By Lebo Matshego, www.africa.com
Agriculture has the potential to lift the continent out of poverty and hunger, as well as contribute to the continent’s overall GDP. It is estimated that about 60% of the world’s available and unexploited cropland is in Sub-Saharan Africa, with small-scale farming forming the bulk of agricultural activity.
The major growth of this sector lies in government providing extensive support in the form of finance for small scale farmers to access land, skills and business knowledge and the necessary technology required to ramp up production beyond personal use, as well as providing stable markets, organizational structures and improved infrastructure.
In turn, this will not only improve the continent’s food security, but will also contribute to organic farming, which involves natural methods in crop cultivation and animal rearing. This will minimize pollution and accumulation of waste, and will be ecologically sustainable as farmers avoid synthetic substances to maintain soil fertility and the use of petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, making food healthier for people to consume.
POWER GENERATED FROM ALTERNATIVE SOURCES
The demand for off-grid power has soared over the past decade, with predictions from Bloomberg New Energy Finance that more than 100 million households will be powered by solar panels by the year 2020. Africa is home to more than one billion people, and is experiencing massive urbanization as populations move to the cities for mostly economic opportunities. This is increasing demand for reliable and affordable power.
Projects such as Morocco’s Noor Complex solar power plant, alternative power startups such as Kenya’s M-KOPA, a pay-as-you-go solar power provider, and musician Akon’s solar power project Akon Lighting Africa, show that the continent is realizing the benefit of capitalizing on its natural resources to generate power at the lowest cost possible to consumers.
Currently, power production from gas in Mozambique could boost the country’s economy by 24 percent from 2021 to 2025 according to the International Monetary Fund, and the KivuWatt gas-water extraction project in Rwanda is the only gas-water extraction project operating in the world, and is expected to produce 100 megawatts within three years as it extracts gas found in the lake’s deep waters to generate low-carbon emission power, doubling its generation capacity.
GREEN MALLS AND PUBLIC SPACES
The continent has seen a significant rise in the development of shopping malls as the African middle class has increased along with the migration of people from rural areas into the cities. Africa’s
population is quite young, with over 50% of people being under the age of 25, and this aspirational group has created a market for mall culture along with the rising buying power of women, who account for more than half of Africa’s population. Mall culture has grown not only due to its aspirational and cool factor, but also due to its convenience for the time-stripped consumer.
With the demand for malls increasing, building eco-friendly malls won’t only have a positive impact on the environment, but will be more affordable in the long run in terms of power and water, and it will also have a social ‘cool’ factor as shoppers will be keen to associate themselves with new and innovate social spaces. Features of a green mall includes double-glazed windows that allow maximum natural light while blocking much of the sun’s heat, rainwater harvesting systems, motion detectors to keep led lights and escalators on minimal power when not in use and solar panels on the roof to generate power.
Eco-friendly home construction techniques could include things like mud-bricks, which are created with mud and are easily recyclable, low E-windows which regulate the temperature inside the home through the use of metallic oxide on the windows, lumber created from recycled wood and plastic, which is more durable and less toxic than conventional treated lumber and lime, which is more workable than cement and is also anti-bacterial, resistant to ultra-violet light and does not trap in moisture. Insulation for homes can include natural products such as flax, hemp or wood fibre, which are better for the environment and for people’s health as they are free from chemical fire retardants, adhesives and other additives.
Other features that can make a home eco-friendly includes installing solar panels, which means that homes are off the grid, saving the consumer money on electricity, installing a low-flow or dual-flusher toilet to save water, installing LED light bulbs and installing water-saving shower heads.
Transportation that is powered by electricity and has zero emissions is a growing trend on the continent. Ugandan-based Kiira Motors have joined the ranks of Tesla and Hyundai by creating Africa’s first hybrid vehicle called the Kiira Smack, which is a petrol-electric hybrid car that can hit speeds of more than 60 mph while running for 4 to 5 hours on a full battery.
The same company also created the Kayoola, which is a solar-powered electric bus, the first of its kind in East Africa. The continent could benefit from electric cars, with the biggest benefit being that consumers won’t rely on inconstant petrol prices due to oil prices and maintenance costs would be cheaper, which in the long run, would make it more affordable for motorists and commuters who use public transport.
Solar power would make it easier for car batteries to be charged affordably and efficiently, including portable solar power which would make it convenient for motorists to recharge on-the-go.
ENVIRO-FRIENDLY, ETHICAL FASHION
The continent has an array of designers that not only produce fashion that is distinctly African, but that also creates jobs, contributes to empowerment at grassroots level and is environmentally sustainable.
When it comes to fashion, eco-friendly is regarded as fabrics that are not grown with harmful chemicals, or fabrics that use minimal water such as hemp and bamboo and are dyed with vegetable dye and not harmful chemical dyes.
Some fashion brands on the continent are already moving in the eco-friendly direction, including Woolworths, who have a range of ‘green’ jeans that are made from recycled plastic and polyester, ASOS Africa, which creates contemporary collections which abide by fair trade regulations and are produced and sourced in Kenya in collaboration with SOKO, which is a self-sustaining manufacturing business with a strong focus on fair wages and environmental sustainability, and SoleRebels, which is a footwear company that is the world’s first Fairtrade Certified footwear by the World Fair Trade Organization founded in 2004 by Ethiopian artisan Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu.
GO-GO GREEN GADGETS
Being able to charge your phone with a solar powered battery charger or viewing your favourite programmes on a power-saving television not only has a ‘cool’ factor to it, but is proving to be essential to conserving power and curbing environmental waste.
Africa could see a rise in solar powered batteries to recharge gadgets such as phones and cameras, which is great for travelling individuals and economical for all, eco-smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate, which is partly created from recycled materials, and eco-friendly electronics, such as the Philips Econova TV, which auto adjusts to zero wattage mode when turned off, is made from recycled material and has a solar-powered remote for the TV.
Africa’s landfills are fast filling up with waste, with numbers sitting on approximately 10,000 metric tons of waste each day in Lagos, Nigeria and 108 million tons each year in South Africa. Waste can be reduced with recycling, and benefits of recycling include reducing land and water pollution, reducing carbon emissions from producing more products and creating jobs in the form of creating a sustainable recycling industry.
Everything from plastic, cotton and tyres can be recycled and repurposed to produce new goods, which will assist the continent in creating locally manufactured products such as fashion items.
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