Going Green: The Colour of Sustainability

This week, we are looking at the last of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The last goals that we are going to look at (12, 13 and 15) are all about the environment. Just less than 30% of the Earth’s surface is land, and the rest is water. Out of this 30%, much of our land is difficult to cultivate and live on, making good soil and natural resources a valuable asset.

In order to protect our environment for ourselves, future generations and for flora and fauna, we need to ensure that sustainability is at the heart of our initiatives.


SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Sustainable consumption and production means that consumption and production of goods and services are socially beneficial and have a minimal impact upon the environment. This could mean a variety of things, from growing and eating local foods to developing tougher strains of fruits and vegetables so that they can grow in particularly challenging areas.

One way COCO has helped to develop sustainable consumption and production patterns is by financing loans for entrepreneurs in rural communities. For example, COCO has helped Alana Kihwili, from Tanzania, to start a small shop selling local produce, such as tomatoes, red onions and dried fish. By being able to start up her own business, Alana can now afford a better life for herself and her family. She is now able to send her children to school.

Alan Kihwili

Alana Kihwili

By helping to support entrepreneurs and farmers in rural communities, COCO facilitates better consumption and production patterns which don’t leave a giant carbon footprint. What’s more, as this process helps people to earn a living, it also makes it easier for children in the family to go to school.


SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Climate change is something that affects us all. From rising sea levels, to hurricanes and droughts, climate change is a global issue that requires a global response.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa. Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development.”

This means that climate change threatens life as we know it in Africa. If we fail to consider the environmental impact of our actions, it could be our undoing in the future. But it’s not all doom and gloom! In fact, a central element of our development initiatives is sustainability.

One way in which COCO is helping to take urgent action against climate change is by helping schools in Africa to embrace solar power. For example, in Songea, Tanzania, electricity is often unreliable with numerous power cuts which can last as long as a week. In addition to power cuts, many people simply do not have access to electricity at all. The majority of people rely on kerosene lamps to provide light at night. Kerosene is expensive, can cause serious health problems, fire hazards and ecological damage.

2013 02 Solar Lamps LP (124)

Solar Lamps in the Sun

However, in November 2012, Gentoo, a business based in Sunderland, made a donation to COCO which has been used to purchase 24 solar lamps and solar power chargers to power laptops at Hoja Secondary School. COCO partnered with the Nuru Fund at Gentoo in order to pilot a solar power project at Hoja Secondary School; students could loan the equipment out and earn money, and then would repay the cost of the equipment by weekly instalments. Once the total amount was paid off, the students would keep the equipment and any future income. By paying back the equipment costs, COCO can reinvest this back into the school, so that more solar equipment can be bought.

2013 02 Solar Lamps LP (1)

Studying Using a Solar Lamp

SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

‘Terrestrial ecosystems’ might seem like a bit of a mouthful, but it actually refers to land-based ecosystems. There are many different types of these, including tundra, taiga, temperate deciduous forest, tropical rain forest, grassland and desert.

Protecting and using these ecosystems sustainably is a difficult task in the face of population and a growing global population relying on agriculture and industry. Managing and cultivating crops in difficult soils can also be problematic, as failing crops threaten food and employment security and using harsh chemicals and fertilizers undermines conservation objectives.

world soil day

Image from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

To raise awareness of these issues, the UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. On the 4th of December 2015, the UN will be celebrating ‘World Soil Day’, aiming to educate people as to how soils provide a solid ground for life.


This blog post series has already focused on how COCO has helped rural communities to implement permaculture and sustainable agriculture techniques in order to enhance food security, agriculture education and employability among locals. However, it is important that we continually revisit our projects to make sure that progress does not plateau.

For this reason, COCO helped farmers in Tanzania to buy 10 cows due to increasingly scarce supplies of manure.  Using manure as a fertiliser is not only environmentally friendly, but it is also economically savvy as it eliminates the cost of other chemical fertilisers. In addition to providing a local source of manure, breeding the cows and selling the milk provides new revenue streams. The wider community will benefit straight away as the increased supply of manure drives down prices and fresh milk becomes available to buy. Ultimately, providing these cows will help to ensure the sustainability of the wider community.

This brings us to the end of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals! Investigating the SDGs has hopefully showcased some of COCO’s life-changing projects, the people who benefit directly from these, and how COCO fits in with the wider picture of international development.

Without your support, this vital work could not continue.  In 2016, we hope to bring you even more exciting news of our work, and how your fundraising is changing lives.




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