Technology (12)


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Environmental degradation has emerged as a major challenge of the 21st century, threatening communities and increasing poverty. Societies across the globe have continued to suffer from a persistently unfavourable environmental degradation leading to historical climate change disasters especially among vulnearble communties, experts say.

In a fragile global context, innovative ideas are needed more than ever to protect and conserve the environment and fight against the effects of climate change says Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment.

It is against this backdrop that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), organised a competition to select the best promising innovative environment projects by young people across the globe. Six projects were finally selected and the winners presented  at  the ongoing UN Environment general assembly December  5, 2017.

The six winners dubbed « Young Champions of the Earth »  according to UNEP officials are talented individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 with promising ideas to protect or restore the environment.

A press release from UNEP notes that the Young Champions were selected by way of an online public vote and the deliberation of a global jury. The six winners selected from over 600 applicants are, Kaya Dorey from Canada, Eritai Kabetwei- Kiribati, Adam Dixon – UK, Liliana Pazmillo - Ecuador, Omer Badokhon - Yemen and Mariama from Burkina – Faso.

Each of the six winners will receive USD 15,000 in seed funding, mentoring, training to help them realize their environmental ambitions.

In a discussion at the award event, the 2017 Young Champions of the Earth  shared their innovative ideas geared at creating positive environmental impact.

Panelist at the event highlighted the role of global youth in sustainable development and, more specifically, the ways and means to empower youth in decision making processes and harness their creativity to effect change and fight against growing poverty and youth unemployment..

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment and Ellie Goulding, UN Environment's newest Goodwill Ambassador, joined the conversation with emphasis on what it means to be an environmentalist in 2017.

According to UNEP, the selection was very competitive with shortlisted applicants subjected to an online public vote before being considered by a global Jury comprising VICE Media Founder, Suroosh Alvi; She Leads Africa Co-founder, Yasmin Belo-Osagie; UN Environment Head, Erik Solheim; Covestro CEO, Patrick Thomas; and UN Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake.

Apart from receiving seed-funding, the winners will also get intensive training, tailored mentorship and global publicity to help them bring their big ideas to life.

Among the winning projects is that of Mariama from Burkina Faso who wants to address the energy deficit in Africa and the devastating degradation of cropland caused by chemical fertilizers. Her project, “JACIGREEN", offers an innovative eco-solution to the problem of water hyacinth, which, she says without controlled management, can be devastating for the environment.

Water hyacinth she says is an invasive alien species that grows very rapidly in the waterways of the Niger River. Although not inherently harmful, initially purifying the waterway in which it grows, water hyacinth becomes a problem once it reaches a certain maturity by suffocating aquatic life. JACIGREEN  says she will introduce a plant-based purification mechanism to help manage fresh water sustainably and improve access to drinking water. It will simultaneously implement a system to produce organic fertilizer (via anaerobic composting) and electricity (from biogas recovered from the water hyacinth transformation process).

Another winner Adam Dixon will use horticultural innovation to tackle food insecurity and habitat loss.

What began as an appreciation of gardening from joining his mother while she pottered in the backyard became a fascination with plant growth and a drive for innovation. Dixon’s Phytoponics technology enables food crops to grow in water encased in a 100 percent recyclable polymer film, improving irrigation efficiency and reducing the amount of land use needed for horticulture.

In just one year, Dixon has built his company up to the value of $2.6 million and is supplying Europe's second largest producer of salad. Dixon’s cost-effective, rapidly deployable product is now being piloted by the World Food Programme in refugee camps to support the supply of fresh produce to thousands of people in what are often uncultivable, barren locations.

Canadian fashion designer Kaya Dorey’s unique apparel business not only delivers on sustainability but also an urban street style for a generation wanting to end wasteful consumerism of 'fast fashon'. Her ‘conscious apparel company’, NOVEL SUPPLY Co., produces garments free from toxic dyes and synthetics, and seeks to source hemp and organic cotton as well as environmentally friendly inks. The business is based on the ‘closed-loop’ philosophy of production, which strives for sustainability by improving economic and environmental goals simultaneously.

Ecuadorian biologist Liliana Jaramillo PazmiñI for her part is bringing back flora and fauna and reducing air pollution and vulnerability to natural disasters by encouraging more use of native plants in the green rooftops of our urbanized planet.

Beginning in her native city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, a towering city with high rates of air pollution that causes inflammatory disease, Liliana has focused her research on identifying and cataloguing which native plant species are better adapted to urban environments and resilient to climate change. As more of the world’s population inhabits dense urban environments, Liliana hopes her research into which plants can best save and serve the environment will be replicated across other urban settings.

She says she dreams of a future where the urban sprawl sees cities bursting with green life across their concrete structures.

