Tag Archives: Ashoka

New grassroots systems

Rural grassroots partnerships are building new, sophisticated systems to measure and communicate the multiple products and services provided by healthy and productive communities and ecosystems in high biodiversity areas in order to convince donors and impact investors that social capital and the greater natural capital we all depend upon need their continued support.

When the Sierra Gorda won a 6.7 million dollar fund from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) from 2001 to 2009, the non-profit organization, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda,  scaled up its impact and grew into a regional institution and a national model for participatory conservation management of the most ecosystem diverse (and second most-populated) natural protected area in Mexico.  To do so, it raised matching funds of four dollars for every GEF dollar and maintained its frugal methods in order to squeeze out every ounce of worth in order to crystallize deep and rooted change.

Short documentary produced about the the Sierra Gorda GEF project:

The evolution of SierraGorda´s bioregional strategy for long-term sustainability required competing for the ever-more restricted philanthropic funds, building partnerships with governmental agencies and establishing several self-financing enterprise. They rolled out a training center to transfer the lessons learned from a quarter century of experience through the Centro Tierra Sierra Gorda, provide technical support for forestry and micro-enterprise management through Bosque Sustentable, and the Sierra Gorda Ecotours office serves community ecolodges to strengthen the local economy. But it is never enough; conservation is never done.

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public and an anonymous donor provided the means to begin the intense experience of building a new methodology to measure and monetize the tangible and intangible impacts of the 169 activities being carried out in the field. Working with the Social Venture Technology Group in 2007, Sierra Gorda began to revolutionize the way it reports and communicates the values and impacts of investing in social and natural capital through a Social and Environmental Return on Investment analysis.  This is a revolution in information management for all three sectors (civil, private and public) and they are responding with interest and support upon receiving the details of how their funding yields greater worth to the local community, the region, and the global ecosystem.

The challenge remains to put natural capital front and center, however. Nature´s absence is loud and clear, even with the new terminology of impact investment. Raising a voice and even a song, Sierra Gorda is making a point that could make a world of difference.

A small and green economy (rather than worshipping a cruel god that demands profit)

By Martha “Pati” Ruiz Corzo, guest blogger

The rise of a whole range of possible solutions for combating climate change has resulted in a large rise in interest from visionary investors who have found new niches in the market: the expansion in alternative technologies, the ecosystem services market, the integration of extreme poverty into consumerism where new clients and products become another part of business. Demand increases and our society continues to relentlessly exploit the planet, generating new needs and increasing the voracity of our society and its damaging materialistic values, habits and practices that have taken us to this point of no return. It seems that this has not been taken into account. We continue fixed on our ambitions with no transformation in our decadent society which fails to appreciate the value of Nature and the innumerable services it provides us with. The current market system has permeated our most intimate spirituality, worshipping a cruel god that demands profit, dehumanizing possessions, delinking us from the true meaning of Life.

In this context we talk about a top-down green economy, that of big business and investments and as well as other things, viewing extreme poverty as a huge market which must be integrated into the global market for the new demands and necessities that go with a better quality of life.

From the bottom up, for the first time, 300 million people in extreme poverty in rural areas with high biodiversity, owners and users of forests and jungles who subsist in highly marginalized conditions have in their hands global values that today are indispensable. The fabric of nature and the immeasurable vital services which sustain life with their intricate processes of auto regulation, are safeguarded in these regions where nature promptly carries out its vital functions and where rural communities are the operator-users of the natural capital, the substance of the economy of the planet.

(What if Mother Nature were to knock on your door with the bill for all the services in nature you take for granted?  See this short film: “Your Invoice”)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/16961590″>Your Invoice- Mofilm Winner 3rd Prize</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/teeb4me”>teeb4me</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

The highest values of life on the planet have been made vulnerable through highly damaging public policies and exploitation practices, science at the service of the market, ignorance from the lowest levels to the highest. These have been exchanged for passing pleasures, compromising nature’s complex processes and with them the survival of our blind society, which has assigned value to that which is material and disregarded as an illusion that which is real.

Forests and jungles have been exploited without achieving a better quality of life for local communities: forests without economic benefits for their owners are forests at risk. Nowadays on this planet a standing forest is worth much more than any conventional exploitation. Restoration must be carried out to increase the resilience of ecosystems faced by the urgent global priority of local populations that have to be answered to and compensated for the services their land provides.

Finally, we have reached the point at which it is urgent to generate an economy in which ecosystem services and the biodiversity that is contained in them should have an economic value as goods and services. We have exploited both lands and the people on the land without sparing a thought for the biological kinship of the planet to whom we owe our existence and to which we belong. Through compensation payments, global and local mechanisms can be implemented that will mean that instead of exploiting, we will be preserving, restoring and conserving the biological capabilities of our natural heritage.

The moment has arrived for re-evaluating our relationship with the planet´s natural capital and at the same time combating and mitigating the effects of global climate change while alleviating the poverty of the landowners. It is they who have the solution in their hands through a range of mitigation practices that can help to significantly decrease concentrations of carbon dioxide by managing reforestations, induced natural regeneration or holistic livestock management. The conservation of forests, the proper management of reforestations and natural regenrations that encourage carbon storage will be part of the responsibilities of the land owners – finally the poorest at the bottom of the pyramid are now providers of ecosystems services and obtain economic benefits from their Natural Capital. This is our proposal, one that goes from the bottom up and is an elemental part of a social and environmental justice.