Negocios

Las Historias Detalladas en Inglés

  1. Tailandia – Provincia Nonthaburi – Reutilización y Reciclaje en el Templo Wat Suan Kaew – Wat Suan Kaew Un templo combina la reutilización creativa y el reciclaje, la agricultura sustentable y programas sociales.

Las Historias Cápsulas

  1. USA – Alaska – Denali BioTechnologies – Valuable wild blueberries are harvested on deforested land, providing good nutrition and an economic boost to remote villages.
  2. Sudáfrica – Humedales de Walkerstroom – Ecoturismo – Al proteger praderas y humedales se fomenta el turismo de naturaleza y estimula a la economia local.
  3. ZambiaTransformando Comunidades con el Desarrollo Sustentable – Un programa de conservación de vida silvestre y desarrollo comunitario protege la biodiversidad mientras mejora la vida en las aldeas de la región.
  4. SueciaReforma Fiscal Ecológica – La reforma fiscal genera amplios incentivos para la sustentabilidad.
  5. Brasil – Icapui – Microcréditos – Los microcréditos sirven de alternativa a la sobreexplotación de langosta por parte de pescadores.
  6. India – Rajasthan (y otros estados) – Centro Artesanal Ranbathore – Una pujante comunidad artesanal revive tradiciones locales y genera empleos alternativos para mujeres en zonas rurales deprimidas.
  7. India – Rajasthan – “Universidad Descalza” – Un programa aldeano revive la sabiduría tradicional, su autosuficiencia y el desarrollo rural holístico.

EUA – Alaska – Denali BioTechnologies

by Regina Gregory

The Tongass National Forest is a rare temperate rainforest located in southeast Alaska. With 16.8 million acres, it is the largest U.S. national forest.

In the mid-1950s, large-scale clearcutting began in the Tongass under the U.S. Forest Service policy of selling the trees to private timber companies. Logging roads, pulp mills and saw mills were built and a booming industry began. In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act reduced the amount of timberland under Forest Service jurisdiction. But once they finally acquired title to the land in the late 1970s, the Alaska Native corporations also began diligent logging operations.

By 2000, the timber boom was over, due in part to a change in Forest Service policy, but also to economic and other factors. This was a relief to the forest, but a hardship for the people. Employment in the forestry industry in southeast Alaska is now about 15% of what it was during the heyday of logging.

The Native village of Kake is a “poster child” of this boom-and-bust cycle, according to Dr. Maureen McKenzie. During the boom years, Kake Tribal Logging & Timber was Alaska’s third largest timber company. The village had a population of around 1,000. Logging jobs in the Tongass led to other jobs, e.g. in stores, restaurants, clinics, churches. The Kake Tribal Corporation (the governing entity) was also doing very well. After the boom, the people were left with few jobs, a badly scarred forest, and a diminished traditional subsistence economy. The town’s population shrank by about half, and nearly 80% of those who remain are unemployed. The Tribal Corporation is in bankruptcy.

Dr. McKenzie is the owner and CEO of Denali BioTechnologies, Inc. in Homer, Alaska, and also an adjunct professor of pharmacy at the University of Florida. Her company produces nutraceuticals—dietary supplements with significant health benefits. She is especially interested in identifying the most abundant resources with the longest history of human use. “We encouraged them [the village residents] to go look through the ‘slash piles’ for new growth,” wrote McKenzie. “Lo and behold, wild blueberries are thriving! We set up a formal harvest operation and make our proprietary, very high quality dietary supplement, AuroraBlue®, from those hand-picked blueberries.” (AuroraBlue also contains local huckleberries and bilberries from other remote regions of Alaska.)

Unlike commercial blueberries that are selected for optimal sweetness and juiciness, the wild blueberries contain exceptional quantities of flavonoids—far more even than wild blueberries grown in lower latitudes. Flavonoids—which are scarce in the modern American diet—are known to prevent and even help heal serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s). They are “natural chemicals designed to protect plants and us!” says McKenzie.

