This week, I had the opportunity to attend InterAction’s Best Practices and Innovation Initiative‘s award ceremony, which is aimed at sharing success stories and recognizing organizations that effectively build local capacity in countries around the world. Heifer International and Mercy Corps, two nonprofits from the agriculture and food security sector, won for their work in promoting sustainable energy — a particularly relevant topic this year.
Creating Community Capacity
The first award recipient, Mercy Corps, used civil society organizations and a market-based approach to spark local entrepreneurial activity to cultivate sustainable environmental practices. Previously, in order to gather fuel for cooking, the people in the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar had to take time off from their normal work routines.
Mercy Corps worked with local communities to develop stoves that use between 30 and 50 percent of the firewood that traditional stoves use, helping to eliminate deforestation issues as well as reducing the amount of time that citizens have to cut out of their weeks to gather fuel.
Taking into account the differences within the region, Mercy Corps worked with local leaders and employed varying business models based on each village’s context. In addition to providing a more sustainable cook stove, this project also succeeded in creating a more active civil society in the Ayeyawady Delta region.
Now We’re Cooking with (Bio)gas
The program helps to sustainably decrease the cost of fuel for farmers in Uganda and educates them about substitutes for wood. This is especially important as wood is becoming increasingly rare as deforestation increases in Uganda, and wood as fuel also causes negative side effects on respiratory health.
The project is employing local Ugandans to install 12,000 biogas units over the next five years. Biogas has provided a new source of employment for local Ugandans, has improved cooking, hygiene and sanitation, and the biproducts of the biogas production create a rich fertilizer for local crops. Heifer’s Pass on the Gift model encourages the farmers who receive access to biogas units to teach their neighbors how to build and make use of biogas units.
I hope that fellow organizations will learn from the successes of these two creative projects.
InterAction Best Practices and Innovation gives awards to two organizations on an annual basis and will be accepting applications for next year beginning in mid-July.