Three Cairns Fellows Tackle Climate Change from Multiple Angles

From advancing renewable electrification in rural South Asia to restoring woodlands in Central Africa, the inaugural Three Cairns Fellows are implementing innovative climate solutions across the Global South.

Edore Onomakpome believes in the power and potential of mini grids to help close the global energy access gap, which remains significant. Over a half billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa will still be without electricity in 2030 unless the current electrification pace is tripled, and approximately 1.2 billion worldwide will need to gain access to electricity to achieve universal access by 2030, according to recent World Bank reports. Onomakpome is tasked with identifying and developing opportunities to finance decarbonization and climate initiatives, aligning her efforts with the World Bank’s mission to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. 

To achieve this goal, she is developing renewable mini grids that she says will spur rural electrification.

“I am actively designing a sustainable and scalable finance program that will promote development of renewable rural electrification away from a grant-funded approach to a more project finance-based approach,” Onomakpome says. “Mini grids sit perfectly in this nexus of decarbonization and lifting populations out of extreme poverty.”

To learn new strategies for project-based financing, Onomakpome, manager of International Finance Corporation’s infrastructure portfolio in South Asia, enrolled in the Yale Center for Business and the Environment’s Financing and Deploying Clean Energy (FDCE) online certificate program as a Three Cairns Fellow.

“FDCE provides the opportunity to examine the viability and financial sustainability of mini grids to address energy needs in underserved communities,” Onomakpome says. “And it allows me to meet other professionals from different fields and backgrounds with a singular similar interest.”

Part of the recently launched Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South at the Yale School of the Environment,  Three Cairns Fellows is a  scholarship opportunity for mid-career environmental professionals from the Global South seeking to enroll in two of YSE’s online certificate programs, FDCE or Tropical Forest Landscapes: Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (TFL), run by the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative. TFL welcomed 16 inaugural Three Cairns Fellows this year, while FDCE enrolled five Fellows in its 2022-2023 cohort.

“The Three Cairns Program enables us to reach those who are best equipped to turn insights into meaningful climate action in the Global South,” says ELTI Program Manager Karin Bucht '15 MF.  “The scholarships benefit not only the recipients but the program as a whole. Our Three Cairns Fellows bring and share incredible experience and passion with the entire cohort.”

Meet the Inaugural Three Cairns Fellows:
Climate Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Communicators

Linda Ogallo

A New Perspective on Climate Adaption Efforts in Africa

Linda Ogallo, a climate adaptation expert in Africa, has seen the need for change — in how building resilience to climate change is approached and financed. The Financing and Deploying Clean Energy online certificate program is giving her “a new perspective on how things can be done differently,” from novel financing mechanisms to community-level interventions that bring stability in an increasingly unstable environment.

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Teddy Mugabo

Building a Climate-Resilient Economy in Rwanda

To help Rwanda meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 38% by 2030, CEO of the Rwanda Green Fund Teddy Mugabo is supporting stakeholders in green business development and capacity building initiatives. She enrolled in the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy online certificate program to gain new insights into the financing mechanisms that can support her country’s ambitious climate plan. 

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Peter Bulimo

Empowering the Next Generation of Kenyan Climate Leaders

Top-down approaches in conservation have led to the sidelining of Kenya’s youth and Indigenous populations in the decision, planning, and development process, says Peter Bulimo, global youth ambassador for the international non-profit Youth4Nature. To help equip the next generation of climate leaders with the skills they need to take action, he enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program

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Laura Orozco Romo

Advancing Sustainable Agroforestry in Tanzania

The One Acre Fund provides financing and training to over 1 million smallholder farmers across six countries in eastern and southern Africa. In Tanzania, the Fund’s carbon projects leader Laura Orozco Romo designs and manages projects that support the country’s small farmers through agroforestry. The Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program  is giving her a new perspective on the vital importance of community engagement in her initiatives, she says.

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Enver Mapanda

Protecting African Woodlands

The Miombo woodlands in Central Africa is a biodiversity hotspot and key natural resource for local populations. Enver Mapanda, head of forestry operations for Green Resources in Niassa, Mozambique, is leading an effort to conserve and restore parts of the woodlands  that are experiencing considerable degradation and deforestation. She enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program to help her develop new methods for preserving these vulnerable areas and achieve her “ultimate goal” of contributing to climate mitigation and adaption through forest conservation and restoration. 

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Andres Melendro

Financing Forest Restoration through Carbon Markets

Working with governments in developing countries on forestry-related initiatives, Andrés Melendro conducts risk analysis and due diligence on the social, financial, and ecological feasibility of conservation and restoration projects. The Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program is helping him further understand the complexities involved in financing forestry initiatives through carbon markets, serving as a valuable tool for linking international climate policy with landscapes and livelihoods on the ground level. 

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Edore Onomakpome

Addressing Energy Needs in South Asia

As the manager of International Finance Corporation’s infrastructure portfolio in South Asia, Edore Onomakpome identifies and develops opportunities to finance decarbonization and climate initiatives, aligning her efforts with the World Bank’s mission to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. She says the Financing and Deploying Clean Energy online certificate program will help her examine the viability and financial sustainability of mini grids to address energy needs in underserved communities.

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Japheth Orieny

Restoring Degraded Landscapes

Japheth Orieny has seen firsthand how a top-down approach to land restoration can keep community members from being fully committed to conservation. An assistant director of communications for the Kenya Environmental Action Network, Orieny enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program to learn new ways to encourage stakeholder engagement and enhance fundraising efforts to get more community buy-in to climate action initiatives. 

