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  • 08 Jun 2016
    Who said environment is all things around us? Well, dating back to primary school days, teachers used to stress it like that; but does it include “us”- I mean if it’s all things around us, are we part of it or it’s part of us? What happens if people choose to focus on improving their economic status without considering anything around them, does it matter? At least we all know what has ensued in most of those countries that have done their “thing” without the chains of environmental sustainability- examples include European countries, China and the rest. One common feature on these countries is development which is a long distance away from Africa. Is Africa special, like one of those last-borns who have to be treated in some exceptional way regardless of whether it impedes their ability to learn by themselves? This and more was discussed in the second PAUWES debate held at the institute as we take the lead in building future African leaders.How it happenedAfter opening remarks by the head of subject matter team Mr. Andrew Mugumya, the debate was presided over by Ms. Eva Kimonye. The first speaker from proposers Mr. George Kimboowa took the stage. He started by defining sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without hindering the future. He pointed out that sustainability can be viewed in 2 different angles, i.e. ecological point of view and raw material supply. “No one is against economic growth but rather we have to handle it with care”. He acknowledged the fact that economic development is important but it feeds on the environment like a baby and mother. So, to ensure unlimited resource use, environmental sustainability should be put in the light first. He edified the audience about the advantages that come along with proper handling of the environment and how its negligence will drive this beautiful world to doom. He critiqued the research writings of Kenneth Arrow- 1998 that seemingly enforce the sense of “pollute first, clean up later”. “There is no clear evidence that emission levels will fall after countries become richer, generally it’s not clear how the reverse of the effects can be achieved”, he asserted. In a declining voice he called for a first place consideration of environmental sustainability before economic growth - submitted and left the floor. The second speaker, Mr. Martin Lyambai took the stage, he started by defining the environment as the air we breathe. He criticized the world order of consuming more in the name of becoming rich as this leads to depletion of resources and the repercussions are rather intolerable. He gave a case of deforestation happening in the world today, “Over 2 million acres every year are cleared! Look people, the carbon sink is going” he attested. Lake Chad is no more because the people prioritized economic development over the environment. He pointed out how it’s harder than the most expensive diamond today to find people fetching water from wells and rivers, yet it used to be the case some years back. He blamed all this to the copious pollution that has rendered well waters unclean for consumption. He went ahead to point out how the future is important and for that matter it’s imperative that environment sustainability should be at the fore front. A case for Canada selling breathing air to China was pointed out as one of the aftermaths of neglecting the environment to the expense of economic growth. Criticizing the scientific argument of recreating the environment, he added his voice to the believers that such is not possible. He pointed out the Kenya case of nuclear power development, alleging that this is not a sustainable solution to solve energy problems in this beautiful country because the risks are high! Giving an example of Chernobyl and other parts of the world where the effects of nuclear live on still up to date. “Environment has a long term economic growth but it’s worth it, if we don’t realize this, we’re going to cause more challenges for this beautiful planet” he stated. Flooding due to hydropower dams are some of the problems of fronting economic growth. He pointed out how the world is running out of very many precious plant species that would provide healing for the ever developing diseases. Opposers The first speaker from the opposers, Mr. Rolex Muceka- in his opening remarks, “For Africa economic growth should be paramount more than environmental sustainability”. “Look at the people in Africa! Dying of curable diseases because of lack of good hospitals to handle such cases.” Underscoring Tanzania as one of the countries where environment is considered first, he highlighted that people lack land for farming because the fertile soils are preserved. He asserted that a focus on the African scenarios makes it clear that there is a paradox; people are dying because of poverty, poor standards of living, insufficient food supply and many other related issues because the arable land that could be utilized for agriculture is being preserved in the name of environmental sustainability. He posed questions to the audience whose answers no one was ready to give. Is human life less important than the environment? What happened to the coined statements of “environment is everything around us”? If humans are part of the environment why are they left to perish in the name of environmental sustainability? He went ahead to point out economic statistics about Africa, “Three quarters of the people in Africa are poor, they live under 9$ earnings per month yet the continent is among the richest - endowed with significant quantities of resources”. Africa has the lowest GDP with a GDP that is less than that of china as a country! - humbling facts!In his concluding statements, he made it crystal clear that before one starts talking about environmental sustainability, there is a need to recognize that empowerment of economic growth is very crucial for Africa’s case. With 83% unemployment rates, you can’t start singing a boring song about how sweet the environment is. There is a need to focus on what we have and exploit our resources to the fullest. He submitted and left the floor for next speaker Mr. Cuthbert Taguta.He started by decrying the economies of African countries that are mainly characterized by accumulating debts, problems of trade balance and overdependence. He stressed that African countries are being used as ponies in a big game because borrowed money comes with leverages and costs. In his view, Africa should shift her focus to resource exploitation. “Taking a case of developed countries, none of them made it through borrowing, why should Africa take another route we’re not certain of? “, he said. The abundance of resources in Africa, water, minerals and the rest, should we live it to perish because the environment