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Perfume of Peace Helps Farmers Switch From Drug Trade

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

A tragedy in a time of war has led to a social enterprise that is creating jobs – and making the world smell a little better, too.

The 7 Virtues perfume range was started by Canadian Barb Stegemann (http://www.barbstegemann.com/barb-stegemann-in-the-news.html) to harness the energy of social enterprise and women’s buying power to change the dynamic of war and misery created by conflict around the world.

Stegemann ran a successful public relations company when she was inspired to do something after tragedy struck a good friend who was serving in Afghanistan with the Canadian Armed Forces as part of the NATO mission (http://www.isaf.nato.int/). Hit on the head with an axe while involved in a village meeting, Captain Trevor Greene was thought to be fatally injured but survived, though he is still unable to walk.

The violent attack shocked Stegemann into action. The enterprise was founded not out of hatred and revenge, but as a way of addressing the serious economic problems and poverty of Afghanistan.

Wanting to do something, Stegemann was referred to the Turquoise Mountain Foundation (turquoisemountain.org), which is based in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The Turquoise Mountain Foundation is a social enterprise working in Afghanistan to regenerate the country’s traditional arts and historic areas in order to create jobs and boost skills.

Stegemann was inspired by a farmer called Abdullah Arsala from Jalalabad in the eastern part of the country. He was growing the ingredients for making essential oils, rather than the much more lucrative opium poppies which are used to make the drug heroin and help fuel a vast global illegal drug trade. Heroin addiction ruins many lives around the world and often leads to crime and violence.

The Turquoise Mountain Foundation did a study and found that if farmers could be paid US $9,912 for a litre of rose oil or US $7,994 for orange blossom oil it would be enough of a market incentive to lure them away from growing opium poppies.

Stegemann decided to provide that incentive.

Using her life savings, she established a perfume company. To start, Stegemann bought Arsala’s entire stock of orange blossom oil. After getting further investment through the Canadian television program Dragons’ Den – on which entrepreneurs compete for funding – she launched the company with two perfumes: Orange Blossom of Afghanistan and Noble Rose of Afghanistan.

With the whole collection rebranded as The 7 Virtues (http://www.the7virtues.com/), the Afghanistan Orange Blossom went on sale at the prestigious Selfridges department store in London, U.K.

Using Arsala as a go-between, 2,500 farmers in Afghanistan are now supplying essential oils for the perfumes.

To further expand the concept, Stegemann has launched Middle East Peace (http://www.the7virtues.com/middle_east_peace.php), a perfume made from sweetie grapefruit oil from Israel with lime and basil oils from Iran.

In Haiti, a country still recovering from the 2010 earthquake disaster and decades of grinding poverty and political and economic chaos, she has created a scent for men using fragrant grass.

She hopes to also do the same for Rwanda and Syria.

The perfumes are all-natural and are put together in Toronto, Canada. They are sold in stores in Canada and the United States, as well as Selfridges in London.

The success has snowballed and a special gift pack has been put together for American Airlines.

“I never imagined I’d end up on a beauty counter, but this is where the women are and we must connect with them if we are going to reverse this cycle of war and poverty,” Stegemann told The Sunday Times. “Imagine if there were 300 women like me doing things like this. We could make a real difference.”

Published: November 2013

Resources

1) Centre for International Policy Studies: University of Ottawa: A focal point for scholarship and debate on international affairs in Canada. Website: http://cips.uottawa.ca/

2) Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit: The PRDU is an international centre of excellence for the study of post-conflict societies and their recovery. Website: http://www.york.ac.uk/politics/centres/prdu/

3) Peacebuilding and post-conflict recovery: The experience of recent years has also led the United Nations to focus as never before on peacebuilding – efforts to reduce a country’s risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities for conflict management, and to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development. Website: http://www.un.org/en/ecosoc/about/peacebuilding.shtml

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. Website: http://www.unodc.org

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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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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Tackling China’s Air Pollution Crisis: An Innovative Solution

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

China reached an undesired landmark in 2013. While the country’s impressive economic growth has amazed the world, it has come at a price: pollution. China recorded record levels of smog in 2013, with some cities suffering air pollution many times above what is acceptable for human health.

This is evidence of the perils of rapid industrialization using non-green technologies. China relies on coal burning, a highly polluting resource, for 70 to 80 per cent of its electricity. It also uses coal for factories and winter heating.

Burning coal causes smog, soot, acid rain, global warming, and toxic air emissions (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c01.html). Environmental group Greenpeace claims 83,500 people died prematurely in 2011 from respiratory diseases in Shandong, Inner Mongolia and Shanxi – the top three coal-consuming provinces in China.

