AIDG Accomplishments: What we did in 2007 with help from folks like you


Village-Scale renewable energy in Guatemala. AIDG & XelaTeco provided over 150 families (700+ people) in rural Guatemala with renewable electricity. A micro-hydroelectric system installed for the Chantel and La Fe communities saved them $2000/month in fuel costs during their coffee harvest. Our total installed capacity as of December 2007 is 91 kW.

Village scale renewable energy

Helping families breathe easier with cleaner burning stoves. We installed and upgraded 20 biodigesters and improved stoves for rural families in Guatemala. Our higher efficiency stoves cut indoor air pollution, a major ‘killer in the kitchen’.

AIDG Stoves: participatory design at work. Through active community outreach and R&D, AIDG developed stove designs that use 50-60% less wood than a traditional wood fire. For families that buy their fuel wood, this could save them 14-30% of their monthly income.

Juana demoing stove with Liakos

Rocket Box Stove


Waste-to-energy: Home Grown Power in Cap-Haitien. We opened a new office in Cap Haitien, Haiti. In partnership with Oxfam, SOL/SOIL, and the Mayor’s offices of Cap Haitien and Milot, we are starting a project to create a municipal-scale waste-to-energy plant. When online, the plant will serve an estimated 10,000 people, improving sanitation and providing a valuable energy source.

Improving sanitation in Cap Haitien. Working with our community partners, we have already completed a dry composting latrine to serve 300 people in Petite Anse, a neighborhood of Cap Haitien. Building new public latrines and upgrading existing ones will give many more of the city’s residents access to basic bathroom facilities as well as protect groundwater from contamination.

Improving sanitation in Cap Haitien

Women of AFAPA (Association des Femmes Active de Petite Anse) help build the latrine.


Hot showers for cold kids. As an outreach project for a childcare center in Guatemala, we installed a solar water heater to improve hygiene for the center’s 45 children, particularly during the cold winter months.

Kids testing out the solar hot water heater at La Guarderia in Llanos del Pinal

Affordable solar water heater. AIDG partnered with the University of California – Berkeley to develop a low-cost solar water heater for under $100. Commercial systems cost $400-$1000.

Water testing. We collaborated with MIT’s D-lab for water quality testing training for XelaTeco. Lack of access to safe drinking water is a major cause of death for children under five.

Making XelaTeco's stoves affordable to rural communities: creative financing or doing it old school?

In a previous post where I detailed some of the specs of AIDG’s rocket box stove, I mentioned that we would need some creative financing to make it affordable to communities who would most benefit from it. Pete pointed out that we don’t so much need creative financing. The practice of setting up charge accounts for customers, which was more common in the pre-credit card era, could do just fine.

First, a wee bit on the history of credit from Direct Lending Solutions [Credit History: Before there was Plastic…The Earliest Charge Accounts]:

Long before there were credit cards, or even plastic, for that matter, Americans relied on credit, which, for day-to-day matters typically took the form charge accounts with local retailers.
[F]or many retailers, particularly those in rural, farming country or those that were in company towns, without being willing to extend credit through credit and charge accounts, they would not be able to stay in business at all. Credit and charge accounts were mutually beneficial to consumer and retailer, with many retailers having more charge account business than actual cash at the time of sale business.

Because of the more personal nature of the business relationship, repayment schedules tended to vary, according to when the consumer had funds available. A farmer may pay with the yearly sale of crops, whereas a wage worker would pay upon receiving his salary, whether that was weekly or monthly. During hard times, fluctuations of fortune or illness or injury, retailers would often extend credit to tide a trustworthy, longtime customer through, even though payments were sporadic or widely spaced. It was one of the advantages that this local, more personal system had.

