Monthly Archives: February 2012

Smart data can help unlock solutions on clean water

Last week I attended a fascinating lecture, part of the Oxford University’s Water Futures Programme.

Clean Water, Rights and Responsibilities

Professor David Bradley gave an excellent summary of the history and current landscape of water and health, from the early pioneers in epidemiology, Dr John Snow tracking down the source of the 1854 London cholera epidemic to the Broad Street pump, to the current challenges facing the international network of organisations working to promote clean water and sanitation.

Explaining that “it is important to phrase things in the language of the people who are actually going to do something about the problem” (music to my ears) he introduced the 4 categories, based upon the type of interventions required:

  • waterborne: infections caused through drinking contaminated water
  • water-based: caused by parasites that spend at least part of their life cycle in water
  • water-washed: transmitted through low sanitation, and preventable through more frequent hand washing
  • water-related: transmitted by vectors (normally insects) that live in or around water.

The global water map (pictured below) shows just how many of us still lack access to sufficient and safe drinking water. The data behind this map comes from the Joint Monitoring Program agreed between the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.  They chose a 1990 baseline for their measurements, and have improved data quality by switching from Government reported figures (frequently spun) to independent surveys.

UN Access to Clean Water, 2004

The map show’s how East Africa is comes in the lowest percentage group for access to clean water – and demonstrates how important projects such as our Carbon For Water programme in Kenya are in provided much needed finance and innovative approaches to improving supply.

Although water is “one of the most pervasive things to influence the eradication of poverty”, it only appears explicitly in goal number 7 of the Millennium Development Goals: MDG 7, Target 7c  “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”.  That said, its central place amongst challenges to our future is well recognised, with recent efforts focused on apply a rights based approach leading to the inclusion of access to clean, safe drinking water with the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, with passed the UN General Assembly vote in July 2010.  This is not enough, as Prof Bradley pointed out: as important as talk of ‘rights’ is the responsibility we have for taking care of our global water resources.  Irresponsible water use by some leads to denial of right to clean water for others.

Smart data collection

The second speaker was Dr Rob Hope, Senior Research Fellow, who had some fascinating statistics:

  • there is a $22 trillion gap in financing for clean water up to 2030
  • 40 billion hours of labour per year are lost by women and children in Africa collecting water
  • 443 million school days have been lost to poor water and sanitation in Africa

Despite the challenges, communications technology is providing an interesting and exciting set of opportunities. For example, traditional clean water interventions have often involved the installation of hand-pumps, but evidence suggests that these break far sooner than expected and remain unrepaired. In Kenya 30% of hand-pumps are not working. This represents a huge waste of charitable investment. Cheap mobile telecommunications has “blown the constraints of measurement out of the water” (pun accidental), and Dr Hope suggested that measurement need no longer define what can be set as targets for development projects. He explained his work on a trial project to fit transmitters in hand-pumps in order to monitor their usage and report faults.

The rapid developments in mobile money – with payments made by mobile phone –  that began in 2007 in Kenya with Safaricom’s M-Pesa (with the pilot program funded by the UK Government DfID), also provides an opportunity for payment per litre allowing much more efficient allocation and protection of scarce water resources.

The Carbon For Water programme that ClimateCare is central to, run by Vestergaard Fransen, is an example where telecommunications are helping to transform the long-term sustainability of clean water provision, with every family receiving a life straw being registered for support and follow-up.

Oxford University’s Water Futures Programme includes an MSc and will be hosting the Water Security, Risk and Society conference in April 2012.

ClimateCare celebrates world’s largest ever issuance of Gold Standard carbon credits for cookstoves

The successful creation this week of 250,000 Gold Standard (GS) carbon credits from cookstoves is a landmark in the use of carbon finance to support very large scale efforts to tackle emissions, poverty, ill health and environmental damage. 

Oxford, UK and Nairobi, Kenya (7 February, 2012):  ClimateCare has worked with its on the-ground-partner, Enterprise Works, to develop and provide funding for the Gyapa  efficient cookstove project in Ghana that has so far reduced a quarter of a million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (demonstrated by this issuance of verified tonnes under the GS), helping to save over 200,000 tonnes worth of fuelwood so easing pressure on deforestation, whilst cutting drastically the dangerous indoor air pollution in homes that cause such deadly health impacts for mothers and children, and also stimulating local job creation.

“We are delighted that our Ghana cookstoves project has been so successful, demonstrated by achieving Gold Standard accreditation at such a significant scale – ClimateCare helped open up carbon funding to cookstoves and we believe this is just the start of what we can achieve in tackling climate change and poverty together through intelligent carbon and development  finance.” said ClimateCare’s Director Edward Hanrahan.

This issuance marks a key point in the development of the project:  funding provided to support increased production of the stove, improved quality control, a national advertising campaign and better distribution has born fruit with growth of sales from around 10,000 stoves in 2008 to over 75,000 in 2011.  The emissions reductions from the stoves have been measured and verified through the Gold Standard accreditors, who are backed by WWF and recognised as one of the highest quality standards in the carbon market.

“The issuance of these Gyapa Cookstove credits shows that the project has already gone through the Gold Standard’s rigorous certification process – the most robust and ethical in the carbon market. Gyapa is a great example of a project in which community benefits are actively designed into an activity at the outset, and subject to monitoring, reporting and verification, something that The Gold Standard uniquely insists upon,” said Adrian Rimmer, Gold Standard Foundation CEO.

The story began with the methodology for measuring and verifying emissions reduction from cookstoves written by ClimateCare – ‘Improved Cookstoves and Kitchen Regimes’ – published in 2008 by Gold Standard as the blueprint giving the opportunity for any eligible cookstove programme to access carbon finance.  ClimateCare then applied this to a cookstove project in Uganda, achieving the first cookstove GS credits in the world, issued in 2010.  With issuance from the Ghana project, ClimateCare has now helped deliver the world’s largest single block of verified emission reductions from cookstoves.

Sale of the Gold Standard credits from the Ghana stoves is exclusively through ClimateCare, and those companies and individuals purchasing them are ultimately providing the crucial revenue for the project. (See below for more details).

Focus on the importance of clean cookstoves is growing.  “Could the humble cooking stove be the next big idea to save millions of lives in poor countries” asked The Economist ( September 2011).  The United Nation Foundation has launched a global campaign – Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves – aimed at getting ‘100 million homes to adopt clean cookstoves by 2020’ through developing sustainable local markets.  The key metric is the amount of time stoves are used for, rather than the number produced, and the Ghana project alone is projected to deliver over 1,000,000 ‘operational stove years’ by 2014.

Pneumonia is the biggest killer of children in the world, with indoor pollution from smoky open fires and poor quality stoves being a leading cause – switching to an efficient cookstove is the single most effective way to reduce the health risk to mothers and children from this horrible disease.  This milestone in the Ghana project shows the significant scale at which intelligent carbon finance can help to combat leading global health challenges.

ClimateCare has recently adapted the GS methodology to water filters – which can replace boiling of water to purify it and so cut fuel wood use – to help transform the scale of clean water provision. Building on the success of the Gyapa project, in transitioning cookstoves from small scale to large scale projects, in 2011 ClimateCare was instrumental in the ‘Carbon For Water’ programme, both one of the world’s largest clean water interventions (providing over 3.5 million Kenyans with microbially pure water) and one of the largest emissions reduction projects (2million tonnes CO2e reduced per year).