Anyone visiting Beijing or other Chinese cities will notice the high levels of smog and how this interferes with access to sunshine and curbs visibility. Worse still for human beings and the environment, this level of pollution causes severe respiratory problems, and has the potential to cause a rise in cancer rates, among other health problems.

Beijing had record pollution levels in January 2013. That haze, according to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, covered 1.43 million square kilometers.

Generated by industry and coal-fired power stations, particulate matter (http://www.epa.gov/pm/) or PM, is a complex mix of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. Particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.

In October 2013, Beijing announced a series of emergency measures to tackle the record high levels of pollution and smog (http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/23/world/asia/china-beijing-smog-emergency-measures/index.html). The Heavy Air Pollution Contingency Plan uses a color-coded warning system if serious pollution levels occur in three consecutive days. This means kindergartens, primary and middle schools will need to stop classes. Eighty per cent of government cars must come off the roads and private cars can only enter the city on alternate days based on a ballot system. Emergency measures will come into play when the air quality index for fine particulate matter, called PM2.5 (http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/faq.htm#0) – very fine particles that lodge in the lungs and are very harmful to human health – exceed 300 micrograms per cubic meter for three days in a row. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the safe limit for human beings is 20 micrograms (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en/).

The only serious, long-term solution is to switch to non or low-polluting green energy sources. But, meanwhile, some are coming up with stop-gap measures that also help to educate people about the necessity to do away with this major threat to human health.

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde (studioroosegaarde.net) thinks he has a temporary solution to the pollution problem – a “vacuum cleaner” to clean up the sky. And the city of Beijing is taking the solution seriously.

The proposed technology works like this: a system of buried coils of copper produce an ion electrostatic field that attracts smog particles. The particles are magnetized and are drawn downwards, creating a gap of clean air above the coil.

Called the Smog project, it is already under discussion with the mayor of Beijing. An animation video explains how it works: http://studioroosegaarde.net/video/the-smog-project/.

Talking to CNN, Roosegaarde likened the science behind the invention to what happens when “you have a balloon which has static (electricity) and your hair goes toward it. Same with the smog.”

In a deal with the Beijing city government, the technology will be tested in the city’s parks.

Roosegaarde has successfully tested the technology indoors and found it worked in the experiment.

He told CNN: “Beijing is quite good because the smog is quite low, it’s in a valley so there’s not so much wind. It’s a good environment to explore this kind of thing.”

“We’ll be able to purify the air and the challenge is to get on top of the smog so you can see the sun again.”

Roosegaarde thinks that successfully running the experiment in a Beijing park makes a radical statement and shows the benefits of breathing clean air and being able to see the sun on most days.

But he is not deluded that this is the final solution for pollution: “This is not the real answer for smog. The real answer has to do with clean cars, different industry and different lifestyles.”

With many people resigned to the pollution, at least for now, China’s entrepreneurs are making the face masks and air filters people wear to protect their lungs from the pollution more fashionable and appealing to look at, the South China Morning Post reported.

Xiao Lu, a saleswoman at Panfeng Household Products, explained the varying fashion tastes in masks: “Young people tend to like bright colors. Men prefer blue or black masks. Right now, UV proof masks are popular.”

Lu told the newspaper that customers make their decisions based on comfort and price.

Popular brands include Respro (http://respro.com/), Totobobo (totobobo.co.uk) and 3M9010 (http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/3M-PPE-Safety-Solutions/Personal-Protective-Equipment/Products/Product-Catalog/?N=5022986&rt=c3).

But, why not just move out of cities and avoid breathing bad air? Things are not that simple from an economic perspective. The South China Morning Post quoted Rena from Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang province, who came to Beijing for the better job opportunities.

“Going back to Urumqi means less job opportunities and the air is not necessarily better,” she said. “Staying in Beijing means wearing a mask most days. It’s not very comfortable.

“But I can’t cover my face forever,” she said. “I’d prefer to live in a cleaner environment.

Published: December 2013

Resources

1) eChinacities: Waiting to Exhale: Guide to Buying Face Masks in China. Website: http://www.echinacities.com/expat-corner/Waiting-to-Exhale-Guide-to-Buying-Face-Masks-in-China

2) Pollution-China.com: Living in China despite the pollution. Website: http://www.pollution-china.com/vmchk/RESPRO-masks/View-all-products.html

3) My Health Beijing: A family doctor’s evidence-based guide to wellness and public health. Website: http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/china-public-health/respro-vs-totobobo-which-mask-works-better-for-air-pollution/

4) Dutch Design in Development: DDiD is the agency for eco design, sustainable production and fair trade. We work with Dutch importers and designers and connect them to local producers in developing countries and emerging markets. Together products are made that are both profitable and socially and environmentally sustainable. Website: http://www.ddid.nl/english/

5) Coal power: A map of China’s 2,300 coal-burning plants. Website: http://world.time.com/2013/12/13/one-map-shows-you-why-pollution-in-china-is-so-awful/

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. 

