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Agricultural Waste Generating Electricity

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Agriculture around the world produces a great deal of waste as a by-product. It can be animal faeces, or the discarded plant husks thrown away when rice, grains or maize are harvested. When this waste meets the urgent need for electricity, something special can happen.

The number of people still without electricity in the South is vast. The failure of major electricity generating power stations to reach so many people has spurred entrepreneurs to come to the rescue. Power is critical to so many things: small businesses need it, anyone wanting access to computers and the Internet needs it, and modern appliances like refrigerators run on it. During the past 25 years, electricity supplies have been extended to 1.3 billion people living in developing countries. Yet despite these advances, roughly 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the global population, still have no access to electricity and some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass fuels, including wood, agricultural residues and dung, for cooking and heating. More than 99 percent of people without electricity live in developing regions, and four out of five live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (International Energy Agency, IEA).

Power outages in Africa are a serious and frequent problem and a significant force holding back development. With global oil prices on the rise, turning to diesel generators is an expensive option.

According to the IEA, the lack of electricity leaves poor countries “trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment.”

In India, 80,000 of the country’s half a million villages lack electricity. Two students, Charles Ransler and Manoj Sinha, have started a business providing electricity to some of these villages by turning rice husks – a by-product of rice milling – into gas that then powers an electricity generator.

Already, two of their rice-burning generators are providing electricity to 10,000 rural Indians. The hope is to rapidly expand the business to hundreds of small village power plants.

The business, Husk Power Systems, was started while the two were at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

While the generator burns the rice husks to make a gas to produce electricity, it also leaves behind a waste product of ash that is sold as an ingredient in cement.

This technology can provide off-grid power to rural Indian villages of 200 to 500 households. Using the husk-powered mini power plant, the team plans to offset close to 200 tons of carbon emissions per village, per year in India.

The idea for the rice husk generators was originally conceived by Sinha and Gyanesh Pandey, the third partner in Husk Power, who left an engineering career in Los Angeles to return to India and oversee the rice husk project. Sinha and Pandey went to college together in India and both come from rural Indian villages that struggle with a lack of electricity.

“We grew up in those areas,” said Sinha. “Our relatives still do not have electricity. We wanted to give back to those areas.” Originally they envisioned refining the generator concept and raising enough money to donate rice-husk generators for two or three villages near where they grew up, said Sinha.

But instead, after some research, they realised it could be a financially viable business expandable to hundreds of villages. There are 480 million Indians with no power and 350 million of them live in rural villages, concentrated in eastern India’s “Rice Belt,” where the villagers are “rice rich and power poor,” said Ransler.

The project has already won a fistful of prizes, including US$50,000 from the Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas.

They think that each rice husk generator is to break even in about two and a half years.

And they like to think this is the Starbucks of off-grid electricity generation, potentially as successful as the globe-spanning US coffee shop chain. “You can put one of these in 125,000 locations, hire local people, and turn a raw material into money – just substitute rice husks for coffee beans,” said Ransler.

Another maker of biomass mini power plants in India is Decentralised Energy Systems India (DESI power). It is a New Delhi-based non-profit company specialising in building a decentralised power network for rural India. It was formed by Development Alternatives, India’s largest sustainable development NGO. It is able to provide a megawatt of electricity to a village for the cost of 44 million rupees, rather than 57 million rupees from the central grid.

Published: June 2008

Resources

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

© David South Consulting 2022

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Southern Drink Challenges Corporate Dominance

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Across the global South, its thirsty people have long been a target market for Northern drinks companies. The ubiquity of the American soft drink Coca Cola, or even its rival Pepsi Cola, is testimony to that. Even the most remote village on the impoverished island of Haiti can offer an ice-cold Coke.

But the marketing power of these companies has a down side: it has pushed aside local drink brands based on traditional formulations. But in some countries, local brands are fighting back.

In India, the Cow Protection Department of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak (called RSS) based in Hardwar (www.hardwar.com), one of the four holy cities on the River Ganges, has produced a soft drink made from recycled cow urine. They call it ‘gau jal’ (Sanskrit for ‘cow water’) and it is set for a launch at the end of 2009.

The urine is highly processed to make the drink. “Don’t worry, it won’t smell like urine and will be tasty too,” Om Prakash told the Daily Mail. “Its unique selling point will be that it’s going to be very healthy. It won’t be like carbonated drinks and will be devoid of any toxins.”

