Monday, September 27, 2010

Foreign officials study Santa Fe water policy

Representatives from Jordan, Sudan, Botswana, Pakistan, Yemen and Romania spent a couple of days in Santa Fe, part of a three-week tour they are taking to explore water management and policies. They started their tour, hosted by the U.S. State Department, in Washington, D.C., and go next to San Francisco and Chicago. Officials from six countries visited with Santa Fe water managers this week, hoping to learn how the City Different protects and manages that precious natural resource.

Communities in their countries are dealing with some water challenges similar to those in Santa Fe. Residents in some of their countries use a lot less water than all but the most droplet-pinching Santa Feans.

In Jordan, where each person lives on about 25 gallons of water a day, the government is still concerned about depleting water supplies. "We're hoping to learn more about ways to manage our limited water resources and avoid environmental problems," said Abeer Albalawneh, a water and environmental researcher with the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension in Jordan.

Yemen is totally dependent on groundwater, and 90 percent is used for agriculture. In Botswana, the concern is how to balance human needs with the health of rivers and their watersheds, according to Geofrey Michael Khwarae, water component manager at the University of Botswana. It is a subject familiar to Santa Fe, which is struggling to ensure future water supplies to residents while trying to revive a dying river.

Sudan has plenty of water in the rainy season, but no good way to capture and conserve it during the dry months, according to Eisa Osman Sharief, director general of the Ministry of Social Development for the South Kardofan State. His interest was learning how to help communities organize to develop their water resources and construct more reservoirs.

And in Pakistan, where people live with a devastating cycle of floods and droughts, water managers want to figure better ways to protect and enhance water supplies. "Pakistan is very vulnerable to climate change," said Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, head of the Climate Change Study Center of Pakistan's Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

After a couple of days in Santa Fe, Ramay said he was interested in the idea of "community ownership" as part of water management and said that he learned more about ways of resolving disputes at the community level. Like Santa Fe and many other places in the U.S., he said, his country is "struggling to handle the wastage of water."

Romania has water resources. The Danube flows through the country. But officials are grappling with water pollution and the protection of ecologically diverse wetlands in a country that has little understanding of environmental issues, said Livia Cimpoeru, editor in chief of the Green Report, an environmental magazine in Bucharest.

The group toured the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, acequias, and Cochiti Pueblo during its visit. Claudia Borchert, Santa Fe's water-resource coordinator, gave the group a primer on water rights and water use in New Mexico. Their trip in Santa Fe was coordinated by the Council on International Relations.


Water usage per capita per day

Santa Fe: 100 gallons

Jordan: 25 gallons

Yemen: 33 gallons

Sudan: 15 gallons

Updated at 2:49 p.m. Sept. 22.
Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or

Photo caption: Mark Ryan, second from right, board engineer with CDM, a national environmental engineering firm, takes a group of water managers and climate officials from the drought-prone countries of Yemen, Jordan, Romania, Sudan, Botswana and Pakistan on a tour Tuesday of the new treatment plant for the Buckman Direct Diversion Project. - Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Join Our Next Climate Webchat: “Individual Action, Global Impact”

Climate change requires action on all fronts, and there are things everyone can do to make a difference.

In a September 29 webchat with students and participants worldwide, will present two speakers who believe in grassroots power. Both are helping people make changes in their lives and communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve their local environment.

Gabe Klein, director of Washington’s Department of Transportation, will discuss changes he’s pushed to get commuters in the U.S. capital out of their cars and onto bikes, buses and trains. Many of these initiatives are coming as much from the ground up as from the mayor’s office.

The second speaker, Ranjeet Walunj, will discuss The Sapling Project, a social media–based campaign that snowballed from a small tree-planting project in Mumbai to a nationwide movement to green India’s cities.

The online gathering, scheduled for 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT) September 29, is titled “Individual Action, Global Impact.” It’s the second program in this season’s climate webchat series sponsored by the U.S. State Department to build a dialogue and spread knowledge about climate change — an issue that affects people worldwide.

Children and women in Chennai, India, show saplings they will plant to green their city.If you’d like to participate, go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.
com/climatechange. No registration is needed.

Simply choose “Enter as a Guest,” type in your preferred screen name and join the discussion. We accept questions and comments in advance of and at any time during the program.

The online conversations allow people on every continent to interact with climate change experts and activists from the U.S. government, the nonprofit sector and grassroots organizations in the United States and beyond.

