Francisco Noguera

Climate Adaptation Funding Priorities Emerge from World Bank?s Development Marketplace

Lauren_WitheyGuest blogger Lauren Withey is a research analyst for the Climate, Energy and?Transport Program at the?at the World Resources Institute, in Washington D.C.

By Lauren Withey

“So, we are going to help the indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon raise bugs,” the young Colombian man explained simply as I looked over his poster, covered with photos of indigenous people in traditional dress alongside images of massive beetles, butterflies, and spiders.

“Uh-huh,” I nodded understandingly. It seemed to me that if I lived in the Amazon, the last thing I would want to deal with would be more big spiders.

“Then, we are going to ship them around the world.”

“The bugs?”

“That is correct. Here in the US, there is a big market for live butterflies for butterfly exhibits. In Japan, they pay a lot of money for these beetles the size of your hand. And the spiders. It will help these indigenous people to make a living and will protect biodiversity at the same time. And it will give them an incentive to protect the forest they live in instead of burning it for agriculture.”

“Ahhh…” Who’d have thought it?

This encounter marked the beginning of an afternoon last week at the World Bank’s?2008 Global Development Marketplace,?in which my mind returned to this refrain many times.

Simple Ingredients, Fantastic Outcomes

The young man’s insect venture was one of a hundred finalists in the 2008 Global Development Marketplace for Sustainable Agriculture for Development. He had been selected out of nearly 2,000 applicants worldwide to travel to Washington for a week of knowledge exchanges and workshops with fellow finalists and Bank staff-and, of course, to present his novel export business to a panel of expert jurors, who would choose 22 of the projects at the end of the week to fund with the $4 million they were tasked with dispersing.

As I wandered through the posters that filled the World Bank atrium, I learned that stove fuel can be made from olive scraps, tofu can be produced from super Andean beans, and cell phones can now connect rural farmers to urban markets in Togo and peasants to lawyers in Cambodia. Very cool.

The projects represented entrepreneurial efforts by individuals or small groups coming from developing and emerging markets, and also included plans devised by NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) or ongoing thesis work sponsored by European universities. Some projects were the raison d’?tre of young non-profits.

All of the projects, however, aimed to be self-sustaining in the long term. WCS’s ibis conservation effort would simultaneously get an ecotourism venture off the ground. Tanzanian peanut farmers transitioning to eco-friendly growing practices would be rewarded for their additional efforts through carbon credit markets.????

The Development Marketplace was additional evidence that the space between non-profits and enterprise in the?base of the pyramid?is becoming increasingly smaller and more cluttered. The Marketplace also proved that funding is limited for everyone in this space. Visitors could hardly help but think, “If only the bank could give $200,000 to every project in that atrium, what a better place the world might become!”

Climate Change: It’s Not Getting Any Better

The Marketplace took place in the same week that two new pieces of climate science were released-one indicating that massive quantities of methane (one of the most potent greenhouse gases) are bubbling up from the sea floor (see “Plumes”), and a second showing that carbon dioxide emissions of 2007 were actually above the most fossil fuel intensive scenarios used by the IPCC in their climate change models (see “Carbon Emissions Speed Up”).


What to do at a time like this for someone who cares about the earth and his fellow beings? There are a few options, beyond giving in by reaching for that spoon and pint of Ben and Jerry’s and turning to DVDs of old Sex and the City or The Office episodes.

  1. Keep working to mitigate greenhouse gases and cut emissions to limit the destruction of climate change
  2. Adapt to climate change
  3. Mitigate and adapt at the same time.

While any of these three actions is better than the Ben and Jerry’s scenario, it is this last that is ultimately required to minimize the negative consequences of climate change and take advantage of the opportunities it may afford.

Putting Two (Ideas) and Two (Money) Together

Unsurprisingly, I entered the World Bank atrium last Thursday with depressing visions of migrating islanders and swimming polar bears drifting through my head.

But my morale was quickly renewed as I spent time in the glow of these inspired and inspiring entrepreneurial spirits. Not only were their projects cool; many of them were also working toward the third option above-they were both mitigating greenhouse gases and helping farmers and communities to adapt to climate changes, all at once! And, they were creating new livelihoods for the rural poor.

So, what’s the catch with these rural nature based enterprises? Well, many of them lacked the funding and support they needed to make the changes they envisioned at a significant scale.

That is where their connection to climate change comes in. No, these entrepreneurs were not building sea walls or providing enough solar power to get China to kick the coal habit.

What they were doing was helping some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable communities to improve the functioning of the ecosystems on which they depend and to create new livelihoods based on better governance of natural resources.? In other words, the entrepreneurs at the Development Marketplace were leading important efforts toward climate change adaptation in their communities by building their communities’ resilience and adaptive capacities.

Simultaneously, many of the entrepreneurs’ simple, sustainable enterprises mitigated climate change by making soils more productive, planting trees, increasing production efficiency, and turning waste products into inputs.

Their concepts meet the goals of the development community, the climate change community, the human rights community, and the environmental community more broadly. What is there not to like?

Admittedly, governance problems are often major roadblocks to execution of such entrepreneurial efforts in developing and emerging markets, and these are issues that must be dealt with in their own right (see “Roots of Resilience”). However, these projects also often fail to take off because of a severe scarcity of funding. This need not be so.??

Funding Options

The climate change and development communities have an opportunity right now. As the World Bank puts the finishing touches on its Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change (see “Global Consultations”) and the delegations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change prepare for December’s Fourteenth Conference of the Parties to hash out priorities for the UNFCCC’s adaptation funds (see “Adaptation”), they should keep these entrepreneurs in mind.

So too should the aid organizations or the world’s wealthy states as they consider ways to integrate adaptation into their work. Simple, sustainable solutions that exploit information and technology instead of fragile ecosystems are the only way forward if the developed world is serious about reaching the Millennium Development Goals set forth eight years ago-and toward which governments, NGOs, and businesses pledged $16 billion last week (see “Millennium Development Goals“). If climate change is ignored, it is likely to set back advances on the other goals.

Finally, private investors must become more active in this arena of climate change adaptation. As I walked around the atrium, I wished I had funding to put into many of these projects, if only because the passion and ingenuity already invested in them seemed likely to lead to strong long-term returns. Banks, venture capitalists, and fund managers all have a role to play in helping vulnerable communities to adapt (see “Finance Initiative”).

The Colombian beetle exporter and his compatriots have proven that sustainable solutions to climate change are out there, along with the inspired individuals to carry them out.

Which funders are ready to step up to the plate?