The price will be less than American brands such as Coca Cola.

“We’re going to give them good competition as our drink is good for mankind,” he continued. “We may also think of exporting it.”

The drink contains not only cow urine but a blend of medicinal and ayurvedic herbs. Ayurveda is the 5,000-year-old ancient Indian health system.

The RSS was founded in 1925 and claims to have eight million members.

Cows are sacred to India’s Hindu population and killing them is illegal in many parts of India.Finding ways to make a living from cows’ waste products is common. Cow dung (manure) is already used as a fertilizer in villages. It is claimed the new soda pop will help with cancer, obesity and liver disease.

Another drink that has been consumed for its health-giving properties is Mongolian mare’s (female horse) milk. Studies by female scientists from Mongolia, South Korea and China for UNDP in the late 1990s found the milk was packed with vitamins and minerals and effective in treating liver diseases, cancer, intestine inflammations and tuberculosis.

Mongolians have used mare’s milk for centuries in their traditional diet. The drink, called airag in Mongolian, is consumed especially during traditional holidays.

There are eight times as many horses in Mongolia as the human population, which numbers 2.7 million, so the potential for this drink is enormous. The Food and Biotechnology Institute of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (www.must.edu.mn/beta_new/) in association with the Swiss International Development Agency (www.sdc.admin.ch), has been developing technology to process mare’s milk, and make value-added products with it to create rural jobs. Under the project, eight kinds of beauty products have been manufactured so far using mare’s milk.

Published: July 2009

Resources

Just Food is a web portal packed with the latest news on the global food industry and packed with events and special briefings to fill entrepreneurs in on the difficult issues and constantly shifting market demands. Website: www.just-food.com

Brandchannel: The world’s only online exchange about branding, packed with resources, debates and contacts to help businesses intelligently build their brand. Website: www.brandchannel.com

Small businesses looking to develop their brand can find plenty of free advice and resources here. Website: www.brandingstrategyinsider.com

Growing Inclusive Markets, a new web portal from UNDP packed with case studies, heat maps and strategies on how to use markets to help the poor. Website: www.growinginclusivemarkets.org

Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network: an excellent first stop for any entrepreneur, where they can find out standards and regulations and connect with education and training opportunities. Website: www.apctt-tm.net

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.

Southern Innovator’s online archive portal was launched in New York City, U.S.A. (home to the UN’s headquarters) in 2011 (southerninnovator.org).
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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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Bolivia Grabs World Media Attention with Salt Hotel

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Tourism is a great way to attract foreign currency to a country and build local economies, especially in remote or isolated places. But the catch is finding a way to get people to go the distance and come and visit and spend their money.

In a global South twist on the well-known Ice Hotel in Sweden(www.icehotel.com) – a hotel entirely built out of ice – enterprising Bolivians have built a hotel out of salt.

A Bolivian hotel in the middle of the world’s largest salt flats has found a clever way to attract tourists to this remote holiday destination: build the hotel entirely out of salt, right down to its furniture.

The South American nation is one of the poorest inLatin America, and its income distribution is among the region’s most unequal. Bringing in foreign currency and attracting more tourists can help to reduce this poverty. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism will contribute 2 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011. Around 75,000 jobs are directly dependent on the tourism business in the country and this is projected to rise to 96,000 jobs by 2021.

And it is a good business to be involved in: “Travel and tourism is one of the world’s great industries, providing 9 percent of global GDP and 260 million jobs; it drives economic growth, business relationships and social mobility,” according to David Scowsill, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The Hotel de Sal Cristal (http://www.hosteldesal.com/?L=2), near Colchani, hosts guests who come to visit the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salar_de_Uyuni). They are believed to store 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium supplies and an economic boom has started in the area. The striking and blinding white salt flats were featured in the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace.”

The hotel’s unique construction from rock-hard salt hewn from the salt flats is working to encourage tourists to stay longer in the area during their holiday. Before, they would just take a quick excursion on to the salt flats before moving on to their next destination.

The Hotel de Sal Cristal is built using blocks of salt cut from the surrounding flats. The architectural design is inspired by the ancient Chinese balancing philosophy of Feng Shui (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feng_shui). Following the principles of the philosophy, it faces the sun and balances both masculine and feminine energies. Shaped like three coca leaves, the feminine side, this balances with the more masculine side reflected in the salt flats, the hotel’s website claims.