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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Making Bamboo Houses Easier to Build

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

More than 1 billion people around the world lack decent shelter. Of these, the majority live in urban areas, usually in slums and informal settlements (UN-HABITAT). Latin America has a serious shortage of adequate housing: in Colombia, 43 percent of the population needs decent housing; in Brazil, 45 percent; Peru, 53 percent.

The challenge is to provide good quality homes without significantly harming the environment – and with constrained budgets. Bamboo – cheap, strong, quickly renewable and beautiful to look at (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo) – is an ideal solution to replace traditional wood lumber. In Bolivia, pioneering work is underway to improve the quality of homes and buildings made with bamboo.

Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world, sometimes growing over 1 metre a day. Bolivia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolivia) has about 17 identified bamboo species, of which five have a significant economic value. Around the world, there are 1,000 species of bamboo. They grow in a wide variety of climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions.

Once called the “poor man’s timber” – a temporary building material to replace once there is more money – bamboo is now getting the respect it deserves. Bamboo for housing has a long history in Latin America, stretching back 4,500 years to ancient civilizations. In Asia, it has long been a traditional construction material. But most of the existing bamboo dwellings in Latin America are 50 to 100 years old.

The most popular species of bamboo used in South America is Guadua, which is known for being large, straight and attractive.

“In Bolivia, there is no other building material more competitive in costs,” said Jose Luis Reque Campero, coordinator of the Bolbambu Programme of the Architectural Research Institute, Universidad Mayor de San Simon, Bolivia (http://www.umss.edu.bo/).

“Bamboo is the material that requires less energy, followed by wood and concrete, with steel in last place, needing energy necessary for its production 50 times greater than that required by bamboo.”

Campero also says bamboo is much less expensive than traditional building materials.

“But the biggest advantage is certainly the possibility of planting bamboo, and then reaping houses,” he said.

Campero has focused his efforts on a key component of bamboo housing: the joints that bind the bamboo poles together. Driven by the desire to find ways to improve the ease of building bamboo homes and their strength, Campero came up with the Bamboo Bolivia Space Structures, Structural System: EVO (BBSS-EVO) (named after Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evo_Morales).

Traditional joints took a long time to make and required power tools and complex instruction manuals. Simplifying the building techniques necessary for bamboo construction was important because, while bamboo was cheap, the labour costs were high.

The joint looks like a giant two-headed Q-Tip. Each end is made of four pieces of bamboo, connected by a long screw with bolts on each end taken from old cars. The joint is inserted inside the bamboo poles and snaps shut, joining poles tightly together and, as each piece is assembled, looking like a child’s building toy as the structure of the bamboo home takes shape.

The new joint was easier to assemble and was quickly adopted by local builders. It also allows for a vast range of structures and shapes to be built, limited only by imagination and physics.

Devising joints made from bamboo has the advantage of avoiding the weight and cost of bringing in concrete, especially to remote areas.

“The manufacturing process is fully in the workshop and indoors,” said Campero, “which in addition to allowing a degree of quality control in production, improves working conditions for staff and protects the material.”

The whole building process adheres to “the principles of the famous phrase: ‘do-it-yourself’.”

The Evo joint allows for flexibility and easy assembly and disassembly, enabling the builder to move around parts of the structure and not be wedded to the original structural plan. This has the advantage of customizing the building to its physical location.

Working in the tropical forests of Cochabamba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochabamba), Campero has been testing his designs with the local people, who were looking to improve the tourist infrastructure in the resort town of Cristal Mayu.

Costa Rica in Central America – ironically a country without indigenous bamboo plants – has used its National Bamboo Project of Costa Rica (http://www.unesco.org/most/centram1.htm) to prove it is possible to both cultivate bamboo and use it to provide housing for the poor, confirming the wisdom of millions of people: bamboo is economical, convenient, safe and looks great.

Campero has received a great deal of interest in his innovations and is looking for funding partners in 2009 to take his work further.

He has this advice for other builders and designers: “Stick to developing local technologies, use what you have and innovate, use native materials and the local environment for the development of elements, components and construction systems. Don’t rely on advanced technology tools for manufacture, and stay in harmony with the human need for creativity.”

Published: December 2008

Resources

  • UNEP, the UN’s Environment Programme, has produced a report on bamboo biodiversity and how it can be preserved. Website: http://www.unep-wcmc.org
  • The Asian Development Bank is using its Markets for Poor programme to link bamboo products to marketplaces, helping poor communities. Website:http://www.markets4poor.org/
  • The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-HABITAT, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. Website: www.unhabitat.org

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. 