To not compete with people’s subsistence, Dr. McKenzie urges them to stock their freezers first before they pick for the company. When blueberries nearest the community are picked, she offers “chits” for gasoline to people who want to pick further away. It is often rough terrain, and the pickers sometimes encounter black bears who also enjoy the berries.

Denali BioTech pays $3.10 per pound to its 50-75 blueberry pickers in southeast Alaska. This is higher than the global market price. Denali also pays 50¢ per pound to the brokers who weigh and deliver the berries. Additional costs have included the rental of refrigerated vans at $135 per day each and the cost of air freight at $2.74 per pound. Thus the cost per pound of blueberries is sometimes nearly $8.00.

While profit margins are slim, McKenzie is proud of her work and hopeful for the future. “We have infused desperately needed jobs and cash into their communities,” she wrote.  “Although this is now seasonal employment [mid-June through early October], we are seeking ways to create year-round jobs related to the nutrition/health industries in the remote Native villages of Alaska.” Besides wages, she says, it gives people hope for a sustainable economic future, and pride in knowing that the product of their ancestors is of such premium quality.

In addition to AuroraBlue, Denali BioTech produces AuroraGreen from dandelions and AuroraRed from rosehips—both locally abundant and highly nutritious. The company has targeted over 150 plant candidates from all over Alaska for further nutraceutical research.

For more information see http://denalibiotech.com

Volver al inicio

Sudáfrica – Humedales Walkerstroom – Ecoturismo

por Amanda Suutari

El poblado de Walkerstroom queda a 3 horas al sudeste de Johanesburgo, en el corazón del ultimo gran pastizal de Sudáfrica (y posiblemente de toda África). Tiene una población de 6,500 que va en caída debido a la cancelación de un proyecto ferroviario que iba a pasar por allí. Debido a la migración, casi la mitad de sus casas están abandonadas. No había turismo,  tres cuartas partes de los negocios habían cerrado, y el mayor empleador era el gobierno. Ni el pastizal, ni el humedal vecino tenían protección legal alguna. Como dice la activista Elena Kotze, los asentamientos sufrían “de problemas urbanos, sin ninguno de los beneficios de las urbes”, entre estos el alto desempleo, carencia de servicios y pocas oportunidades que no implicaran salir a buscar empleo en las ciudades, lo cual empobrecía aún más a los poblados. Los ancestrales altos pastizales antaño cubrían un 60% de África. Los Africanos utilizan muchas plantas y animales endémicos en su medicina tradicional. Por ello los pastizales son un recurso genético único e insustituible que podría surtir de medicinas tradicionales y fármacos de manera sustentable. La manera en que captan y filtran las lluvias surte además a tres de los ríos más importantes del país. Mientras persisten algunas áreas prístinas, entre el 60 y 80% de estos pastizales han sido degradados por plantaciones madereras, la minería de carbón y oro, la agricultura y la dispersión urbana.

Cuando Elena Kotze y su esposo arribaron en Walkerstroom en 1989, tomó interés en la protección de los pastizales y humedales, y en reactivar la economía. El pastizal contiene una gran diversidad de flora y fauna, incluyendo muchas especies de aves, y en esto vio potencial para los observadores de aves. Abrió una casa de huéspedes para atraer turistas, lo cual divirtió a los lugareños. Poco después, muchas de las casas abandonadas fueron llenándose con aficionados de la observación de aves. Abrió una pensión en 1992, y le siguieron otras más. Después llegaron una fábrica de quesos, varios cafés, y tiendas de artesanías. Hoy en día hay 5 posadas y 7 casas de huéspedes, una carnicería, una panadería y una galería de arte. Kotze fomenta industrias locales que utilizan recursos locales, por ejemplo, la producción de papel artesanal, flores secas, cerámica, cestería, y la producción de quesos, embutidos, jaleas, conservas, vino, cerveza y aderezos. El aprendizaje de primeros auxilios por parte de los guías de turistas fue de importancia en estas comunidades sin servicios médicos. También tuvieron que aprender sobre los pastizales y humedales, así como sobre la historia y cultura regional, lo cual acercó a las generaciones mayores y menores, fomentando un sentido de orgullo comunitario en su patrimonio natural y cultural.

