Inspiring sustainability winners from the global South

Every time I find a group that is working on finding and promoting sustainability, it feels like a prize-winning day. In a way, these stories are my lottery tickets – my investment in sharing hope for a more sustainable world.

In response to a Karunavirus story about the first US neighbourhood microgrid, a friend pointed me to the Zayed Sustainability Prize. The winner of this year’s energy award is SolShare of Bangladesh, which has been promoting microgrids there for quite a while now. I wrote about them here.

SOLshare is an SME that has created a revolutionary new approach to bringing affordable solar electricity to the energy-poor in remote, rural communities of Bangladesh by installing the world’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) energy-trading grid, monetising excess solar energy via mobile money for rural development and empowerment,” says the prize citation.

“To date, ME Solshare’s P2P energy exchange platform, SOLbazaar, has connected nearly 700 households into 30 microgrids. Targeting the remote population of the river islands of Bangladesh, SOLshare provides affordable access to clean, decentralized energy. SOLshare’s current solution supports rickshaw drivers by helping them close their income gap.”

The prize began as the Zayed Future Energy Prize and was subsequently renamed, with an expanded mandate, the Zayed Sustainability Prize. By recognizing solutions and technologies that can change the world, the prize has recognized innovators and visionaries who have furthered the global proliferation of innovative, impactful and inspirational sustainability solutions. Over 352 million people have been directly or indirectly impacted by the sustainability solutions and school projects of the 86 winners since the first awards ceremony in 2009.

The prize was named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, who passed away in 2004. He was widely respected worldwide, a man of great vision who transcended national borders and cultures.

So it is lovely to see how these sustainable ideas are popping up all around the world. This year’s other winners are equally impressive:

  • WATER: Wateroam from Singapore is a water innovation enterprise that develops one of the world’s most portable and efficient water filters to serve rural and disaster-hit communities with safe drinking water. These water filters are built to be simple-to-use, swift to deploy and can even operate without electricity. Since 2014, Wateroam has provided clean water access through its partners to more than 150,000 people across 38 countries globally including Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Malaysia, and Myanmar.
  • FOOD: S4S Technologies, an SME committed to empowering rural women and harnessing new technology to reduce food waste and improve income for farmers, addresses post-harvest loss through an electricity-free solution that converts farm losses to value-added products, helping farmers to increase their profit by 50–200%. S4S simultaneously solves three problems—malnutrition in women and kids, food wastage, and low income of farmers—while reducing gender inequality and promoting women entrepreneurship. Its technology innovation (the solar conduction dryer) produces preservative-free, nutrition-rich products, saving 22,500 tons of produce each year from getting wasted and 300,000 tons of CO2 from the environment.
  • HEALTH: As the first tele-mammography network in Latin America providing preventive, high-quality healthcare to every woman, Mamotest uses tele-radiology, remote analysis provided by top-tier professionals in imaging diagnoses, to democratize access to diagnoses and life-saving services. Mamotest has detected thousands of breast cancer cases in early stages, which has saved patients’ lives. It has provided quality healthcare to more than 510,000 direct beneficiaries and has created awareness for millions of women. Conceived since its inception as a social-impact company with a central objective, Mamotest is drastically reducing deaths from breast cancer.

The six high schools winning awards this year included:

  • Instituto Iberia in the Dominican Republic, which plans to convert used cooking oil into biodiesel;
  • Hira School in South Asia;
  • LiceoEuropeo’s proposed sustainability project, LivingEnergy, uses microorganisms to affordably generate power from used facemasks;
  • Sayidina Abubakar Secondary School in sub-Saharan Africa, where female students lack access to sanitary products, raw plant materials harvested from local farms will be used to produce sanitary products, thus boosting school attendance and enabling underprivileged girls to complete school cycles; and
  • UWC ISAK Japan, part of the global United World College movement, aims to become the most sustainable school in Japan by using renewable sources including a biomass boiler, solar panels, and a rainwater collection system and reducing its carbon emissions significantly, become more energy-efficient, produce organic and healthy food sources, and increase awareness of sustainability.