Vanishing Vaquita: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Marine Mammal

By Simon Allan and Ellie Marsh

A little known marine mammal found in northwest Mexico has been gaining global press attention for weeks now – and for good reason. The vaquita – a small porpoise known as the “panda of the sea” due to the distinctive black circles around its eyes – is on the verge of extinction. With less than 30 vaquitas left in the wild, a new Dalberg authored report for WWF finds that the vaquita could become extinct by the middle of 2018, without immediate action to curb illegal fishing and wildlife trafficking.

The vaquita population has been decimated in recent years, falling by 90% since 2011. The vaquitas’ decline has been accelerated by the world’s growing demand for fish which has led to increased use of gillnets, among other unsustainable and often illegal fishing practices. Gillnets, which are hung vertically in the sea to catch fish by their gills, have been adopted by fishers to increase their catch size. But gillnets and associated practices hugely increase the unintentional bycatch of other species. In particular, the vaquita has been a bycatch victim of illegal fishing for totoaba – a fish whose swim bladder is highly prized in Asian markets not only for traditional medicine but also as a Chinese delicacy. Despite gillnets being temporarily banned in Mexico in 2015, the decline of the vaquita has continued due to illegal fishing.

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New Report: Decentralised Renewable Energy is Important for Improving Access to Power, But Policy Gaps and Challenges Impede Growth

Governments globally realize the social and economic benefits of providing reliable and affordable power to their citizens and businesses. Over the past few years, many countries have announced ambitious electrification goals: India and Nigeria plan to reach universal electrification by 2019 and 2030 respectively. However, a new study authored by Dalberg shows that these goals are challenged by the financial, political, and institutional reality on the ground.

The study detailing the challenges – and opportunities – the governments of India, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda face as they seek to increase access to electricity through off-grid energy solutions.

Off-grid technology has emerged as important avenue for improving access to electricity over the past decade. Although off-grid energy solutions are being supported by the governments of all four countries, key policy gaps and challenges are impeding the rapid growth of the sector. The study found that despite the differences between the countries, policy-makers share common concerns around off-grid energy. These four concerns must be addressed to unlock the full potential of the sector:

1. Understanding the economics and viability of off-grid energy solutions

2. Politics and challenges between state and local level policy implementation

3. Capacity constraints within the government

4. Access to requisite data for planning

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Looking Beyond Off-Grid Energy to a Holistic Approach to Off-Grid Societies

By Ciku Kimeria

Reflections on The World Economic Forum on Africa

Under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth Through Responsive and Responsible Leadership”, a thousand global leaders from the private and public sector who are helping to shape the continent’s future gathered in Durban this past week for The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa. Discussions ranged from ending famine, to addressing the problems of apartheid in South Africa, and highlighting innovations that are transforming people’s lives across the continent. One such innovation that took center stage was off-grid and decentralized energy solutions.

This year, Dalberg hosted two events on “off-grid societies”. These events, part of an ongoing series celebrating 10 years of Dalberg on the continent, were a chance to shape discussions on solutions for off-grid societies.

“Off-grid” – as the term is commonly used – refers to the over a quarter of the world’s population who are unable to access to energy through traditional infrastructure. In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the population has no access to electricity. While access to reliable electricity is crucial to unlocking economic opportunities, it is vital that we holistically consider the lack of infrastructure that limits these communities from reaching their full potential. Dalberg is helping define a new concept on “off-grid societies” that looks beyond energy access, and instead focuses on societies that do not have access to 20th century infrastructure, such as roads, bank branches, hospitals, and schools.

Finding solutions to reach these unconnected populations is extremely important if we are to achieve truly inclusive growth. Current efforts to create infrastructure to reach off-grid societies continue to lag behind population growth. For example, even with increasing investments in renewable energy, the International Energy Agency estimates that the creation of mini-grids can at best supply electricity for about 40% of the world’s un-electrified population. Creating effective solutions for off-grid societies often require us to devise new business models and leapfrog technologies that require formal infrastructure, such as phone networks or roads, to function.

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Arming Suicide Helplines to Better Combat India’s Mental Health Crisis

By Kapil Kanungo, Kishan Shah, Kashish Saluja, and Gaurav Gupta 

In 2014, nearly 131,000 people committed suicide in India. This number continues to grow each year, with India accounting for about 30% of all suicide deaths in the world. For young people aged 10-24 suicide is the single leading cause of death. With 60,000 deaths in the 15-24 age group, more young people in India die from self-harm, than from road accidents or tuberculosis. Compare this to China, where self-harm takes 11,000 young lives every year.

