Environment and Energy

This week, we are looking at some more of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are concerned with the environment and sustainable energy. In our 15 years, COCO has raised over £2.8 million. We know that barriers to education often involve environmental factors or problems concerning sustainable, reliable energy. However, working together, we can make a real difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest communities. Last year alone, COCO’s projects positively impacted on the lives of over 15,000 people.

SDG Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all

Most of us probably don’t even think about how much clean water we use every day. We rarely think about how easy it is to do everyday tasks, such as washing our clothes, cooking, showering or bathing, or even just having a cup of tea.

The scary fact is that access to water and sanitation is not the norm for everyone.

Some Facts and Figures

  • Today, at least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is contaminated by sewage.
  • 2.4 billion People lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines
  • Each day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases

Water and Sanitation Initiatives

Here at COCO, we think everyone deserves access to safe water and sanitation. Water is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. That’s why, in 2014, we teamed up with Development Direct to implement water and sanitation initiatives at Mercy Primary School in Kenya.

This project included harvesting rainwater, building compost toilets and providing hand wash and drinking water facilities for students and teachers. Since implanting these initiatives, there have tangible benefits for both the school and the local community.Optimized-photo 2

Mercy Primary School and the surrounding community are situation on the edge of Lake Victoria. Everyone is reliant on water from the lake, which means that the water is unsanitary and waterborne illnesses are a serious concern. However, the headmaster of Mercy School, Hermon Okongo, is convinced that the numbers of waterborne diseases are falling due to the new initiatives. Although it is too soon to gather quantitative evidence of this, the larger than usual number of students enrolling at Mercy School is a positive sign.

SDG Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Energy is a major challenge across the globe. It seems that everyone is either using too much or too little. In fact, despite the huge problems of climate change, 1 in 5 people still lacks access to modern electricity.

Energy also plays a huge role in poverty. Without access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy, seemingly mundane tasks such as staying warm and cooking meals are so much more difficult.

Renewable energy projects, often with international donor assistance, have demonstrated that renewable energy can contribute to poverty alleviation. Renewable energy directly supplies businesses and jobs, and turns locally available resources into productive economic assets. This directly links to SDG Goal 8: Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. By providing the energy to increase employment opportunities, and developing technologies and business in local communities, renewable energy encourages economic growth across developing countries.

Renewable energy technologies can also make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking and space heating. By making light more affordable and reliable, renewable energy technologies also permit schools and businesses to operate after dark; access to energy amplifies human capacity.

In 2014, COOC and Cititec worked together to install a solar power system at Hoja Secondary School in Songea, Tanzania. The solar panel system was used to provide energy for a classroom and for lights across the school premises, including the dormitories.

Renewable energy provides an extra edge to teaching

The solar classroom is benefitting students, teachers and project coordinators. The solar classroom provides much needed teaching aids, adding an extra dimension to teaching and making it easier for teachers to keep students stimulated and engaged. For instance, science classes are much more accessible now, because students are able to watch films of scientific experiments rather than just merely reading about them. Having sustainable, reliant energy also means that the school can save 100,000Tsh (£36) per month by accessing educational films rather than buying expensive chemicals for experiments.

The final SDG we are looking at today is Goal 9. This is concerned with building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation. This may seem extremely ambitious, because it essentially means that an entire community needs a modern make-over to improve irrigation, sanitation, roads, transport… the list goes on. However, COCO has always taken a holistic approach to removing barriers to education. We cannot alleviate poverty without helping local communities, as well as the schools that serve them.

To show how we’ve been working to achieve this, we’re going back to Mercy Primary School in Kenya. As a result of the water and sanitation initiatives, Mercy Primary School has been able to cultivate a ‘Food Forest’. This provides an abundant source of nutritious food to students and teachers at the school. COCO’s coordinator at Mercy Primary, George Odhiambo, explained that, despite there being harsh and dry weather conditions in the local area, the Food Forest has been able to produce crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, paw-paw, cow peas, African spider flower and muringa. In an effort to maintain momentum and keep the ‘Food Forest’ full, he is also carrying out research into the hardiest varieties of plants to ensure the best one is grown during subsequent planting. By ensuring that the infrastructure is in place, we can help to alleviate the roots of poverty.

The Food Farm at Mercy Primary School

You can find out more about how COCO is meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals next week. All facts and figures, and many more, can be found on the UN’s website here: Sustainable Development Goals

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