What’s new this February?

Food is Fundamental: Farm Okukuna launched

Ground-breaking at a Pioneering Project in Goreangab

Windhoek, 22 February 2018. In the far north-west of Windhoek, on the boarder of the informal settlements of Goreangab, a visionary new project was born yesterday. Farm Okukuna wants to improve food and nutrition security in the capital’s northern settlements.

At the ground-breaking ceremony, City of Windhoek Councillor Ananias Niizimba pointed out that “Farm Okukuna will be the centre for a number of programmes, including growing food, marketing it, supporting small enterprises and entrepreneurship and – also very important – improving nutrition”. The City of Windhoek has provided the erf, is putting up fencing and will organise basic services such as security, electricity, semi-pure and fresh water.

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How to mobilise the masses: Watershed Management in Tigray

Travelling through Tigray, northern Ethiopia is a mind blowing experience for anyone with an eye for land management. Hill after hill after hill is terraced. Stones are piled up in long benches to stop water flowing off. All of this back breaking work has been done by local communities over the past 30 years.

Urban Solutions: the WFC at the WUF in Kuala Lumpur

OBOR Cities Share Experience on Regenerative Urban Development at WUF 9

8th February 2018, at the 9th World Urban Forum in Kulua Lumpur Malaysia, the World Future Council in cooperation with the Energy Foundation organized a network event to facilitate cities from One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR) countries to exchange experience on regenerative city – regeneration of energy, resource, urban ecosystem and urban space in urban development.

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Clearing the Air in India with the fresh breeze of biomass technology

Every year India struggles with natural conditions of drifting dust from the desert Thar[1] which are aggravated by human impact[2] and lead to environmentally, socially and economically costly air pollution. With the enabling policy framework, a proven technology could be part of a feasible scheme tackling all anthropogenic drivers at once – and ideally lead to a reduction of air pollution by up to 90%. 

Starting a few months ago, India’s North has made headlines when air pollution reached an air quality index (AQI) of 1,001[3] – exceeding safe levels by a multitude of ten. In the national Capital Region of Delhi alone 45 million people[4] have been affected, causing a spike in complaints of respiratory problems and an emergency state, declared by the Indian Medical Association.[5]

Even though the news around the topic subsided, the officially monitored AQI which are even higher in the proximity of roads[6] within major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, continue to range around hazardous levels[7]. Inhalation of this air is comparable to smoking several packs of cigarettes a day[8] [9] and serious respiratory effects in the general population can be expected while even putting susceptible groups at risk of premature death[10].

Figure 1: Haze over North India in late 2017. (Source: NASA, 2017)

The death toll of air pollution in India was the highest of all countries around the world with 2,5 million in 2015.[11] A global UNICEF study found recently, that over 90% of children are breathing polluted air not matching WHO guidelines and 17 million infants are exposed to levels six times the approved norms.[12] Furthermore, household air pollution was recently discovered to be insalubrious even before birth, reducing birth weight, pregnancy duration and doubling perinatal mortality[13]. This effect is owed to the burning of traditional fuels which exposes mostly women to pulmonary and vision hazards of indoor air pollution.[14]

A study conducted by the World Bank concluded: The negative health impact of outdoor air pollution alone costs India 3% of its GDP[15] which translates to an equivalent loss of roughly 35 billion Euros every year. Research found a direct impact of the atmospheric pollution on agriculture with wheat yields of 2010 being on average up to 36% lower than usual all over India due to reduced intensity of sunlight and toxic ozone reaching the plants.[16] Additionally, increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere[17] contribute to the greenhouse effect leading to more extreme and destructive weather events.

Two main causes for a myriad of manmade emission sources

In agricultural areas such as Punjab, the breadbasket of India, which singlehandedly produces 20% of India’s wheat and 10% of its rice[18], smoke blankets rise seasonally for several weeks despite a governmental ban when leftover straw stubble from mechanical harvesting is burned openly in the fields to clean the soil for new seeding [19] (see fig. 2).

Large-scale crop burning in India in 2017. (Source: Propakistani, 2016)

Then, metropolitan areas are covered by the drifting haze of crop burning in addition to the smoke of millions of wood cook stoves in and outside of the urban areas as well as countless emitters of sulfates, nitrates and black carbon such as automobiles, coal-fired power plants, incinerators, smelters or brick kilns.[20]

A comparison of several studies of Delhi shows the difficulty of solving the problem due to the relatively equal share of the main human-made sources of urban air pollution: Open burning of garbage and other diffused emitters contribute on average about a quarter, domestic or biomass burning as well as dust ranges around 15% while both traffic and industry (including coal power plants) are responsible for approximately one third.[21] [22]

However, understanding the reasons of air pollution, the interconnectedness of land and city and the amplification of fog and aerosol hazes[23] permits a vision for a future of clear skies and fresh breath. The main detrimental causes showed to be unsolvable if tackled one by one which is demonstrated by governmental emergency measures falling short every year.

