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Indigenous Peoples

DM2009 Finalists Collaborate to Make Innovation Succeed

Tom Grubisich's picture

Successful innovation in development often begins with one person's passionate belief in an idea that may exist only on a piece of paper.  But for an idea to make successive leaps to funding to implementation and, finally, scaling up invariably requires extensive networking and the forging of strategic, sometimes multiple, partnerships.  That's the story of Development Marketplace successes like 2006 winner PumpAid (photo) from Sub-Saharan Africa, 2006 winner Self-Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting from India, and 2003 winner Ha-Tien-Habitats-Handbags from Vietnam.

Beginning with a US$120,000 DM grant, PumpAid brought its clean-water project to early-stage development in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and went on to get financing of US$25 million to reach an additional eight million people in those two countries.  PumpAid has two partners. 

Ha-Tien-Habitats-Handbags, which has partnered with the International Finance Corp. (the commercial arm of the World Bank Group) and Kien Giang Province's Department of Science and Technology, was a 2007 winner of the US$30,000 UN-Habitat/Dubai Municipality International Award for Best Praces to Improve the Living Environment.

Self-Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting went through a series of expansions aided by the nonprofit Aakash Ganga that was financially seeded by Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA).  That led to a US$50,000 grant from the Asian Development Bank, and U.N. Development Programs (UNDP) has given Aakash Ganga a grant to expand to several hundred villages.

DM2009 Finalists Rank Far Down as CO2 Emitters

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The 44 developing countries represented among the hundred DM2009 finalists produce very modest amounts of carbon dioxide (the major man-made source of global warming) on a per-capita basis.  The World Bank data visualization (above) divides the 44 countries into low income (green balls), lower-middle income (orange), and upper-middle income (blue).  For comparison, the high-income U.S. is represented by the purple ball in the upper-right-hand corner.

The vertical axis shows emissions per capita in metric tons among finalist countries.  A group of Sub-Saharan African nations -- represented by the green balls at the far left -- produce the lowest per-capita emissions -- as low as a fractional .10 metric tons.  Russia --  the highest blue ball -- has the highest CO2 emission rate among finalist countries -- 10.5 tons.  The U.S. rate is 19.5 tons.  Per-capita emissions by India -- the largest orange ball -- are among the finalists' lowest rates, although the South Asian county is a major emitter overall because it is so populous.

Climate change's adverse affects, including drought, flooding, and rising sea levels, will hit developing countries the hardest, and that includes their economies as well as people (particularly the poor and other vulnerable) and natural resources.  The effects are already being felt.  The horizontal axis of the chart shows gross domestic product per capita in finalist countries.  Many countries' per-capita GDP is already precariously low -- below $500 -- and some others, including India's, aren't much higher.

The DM2009 finalist projects' triple objectives are to protect people at the community level -- particularly the most vulnerable -- and the natural resources on which they depend, and energize generally faltering rural economies.

National Governments and NGOs: The Friction Point

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Ann Kendall represents the Cusichaca Trust's winning entry in DM2009 that would use pre-Hispanic water-management systems to respond to the adverse affects of climate change in an Andean community of 2,350 families in Peru. In this mini-interview she has some very interesting things to say about the competition and how it could better help finalists, winners and non-winners alike.

Q. What impressed you most about DM2009?

A. The variety of levels of knowledge, experience, issues focussed, and the finalists' desire to contribute. Plus the effort and thought the World Bank staff had put into creating a program to encompass this range.

Q. What improvements would you like to see?

A. This year’s agenda and the series of sessions were very intensive and had all the strains of a crash course in order to communicate/educate at all levels of experience. It provided lots of opportunity but was perhaps too intense for some, so that there was less space for taking initiatives and advantage for more specific choices of dialogue developed with individuals and concerning more project specific interests, which could have included a deeper exploration of connections between fellow finalists objectives and appreciating the points of value of their issues and presentations and how these might interact with their own objectives. In 2006 I remember there was more collegial, general interaction with World Bank staff who took the time to visit and take a relaxed interest in the stands. Their conversations and reactions to the finalists about their specific presentations were most useful, as were their own matured interests and concerns, sharing their World Bank experiences and views. The interaction in 2009 with the World Bank managerial staff...was excellent and greatly appreciated. It would have been good to have had a couple of free hours one afternoon and some info on book shops in Washington for acquiring/reviewing available published materials. Maybe this was available on the Friday and the winners missed out on it!

Q. Should there be a bigger money pool to produce more winners or to extend winning projects beyond the early-stage period?

How to Help Tame Scary Adaptation Funding Estimates

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Such intimidating numbers: To adapt to destructive climate change, developing countries need US$30-$50 billion annually between now and 2020, and US$100 billion annually thereafter, according to U.N. and World Bank estimates.

By the end of the U.N.-sponsored climate negotations wrapping up this week in Copenhagen, developed nations are likely to pledge more.  But most of the funding gap is not likely to be closed.

