This summer, a multi-disciplinary team of Rice students will travel to Lesotho for four weeks to assess energy, air, and other needs of a rural community in Lesotho, with the goal of identifying environmental, technological, health, and educational adaptations that could be implemented at the community and household levels to provide improved, sustainable, and cost-effective adaptive capacity and improve health.
Over 1.6 billion people worldwide do not have access to electricity; more than 3 billion people rely on solid fuels, including biomass and coal, for heating and cooking needs. In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 250 million people lack access to electricity, and biomass accounts for 86 percent of energy consumption. Relying on kerosene lighting and rapidly dwindling wood supplies, these same individuals will be hardest hit by climate change. Exposure to indoor air pollution was responsible for 1.5 million deaths globally in 2002; 396,000 people -- mainly women and children -- died in sub-Saharan Africa due to indoor smoke. There is a clear link between sustainable development practices and better health.
Rice students and faculty will design and implement a multi-disciplinary, community-based assessment to identify a package of cost-effective integrated approaches that promote sustainable development. The assessment will include four components: (1) a survey of needs within the community; (2) identification of locally available resources to address these needs; (3) a matching of needs to climate change adaptation impacts; and (4) recommendations for integrated adaptation interventions to meet community needs in the most cost-effective manner.
The team will travel to Lesotho in July 2008 and work closely with local schools, village leaders, and ministry officials to conduct an assessment in a community outside the capital city of Maseru. Based on the results of the assessment, Rice will work in subsequent years to improve our tools, design sustainable and culturally appropriate interventions, and expand the number of assessment sites.