East African innovators win global climate prize at COP26

Thursday November 04 2021

Mbou Mon Tour from DR Congo is a community-based forest management initiative, which combines a range of community income generation schemes to protect the endangered bonobo great ape. PHOTO | COURTESY


Four East African climate innovators from Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have won the prestigious 2021 Ashden Awards at the UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Ashden Awards, organised by a London-based charity that works in sustainable energy and development, honour pioneering organisations from the United Kingdom and low-income countries working to lower carbon emissions and build a fairer world.

The awards were announced on Thursday, November 4, in Glasgow, where world leaders and international organisations have gathered to agree on a global plan for tackling the climate crisis.


YICE Uganda irrigation kit. The firm trains women, young people and refugees in regenerative farming techniques. PHOTO | COURTESY

Two Ugandan, one Kenya organisation and another from DR Congo, emerged winners and are to receive grants, publicity and support to grow and replicate their innovations.

YICE Uganda, a grassroots initiative training women, young people and refugees, in regenerative farming techniques, won the Ashden Award for Regenerative Agriculture.


New Energy Nexus Uganda, which provides low-cost clean energy loans and business coaching to rural community-based organisations, won the Ashden Award for Energy Access Innovation.

Mbou Mon Tour from DR Congo won the Ashden Award for Natural Climate Solutions with its unique community-based forest management initiative, which combines a range of community income generation schemes to protect the endangered bonobo great ape.

Kenyan organisation Solar Freeze, providers of sustainable and affordable refrigeration service for food and medicine in refugee camps, won the Ashden Award for Humanitarian Energy.


A clean energy training session by New Energy Nexus Uganda. PHOTO | COURTESY


According to a statement from the organisers, three more of the continent’s low carbon pioneers were also announced as runners-up.

They are KOKO Networks and SNV from Kenya, and Sendea Academy in Uganda.

KOKO Networks provides ‘ethanol ATMs’ supplying cleaner cooking fuel made from sugar industry waste.

SNV, a Kakuma market-based energy access project, supports local clean energy entrepreneurs in the Kakuma refugee camp and their local host community, focusing on cooking and lighting.

The Sendea Academy is a collective of locally-owned SMEs driving up standards and providing training in the off-grid renewables sector.

The four winners and three runners-up were chosen from over 800 applicants for their work creating resilience, green economies – including jobs and training – and fairer societies.


A Solar Freeze unit used to store vaccines at the Kakuma Medical Centre. PHOTO | COURTESY


While delivering a keynote speech at the awards ceremony, Costa Rican President, Carlos Alvarado, said that there was a shared conviction that sustainable development goes hand in hand with economic growth, as well as a deep commitment to decarbonisation and to promote nature-based solutions to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss challenges the world faces.

He added that he believed the great endeavour of this generation is to abolish fossil fuels.

“In this pivotal moment for the future of humankind, we also need to highlight trailblazing, inspiring efforts to build a better, liveable world for current and future generations. That is what the Ashden Awards are about,” he said.

Climate solutions charity Ashden has been spotlighting and supporting climate and energy innovators in low-income countries and the UK since 2001 and its awards are judged by international specialists on each category and given to organisations delivering proven, ready-to-scale climate solutions.

“At this year’s Ashden Awards, African climate pioneers really led the way in showcasing bold, brilliant and ground-breaking initiatives across energy innovation, nature-based solutions and sustainable agriculture. These Ashden Award winners have shown how societies can reduce emissions while also improving people’s lives,” said Harriet Lamb, the organisation’s CEO.

“The message to leaders at COP26 is loud and clear,” Lamb added. “If they get behind such practical and proven climate solutions a zero-carbon world is within our reach.”

The winners’ message to politicians was the need for urgency to have solutions in place against major causes of climate change like deforestation and intensive agriculture by investing in grassroots initiatives to curb down these practices.

They also urged governments to invest in a diverse range of entrepreneurs with ideas and innovations that will power the clean energy transition and to engage communities to take on the climate crisis

“We must create new, green jobs so let’s invest in skills and training.”