A ray of hope: What if all hundred finalist projects of DM2009's "Climate Adaptation" competition were to be financed?  Their total cost would be about US$17.5 million.

These early-stage projects are as solid as any adaptation proposals anywhere in the developing world.  They all survived rigorous scrutiny to be among the 6 percent of more than 1,700 applications that made it to the DM finals.  They focus on helping poor and other vulnerable people who are those most affected by climate change.  Most of the projects are designed to be replicated widely, so they have the potential of helping millions of people threatened by flooding, drought, and rising sea levels -- and also protecting many ecosystems throughout the globe.

The Secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) could help to make this happen by recommending that up to US$17.5 million of any new adaptation funding for developing countries be earmarked for the DM finalists.

The issue is not billions or even hundreds of millions of dollars -- just a tiny fraction of the lowest estimated cost of adaptation in developing countries.  Could developed nations, who are responsible for most of the global warming that is hitting the poorest countries hardest, say anything but yes to that?

 

How DM2009 Can Be Better -- From 5 Finalists

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From DM2009 finalists, here is a sampling of suggestions for how future Global Development Marketplaces could be improved:

  • Sonia Gabriela Ortiz Maciel, Mexico: "More workshops on funding, reporting, finance, accounting -- and in the morning, when we're not tired."
  • Carlo Vecco Biove, winner, Peru: "DM could fund an additional phase for those projects that demonstrate proven success, or could help organize events (such as business conferences) to support the attainment of financing for longer-term results.  Two years is short."
  • Laurie Navarro, Philippines: "DM should have a network of other sources of funding for those projects that do not qualify for DM support."
  • Benedict Bijoy Baroi, Bangladesh: "DM should provide feedback on the weaknesses of finalist projects or lack in improvement.
  • Tom Okumu, Kenya: "DM should award at least one finalist from each participating country as a way of balancing the competition participation and equal distribution of development in these countries of representation."

     

After Copenhagen: DM2009 Winner Has a Message for World Leaders

Leonardo Rosario (beneath banner in photo) of the Philippines was a winner at DM2009 with his Trowel Development Foundation's project to protect subsistence fishing communities from climate change, while also improving their production and marketing and restoring mangrove forests.  Here's his message for leaders at the international climate talks in Copenhagen.

How I wish the finalists of DM 2009 could have presented their “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” to international leaders gathered at the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

What those leaders would have seen would have been not only passion and commitment but also solutions that were innovative, pragmatic, and cost-efficient.

It’s too late to go to Copenhagen.  But Copenhagen is only the beginning of the search by world leaders for climate adaptation solutions that are worthy of their support. 

The DM2009 finalists’ projects meet all the objectives of that search.  They enhance and strengthen people’s capacity to manage climate risks and adapt to changing climate patterns, and even to build community resiliency among the most vulnerable – Indigenous Peoples, women and children, marginalized farmers, and small-scale fishers.

Building disaster-resilient communities may seem far-fetched to skeptics, but it is do-able.  With innovative, community-based management of natural resources as well as the synergy of ancient and traditional knowledge systems combined with modern technology, a quarter of the DM finalists showed how it can be done.  The main objective of the projects was to show how food, which is most important in times of disaster, can be secured.  The techniques included climate-adapted production systems, participatory plant breeding, introduction of “Family EarthBox,” bioculture systems, cultivation of drought-resistant rainforest tree food, and merging traditional indigenous production practices with environment-friendly modern farming technologies.

How One Finalist Views DM2009

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What did the DM2009 finalists think about the competition and how it might be improved?  Here's a mini-interview with Andrew Reitz, who was a DM2009 finalist from Ecuador.  Reitz is a rural enterprise specialist with Conservacion y Desarollo, whose project is a combination market/conservation approach to community agriculture that would help 100 indigenous and mestizo rural households in the Andes commercialize a native blueberry while reforesting the local ecosystem.   Reitz describes his project in this YouTube clip from the Development Markektplace Channel.
 
Q. What most impressed you about your week at the competition?

A. I was most impressed that the World Bank took the opportunity to reach out to the participants with some of the curriculum from the World Bank Institute.  These sessions touched base on some of the fundamentals to project management that, if applied correctly, will surely help participants achieve higher levels of success in future projects.   I also particularly enjoyed the panel discussion of past DM winners.
 
Q. What would you like to see added to future competition programs to help ensure that all finalists have the richest possible experience from their week?

A. I don't believe finalists were given enough time to properly present their projects to the jurors.   A half hour would have allowed for a proper question and answer period.  In addition, finalists need to be better prepped on the types of questions that jurists will ask.   The session on "selling your project/idea" was interesting; however, it would have been more beneficial if past jurors were involved.
 
