Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change

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Friday, 15 June 2007

Nuts for people and wildlife

CEPA and poverty 2. Cooperation in the CEPA Toolkit brought me in contact with the Equator Initiative . Recently they invited me to the Equator Prize Presentation in Berlin. Unfortunately I was on a mission in Asia and could not attend. In any case I want to share here my impressions from reading the newsletter and looking at the website.

Communication and learning can be important elements of positive change in biodiversity and poverty alleviation. International awards can both be a stimulus for a project to continue and grow as well as inspire others to take similar initiatives. The Equator Prize is a good example. The prize is “awarded to recognize and celebrate outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation of biodiversity. As sustainable community initiatives take root throughout the tropics, they are laying the foundation for a global movement of local successes that are collectively making a significant contribution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

In 2006 from 310 nominations, 25 finalists were selected. One of the five prizes awarded on Biodiversity Day 2007 went to Alimentos Nutri-Naturales from Guatemala. The prize also includes a Pride campaign, organized by Rare to highlight the success and raise more support for the project. Alimentos Nutri-Naturales also receives support from the Equilibrium Fund, on its website you can calculate your carbon footprint and support the project by donating a sum that equals your yearly carbon footprint.

The initiative itself was a mix of marketing, communication and learning. Some quotes from people participating in the project illustrate this:

"I have really enjoyed learning about nutrition and the recipes are really easy. I am happy you came to teach us these things, we will harvest and cook with Maya Nut from now on" says Evany Hernandez, from La Bendicion, Guatemala.

"I cut four huge Maya Nut trees this year because I thought they were worthless, now I am reforesting because I know how valuable they are", says Juan Jose Interiano, from El Salvador.

From the newsletter: The Maya nut (Brosimum alicastrum) was once a staple food for the ancient Mayans but is threatened with extinction due to the spread of logging and conversion of land to agriculture. In the buffer zone of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala, 56 women own and manage a business which employs over 650 community members to process Maya nut to feed their families and earn income. The Maya nut is not only an important source of nutrition for humans but 85% of endemic wildlife also rely on the Maya nut forests for food, shelter, and general habitat. The project has resulted in the conservation of 90,000 hectares of Maya nut forests and the planting of 150,000 new trees across Guatemala. Alimentos Nutri-Naturales has created a local initiative to resolve malnutrition, rural poverty and dependence on imported foodstuffs by marketing Maya-nut-based school lunches to local school districts. Through a partnership with the local government, Maya nut snacks will be distributed in schools as a healthy alternative to cookies at lunch time.

1 comment:

Susan, CEC newsletter editor said...

Regarding the discussion of communication, education and poverty, I quote Tommy Garnett of West Africa in an interview published in the IUCN CEC newsletter: “Many people in this region are preoccupied with survival from day to day. Their priority is figuring out how to put bread on people’s tables even at the cost of sustainable development. In the past decade, poverty reduction strategies have been in the forefront of all development-related activities. The environment, per se, has not been of the highest priority.”

“We can’t really talk seriously about Education for Sustainable Development if 70 to 80 percent of the country’s people are illiterate, or if there are not adequate communication avenues to reach the people in charge of natural resources—like the game wardens who live hand-to-mouth.”

There is some good news: “However, some forces are moving ESD forward. Despite the apparent shortage of political will and scarcity of financial and technical resources, people have organized groups and undertaken small-medium scale activities that are yielding positive and inspiring results, which have helped establish a solid foundation for sensible environmental management.”

He pointed to the positive impact of political processes: “The process of preparing Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) is compelling governments to look at environmental issues. And, on top of that, we have the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which highlight environmental sustainability as a goal to aspire to.”

The CEPA Toolkit hooks into these kinds of processes by supporting the day-to-day work of professionals charged with coordinating the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) that implement the Convention on Biogical Diversity. Also, I understand that the CEPA Toolkit offers fact sheets, worksheets and examples of use in a wide range of situations.

Link to full interview: http://cec.wcln.org/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=200

Tommy Garnett is founder of the Environmental Foundation for Africa (EFA), CEC Regional Chair for West Africa, and co-author of the CEPA Toolkit.