Kotze y su marido también han comenzado a buscar que se declare a un millón de  hectáreas de pastizal como Patrimonio de la Humanidad de la UNESCO. Ayudó a fundar una organización llamada GRASS (Grasslands Require Active Support to Survive) que incluye a dependencias de gobierno, ONGs, grupos juveniles, etc.. para realizar investigaciones (de topografía, cartografía y uso de suelos) y realizar campañas. La organización ha sido aceptada por todas las dependencias y agencias involucradas, y ha atraído el interés del Ministerio de Aguas y Bosques por su potencial de duplicación (la gestión integral de cuencas y la cooperación entre el sector civil y el gobierno son temas populares, pero Walkerstroom es su primer ejemplo exitoso). De aquí nació el Fideicomiso del Pastizal Ekangala, que trabaja por formalizar la Reserva de la Biosfera bajo el umbral de la UNESCO. Esta meta cuenta con apoyo popular, pues poblados que han quedado fuera de la reserva han pedido ser incluidos.

Otro proyecto de Kotze ha sido la creación de la Reserva del Humedal de Walkerstroom. El humedal siempre ha sido crítico para el bienestar de ganaderos, quienes queman parte del pastizal para garantizar el abasto de pastos verdes. Previo a la declaración de la reserva no sobrevivían las crías de Grullas Reales. Pero desde que se restringió la quema de ciertas zonas, han aumentado drásticamente los carrizos y el número de Grullas Reales.

Mientras que persisten muchos problemas, Kotze apunta hacia los cambios dramáticos de la reactivación económica, que a su vez ha resultado en la creación de una cámara de comercio y una asociación cultural. Esto ha atraído a nuevos pobladores con nuevas habilidades, lo cual ha revertido la tendencia migratoria.

Este es un buen ejemplo de cómo el turismo puede impulsar a la población local a aprender más sobre su propio patrimonio natural y cultural, inspirando el orgullo comunitario y su compromiso con su destino. La información a que tuvimos acceso no nos permite discernir si se trata de un turismo accesible, o de élite. Si se trata de turismo exclusivo, existe el riesgo del aburguesamiento y la segregación de la industria turística. Además algunos lugareños dudan que el turismo baste para mantener la economía local.

Volver al inicio

Zambia – Transformando Comunidades con el Desarrollo Sustentable

por Amanda Suutari

En el Valle Luangwa, al norte de Zambia, donde la caza furtiva diezmó  la población de elefantes durante los 1980s, dejando en extrema pobreza a los aldeanos, Hammerskjoeld Simwinga – conocido como Hammer – utiliza innovadoras estrategias de desarrollo sustentable para recuperar la fauna nativa y transformar esta zona marginada.

Como Director del Programa de Conservación de Fauna y Desarrollo Comunitario de Luangwa Norte, Simwinga protege la biodiversidad dentro del Parque Nacional Luangwa Norte mientras mejora el nivel de vida en la región a través de proyectos de micro-créditos, educación, salud rural y de apoyo a mujeres.

Simwinga comenzó a trabajar en la región como parte del Proyecto de Conservación Luangwa Norte, financiado por EUA, cuando la economía local dependía de la caza furtiva. Ayudo a los aldeanos a formar “clubes” que aprovechan préstamos para empresas que brindan bienes y servicios legales como una alternativa a trabajar en la caza furtiva. Cada club se manejó como una empresa, y los aldeanos tenían la obligación de pagar sus deudas.

A través de estos clubes, los aldeanos abrieron abarroteras y molinos, empleando a molineros, mecánicos y contadores. El programa además ayudó a agricultores con préstamos para comprar semilla, transporte y asistencia técnica para lograr mejores rendimientos de cultivos altos en proteínas, para que no requieran cazar fauna silvestre. Simwinga vinculó todo el proyecto a la protección de la fauna, reemplazando así una economía ilícita basada en la caza furtiva con una economía lícita.