We hope you’ll also make it to one of our upcoming programs. All start at 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT) the day of the webchat (8 a.m. EST, 13:00 GMT after November 7).

“Can We Slow Down Climate Change?”
Date: Wednesday, October 13
Speaker: Rick Duke, deputy assistant secretary for climate policy, U.S. Department of Energy

“Adapting to a Changing Climate”
Date: Wednesday, October 27
Speaker: Jennifer Kurz, outreach director, U.S. Climate Action Network

“COP 16: Collaborating on Climate Change”
Date: Wednesday, November 10
Speaker: Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate change, U.S. Department of State

Read more:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Global Effort to Address One of Worst Overall Health Risks in Developing World

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions that will save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change. The Alliance will work to tackle the severe health, economic, and environmental consequences associated with smoke from traditional cook stoves and open fires used by over half the world’s population. According to the World Health Organization, toxic smoke from cookstoves is one of the top five health risks in poor developing countries and prematurely kills nearly 2 million people each year.

In an unprecedented and coordinated effort by the United States and our partners to address this challenge, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will mobilize key financial resources, top experts, and research and development tools to help the Alliance achieve its “100 by 20” target -- 100 million households adopting clean cookstoves by 2020. The initial U.S. financial commitment to the Alliance is $50.82 million over the next 5 years.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves will work in cooperation with other leading international nonprofit organizations, foundations, academic institutions, corporate leaders, governments, UN agencies, local NGO’s, women’s civil society groups and community members to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world.

For more information on the Alliance, go to or

Secretary Clinton on Clean Cookstoves Initiative


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
With John Broder of the New York Times

September 20, 2010
Via Telephone
New York, New York

QUESTION: Give me, in your words, a sense of the scope of the problem we’re addressing here tomorrow with this cookstove initiative. What – globally, what is the nature and the size of the problem, and how are you going to go about attacking it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is one of those problems that has enormous implications for the environment, for women, for the health of populations that use the cookstove, because exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires accounts for nearly 2 million premature deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. And it also has a very serious impact on the environment. So while we’re looking at some of the large issues that we know affect climate change, we’re not always focused on what people do every day that pollutes the climate and emits carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon.

So this is a global alliance that will advocate and operationalize the campaign for clean cookstoves by establishing stove standards and field-testing leading technologies and encourage applied research to create a cleaner cookstove and look for innovative financing tools and market influence through creating supplies that will lead to the diminution of all of the problems that we see with cookstoves.

So it’s a win-win. And the United States has decided that it’s such an important initiative that we are contributing $50 million over the next five years: It’s a whole-of-government approach, because it’s not only the State Department, it’s EPA, and USAID and the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And we will partner with other governments and the private sector in getting this alliance off the ground.

QUESTION: Given – and I’ve had a couple of background conversations with people at EPA and at the UN Foundation. But given the scope of the problem, we’re talking about as many as 500 million households worldwide cook using these methods and are exposed to this indoor pollution, billions of people, literally. Fifty million dollars sounds like a fairly small amount of money. How are you going to leverage this into the kind of major impact that you’re looking to accomplish?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it won’t only be U.S. Government money. We have 20 founding partners of the alliance, from the United Nations Foundation to the Shell Foundation to Germany and Norway and other governments, along with private sector contributors. So we’re expecting a lot of financial assistance and technical expertise to come from all of the partners in the alliance. And like anything, we have to start somewhere. We think that the sector that cookstoves is part of, namely everyday activities of individuals, is amenable to a sustainable solution on a global scale if we all unify our efforts.

And I think that the commitment that we’ve seen coming from so many others around the world suggests that we have a fighting chance here. So when we make the announcement tomorrow at the Clinton Global Initiative, there will be a representative sampling of those countries that are already attempting their own national cookstove programs, like Peru, that has recognized this as a national problem, as well as others who can help create a market for clean cookstoves. I mean, the fact is that we have to provide an alternative to what people are so used to doing.

QUESTION: Right. I know I’ve only got a couple more minutes of your time. But is this an environmental issue? Is this a health issue? Is this a women’s empowerment issue? I mean, is –

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s all of the above.

QUESTION: -- microfinance? Yeah, I know.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it truly is all of the above, which makes it such a good subject for a coordinated global approach, because some people do come to it from the health perspective like in our own government, NIH and CDC. Some come to it from the environmental perspective, like EPA and DOE. Some of us see it as a cross-cutting issue that is unique because it also has tremendous impact on women, particularly vulnerable women in conflict zones and refugee camps who have to spend so much of their time out looking for either wood or dung or some other fuel.

