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Greenpeace States Eskom Should Get Rid of Coal Power Stations

A recently published study by Greenpeace Africa has urged Eskom to start phasing out its coal power stations and open IPP auctions for renewable energies.

A study commissioned by Greenpeace Africa titled ‘Eskom: A road-map to powering the future‘ has recommended that the struggling power utility get rid of its coal power stations.

With reports that Eskom’s debt will reach a quite staggering R500 billion, the future of the state-owned company looks increasingly uncertain.

Eskom relies on coal due to the local market producing it relatively cheaply and the significant infrastructure geared towards coal power.

Greenpeace Africa’s senior political adviser Happy Khambule said: “Fundamental reforms of the South African electricity sector and Eskom’s business model are inevitable and urgent.

“This report presents a road-map with solid options for the country’s electricity supply industry crisis, outlines a realistic and sustainable future for Eskom, and ensures that all crucial functions of the South African electricity system improve.”

The negative environmental impact of coal power stations and doubts over its long-term viability as a power source led Prof. Dr. Uwe Leprich, the author of the study, to conclude Eskom needs to start phasing it out.

Key recommendations for Eskom reform include:

  • The gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation from Eskom to new generation companies (GenCos)
  • The refinancing of Eskom through the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations older than 40 years, and the sale of all remaining coal-fired power plants
  • The retention by Eskom of the important role of the transmission system operator with the possibility of operating its own grid-supporting (non-coal) power plants
  • The opening of the IPP auctions for renewable energies to Eskom as well in order to make it a significant part of the utility’s business model
  • The possibility for Eskom to participate in the newly created six regional electricity distributors
  • The opportunity for Eskom to create new services for end-use customers on the basis of the digitization revolution that is evolving all over the world

To read the full study, click here.

Government sued for air pollution

The recommendation comes in the wake of environmental justice group groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action taking the South African government to the Pretoria High Court over a perceived violation of citizens’ constitutional right to clean air.

“Living in Witbank, one of the most polluted areas in the country, has hugely affected our health and lives,” says Vusi Mabaso, Chairperson of Vukani.

“Both government and industry have continuously failed to deal with the problem, irrespective of our efforts to engage with them to ensure they take steps to protect human health.

“Together with groundWork, Vukani has decided to use litigation to push government to take urgent steps to deal with the high air pollution and in the interest of our health and to protect our right to clean air.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Dominik Vanyi [1], [2].

Sustainable Bamboo is Taking Root in Africa

Kenya: A trove of green opportunities

Bamboo, nicknamed the wonder plant, is the strongest and fastest-growing woody plant on earth, and supplies a global trade worth an estimated US$2 billion per year. The lion’s share is earned by Asian countries, whose bamboo-based industries span a vast range from paper making and scaffolding to luxury flooring and foods. But Africa is also witnessing a boom in bamboo.

In African countries that produce bamboo, research and development is usually the work of the forestry or agricultural sectors. However, scaling up requires expertise in specialized areas — such as micro-enterprise development, small-scale or industrial bamboo growing, and production of bamboo products — that might be better found in the private sector.

In Kenya, the bamboo industry involves a multi-stakeholder approach, with consultations among relevant government ministries, NGOs, research institutes and universities and others, facilitated by the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).

One of the largest stakeholders to take up bamboo development so far is Green Pot Enterprises, launched in 2014 to promote bamboo farming in Kenya and to help the country maximize the commercialization of bamboo.

So far the organization has farmers covering over 1,000 acres of land in Narok County, with another 2,000 acres to be planted this year. It is targeting 4,000 acres by the end of 2016.

Green Pot has two principal development plans. With a “gated community of forests,” the organization buys a large parcel of land then subdivides it into 10-acre and 2-acre plots for lease by Kenyans at “affordable rates,” according to its website.

Each buyer gets a title deed (the bamboo farm is managed as one whole unit despite the multiple owners) and a 30-year sublease. The company plants and fully maintains the forests and markets the produce once it is ready.

A parallel community outreach programme ensures that for every acre of bamboo planted in the gated communities programme, a corresponding acre is planted by members of the local community. This programme finances the supply of seedlings, Green Pot explains.

“Globally, there is a big push for bamboo because of its immense financial and environmental benefits. It brings wealth to the people, cleans rivers, stops soil erosion, and so on,” Green Pot’s chief executive officer, Caroline Kariuki, told Africa Renewal. She says the gated
communities programme is mainly in Narok County, but the outreach campaign is active in more than 10 counties across the country.

For Kenya, Green Pot selected three main varieties of bamboo—moso, giant bamboo and Dendrocalamus membranaceus—because they are highly suitable for the chosen areas and have more economic viability than other varieties.

