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Solar (Em)Powered Communities Supporting Persons Experiencing Displacement in Yemen

PEIDs and Neighbors in Yemen will come together in providing critical social institutions with sustainable solar energy infrastructure.

Photo of Yemen Without Conflict & ICRD

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

The struggle to survive in Yemen’s war-torn Taiz has grown greater as 411,750 persons experiencing internal displacement (PEIDs) have sought safety there. In this environment, competition over limited resources has exacerbated tensions between PEIDs and Neighbors, which are amplified by humanitarian efforts that focus on PEIDs. Power is a crucial resource for service providers in the community, and providers are unable to keep up with the need to support both Neighbors and PEIDs due to rising fuel costs and inefficient power infrastructure. Without a functioning power grid and sufficient fuel, hospitals cannot refrigerate medical supplies and water pumps cannot bring up irrigation and drinking water for the community. We intend to bring Neighbor and PEID populations together in a collaborative project that provides solar energy infrastructure to key social institutions in the community (e.g. hospitals, schools, water facilities, farms, public markets). The program will train unemployed youth from both PEID and Neighbor populations in electrical job skills and Photovoltaic (PV) system installation. Through a process that unites PEIDs and Neighbors to cooperatively strengthen their community’s institutions, participants will identify those social institutions most in need of power and will install solar arrays to benefit them. With a low-cost, sustainable power source, these service providers can reallocate resources to expand essential community services and alleviate tensions caused by resource scarcity. PEIDs and Neighbors can benefit together if farms can increase yields, hospitals can expand working hours, and markets can operate during nighttime hours. This program addresses issues of resource allocation while simultaneously strengthening social cohesion between PEIDs and Neighbors.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Taiz, a governorate in southern Yemen that is home to the country’s second-largest city, has been ravaged by the country’s civil war. Despite sitting on the war’s front lines, the governorate hosts more PEIDs than almost any other region in Yemen. Cash-strapped local governance mechanisms have broken down, leaving communities unable to support themselves as well as Yemenis arriving from nearby governorates.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

PEIDs and Neighbors will collaborate in a process of improving social institutions for all, bonding the two communities in shared enterprise. Dialogues between PEIDs and Neighbors will initiate a cooperative agreement on how institutions can better support the community. Neighbors and PEIDs will work together to support these institutions by providing them with solar infrastructure. The resulting increase in service provision will benefit all and reduce tensions driven by resource competition.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our intervention will fulfill the need in Taiz for community institutions that are empowered to support both PEIDs and Neighbors, new and established, at various stages of their life journey — from basic survival necessities to the dignity of employment to the hope of gaining new job skills. By coming together to cooperatively determine priority needs for both PEID and Neighbor communities, both groups will share in the dignity of creating a support mechanism that respects local needs and access to social institutions. By reducing competition over scarce resources, the decrease in Neighbor-PEID tensions will provide space for all community members to feel secure. By providing youth with job skills in energy and the opportunity to contribute to a socially productive solar project, Yemen’s post-war generation will be given the hope of a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

First, by bringing PEID and Neighbor community members together in a cooperative process of determining shared needs, inter-communal ties will be fostered and tensions transformed into collaborative opportunities. Second, unemployed youth from both the PEID and Neighbor communities will be trained in electrical work and solar installation, engaging them in the community and building job skills that will be in high demand as Yemen transitions. Third, the trained youth will install off-grid Photovoltaic (solar) generation systems on the rooftops of social-service institutions (such as hospitals, schools, or water services) that are identified through Neighbor-PEID community dialogues as shared needs. Having a low-cost, sustainable energy source that provides 24/7 off-grid power will enable these institutions to expand and provide critical needs to both PEIDs and Neighbors. Savings on fuel costs can be leveraged to hire more staff and increase employment opportunities.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Yemen Without Conflict (YWC) has worked to support sustainable peace in Taiz throughout the country’s brutal civil war. In a region already facing intense resource strain, pressure from PEID arrivals has made the challenge of building peace even greater. However, examples abound in Yemen of how strategic capital investments can spark a process of community growth and development, even in the most desperate of circumstances. For example, a partner organization in Yemen was able to support the education of PEID children simply by purchasing chairs for the local school. By providing solar installations to health facilities in Yemen, the UNDP was able to increase by an average of 82% the number of out-patients seen and increase the average number of staff by 44%. While YWC works to meet the day-to-day needs of PEIDs through humanitarian assistance, sustainable energy solutions and social cohesion are needed to promote lasting growth.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Taiz is struggling to support the thousands of PEIDs fleeing violence in its surrounding provinces. The region suffers from a crucial shortage of public services like healthcare, education, and water, and the conflict has crippled the governorate’s infrastructure network. Social service providers face a myriad of challenges in meeting the needs of both PEID and Neighbor communities, notably the lack of a stable electricity supply. Institutions are either forced to work without electricity or divert much-needed funds to fueling generators. YWC, through its own humanitarian efforts, has identified the rehabilitation of social service institutions as a critical need in Taiz. As in many displacement contexts, the channeling of aid directly to PEID beneficiaries causes tensions between Neighbors and PEIDs. More holistic mechanisms of community support and growth are necessary.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Through its experience facilitating community dialogues toward the fulfilment of critical service needs in Taiz, YWC has learned that, with the proper channels and financial support, community members are eager to work collectively to solve shared problems. PEID-Neighbor tensions are largely driven not by identity-based hatreds, but by resource scarcity. While the specific social institutions to be supported with solar power will be chosen through the Neighbor-PEID community dialogue process. YWC has spoken to numerous institutions about their dire need for stable, low-cost electricity. For example, doctors from Revolution Hospital in Taiz have welcomed the idea of solar energy, reporting that electricity needs are a primary concern, with power cuts frequently occurring in the middle of operations. Such social service institutions have proven that they are dedicated to serving all, but they are in need of sustainable resources to expand their support.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

