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International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

March 2006

SARPN acknowledges the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as the source of this document -
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How can international funders best support the development efforts prioritized by the poorest and more vulnerable groups in Africa? Far too little attention has been given to supporting the local organizations on whose performance solutions to most environmental and development problems depend. Theseorganizations include associations and federations of small farmers, homeless people and shack dwellers. They include hundreds of thousands of informal savings groups. They also include NGOs and local government agencies that have learnt how to work in partnership with poorer groups. Perhaps this failure to support pro-poor local organizations is also a key reason why decades of development and environmentalism have failed to halt the destruction or damage of local and global natural systems.

This report is based on papers, presentations and discussions developed by IIED for the Ford Foundation in support of its environment and learning agenda for grantees, and the larger community. It explores ways in which strategies led by the urban poor and their allies might increase liveability of their communities while reducing stress on the planet’s ecosystems.

In this report, “poor” individuals or households are those with incomes and asset bases that are insufficient for them to meet their needs or to cope with stresses (such as rising prices), or shocks (such as a natural disaster or serious illness). Many such groups are not poor in other ways – for instance in terms of culture or social relations. Many are poor because of external influences over which they have no control.

The objectives of this report are to:
  1. demonstrate why urban areas in Africa should receive more attention;
  2. show how an understanding of urban areas has to include an understanding of rural–urban linkages;
  3. discuss how to ensure attention within this to environmental issues (both “Green” and Brown”);
  4. explain the corresponding need for external funding agencies to develop specific local funding structures that allow far more influence to those with unmet needs;
  5. consider what this implies for addressing HIV/AIDS, including protecting those who are most at risk;
  6. examine how a more place-based, locally rooted understanding of needs and possibilities, and a commitment to participation, should influence donor agendas.

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