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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Indian Toilet Pioneer Champions Good Ideas

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Access to adequate sanitation and toilet facilities is critical to making development gains. Yet this simple fact of life often gets overlooked, especially in fast-growing cities where populations are on the rise or in transit. Out of an estimated 2.6 billion people in the world without toilets, two-thirds are in southern and eastern Asia (World Toilet Organization).

It is easy to take toilet technology for granted in developed countries, but in the fast-growing urban world of the global South, increasing access will be the dividing line between a future of good human health and dignity, or misery and poor health. The biggest gains in human health always come about once people have access to clean water and sanitation. Yet this proven fact gets lost in many places for a wide variety of reasons.

One country currently failing to meet the needs of its population is India. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2030, 70 percent of India’s jobs will be created in its cities, and 590 million Indians will be city-dwellers. An enormous infrastructure task lies ahead for India: a city the size of Chicago needs to be built every year. But so far this challenge is not being met, leaving the country with the largest number of urban slum dwellers anywhere in the world. Housing is just not keeping up with populations’ needs.

As K.T. Ravindran, a professor of urban development, told the New York Times: “We require radical rethinking about urban development. It is not that there are no ideas. It is that there is no implementation of those ideas.”

It is this ability to act that makes the Sulabh International Social Service Organization stand out. The Indian non-governmental organization (NGO) sees itself as a movement and is a passionate advocate for toilets and toilet innovation for the poor and underserved.

Sulabh was founded in 1970 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who saw the vast task ahead. “I thought the challenges to provide toilet facilities have been overcome in rich countries; it has still to be met in developing countries like India,” he said.

So far, Sulabh has brought together 50,000 volunteers across the country to build toilets and sanitation facilities.

The organization’s success flows from understanding that it needs to do more than supply the ‘hardware’ of the toilets; it also needs to address the ‘software’: ideas and innovation and concepts.

The organization has directly built 1.2 million household toilets – but the government of India has built a further 54 million toilets based on the designs made by Sulabh. It’s an example of a good idea multiplying its impact when picked up by others.

While 10 million Indians use a Sulabh-built sanitation facility each day, according to the group’s website, an estimated 300 million are using a toilet based on Sulabh’s designs.

Most influential is Sulabh’s two-pit, pour-flush toilet (www.sulabhenvis.nic.in/Sulabhtechnology.htm). It consists of a toilet pan with a steep slope using gravity to flush the pan. Water is poured in to the pan to flush the toilet and the waste goes into either one of two pits. As one pit fills up with waste, waste is diverted to the second pit. After around 18 months, the first, filled pit’s waste becomes a safe, organic fertiliser suitable for agriculture and the fertiliser’s value covers the cost of emptying the pit. The successful design has been evaluated and approved by UNDP and the World Bank.

Sulabh has also been designing ways to get power and energy from toilets, building 200 biogas plants that turn the gas generated from the human excrement deposited in the toilets into a source of energy. Biogas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogas) is a clean-burning gas that can be made from animal, plant and human waste with the right technology and is a green solution to the need for gas to cook and run electricity generators.

Pride of place for the NGO is its vast toilet and bath complex at the holy shrine of Shri Sai Baba in Shirdi, Maharashtra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharashtra). Millions flock to the shrine every year, but it lacked proper sanitation facilities. To solve this problem Sulabh’s local branch has built a vast complex occupying two acres. The brightly coloured and palace-like facility has 120 toilets, 108 bathing cubicles, six dressing rooms, and urinals and can serve 30,000 people a day. There are telephones and 5,000 lockers for tourists to keep possessions safe.

There are also three biogas plants connected to the facility, generating electricity and hot water for bathing used by the toilet and bath complex. This solves the puzzle of how to fund the utilities. Water discharged from the facility is used to irrigate the surrounding green spaces.

Sulabh has also built a museum dedicated to toilets and toilet technology (http://www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org). The museum places the toilet as a critical part of human civilisation and shows how it fits in with the cultural context of India. Toilets and toilet designs from around the world and throughout history are gathered together and make a fascinating journey through this essential human need.

Published: May 2011

Resources

1) World Toilet Organization: World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non- profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org

2) World Toilet Day: On November 19 every year, this event draws attention to the lack of access for 2.6 billion people. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org

3) Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life: An exhibit by the prestigious Wellcome Collection on the human relationship with dirt and hygiene in history. Website:http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/exhibitions/dirt.aspx

4) World Toilet College: Established in 2005, the World Toilet College (WTC) started as a social enterprise, with the belief that there is need for an independent world body to ensure the best practices and standards in Toilet Design, Cleanliness, and Sanitation Technologies are adopted and disseminated through training. Website:http://worldtoilet.org/ourwork3.asp

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. 

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