“When we began the project, we did a strategic plan to ensure we have a ready market for our growers. We are building factories with three main areas of focus: construction materials such as flooring, block boards and veneer; bamboo textile products; and bamboo energy products ranging from generation of electricity to briquettes for mass domestic use,” said Ms. Kariuki. “Considering that more than 70% of Kenyans use wood and wood-based products as their main source of fuel, this is a massive market.”

The group has partnerships with county governments, NGOs, government agencies and even local universities and is now seeking partnerships with climate change–focused funds for the rehabilitation of the Mara River and Njoro River.

“We are keen to establish partnerships with strong technology expertise and key buyers of our products to ensure that we are on track to deliver the promise to our customers upon maturity of our bamboo in four years’ time,” said Ms. Kariuki, who is also the finance/administrative director of the Open Society Initiative for East Africa.

Tanzania: New income for 5,000 rural women

Bamboo has been increasing in importance as a non-timber forest product in Tanzania over the last two decades, according to INBAR. Locally bamboo is sought for handicrafts, residential fencing, flower farming, farm props for banana plantations, furniture and other minor cottage industry products like basketry and toothpicks.

Almost all the bamboo products made in the country are used domestically. Bamboo farms should be established to ensure a sustainable supply for the handicraft, construction and horticultural industries, among others.

INBAR, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, helped establish 100 bamboo nurseries and set up micro-enterprises, and trained 1,000 locals in a specially created Bamboo Training Center.

Today some 5,000 women in these rural communities produce crafts and desks for local schools and sell charcoal briquettes.

Ethiopia: The potential of bamboo as a strategic crop

With about 1 million hectares of indigenous bamboo, Ethiopia is the biggest bamboo grower in Africa. It is home to 67% of all African bamboo.

The country has two species—Yushania alpina, planted and managed by farmers in the highlands, and Oxytenanthera abyssinica, which grows naturally in the lowlands.

Despite the size of its natural bamboo forest, Ethiopia has only recently started to tap its potential and is now eager to embrace bamboo technologies and knowledge transfer, mostly from INBAR and a range of Chinese experts.

“Bamboo should be considered the most important, fast-growing, strategic intervention for afforestation and deforestation in the mountainous and degraded areas of the country,” said Ethiopia’s state minister for agriculture, Ato Sileshi Getahun, at a recent event.

In Ethiopia bamboo is being used for protecting watersheds, for intercropping, to create shade for other crops, as a windbreak and as a natural mulch to provide drought protection. People also use it for fuel, fencing and furniture, and sometimes bamboo shoots are used for food and animal fodder.

However, bamboo value-addition in the country is still relatively small, hence limited export earnings.

The country has three factories and the sector employs more than 1,000 people.

Ghana: Once ignored, now big business

Ghana currently has about 400,000 hectares of bamboo, a mostly natural stand in the western region. Some exotic species have been introduced into Ghana, including the thick-walled Beema bamboo from India, and the near-solid Oxytenanthera abyssinica from Ethiopia. These two are particularly useful for biomass energy and are well adapted to drier areas.

According to Michael Kwaku, director of INBAR (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan) Ghana, 18 species of exotic bamboo were first introduced into the country from Hawaii in 2004 by the Ghanaian branch of the Bamboo and Rattan Development Programme (BARADEP), as part of a project with the Opportunities Industrialization Centre. The project was also extended to neighbouring Togo.

BARADEP-Ghana distributed the species to some institutions and nongovernmental organizations, which propagated them and monitored their growth conditions and adaptability in Ghana. It aims to provide adequate planting materials for private and commercial bamboo plantation developers in Ghana.

“Until recently, bamboo was a noncommercial open-access resource in Ghana. Over the past few years, the usefulness of bamboo and its commercial value is being appreciated. Commercial exploitation has begun for such products like bamboo bicycles, bamboo charcoal, furniture, bamboo boards and building support poles,” Mr. Kwaku told Africa Renewal. Bamboo is also being used to restore degraded mining areas.

Challenges to commercialization

Challenges to the development of commercial bamboo planting include the slow pace of state uptake and support as the sector is still young and financial institutions are reluctant to grant credit facilities, including loans. The micro-enterprises are still considered poorly organized, according to Mr. Kwaku, which makes receiving support from stakeholders difficult. The skills and technology gap is a challenge.

INBAR is helping in western Africa with an awareness campaign about the economic potential of bamboo and about forming partnerships with governments. Currently eight member countries in West and Central Africa have conducted training workshops and educational tours to China to acquire firsthand experience of the bamboo economy.

“Bamboo is a big plus for building green economies. It is the promise of earnings at the household level that will attract the most interest across the population,” said Nii Osha Mills, Ghana’s minister for lands and natural resources, at a recent INBAR event.

Zambia: Innovation at its best

In Zambia, a local company, Zambikes, is producing bamboo bikes, bike trailers for transporting agricultural goods, and innovative bike-drawn “Zambulances” to be used at clinics around the capital, Lusaka.

