When it comes to empowering people around the world to lift themselves out of poverty and out of crisis, we need to think creatively. We need to adapt to the constant that is change and we need to take (and are taking!) advantage of it. Every day new tools and solutions are being developed to make the world a better place.
Working in over 90 countries around the world—doing everything from helping people start businesses to helping people adapt to climate change to saving lives in disasters—CARE prides itself on being innovative. And innovation doesn’t just mean harnessing the latest technologies. It’s also about partnership with private sector players (you’ll see this in nearly all of our examples below) who are leading and developing tools, processes and technologies. It’s using unique and even unconventional ways (see number 3 on our list!) to make people’s lives better, and above all, it’s about always involving and looking to those we serve in the decision-making and the solutions that we implement in their communities.
Here are just some of the ways CARE and our partners have worked to integrate smart, culturally savvy solutions for the problems that affect communities all over the world:
Turning text messages into banks
For many rural communities in developing countries, banks are either unavailable, or too far away. In Tanzania, CARE partnered with Vodafone to start M-Pesa (M for mobile, Pesa is Swahili for money), a mobile phone-based money transfer and microfinancing service which allows users to deposit, withdraw and transfer money using a mobile device. Savings and loans groups in these communities began using their M-Pesa accounts on a weekly basis to store cash that otherwise would have remained in the group’s lock-box, allowing them to keep their money more secure.
Making fog drinkable
High in the Ecuadorian cloud forest, CARE implemented a program to help families harvest water from the air for drinking and washing. The mist collection system—made of a stainless steel screen, PVC piping, a water collection bucket and sensors—can collect up to 200 litres of water. The water is filtered for use in the home. Before the system was installed, members of the community, often women and girls, had to walk down to the river and back up the mountain carrying heavy buckets of water for their families for cooking, drinking, washing and bathing. Now, with easier access to water they have time to make their farms thrive, to learn, to start or grow businesses and much more.
Preventing malaria using…goat poop
You heard right. In the village of Haji Pur of Rajanpur, Punjab, Pakistan, there is no hospital or medical facility. In order to receive medical treatment, village residents must travel many miles to the nearest city—an expensive trip most cannot afford. This means that the people of Haji Pur often rely on home remedies to cure diseases—but this CARE hack is beyond a home remedy. By burning goat droppings in a special container made of mud, residents are able to actually prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. The burning droppings are a natural mosquito repellent, so people burn them during the night and are able to sleep peacefully without worrying about being bitten. As malaria is a leading cause of death among children in the region, these goat droppings go a long way to keep children safe and families together.
Ducks to the rescue!
In Bangladesh, one of the biggest problems people face is increasingly frequent and severe flooding. This affects access to food and clean water, as well as people’s ability to earn a living. CARE worked with community leaders to create some pretty innovative solutions. Many of the ideas were as simple as they were effective. For example, raising poultry is a common way to earn money and provide for families, especially for women. Unfortunately, chickens often drown during floods, especially ones that last for long periods of time. This can be a major blow to household economies. In response, CARE and our local partners came up with the idea of helping women in flood-prone areas switch from raising chickens to raising animals who can swim—ducks! The idea has caught on, dramatically improving the resilience of many women and their families to the ravages of climate change.
The power of solar
Solar lamps are a simple solution that can improve the lives of people without electricity, or who have to content with frequent blackouts. This is the case for many rural communities in Rwanda. When there is no electricity, families traditionally rely on kerosene or battery power to light their homes at night. These energy sources are not only expensive (not even an option for families living on less than $2.50 a day), but also present environmental, health and safety concerns. Supported by the Marshall-Reynolds Foundation, CARE’s Clean Lighting Initiative introduced solar lamps as a potential solution for communities within six districts of Rwanda’s Eastern province. CARE partnered with solar lamp distributor Digitech Solutions and selected and trained a network of 90 community leaders to sell the product and implement a solar lamp business strategy based off of the lamps’ environmental, health, cost and safety merits.
These are just some of the examples of innovations that CARE and our many partners have implemented together to improve lives around the world. Just imagine what kinds of incredible things will be developed in the next decade to accelerate social good!