Community Palli - Day 6
Bio-Enterprises, Endogenous Development and Wellbeing
Monday October 15th, 2012
10:00 – 11:00
Suneetha Subramanian of the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) presented on the status of a study on community wellbeing. She outlined the initial idea of focusing on community-based groups and collectives that have established systems for revenue-sharing within rural constituencies to better understand the concepts of endogenous development and community wellbeing – this idea has been tested by some Equator Prize winners to date through participatory wellbeing assessments.
The aim is to pinpoint how wellbeing is translated at the community level, based on context-specific assessments of what contributes to material, social, and spiritual wellbeing. Assessments involve discussions within communities about basic needs, safety needs, belonging needs, and self-esteem needs – the process of defining the relative importance of these needs can serve to help community-based groups identify key areas for growth. In turn, these definitions are intended to serve as barometers for local development priorities – Ms. Subramanian gave the example of defining food security in terms of preferred local diets rather than based purely on nutritional values.
The implications for policy-makers include creating the conditions for communities to produce what they want to produce or practice their own spiritual beliefs, for instance, thereby allowing for endogenous development from within communities. One clear recommendation would therefore be improved access or land tenure rights.
The assessment framework also has potential for developing holistic planning processes at the community level. Feedback from the Community Palli participants was positive, and included requests from Anand (Shashwat) and Mangaraj (Samudram Women's Federation) for more information on indicators relating to quality of education and access rights. Rukmini (Ngata Toro), meanwhile, noted the importance of encouraging governments to take up these kinds of frameworks in the future to ensure more holistic development pathways.
Women and Youth Driving Sustainable Development – Examples from Marine and Coastal Ecosystems
11:00 – 13:00
Pressing challenges face coastal communities around the world, stemming from, among other pressures, over-exploitation of marine resources due to population growth, unsustainable fishing by commercial trawlers, and the effects of extreme weather events. In the face of these challenges, community-based initiatives are nonetheless aiding progress towards Aichi Target 6 (By 2020, all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches…) thanks to local innovations, adaptation, and changing harvesting practices through awareness-raising.
In many cases, these efforts are driven by the enthusiasm and energy of communities of women and youth; the experience of several Equator Prize winners testifies to the potential of empowering women as primary resource managers and engaging young people in outreach efforts to change resource use behaviour. This thematic workshop explored strategies for putting women and youth at the centre of sustainable development, using cases from marine and coastal ecosystems as examples for discussion.
Gerald Miles, Regional Director, External Affairs and Policy (Asia Pacific) at The Nature Conservancy (TNC), moderated the workshop, and began by providing an overview of TNC’s support to community initiatives around the world. He emphasized that community action is crucial for achieving objectives around biodiversity conservation, as seen in many coastal and marine projects supported by TNC in the Asia Pacific region.
Kwetu Training Centre for Sustainable Development perfectly illustrates the results made possible by engaging youth in environmental awareness-raising. In the words of Mercy Mbogho, Executive Officer at Kwetu, youth were the first “drivers of change” during the group’s volunteer-led beginnings. Located in the town of Mtwapa on Kenya’s coast, the initiative has grown to influence many coastal communities throughout Kilifi County through environmental education and supporting silviculture livelihood activities based on conserving mangrove forests. Kwetu’s efforts include working in communities in which educational attainment and literacy levels are low – messages on sustainable livelihoods, conservation, and reproductive health have been conveyed through participatory meetings, trainings, drama performances, and particularly through working with youth groups and local schools. Group discussions actively encourage ideas from youth community members, who may then be supported by Kwetu to seek grants and other forms of support.
Ms. Mbogho also alluded to overcoming challenges presented by the relatively conservative social climate: in some sites, women do not typically speak in front of men. Kwetu has worked specifically with these women in designing livelihood activities such as bee-keeping, neem processing, organic farming, and small-scale mariculture that both add value to the sustainable use of local ecosystems and empower women though income-generation.
Samudram Women’s Federation shares this focus on empowering women fishers, working through 160 women’s self-help groups across 50 villages in Ganjam and the nearby districts of Orissa, India. The initiative indirectly impacts around 18,000 families by supporting 1,500 economically-marginalized women members to develop income generation activities, while simultaneously conserving nesting sites for the endangered Olive Ridley Turtle. Chittiama Buguru and Mangaraj Panda described how members benefit from capacity building trainings, access to microfinance, and increased incomes as a result of improved fish yields.
Other Equator Prize winners have also been successful in realizing the potential of engaging youth and women in sustainable resource harvesting. Clarence Luther joined the workshop as a discussant, based on his experience as mayor of the small island community of Namdrik Atoll, in the Marshall Islands. The Local Resources Committee, an Equator Prize 2012 winner, has worked with the island’s 500 community members to change resource use patterns – discouraging people from taking rock and coral from the atoll’s shoreline – to mitigate the impacts of rising seawaters. Mr. Luther described how peer-to-peer support – connecting women with women, and youth with youth – had been a successful strategy in mobilizing the island community to face this environmental challenge.
Josephat (Smallholders Foundation) described the successful approach taken by his initiative in engaging youth in sustainable agriculture – he stressed the need to “catch them when they’re young.” At their Smallholders School Demonstration Centre, the foundation offers training to women aged 8-15 in sustainable agricultural techniques, teaching them that these methods can make them self-sustainable and job creators within their communities. Similarly, Reema (Chunoti) described how the Chunoti Co-management Committee trains youth from the age of 18 and up as eco-guides to work in the wildlife sanctuary, using books and training modules and English-language training.