is more important than dying and starving people! Truth is we’re losing much by not exploiting our resources- we really need that money. If people are part of the environment as it’s claimed then you should take care of them first through economic growth.Who should determine the level of environmental sustainability for Africa? We should come up with our own set of rules. According to UN, some of the things that have kept Africa in abject poverty is not utilizing the resources they have. No one is against economic development but there ought to be an approach that caters for environment as well as economic growth. Proper planning is the issue here. He submitted and left the floor. Reaction from AudienceAmong the speakers from the audience, there was one who doesn’t mince words! He rejected the whole idea of environmental sustainability referring to it as a fallacy that was started by a famous Canadian Maurice Strong. He stressed that Maurice strong started spreading the gospel of environmental sustainability after he realized his retirement time had come yet he didn’t have enough in his pocket. He went ahead to clarify that no country has developed among the path everyone is talking about (environment first). Who would want to take a path that has never been taken by anyone? I am sure not many but there is. What is the cost of the environment? What is the cost of human life? Tough questions to answer!From the audience still, one speaker gave a case of a poor man dying because of lack of medication; you want to tell me that it’s ok for that man to die yet he has trees he could probably cut and sell for firewood. Africa is hungry! Should we stop exploiting the rivers we have? Ofcourse not!!In conclusion,The fact is, economic growth and environmental sustainability are both important and for proper performance of countries, it’s important that a holistic approach that handles both is devised for the point that none of them can exist in isolation without problems. For this we should not put a price tag on the environment instead we need policy makers and proper leaders to incorporate economic growth and environmental sustainability. As the editorial team, we take this opportunity to thank the entire students’ body and the different COP teams for making this debate happen. @Editorial_team
    2427 Posted by Tonny Kukeera
  • 10 Apr 2016
    In a bid to fight global warming, reduction of emissions to the atmosphere was cited to be the most impeccable solution. Many techniques and scientific innovations have been put up by some of the world’s brilliant minds, ranging from creating all sorts of electric vehicles to converting carbon dioxide to concrete through the intervention of 3-D printing. Very interesting and truly inspiring, isn’t it? Well my innovation is also in the pipeline, I saw what global warming did to the ice cover in Antarctica and how that white bear was suffering. The point is everyone has a role to play, It’s either we stand now and fight global warming or our grandchildren live amid the direful calamities of the time.There are various ways in which companies are endeavoring to reduce the carbon footprint, as stated of particular interest in this article are the electric vehicles. What are they? Do they work when power goes off? Are they the heaven sent solution for the world’s emissions problem and hence warming of the globe? During the spring school in Germany, I and fellow energy students had an opportunity to attend a presentation by one of the electric vehicle (EV) specialists from Ford, I must say it was one of the best I have ever had about cars, one of those presentations where you feel everything has been driven home thoroughly and in the end the only question you’d ask is, “How are you?” – You know what am talking about. Some of the important points to note about EVs other than being expensive is, they’re of different types; Hybrid Electric, Plug-in Hybrid Electric, Battery Electric and Fuel Cell Electric. Those with hybrid systems use both gasoline and electricity while those without use electricity entirely and for that matter you need some charging. As I mentioned earlier these cars are quite not cheap until recently when Tesla, one of the company gurus in the EV field unveiled the Tesla Model 3 Electric car. It is said that this is the cheapest of its kind and goes for 35,000 USD. More than 200,000 customers forwarded orders, it’s cheap after all- its ok you might want to disagree with me on that. This is good news for the company (definitely they're making profits) and the world at large because at least the prices of the EVs are falling to the ones seemingly affordable.Back ground check, according to IPCC the transportation sector (14%) is in the fourth position after industry sector (21%), agriculture and land use (24%), electricity and heat production (25%) respectively, among the contributors to the global greenhouse gas emissions. I believe by these figures you can imagine how much emissions EVs are saving this beautiful world. Well you might need to rethink meticulously through it, now one would argue it out and jump to a conclusion that they don't use oil, and hence they're clean. But remember, you have to charge them and you need electricity to do that. What are the sources of that electricity for charging? Don't EVs fortify the need for more energy to fuel them? Doesn't this have an impact on the amount of fossil fuels like coal to be burnt to support the growing industry? I mean processing and manufacturing of all the kinds of cells and the vehicle materials, how much more emissions are produced? Should we say that all these emissions are compensated by the time they spend in use after manufacture? And if so, are we not biting our tails? Yes, EVs do probably contribute to the reduction of emissions but to what extent? It's possible that a bigger carbon footprint is left by these cars in the long run than the conventional cars. Let's say that is true, aren't there ways to perhaps reduce the emissions by the conventional cars and making them more efficient? May be there is or may be there isn't but it’s challenging to know now because the focus of the world on such is being shifted and oriented towards more lucrative choices. It's not evil but if in any case it involves sacrificing the generation of our children and grandchildren for profitable choices now, then it is. I think our main focus as the world should be on how to change the energy sources and use environmentally friendly sources, along with finding efficient ways to use the available energy other than looking for more ways to consume it. It’s important that we don't jump the queue of the energy chain. “I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it” – Abraham Lincoln, I hope this write up triggers some good thinking in you about Electric cars.
