21 April 2005

From Cows to Kilowatts, Berries into Businesses -- Winners of First Seed Awards Announced

(Reissued as received.)

NAIROBI/NEW YORK, 20 April (UNEP) -- An environmentally-friendly way of growing rice and a project to cultivate a highly versatile berry found at the roof of the world are among the winners of a new sustainable development award.

They are joined by a community-based marine protected area in the Indian Ocean, an innovative water supply scheme in Latin America, and a power plant in West Africa that turns cattle waste into energy.

The five winners of the Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development (SEED) Initiative awards will be honoured in a special ceremony in New York today, during the thirteenth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

The winners were selected from a pool of over 260 entries from 66 countries, representing 1,200 organizations.

They were chosen for their potential to advance sustainable development in their communities and contribute to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

They are living proof that, through partnerships between communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses and public authorities, innovative and novel solutions for delivering sustainable development and sustainable livelihoods can be born and fostered.

All winning projects have the potential to be replicated in similar areas around the globe, helping to address a multitude of issues in the developing world.

Environmentally-Friendly Rice

Farmers in Asia and East Africa are partners in an initiative to boost rural incomes through the marketing of indigenous and environmentally-friendly grown rice varieties.

Commercial rice cultivation in the developing world is becoming increasingly questionable, as a result of low market prices and the financial and environmental costs of using chemicals and fertilizers.

Conventional methods of rice production are also extremely water-intensive.

Some farmers in Cambodia, Madagascar and Sri Lanka have turned to a production method known as the “System of Rice Intensification” or SRI. It involves an à la carte menu of actions, including when to plant out seedlings, weeding regimes and the spacing of plants, which can be adapted to local conditions and indigenous rice varieties.

Small rural producers who are taking part are achieving water savings of up to 50 per cent and increased yields of up to 100 per cent. This is because SRI, promoted by a collaborative effort between Cornell University, several NGOs and local communities, works without flooding rice paddies and results in stronger plants that need less chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Rice produced in this way commands higher prices. The trick is to empower and assist producers to exploit and benefit from these premium prices in local and international markets.

This new project, which has brought together research institutes from the United States and Cambodia and farmers organizations, is pooling experiences and skills to develop strong marketing programmes.

Export markets in Europe and North America are also being explored possibly using, in some cases, certification schemes like Fair Trade.

The SEED Award for this winning partnership is generously sponsored by Swiss Re, Switzerland.

Berries into Businesses

Seabuckthorn is a deciduous shrub that is common in the Himalayas. It has a highly developed root system that binds soils on fragile slopes. The presence of a natural seabuckthorn “forest” can decrease monsoon-related loss of topsoil by 30 per cent. The plant also has a wide range of commercial applications which are beginning to be exploited by commercial companies in countries like India.

The berries are highly nutritious and yield juice, as well as oils for cosmetics and traditional medicines. The leaves are also used in traditional medicines, as well as for livestock fodder, and the branches can be used for firewood.

The international HimalAsia Foundation, together with local Tibetan cooperatives and a family of traditional medical practitioners, is developing a sustainable programme for cultivating and marketing seabuckthorn and other medicinal plants for the local and international market. In doing so, they are not only developing sustainable livelihoods for local people, but playing an important role in conserving biodiversity in this Himalayan mountain area.

Plans for the future include expanding on three existing seabuckthorn nurseries, training locals in the extraction and preparation of juice and helping to broker fair business relationships between international companies and local communities.

Indian Ocean Wonderland

An estimated 11.5 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is now held in protected areas, but only about one half per cent of the world’s seas and oceans enjoy the same rights.

The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development’s Plan of Implementation called for the establishment of representative network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

An experimental, community-led scheme in Madagascar aims to be one of these light-houses by illuminating how partnerships between local people, research institutes and NGOs can deliver marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods. The project, focused around the 1,200-strong community of Andavadoaka, is balancing the needs of local fishermen and protection of the area’s important coral reefs.

Eco-tourism is also being promoted as a way of generating income for conservation work, diversifying the local economy and to reduce the pressure on fish stocks.

It is hoped that the experiences from this project will act as a blueprint for similar projects in other regions.

Water for All

Access to clean water is an emotive issue in developing countries and sometimes leads to civil unrest and major social problems. The Millennium Development Goals call for a halving of the level of people without access to fresh water and sanitation, and this project directly addresses this aim.