Yemeni engineer Omer Badokhon is working on biogas plants which aims to improve thousands of rural livelihoods in his war-stricken homeland. Omer, who holds a degree from Hadhramout University, researched the production and purification of biogas from landfills to generate electricity as part of his studies. He quickly realized that such devices could be put to good use at a domestic level in his country, and set out to do this himself.

The devices, which will be constructed locally under Omer’s guidance, enable the rapid decomposition of domestic organic waste, thereby maximizing the amount of biogas produced. He is working with a non-governmental organization affiliated with the Green Projects Centre to build prototypes and pilot the biogas plants.

Kiribati citizen, Eritai Kateibwi for his work on a hydroponics system that will improve human health and resilience to climate change on the low-lying island. He saw the problems caused by Kiribati’s reliance on imported, often unhealthy, food due to the challenges of growing fresh produce: diabetes, unhealthy children and a garbage problem from dealing with the packaging.

He realized that locally grown, nutritious food would reduce these problems, as well as provide entrepreneurial opportunities to the local communities. Eritai’s system, which relies on Kiribati’s abundant sunshine but uses only 10 per cent of the water of traditional crops, has already been used to produce lettuce, Chinese cabbage and tomatoes within 30 days.

He plans to use the seed financing from the award to build 200 units. Families will receive training and purchase these through micro-financing, the proceeds of which Eritai will use to build and make available more units.

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in collaboration with three African universities is set to unveil the first curriculum tailored to address the political, social and cultural concerns that have been slowing biotechnology growth in the continent.

By August 2017, University of Eldoret, University of Nigeria and the Polytechnic University of Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso will enlist the first group of scientists to pursue a Masters Degree in biotechnology and its impact on food security.

Principal coordinator of the programme, Prof. Miriam Kinyua, says graduates will be able to impact positively on all aspects of food security in terms of skills, production, extension, and processing.

“The curriculum aims to demystify biotechnology as genetic engineering and prepare graduates for the challenges of industry,” says Prof. Kinyua who is also a Professor of biotechnology at University of Eldoret.

According to her, the curriculum is developed in such a way that after 20 years it is able to accommodate new market shifts and scientific advances.

“That is why this curriculum is unique because it embraces African diversity, but it also contains the content of science that should be included in a programme,” says Prof Kinyua.

The curriculum, developed with expertise from University of Gloningen in the Netherlands, is packaged into modules with a Masters degree as the baseline.

But it will also award a certificate for a month in training, a course of attendance for a week and also a diploma package.

“It is up to the demand. We will deliver according to the demand,” says Prof Kinyua.
Prof. Diran Makinde, senior advisor, Africa Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNET) under NEPAD, says such a programme is important for Africa to build its capacity since the continent is no yet food secure.

“Any technology has its own risks. But the benefits are more than the risks. We need to learn how to manage the risks. This is the purpose of this programme,” says Prof. Makinde.

According to him, NEPAD invites all African countries to adopt the curriculum if the continent is to achieve the six per cent target on agricultural productivity.

Former Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Prof Godwin Patrick OluObasi has been described as Africa’s gift to the world of climate science. This was made know by experts at the Inaugural Prof. Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi Memorial Lecture which held today on the side-lines of the sixth conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa holding in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a lead presentation on the life and times of the icon of meteorology, Prof. Laban Ogallo of the IGAD-UNDP Disaster Risk Reduction Project in Kenya recalled that Prof. Obasi was active in promoting global solutions to environmental issues, with special attention to the atmosphere, fresh water and the oceans.

“He was at the forefront in drawing the world’s attention to the issue of climate change, notably in convening the second World Climate Conference, held in Geneva in 1990,” Prof Ogallo said.

According to Prof Ogallo, Obasi played an important role in the negotiations leading to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the World Climate Research Programme, the Global Climate Observing System and the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol.

The panel of discussants at the memorial lecture which comprised Dr. Buruhani Nyenzi of the Southern Development Community-Climate Services Centre, South Africa, Dr. Ernest Afiesimama of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Geneva, and Dr. Degefu Workneh of the Ethiopian Meteorological Society lauded Prof. Obasi’s outstanding contributions to the science of ozone depletion.

Dr. Nyenzi recalled that it was Prof Obasi, together with the then Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Dr. Tolba, who initiated the negotiations on the Vienna Convention and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and also contributed to the establishment of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Prof. Obasi gave his strong support to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), and exercised a key leadership role together with Dr. Tolba, in the establishment of the WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He took the lead role in the organization of the Second World Climate Conference and in the establishment of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS),” Dr. Workneh added.

For those who had the privilege of working with Professor Obasi, Dr. Afiesimama averred that “the memories of this great man who dedicated his whole life to meteorological sciences will forever be cherished.”Afiesimama further added that Prof Obasi was “a man of honour who was afraid of nothing –– except God, as Prof.Obasi himself used to say.”