La incansable labor de Sinwinga ha resultado una transformación drástica de la región. Los ingresos de los aldeanos se han duplicado, así como el abasto alimenticio familiar. Como resultado, se ha controlado el 98% de la caza de furtiva de elefantes y la de otros animales es mínima. Ha regresado la fauna silvestre, que incluye elefantes, hipopótamos, búfalos y antílope. Incluso la Sociedad Zoologica de Frankfurt ha re-introducido al rinoceronte negro (en peligro crítico de extinción) al Parque Nacional de Luangwa Norte.

El programa sirve a más de 35,000 personas y es modelo de desarrollo sustentable para el resto de África.

Simwinga comenzó su labor de desarrollo comunitario con el Proyecto de Conservación Luangwa Norte, una organización Estadounidense fundda en 1986 por los Drs. Delia y Mark Owens, quienes capacitaron a guías y trabajaron con aldeanos para rehabilitar y conservar los 6,200 km cuadrados del Parque Nacional Luangwa Norte. En los 1980s, la Convención Internacional sobre el Comercio de Especies en Peligro (CITES, por sus siglas en Inglés) intentó regular el comercio del marfil, sin prohibirlo, lo cual resulto en varios años de caza masiva de elefantes en África. La mitad de los 1.2 millones de elefantes Africanos fueron muertos entre 1979 y 1989 y la población en Luangwa Norte cayó de 17,000 a tan solo 1,300.

Al hacerse evidente el éxito del PCLN a mediados de los 1990s, funcionarios de gobierno y otros que beneficiaban de la caza furtiva notaron como mermaron sus ganancias ilícitas. En 1996 el gobierno clausuró las oficinas del Proyecto poniendo fin a sus operaciones. Tras varias semanas se les permitió volver a abrir, pero tras un año de incertidumbre, el PCLN se convirtió en otra organización. Esta fue incapaz de financiar todos los proyectos previos y abandonó los programas de desarrollo comunitario.

Pero Simwinga no se dio por vencido. Trabajo incansablemente por impulsar los programas de desarrollo comunitario, financiándolo en parte con los pagos que hacían los aldeanos sobre sus préstamos. Durante casi un año trabajo solo en las comunidades, caminando 30 km entre aldeas. Poco a poco organizó una asociación civil Zambiana, y atrajo los fondos para mantener viva su labor. Su reto ahora es gestionar la creciente demanda por sus servicios en regiones vecinas y atraer apoyo internacional.

En el 2007 la revista Time nombró a Simwinga como uno de sus “Héroes de la Ecología”.

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga es ganador del Premio Goldman al Medio Ambiente. Para mayores informes visite Goldman Prize website.

Volver al inicio

Suecia – Reforma Fiscal Ecológica

by Amanda Suutari

Compared with the rest of the world, European countries have very well-developed “green” fiscal policies. While most of the these are applied to transportation (motor vehicles, gas and diesel), “green taxes” are used to address various other issues such as waste management, packaging, air emissions, fertilizer use, and extend to other market-based incentives such as trading “credits,” take-back programs for manufactured goods, deposit-refund schemes, rebates, the removal of perverse subsidies (and introduction of others) and various other programs. While many of these measures were originally used to target certain environmental issues, there has been a trend towards more comprehensive tax reform to shape environmentally responsible practices across the board.

Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Western European countries and Japan have set up commissions to explore the opportunities for and issues surrounding introducing broader green tax shifts. In the three decades up to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, there was growing awareness in Sweden of carbon dioxide emissions and global warming, and the signing of the Rio Declaration pushed them towards more clear commitments. The government had been trying to find the best way to reduce all types of emissions, but the economy had slowed down. Their dilemma was how to do this and still raise employment and also survive in a transforming global system that put increasing pressure on national industries to become more “efficient” by externalizing costs.