By decriminalising suicide and establishing the right to quality mental health care, the Mental Health Bill 2016 is a welcome step for those facing mental health issues and for those trying to provide help. According to Amrit Kumar from Thanal, a crisis and suicide helpline based in Calicut, “Stigma associated with suicides, coupled with its initial criminalisation discourages many people to reach out for help, but with the new law, there is hope that more people will contact the helplines.” While the new law is a first step in reducing stigma, and emphasising mental health care, in parallel there needs to be greater investment in India’s mental health infrastructure to make accessible and quality care a reality. As both a system for first response and last resort, suicide helplines are a critical part of this overall infrastructure.

Our study on global best practices in suicide prevention helplines has shown several positive cost-effective developments that have enhanced their functioning. In particular, there are four key enablers that, when adopted, could have a transformative effect on suicide helplines.

Read the full article on The Huffington Post.

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Making the Digital Economy More Inclusive

By Diptesh Soni 

Across the world, there is an inescapable sense that the machines are coming, and they’re going to take our jobs. This fear is not new. From the cotton gin, to the tractor, to the assembly line and beyond, jobs have faced and will continue to face threats from technological advances.

But throughout these disruptions, large-scale unemployment has typically been avoided: either machines could not do many of the innately human things people could do, or technology so drastically brought down costs that new markets were unlocked, in turn requiring more workers to serve new customers. Today, both these factors are playing out across sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa commands a meagre 1.5% share of the world’s total manufacturing output, and the low number of jobs available in manufacturing is, in part, leading to the growth of service-based employment. Technology is rapidly reducing the cost of serving consumers across industries as diverse as financial services, transportation, and hospitality – and is allowing products and services that were traditionally only accessed by the privileged few to reach a wide pool of new customers.

Greater internet and mobile penetration, the development of online market places, and changes in user and consumer behaviour are creating technology-enabled business models across the continent. It is precisely at this juncture that technology can be used to create job opportunities for Africa’s burgeoning youth population.

Read the full article on African Business Magazine.

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Building Resilient Health Systems Before the Next Crisis: Lessons from Ebola and Zika

By Julia Rohrer and Felipe Amaya Salazar

In the summer of 2014, the media exploded with headlines about a destructive and previously little-known disease: Ebola. Now, nearly a year after the last reported case, and with a new vaccine showing promise, the global health community seems to be breathing a sigh of relief that the epidemic is behind us.

Similarly, in May 2015 a Zika outbreak escalated quickly throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. In November 2016 the WHO reclassified this Zika outbreak from a public health emergency to a long term infectious disease threat. While the move was intended to heighten, rather than downgrade attention to the disease, some fear that it will decelerate international response to the virus, which continues to spread throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Ebola and Zika may be fading from the headlines, but the gaps they revealed in the global health community’s ability to deal with crises must remain top of mind. The threat of infectious disease is more pressing than ever, with forces like climate change, urbanization, and poverty compounding both the frequency of epidemics and their impact on health systems. In this landscape, the reactive posture we’ve seen with Ebola and Zika cannot be the norm. We need to act now to build health system resilience: creating health systems that are equipped to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and adapt in the face of a broad range of shocks and stresses. The failures and successes of the Ebola and Zika responses reveal key lessons that can inform efforts to build resilience before the next crisis hits.

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Announcing the Results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge

NRI selected for an award of up to $500,000 to develop solution for increasing cassava shelf life, with the potential to enhance food security and increasing income for millions of farmers.

The Rockefeller Foundation, Dalberg, and IITA today announced the results of the Cassava Innovation Challenge, launched last year to uncover novel solutions for increasing cassava shelf life in Nigeria and the world. The organizers are awarding the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), based at the University of Greenwich, United Kingdom, in partnership with Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Nigeria, with a grant of up to $500,000, along with technical assistance, to test and market a polythene bag with a built-in curing technology that will keep cassava fresh for at least eight days past harvest. The announcement was made at the first All Africa Post-Harvest Congress in Nairobi.