Multiplying the negative causes turns into a feasible opportunity

The usually unused agricultural leftover biomass like paddy straw suddenly becomes an additional source of income for farmers as it already begins to prove itself as a viable source for power generation in rural India, offering employment for thousands of people. The calorific value per kilogram of coal and paddy straw are comparable while it burns cleanly in boilers with an efficiency as high as 99%. Combustion technology is commercialized and alone in the state of Punjab 332.5 MW of agro-waste based power projects are planned.[24]

These power plants can sell their power due to the “New & Renewable Sources of Energy Policy” and generate income under a Clean Development Mechanism while suppling millions of kWh to the grid for years. [25] Even individual households value the significant financial benefit of a carbon credit scheme which earns them up to 500 Rupees per month in a pilot project and convinces them to maintain the use of improved cook stoves.[26]

There are numerous reasons aside from health benefits for extending the understanding of sustainable cooking beyond improved cook stoves[27]. A new one is provided by a recent study, that noted villagers truly wish for cooking like in the cities – preferably with LPG which is out of reach for many due to its higher costs compared to wood.[28]  The so-called producer gas of low-cost straw-based power plants is an ideal replacement of a cleanly burning fuel, reducing indoor air pollution significantly in poor or disconnected rural and urban households alike.

Moreover, the processing of biomass and organic waste opens the opportunity of bio-oil production which can be handled exactly like a petroleum-based product to power suited diesel generators and fuel traffic in the cities.[29] This not only reduces transport emissions greatly but adds value to the commonly high share of organic waste (~30%) in Indian cities[30], attracting the informal sector in waste collection and reducing open garbage burning.

If now the government would take a leap forward by providing legislative support for this scheme in a holistic framework and additionally phase out coal power plants, manmade air pollution could ideally be reduced by roughly up to 90% through counteracting the aforementioned emission sources. In addition to environmental and social health improvements, the positive economic impact would be substantial: An IRENA study estimated a total benefit of 59 to 224 billion USD in savings following a restructuring of the power sector.[31] India’s INDC target of 40% renewable energy in 2030 is a promising step into the right direction.[32]


– written by Lisa Harseim –

[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84731
[2] http://www.urbanemissions.info/inc/uploads/images/PMSA-Delhi-UEinfo-2013-Study.png
[3] https://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=91240
[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/asia/delhi-pollution-gas-chamber.html?mc=adintl&mcid=facebook&mccr=edit&ad-keywords=GlobalTruth
[5] https://www.visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=86982
[6] http://www.dw.com/en/study-offers-new-insight-into-new-delhis-air-pollution-woes/a-18105674
[7] http://clonewdelhi.com/custom/AQI/missionindiaaqi.php#
[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/asia/delhi-pollution-gas-chamber.html?mc=adintl&mcid=facebook&mccr=edit&ad-keywords=GlobalTruth
[9] http://www.theweek.in/columns/shashi-tharoor/dont-hold-your-breath.html
[10] https://www.visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=86982
[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/asia/delhi-pollution-gas-chamber.html?mc=adintl&mcid=facebook&mccr=edit&ad-keywords=GlobalTruth
[12] http://cleancookstoves.org/about/news/01-04-2018-new-study-shows-clean-cooking-can-lead-to-increased-birth-weight-in-newborns.html
[13] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412017312448
[14] https://www.solarquarter.com/index.php/resources/83-industry-reports/6245-remap-renewable-energy-prospects-for-india
[15] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/07/17/india-green-growth-necessary-and-affordable-for-india-says-new-world-bank-report
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4246269/
[17] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-2014-5_4#page-1
[18] https://www.visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=86982
[19] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-5055737/Crop-burning-ban-goes-flames-Punjab-Haryana.html
[20] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84731
[21] http://www.dw.com/en/study-offers-new-insight-into-new-delhis-air-pollution-woes/a-18105674
[22] www.urbanemissions.info
[23] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84731
[24] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-2014-5_4#page-1
[25] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-2014-5_4#page-1
[27] https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/file/2016/10/WFC_BeyondFire_web-version.pdf
[28] https://www.povertyactionlab.org/evaluation/cooking-stoves-indoor-air-pollution-and-respiratory-health-india
[29] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-81-322-2014-5_4#page-1
[30] http://www.academia.edu/6034600/State_of_municipal_solid_waste_management_in_Delhi_the_capital_of_India
[31] http://www.irena.org/publications/2017/May/Renewable-Energy-Prospects-for-India
[32] http://www.ren21.net/gsr-2017/pages/tables/tables/#table-R15

January News of the WFC

Dear Friends & Supporters,

A happy and prosperous new year to all our subscribers! It was a great start to the year for us, as we could welcome a new member of the Management Board: Johanna Dillig joined the WFC as Head of Operations.