Q. Should there be a bigger money pool so there can be more winners among the 100 finalists?

Indigenous Knowledge +Science and Technology = DM2009 Winners

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Nine DM2009 winners will use the centuries-old knowledge of Indigenous Peoples to adapt to destructive climate change -- but often leveraged with modern science and technology.

Here's how old and new will be joined in several winning projects in Latin America:

  • Peru -- Agricultural production in four communities in the Amazonian Basin (total population: 1,500) will be better managed through a combination of ancestral knowledge of the Basin and biomathematical computer simulation model and geographic information system (GIS)-based "micro-zoning" of the communities' ecology and economics. 
  • Colombia -- Traditional knowledge, aided by GIS and the sciences of ecology and biology, will be used to protect 207,000 hectares of native forest for a combination of conservation, housing, hunting, fishing, and gathering, traditional farming, and preservation of sacred places for community rituals. 
  • Costa Rica -- Ancient knowledge of adjacent valley and mountain ecosystems will be rescued and melded with mapping and other technology to help valley inhabitants of Bajo Chirripo to better cope with flooding caused by storms whose frequency and intensity are expected to increase with climate change, and to improve their present subsistence income. 
  • Peru -- Indigenous knowledge systems on how to adapt the native potato to changing climate will be combined with modern plant breeding to help communities in Potato Park in the High Andes to adapt to rapid climate change with weather-resilient plantings. 

 

Most of the finalist and winning projects that would help Indigenous Peoples were based in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities against "biopiracy" and related theft have won more legal protection -- a clear signal for what needs to be done in other regions to protect indigenous rights.

Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries
, edited by J. Michael Finger and Philip Schuler (2004, World Bank and Oxford University Press), is a detailed primer on the issue, including an examination of the controversial World Trade Organization (WTO)-administered Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which indigenous communities say is unfair to them.

Least Developed Countries and DM2009

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The DM2009 competition, whose theme was adaptation to climate change, especially how it impacts the poor and vulnerable on the local level, would seem to have been the perfect fit for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The poorest countries are expected to pay the highest price of climate change on their human, natural, and economic resources.  With generally weak capacity in regional and national government and infrastructure, they would seem to be well suited for the early-stage, community-focused projects of DM2009.  In fact, criteria for National Adaptation Plans of Action for LDCs give No. 1 ranking to "a participatory process involving stakeholders, particularly local communities."

But the fit proved less than perfect.  The 49 LDCs worldwide produced only 26 of the 100  finalists.  Only four were winners -- two from Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso and Ethiopia) and one each from Middle East and North Africa (Djibouti) and East Asia and the Pacific (Samoa).  Five finalists were from the most populous LDC -- Bangladesh, in South Asia -- but none of those was a winner.  LDCs Tanzania and Uganda -- two of Sub-Saharan Africa's most populous countries -- had only three finalists between them, none of whom was a winner.

Is it too late for the 22 LDC finalists who didn't pick up crystal globes at the Nov. 13 awards ceremony?  Maybe not.  According to most recent findings, the 49 LDCs globally aren't making enough progress in pinpointing potential local climate adaptation projects. 

What if the 10 LDCs from which the 22 non-winning finalists come took a close look at those projects and considered them for funding in their National Adaptation Plans of Action?  Some DM2009 jurors said they had a tough time choosing winners because all the finalists presented strong entries.

Development Marketplace's decision makers are looking at ways to help all the finalists succeed.  Aleem Walji, Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, which includes the secretariat for the Development Marketplace consortium and other innovation platforms, said in a mini-interview on this blog: "I think we have a responsibility to try and support this entire community of finalists.  We went from 1,750 applicants to a hundred finalists.  What can we do to connect these hundred finalists to everyone who we know who can help them go forward -- funders, capacity builders, past DM winners, each other."

For themselves, their projects, and their countries, the 20 non-winning finalists from LDCs should keep their hope in their hearts.

How a Coconut Becomes a Shield Against Climate Change

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Indigenous Peoples have been contending with destructive weather like cyclones, flooding, and drought for centuries -- as the development community has sometimes belatedly discovered.  Nine of DM2009's winners are projects that tap into that special know-how to help indigenous communities survive the increasingly destructive weather that climate change brings.

Indigenous know-how is invariably practical and low-cost -- like the winner from Samoa.  That project would build three traditional Samoan houses -- called fale, for "open house" -- as models of "safer, accessible, resilient, and sustainable housing."

Here's how a fale is built, as described in a fascinating story on the East Asia & Pacific website of the World Bank: The structure is "lashed and tied together with afa -- an organic sennit rope. Afa is made by twisting together the fibers of dry coconut husks. The lashing work is traditionally done by elderly men while women make the thatch for the domed roof of the fale – either from coconut palm leaves or sugar cane."  (Photo after recent rain shows 80-year-old Pousea, ceremonial house in Samoa that was restored by DM winner Afeafe o Vaetoefaga Pacific Academy of Cultural Restoration, Research, and Development two years ago.)


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