Cassava is critical for food security in Africa. It is the main source of nutrition for an estimated half of the continent’s population, or 500 million people. Yet this root crop has a very short shelf life, and if unprocessed it will spoil within 24-72 hours after harvesting – less if it is damaged during harvesting or transport. Nigeria is the world’s largest cassava producer, accounting for more than 20% of global production – more than 50 million tons annually, grown by nearly 30 million farmers, most of them with less than an acre of land.

Approximately 40% of this cassava is lost due to spoilage, a tremendous problem that limits farmer incomes and rural economic development, and one that stretches far beyond Nigeria’s borders as food spoilage and wastage affects the global economy and impacts greenhouse gas emissions.

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Leaders in Data for Development Join Dalberg

Dalberg Data Insights to help bridge the data gaps in global development

A lack of robust data is often a critical barrier to crafting evidence-based policy, directing resources effectively and designing programs to tackle important development challenges. The newly launched Dalberg Data Insights brings together two experienced organizations – Data-for-Good of Real Impact Analytics and the Dalberg Group – to help address this data gap and leverage data for social good.

Dalberg Data Insights combines the analytical power of the team behind Data-for-Good of Real Impact Analytics with the vast global development experience of Dalberg – a group of impact-driven businesses. By unlocking rich data sources from private companies such as mobile phone operators and creating specialized analytics, Dalberg Data Insights allows organizations to better target, implement, and evaluate their programs and initiatives. Dalberg Data Insights will expand the team’s work combining state-of-the-art analytics and an outstanding track record in collaborating with large donor organizations.


Prioritizing infrastructure investments by identifying which congested areas require expansion or additional traffic signaling

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A Simple, Painless Way Governments Can Help the Poor and the Environment

By Scott Strand and Felipe Amaya Salazar

Around 85 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) still cook with wood, charcoal and other solid fuels. These traditional cooking techniques have dire effects on users’ health, environment and productivity.

Traditional cookstoves are causing a quiet epidemic among the global poor. Household air pollution from cookstoves is the fourth-leading risk factor for disease globally, killing more people than malaria and tuberculosis. This epidemic falls heavily on women and children, traditionally those bound to household work and exposed to cookstove smoke day-in and day-out. Poor women also shoulder the literal burden of gathering wood fuel for cookstoves, devoting on average 1.3 hours a day to the task. Residential fuel burning is also a noted contributor to climate change, taking responsibility for 25 percent of global black carbon emissions, about 84 percent of which is from households in developing countries.

Haiti, Guatemala and Nicaragua have the highest solid fuel usage in the Latin American region with 93 percent, 64 percent and 54 percent of their respective populations still relying on them. Even though LAC has made progress – only 3 percent of people who use solid fuels to cook are in LAC – more needs to be done.

Why do people continue to use these harmful cooking methods? In short, because better cookstoves are priced out of reach.

Read the full article on Next Billion.

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Los Impuestos y Tarifas a Estufas Limpias Vulneran a los Más Pobres

Por Felipe Amaya Salazar

Existen alrededor de 85 millones de personas en América Latina y el Caribe (ALC) que todavía cocinan con madera, carbón y otros tipos de combustibles sólidos. Estos métodos tradicionales de cocina tienen efectos negativos en la salud de sus usuarios, el medio ambiente y la productividad.

Pero ¿por qué las personas continúan cocinando con estos métodos sabiendo que son dañinos? La respuesta corta es que las estufas limpias son muy caras para las personas más pobres.

Haití, Guatemala y Nicaragua tienen la proporción de usuarios más alta de combustibles sólidos en ALC, con el 93%, 64% y 54% de sus respectivas poblaciones todavía dependendiendo en ellas. A pesar que ALC ha logrado avances en reducir la cantidad de usuarios – sólo el 3% de la personas que usan combustibles sólidos para cocinar están en ALC – todavía hay campo para mejorar.

En la región, hay una alta correlación entre el uso de combustibles sólidos y los niveles de ingreso promedio, como lo ilustra la gráfica 1. Los combustibles sólidos, tales como la madera o el estiércol animal, son de fácil acceso ya que se encuentran en la naturaleza, haciéndolos baratos o hasta gratis. Para lograr que las estufas limpias remplacen a los combustibles sólidos, sus precios se deben calibrar para que sean asequibles a las personas con bajos ingresos. Avances en los mercados locales o innovaciones tecnológicas pueden ayudar a reducir sus precios; sin embargo, reducir impuestos y tarifas a estufas limpias es un primer paso más fácil y rápido, en esta dirección.

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