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WFP SBP Stories: Per-Erik Eriksson, Environmental Sustainability Expert

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Since 1991 the World Food Programme (WFP) collaborates with a vast network of Standby Partners consisting of public and private organizations complementing WFP’s operational capacity by providing staffing, equipment, and services. Standby Partnerships are activated in various job positions and provide crucial support to WFP operations in emergencies or when WFP needs specific technical expertise. In 2022, 205 experts supported 45 Country Offices, 4 Regional Bureaux, and Headquarters. To request and deploy experts Standby Partners please reach out to WFP Standby Partnerships team in the Emergency Operations Division at: standbypartners@wfp.org.

 

Scaling up Environmental Management Systems (EMS) in all WFP locations has become a corporate priority. Consequently, in March 2022 Per-Erik Eriksson was deployed by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to WFP’s Regional Bureau in Dakar (RBD) as an Environmental Sustainability Expert. The purpose of his mission was to support the EMS implementation in the West African region.

Per-Erik with RBD colleagues in Dakar @WFP

Per-Erik’s successful secondment to RBD has since sparked an Energy project co-led by WFP and MSB. Having Standby Experts of his caliber in the field has tremendous value not just for WFP, but also for local partners, renewable energy practitioners, local enterprises working in renewable energy provision in developing country contexts, and other UN and humanitarian organisations.


Below is an account of Per-Erik’s Standby Partner experience with WFP. You can also find his story on MSB website.



 


When I first reviewed the Terms of Reference for the mission as seconded Environmental Sustainability Expert to WFP’s Regional Office for West Africa in Dakar (RBD), it looked almost daunting. As a team of two – myself and the newly arrived Regional Environmental Advisor, Amadou Cissé – we were supposed to implement WFP’s new Environmental Management System (EMS) in the 19 Country Offices making up the region.


The purpose of the EMS is to systematically identify, avoid and manage the most significant impacts of our operations. In addition to that, our task was to improve the environmental sustainability of the new common United Nations House in Dakar – a massive office complex with 2,000 workplaces under construction just outside the city. The contract was for 6 months.


Naturally, no-one expected us to be able to conduct EMS implementation missions in all 19 countries within that timeframe. The objective for 2022 had just been set at 7 countries when I arrived in Dakar in March. Now, when the time has come for summarizing what we did within the timeframe of my extended contract (extended to a total of 10 months), we can proudly say that we exceeded the objective by far. With the last mission to Burkina Faso in January 2023, we have completed the EMS implementation in no less than 12 of the 19 countries. And since we concentrated on the countries with the biggest operations, we have covered 87 % of the RBD total staff.


We started out already in March 2022 with a mission to the Central African Republic (CAR) to be able to meet up with my MSB colleague Magnus Lindsjöm, who was there working with WFP’s waste management team. We summed up our findings in an EMS Action Plan where we highlighted the importance of improving energy efficiency and taking further steps in converting from diesel generators to solar power. We also gave recommendations for waste and water management based on Magnus’ and our own findings – and we started our extensive staff training work. One of the major components in the trainings we have given to around 1,500 staff since then has been on the handling of air conditioners – the major energy consumers in our facilities (75-90% of consumption). To set the temperature at 26 degrees and never leave an air conditioner running if a door or window is open or if you’re the last to leave a room, has been the mantra in all communications and training.

Per-Erik (left) and Magnus at the new WFP base in Bria, CAR @MSB

Next up was Nigeria. The Country Office warmly welcomed assistance, particularly on converting from diesel generators to solar power. We concentrated on necessary energy efficiency improvements and on mapping the energy consumption for all facilities, drafting preliminary solar power system designs. Based on this, we assisted the Country Office in applying for funds from the WFP Energy Efficiency Programme (EEP) and loans from the WFP Capital Budgeting Facility (CBF) for a total of 6 major solar power systems with a combined PV power of 600 kWp and battery storage capacity of 1300 kWh. I was very pleased when this was finally all approved in November and the projects are now moving ahead. This will remove over 600,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year from our Nigerian facilities out of a total of 900,000 kg. Together with similar work for Chad, this will lift WFP RBD’s share of solar power supply from 2 to nearly 20%!


With our further missions to Cameroon, Niger, Mali, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, we have now reached and trained a significant amount of the RBD total staff, and we have kicked off the work with improving also waste management and recycling and water management in virtually all the larger scale operations.


We have also drafted an EMS Action Plan for the UN House in Dakar. A lot of emphasis has been put into this project by the Senegalese government to create a UN hub for West Africa. And it will certainly be an amazing building. It will house all 30 UN Agencies present in Dakar and we strive to eventually make it a truly green building.

Per-Erik at the Ministry of Energy in Chad @WFP

Already from the start, a significant proportion of the energy will be supplied by 2,200 kWp solar PV panels installed over the parking space. This inspired us to come up with an initiative for a resource that is currently lacking in the humanitarian sector – a Centre of Excellence for Renewable Energy based in Africa. With the currently strong trend towards converting to renewable energy supply (almost always solar power), there is a clear need for a knowledge hub with training, testing and demonstration facilities close to the field operations. For this, the UN House will be a perfectly located and highly accessible and visible place.


So, now that I will soon leave West Africa for my home base in Sweden, fingers crossed for relatively soon being able to come back and see significant solar power supply, a Centre of Excellence and improved waste management.

 

WFP team can’t praise enough Per-Erik’s valuable contributions to their work. As stated by Amadou M. Cissé, Regional Environmental Management Advisor:


“Per-Erik came to RBD and, from day one, became our fiercest advocate for decarbonization, helping change colleagues’ perspective regarding the importance to reduce the use of fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. He also was able to help country offices secure funding for much needed renewable energy projects. Thank you, my friend, and hope to work together again!”


Andy Cole, Infrastructure & Facilities Officer at WFP Headquarters, added:

“Per-Erik has helped champion sustainability across the region, supporting country offices and field colleagues to reduce our footprint in the often-fragile environments where we work. From designing solar arrays to setting up environmental management systems, his dedication and professionalism will deliver benefits for years to come. Huge thanks to Per-Erik for a job well done, and thanks also for the generous support from MSB, our valued standby partner.”

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