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Agriculture and Rural Development

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.

He Didn’t Win, but DM 2009 Finalist Hails His ‘Great Achievement’

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Development Marketplace 2009 finalist MacDuff Phiri of Ghana (photo at right) didn’t collect a winner’s crystal globe at the Nov. 13 awards ceremony in Washington. But he didn't return home empty-handed.  Phiri, whose project would make crop insurance affordable for struggling small farmers in Ghana’s drought-stricken Upper West Region, said in an email to one of his new friends from the "100 ideas to save the planet" competition:  “My presence and just being able to network with all the other participants and great people like yourself was a great achievement in itself.”

There are 73 other finalists who didn't win either.  What do they especially remember, even treasure, from their week at the competition?  What's next for their projects, which were among the 6 percent that survived all the way to the finals?  We'll be putting questions like those to them over the next days, and share their answers here.

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.

DM2009 to Help Indigenous Grassroots Grow in Siberia

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The 40 Indigenous Peoples of the North, Siberia, and Far East in Russia endure one of the world's most hostile environments.  But it is man, not nature, that threatens the very existence of these communities, which have dwindled to about 250,000 people who live in sometimes besieged camps and villages sprinkled across the vast frozen landscape from the Barents Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  (Photo credit: EALÁT.)

Deforestation, industrialization, and flooding from hydropower drive Russia's Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral homelands.  Illegal fishing, poaching, and the auction of fishing grounds deprive them of their livelihoods.  Russia's Indigenous Peoples are, theoretically, protected by federal laws, but advocacy groups say there's no regulatory force to the laws.  The collective plight of the communities is grim evidence behind those arguments.

Leading the fight to put teeth in the laws is the Center for Support of Indigenous Peoples of the North (CISPN).  Its tenacious struggle, which has won it some legal skirmishes in Moscow and at international forums, has now earned it one of the 26 awards given at the Development Marketplace 2009 competition.  The $200,000 award will go toward a grassroots project that will help indigenous communities leverage their traditional knowledge with contemporary techniques of communication and advocacy that involve engaging all stakeholders.  The goal is a "climate strategy" of adaptation that will finally lead to real, enforceable protection of Russia's indigenous communities.

CISPN Director Rodion Sulyandziga, proudly holding his crystal globe after the Nov. 13 awards ceremony in Washington, said: “It’s a great day.  I’m very proud.  The most important thing is the Indigenous Peoples’ voice is heard in Siberia and everywhere.”

And then it was back to Moscow for Sulyandziga -- to map the Center's new grassroots fight.

Africa and Adaptation: Many Needs, Too Few Projects

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The economic -- as well as human and environmental -- costs of adapting to climate change will hit developing nations hardest -- none harder than those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  New World Bank projections have adaptation costs carving out almost 7 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa's gross development product annually between 2010 and 2029.  That's more than double the cost projected for Latin America and the Caribbean, and more than triple the cost to GDP that would be borne by developing countries in other regions.  Yet only 16 of the 100 finalists in DM2009 were from Africa, and only three of them -- from Burkina Faso (anti-desertification), Ethiopia (anti-drought), and Nigeria (anti-drought) -- were among the 26 winners.

Below, from left, photos of winners from projects in Burkina Faso (Thomas Granier), Ethiopia (Mohammad Ehsan Dulloo), and Nigeria (Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuonu).

Of all the adverse impacts of climate change in Africa, the worst is drought.  Already faltering food production in the region could fall by 16 percent long term because of more frequent and intense drier weather, according to recent projections.  If that happens, Africa would be even further from meeting its Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty.

With most of Africa's food grown by small farmers, most adaptation projects to protect the farmers against climate change will have to start on a small scale.  The implications are as certain as the outlook for drier weather: Africa must become the center of many more projects like the region's three winners at DM2009.

World Bank and Adaptation: The Need to Think Small

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A  revealing interview at DM2009 was the one of Ian Noble, a top World Bank expert on climate change, and member of the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change team who was also a DM2009 juror.  Noble was questioned by Habiba Gitay, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank Institute, about the big development projects that the World Bank has traditionally fostered and financed and the micro-sized, early-stage or seed projects (up to $200,000 in value) that are part of the Development Marketplace competitions. Noble's answers underscored how the Bank, in responding to the destructive impacts of climate change on the people and natural resources of developing countries, is increasingly thinking small about adaptation projects.

"Ultimately, adaptation is going to be carried out by individual people, households, small communities," Noble answered.  "So one of the challenges of the World Bank is to shift out-sourcing to that level.  This is a huge, rich body of information flowing into the World Bank from Development Marketplace, especially in the case of this [competition].  With the tension between community-based adaptation and adaptation funding at the national level, a bridge has to be built [between the two]."

 

New Indigenous Fund Has Local Focus -- Sound Familiar?

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Days after climate adaptation projects aiding and led by Indigenous Peoples won nine awards at the DM2009 competition (Nov. 10-13), the worldwide indigenous community took a major step toward becoming a key player in the international climate change debate.