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Fally Titikpina

Moving Toward Clean Energy Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

For a decade, Fally Titikpina has worked on accelerating the transition to a clean energy future. The Financing and Deploying Clean Energy online certificate program has deepened her understanding of available clean energy technologies and provided insights on the levers of policy and finance that might be most productive. And she has put this information right back to work: “What really matters to me is to create hope for sub-Sahara African communities.”

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Stefanía Sibille

A Low Carbon Future for the Amazon

Stefanía Sibille Grández is part of a knowledge management team informing local populations, governments, and businesses on regional decarbonization trends and opportunities in one of the world’s most critical ecosystems, the Amazon. She enrolled in the Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program to develop a more holistic approach to the  initiative she works on across South America.

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It might be difficult to imagine anyone more prepared to implement climate action in the Global South than Three Cairns Fellow Enver Mapanda whose career in forestry has spanned almost two decades — from forest management in South Africa to planning and development in Zimbabwe to heading forestry operations for a forest carbon outfit in Uganda. Now the head of forestry operations for the forestation company Green Resources in Niassa, Mozambique, Mapanda is leading an effort to conserve and restore parts of the Miombo woodlands in Central Africa. Constituting the largest dryland forest ecosystem in Sub-Saharan Africa, the woodlands span approximately 1.9 million square kilometers over seven countries — Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, and Democratic Republic of Congo. A biodiversity hotspot and key natural resource for local populations that is also a source for carbon sequestration, parts of the woodlands are  experiencing considerable degradation and deforestation.

Mapanda enrolled in ELTI’s Tropical Forest Landscapes online certificate program to build upon her expertise and develop new methods for preserving these vulnerable areas.

“To achieve our immediate goals, I believe the training, skills, and knowledge I receive from this course will assist in securing funds, developing new programs for restoration, and introducing novel techniques for monitoring and evaluation,” says Mapanda, adding that her ultimate goal is to contribute to climate mitigation and adaption through forest conservation and restoration.

Three Cairns Fellow Linda Ogallo is also highly experienced in her field, but after working for almost a decade on building climate resilience in Africa, she says she needed a new perspective on climate adaptation strategies.

Much of the money for this work has come from donors and much of the work has been in reaction to humanitarian disasters or focused on communicating information, says Ogallo, who, as a climate change adaptation expert with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Application Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, manages the impacts of and responses to climate change in 11 countries across the horn of Africa.

“This has been important, but as the climate risks continue to increase, I’ve found myself having many conversations on the need to change our approach,” Ogallo says, noting that international crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have made this even more pressing.

The FDCE program is giving her a new perspective and helping her initiate discussions at various government levels on creative financing mechanisms and community-level energy access. Adaptation challenges, she notes, are linked to poverty, and poverty is inextricable from energy access.

I have gained a language to articulate the role of clean energy not just in mitigating climate change but, critically for Africa, in strengthening the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities.”

Linda OgalloClimate change adaptation expert,  Nairobi, Kenya

“Before the course, I was looking for a program that offered innovative approaches to climate financing, but (FDCE) offered so much more,” she says. “I have gained a language to articulate the role of clean energy not just in mitigating climate change but, critically for Africa, in strengthening the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities.”

New Knowledge Where It’s Needed Most

Three Cairns Fellows working on the transition to clean energy and tropical forest restoration and conservation will soon be joined by environmental professionals working in other areas, as the Three Cairns Climate Program for the Global South, launched with a generous gift from the Three Cairns Group, also supports the development of new certificate programs relevant to environmental issues pertaining to the Global South. YSE has partnered with the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning to develop a survey to better determine areas of interest, need, and priorities around climate content. While no decision will be made until the survey results are in, among the many topics being considered for new programs are urban climate leadership, international climate change communication, and food and agriculture in a changing climate.

“Eighty percent of the new urban population growth between now and 2050 is expected to take place in the Global South, especially Asia and Africa,” says Karen Seto, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science. “Given these trends, there is both an opportunity and a responsibility to train leaders in the Global South to help make their cities more resilient and sustainable. The twin challenges will be to simultaneously avoid emissions and build resilience.”

Anthony Leiserowitz, founder and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, who recently presented results from surveys of public opinion about climate change in China, India, the United States, and in 110 countries, territories, and areas worldwide, says there is a growing need around the world for effective climate change communications.

“Many in the climate change community lack the capacity to use 21st century communication strategies, tactics, and tools. Likewise, social scientists have generated many insights that can make climate change communication campaigns more effective, yet most organizations lack the capacity to implement them,” he says. “To help bridge this gap, YPCCC plans to provide courses, workshops, and training programs in climate change communication for both Yale students and climate change professionals around the world.”

Effective communication strategies are critical for Three Cairns Fellow and TFL participant Peter Bulimo. As global ambassador for the nonprofit Youth4Nature, Bulimo compiles impactful stories and mentors Kenya’s youth on communicating their experiences through storytelling. These stories help promote change at a time when progress in forest conservation has been stifled by top-down approaches that often end up separating communities from their forests, resulting in further degradation of tropical landscapes, he says.

“TFL has been an eye-opener thus far. I am glad I am now empowered to pass what I’m learning and this new knowledge to those who need it most,” Bulimo says.

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