Small-scale, community-managed hydro power schemes in remote rural Kenya function well if they are run by strong leaders, and have firm rules for how the scheme should be managed. When members of the mini-grid system know they will be disconnected from the grid for breaking those rules, they tend to cooperate more willingly.
Policy advice is one of the pillars of the EfD initiative, together with research and academic training. EfD strives to build a bridge between training and research, on the one hand, and policy design and decision making on the other. We are convinced that local academic capacity in environmental economics could greatly enhance the sustainability of economic policies. In order to have such impact, we need to invest in the interface between academia and government policy formulation. Below are some examples of successful policy interactions.
For the average rural Kenyan, having a fully charged mobile phone isn't just a luxury that allows them to make phone calls. It’s a complete office for running their small businesses. So when people have access to an electricity source that allows them to keep their phone batteries charged, it means the entire local economy benefits.
The mountainous countryside in Kenya is ideally suited for small-scale hydro power plants, particularly for communities that are too far from the national electrical grid, or where the infrastructure and connection costs are too high. But the government of this East African country has not exploited its hydro power opportunities, something which environmental economist Mary Karumba hopes to change as she returns to government service after completing her doctoral studies in South Africa.
A government policy which encourages subsidies of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) stoves, or provides for households to buy these with credit, could reduce deforestation in Tanzania by nearly a half. This is according to research done by the Environment for Development centre (EfD) at the University of Dar es Salaam in 2016.
Having competitions between staff, appointing water-saving ‘champions’ in your office block, or recognising people for their efforts to use energy more sparingly: these are small but powerful ways that cities can encourage people to cut their water and electricity use. Now, behavioural economists at the University of Cape Town’s Environmental Policy Research Unit (EPRU) are about to embark on a three-year collaboration with Cape Town’s utility managers, to see how they can implement these ideas across the city, and get them written into municipal policy.
Researchers at EfD-Kenya have found new evidence that nutritional poverty is linked with climate change and variability. ‘In Kenya and other African countries, a majority of farmers depend on rainfall that is increasingly unpredictable,’ said Dr Richard Mulwa, Senior Research Associate at EfD-Kenya and one of the lead investigators in the study. ‘Also, increasing temperature reduces food production. Therefore, it is critical for these farmers to change their farming practices in response to climate change’.
The Ethiopian government’s goal is to become a middle-income economy by 2025, and to do so in ways that are climate resilient and environmentally sustainable. ‘These objectives are laid out in a formal policy – the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) plan’, said Dr Haileselassie Medhin, director of the Environment and Climate Research Centre (ECRC). ‘However, policy makers recognize that, to achieve this goal, they need help from researchers so that they can adopt evidence-based policies that get results when they are implemented in practice’.
High state subsidies have helped speed the growth of the renewable energy sector in China, but they now threaten the sustainability of the government’s funding policy for this sector. This is particularly true given the recent reduction in the cost of solar and wind technologies globally. Together, these factors are making the supply side of the sector extremely profitable in China, but are depleting state funds that are earmarked for this much-needed growth.
A task team of international and local fisheries experts, including an EfD researcher, recently assisted the Chilean government with an extensive review of a new fisheries law, in a bid to help the administration address public concerns that an important amendment to this law was tainted with corruption.
Central America has more than 2.3 million families depending on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods, making them vulnerable to climate change risks such as rising temperatures, extreme events such as drought and flooding, and also crop diseases. Researchers associated with the Swedish-based Environment for Development (EfD) initiative are running an ecosystems-based adaptation project in Guatemala, Honduras, and Costa Rica that supports smallholder farming communities in adapting to changing conditions. This project scales up the needs and opportunities of smallholders to promote changes in public policies at a regional level.
A recent study in Kenya shows that climate change and variability will increase food insecurity and that different food crops will respond differently to climate change variables. The study also highlights the different factors influencing food insecurity in a changing climate. This is important information for farmers as well as the government.
Ethiopia aims to build a green economy and to follow a growth path that fosters sustainable development. Through the development of its Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy, which is based on carbon-neutral growth, it envisions attaining middle-income status by 2025. Improving the productivity of the agricultural sector, protecting forests, expanding the coverage of electric power from renewable sources of energy and transitioning into modern and energy-efficient technologies are the main pillars of Ethiopia’s CRGE strategy.
