How do we manage the environment without compromising efforts to reduce poverty?


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I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/World BankIn the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible.  Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive. 

The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.

For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?

In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.

And to do this, our partners – the African Development Bank, WWF, hundreds of NGOs, civil society and the private sector, are as important as the governments we work with.

Sustainable development and environmental management is a lofty goal, but a goal that is attainable.


Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough

Country Director, Sri Lanka and the Maldives

Join the Conversation

October 14, 2013

Great goals. 2 things stop it happening in practice. Firstly the paper-based strategy of minimising damage has ironically provided cover for accelerating worldwide damage for the entire lifetime of sustainable development rhetoric. This will inevitably proceed without a net positive impact strategy. Secondly the perverse destructive economic incentives remain intact. For example, Africa could be powered by a combination of forest expansion and carbon-negative biochar devices. Instead the US $7b'Power Africa' initiative is catalysing investments in fossil fuel infrastructure to sell mega-impact US fracked fuels to Africa.