Local, Sustainable SolutionsThe Equator Initiative, an organization dedicated to encouraging communities to envision creative, local, sustainable solutions to problems, recently announced the winners of the 2017 Equator Prize.

The 15 winners include grassroots projects located across Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. They range from a campaign to secure management of a community Mangrove forest in Thailand to the Mali Elephant Project, which protects endangered elephants while working to reduce violence in a war-torn area of Mali.

However, these 15 winners are only the beginning. Across the globe, communities have created local, sustainable solutions to preserve their homelands. These solutions also help feed and educate children and promote peace and justice in their society.

In celebration of its 15th anniversary, the Equator Initiative launched a database that includes 500 of the local, sustainable solutions nominated to receive the 2017 Equator Prize. Here are seven of the most creative and impactful initiatives that local people developed in answer to the challenges they face:

  1. Whales of Guerrero Research Project: The Whales of Guerrero Research Project (WGRP) started in a small fishing village in Mexico in 2013 to increase local interest in protecting the endangered humpback whales. The project teaches children ages 9-13 about marine life and lets them adopt and name whales. It also created an extensive whale-spotting network and runs a program that pairs high school students in Mexico and the U.S. for scientific projects. The WGRP hopes that these workshops will strengthen the community’s pride in the natural environment and inspire them to make choices that will protect the local marine life. The project also advocates that tourist whale watching may become an important source of revenue in a place where the fishing industry has suffered.
  2. Barefoot Solar Initiative: The Barefoot Solar Initiative works to provide lighting systems that run on solar energy to people in rural villages in India. Since its founding in 1972, the Initiative has illuminated more than 15,000 homes. The new lighting improves air quality, saves money and enables children to study longer in the evenings. The initiative also teaches women how to construct and manage the solar equipment for the homes in their village, giving them a valuable skill set. The organization recently announced a new program that is providing solar lighting to many of the Pacific Island nations.
  3. The Nubian Vault Association (AVN): The AVN builds environmentally friendly homes in Burkina Faso that are inspired by the techniques of the ancient Nubians. The houses are built from sun-dried mud bricks, which are sturdy and emit less carbon than the iron roofing sheets traditionally used. The houses have thermal insulation, so they stay cool during the day and warm in the evenings. By teaching farmers how to build these homes, the AVN also created a new economic activity that helps them earn income during the dry season.
  4. Elevated Honey Co.: This initiative aims to bring economic growth and care for the environment to the mountainous areas of Southwest China through beekeeping. The villagers work with Apis cerana, the honey bee native to their region, using traditional beekeeping methods as a way of sustaining both their environment and their culture. The honey made from this bee is lucrative, worth up to 8 times as much as that of European honeybees.
  5. Comuna Ancestral Las Tunas: This project, established in 1998, helps a community in Ecuador receive the numerous benefits of recycling. Children become empowered to make a difference in their communities as they earn money collecting plastic water bottles. The number of tourists in the area increased by 15 percent, a result of the now clean beaches, and the community is watching over two species of sea turtles. Women are able to turn the plastic bottles into crafts and earn money.
  6. Abolhassani Indigenous Nomadic Tribal Confederacy: In an area of Iran that is rich with diverse animals and plants, the Confederacy developed local, sustainable solutions for coping with drought and sustaining both livestock and crops. Two of these are the revival of the hanar system, which conserves water by giving the animals water only once every two days, and feeding the animals with crops rather than natural vegetation, allowing the land to recover. The Confederacy shares its innovations with other tribes in the area.
  7. Nakau programme: Loru Community Conservation Project: Founded in 2011, this program established a legally protected patch of rain forest on the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. The indigenous landowners are able to sell conservation credits, or tax credits for donors, as well as market agricultural products of the rain forest (i.e., certain types of nuts). The project meets several of the Sustainable Development Goals that were a key criteria for the 2017 Equator Prize.

The winners of 2017 Equator Prize have received more than a reward. They have created local, sustainable solutions that have transformed their community. Consequently, their successes can serve as examples and inspiration for future projects.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Google

Relief, Investment and Infrastructure: 10 Ways to Stop Poverty
Though there are many ways to combat global inequity, this list of 10 ways to stop poverty addresses several primary concerns, including providing relief, investing in communities, and setting up the infrastructure necessary to further development.