There are many ways for city utility departments to get people to voluntarily reduce their water use during a time of drought and water shortages. Some are positive, ‘carrot’ approaches; others might be ‘stick’ approaches to enforce certain behaviours. Now, the City of Cape Town is working with behavioural economists to find an evidence-based answer to which methods are most effective.
A team of behavioural economists has an important message for City of Cape Town’s water managers, who are currently implementing tight water restrictions after three years of drought in the region: if the city publicly praises individuals and households for their water saving efforts, this will get people to voluntarily contribute to even greater water-wise behaviour.
The people of Cape Town are being given a chance to tell city managers just how much they value the natural green spaces, manicured parks, sports fields, and street trees in their neighbourhoods. And what they say may help park authorities decide how to prioritise their spending, at a time when there is growing pressure to develop open green spaces for housing or business opportunities.
CAPE TOWN: The single most effective thing that South Africans can do to reduce their energy use related to heating water in their homes, is to switch off hot water cylinders half an hour before they are most likely to bath or shower. Those people who do switch their cylinders on and off during the day, as an energy saving measure, tend to turn them off after the geysers have refilled and reheated, which is wasteful of energy.
How can charging money for something that was free be a good idea for poor farmers? It turns out that pricing irrigation water will help improve Ethiopian farmers’ efficiency in water use, increase agricultural and food production, and make the population less vulnerable to climate change. One unique contribution of environmental economists is that they collect data from the field and then calculate what natural resources are really worth.
People in Central America’s rural areas will face a 20 percent decline of drinking water availability by 2050, estimates show. EfD researchers are now collecting information from 8 000 households in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica. The primary aim is to map capabilities and obstacles for communities to adapt, and to provide community leaders tools and skills to respond to drier scenarios. EfD findings also support governmental adaptation policies.
To make hydroelectric power work better in rural communities, EfD Tanzania researchers decided to have in-depth contact with the grassroots through community-based and civil society organizations. Findings from a study on management of the hydropower plants in the southern highlands region show that rural electrification has proven to boost farmers’ earnings: Electric power increases the processing and value addition of agricultural products, which helps farmers fetch premium market prices.
The South African node of the EfD network, the Environmental Economics Policy Research Unit at the University of Cape Town is working towards influencing South African policy in four key areas: climate change, biodiversity conservation, marine fisheries, and energy. One of the recent studies identified mixed farming as a crucial strategy to adapt to climate change, particularly for small farmers.
Like many water utilities across the globe, Nairobi City Water and Sewer Company implements an increasing block tariff. Recent research conducted by EfD Kenya, however, finds that the increasing block tariff implemented in Nairobi does not effectively target subsidies to low-income households. Estimates suggest that non-poor households receive over 80 per cent of the subsidies.
Air pollution caused by wood-burning in homes for cooking and heating purposes is one of the most important environmental problems in Chile, affecting thousands of families and causing early mortality. EfD Chile researchers study families’ and producers’ economic behavior, and advise the government to incorporate effective economic incentives to design better pollution control policies.
Development-focused eco-tourism partnerships between local communities and private enterprises are more likely to succeed if the communities living on the edge of protected areas are able to make direct links between the conservation of an area, and their own tangible benefits, the IUCN’s World Parks Congress heard recently.
Climate change poses a threat to reliable supplies of drinking water in rural areas. EfD Central America (CATIE) is working with rural communities in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua to develop solutions.
Charcoal is the most commonly used cooking fuel for urban households in Tanzania. But charcoal use has complex implications for climate change, poverty, and health.
A plan to reduce automobile traffic in Beijing was in the hands of the city’s mayor in late 2013. EfD China played a major role in figuring out what strategies would – and would not – be likely to reduce the pollution and congestion that Beijing residents have been facing as a result of economic growth.
Who controls the forests in Kenya? Who benefits from conservation? These are some of the questions that EfD-Kenya has been evaluating in 2013.
“We make the connection between the fishers’ living conditions and the fish stock’s status.” The newest EfD Center is not a newcomer to influencing fisheries policy. The Research Nucleus on Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the Universidad de Concepcion has been active for several years in bringing an economics perspective into fisheries management in Chile.
Africa’s wild animals are the world’s heritage, but they live on the land of indigenous peoples. Researchers at EfD-South Africa have been working with the South African National Parks agency (SANParks) on the challenge of balancing conservation, affordability, and community land rights in the nation’s famous wildlife areas.
