Last week I had the chance to visit Kenya as an UN Ambassador for the Environment to learn about how the lack of modern energy affects people dealing with poverty. My trip was planned by the non-profit group, Practical Action. The focus of the trip was to enlighten me about the energy solutions for impoverished people around the world. Did you know that the lack of resources to generate energy affects the lives of millions of individuals around the world and keeps them stuck in poverty? When people have access to energy sources they can begin to lift themselves out of poverty. I learned so much during this incredible experience and want to share my experience with all of you. Stay tuned to my blog over the next several weeks because I am going to share the inspirations and challenges from my visit to Kenya. My incredible trip was both a heart-breaking and heart-warming experience. I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned from this journey and show the importance of taking action to make a better world for everyone.
Simple Sustainable Solutions
The first stop on the trip was Kibera; the second largest urban slum in Africa. I was overwhelmed by all the different sensations upon my arrival. The sight of huge piles of garbage with open sewage running like streams down narrow alleys lined with tiny houses made of tin roofs and mud walls was like nothing I had ever seen. I was also struck by the smells and sounds of the slum that I had never experienced. The guide told us that the average one-room home is no bigger than a small bedroom and that often families of 6 or more live in these homes. Surprisingly, many of the homes have no electricity and none of them have toilets.
The people living there had to use charcoal or wood to cook their food because there is no electricity. The charcoal creates a lot of heavy black smoke that’s toxic to breathe. Another problem with charcoal is the cost; it is too expensive for most people to buy. We also learned if there is no street light near your home at night you are plunged into complete darkness when the sun goes down. In Brazil we have favelas (Brazilian shanty towns) and I am aware that large slum communities exist but I had never seen anything like Kibera. This visit was very intense.
Despite the harsh living conditions the people greeted me with laughter and songs. The curious children shared smiles and hugs throughout my visit. The people had an amazing sense of lightness and pride. Their spirits are strong even though they had to cope with the challenges of limited access to energy and clean water. The people of Kibera are very inspiring!
The community members of Kibera have had little or no help from the government, but they have taken it upon themselves to improve the conditions of their neighborhood. I met with community leaders who have been doing amazing work to help change the reality they live in. One community organization, the Umande Trust has successfully built biogas centers are helping to create a new form of sustainable energy from human waste. The centers also help to create a more sanitary option of disposing or human waste. The biogas centers convert human waste into a source of energy. The process starts by the construction of community toilets for the community to use. The centers collect the human waste and it is mixed with water and then broken down by natural bacteria, releasing methane. The gas is collected and stored in a tank and then used to generate energy for cooking, laundry and lighting.
This is a very creative solution!
They are making their community cleaner by building community toilets and they were providing themselves with power that was clean and cheap! A simple, community based solution that was benefitting all.
In my future posts I will be sharing more about the biogas centers and how they are inspiring other positive changes in the community.
Love and light,
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