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UNDP: community action
by Mandy P
The World Summit on Sustainable Development
source: iNetNews

Johannesburg, South Africa •• Aug. 29, 2002 •• SolarQuest® iNet News Service •• The UNDP is launching a new strategy that it hopes will enable countries to meet or even exceed the millennium development goals; it is titled Capacity 2015. Capacity 2015 involves the UNDP helping communities to achieve sustainable development; it promotes participation and accountability at all levels of government and draws on expertise and skills from all around the world. It looks at taking a positive approach to globalization particularly in developing nations or those that are in transition. The projects that it involves are integrated at all levels and are community driven. It seems that the bottoms up approach is the one that is favoured as it ensures that change is first local and then moves out to cover larger areas and to cross boundaries.

The focus of Capacity 2015 seems centred on the aspects of sustainable development covered by the acronym WEHAB (water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity.) In line with the theme of the Summit which is “making it happen” the UNDP brought in a number of spokespeople from areas in which projects were running successfully to the event that they held today (Thursday 29 August). They were all from areas in which the development front was local and implementation had been successful. Mr. Alvaro Umana chaired the meeting and each representative was given a chance to speak before there were questions from the floor.

The first example was taken from Fiji and the focus of the project was water. It looked at promoting and empowering communities to create pristine marine environments, the prevention of the depletion of fisheries, as well as the provision of fresh water and adequate sanitation. There was a definite bottom up approach with the promotion of community management plans, which were set up in partnerships with the UNDP. The representative spoke on how the quality of all the water in all the areas mentioned above had improved dramatically since people had started to take responsibility for the environment in which they live and work.

The next example was taken from a number of West African countries including Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guninea and Mali. It addressed the issue of energy and focused on energy provision being the means to poverty eradication. According to the representative, energy poverty is the unnecessary expenditure of human energy and time in activities that are made simpler and easier by the provision of power and clean cooking fuels. A number of villages have set up energy enterprises which sell services like grinding, water pumping and lighting and in this way 3.5 million hours of unpaid labour is being turned into time which can be used to work for a wage. The use of this energy only costs a few cents and so even families living below the one dollar per day mark are able to use it. The extra time is used not only to increase production which provides a surplus which in turn can be sold but also as a time to rest and spend with family which improves quality of life. It also establishes greater gender equality as girls are able to attend school instead of being expected to stay home and do the previously time consuming domestic work. As it can be seen the results are far reaching and seem to have a very positive impact.

The third example looked at agriculture and Tanzania. The lady who spoke told of how the area in which she works is very hot and dry and was almost declared a disaster area in the mid 1980’s because of this. There were no subsidies available and imports were very expensive. The community rallied and disaster was averted. They began planting trees, 80% of which were indigenous. The spin-off of this “greening” was a vastly increased milk production and maize harvest per hectare. Consequently women did not have to travel so far for firewood and general quality of life improved. This has all been done in conjunction with the local, regional and national government but there is still much that needs to be done. The community has asked the UNDP to step in and help with setting up an upscale of the project and marketing the products of the forest. The specific areas of involvement will be processing, storage and accessing international markets.

The final example was taken from Brazil and dealt with Biodiversity and with a watershed area from its ridges to its reefs. The most pressing concern seems to be fishery depletions. The locals have realized that although fishing has been the livelihood of people in the area for generations the most effective way to make money from their marine reserves is through tourism. They have declared the area a marine reserve and have heavily restricted fishing by allowing only those with expensive permits to fish. The reserve is managed by the locals who have a sound knowledge of the area but are looking for training in order to be more effective. Since they have done this they have noticed an increase in the marine life and thus in the biodiversity of the area.

It is refreshing to see that amongst all the negativity are stories of things that need to be changed in order for us to witness sustainable development at work, that there are areas in which there has been success. Strategies have been implemented that are showing the results that we would like to see the world over.


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