  1. Improve national and international responses to natural disasters. Though just 26 percent of storms take place in lower income countries, these same countries account for 89 percent of storm-related deaths. The World Bank estimates that 26 million people are forced into poverty as a result of natural disasters, each year. Early warning systems, improved building codes and emergency preparedness strategies can save lives and help save $100 million in damages each year.
  2. Address water quality and improve sanitation. The entire workforce in France works 40 billion hours per year — the same number of hours spent just collecting water in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the value of work and school time lost to water collection efforts, an adequate supply of clean water is essential for agriculture and basic sanitation.
  3. Address hunger and nutrition. Malnutrition early in life can make children more susceptible to lasting physical and mental disabilities, preventing them from fully participating in the social and economic spheres as adults. The U.N. Development Program (UNDP) aims to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 through supporting small farmers with land, technology and market access.
  4. Provide access to healthcare. Every day, 16,000 children die from preventable diseases like measles and tuberculosis, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS is the leading cause of death among teenagers. Healthcare services including immunizations, disease prevention and treatment are essential to UNDP sustainable development goals.
  5. Improve gender equality. Combating gender-based discrimination improves agricultural productivity and school attendance, and leads to increases in income. In the long run, gender equality contributes to the family, community and nation-wide development, and is vital to the effort to stop poverty.
  6. Invest in transportation infrastructure. The availability of transportation is important for access to jobs, education and healthcare. Better transportation infrastructure can also prevent traffic accidents. Worldwide, 90 percent of traffic accidents and resulting fatalities occur in low and middle-income countries, and constitute a larger health risk than malaria or tuberculosis.
  7. Make microfinance options available. Microfinance provides banking services to people with minimal access to such services. Loans, bank accounts, insurance and help with financial literacy may all be offered by microfinance companies. This allows people living in poverty to participate in economic activities like opening businesses. Currently, microfinance is available to only 20 percent of the world’s three billion people living in poverty.
  8. Make education accessible. In many countries, students may not be required to pay tuition, but other costs are still associated with school. The cost of textbooks and transportation, plus the money that children might otherwise earn from working, can all keep children out of school. The benefits of education are huge: Child Fund International says that “Education can be the catalyst needed to pull families and communities out of the cycle of poverty.”
  9. Combat climate change. Life and livelihood are on the line with changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, higher temperatures and extreme weather threatening agriculture, food supplies and water quality. UNDP argues that “It is still possible, with the political will and a wide array of technological measures, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This requires urgent collective action.”
  10. Gather more information. Individual communities’ development goals must be a part of the effort to stop poverty. To this end, information must be collected regarding the location, necessities and priorities of people living in poverty to correct old or inadequate data and provide meaningful assistance.


Madeline Reding

Photo: Flickr

White House Launches Global Climate Resilience Service
Launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology in October 2016, the Resilience Dialogues is an online consultation service that connects community leaders with experts around the world. Their goal? To help one another build climate resilience service.

“Start a dialogue.”

Those are some of the first words that greet visitors of the Resilience Dialogues webpage. They’re also the name of the game — that is, a global conversation and info-sharing platform that proffers the who’s, what’s and how’s of strategic climate resilience.

The Resilience Dialogues defines resilience as the “capacity of individuals, communities and systems to anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing conditions, recover from threats, and thrive in the future.” A tall order, to be sure, but one that will become all the more necessary as coastlines and inland alike grows more vulnerable to the hazards of global warming.

By 2080, according to the World Bank, the occurrence of drought could potentially grow by more than 20 percent. That means the amount of people affected by drought would increase proportionally by 9 to 17 percent come 2030, and by 50 to a whopping 90 percent by the time 2080 comes around.

On the flip side of the coin, the World Bank also estimates that flooding is set to spike within the same time period. Those exposed to river floods will amount to around 4 to 15 percent in 2030, before jumping to 12 to 29 percent by 2080.

The Resilience Dialogues is a collaborative means of beating back the tide of climate variability, giving stakeholders an opportunity to connect and share sector-based, place-specific data on likely risks, serviceable products and other technical resources.

Backers come from the private and public sector in equal measure, ranging from MIT’s Climate CoLab, which created and hosts the beta, to the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, which will play a crucial role in recruiting experts and coordinating leadership.

The service builds on previous White House actions on climate resilience, including the similarly designed U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, their public-private Climate Services for Resilience Development partnership and their Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP).

The global scope of the Resilience Dialogues, however, echoes the new directions of the National Climate Assessment (NCA), which will include a chapter of international content for the first time in its next report.

On paper, the Resilience Dialogues reflects the shift of both national and global institutions’ climate change responses towards integrative and participatory solutions. If successful, the initiative could potentially chart a course for future U.S. government-sponsored endeavors in the sphere of climate resilience — one that empowers and inspires local decision makers.

Josephine Gurch

Photo: Flickr

Financial Solutions for Those in Need
A groundbreaking service called microfinance is making a difference providing financial solutions for those in need. It functions by providing financial services to entrepreneurs and small businesses that do not have access to a bank or other financial institution.

This means that those in especially poverty stricken areas can get the services they need to start a business. This method of empowering those without opportunity is making waves in the lives of families everywhere.

Within the microfinance industry, a group called Mifos is currently providing its services to 30 institutions that service almost 825,000 clients. This organized system is open sourced to benefit people everywhere, providing accurate bookkeeping and detailed performance analytics.

Due to the nature of microfinance, many small donations are made daily and need to be accurately kept track of and distributed to those in need. Mifos services are responsible for growing the Grameen Koota (GK), a microfinance group in India, clientele by 40 percent.

The founders of Kiva had a similar vision when they put together a plan to help those around the world get access to small loans. Teaming up and building off of PayPal’s payment system, Kiva functions successfully in 82 countries with 0 percent interest for borrowers. Today Kiva is closing in on a huge accomplishment, $1 billion loaned to create financial solutions for those in need.

Three sisters that used their loan to become fish farming pioneers in Zimbabwe are one of Kiva’s many success stories. B.E.N. Fisheries now farm around a thousand fish for distribution in an area experiencing food shortage and mass poverty. Women like Beauty, Ericah and Netsai of B.E.N. Fisheries are breaking down gender barriers as female business owners, and it is all thanks to small donations made by every people willing to invest in the happiness of others.

Micro financing is empowering hard workers around the world to create change in their countries and break the cycle of poverty. Stimulating business growth in the world builds up the people affected and is a reminder that ending global poverty is possible.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr