Windmills, solar powered water systems and more than 10,000 cooking stoves are really changing the lives of impoverished people in Somalia. With help from the European Commission, the ADRA—short for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency—is running an innovative project that benefits the semi-autonomous states of Puntland and Somaliland in a country still trying to heal from a long civil conflict.
Rita, a longtime worker for ADRA, can’t help but smile when she things about what the organization has done for the people of Somalia. She has been working with the ADRA in this conflict-torn country for many years. Despite the conflict and the human tragedy, Rita has seen how the persistence and perseverance of few can bring positive change to the lives of many. Often at personal risk, ADRA staff venture out in the country and serve as agents of change by providing education, access to clean water, teaching sanitation, helping people in distress and, more recently, introducing sustainable energy.
What does sustainable energy have to do with humanitarian work? Rita explains that the role of energy in development and poverty reduction cannot be overemphasised.
“We have learnt by experience that energy is central to sustainable development and our poverty reduction efforts,” she said. “Energy affects all aspects of development – the social, the economic, the environment, health and education. We can improve livelihoods through promoting accessible, cost-effective and environmentally sound energy services.”
ADRA now not only provides people with the necessary resources, it also assists the local government in developing energy policies together with local stakeholders.
The project is conducted in line with the global trend of seeking renewable energy as a spur to economic growth. The installation of energy equipment will result in increased access to clean water. Health and education services will create an awareness of the effects of bad natural resource management and promote the use of renewable energy options, such as wind, solar and modern biomass.
Because Rita is a committed Seventh-day Adventist, some might wonder whether the help she gives is conditional. In other words, do people have to start attending Adventist worship services before they are given a cooking stove?
“Not at all!” Rita said. “There are actually very few Adventists in Somalia. Our humanitarian work is a way in which we can show people that we care – with no strings attached. We do our work. We help people. That’s it.”
From providing water to giving access to renewable energy, ADRA is at work in Somalia. Creating just and positive change is what ADRA is all about.