James (Muliru) brought up the issue of using incentives to encourage participation of traditionally disenfranchised sectors of society. Muliru Farmers Conservation Grouporganizes sport competitions that attract youth and are used to get their conservation message across. Lourdes (Pacari) noted that while her network works predominantly with elderly producers, they also take children to community gardens to teach them about medicinal plants, ensuring that traditional knowledge is passed on to future generations.
As Gerald Miles commented, the “richness of why people choose to engage” in conservation is incredible. This goes beyond material incentives, and instead often consists of giving a voice to people – such as women and youth – who otherwise would not have one. Rukmini (Ngata Toro) echoed this sentiment, likening the difficulty of empowering women’s voices in a rural Indonesian community to Kwetu’s experiences in Kenya. As the ones who know how to use resources and how to manage forests, for example, women need to be given a voice in local institutions. Anand (Shashwat) also compared the work of Kwetu to that of Shashwat in Maharashtra – one successful practice adopted by his organization to encourage participation by tribal women has been offering them reduced membership rates.
13:15 – 14:45
Society for Management of Biodiversity (SYMBIO)
The Society for Management of Biodiversity (SYMBIO) works to promote the objectives of the CBD with the mission of “sustaining life on earth” by integrating biodiversity conservation into community activities, government policies, and business strategies. Based on India’s Biological Diversity Act (2002), the organization has worked with local communities to form village-level Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs). During this lunchtime side-event, representatives of SYMBIO presented case studies on their work with local communities in India, including two successful examples of prototype ABS arrangements in the villages of Amarchintha, in Mahaboob Nagar, and Revalli, in Nalgonda, both in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.
Mr. Sriram Gangadhar provided a brief history of BMCs in India, based on the devolution of authority in economic development to the Gram Sabha (village assembly) enshrined in the 73rd amendment to the Indian Constitution (1992). These community forums ensure direct participative democracy by offering equal opportunities to all citizens, including the poor, women and the socially marginalized. The Biological Diversity Act built on these institutions by mandating the creation of BMCs, which act as authoritative and constitutional entities charged with the conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources within their territorial jurisdiction. The committees help promote documentation of biological diversity (by creating biodiversity registers) and traditional knowledge. BMCs also levy charges on anyone wishing to access or collect biological resources from within their territory for commercial purposes.
These community-level institutions have also been empowered to regulate access and benefit sharing arrangements governing local resources. In the first case study, villagers in Amarchintha have benefitted from the sale of Neem (Azadirachta indica) to a Japanese company that manufactures cosmetic and dietary ingredients. The community receives 5% in royalties from the sale of the commercial products. Revenues have been used for conservation programs, education, establishing a local biodiversity park with local plants, and public health programs. In the second case, a BMC in the village of Revalli has helped community members to sell plant resources directly to international traders and large companies at a higher price. To complement such agreements, the state has increased capacity building and awareness programs to teach rural communities about access and benefit sharing.
15:00 – 16:00
During the afternoon session, the Community Palli participants came together to discuss a number of questions relating to their work going forward.
What does scaling up mean?
- The participants agreed broadly that scaling-up means growing, both quantitatively and organizationally; it means working as part of an organization where everyone follows the same clearly-defined mandate; it also encompasses capacity-building, and learning how to use technologies to tackle new challenges.
- Anand (Shashwat) and Reema (Chunoti) talked about the importance of co-management agreements for protected areas as a means of scaling-up their organizations’ work. Peer-to-peer learning exchanges between different organizations dealing with the same challenges, and greater interaction between their organizations and their donors with regards to capacity-building were mentioned as means to scaling-up. A good way to engage with donors and other communities is by translating promotional material (such as short case studies and films) into different languages.
- Other suggestions for scaling-up proposed by the group include greater engagement by communities with local, state and national governments to increase the visibility of their organizations. To this end, they also suggested organizing activities with local communities such as workshops and sport tournaments, to engage all community members including women and children. Lastly, the group highlighted the importance of promoting income-generating activities to promote local growth and development.
How can community-based organizations expand their networks?
- Suggestions for expanding prize winners’ networks included working through schools’ science programs and outreach to women’s associations (Chinthaka, Sri Lanka WCS). Different target audiences were mentioned, including networks of researchers and activists (Mangaraj, Samudram), and outreach within communities themselves (Veena, GREEN Foundation, who suggested using information stalls to provide information for community members.)
- Khalil (Medicinal Plants Association) suggested the use of monthly meetings with the organization’s members, and highlighted the importance of having green programs in local schools to raise awareness about biodiversity conservation. He proposed focusing on children in primary and secondary schools, and giving prizes to the “greenest” schools.
- Khalil suggested that more local communities be represented on the board of the Equator Initiative board. He also thought it would be interesting to create an international union of local community practitioners to keep them connected, and emphasized the importance of having more representation of local communities in international organizations.
Are social networks useful for staying connected?
- Participants agreed that while social networks are important, they have not proven especially useful for community-based organisations in keeping in contact – the obstacle of limited internet connectivity in rural areas was mentioned. Noelie (Association Songtaab-Yalgré) suggested the creation of an intercontinental network with focal points from different countries, and having UNDP serve as intermediary. This network could operate out of offices where information could be gathered.
Obstacles to current work
- James (Muliru) identified a key obstacle as funding mechanisms that are based around donor priorities, rather than local communities’ most pressing needs. Another problem with funding is the lack of continuity: short timeframes for grants mean that funding can often dry-up half-way through the implementation of a project. This is a key obstacle to scaling-up.
- Another obstacle faced by the community participants is lack of dissemination of information on international conventions, guidelines, or targets (for example on the development of the Aichi Targets or Millennium Development Goals).