|UNEP/Ong Hoooi Giin|
Mark Twain, the American writer, was right. We all require energy for heating, transport, nutrition, hygiene, health and other needs. But how we get it depends on where we live and how much we can pay.
People in rich countries tap into power grids and pump petrol to run appliances, machinery and vehicles. In developing ones, more than 2 billion 'energy poor' burn charcoal, wood and cow dung for light, heat and cooking. Gathering these fuels - work overwhelmingly done by women and children - is usually time consuming and exhausting, eating into hours that could otherwise be spent at school or in productive work. And fumes from burning the fuels kill millions of people a year.
Clean, renewable sources
Meeting humankind's growing energy needs ecologically, sustainably and profitably is a major challenge. Developing clean, renewable sources that meet these needs, without adding to global warming, is essential. Experts estimate that at least 60,000 new energy enterprises are needed to supply this clean power to those now without electricity. Supporting local entrepreneurs to help provide energy services that the poor need - and are willing to pay for - can make communities the drivers of their own economic growth.
Bamba Coulibally of Mali is one such entrepreneur. With a loan from the UNEP-led partnership for Rural Energy Enterprise Development (REED), he started a company that uses solar-drying technology to preserve meat, fruit and vegetables - filling a vital niche in a country where the climate spoils food quickly but most people cannot afford refrigeration. His company's dried meats, mangoes and onions can now be found in grocery shops, service stations and street-vendors' stalls throughout the nation's capital, Bamako.
In north-eastern Brazil, a new cooperative of rural farmers grows organic crops irrigated by solar-powered water pumps and sells them in Fortaleza, capital of the Ceará state. The REED-sponsored project has created jobs, increased incomes and reduced urban migration by giving people the reason and means to stay in their community.
And Viet Nam's national horticultural association, Vacvina, is marketing $40 household biodigestors that turn animal waste - typically from the one or two pigs owned by small farmers - into enough methane gas to cook family meals. Funded by E+Co - an independent company that is one of UNEP's main partners in REED - the project has sold and installed more than 3,000 biogas systems in villages throughout the country, freeing up time spent collecting fuelwood, reducing indoor air-pollution and improving health.
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