The hotel has 27 rooms with hot water and heating. – and beds made of salt. In the dining room, people can sit on chairs made of salt and eat at salt tables. The rooms are wall-to-wall salt, bright and white.

The hotel’s pool is surrounded by sand-like salt.

The hotel’s ‘Resto-Bar’ offers views of the salt flats and promises it will “allow the cosmic energy…” to flow freely.

The menu offers llama meat and risotto of quinoa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa) alongside traditional Bolivian dishes, salads and soups and Bolivian-themed treats.

The hotel has an ‘astronomic observatory’ for star gazing, making the most of the low level of light pollution on the flats.

One of the hotel’s tour guides, Pedro Pablo Michel Rocha from Hidalgo Tours (http://www.salardeuyuni.net/), told the Daily Mail newspaper: “I love it when visitors come to this place for the first time.

“They can’t get over the fact that everything is made out of salt and I’ve even seen a few people lick the furniture to make sure!

“It is a wonderful experience to come somewhere like this where they’ve used the natural materials available to create something like a hotel.”

The salt flats, formed from prehistoric lakes, have a salt crust hard-baked by the sun with a pool of salty water underneath which is rich in the rare element lithium. Lithium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium) is sought-after for its use in things like re-chargeable batteries for mobile phones, computers and electric cars.

The area’s economy has boomed since 3.4 million tons of lithium – believed to be half the world’s supply – was discovered underneath the salt flats.

The power of tourism to alleviate poverty has been documented by Caroline Ashley, co-author of Tourism and Poverty Reduction: Pathways to Prosperity (http://www.earthscan.co.uk/?TabId=92842&v=497073), after extensive research on tourism’s impact on poverty in countries across Africa andAsia.

She argues that “tourism can fight poverty.”

“Note, we say ‘can’, not that it always does. The share of spending by tourists within a destination that reaches poor people can vary from less than 10 percent to a high of 30 percent,” Ashley told BusinessFightsPoverty (http://www.businessfightspoverty.org).

“When it works, international tourism is actually a very good way of channelling resources from rich to poor. In destinations as diverse as hiking on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, business tourism in Vietnam and cultural tourism in Ethiopia, between one quarter and one third of all in-country tourist spending accrues to poor households in and around the destination.”    

Ashley said a successful tourism strategy needs to focus on “the 4Ps: pay, procurement, persuasion and partnership.”

“Pay a living wage to local employees; take a hard look at procurement and potential to source locally … persuade – or at least inform – your clients how to take up opportunities to spend in the local economy…” and build a partnership with government to integrate tourism into the local economy.

And it looks like the hotel can’t get more connected to the local economy than being made of the very salt that surrounds it.

Published: November 2011

Resources

1) The Global Summit: World Travel and Tourism Council: Taking place in Tokyo/Sendai from 16-19 April 2012. Website: http://www.wttc.org

2) A website packed with resources for planning a trip to Bolivia. Website: http://www.boliviacontact.com/turismo/

3) The Intercontinental Hotels Group has an interactive website showing the many ways hotels can become sustainable. Website: http://innovation.ihgplc.com/

4) Hotel designs: A website for interior designers, architects and hoteliers. Website: http://www.hoteldesigns.net/home.php

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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Diaspora Bonds to Help Build up Infrastructure

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Many people are aware of the significant role played in global development by remittance payments from migrant workers working in the wealthy North to the global South. But they may not be aware of the significant sums migrant workers have saved in bank accounts in these wealthy countries. Across the global South, efforts are underway to lure these sums back to home countries to boost development efforts.

As the hard-earned money migrant workers save sits in bank accounts in wealthy Western countries earning very low interest rates – a consequence of the current global economic crisis – so-called “Diaspora Bonds” seek to offer a way to earn good interest returns and help build up home countries at the same time.

The money can help developing countries build facilities they need but cannot afford: roads, bridges, railways, water supplies, power, sewerage, street lighting. It is a way to bypass dependence on foreign aid and borrowing from aid agencies or the general marketplace.

US $501 billion in remittance payments was sent in 2011, of which US $372 billion went to developing countries, involving some 192 million migrants or 3 per cent of the world’s population (World Bank). On top of this, migrants from developing countries have saved an estimated US $400 billion – and these funds are being targeted by those selling diaspora bonds (The Economist).