Knowing that environmental regulation was unpopular, especially among industry, the government decided to introduce several taxes in 1991. One of these was the carbon tax, levied on a two-tiered basis for two classes of users, household and industrial. They were able to introduce them to households (who depended on this mainly for home heating and transport) because there was broad popular support. Introducing these taxes began to have an effect on heating infrastructure, where the use of biomass increased in local heating districts. It also created new demand for biomass and led to innovations in the field, as well as improvements in other technologies in home heating efficiency.

For industry, who were opposed to the taxes, there were initial exemptions and incremental expansion of taxes. Sweden was among the first countries to initiate the “feebate” system, which was a way to get support from business. The revenue collected from these various taxes was returned to any businesses who increased efficiency of their plants, proportionate to the increase; in other words, the bigger the improvement, the bigger the refund. This would help businesses offset the costs of investing in improved efficiency. Under this feebate system, NOx emissions fell by 35% in the first year alone, and investment in abatement technologies went up accordingly. (This is a situation where heavier polluters are transferring resources to, or subsidizing, lighter polluters – -instead of the case where government and public typically subsidize heavy polluters with elevated health care costs and reduced quality of life).

The taxes have influenced emissions even more dramatically on carbon and sulfur than on nitrogen. The tax on sulfur led to a reduction in sulfur content on fuels 50% below the legal requirement and halved SO2 emissions in the last eight years. The total decrease in emissions since 1970 has been over 70%, and Sweden has led the 30% club, in a pledge to reduce SO2 emissions by 1993-95, and other countries such as France, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and West Germany followed suit, pledging reductions of 40-50% by the mid-nineties.

The effects of these changes are apparent on ordinary lifestyles. Emissions controls are used on cars, appliances are energy efficient, homes are energy conserving, and household and industrial materials are recycled. One of the cleanest garbage-to-fuel plants in Karlstad separates and recycles most of its input and burns the rest for energy. Co-generated steam from the plant provides hot water and heating for 60,000 of the area’s residents, and an adjoining landfill feeds a biogas system for additional energy. There is a “solar” village above 58 degrees latitude where households have managed to meet their heat and hot water needs by solar alone for five months of the year, which shows the potential for northern regions to take advantage of the longer days of summer. Taxes on nuclear energy have also been part of a plan to phase out nuclear power by 2010, while retaining limits on hydroelectric power. Over the years these programs have evolved and extended to nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, scrapping cars, gravel extraction and others.

In 2000, a broad tax “shift” created revenue and raised employment levels through job skill training. The word “shift” is important because while the goal may be have been aimed at raising revenue, it has also redirected the flow of money through the Swedish economy where the tax burden is heaviest on those who exact the greater costs on society. For example, some of the taxes on home heating and electricity have been combined with offsetting tax cuts, which include lower income taxes and social security contributions. Notes:

  1. One speculation is that the expansion of the EU might give northern and western Europe the incentive to externalize some of their costs onto Eastern Europe – -and this is already happening in Slovenia, which is said to be on its way to being the new “Detroit” of Europe, where heavy industries are taking advantage of the removal of barriers and lower costs to set up plants there. At the same time, there might also be changes in terms of technology transfer and harmonization of technologies across the region as well, which may allow Eastern Europe to leapfrog some of the more backward stages in development taken by the West. It is possible to imagine both trends happening simultaneously.
  2. This case, or a similar one, might be useful in looking at larger-scale, global tipping points where an economic system is fundamentally redesigned in a way to internalize costs and cause far-reaching effects on the infrastructure of production, distribution, marketing, consumption, lifestyle, transportation, energy, land use, waste, employment, social services, etc. While taxes in the US are a dirty word, and any talk of fiscal restructuring puts most people to sleep, there could be many concrete examples of the spin-off effects to bring this case alive to ordinary readers. While the Irish “plastax” (preceeding) is an interesting case in that it shows how targeting a specific problem can bring quick results, a case like this would show a slower, more fundamental process which results in a deeper economic and social transformation. In effect, it’s a vision of full-cost accounting, and much of Northern and Western Europe have managed to incrementally introduce these changes with strong support from not only the public, but also industry – -if introduced with careful consideration for incentives and the clear understanding of potential for savings. And of course, Scandinavia or western Europe, while leagues ahead of the rest of the world, are still far from achieving what will be an ongoing drawn-out process which each region will have to follow their lead while adapting to regional conditions.

