Thursday, 25 September 2008

Trees, Water and People awarded Seal of Excellence

Fort Collins, CO - Environmental nonprofit organization, Trees, Water & People (TWP) has been awarded the prestigious “Best in America” Seal of Excellence from Independent Charities of America (ICA). The seal is given only to members of ICA who meet the highest standards of public accountability, program effectiveness, and cost effectiveness. Of the 1 million charities operating in the United States, only five percent meet these expectations, and fewer than two thousand charities have been awarded the exclusive seal.

Trees, Water & People is dedicated to improving people’s lives by helping communities to protect, conserve and maintain the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. They develop and manage continuing reforestation, watershed protection, renewable energy, appropriate technology, and environmental education programs in Latin America and the American West. TWP’s conservation efforts have been recognized locally, nationally, and internationally.

To learn more about TWP, or to get involved, please visit

TWP won an Ashden Award in 2005 for their work with ADHESA in Honduras, developing the Justa stove to reduce reduce wood consumption and air pollution from smoke.

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Tuesday, 23 September 2008

23 September: The day humanity starts eating the planet in 2008

nef reports:

On September 23, humanity will have used up all the resources nature will provide this year, according to the latest data from Global Footprint Network and its member organisation nef (the new economics foundation) who devised the concept of Ecological Debt Day. Just like any company, nature has a budget – it can only produce so many resources and absorb so much waste each year. The problem is, our demand on nature’s services is exceeding what it can provide. Since the 1980s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot, using resources faster than they can be regenerated and putting carbon into the air faster than it can be reabsorbed. Globally, we now demand the biological capacity of 1.4 planets. But of course, we only have one. The result is that our supply of natural resources – like trees and fish – continues to shrink, while our waste – primarily carbon dioxide – accumulates. “It took governments in the UK and US just a week to drop decades of hardened economic practice to save the financial system from meltdown, why should it take any longer to act to save the planet?” says Andrew Simms, nef policy director, “They say that big financial institutions are too big to fail, but there is something larger and much more important that is being allowed to collapse – a climate system conducive to human civilisation. There could be less than one hundred months to prevent catastrophic, runaway global warming. We need a programme from government now, that is at least as bold as action to save reckless financiers.”
Read the full article here

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Monday, 22 September 2008

Indian National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development ventures into solar power.

As reported in the Financial Express, India, the state-run National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) is seeking to emulate the work of Ashden Award winner Aryavart Gramin Bank.

The state-run National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), in a serious bid to give a much needed push for solar power projects, proposes to share 50% of the cost of installation upto a maximum of 20 demonstration solar power project units at important places. In addition, Nabard will extend support to the regional rural banks and cooperative banks for conducting awareness campaigns and organising credit camps at Rs 1,000 per campaign for a maximum of 20 programmes.
Read the full story here

The Aryavart Grameen Bank team:

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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

SELCO features on Voice of America

SELCO, who won Ashden Awards in 2005 and 2007, have featured in a Voice of America article:

Group Brings Solar Power to Rural India
SELCO is a private company in Bangalore, India, that brings solar power to low income families and small businesses in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. It has twice won Ashden awards for Sustainable Energy.

Chairman of the Ashden Trust, Sarah Butler-Sloss explains, "By bringing together a package of micro-finance, of income generating training and encouragement as well as photovoltaic technology, they have found a way of showing how sustainable energy can improve the quality of life (of poor people) and they have done it in a commercial way," Butler-Sloss said.

The company's low cost solar home systems are sold to families and cooperatives that are not on the nation's power grid, bringing light and power to remote areas.

H. Harish Hande is the managing director of SELCO-INDIA says, "People come up and say 'my daughter has been able to complete her studies just because we have installed a solar light," Hande said. "We have increased our income. People even say 'my daughter was born under solar light rather than candles and kerosene."
Read the full article on Voice of America, including a video clip

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Tuesday, 16 September 2008

News from KXN

Guest post from KXN, one of our 2005 winners:

Last week, we exhibited at the 23rd EU PVSEC in Valencia, Spain, the only company (and I believe the first) from Sub-Sahara Africa among 715 exhibitors to participate in the world's largest photovoltaics conference and exhibition! Below is a photo of our stand.

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Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Dulas gets a Youtube site

Dulas Ltd, one of our 2008 winners, now has their own Youtube page. The initial video there is about a renewable energy installation at a school. Here's the English version of the video, it's also available in Welsh.

