Pilot Projects Offer Innovative Solutions for Service Delivery

20 February 2018 | Lauren Hermanus

Lauren Hermanus, Research Associate at the African Climate and Development Initiative, GREEN-WIN project manager and founding member of the Massive Small Collective, introduces projects that rethink the role of government, businesses and investors in delivering green infrastructure to rural and informal communities.

Adequate access to basic services including energy, water and sanitation is critical to building resilience in marginalised communities faced with challenges related to climate change, conflict and poverty. However, public infrastructure - including water supply systems, sewers, electrical grids and other large-scale physical structures and networks that make cities, towns and neighbourhoods function - often excludes these communities, particularly those in rural areas or informal settlements in developing countries. This lack of basic services leaves marginalised communities disproportionately exposed to health and environmental risks, with limited opportunities for socio-economic development.

Projects that aim to deliver basic services to marginalised communities can help build resilience and unlock major potential for green economic development while improving the lives and livelihoods of people in these communities. Green infrastructure - encompassing nature-inspired, resource-efficient, low-carbon or climate-resilient infrastructure - can help improve the environmental impacts of basic service delivery, often with significant social and economic co-benefits.

Pilot projects in South Africa, Indonesia and India demonstrate how nature-based, resource-efficient, community-driven, and often improvised solutions can deliver significant social, environmental and economic benefits at the local level. Benefits include better environmental management, local economic development and job creation, and local capacity building through skills development and more. Although there are many examples, I will highlight a few and then point out general commonalities and transferable lessons.

In Indonesia, su-re.coffee builds climate and business resilience among small-scale farmers by integrating climate-smart agriculture and renewable energy technologies into supply chains. The projects support farmers in regions vulnerable to climate change to be more profitable and climate-adapted agriculture, such as coffee production. It then introduces biogas digesters that create biofertilizer to grow the beans, and bioenergy as a substitute to firewood for roasting the beans.

Social enterprises like the Sun Exchange and Zonke Energy are reimagining the market for small-scale solar energy in South Africa, from finance through to installation and management. The Genius of Space demonstrates the feasibility of biomimicry-inspired, community designed and managed water and sanitation systems. In India, TARA-DAworks is facilitating community-based distributed energy solutions and fostering green business development around green products such as eco-bricks. Other organisations are unlocking micro-opportunities in the waste economy.

Many of these projects rethink the role of government, private sector companies and investors, and beneficiaries/customers. New forms of cooperation including People-Public-Private Partnerships (PPPP) are emerging to fill in service delivery gaps. These solutions may appear inadequate or even chaotic, and they may not provide the same level of service as conventional infrastructure, but they can help to deliver critical basic services quickly by working with available financial resources.

Key to the success of these service solutions is a new way of thinking about service delivery, infrastructure, and the role of government, business, investors and communities. It is critical not only to think, “what is the solution?”, but also, “who is the solution?”  Equally important is the ability to adapt in response to real community needs and in light of any new knowledge, lessons or resources that may emerge over time. This kind of experimentation is necessary to learn how to best deliver critical services to vulnerable people in face of a changing climate and compounded social-ecological challenges.

These experimental projects offer major learning opportunities for anyone interested in fostering resilience and green growth. By studying them, we can identify what works and what doesn’t, gleaning lessons as they grow, scale up, or scale down. They present new models for business, government and investors to respond to social needs while minimising environmental harm, or even restoring critical ecosystems.

To learn from these kinds of projects, we must respond to a few key questions. How can we systematically learn from these project experiences? How can we communicate lessons learned on how to mitigate risks and build on successes? How can we transfer lessons where necessary and appropriate, to support the design of projects that deliver critical services equitably, and suitably for specific local contexts?

Join the GGKP for a webinar on 20 February at 10:00 AM CET as we explore practical lessons from some of the aforementioned projects that have successfully implemented win-win solutions for communities, environment, governments and green economic development.