community centres, playgrounds, parks and church halls. There is a town centre, and zones for commercial and industrial enterprises. The project was approved by the Kenyan government in 2004 and has planning permission for 119 hectares. Trees are being planted to provide protection from wind, add beauty, and, in time, to be a source of income or firewood. A wetland is being used to recycle waste water and is being run in partnership with Kenyan universities.

Each house costs US $1,875 to build. The homes are so cheap because the building materials are assembled in a factory on site, and the families help with the building.

Three house models are available and the families – from the Kamba, Kikuyu, Luo and Maasai peoples – choose the one they like by viewing show homes on site. Each home has access to roads, water and sewage.

It’s estimated the entire community of 2,000 families will cost US $3,750,000 for the homes, and another US $3,750,000 for infrastructure. Mortgages are offered at between 8.5 percent and 10 percent interest and are estimated to take 10 to 15 years to repay. The average mortgage is about US $32 a month.

Resources

Builders Without Borders: Is an international network of ecological builders who advocate the use of straw, earth and other local, affordable materials in construction. Website: www.builderswithoutborders.org/

World Hands Project: An NGO specialising in simple building techniques for the poor. Website:www.worldhandsproject.org

CIDEM and Ecosur specialize in building low-cost community housing using eco-materials. They have projects around the world and are based in Cuba. Website: www.ecosur.org

The 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

Slum TV: Based deep inside Nairobi’s largest slum, Mathare, they have been seeking out the stories of hope where international media only see violence and gloom. Website: www.slum-tv.org

Published: June 2009

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This work is licensed under a
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2009: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

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

© David South Consulting 2021

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Energy-Efficient Wooden Houses are also Earthquake Safe

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In Argentina, an innovative housing project has married good design with energy efficiency, earthquake resilience and the use of local materials and labour. As energy resources continue to be stretched around the global South, innovative building designs will be critical to the creation of sustainable housing for the future.

The happy mix of efficient modern design with affordable local materials and labour can be seen in three row houses designed and built by Buenos Aires-based Estudio BaBO (estudiobabo.com.ar) in the El Once neighbourhood in Villa La Angostura, Patagonia, southern Argentina.

The wooden houses are built in a Norwegian style. Estudio BaBO, founded in 2007, discovered that the Scandinavian nation’s housing traditions were well suited to the particular needs of the region and the local government.

The local government imposed a number of planning guidelines and restrictions that needed to be met to receive planning permission. This included creating row houses which must be made of wood – a plentiful local resource. They also had to be earthquake-safe since the region is seismically active and be able to withstand the heavy rains common to the region.

Looking around for the right guidance to tackle this brief, Estudio BaBO discovered SINTEF – Norway’s leading disseminator of research-based knowledge to the construction industry (http://www.sintef.no/home/Building-and-Infrastructure/). The Nordic nation has many wooden homes and also has similar environmental conditions and challenges to Patagonia – though its precipitation tends to fall as rain, rather than snow.

The black-painted homes look typically Norwegian, with a tasteful and clean design that does not clash with the forested surroundings. An air chamber has been created inside the homes’ walls allowing for constant ventilation of the wood, which prevents the wood from rotting and extends the life of the house. With the high rainfall of the region, wood is at risk of rotting if allowed to become damp. The air cavity also insulates the house, providing significant energy savings while keeping the interior warm and comfortable.

Adding to the energy efficiency of the design, the windows are double glazed and heat is also circulated through the floor – an efficient way to heat a home because heat rises.

To keep costs down and the project simple, the palette used for the homes is simple but attractive: black, white, wood and metal. The local wood is cypress and is painted black. The interior walls are all white and the floors are made from black granite on the ground floor and cypress wood parquet on the upper floor. The rest of the woodwork in the house is also made of cypress.

Using locally sourced materials also helps to keep costs down.

The project was initially conceived in 2009 and the houses were built in 2010-2011. While wood is plentiful in Patagonia, traditionally the use of wood in construction was rudimentary and local labour skill levels were low. This meant the design had to be simple and easy to build.

“Despite the profusion of wood as a material in the south of Argentina, the lack of specialized knowledge and of a specialized industry narrow its uses to isolated structural elements and interior and exterior finishes,” said one of the architects, Marit Haugen Stabell.

The three units of two-storey row houses each come with a living room, dining room, kitchen, toilet, two bedrooms and a laundry room. Each home also has an outdoor patio. The homes are designed to receive maximum natural light. Deploying this energy efficient design is considered unusual for Argentina and Estudio BaBO has set a new standard for sustainable housing in the country.

It looks like the CLF Houses could inspire others to look again at wood as a building material.

Resources

1) A story on how researchers are perfecting wooden home designs to withstand heavy earthquakes. Website:http://inhabitat.com/wooden-house-can-withstand-severe-earthquakes/

2) A website packed with photographs of wooden and other houses for inspiration and lesson learning. Website:http://www.trendir.com/house-design/wood_homes/

3) A step by step slideshow on how a Norwegian wooden house was re-built. Website:http://www.dwell.com/articles/norwegian-wood.html

4) Inspirational wooden home decorating ideas from across Scandinavia. Website:http://myscandinavianhome.blogspot.cz/

Creative Commons License

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

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

© David South Consulting 2021