For more information visit the HORIZON Solutions Site.

Este sitio web contiene materia traducida del sitio web www.ecotippingpoints.org.
Traducción: David Nuñez. Redacción: Gerry Marten

Volver al inicio

Brasil – Icapui – Microcréditos

por Amanda Suutari

Icapui es un pueblo agrícola y pesquero de 17,000 habitantes en la costa noreste de Brasil. Ambas actividades han sufrido debido a sequías prolongadas y una disminución en la captura de langosta. En esta región, las pequeñas empresas no pueden obtener préstamos, los agricultores y pescadores se encuentran en crisis, y los jóvenes huyen a las ciudades buscando la supuesta mejor vida en las urbes.

Un día durante una reunión publica, a los pescadores de langosta se les informó de una nueva ley federal que obligaba la captura de langosta con trampas, quedando prohibidas las redes. Esto molestó a los pescadores, ya que el 95% usaba redes porque las trampas tienen menor rendimiento. Aunque los pescadores comprendían que tarde o temprano se acabarían a la langosta, tenían familias que alimentar y consideraban que sus necesidades inmediatas tenían prioridad sobre la sustentabilidad a largo plazo.

Los lugareños pensaron que la mas obvia – y quizá la única – manera de fortalecer la economía local era atrayendo a una empresa multinacional, a pesar de que no resolvería del todos sus problemas, y traería además consigo problemas económicos, ambientales y sociales inesperados.

Sin embargo, un líder comunitario de nombre Francisco de Oliveira Repoucas Neto desarrolló la idea de combinar “microcréditos” con capacitación en administración para forjar empresarios de entre los residentes. En 1996 Neto inició un programa de nombre Orgape, u “Organización de Apoyo a Pequeñas Empresas”. Orgape combina cuatro tipos de servicios:

  • Microcréditos flexibles a lugareños.
  • Capacitación en administración de pequeñas empresas.
  • Apoyo a microempresas en cubrir las discrepancias entre oferta y demanda.
  • Capacitación de jóvenes como futuros emprendedores.

Los prestatarios pagan un 3% de interés. Esto no es suficiente para cubrir los gastos operativos de Orgape, y para cubrir la diferencia obtiene donativos de oficina y dos salarios (cada agente, nativo de la comunidad en que trabaja, puede administrar hasta 150 prestamistas) por parte de los municipios donde opera. Los municipios cooperan, ya que se benefician de una pujante comunidad empresarial y cuesta menos de lo que normalmente invierten en desarrollo económico.

Orgape opera en ocho poblados (cada uno con una población de entre 10 y 15 mil habitantes) y su tasa de clientes morosos de 2.4% es la más baja de Brasil. En caso de que el cliente no pueda pagar, se le otorga una extensión y ofrece capacitación empresarial, que ayudan a muchos a hacer sus pagos. Orgape ha ayudado a 1,335 familias en Ceara, uno de los estados más empobrecidos de Brasil, y el 75% de sus clientes han aumentado sus ingresos familiares en un 42%.

El proyecto ha ayudado a algunos pescadores a hacer la transición a otros negocios, como son la cría de ovejas, la conversión de un puesto de cerveza en una pensión, un salón de belleza, y expansiones de empresas existentes como restaurantes. Los préstamos también han fomentado el darle un valor agregado a los productos locales; por ejemplo, un agricultor de arroz compró la maquinaria que necesitaba para procesar su cosecha y venderla localmente, en vez de enviarla a la ciudad, y además rentó su maquinaria a otros agricultores aumentando aún más sus ingresos. El programa además está creando contactos entre los prestatarios, permitiéndoles tratar directamente entre sí, creando cadenas de distribución y abasto local. Las utilidades de los pequeños empresarios son sustentables porque responden a necesidades locales, ofrecen bienes y servicios a precios del mercado, y reinvierten en microempresas, diversificando su perfil.