First Peoples Worldwide, with the help of the World Bank's Social Development Department, is setting up an Indigenous Peoples Climate Action Fund in part "to strengthen the capacity of Indigenous Peoples’ communities to influence decision-making and to engage in dialogue on climate change at the national and international level."

The US$10 million Fund will also finance small-scale adaptation projects in indigenous communities, and then seek to scale them "across communties, regions, and countries" -- the ultimate goal of many of DM2009's early-stage finalist projects.  The new Fund aims to use indigenous communities' traditional knowledge to launch projects that will buffer the poor and vulnerable against the impacts of destructive weather, conserve their sensitive environments, and improve faltering local indigenous economies -- also the objectives of DM2009 projects.

At a Nov. 18 roundtable in Washington announcing the Fund, World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick offered several examples of how the knowledge and experience of Indigenous Peoples are proving successful in blunting the worst of climate change.  In parts of Africa, he said, plantings of Red bush tea can survive the drier climate.  In Vietnam, plantings of dense mangroves protect the coastline from the waves of tropical storms.

Innovation Needs More Than Money to Succeed

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Innovative adaptation projects, like those featured at DM2009, hold enormous potential for blunting the adverse impact of climate change in developing countries, while also helping to reduce poverty and build social value.  But to achieve their potential, these projects have to be scaled.  Money is important for projects to get beyond their early or seed stage.  But money alone isn't enough -- as already succcessful project leaders emphasized at the Nov. 12 DM2009 panel "Taking an Idea to Scale" (photo at right: panelist and competition juror Anne Marie Moeller of Humana People to People India).  To succeed, panelists emphasized, innovative projects also have to be firmly planted within their communities, understand local needs, find partners with whom they develop solid cooperation, and be supported with staff who are both dedicated and skilled.

 

To help put all the pieces together and effectively link adaptation to development on a scale of broad replication, the World Bank Institute is, among other things, reshaping itself as a "knowledge broker" that connects projects with the right people and institutions within the development community as well as with governments.  Aleem Walji, the WBI's new Innovation Practice Manager, talks about this in his mini-interview below, as well as in his introduction to the "Taking an Idea to Scale" panel (video link above).  There are more details in this WBI statement about the the new strategy under Institute Vice President Sanjay Pradhan.

 

Aleem Walji on Development Marketplace

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Aleem Walji is the new Innovation Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, which includes the secretariat for the Development Marketplace consortium and other innovation platforms.  He is former Head of Global Development Initiatives at Google.  The peripatetic Walji sat down for this mini-interview as DM2009 was winding up:

Q. Development Marketplace stresses innovation, both in projects it seeks and how they're evaluated.  Why is innovation so important?


A. The need for solutions, and fast, is urgent.  Business as usual is simply not sufficient.  We’ve got to look at new ways of doing things -- things that have worked in one part of the world that may work in another part of the world, or are entirely new.  We put out a call to the world, particularly the developing world, to say what are your ideas, what are you doing, what can you do? How can we support you, adapting to a rapidly changing climate? This competition was to shine a light on those ideas.

Q.  We hear a lot about scale.  What does it really mean?

A. Scale is a term often used and misused.  When I think about scale I think about a pathway to reach the maximum number of people possible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean an organization has to become extremely large for an idea to scale.  It could mean that an idea is adopted by a small organization but relevant and replicated by other groups in other parts of the world. When I think of the Development Marketplace, we want to get to the point where we can connect early-stage ideas to the people, money, and partners who can help see ideas through to execution and grow them to their optimal levels. 

Q. What factors are important for success? 

A. In many ways we’re really betting on leadership, we’re betting on people who we think are going to deliver an outcome, and are going to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.  The projects will change, they will adapt, they will grow.  What we’re really talking about is how do we position our winners to be able to benefit from our support, then really leverage it, along with partners.  We want to be connectors in an ecosystem.  We want to be connectors in a cycle of growth and scale.

Q.  Most of the DM2009 projects came from NGOs and academic institutions.  There weren’t very many from entrepreneurs...

A.  This is a little bit of concern to me.  When you look at the viability of any project it has to have a pathway to sustainability, and commercialization is one pathway. When there are ideas that can be commercialized and have revenue models that can be sustained, that is a very positive sign.  For those that don’t, there have to be other paths to viability like public-private partnerships for example.  For those that don’t have one or the other, I worry how they will sustain themselves.  That's where partnerships becomes key and our role in creating an "enabling ecosystem" of seed funders, debt financiers, equity players, and capacity builders is very important.
 

Blogs, Other Sites Follow the DM2009 Story

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DM2009 has been drawing attention from climate-change-related and other blogs and websites around the world.  In "The Dirt," published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, web content and strategy manager Jared Green -- who was also a juror for the DM2009 competition --  published this post about some of the winning finalists. Green's post was picked up by the Sustainable Cities Collective blog.

Some of the attention came from abroad -- the site the Austrian Network for Information and Communication Technologies for Development and -- in France -- Actualités News environnement.

Climate-L, which is produced by an international team of climate change experts with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, published this article.

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