Given that a lot of XelaTeco’s customer base are farmers or member’s of cooperatives, this strategy of extending line of credit to customers makes a lot of sense financially. Here’s why:

  • Community members are really interested in buying the rocket box stoves, but can’t pay the full cost out of pocket.
  • XelaTeco can’t lower the price of the stoves any further or they won’t be profitable.
  • Microfinance options in Guatemala seem to favor entrepreneurs buying items that will make money and not individuals buying consumer products that will save them money.
  • There are not many other types of financing available to the XT’s customer base even though they may be a safe bet. FENACOAC offers a ‘community lending’ option of up to 1000Q per person if a group is already organized into an association/cooperative. However some community members are concerned that the payments/interest rates would be higher than they could manage.

Here is an outline of a pilot plan that we’re working out with a women’s weaver’s association at San Alfonso, one of our community partners, and XelaTeco.

  • Clients organize into a group to buy stoves in bulk, then pay a percentage of the full cost to XelaTeco up front. In the case of San Alfonso, the women from the cooperative agreed to a 50% down-payment.
  • XelaTeco extends a line of credit to the community effectively giving the community a no-interest loan. *** Caveat: This is a pilot. We’ve made it very clear to the community that this is a pilot and that the terms (interest rates, payment period, etc.) will mostly like be different for future buyers.***
  • Community members pay XelaTeco back over a pre-determined period of time. We agreed that 10 months was doable for them. The women decided they could manage the payments amongst themselves and would make a single joint payment each month to a pre-specified account. This is particularly important as XelaTeco doesn’t have the manpower to chase down a lot of individuals if they fail to pay.
  • If someone fails to pay 2 payments in a row without good reason [e.g. illness, bad harvest, natural disaster, etc.], XT will return to the community and retrieve the stove. This idea came from the community itself, so we’re confident that there will be enough peer pressure/communal spirit within the group that this shouldn’t have to happen.

Wish us luck.

Video: Ten OTHER Things Martin Luther King Said [Ill Doctrine]

Happy Belated Birthday to MLK (better late than never, right?)

Duration: 1min 45sec

At this time of year we always hear the same 2 or 3 MLK clips over and over, but there was much more to the man. So here are ten of my favorite quotes from MLK that aren’t heard as often.

The first quote he picks is particularly inspirational for me these days: Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

FYI: ill Doctrine is a hip-hop video blog hosted by Jay Smooth, creator of and founder of New York’s longest running hip-hop radio show, WBAI’s Underground Railroad.

Event: Spark innovation through socially and environmental practices [Stanford]

Spark innovation through socially and environmental practices

Spark innovation through socially and environmental practices
Date: Earth Day, April 22, 2008
Time: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Location: Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center, Stanford University [Directions]

Speakers: TBA in February 2008

“It’s easier to prototype innovative systems than to retrofit solutions.” shared Hannah Jones, vice president of corporate responsibility at Nike, with us during the 2007 inaugural conference.”In five year’s time, we won’t recognize the business models,” she said.

This year, we will explore how breakthrough socially and environmentally responsible supply chain practices can fundamentally change business models, lead to overall improved business performance and strengthen organizations.

We believe that our ability to address complex social problems depends on the collaboration of business, government, and nonprofits. By design this conference will bring together leaders from all three of these sectors to share and advance the theory and practice of socially and environmentally responsible supply chains.

Rates Early bird
Until 3/21/08
Forum or CSI members FREE FREE
Non-members $395 $495
Nonprofit, Education Government $295 $405

Stanford Social Innovation Review subscribers get an extra $30 discount.


Thanks, Aman B.

AIDG Goals for 2008

Haiti: Access to sanitation and clean energy in Cap-Haitien

1. Municipal Waste-to-Energy Plant. Begin building a municipal biogas plant in Cap Haitien to improve local sanitation and provide renewable energy to the city’s residents. Once online, the plant and associated waste collection services will serve an estimated 10,000 people.

2. Compost Site with SOIL. Collaborate with local partners to establish a community compost site using effluent from the biogas plant.

3. Job Creation. Create an enterprise to manage the biogas system and collect waste for processing. Revenue will be generated from biogas sales and waste collection fees.