Forest conservation is getting more attention in Ethiopia, from the highest level of government to the community level. As part of these efforts, the EfD center in Ethiopia, Environmental Economics Policy Forum for Ethiopia (EEPFE), based at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI), has been addressing the issue for long period of time and reflected its ideas in different forums.
On Wednesday 23 October, EPRU hosted the EfD Policy day at Commodore Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa. The policy day brought together policy makers from various governmental levels, practitioners, NGOs, international and national researchers.
In a brief interview with UNU-Wider Wisdom Akpalu, Associate Professor of Economics at SUNY-Farmingdale, NY, shares his view on the effectiveness of development knowledge aid and the impact of the “Gothenburg mafia” on Africa. A maybe misleading expression which relates to Wisdom himself and his former PhD colleagues who studied at the Environmental Economics Unit of the Economics Department at Gothenburg University.
Within the unique wetland area Mpumalanga Lake District lies the site of a proposed, and controversial, opencast coal mine, the Lusthof colliery. It will require a preliminary ‘set-aside’ of about 70 million South African rands.
“Key messages resulting from the multi-year study include redistributing management responsibility between central and local governments, and allowing localized decision on reforming state forest enterprises,” says Jintao Xu.
EfD-Kenya fellows Wilfred Nyangena and Geophrey Sikei, were engaged in the review and synthesis of literature on climate change research in the COMESA region and how it has influenced policy.
Contrary to the notion that increased biofuels production will undermine the food security of developing countries, EfD research results show that it can increase production of both food cereals and cash crops in Ethiopia. However, the effects vary by region.
Martine Visser, Grant Smith and Kerri Brick have been involved in a Behavioral project on Climate Change as part of a joint initiative by IDEA42 (a Harvard Based Behavioral Economics group and RUBEN at UCT.
EfD researchers show that the Payments for Ecosystem Services program has no positive nor negative effects on people's income or jobs. And in the first three years of its implementation, the program had no effect on the deforestation rate. However, in the following five years, the program did slow down deforestation.
A child was killed by bees, and the fish did not survive. These were two sad outcomes of the investments in beehives and fishponds as alternative income sources for fishermen in marine protected areas in Tanzania.
Martine Visser is part of an inter-disciplinary research group at UCT working on Climate Change and affiliated with the African Climate Development Initiative.
Martine Visser and Jane Turpie advised the Legal Resource Centre and AWARD (NGOs working on behalf of the public and especially poor stakeholders such as farm workers)
ESKOM (national Energy Service Provider) has contracted Martine Visser, Grant Smith (masters student) and Steven Davies to do research on consumer understanding of billing practices.
In another ongoing project with Kerri Brick (PhD student) dealing with risk preferences and constraints to adaptation, as well as the role of micro financing and insurance amongst informal dwellers in South Africa in dealing with Climate Change.
Martine Visser and Grant Smith (masters student) is also involved in a project with the Water Research Commission on water savings and billing practices where we are using various interventions (including social norms) to elicit behavioral change.
The third wave of the survey has just been completed by June this year and since then data capturing (of data from 2011 and 2012) has been ongoing.
Senior research fellow Jane Turpie presented a talk on the potential impacts of MPA expansion on commercial fisheries at the annual meeting of the Marine Protected Area Forum, a meeting of over 70 managers and researchers involved in MPAs in southern Africa.
Payments for ecosystem services in Costa Rica: Does it matter who gets paid and why for the efficiency of payments for ecosystem services (PES) programs aimed to reduce deforestation and forest degradation? This is being studied by EfD Central America researchers.
Four years ago, Razack Lokina, Research Fellow and Director of EfD Tanzania, took the initiative to establish a research policy board for his EfD Center. The aim was to facilitate transfer of research findings to decision makers and other stakeholders, as well as to bring in ideas about what types of research are actually needed by society.
In 1994 the Khomani San “bushmen” community successfully reclaimed land inside and outside the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Yet despite ownership of a portion of land still part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Khomani San community has never directly benefited from tourism revenues from entrance fees.
Flower production around Lake Naivasha and its role in attaining inclusive and sustainable growth: EfD Kenya researchers Dr. Wilfred Nyangena and Geophrey Sikei are contributing to the European Report on Development 2011/2012