Looking Ahead

Bamboo’s untapped potential to restore degraded lands and forests, store carbon and supply energy to millions of rural communities is immense.

In addition to its prospects for manufacture, bamboo can make a major contribution to reducing carbon emissions, the article said. In China alone, the plant is projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050.

Despite bamboo’s potential, Dr. Hans Friederich, INBAR director general, says many decision makers, planners and national sustainable development action plans have not yet taken into account this resource and the benefits it can bring to society.

“Properly applied, bamboo will help many low- and middle-income countries achieve their sustainable development goals,” says Friederich.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Dil [1], Falco Negenman [2].

African Leaders Seek $1 Billion for Elephant Conservation

Amid the urgent and complex global challenge that illegal wildlife trade poses, Nigeria and other African leaders have called on international donors to commit $1 billion over the next 12 years to save continent’s remaining elephants.

They made the plea during the Elephant Protection Initiative’s (EPI) Consultative Group at the Illegal Wildlife Trafficking Conference, and urged “donors to put elephants beyond the risk of extinction” by helping provide the required investment.

Launched in 2014 by the leaders of five countries – Gabon, Chad, Tanzania, Botswana and Ethiopia – the EPI coalition now numbers 19 African member states. The EPI has common policies to save Africa’s elephants and build a sustainable future for our people. These are based on the African Elephant Action Plan (AEAP), which was agreed by all African elephant range states in 2010.

Africa’s elephant population has been devastated by ivory poachers over the past decade. On average, some 55 elephants are killed per day. If this rate continues, elephants could be wiped out within a generation.

The EPI held crucial meetings on the elephant crisis at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London, which was attended by Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril. The EPI’s first ever Consultative Group was hosted by the President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba. Seven African countries – Gabon, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Angola and Chad – presented their elephant conservation plans. These plans would cost some 268 million USD to implement over the next three years.

Their National Elephant Action Plans are fully costed national plans drawn up by African governments to protect their elephant populations. The EPI champions and advocates for these plans across Africa as a sustainable and effective way to save the continent’s dwindling elephant population, which continues to come under fierce attack from poaching and illegal trafficking.

The EPI’s John Stephenson said: “If we invest one billion dollars by 2030 we can put elephants beyond the risk of extinction, protect habitats, and the communities who live alongside wildlife. When this money is spread across elephant range states, the amount we spend in each country will be modest, but the returns will be large.”

President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, said: “The EPI states have invested their own blood and treasure to protect elephants from poachers. African communities are losing their crops and are being killed by these magnificent but dangerous beasts. Hungry villagers bear the brunt of the elephant’s appetite, whilst countries who have eliminated the indigenous animal’s threats to their people demand conservation action.

President Bongo said: “This is not a battle African countries can or should fight alone. Wildlife crime is an international criminal business on par with the trafficking of drugs, arms and children and by nature, the solution has to be international. But going beyond the fight against international crime, the elephant is an international icon; the largest land mammal.

Our planet would be a lesser place if the rumble and the trumpet of the elephant was no more.”Former President of Botswana, and a founding member of the EPI, Dr Ian Khama said: “Nature is the most important asset for the planet, and elephants are part of that asset. And, as we all know, assets need investment.”

We maintain our infrastructure, we repair our roads, buildings, seaports and airports, but are not investing in our natural capital in the same manner.
“If we are indeed agreed on the need to appreciate the value of nature, and that acting to conserve the African elephant is a collective responsibility, then we urgently need to join hands and generate sufficient funding for the implementation of National Elephant Action Plans (NEAPs) in EPI member states.
“These action plans address various actions in support of elephant conservation and also, very importantly, the livelihoods of people and include measures to reduce human-elephant conflict and elephant poaching.

“In implementing the NEAPs and in observing EPI member state policies, we need to increase our vigilance in stemming the tide of elephant poaching incidents and the destruction of natural capital. If we value nature and the contribution of elephants to natural capital, we should not allow poaching and illegal wildlife trade to reduce that very value.”

Duke of Cambridge, Prince William said:“I am delighted to be here at your first meeting. Ever since the EPI was created four years ago, I have continued to believe it offers the best African owned approach to protecting African elephants.”Highlighting the work of the EPI and steps made since its inception, The Duke of Cambridge said: “Domestic ivory markets are closing, the international ivory trade has plummeted and government stockpiles are being put beyond commercial use.”

“Action plans embrace the United Nation’s sustainable development goals and set out a path to a sustainable future for elephants…most importantly they are your plans, they are African owned plans. They are underpinned by a common principle that ivory will not be sold commercially. They give each country ownership and control over how to manage elephant populations in your own way.”The Duke of Cambridge added: “EPI represents hope – hope that our children and future generations will be able to witness elephant populations in the wild.”

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: Chinedum Uwaegbulam via The Guardian [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].