People power

Posted: 4 September 2000

Ben Ludovici, a fisherman in the Central Visayas Region of the Philippines, is one of the stars of Investing in People, the latest 25-minute People & the Planet video. With his family, he has now planted some 30,000 mangrove trees as part of a project aimed at reforesting the coast and reviving the local fisheries.

His story, and others in the film, illustrates the fact that the most successful aid projects are invariably those in which local people are involved and consulted - and where in many cases, the help goes straight to the people. As the commentary says: "Given the right support, local people can be the best protectors of the environment."

This theme is illustrated also in West Java, where the people of Salagedang village have used a well established local technology to build a stone road to the nearest highway, and thus open up a market for their produce. By entrusting the funds to the villagers and allowing them to decide how to use it and how best to sort out the problems involved the achievement is theirs, and its long-term viability is assured.

Interviewed for the film, Dr Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend, Head of the Social Policy Group at IUCN, said "Development cannot be ordered by a few people in air-conditioned offices and then carried out at the local level with nothing in between...(Governments and aid agencies) must figure out what actually has organic roots in society and match the needs and resources that are available there."

And in a summing-up statement, Dr Ismail Serageldin, Vice President for Environmentally Sustainable Development at the World Bank said: "The central authorities have to redefine their role as enablers, as regulators, as those who create the framework that allows the private sector and community action to flourish."