4. Pilot Projects: Community Biogas and Upgraded Public Latrines.

  • Install several community and family-scale biogas systems as outreach to test and promote the technologies. One such system will be installed for a pottery collective in Lori, Haiti to generate fuel for one of their kilns.
  • Help improve sanitation infrastructure by upgrading existing public latrines.

Guatemala: Access to renewable energy and water for under-served communities

5. Achieving XelaTeco’s Triple Bottom Line Goals. Cement XelaTeco as a sustainable business that provides significant social, environmental and economic benefits to the communities it serves in Guatemala. XelaTeco’s primary focus is clean energy/energy conservation systems (micro-hydroelectric, biogas, higher efficiency ‘improved’ cookstoves).

6. Community-scale Renewable Energy Systems. Help XelaTeco provide micro-hydroelectric systems for three rural communities and, pending funding, help another 12-18 communities perform micro-hydro feasibility studies and system design.

7. Delivering Water to Isolated Communities. Prepare to start AIDG’s 3rd enterprise in 2009 that will focus on delivering water supplies to isolated rural communities.

8. Pilot projects: Water Supply Delivery, Small Scale Wind Power, and Solar Hot Water.

  • Perform hydraulic ram pump projects to deliver water to isolated communities in Guatemala.
  • Conduct research & development on small-scale wind power and solar hot water systems.

AIDG: Expanding and Growing our network of businesses

9. Growing our network of businesses. To achieve our goals of providing families and communities with affordable energy, sanitation and clean water, we will continue to optimize our business incubation, training and financing model so that it can be replicated and scaled.

Bill Gates at Davos – A New Approach to Capitalism in the 21st Century

In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gates calls for a new approach to capitalism that uses market forces to the benefit of all.

Some excerpts from his speech [Video (Duration: 36 min 55sec) | Full Transcript]:

There are billions of people who need the great inventions of the computer age, and many more basic needs as well, but they have no way of expressing their needs in ways that matter to the market, so they go without.

If we are going to have a chance of changing their lives, we need another level of innovation. Not just technology innovation, we need system innovation,
We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well.
The challenge here is to design a system where market incentives, including profits and recognition, drive [a company’s principles and its commercial competence] to do more for the poor.

I like to call this idea creative capitalism, an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world’s inequities.

If you don’t have time to listen to his full talk, here’s video of him speaking to the Wall Street Journal about “Creative Capitalism” prior to Davos.

A few reactions from the blogosphere:
Bill Gates Issues Call for Kinder Capitalism from Next
Bill Gates, closet socialist? from FP Passport

Just for Fun
Not to take away from the seriousness of his talk, but to show Gates as a well-rounded philanthropist with a great sense of humor, here is the video that preceded his speech at CES 2008. Gates has stepped down from his full-time role at Microsoft.

Related Post:
World Economic Forum in Davos on YouTube

NYTimes Link Drop (EU Ditching Biofuel Subsidies, Tata Nano, the Flow of Remittances)

From just about wherever he is in the world, Pete checks out the NYTimes every morning. Here are some stories he recommends.

1. Europe, Cutting Biofuel Subsidies, Redirects Aid to Stress Greenest Options

Governments in Europe and elsewhere have begun rolling back generous, across-the-board subsidies for biofuels, acknowledging that the environmental benefits of these fuels have often been overstated.

Related: The Issue with Biofuels…

2. Four Wheels for the Masses: The $2,500 Car

What does it take to build the world’s cheapest car? For Tata Motors of India, which will introduce its ultra-cheap car on Thursday, the better question was, what could it take out?

Tata Nano- the stripped down people's car
Tata Nano- the stripped down people’s car. View larger image.

Tata Motors Peoples’ Car – One lakh Car – TATA NANO

Big soundtrack (Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra”) for such a little car. 🙂

Related: Serving the BOP: Cars under $3,000 and Story Update: $3000 cars

3. The Global Scale of Migrant Money Flows [Infographic]

A new study suggests that 1 in 10 people on the planet directly benefit from money sent home by migrants working in other countries. Here are figures detailing that money’s impact on developing nations in 2006.

