The Observer features stories about five SEED Winners in a special on climate change
How can local communities help to save the environment and better their lives? To answer this question the Observer Tech Monthly of the Guardian spoke with Helen Marquard, Executive Director of SEED and Dr Susannah Sallu, lecturer in environment and development at the University of Leeds. Two points stressed by Dr Susannha Sallu are also key to the efforts of SEED. First, local, community-based initiatives have a large, often overlooked, potential to impact people’s lives. Second, balancing social, environmental and economic objectives is one of the key challenges for sustainable development.
Since 2005 SEED has supported 175 social and environmental enterprises, driven by local partnerships in developing countries. A success that is based on the fact that the SEED Award goes beyond financial support; it offers a combination of profiling, networking, and tailored business support to social and environmental start-ups. The Guardian now tells the stories of five SEED Award Winners. Their experiences do not only portray how social and environmental enterprises can tackle climate change successfully, but also allow a glimpse into the diversity of innovative approaches honoured and supported by SEED.
10 years ago, in 2005, the first SEED Award Winners were honoured; one of them was Madagascar's first community-run marine protected area, driven largely by Blue Ventures. The founder and biologist, Alasdair Harris, realised that in vulnerable coastal villages rising population numbers were diminishing their basis of life through overfishing. His solution - marine protected areas run by local communities - help to protect the local biodiversity while increasing the income of fisherman through healthier fish and octopus populations. The early recognition by SEED - Blue Ventures was only founded two years prior to winning the SEED Award - has supported it rapid path to become a global example for maritime protection. Read the full story here: Madagascar's fishing villagers learn to survive by managing their stocks.
On the other side of the globe, in Panama, Planting Empowerment had also been operating for two years when it won the SEED Award in 2009. Trucks full of felled trees leaving the rainforest during the dry seasons, motivated Andrew Parrucci and his team to find a solution. Local farmers cut down trees for agriculture, but often fail to reforest them afterwards. Planting Empowerment works closely with communities to reforest degraded land and turn them into a sustainable source of income. Read the full story here: Panama project encourages farmers to create sustainable tropical ecosystems.
In Ghana, the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative has discovered bamboo as perfect, long-lasting, light but strong material for bike frames that at the same time helps prevent soil erosion, a common concern for farmers in Ghana. The high quality bamboo bikes designed and manufactured by the enterprise, are not only exported but are also suitable for the road conditions in Ghana and affordable to the poor. Winning the SEED Award in 2010 not only helped them develop a business plan, but also brought media attention to the start-up enterprise. Read the full story here: Ghana’s bicycle which is creating jobs while it saves the soil.
Transportation, not in rural but in urban areas, is also the key concern of Dichung. The founder of the 2013 SEED Winner, Nam Nguyen was appalled by the extremely high air pollution from traffic in Vietnam’s cities. Dichung’s solution is an easy-to-use online platform for car sharing. As the concept of car-sharing is a new concept in Vietnam, the acceptance is slow, but a new taxi-sharing service offered by Dichung, allows the enterprise to make profits and raise environmental awareness in Vietnam. Read the full story here: Vietnam cities told that driving down pollution is a matter of car-sharing.
A completely different way to reduce carbon emissions is taken by Use solar, save lives in Kenya. Instead of importing solar products, as is often the case, the enterprise trains youth to manufacture their solar-powered lanterns. The lanterns are than distributed by women groups, who can use the income to start new businesses. More than 50,000 of the enterprise’s lanterns, called “MwangaBora”, have already been distributed to poor rural households, reducing carbon emissions and improving the standard of living. Read the full story here: Cheap solar lamps help villagers keep their health, and cut emissions.
If you want to know what the Swahili word “MwangaBora” means and learn more about SEED and the five SEED Winners, you can read the full stories on the Observer Tech Monthly climate change special website of the Guardian. Furthermore can you download the background article with the input of SEED Executive Director Helen Marquard here.