Thursday, May 8, 2014

In Mauritania, solar energy helps vulnerable communities | UNDP

Sixty-year-old Aissata Hamath is a mother living in a vulnerable community on the outskirts of Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.

She used to garden, making little money from the sale of her produce. But after a pilot project from the Association Nazaha for health and the environment set up a solar-powered oven in the village, things changed.

"Before the installation of the solar ovens," she said, "my economic activities were limited to selling vegetables, from which I earned MRO 800 per day (less than US $3)."

More than 250 households use the oven, which can produce up to 100 loaves of bread a day. The villagers also learned to make bread and cakes that they can sell to increase their income.

The project, which was funded with about US $50,000 from the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) and UNDP, aims to strengthen the capacity of communities, empower women and reduce poverty while ensuring new sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies are put to use.

In all, 300 people, mostly women, have benefited from training on how to manufacture and use solar ovens. Aissata, who received this training, said the project has significantly improved her living conditions and those of her friends and relatives.

"Today, I sell bread and cakes, and I participate in the selling of solar ovens,” she said. “This brings me an average of MRO 8,000 (US $30) per day."

Nearly 250 stoves were sold by the villagers, and just as many are planned to be manufactured and sold by the end of the year.

Through the use of solar ovens, coal consumption for cooking has been reduced by 50 percent.

The project also made it possible for 1,600 trees of different species to be planted with the aim of raising awareness among the population on reforestation and carbon sequestration. These initiatives have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions, environmental pollution, and their adverse effects on the population’s health.

Today, the organization has expanded its activities to include the manufacture of cloth bags to replace plastic ones. It has also begun construction of a new headquarters using alternative materials such as bottles, rubber or glass filled with sand. The new larger premises will accommodate more people and increase production.

In Mauritania, solar energy helps vulnerable communities | UNDP