The “Agua para Todos” initiative in Bolivia has found a way of solving the seemingly intractable problem of who pays for secondary water networks, that is, delivering water from the municipal supplier’s main pipe to the consumer.

Under the project, a consortium of local communities, an NGO and a pipe manufacturer is building water distribution systems in coordination with the municipal water company in Cochabamba, each connecting between 100 and 500 poor households.

The costs are being met by the communities concerned through a microcredit scheme, repayable within a year.

Five pilot projects are under way, already halving the cost of water for 3,000 people in Cochabamba. Ambitious plans currently under development would provide 17,000 connections serving 85,000 people over the next five years.

Cows to Kilowatts

Effluents and waste products from abattoirs are a problem for human health and the environment across the developing world.

A project being piloted in Ibadan, Nigeria, is turning these wastes into energy to generate income for poor urban communities and reduce the gases linked with climate change. The project treats the abattoir wastes and turns them into a “bio-gas” suitable for cooking and other uses. A further by-product is agricultural-grade fertilizer.

The partnership behind the project claims their bio-gas is significantly cheaper than current, commercially available liquefied gases.

The scheme will cover its costs and become profitable in three years and has a 15-year life expectancy.

Further information about the projects and photographs of the winning projects are available at www.seedinit.org/media

About SEED Awards

The SEED Initiative (Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development) aims to understand, inspire, support and develop the capacity of locally driven entrepreneurial partnerships to contribute to the delivery of the Millennium Development Goals and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.

The Initiative focuses on “business as unusual” -- innovative action delivering real solutions through project cooperation among small and large businesses, local and international NGOs, women's groups, labour organizations, public authorities and UN agencies, and others working in the field of sustainable development.

The biennial SEED Awards is an international competition to find the most promising new locally driven, entrepreneurial partnerships for sustainable development.

The Initiative is a partnership between the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with GPPi and Partnerships Central. It is supported by the Governments of Germany, United States, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, by the UN Global Compact, and by the company Swiss Re.

For more information, please contact: Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, tel: +254 20 623084, mobile: +254 (0) 733 632755, e-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org; or Darian Stibbe, Manager SEED Initiative Secretariat; tel: +44 7789 263616; e-mail: darian.stibbe@seedinit.org.

For IUCN: Corli Pretorius, Head Global Communications: tel: +41 79 251 6435, e-mail: corli.pretorius@iucn.org.

For UNDP: Michael Hooper: +1 212 457 1077; michael.hooper@undp.org.

For Agua para Todos/Water for All: Gustavo Heredia, Agua Tuya, Bolivia (http://aguatuya.com.) +591 4424 5193; mobile +591 7071 0321; gustavoh@aguatuya.com.

For Berries into Business (aka Harvesting Seabuckthorn at the top of the world): Susanne von der Heide, HimalAsia Foundation, Nepal (http://www.himalasia.org) +977 1441 9559; mobile +49 172 214 3180; himalasia@wlink.com.np.

For Cows to Kilowatts: Joseph Adelegan, Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research, Nigeria +234 803 721 9555; mobile: +234 805 560 6619; gneeder_africa@yahoo.co.uk.

For Environment-Friendly Rice (aka A global marketing partnership for SRI Indigenous Rice): Norman Uphoff, Cornell University (http://ciifad.cornell.edu), ntu1@cornell.edu , +1 607 255 0831; Olivia Vent, Cornell University, ohv1@cornell.edu, +1 607 255 8939; Yang Saing Koma (Cambodia), yskoma@online.com.kh, +855 2388 0916; Jean-Robert Estime (Madagascar), JRE@chemonics.mg, + 261 2234 808; Gamini Batuwitage (Sri Lanka), batuwita@sltnet.lk.

For Indian Ocean Wonderland (aka Madagascar’s first experimental community-run marine protected area): Alasdair Harris, Blue Ventures, UK (http://www.blueventures.org), al@blueventures.org, +44 208 341 9819; Edouard Mara, Madagascar, maraedouard@hotmail.com, + 261 2094 435 52.

Jim Sniffen, Information Officer, UN Environment Programme, New York, tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210, info@nyo.unep.org, http://www.nyo.unep.org.

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