Global Development Marketplace 2008 kicked off this morning with a warm welcome by Katherine Sierra, Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank, to the 100 finalists representing 42 countries and event visitors.
Noting the good timing of this year's "DM theme -- Sustainable Agriculture for Development, Sierra told the audence clustered in the Atrium of the World Bank's Main Complex in Washington: "We believe very strongly in the power of innovation."
The words definitely sank in because the World Bank Group administers the annual Development Marketplace, and its Agriculture and Rural Development Department is one of the funders. ARD has undertaken a hard-charging drive to put agriculture on the front burner of development projects in Sub-Saharan African and other regions where farming is beset by inefficient production, poor linkage to markets, and the adverse impacts of climate change.
The finalists' projects offer a variety of small-scale, mostly low-tech solutions to increasing agricultural productivity, marketability and adaptation to climate change. Every one of them says he, she or they can deliver practical solutions (e.g., reducing crop spoilage, converting an environment-destroying weed to an asset, melding productivity with conservation) for modest investments. Grants are capped at $200,000.
Evaluators chose the finalists from 1,800 applications. "You are the cream of the cream," Master of Ceremonies Michael Crandall told the finalists, who journeyed to Washington from every region of the world.