First impressions at the first South-South Expo held in Africa

By Antonella Piccolella

IFAD grants booth at the Expo. ©IFAD
As government ministers, business leaders and experts gathered in Nairobi yesterday to discuss southern-grown solutions, they were greeted by drummers and dancers. With this, participants of the Global South-South Development Expo, which is held for the first time in Africa, and in the South part of the world, could see that this will be a different sort of Expo than before.

The Expo, which is organized by the UN Office of South-South Cooperation and hosted by UNEP under the theme "Building inclusive green economies,” is a landmark event that signals a change in the development paradigm from North-South to South-South. During the opening ceremony UNEP’s Achim Steiner highlighted that “the conversation on development is no longer deposited in the North. We are starting a ‘new conversation’, a new development paradigm.”

The Opening Ceremony was followed by the inauguration of the exhibit area in the morning. Events featured throughout the Expo's first day included the inauguration of the Expo's exhibition pavilion, which has more than 70 exhibitors in interactive booths. IFAD has a strong presence with three booths, including one that focuses on an IFAD-supported biogas project in Kenya.

Explaining the portable biogas solution.
Since May 2012 in Kenya, IFAD has worked in partnership with Biogas International to install nine biogas systems on small dairy farms as part of the IFAD-supported Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme (SDCP)[1] in Nakuru and two systems in an orphanage school in Naivasha. As in other developing countries, women bare the greater load of family responsibilities, including spending numerous hours collecting firewood and tending to crops. Biogas International alleviates some of that burden by providing cooking fuel and large volumes of rich fertilizer, as well as freeing up the time otherwise spent collecting firewood. As Karan Sehgal explains "the technology was designed and locally produced in Kenya and was inspired by the Maasai, who are always on the move". Biogas International designed these systems so that the Maasai, instead of carrying firewood, could pack up their “energy source” quickly and efficiently to move as they needed. The technology is locally designed and manufactured, taking in to consideration the needs and capacity of local smallholder farmers.

Many people came to learn more about the biogas solution.
Already on the first day, the booth was crowded with many Expo participants curious about how the portable biogas solution operated. And for me, this was exciting to see as after all, this is the whole point of the Expo – to exchange resources and knowledge on development solutions that are working.

As Wu Xiaoqing, China’s Vice-Minister, Ministry of Environmental Protection, said in his opening remarks, “developing countries have much more in common than difference.”

I am looking forward to the next few days to see if his statement rings true.

The Global South-South Expo is held in Nairobi is from 28 October until 1 November.

[1] The programme was developed as part of the DFID funded  Initiative for Mainstreaming Innovation (IMI) project : Making Biogas Portable: Renewable Technologies for a Greener Future coordinated by Karan Sehgal under the supervision of Antonio Rota, IFAD’s Senior Livestock Officer.