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SEED -- Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development
Alex Steffen, 2 May 05

Nothing is so dangerous as the threat of a good example.

Innovative and successful new models for changing the world -- worldchanging projects being created, right now, on the ground -- have impact far beyond their immediate reach. They spotlight the fact that we are already capable of responses to our challenges that far transcend what some would like us to believe possible... that another world, as we say, is here.

The Seed Awards aims identify projects like that; to, in their words, "find the most promising new locally-driven, entrepreneurial partnerships for sustainable development." The winners were announced a little over a week ago, and they're five groups of folks who would seem to be doing just that.

Check out these worldchangers:

Madagascar's first Community Run Marine Protected Area sounds pretty awesome:

By providing a nursery ground and safe haven away from fishing pressures, it will help sustain fish stocks and support traditional artisanal fishing. The MPA will also attract ecotourism, thereby generating revenue for the management of the project and helping to diversify the local economy. In addition, the partnership will conduct important biodiversity research in this unique and hreatened habitat.

while Nigeria's Cows to Kilowatts is pretty bloody amazing:

Environmental pollution caused by abattoir effluents has become a problem faced by most urban poor communities. ... There are currently no waste treatment plants for abattoirs in Nigeria, no specific environmental policies and effluent standards for abattoir waste and ... legal protection of water sources is inadequate and poorly enforced. The partnership project aims to abate pollution and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through the building of a sustainable biogas plant. The plant treats wastewater from the abattoirs and produces biogas, below the current market price. Hence it not only reduces pollution but also provides energy, liquid fertilizer and nutrient recovery.

and this project -- Harvesting Seabuckthorn at the Top of the World -- intrigues me as a way for local communities to move beyond just protecting their prior art, and to start profiting from it:

Seabuckthorn is a highly nutritious and versatile berry, containing Vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and flavonoids along with omega-3 fatty acids. ... Three Seabuckthorn nurseries were established in 2003, in cooperation with two community-based cooperatives and a local Amchi family (practitioners of traditional Tibetan medicine). The project aims to establish additional nurseries and Seabuckthorn forests in different communities of Upper and Southern Mustang in Nepal. This approach to the cultivation and sale of Seabuckthorn products will generate an income source for the local population, and also serve as a model that can be replicated in other areas of Nepal, with other medicinal herbs that could be cultivated.

Agua Para Todos (Water for All) consortium in Bolivia is cool:

In suburban areas around Cochabamba, the municipal water company does not have the investment capacity needed to build secondary water distribution networks and household connections in the near future. The local community has organized itself into water committees and are building their own water systems in an uncoordinated, inefficient way. A private water consortium created by a plastic pipe factory, an engineering company and a micro credit NGO ... will build water distribution systems for the water committees in the suburban areas and train each water committee in water system management. Each system will connect between 100 and 500 households. The users themselves will pay the total cost of the construction thanks to a micro credit scheme provided by the NGO.

and this global marketing partnership for SRI Indigenous Rice intrigues me:

SRI (System of Rice Intensification) is a set of practices for growing rice that allows farmers to increase yields by 50-100% without purchasing high-yielding varieties or chemical inputs, while saving water and producing healthier plants and soil.

But, I have to say, my favorite of the finalists wasn't on the list of winners -- this amazing-sounding Integrated Mangrove Restoration and Sustainable Shrimp Aquaculture in Thailand:

Local shrimp farming associations, local communities, an international NGO, and public authorities are joining forces to implement community-based sustainable aquacultural management and mangrove restoration methods. ...Mangrove forests have been destroyed for intensive shrimp farms and charcoal production, leaving about 800 hectares of wasteland over an area previously rich in mangrove biodiversity. Local people suffer from unemployment, skill shortages and limited opportunities for income generation. ...This project will provide a model for socio-economic regeneration through environmental restoration that can be replicated worldwide where unsustainable intensive shrimp farming has contributed to global environmental impacts and the loss of over a half of the world's mangrove forests.

Given the ecological importance of mangrove swamps and the need to develop successful models sustainable aquaculture this sort of project would seem to be a natural.

Still, I love the way in which more and more attention is being brought to bear on worldchanging efforts, projects which bridge disciplines to deliver innovation for building a better future. We need a hundred thousand more projects like the ones we profile on WorldChanging, but the 2,500 we've covered so far are a good and optimistic beginning.

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I am new to this site and am always wondering what technology's are out there. Are we on the way to a cleaner, cheaper enviroment?

Posted by: Stacey Gold on 3 May 05

Very cool stuff - in some ways, similar to a project run by colleagues of mine at the World Resources Institute ( called New Ventures (

According their site, "The New Ventures program of the World Resources Institute supports sustainable enterprise creation in emerging economies by accelerating the transfer of venture capital to outstanding investment opportunities that incorporate social and environmental benefits."

I know that they have raised over US$10 million in venture capital for small- and medium-sized businesses run by entrepreneurs in developing countries. If SEED interests you, you might want to check out New Ventures.

Posted by: Rob Katz on 12 May 05



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