By Maurice Bloem, Executive Vice President of Church World Service
In the nation of Georgia, the average rural family makes under $3,000 annually, and unemployment is 70 percent. Often, these rural communities don't have public access to electricity. As families cut trees for wood to heat their houses, cook, and meet other basic needs, deforestation and the corresponding environmental challenges have been on the rise.
On the other side of the world, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the Global Goals for Sustainable Development were adopted in September. These 17 individual goals together aim to end poverty, fight climate change and overcome inequality and injustice by 2030. This second objective, fighting climate change, is critical to the success of the goals as a whole. Unchecked climate change has the potential to negate any progress made towards the other targets.
When we visited Georgia last month to meet families taking part in a CWS renewable energy program, we were struck by how this project is addressing climate change while simultaneously lifting families out of poverty.
This program works in Georgia, Moldova, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to connect rural families to affordable and sustainable energy sources. Solar generators are used to warm houses, heat water, and dry fruit. Week of Compassion and CWS established a training center near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where beneficiaries throughout the region learn how to operate and assemble these technologies, primarily from locally sourced materials.
These families now have electricity in their homes and money to spare in their pockets. They even earn extra income by selling dried fruit.
Close to the town of Khobi, near the Black Sea, we met Mzisadar Kiria. With support from Week of Compassion and working with CWS, she dries about 250 pounds of fruit a year. This preserves the fruit, ensuring it doesn't go to waste, and also provides Mzisadar and her family with additional income from selling the fruits in their community.
As we toured the training center in Tbilisi and met recipients in the areas around Khobi, we were impressed with how every dollar from the program is used with care. Families are now generating energy in a self-sufficient and sustainable way, all while reducing food waste.
This efficient program is good for the families and good for the environment. It is combating climate change in a very real way while ensuring that families are stronger and more independent. It is truly a win-win.
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