Además de fortalecer la independencia financiera, el programa ha impulsado la madurez política en comunidades acostumbradas a depender de funcionarios corruptos que antes compraban el voto. También ha reducido la vulnerabilidad de residentes a la “invasión” por parte de multinacionales.

* Los términos “microcrédito” o “microfinanciamiento”, junto con otros de moda como son “comercio justo” y “orgánico”, han sido sobre-explotados y manipulados por intereses financieros internacionales al grado que causan confusión y escepticismo. Con el fin de aclarar esto, la intención del microcrédito como camino al desarrollo:

  • Ayuda a familias pobres a que se mejoren, en vez de darles limosna.
  • Se basa en la confianza, no en procedimientos legales.
  • Es una respuesta a la banca convencional que tradicionalmente niega créditos a los pobres
  • Es una alternativa a la inversión por parte de multinacionales para comunidades marginadas que han perdido sus recursos tradicionales.

Para mayores informes visite Changemakers.

Este sitio web contiene materia traducida del sitio web www.ecotippingpoints.org.
Traducción: David Nuñez. Redacción: Gerry Marten

Volver al inicio

India – Rajasthan (y otros estados) – Centro Artesanal Ranbathore

by Amanda Suutari

When the 400-kilometer-square Ranthanbore National Park was created in the arid part of eastern Rajasthan, those living in the reserve were relocated onto marginal land lacking in water, fodder or proper agricultural land. Displaced from their traditional resource-based economy, villagers were driven into casual labor such as agricultural or construction workers breaking rocks or clearing roads on construction sites.

Around this time, a Delhi-based craft society, Dastkar, identified the area as a potential candidate to build up a crafts industry. Dastkar is a society for crafts and artisans, working to improve the economic condition of craftspeople, and to preserve India’s rich and diverse artisanal traditions threatened by social and market forces. Crafts may include pottery, accessories, garments, or home furnishings. Their process includes identifying skills, creating awareness among locals of the skills, then developing with the villagers designs, markets, and ways to invest incomes generated. Through these activities it hopes to market actually useful products (and not encouraging consumption for charity), encouraging use of recycled or locally available goods such as newsprint, scrap paper, rags, cane, wool, or reed. The emphasis on self-sufficiency also prevents the dependence on exploitative “middlemen” through direct sales to customers at its cooperative shop, exhibitions, and bazaars. Its core philosophy is, to quote its website, “to make itself redundant.” Dastkar has also recently gotten a permit to export outside of India. Each year it chooses 8-10 groups to work with, and today works with over 100 groups in most states of India.

When Dastkar began to visit Ranthambore in 1989, locals were skeptical. Dastkar representatives saw the creative potential in the villages from the local artisanal traditions, including the decorative madna paintings on the walls of houses. Part of the initial work was simply motivating women to understand their own potential, and to earn their trust as outsiders to the villagers. When an initial consignment was finally agreed upon, a group of 35 women worked for 10 days to produce an order of various goods, for which they were paid an amount comparable to the equivalent of backbreaking physical construction labor. This served as encouragement and stimulus, and the cooperative began to grow in numbers: by 1991, 18 months after the first project, 75 women were involved, which has grown to 300 people today whose activities range from embroidery to leather, dyeing, pottery, patchwork and block printing. The role of the members has also evolved from making crafts to going to bazaars to run the stalls and interact with visitors, as well as organizing the accounting, marketing, and management.

The Ranthanbore Craft Community Center has since opened, which houses an office, sales outlet, training/workshop center, raw material store, guesthouse and community center. Since the beginning of the project, there has been a noticeable change not only in the level of confidence of the women, with the weakening of purdah (covering of faces and staying at home) but also in the intercaste relationships between Hindu as well as Hindu-Muslim relations. It has also helped to revive and strengthen knowledge of and appreciation for traditional crafts.

For more information visit Dastkar.

