This groundbreaking Mongolian Human Development Report – the country’s first – went beyond just chronicling Mongolia’s state of development in statistics and graphs. It placed the story of the Mongolian people during the transition years (post-1989) at its heart, using photographs, stories and case studies to detail the bigger narrative at play.
Designed, laid out and published in Mongolia, the report broke with the practices of many other international organisations, who would publish outside of Mongolia – denying local companies much-needed work. The report’s costs helped to kick-start a publishing boom in the country and significantly raised standards in design and layout. The foundations laid down by the project producing the report ushered in a new age in publishing for Mongolia.
The report’s launch was innovative, not only being distributed for free across the country, but also part of a multimedia campaign including television programming, public posters, town hall meetings and a ‘roadshow’ featuring the report’s researchers and writers.
The initial print run of 10,000 copies was doubled as demand for the report increased. To the surprise of many, once hearing about the free report, herders would travel to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to pick up their copy. The report proved people cared passionately about the development of their country and that development concepts are not to be the secret domain of ‘development practitioners’.
The use of polluting fuel-burning stoves by half the world’s population – including 80 percent of rural households – is a documented contributor to a host of health problems. Poor households not only have to contend with the ill health effects of dirty water and poor sanitation, the fumes from burning dung, wood, coal or crop leftovers lead to the deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).
The polluting stoves have also been identified as major contributors to climate change. The soot from the fires produces black carbon, now considered a significant contributor to global warming. While carbon dioxide is the number one contributor to rising global temperatures, black carbon is second, causing 18 percent of warming.
Getting black carbon levels down is being seen as a relatively inexpensive way to reduce global warming while gaining another good: cleaner air for poor households. The soot only hangs around in the atmosphere for a few weeks while carbon dioxide lingers for years, so the impact can be seen quickly.
A flurry of initiatives across the South are now designing, developing and testing clean-burning stoves to tackle this problem. The number of initiatives is impressive (see list of clean-burning stove initiatives by country: http://www.bioenergylists.org/en/country), but the test will be who can develop stoves that poor households will actually use and find the right model to distribute them to half the world’s population.
In India, the Surya cookstove project is test marketing six prototypes of clean burning stoves with poor households. Developed by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, the six stoves are still undergoing field testing. Initial criticisms from users have focused on the stoves’ durability and overly clinical appearance.
Cost will be critical to success no matter what the stove’s final design: “I’m sure they’d look nice, but I’d have to see them, to try them,” Chetram Jatrav in Kohlua, central India, told the New York Times. As her three children coughed, she continued that she would like a stove that “made less smoke and used less fuel” but she cannot afford one.
Envirofit India – founded in 2007 as a branch of the US-based Envirofit International – is at a more advanced stage, already selling clean-burning stoves across India and the Philippines. It claims to have already sold over 10,000 stoves to poor households.
They have developed high-quality stoves in four models: the B-110 Value Single Pot (a simple stove for one pot), S-2100 Deluxe Single Pot (a sturdier design), S-4150 Deluxe Double Pot (two burning surfaces), S-4150 Deluxe Double Pot with Chimney. They have been designed to be visually appealing for households – in tasteful colours like blue and green – and using high quality engineering for durability.
They have been tested by engineers at the Colorado State University’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory and are certified for design and environmental standards.
The stoves are on sale in 1,000 villages in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh. The stoves have already successfully undergone pilot testing in Chitradurga and Dharmapuri. The manufacturer uses a network of dealers, distributors, village entrepreneurs and not-for-profit organizations to make the stoves commercially available for purchase. They hope to have 1,500 dealer outlets by the end of 2009.
“Envirofit clean cookstoves have received an overwhelming reception in India,” said Ron Bills, chairman and chief executive officer at Envirofit. “Our cookstoves are not only meticulously engineered to reduce toxic emissions and fuel use; they are also aesthetically designed and durable. Envirofit takes great pride in offering high-quality, affordable products to typically underserved global markets.”
But once again price comes up as a major issue: Envirofit’s stoves are designed to last five years, and thus they cost more than other stoves for sale in India. An Envirofit stove costs between 500 rupees (US $10) to 2,000 rupees (US $40): existing stoves sell for between 250 rupees (US $5) and 1,000 rupees (US $20), and last a year at most.
As one blogger complained: “The envirofit stoves … are way beyond the capacity of the low income households who form 65% of the Indian population. Only the 10% of the middle to higher income segment can go for them… perhaps the price can be brought down by reducing the showy part of the stove to help the poorest.”