Original NYT story: Migrant Money Flow: A $300 Billion Current

migrants from poor countries send home about $300 billion a year. That is more than three times the global total in foreign aid, making “remittances” the main source of outside money flowing to the developing world.

Surveys show that 80 percent of the money or more is immediately spent, on food, clothing, housing, education or the occasional beer party or television set. Still, there are tens of billions available for savings or investment, in places where capital is scarce. While remittances have been shown to reduce household poverty, policymakers are looking to increase the effect on economic growth.

Event: Bill McKibben on Building the New Climate Movement 1/31/08

Building the New Climate Movement
Date: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008
Time: 8:00pm
Location: Wellesley College, Alumnae Hall
Directions to Wellesley College
College Map
Speaker: Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben Few have done more to raise public awareness or inspire action on climate change than Bill McKibben.

In 1989, McKibben first brought climate change to the public’s attention with the publication of The End of Nature. He has written on environmental issues for The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, and Outside. Recently, he has launched a campaign, Step It Up, to mobilize citizens to demand 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Come hear McKibben speak on “Building the New Climate Movement” as part of Focus the Nation, a national event aimed at encouraging discussion and action on climate change.

Parking is free in the Davis Parking Facility at the college’s Route 135 Entrance. Alumnae Hall is located adjacent to the parking garage.

All are welcome. The talk is free and open to the public. Contact the Office of Public Affairs for more information: (781) 283-2373

More about Focus the Nation

Link of the Day 012508: 500 Bn Tons of Prehistoric Organic Matter May Massively Accelerate ‘Global Warming’

In a nutshell: Widespread Melting in the arctic = widespread melting of permafrost = decomposition of organic matter that has been in deep freeze for centuries = massive release of CO2 and methane in the process = doom and …uh… gloom.

From the Daily Galaxy:

For thousands of years animal waste, and other organic matter left behind on the Arctic tundra, have been sealed off from the environment by permafrost. Now climate change is melting the permafrost and freeing mass quantities of prehistoric “ooze” from its state of suspended animation.

Russian scientist, Sergei Zimov, has been studying climate change in Russia’s Arctic for 30 years now. He is worried that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will drastically accelerate global warming predictions even beyond some of the most pessimistic forecasts.

Hmm, I had always thought that current climate models took the permafrost melting into account. Perhaps not. Must do more sleuthing to see.

Thanks PCH.

World Economic Forum in Davos on YouTube

The Davos Question

Duration: 2min 14sec

Every year, global leaders attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss how to better the world.

This year, you get to join them.

The Annual Meeting has begun, and world leaders have been gathering at the YouTube corner in the Congress Centre to view and respond to the videos many of you have submitted.

And its not too late to join The Davos Conversation. You can still submit a video answering The Davos Question:

“What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?”

Some of your videos will be screened at select plenary sessions (January 23-27). World leaders will continue to watch your videos and make responses of their own.

A few choice vids:
Maria Eitel responds to NoorAkhterBRAC at Davos

Duration: 2min 18sec

Maria Eitel, President of the Nike Foundation talks about the outcome of one of the Girls Count session on adolescent girls in poverty at the WEF 2008.

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan

Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, the Governor of the State Bank Of Pakistan, talks about addressing economic empowerment and education of women in Asia in particular.

Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel, agrees that education is key. [Doesn’t he seem like one tough cookie.]

Intel’s Bruce Sewell : More collaboration between the public and private sector to solve world problems
Bill George, author of True North and HBS Prof: Leaders who are more committed to the global community than to their own private interests.
Shimon Peres “responds in no uncertain terms that terrorism and climate change are the key things we must address in 2008.”
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the IPCC, “talks about innovative solutions for energy and climate”
2 of my favorite uber-bloggers
trading notes at Davos:

Related Resources:
Watch World Economic Forum Sessions on YouTube