    1722 Posted by Tonny Kukeera
  • 21 Jun 2016
    A day ago, the world refugees’ day was commemorated, the whole world took a moment to reflect on the agony experienced by men, women and children who suffer for the crimes they did not commit! If my voice was loud enough, I would vouch for a week of commemoration to remember them. Regrettably I don’t have the power to, nevertheless I do believe that the little we can, we must do. I choose to write about the refugees’ status in Africa in commemoration of our brothers and sisters whose dreams have been shattered to merely finding a place to stay. In Africa, people have moved for the past very many years in search for asylum and security. This has become so part of us that it is viewed as the new normal. Many African countries have been blanketed in wars for the past 25 years. Somalia is one of the countries in Africa that have long suffered from such civil wars. Since 1991, the country has been devastated by the constant mass shootings and people displacements. A total of 1.1 million internal displacement camps has been registered since the latest date (December 2015). Like Somalia, the case is not any different for South-Sudan, the youngest nation in Africa. Destruction of property, loss of lives and very hard living conditions force men, women and children to trek long distances in search for better and safer conditions. This trekking is made more difficult by the poor road systems, harsh weather conditions and insecurities from the surrounding forests and bushes that harbor dangerous wild animals. According to UNHCR, over 1.69 million people have been internally displaced in South-Sudan and 0.64 million people have fled the country to the neighboring countries. For every human, survival is a virtue and a right to life is an obligation. Therefore it is imperative that refugees are welcomed amicably with open hands, a sign that gives hope to them especially the young for they are the future generation. The UNHCR and other organizations have put efforts together to set up camps as new homes for refugees. This has been done in the neighboring countries and in regions outside the warzones. However, camps cannot be looked at as the silver bullet to solve the refugee crisis that is escalated by the persistent wars every now and then. There is a need to examine the causes from the source and seek sustainable solutions. Life in resettlement camps gets difficult with time as internal and external conflicts start grooming up, shortage of medical services, food and water. In the neighboring countries, camps later become a liability as there is a constant need to finance and manage them with help from the host governments, before a decision is made to resettle the displaced back to their countries. Sometimes the wars take a long time to stop hence the need to manage the camps as long as it takes. Amidst security threats and terror that the neighboring countries are next in line, it is important to have dialogue among the regional bodies as more measures are taken to restrain what is happening around them. According to the UN charter, all countries over the world have a role to respect and protect people. The African union commission to which 54 African countries are member states, supports the above too. However, some countries have closed off borders to refugees because of alleged security threats amongst other tantalizing economic and environmental issues. Kenya closed off her borders to refugee entrance following the constant attacks from Al-Shabaab. The country also closed off the existing refugee camps leaving over 600,000 people homeless. Criticisms from a number of organizations were heard from the different corners of the world citing the act as being harsh and inappropriate. Nevertheless, it is important to examine and understand the conditions and situations over which the East African country closed its borders.