Envirofit is part of the Shell Foundation’s Breathing Space program, established to tackle indoor air pollution from cooking fires in homes and hopes to sell and place 10 million clean-burning stoves in five countries over the next five years.
A video shows the installation of clean-burning stoves in Peru, South America. It also has links to many other videos of clean-burning stoves and how to build and install them. Website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neZZvvnL8Lg
For millions of poor people around the world, life is lived on the economic margins and household and personal budgets are tight. There were 1.29 billion people in the world living on less than US $1.25 a day as of 2008 (World Bank), and 1.18 billion living on US $1.25 to US $2 per day. There was only a modest drop in the number of people living below US $2 per day – the average poverty line for developing countries – between 1981 and 2008, from 2.59 to 2.47 billion.
Since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008, the world’s poor have seen prices fluctuate wildly as the international financial system fights the effects of the turmoil. In 2008, this led to the Food and Agriculture Organization sounding the alarm about the harmful effects of rising food inflation.
Increasing hunger led to civil unrest and rioting that year.
Anything poor people can do to make their slim daily budgets go a little bit further means more money left over for better quality food and other expenses, like clothing, shelter, fuel and education. One clever invention from South Africa is trying to tackle household cooking costs and shave the cost of fuel required to prepare the family meal. The Wonderbag (http://nbwonderbag.com/) is a brightly coloured, puffy cooking bag that slow cooks a meal in a pot – be it a stew, curry, rice, soups – to save energy.
“The cost and savings per household are significant,” according to the Wonderbag’s inventor, Sarah Collins.
It has many other advantages, too: it is a time-saver, allowing people to spend the time doing something other than just tending the cooking pot. It can also reduce cooking accidents because less time is spent around the stove or fire.
It is an efficient cooking method that uses less water to cook meals. And it even avoids the risk of burning – and wasting – food.
“20 per cent of all staple food in Africa is burned, due to pots being placed on open fires and unregulated stove tops. With the Wonderbag, no burning happens,” confirms Collins.
To date, the Wonderbag has created 1,000 jobs and is looking to increase this to 7,000 jobs in the next five years.
Wonderbag bills itself as “eco-cooking that’s changing lives.”
Eco-cooking seeks to use every joule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule) of energy from the cooking fire or heat source to maximum effect. A pot is placed on the stove and brought to the temperature required for cooking the dish. Then the pot is placed in the Wonderbag. Since the bag is heavily insulated, it reflects back the existing heat in the dish and allows it to continue cooking for up to 12 hours. It can cook rice in one hour and lamb in two to three hours.
It works in four easy steps, summed up on the Wonderbag website: “boil it, bag it, stand it, serve it”.
The Wonderbag claims to use 30 per cent less energy than other cooking methods. According to cost breakdowns on the Wonderbag website, someone with a Wonderbag would use 2.4 litres a week of paraffin – a common fuel for cook stoves – compared to 4 litres without. This works out to a cost of US $2.40 a week with a Wonderbag and US $4.00 a week without.
The trade-off with the savings in money and energy is time – Wonderbag is not suitable for those looking for a quick meal. According to Wonderbag, meat that cooks in 20 minutes on the stove will take five hours in the Wonderbag.
Chicken that takes 15 minutes on the stove takes three hours in the Wonderbag. Vegetables that take five minutes on the stove will cook in an hour in the Wonderbag.
South African entrepreneur and inventor Collins originally developed the Wonderbag for people living in the townships of Durban (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durban). She found many of the residents spent up to a third of their income on fuel for cooking. They would either use paraffin or spend many hours gathering wood or dung.
These common fuel sources for cooking give off toxic fumes and are a health hazard if used for long periods. The Wonderbag means households spend less time inhaling fumes from a stove.
“The Wonderbag will always be a work in progress for me as I look to adapt the bag in line with my consumers’ feedback,” confirms Collins. “For example, we are now about to launch Wonderbag 2, which has an even more efficient insulator than polystyrene and is more readily available and easier to recycle following feedback earlier in the year.”
In South Africa, the bags sell for R170 (US $22) and there are discounts for the very poor. Collins estimates that a family of four could save US $80 a year if they used the Wonderbag two or three times a week.
Collins has used clever marketing strategies to get the Wonderbags out to the public, and 150,000 have been sold so far. One promotion gave away a Wonderbag with every purchase of boxes of curry powder.
Wonderbag has also partnered with local communities. Swartland Municipality (swartland.org.za) purchased 5,000 Wonderbags and distributed them to 4,700 of “the most indigent and deserving households – the poorest of the poor.”
It is also running a promotion in the United Kingdom where, for every Wonderbag bought, one is given to a family in the developing world.