Policymakers gather to share child rights best practice on protection and participation in Zanzibar

From the 28 – 30 November the World Future Council (WFC) hosted an international child rights conference in Zanzibar to explore the positive impacts of Zanzibar’s Children’s Act and share success stories on child protection, child friendly justice and participation from around the world. Representatives of ministries and policymakers from 12 countries, mainly from Africa and Asia, alongside experts on children’s rights and representatives from civil society drew up the Zanzibar Declaration on Securing Children’s Rights, committing themselves to taking strong action to eradicate all forms of violence against girls and boys. The assembly greatly benefited from the expertise and passion of two WFC Councillors Dr. Gertrude Ibengwé Mongella, former President of the Pan-African Parliament and Dr. Auma Obama, Chair and Founder of the Sauti Kuu Foundation.

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When good laws change lives

Securing Child Rights in Zanzibar

Some of the loudest applause at our recent international gathering of child rights policy-makers in Zanzibar came after the representative from Indonesia took to the floor to list his key priorities for progress on child rights law: “implementation, implementation and implementation!” he boomed to a receptive audience. That this struck a chord with the assembled delegates is testament to the long history of good laws on paper and poor on-the-ground enactment that still plagues child rights policies around the world. It was to tackle this problem that over 100 participants from 15 countries were gathered by the World Future Council in Zanzibar last month, eager to learn and share best practice. We came to see for ourselves how this semi-autonomous island region of Tanzania had made some decisive moves to deliver real progress in how children experience justice and protection.

School girls in Zanzibar City

This was well illustrated by a series of field trips our visiting international legislators made to Zanzibar’s new or improved child rights institutions. One of the striking things you immediately notice is the child-friendly atmosphere that has been created throughout the system. At the new Children’s Court murals adorn the walls, staff dress in civilian clothes and closed circuit video links mean young people can give evidence in a non-threatening environment. The new One Stop Centres, which comprise a 3-room unit of plain clothed police officers, medical personnel and counsellors who provide health, legal and psychosocial services to survivors of violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, reduce the trauma of victims of abuse to a minimum while streamlining the collection of evidence and the provision of care.

Conselling room in Zanzibar, specially designed for children who became victims of violence

Another clear feature of the system is coordination. The National Child Protection Unit (NCPU), is the coordinating agency responsible for the implementation of the national strategy. A small team coordinates responses across governmental sectors (social welfare, health, education, justice, etc.), and involves civil society, international agencies, families and children to ensure that child justice and protection is being delivered effectively. Similarly a new Child Rights Centre serves as a hub for civil society organisations working in the field of child rights, identifying gaps in training and filling them. From here the ‘Baba Bora’ (“good father”) campaign is run to engage fathers, men and boys in changing attitudes and behaviours toward women and children, promote gender equality and transform traditional beliefs and norms in order to promote non-violence. The campaign has got the islanders talking with local exhibitions on children’s views on positive parenting, public debates and even a popular R&B song promoting the message.


Of course, there is much still to do in Zanzibar to fully operationalise its child rights laws and action plans and ensure that the rights of children are truly safeguarded. But for many of us who have seen the system first-hand, the innovations and progress made were impressive, particularly given Zanzibar’s limited resources. If anything, it is the system-wide approach that can serve as a model for others. So why has similar progress been so slow in some other parts of the region?


“Because children don’t vote often the political class ignores them altogether”

Part of the answer is certainly the cost. Across the African continent, children represent close 50% of the population, but this does not translate into them becoming a priority in national planning and resourcing decisions. In fact as Dr. Nkatha Murungi from the African Child Policy Forum noted “Because children don’t vote often the political class ignores them altogether”. When there is funding and resourcing available, too much is dependent on external development partners.

Young people deserve a chance. Zanzibar has a number of places to go for young people if they have become victims of violence and abuse, or if they want to escape from violent environments.

Child protection services in the context of Africa require long term and sustainable investment in the social welfare workforce and developing an effective system and this doesn’t come cheap. The Zanzibar national plan of action will cost $4m annually over the next four years. But it’s clear that adequate budgeting is a crucial instrument for advancing the survival, protection and development of children, particularly in the case in Africa where there are huge unmet needs for access to basic services.

It’s also clear that there can be no better way of spending resources, no matter how scarce, than on our youngest citizens. After all investing in children is investing in the success of our collective future. Whether nations and societies grow and prosper will depend to a large extent on the health, education, protection and the ideas and innovations of the coming generations. We have a huge opportunity to make progress on child rights through the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) whether on poverty (Goal 1), hunger (Goal 2), health (Goal 3), education (Goal 4), gender equality (Goal 5), climate change (Goal 13) or violence against children (Goal 16.2). There’s also no time to lose; 1 year is 6% of a childhood. Any delay in protecting their interests is a lost opportunity. Let’s get to it!



This article by Jakob von Uexull was originally posted on his HuffPost blog

December News of the WFC

Dear Friends & Supporters,

We had a busy month of December, with a high-level conference on securing children's rights in Zanzibar, with some 100 participants from across Africa and Asia. With the Zanzibar Declaration, the signatories have made a strong commitment to securing and implementing the rights of the children. Find out more about it in this newsletter!

As this year is coming to an end, we would like to thank you for your support and your interest in our work in 2017! We wish you a most enjoyable festive season, and a happy and peaceful 2018!