Professor Godwin Olu Patrick Obasi, a Nigerian citizen, was the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for five four-year terms (1984-2003). Within the WMO scope of competence, he has made major contributions to the implementation of the Vienna Convention and its Montreal Protocol.

Professor Obasi served the Nigerian Government in several capacities including that of an Adviser to the Federal Government of Nigeria in meteorological research and training. From 1967 to 1976, he was Professor of Meteorology, Chairman of the Department of Meteorology and Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. In 1978, he joined the WMO Secretariat as the Director of the Education and Training Department.

Before his death on the 3rd of March 2007 at age 74, Professor Obasi published over 150 scientific and technical papers and delivered hundreds of scientific and policy-related lectures to several high-level meetings, including at ministerial and Heads of State and Government levels.

PAMACC News Agency

By Robert Muthami and Isaiah Esipisu
African Civil Society Organisations (CSO) have called for a rapid phase down of the Short Lived Climate Pollutants (SLCPs) as a way of slowing down the current rate of global warming.

Based on a 2011 study by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) titled ‘Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone,’ reducing three of the SLCPs – black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane – has the potential to avoid up to 0.5°C global average warming by 2050 and 0.84°C in the Arctic by 2070.

And now, the African CSOs under the umbrella of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) in collaboration with Christian Aid are calling on all African governments and related players to become proactive in reducing some of the short-lived pollutants for the sake of the planet.

According to Benson Ireri, the Senior Policy Adviser at the Christian Aid, there are alternatives that can be used to reduce the use of some of the most lethal pollutants. “Hydrofluorocarbons, also known as super greenhouse gases used in refrigerating and air conditioning systems are some of the most lethal gases to the climate, and yet we use them on daily basis,” he said.

However, said Ireri, alternatives to the hydrofluorocarbons are available, and are already being explored in the developed world. However, it remains a mirage for the developing world.

According to Mithika Mwenda, the Secretary General – PACJA, there is need for capacity building all over Africa, technology transfer, and political goodwill in order for the continent to understand and contextualize discourses related to Montreal Protocol, and which has remained abstract to many players since 1989 when it was ratified.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances such as hydrofluorocarbons that are responsible for ozone depletion.

The agriculture industry has been cited as the main source of hydrofluorocarbon pollution, given refrigeration of the farm produce, sea produce among many others. With the climate change, many households have installed air conditioners in houses to cushion them from the scorching heat, and they use thm in vehicles all over.

However, according to Robert Chimambo of the Zambia Climate Change Network (ZCCN), Africa has become a dumping ground for some of the pollutants. “All the hydrofluorocarbons are manufactured from abroad, and then sold to Africa. It is sad because most of the countries who manufacture these substances only do it for the African market. At home, they use alternative technologies that are free of hydrofluorocarbons,” he told a Civil Society forum in Kigali, Rwanda.

So far, there are high expectations in the upcoming Vienna meeting of the Montreal Protocol and the Kigali Montreal Protocol-Conference of Parties in July and October, 2016 respectively in providing guidance in phasing down the Short Lived Climate Pollutants.

African Civil Society is expected to play a critical role the same way it has done in influencing the climate change negotiations under the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). However, one of the key challenges is that most southern CSO have limited information about the Montreal Protocol processes due to its technical nature.

It is with the above rationale that PACJA in collaboration with Christian Aid and the Action for Environment and Sustainable Development (AESDN) have organized an African Civil Society Capacity Building workshop on the global phasedown of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) on 11th – 13th July 2016 on the sidelines of the 27th African Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

Participants drawn from African CSO’s across African are engaging in the discussions, exploring the gains and challenges under the engagement in the UNFCCC and lessons that could inform the engagement in the Montreal Protocol. From the discussions, African CSO’s have underscored the need to engage and influence the protocol as it has huge potential in contributing to the climate change mitigation targets, hence contributing to progress made under the UNFCCC process.

The Global phase down of the SCLPs is in line with the UNFCCC-COP 21 commitments adopted in Paris and as part of the obligations under the Agreement, countries have now embarked in the implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions.

 “As of January 2015, 27 countries have specifically mentioned SLCPs, air pollution, or relevant mitigation co-benefits in their INDC submissions and the INDCs of Mexico, Chile, and Nigeriainclude separate specific sections on SLCPs and also specifically discuss black carbon mitigation”.

This therefore affirms that there is need for African CSO’s to influence the Montreal Protocol as it provides an opportunity for countries to realize their mitigation ambitions under the country specific nationally determined Contributions.

At the end of the three day’s workshop African CSO’s will release a statement targeting key decision makers aimed at influencing the Montreal Protocol Conference of Parties to be held in Kigali, Rwanda in October, 2016.

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