By Beth Ritchey, KF10, Mongolia
“On March 27, 2010, an estimated one billion people around the world came together to call for action on climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for just one hour—Earth Hour.” Starting at 8:30pm in New Zealand and following the setting sun around the world, Earth Hour asked people to turn off their lights for one hour, adding up to a global 24 hours without lights. Internationally recognizable monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, even the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil slipped into darkness for an hour on the 27th for the cause. The excitement and enthusiasm for Earth Hour even made its way to Mongolia!
In Sukhbaatar Square, the heart of the commercial district in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Earth Hour supporters gathered on Saturday night. The lights highlighting the Parliament Building and the surrounding office buildings were turned off and the crowd lit candles and listened to a local band playing music in the square.'
On the following Sunday and Monday an eco-fair was set up in the square. Gers (yurts) were constructed showing off the newest innovations in nomadic-friendly eco-technology. Several displays highlighted new and improved stoves (including the GTZ stove mentioned in a previous post). Other gers exhibited hot water heaters (with a shower!), solar panels, satellite dishes and one even featured a cocoon of reflective insulation – giving the ger a Roswell-style look. The fair attracted much attention, and many Mongolians came outfitted in their best dells.
So how does this relate back to microfinance? With an estimated annual GDP per capita of $3,200 and almost 40% of the population living below the poverty line, Mongolians don’t typically have the immediate savings available to purchase these new innovations. Advanced technologies in stoves and insulation may actually help Mongolians to reduce fuel expenditures in the long run, but they need access to capital to purchase them. The eco-fair not only attracted Mongolians interested in buying the new products, it also attracted local microfinance banks that were interested in helping to fund loans for the purchases. Look for micro-loans for solar panels from Kiva partner XacBank later this spring!
Beth Ritchey is currently serving in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia as a member of Kiva Fellows 10th class. Make a loan with Kiva partner XacBank in Mongolia today!