Clean water and solar homes: Zayed prize finalists present sustainability solutions

Former soldier and engineers are but some of the entrants hoping to scoop $600,000 Zayed Sustainability Prize

As you would expect from an international award, entrants for the 2019 Zayed Sustainability Prize have been varied and challenging in equal measure.

Each idea has taken on a specific area of environmental concern, with individual project finalists presenting a unique set of problems and solutions.

Operation Asha is a finalist in the health category, and the largest non-government organisation for detection of tuberculosis in India.

The country has been plagued by the disease, with 100,000 women abandoned and 300,000 children forced out of schools every year because of TB.

The operation has developed a treatment programme across India, Cambodia and Afghanistan serving 16 million people, and providing 303 disadvantaged people with jobs as health workers.

It has also distributed food to malnourished TB patients, provided a motorcycle ambulance service in remote areas and testing for heart disease, haemophilia and diabetes.

Nuru International is a US finalist in the food category, and is working with farm smallholdings in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The company was established by former US marine Jake Harriman in 2008.

Mr Harriman completed two combat tours in Iraq as a platoon commander, and witnessed atrocities committed against local farmers.

After leaving the military, he studied business at Stanford University with an eye on devoting his future career to helping the most impoverished communities.

The project helps vulnerable farmers deal with issues related to climate change.

Over the last decade, Nuru has helped more than 120,000 people begin to lift themselves out of extreme poverty across Africa.

Direct improvements have been working with farms and rural communities to reduce their food waste, while increasing agricultural yields and reducing their carbon footprint and water pollution.

“The last decade has not been easy and we only succeeded because of our dedicated teams and resilient farmers,” said Mr Harriman.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that sustainable development is possible in these neglected areas afflicted by violent extremist organisations and inspire others to follow us.”


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Health category finalist, Living Goods has offered a new approach to managing 8,700 community health workers in Kenya and Uganda.

Inspired by the idea of Avon door-to-door selling in the US, health workers visit homes offering medical services, health education, medicines, and health products, rather than cosmetics.

Other finalists in the health category are the We Care Solar project from California, with a project improving energy access in healthcare and education.

The group has trialed a ‘Solar Suitcase’ to monitor pre-natal heath in remote areas of Africa and Haiti.

An engineer by training, Frenchman Jean-Paul Augereau, put his career on hold as a managing director in printing and textile industries after contracting blood poisoning from unsafe drinking water.

That traumatic experience led him to switch direction, and establish the Safe Water Cube project.

“I began managing a water treatment and recycling company and, in parallel, dedicated 10 years to designing simple, sustainable equipment that could deliver clean, drinkable water to communities around the world in need of such solutions,” he said.

“In the field, a key risk is the loss or damage of our fountains.

“This risk is considerably reduced by having at least two people assigned to oversee the implementation and management of the fountain, in their village.”

Since August 2016, more than 70 fountains have been installed in nine countries, providing safe drinking water to about 80,000 people in rural areas.

Winning the $600,000 (Dh2.2m) prize would help finance a goal of installing 500 of the drinking fountains every year around the world.

Projects providing solar energy to rural countries, where access to the national grid is limited, has been a bedrock of the Zayed Sustainability Prize since it was established in 2008.

The latest solar energy solutions have come a long way since then.

Bboxx employs 600 staff in Rwanda, Kenya, China and elsewhere and has installed more than 150,000 solar home systems to provide clean energy to 675,000 people.

Finalist Acumen is helping fund sustainability projects around the world, and is another innovator to make it through.

The company aims to raise seed funding for sustainable energy projects with the aim of improving the lives of eight million people.

Since 2007, Acumen has invested $21 million in 18 energy companies across east and west Africa, India and Pakistan to build the largest global portfolio of energy companies serving the poorest communities.