The International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD), a US-based non-profit with a history of supporting YWC, will provide project management support and has assisted in the development of this idea. ICRD is helping Muaadh of YWC to engage through the OpenIDEO platform, acting as his English voice. YWC and ICRD have and will continue receiving support from numerous technical experts and contractors, including electrical engineers with experience designing solar installations and trainers capable of preparing participating youth to work as solar installers. YWC and ICRD have begun discussing procurement with Taiz's Green Energy Center (www.facebook.com/greenenergycenter.solarpower/) and have discussed training with Taiz's engineering syndicate. YWC will work through local stakeholders — government authorities, community leaders, and religious leaders — to identify beneficiary institutions and activate PEID-Neighbor community dialogues.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Technology-enabled: Existing approach is more effective or scalable with the addition of technology

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Yemen Without Conflict (YWC) and the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

YWC is a Taiz-based NGO that combines humanitarian aid efforts with peacebuilding in order to build sustainable solutions amidst Yemen’s brutal civil war. YWC has supported hundreds of PEID families with direct humanitarian assistance, while also developing parallel community reconciliation initiatives that integrate marginalized PEID voices into Neighbor communities’ decision-making processes. YWC has already laid the groundwork for this project, having conducted community-led forums in which community leaders, CSOs, journalists, religious actors and local officials have built bridges with groups of PEIDs. Those forums were held with the goal of establishing a task force that represents PEIDs and their needs and channels humanitarian aid to them. YWC collaborates with and is supported in this idea by ICRD, a US-based non-profit with extensive experience supporting peacebuilders in Yemen.

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Yemen and USA

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Taiz, Yemen and Washington, D.C.
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Team (2)

James's profile
James Patton

Role added on team:

"President and CEO of the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, Mr. Patton has supported the development of this idea and has collaborated with Yemen Without Conflict on several peacebuilding efforts in Taiz, Yemen."

Yemen Without Conflict & ICRD's profile

12 comments

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Photo of Maisara Sassi
Team

Hello, Muaadh Abdo Saeed Ahmed, I really love how encompassing and wide-ranging your initiative is! Sustainable energy, social cohesion, and youth employment are rather pressing issues, especially in the reality Yemen is experiencing today.

As you know, with Taiz’s battleground reality, how do you plan on avoiding risks that may hinder the execution of your plan? Did you account for the possible damage that may be caused due to the nature of the environment? What measures of protection are you taking on this regard?

Also, I was wondering about the scale you are aiming to reach with the implementation of your project. Have you got an estimate of the number of PEIDs and host beneficiaries?

Wishing you all the best and eager to see your project develop!

Maisara

Photo of Yemen Without Conflict & ICRD
Team

Dear Maisara Sassi ,
We thank you for your support and your excellent questions. We do aim with this project to maximize dollars spent by integrating several modes of intervention – humanitarian aid, social cohesion, sustainable energy, and youth engagement – into a unified process.
Thank you for this question regarding risk and protection. Risk mitigation is of the utmost importance when operating in Yemen, and especially Taiz. The risks involved in this project may be divided into four types: (1) risk of material loss; (2) risk of harm to beneficiaries; (3) risk of harm to implementers; and (4) risk of deviation from the implementation plan. We can briefly address each of these.
First, regarding risk of material loss, @Ata Akil was astute in asking this question below, and we provided an initial overview of how we are approaching this risk.
The second risk, of harm to beneficiaries, is most important and multifaceted. Among others, risks of harm include physical harm, economic harm, psychosocial harm, and risks particular to gender dynamics. Regarding risks of physical harm, we will select target areas of Taiz that have remained stable and can be expected to remain stable, constantly monitoring the situation. This also means ensuring that we operate in a space of contiguous stability – meaning beneficiaries do not have to move from one area of control to another. Any changes in the situation on the ground will necessitate a shelter-in-place response, and all participants will be alerted not to move from safe locations for the purpose of project activities. But physical harm is not only present because of the conflict. We will also need to ensure safety of youth who will install solar panels, for example, by incorporating safety tests into the training process. Additionally, ICRD will work with YWC to develop a mechanism for Accountability to Affected Populations, which includes third-party engagement with targeted beneficiaries that allows for open feedback around project implementation. This will help to ensure project decisions are inclusive and not inadvertently creating dynamics that exacerbate existing tensions.
The third risk, of harm to implementers, can be mitigated in a manner similar to mitigation of the second risk, by continually monitoring the security situation and not moving for the purpose of project activities when insecurity is heightened.
The fourth risk, of deviation from the implementation plan, is inevitable in a space like Taiz. With this in mind, the project design has built-in flexibility, not pre-determining end recipients and users: The process of selecting participants and social institutions to receive solar will entail a heavy engagement from communities and potential beneficiaries. This grassroots process necessarily means variability, but is important for ensuring that the intervention is responsive to local needs.
Regarding your excellent question about scale, we can provide preliminary estimates. Imagining a budget of $160,000 that can be directly put into implementation (i.e., excluding organizational costs), we estimate the following:
-80 youth (40 Neighbors and 40 PEIDs) can be trained on electrical trade skills and solar installation
-160 individuals (80 Neighbors and 80 PEIDs) can participate in ~8 community dialogues
-4 solar installations of 15-20 kWp can be built to benefit 4 social-service providers
-Depending on the social service providers (selected through community dialogues), we expect thenumber of indirect beneficiaries benefiting from increased social-service production to be hundreds of PEIDs and Neighbors.

Thank you,
Yemen Without Conflict & ICRD

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