Abu Dhabi: The developers of a smartphone app, a solar equipment for refugee campsites and a drone data platform to avoid health disasters were some of the winners at the 12th edition of the Zayed Sustainability Prize.
The winners, who will receive $3 million (Dh11.02 million) between them, were announced at the opening ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit in the capital on Monday (January 13). They received their awards from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The prize itself was established in 2008 as an annual global award for recognising impactful and innovative sustainability solutions. Initially dubbed the Zayed Future Energy Prize, it honours the legacy of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father, and has benefitted 335 million people across the world so far through the efforts of 76 prize winners.
Abu Dhabi’s renewables developer, Masdar, manages the prize, which is handed out for solutions in five sectors, including health, food, energy, water and global high schools. Each category is granted $100,000 (Dh367,000), with the prize for schools being divided between six institutions.
The winning entries
Energy: Electricians Without Borders
The international non-profit organisation has impacted more than 50,000 people by catering to their energy needs, and is unique in its drive to assist refugees. Most recently, it worked to install 75 solar street lamps at the Rohingya refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, and also trained local electricians who eventually worked to install the equipment.
“Our goal is not to provide access to energy but also to make the energy have a social impact on communities. We now hope to bring energy to isolated communities in Benin, replicating a similar project in Madagascar, and also install a solar irrigation water pumping system in Western Africa,” said Tania Chauvin, project manager.
Food: Okuafo Foundation
The company developed a smartphone application that helps farmers in Ghana detect crop infestations. Interestingly, the app caters to rural farmers and works without an Internet connection. It is believed to have helped 10,000 people with access to safe and nutritious food.
“In northern Ghana, farmers were previously only able to harvest 15 per cent of their maize crops due to an armyworm infestation. Using the data we provided, they have been able to increase yields to 50 per cent. We will use this Prize money, which is a massive recognition, to scale up our efforts and reach even more people,” said Anastina Appiah, president and co-founder.
This global drone data platform collates information from 3,600 drone pilots in 48 countries to help avert disease outbreaks. It recently helped reduce the severity of a cholera outbreak in Malawi.
“We used images uploaded by drone pilots to identify possible breeding sites in the affected area, and to estimate the number of people living there. This information was then used by the health ministry to contain the outbreak. The prize will help us collect more data to assist communities, and also make our operations more efficient,” said Helena Samsioe, chief executive officer.
Water: Ceres Imaging
The company uses spectral imaging and AI to optimise water usage in agriculture. Currently operating in the United States and Australia, it has helped save 95 billion litres of water.
“Our technology currently benefits bigger farming companies, and we hope to expand the technology to reach even more of them across the world. The Prize is also a recognition of the impact we have had in just six years of operation,” said Ashwin Madgavkar, founder and chief executive officer.
Global High Schools
The Americas: Air Batalla, a private school in Colombia, hopes to establish a greenhouse that will use seawater to create a micro-environment for the growth of beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and melons. The facility will also generate water, some of which can be consumed.
Sub-Saharan Africa: Hakimi Aliyu Day Secondary, a public school in Nigeria, wants to produce different spices and vegetables all year round, as well as efficient stoves. It also wants to establish a centre for research and training.
Middle East and North Africa: Al Amal Junior High School in Morocco has proposed the generation of water from clean energy, and the installation of two wells and a number of solar panels to power water pumping through the school.
Europe and Central Asia: United World College – Mostar, a private institution in Bosnia and Herzegovina, wants to build the first environmentally-friendly building in the city, which will include solar panels, water saving technologies and insulation.
South Asia: Bloom Nepal School, a private school in Nepal, wants to convert organic waste into biogas and organic manure. The biogas produced can then be used for cooking, and to generate clean energy.
East Asia and Pacific: Eutan Tarawa Ieta Junior Secondary School, a public school in Kiribati, will install solar-powered rainwater tanks to generate clean, potable water. It will also convert some of the school grounds into a food production area for vegetables and poultry.