The popularity and success of the Wonderbag prompted the multinational food company, Unilever – one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods – to purchase 5 million bags for distribution. According to the Wonderbag website, this could lead to savings of US $1.35 billion on fuel for the users.
“The partnership has also enabled us to scale up and test the Wonderbag in different markets,” explains Collins.
Wonderbag hope to expand to 12 or 15 developing countries in Africa in 2012.
The company says it plans to target developing countries with high poverty, fuel supply shortages, high incidence of health problems from air pollution, and high incidence of injuries from fuel fires.
And for Wonderbag’s success so far, Collins has this advice: “Immerse yourself in your product and the way of life of your consumers. Understand it and them inside out so you can be your best advert. Word of mouth is by far the best form of advertising and the truth out of your own mouth is a great start.”
1) Haybox: Haybox is another variation on the concept of heat retention for efficient cooking. Website: http://haybox.co.uk/
Nigeria’s largest, busiest and most congested city, Lagos, has long had a reputation for dynamism mixed with chaos. Its sprawling slums and ballooning population have for decades stretched governments’ ability to provide services.
The 2006 census placed the city’s population at close to 8 million, making it the most populous city in the country and the second largest in Africa after Cairo. One forecast saw the population reaching 23 million by 2015. It was called the fastest growing city in Africa by UNHABITAT (2008). The city is Nigeria’s economic and financial hub and critical to the country’s future.
According to a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development, Africa now has a larger urban population than North America and 25 of the world’s fastest growing big cities. Getting to grips with urban development will be critical for the future of the continent and the wellbeing of its people.
In West Africa, an OECD study found the area stretching along the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean had a network of 300 cities larger than 100,000 people and the biggest collection of urban poverty on the planet.
It is a common problem across the South as fast-growing city populations surge past the ability of institutions and infrastructure to cope.
By 2025, Asia could have 10 or more cities with populations larger than 20 million (Far Eastern Economic Review).
It is a development challenge that urgently needs solutions.
In Lagos, the Oluwole district – formerly a crime-plagued slum – has been transformed into a new marketplace, and the plan is to follow this with new offices, homes and shops. The brainchild of the Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babatunde_Fashola), redevelopment of the 20,000 square metre site is part of his multi-stage plan to bring more order to the chaos that is daily life in Lagos. There are also ambitious plans afoot to build new roads and bridges. The area’s traffic congestion is also being targeted for solutions. The former slum is now re-branded as the Oluwole Urban Market and Multifunctional City Centre (http://tinyurl.com/2wmrscq) and is being re-developed in partnership with the private sector.
The re-developed slum is part of the much-larger Lagos Island Central Business District (CBD) Revitalisation/Marina City Project, a five-year project, jointly executed by the Lagos government and private sector players. This project has already begun with the redesigning and reconstruction of roads and infrastructure within the CBD and the adjoining axes.
Another fast-growing African city is Addis Ababa. The capital of the East African nation of Ethiopia, it has been in the grip of a building boom for the past few years. But much of this building has been unplanned and, to many, is ugly. The current building boom’s architectural legacy has been criticized for leaving buildings that are too hot for the climate and require expensive air conditioning systems. They also use imported cement and steel and are not earthquake-proof.
Addis is home to some of the highest density urban slums in the world, according to the UN. Some estimates place the population at of the city at 4.6 million people and that it could double by 2020. But its pattern is unusual for an African city. Dirk Hebel of Addis Ababa’s architecture school (http://www.eiabc.edu.et/managing-board/scientific-director.html) told The Economist it defies the usual pattern of rich centre and poor periphery. Instead, because crime is low and the rich seem to tolerate the poor living among them, the slums are jammed between office buildings and flats in the wealthy parts of the city.
Architects favour smaller buildings that stay true to local stone and traditional guttering to collect the rain. Hebel believes turning local would cut building costs by a third and save on costly imports.
The architecture school has received funding from a technical institute in Zurich, Switzerland called ETH (http://www.ethz.ch/index_EN) to help develop new ideas.
Hebel and ETH’s head, Marc Angelil, have written a book profiling the architectural styles of the city. The city has gone through various phases: during its Marxist period (1974-1991) government buildings mimicked the Soviet Union. During the Italian fascist occupation (1935-1941) they followed the styles favoured by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Political problems aside, the architects believe the Italians brought good planning, allowing streets to radiate out from landmark buildings.
The city is plagued – like so many in the South – by pollution and traffic gridlock. Growth is on projection to be so large by 2050, the country would need 20 new cities of 5 million people each to accommodate it (UN). This is an epic challenge requiring imaginative thinking and new ways.
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.