Este sitio web contiene materia traducida del sitio web www.ecotippingpoints.org.
Traducción: David Nuñez. Redacción: Gerry Marten

Volver al inicio

India – Rajasthan – “Universidad Descalza”

by Amanda Suutari

Popularly known as “Barefoot College,” the Social Work and Research Center (SWRC) is a unique organization located in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. It conducts multiple projects, aiming to promote traditional wisdom, self-sufficiency and holistic rural development. After seeing a devastating famine that killed thousands of people in the state of Bihar, founder Sanjit Bunker Roy set up the organization in Tilonia village in 1972, with the vision that this should not be in a city run by trained professionals but in the countryside among villages whose knowledge could be tapped to solve some of rural India’s problems.

At that time, Tilonia was typical in the sense that it was suffering many difficulties, such as unemployment, illiteracy, and little access to clean water, health care, or education. Most of all, villagers lacked organization and a sense of their own power – -most were too disenchanted with the petty corruption of village officials and demoralized by poverty to imagine they could change their situation.

The projects began with training to villagers to give them tools to help themselves, which would undermine the mentality that only qualified professionals could help them, as well as revive a sense of pride in traditional knowledge and practices. To date the center has trained two generations of villagers without any formal degrees to become alternative health care workers, solar engineers, hand pump mechanics and teachers. There is a broad range of projects, such as water management and revival of rainwater harvesting, night schools for children busy on the farm by day, health centers, solar power development, environment-friendly, cost-effective housing techniques, income generation and revival of regional artisanal skills combined with fair trade enterprise, community education via traditional media such as puppets and storytelling, women’s development groups, and community action to challenge the misuse of village government funds.

Solar power was first used in 1986 on a large scale to provide energy for the 80,000-square-foot campus, which today is totally self-sufficient in energy. The center has installed solar home lighting systems and produces solar lanterns, which produce a combined 178 kilowatts of solar energy across the country. Health centers are small dispensaries which charge a nominal fee, and provide services which combine “biochemic” and natural medicines, and services for women’s health, family planning, and trained midwives. There are also programs for physically challenged youth, and “mental wellness camps” which provide access to government psychiatrists to patients with mental disorders. There are 150 night schools for children whose farming duties prevent them from attending school during the day, and these are powered by solar lanterns. Teaching aids and learning materials used in the night schools are made from waste materials. Instruction is both formal and practical, for example children may learn about animal husbandry as well as reading and math. A mobile library also visits villages with the goal of encouraging children to read.

There is also the regeneration of waste lands by transplanting drought-resistant seedlings grown in the college nursery, the installation of hand pumps and the desilting of village ponds to recharge groundwater, and these construction projects have provided employment to landless laborers. Traditional media such as puppetry has been instrumental in communicating to semi-literate audiences information about health issues, education and human rights. Income-generation has helped to arrest urban migration, and handicrafts are being sold through well-known fair trade organizations Traidcraft, Friends of Tilonia and Bridgehead. In the early 1990s, a campaign began where villagers were asked questions about how much money was allotted to villages by the government for development, and how much was spent on other purposes. This people’s campaign was for the Right to Information, and public hearings were held to investigate the misappropriation of village funds.

Other women’s development programs developed, with direct action to improve wages, legal rights, and access to family planning. While changes are slow, there has been some progress, for example, in the attitude of local men – -particularly in Rajput, where women are forced into purdah, obligating them to cover their faces and stay inside. Initially hostile to the formation of women’s groups, communities are gradually realizing the women were trying to improve the lives of their families.

To date, 100,000 people in 110 villages spread over 500 square miles now have access to safe water, education, health, and employment. This has been one of the more well-known, successful holistic rural development agencies which has attracted attention from around the country and outside India. There are now 20 Barefoot College field centers (each serving 9 to 35 villages) found in 13 of India’s 26 states. It has 20% financial self-sufficiency, and receives the remainder of its expenses through sponsorships from various UN agencies (UNESCO, UNDP) as well as various departments and agencies of the Indian government.

For more information visit the UNESCO Courier and the Barefoot College.

Este sitio web contiene materia traducida del sitio web www.ecotippingpoints.org.
Traducción: David Nuñez. Redacción: Gerry Marten

Volver al inicio