The idea is being promoted by the World Bank and draws on the successful experiences with bonds for Israel and India. Both countries have long histories of turning to diaspora communities to raise funds through bonds.

The bonds work by playing on patriotism and the genuine desire of migrants to want to see conditions improve back home. As the thinking goes, patriotic investors are more likely to be patient. This is critical because many countries cannot offer rapid profits and a quick pay off – something sought by short-term investors obsessed with the ups and downs of the stock market. They are also sterner investors, less likely to run away when the going gets tough. Their local knowledge means they will not panic and pull their investments when bad news hits the headlines. And probably best of all, they don’t mind if the local currency declines in value – that just means they can pick up a local house on the cheap or buy a business for even less money.

One business working in this area is Homestrings (homestrings.com): Motto “Come make a difference.” An Internet platform offering diaspora bonds, it is run by founder and chief executive officer Eric-Vincent Guichard. An American born to a Guinean father and American mother, he spent 20 years growing up in rural Guinea and knows the country well. He also heads up GRAVITAS Capital Advisors, Inc. (gravitascapital.com), founded in 1996, which advises governments on how to manage their assets. A graduate of HarvardBusinessSchool and a former World Bank scholar, he is based in Washington, D.C.

According to its website, Homestrings works like this: “It all starts with your ability to scan through a catalog of projects, funds and public-private partnership opportunities that focus on regions you come from or that you care deeply about. Each of these projects and/or funds is detailed in a Fact Sheet that is set up to help you do the due diligence needed to make an investment decision. Then, Homestrings directs your investment into the selected project or fund, with the help of our administrator.”

Investments are monitored on a monthly or quarterly basis and are selected for their socio-economic impact and investment profitability.

The website has a personal “Dashboard” that allows investors to use the site to vote for or against investments and make comments. And Homestrings will promote the investments that receive the most support and positive comments.

To make an investment, a potential investor selects a fund or project that matches their interest. They read the Fact Sheet and choose. The funds are then passed on to the investment bond and an interest percentage or dividend is paid at regular intervals. Investors can keep track of the investment through the personal Dashboard on the website.

Fact Sheets are organized by geographical region, industry focus, and development theme. Investments “cover infrastructure, health care, education, transportation, and small and medium sized enterprise finance – all critical areas of economic growth.”

The Homestrings Catalog of investments includes the governments of Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and also AFREN PLC, which is looking to finance oil and gas exploration off the coast of Nigeria.

Dramatic improvements in global communications in the past five years have also made it much easier for everyone involved to stay in touch and for bond promoters to identify and target potential customers.

The World Bank is currently advising countries on how to run diaspora bond schemes. Kenya, Nigeria and the Philippines have schemes in the works, according to The Economist.

Ethiopia has announced the “Renaissance Dam Bond” (http://grandmillenniumdam.net/). Proceeds will be used to fund the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, able to generate 5,250 megawatts. Ethiopia tried a similar scheme before with the Millennium Corporate Bond to raise funds for the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO). This did not entirely meet expectations and sales were slow. Reasons given for this included a perception that EEPCO could not meet payment expectations when the hydroelectric power plant was operating. There was also a lack of trust in the government and its financial stability and the overall political risks.

The second attempt at a bond is believed to better thought through. It comes with an aggressive marketing and awareness-raising campaign aimed at the diaspora, and it starts at US $50, making it more affordable for more people.  It can be used as collateral in Ethiopia – an advantage for those wanting to do business back in the home country.

For potential investors, it is worth remembering that bonds are debts that are rewarded with regular interest payments and paid back at the end of the bond term. They are not risk-free and the risk can lie either in the sovereign solvency of the country or in the investment.

The secret to a successful bond issue is to keep up good relations with the diaspora; countries that are too oppressive could find themselves short of people willing to take up the offer.

Published: October 2012

Resources

1) Remittance Payments Worldwide: A website by the World Bank tracking remittance prices worldwide. Website:http://remittanceprices.worldbank.org/About-Us

2) The World Bank blog on diaspora bonds. Website:http://blogs.worldbank.org/category/tags/diaspora-bond

3) A critical perspective on diaspora bonds at Africa Unchained. Website:http://africaunchained.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/are-diaspora-bonds-worth-risk.html

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