    1675 Posted by Tonny Kukeera
  • 18 Mar 2016
    What? Gender equality!! You mean women and kids issues being paramount over mine? That’s a joke! These were some of the words of a fellow man who happened to be my neighbor in one of the suburbs of Kampala. Not one, two or three but many people seem not to understand the brass tacks surrounding gender parity and the need to approach it in a holistic manner. Just imagine the prominent ladies we read about in the bound collections of pages, manuscripts and records, if these ladies were shut behind the curtains and not left to express who they really are, I am not sure about other people but surely me and my family would have missed a lot. Women like Clara Barton, Lucy Stone, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell….the list goes on and on. It’s ok if this is your first time to see those names but I am sure google works everywhere, don’t feel shy to find out about them instead of just smiling at the fact that you really don’t know them. These women played a very important role in the lives we’re living today. In the present times we can look at names like Opray, imagine how many lives that have been inspired and changed by this woman through her works. If I go on to mention names, I have trust my grandmother’s name will also appear but that will be another days story. Point is, everyone has a role to play and there is a general need to realize and address the gender issues and make them part and parcel of our lives. It’s by this that we will be able to see a better world that is being written and sang about in songs. I like history for we get to see ourselves clearly in the eyes and pass the judgment. Dating back to 1919 (times of world war 1), there was a deficit in work force owing to economic, social influences and demand for more production amidst the raging war, room for women to join the work force was created. A multitude of women found themselves working outside home. World War II also created millions of jobs for women, it is written in books of American history that thousands of women joined the Millitary (US Army). That sounds good, doesn’t it? Now the big question to me and you is, “Do we have to wait for a strong calamity or another world war to see women performing even when there are positions where they can do better than some men currently occupying those positions? Reserve your answer. But if we continue to keep silent on such issues concerning gender, am afraid we fall victims of Martin Luther’s words “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It’s hard to imagine that in Japan, working mothers are addressed as people who have a special place in hell! They have a singular term for them in Japanese “oniyome” which is a direct translation for “devil wives”. Well this may have struck you as a surprise but it’s just a drop in the sea of examples that are existing now. If this can happen in one of the most developed countries in the world, what about the impoverished societies in underdeveloped ones where men are looked at as demi gods! It’s not fair, is it? Well, it’s either we sit back and watch the movie as it unravels or we let our voices to be heard, it’s not for women alone, we all have a role to play. Kukeera  
    1550 Posted by Tonny Kukeera
1,917 views May 02, 2016
Africa-EU Renewable Energy Research and Innovations Symposium

Session 4

The first presenter for this session, Dr. Bertrand Tchanche from the International Institute for Science and Sustainable Development (IISSD), Amiens, France; presented on the “Interdisciplinary Approach to Accelerate Energy Access across Africa”. He holistically explained the disparities in energy resources at national and regional levels in Africa and the energy situation characterized by: a mismatch between the supply deficit and the surplus of untapped potential of renewable energies (wind, hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal); the polluting effects of fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) on the environment and the impact on global warming; and the fact that energy was not taken into account as a fundamental and essential factor for sustainable development in political economy. He suggested an interdisciplinary methodology to put in conjunction with engineering and social sciences. This will help overcome barriers to energy access and contribute to sustainable development of communities through appropriate methods that facilitate the acceleration and adoption of renewable energy technologies. His method being also organizational seeks to foster collaboration between different actors and institutions (governments, organizations, communities) in order to implement a regulatory, legal and administrative framework that encourages investors and make reliable and affordable renewable energy technologies.
Thereafter came the second presenter, Jerome Ndam Mungwe, from Politecnico di Milano, Italy. The presentation titled was “Sustainable Energization of Rural Areas of Developing Countries. A comprehensive planning approach” highlighted that Access to modern energy and energy related services in developing countries is a double-faced challenge with 1.3 billion people unable to access electricity and 2.6 billion relying on traditional biomass for cooking. According to him, solutions to this challenge can neither be through the isolated promotion of individual technologies nor fuel switching, but rather through a systemic approach to a more comprehensive energy access strategy, with the supply of alternative energy carriers and planning of complete energy solutions via a more comprehensive and sustainable rural energy planning. He further explained that the current approaches to Sustainable Energization do not account for the current energy balance and have not been applied in the context of rural areas. In conclusion, he proposed a comprehensive seven step rural energy planning methodology for the sustainable energization of rural areas in developing countries, which takes into account the current energy balance and integrate energy drivers in the energy services supply network. The application of this approach in a rural context shows a great improvement in the quantity, quality, and variety of accessible and affordable energy services for a more sustainable development of rural areas.
The presenter that followed was, Prof Yekeen A. Sanusi, from the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nigeria, in a presentation titled “Energy Poverty and its Spatial Differences in Nigeria: Reversing the Trend” who clearly pointed out that the high level of poverty in the developing countries is also manifested in energy. Using his home country as a case study, he said that despite the abundant natural resources in Nigeria, access to energy is very low; with attention only on hydro sources for electricity generation and other renewable energy sources attracting very little attention. He examined thoroughly, households’ access to energy, energy poverty, spatial disparity in energy poverty and established relationships between energy poverty and factors of energy access.
Finally, Yusto M. Yustas, from Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania schooled the conference participants on “Characterisation of Renewable Energy Resources and Energy Demand in Semi-Arid Rural Areas”. He pointed out that the semi-arid rural areas in Tanzania predominantly lack access to clean, reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy for cooking, lighting and electrification; with also scarcity in fertile lands. Thus, practices that lead to environmental degradation such as rapid deforestation due to agricultural land expansions, charcoal making and firewood collection in these areas are very common. He explained that biogas plants of continuous low solid anaerobic digestion design were introduced in the area to address the unsustainable energy supply but because of the climate in the region most of the installed plants turned unsustainable and unreliable, hence the need for more reliable renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind in the area.