So I think that what makes this a really attractive option is that as we saw in the ‘80s with the first global efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Africa, and then in the ‘90s to address malaria, this is an opportunity to bring many different forces to bear, all of whom have a reason for supporting the alliance and can supplement the work that others are doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the Clinton Global Initiative itself going to be an active participant in this alliance, or are they just sort of providing the venue for you to make this announcement tomorrow? Is this a Bill and Hillary deal?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they are actively supporting it because it also affects their – the health and environmental work that is done through CGI. And of course, the way CGI works is that you enlist private sector partners from the not-for-profit and business community as we’ve done here, and then CGI, since it’s going to be announced at CGI, will be an active participant in making sure that people carry forward on their commitments. And we’re obviously committed to doing our part in the federal government, but we also want to be sure that all of the partners step up and deliver on what they’re claiming to do tomorrow.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks. I really appreciate your reaching out to me.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your interest in this, John. I mean, this is one of these issues that I think is maybe a little bit of a sleeper issue, but with very (inaudible) implications.

QUESTION: Well, once we start looking at the numbers – and we have written about the black carbon problem and the cookstoves and that relationship. But I didn’t realize there were 2 million premature deaths a year and that it’s the third or fourth environmentally caused factor in deaths in the developing world, and now I do.

All right –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. Thank you for your interest.

QUESTION: Have a great day. All right, good luck today.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Businessman in Chicago Launches Solar Ovens in Uganda

Washington — An immigrant from Uganda now residing in Chicago has used the first portion of a $100,000 business competition prize he won in January to begin setting up an operation in his homeland to produce and distribute ovens that cook with the heat of the sun.

Ron Mutebi won his $100,000 prize at the African Diaspora Marketplace competition in Washington in January. The competition, sponsored by Western Union Company and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided awards of $50,000 to $100,000 to 14 winners. All of them are Africans residing in the United States who had submitted proposals to establish or expand businesses in their home countries with local partners.

After Western Union disbursed $60,000 of the prize money in May, Mutebi arranged to ship from Chicago the components for 365 solar ovens and tools to assemble them in July. The shipment is scheduled to arrive in Uganda in October. In November, Mutebi will travel to Uganda to oversee the completion of an assembly plant and the training of staff to produce, distribute and service the cookers, made by Sun Ovens International in Elgin, Illinois. The ovens will appear in Ugandan markets in January 2011, according to Mutebi.

Mutebi has already compiled a list of nearly 1,000 people who want to buy one of the ovens, which he said will be sold for $170 each.

“We know the payoff is going to be there. It will be big when it happens,” Mutebi said. “There is no other technology that can have such an impact on environmental degradation and global warming in a practical sense.”

After acquiring solar ovens, villagers will not have to spend their meager incomes to buy firewood or charcoal, the prime sources of cooking fuel in Uganda, Mutebi said. The use of firewood and charcoal has caused widespread deforestation in Uganda.

Mutebi will arrange a second shipment of oven parts when he receives the rest of the prize money, which he expects to be in November.

The Chicago-based businessman said that as Ugandan companies start to provide locally made components over the next two years, he expects the cost of the ovens to come down to about $100, a 41 percent drop in price but still a substantial sum for many Ugandans, whose per capita income is $1,200 per year.

His biggest challenge to growing the business, he said, is the high interest rates that Ugandan banks charge for consumer loans — around 24 percent. Mutebi said he is looking for ways to allow oven purchasers to buy on installment. “We can’t run a business sustainably the way we want to because of the lack of support from financial institutions,” he said.

Mutebi also is looking at nonmonetary methods for villagers to buy an oven.

For example, as Mutebi explains it, a Ugandan farmer may plant fruit trees on his land in exchange for an oven. The trees would be Mutebi’s property. The farmer and his family would be free to consume the fruit, but Mutebi would have rights to harvest and sell the surplus. This way, he said, “the ovens not only will stop deforestation but also will promote planting of new trees. Farmers will have an economic incentive to do this.”

Since winning the prize, Mutebi has spoken on frequent occasions about entrepreneurship in Africa. He was a featured speaker at the Africa Infrastructure Conference, sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa in April in Washington, and at President Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders in August.

“I am blessed to have this opportunity to bring solar ovens to my people. I’m helping alleviate poverty and global warming and make a profit at the same time,” Mutebi said.