There's another Dulas video on Youtube as well, from British Satellite News:

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Solarcentury Youtube page

Solarcentury, one of our 2007 winners, have their own Youtube page with several videos, such as this introduction to solar PV:

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Monday, 1 September 2008

Sandhills school pupils interviewed on BBC Radio 4

Two pupils from Sandhills School, which won an Ashden Award this year were
featured on BBC Radio Four's programme for children, 'Go 4 It', broadcast on
31 August.

Check out the Go 4 It website, and listen to the programme (available for a few days only)

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Visiting Ashden Award winners in East Africa

Ben Dixon, programme manager on the Ashden Awards team, has just returned from a trip around East Africa, working with past Ashden Award winners. Here's a report on his trip.

I’m just back from East Africa, having spent almost three weeks working with Ashden Award winners in Ethiopia and Tanzania. It is always inspiring to see the amazing social, environmental and economic benefits that Ashden Awards winners are delivering in the communities where they work – and this trip was no exception.

I started off in Addis Ababa, where I was able to attend a workshop that the Gaia Association (2008 winners) had organised to celebrate winning their Ashden Awards with all of the partners that have supported their work. This workshop had impressive high-level attendance from the Ethiopian government, including three government ministers and the head of the government’s Environmental Protection Agency. All were very supportive of Gaia’s plans to work with their private sector partner (Makobu Enterprises) on scaling up their manufacture and supply of ethanol stoves for urban areas, and providing ethanol stoves for more refugee camps in the north of the country (partnering with the UNHCR). It was also great to meet some of their customers in Addis, who are very happy with their stoves. We are working to connect Gaia with sources of support as they build their business plan and identify the finance they will need to achieve their scale-up goals.

Next was Tanzania, where we have three winning projects (and one winner who has relocated from Rwanda).

Zara Solar (2007 winner), based in Mwanza in the north-west of the country, are one of Tanzania’s leading suppliers of solar products. I was able to visit the villages and institutions where Zara has installed solar systems, and see some of the ways in which solar electricity is transforming their customers’ lives. Lighting of course (replacing dirty and expensive kerosene lamps), mobile phone charging, fridges, satellite TV, and even a piano synthesiser! Zara is working on two new strategic projects: developing new products for Lake Victoria’s fishermen, who use polluting kerosene lamps to attract fish to their nets, and working with local credit agencies that can provide loans to help their customers overcome the barrier of the upfront costs of purchasing a solar system (which will pay for itself in reduced fuel costs).

Mwanza Rural Housing and Food Security Project (MRHP) (2006 winner) are also based in Mwanza. They are an NGO providing housing, agricultural, and energy services to rural communities around Mwanza. They won an Ashden Award for their sustainable brick-making programme, training local entrepreneurs to fire bricks using agricultural waste (rice husks) rather than firewood. It is amazing to see the transformational effect this programme has had in the region – everywhere we travelled there were smoking brick kilns fuelled by rice husks, and rice farmers are now selling rice husks to brick makers (they used to pay people to take them away). We discussed MRHP’s plans for the future, which include expansion of their brick programme and commercialisation of a programme to provide energy saving stoves for rural and urban people. We will be providing support in the form of a professional volunteer organised through the Scottish charity Challenges Worldwide.

Kisangani Smith Group (KSG), are based in Njombe in the south-west of Tanzania. This group of blacksmiths won a 2008 Ashden Award for the design and production of a cooking stove that runs on sawdust – a waste product from the local timber industry. We spent some time looking at their plans for scale-up of their stoves business, and then travelled out of the city to the village of Mkiyu, where KSG have a training workshop for local youths. They have plans for a micro-hydro project to supply electricity to the workshop, the village, and a local secondary school – we visited the proposed site and also were lucky to see two neighbouring micro-hydro projects (one working, one under construction). It is truly eye-opening to see the engineering that is used to build these projects in remote areas, and to see the impact of bringing electricity to places where development is so constrained by the absence of energy for lighting houses and schools and carrying out income-generating activities such as agricultural processing.

Finally, a special mention to Ainea Kimaro, who won an Ashden Award for his biogas programme in prisons in Rwanda (he was working at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, Ashden Award winner in 2005). Now living in Tanzania, we met and I heard all about his biogas plans for Tanzania – exciting and top secret for now, so watch this space!

Ben Dixon

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