Submitted by: International Finance Corporation
Posted: Mar 28, 2007 – 09:00 AM EST
DUBAI - March 28, 2007 – IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, and the International Crane Foundation were honored today with the UN-Habitat/Dubai Municipality "International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment," for their joint wetland conservation project in Vietnam. Through an innovative business model, the project links together a minority ethnic group, the world's tallest flying bird, and the last wetland of its kind in the Mekong Delta.
Since 2003, IFC and the International Crane Foundation have worked together with the World Bank Development Marketplace and Kien Giang Province's Department of Science and Technology, in the Ha Tien – Habitats – Handbags project. The goal is to protect the Phu My wetland, home of the vulnerable eastern sarus cranes, by helping villagers get a higher income from their harvest through the new uses for a local grass called lepironia.
Tran Triet, the International Crane Foundation's Southeast Asia Program Manager, said, "This is perhaps the first project in Vietnam that combines nature conservation, poverty alleviation, and cultural preservation. We hope that this kind of project can be applied elsewhere in Vietnam and in other developing countries."
Richard Caines, Manager at IFC’s Environmental and Social Development Department, said, "It is extremely rewarding to get this kind of international validation for the Phu My model. Too often, the natural capital of an ecosystem is overlooked or deeply discounted. This project shows that environmental conservation can be the basis for optimal economic and local community outcomes too. We need to maintain the project's success and replicate its principles elsewhere."
The village of Phu My is among the poorest in Vietnam. The adjacent 5,000-acre wetland supports the last extensive remnant of lepironia grass ecosystem in the Mekong River delta. This wetland is important for its biodiversity, and it provides the major economic base for the community's Khmer ethnic minority, as villagers harvest grass to produce woven goods. A project team from the International Crane Foundation trained the villagers to make high-quality handicraft products including hats, handbags, and storage bins from the harvested lepironia. The team also assisted the community in marketing and selling these products to tourists and higher-value export markets.
After a year, the project provided skills training for 150 people and employed 32 full-time workers. Of 350 families in the area, 200 are making handicraft products, increasing their daily income to 30,000 Vietnamese dong ($1.86 equivalent), or three times their previous wages.
Other positive developments from protection of the Phu My wetland include wildlife monitoring, control of invasive alien species, wetland restoration, and sustainable harvest of the lepironia. The project is thus responsible for improving the quality of the ecosystem for people, cranes, and the other wetland species.
The UN Habitat/Dubai awards went to 12 winners out of over 700 submissions. They were selected by an international jury of experts, for outstanding contributions that improve the quality of life in cities and communities around the world. Selection criteria included tangible impact, partnership, sustainability, community empowerment, gender equality, and social inclusion. The award brings a $30,000 prize.
The project is also a finalist for the 2007 Equator Prize, a UNDP-sponsored initiative that raises the profile of grassroots efforts to reduce poverty through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Pictures of the project are available (until end April 2007) at: http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/enviro.nsf/Content/PhuMyProject
IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, promotes open and competitive markets in developing countries. IFC supports sustainable private sector companies and other partners in generating productive jobs and delivering basic services, so that people have opportunities to escape poverty and improve their lives. Through FY06, IFC Financial Products has committed more than $56 billion in funding for private sector investments and mobilized an additional $25 billion in syndications for 3,531 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC Advisory Services and donor partners have provided more than $1 billion in program support to build small enterprises, to accelerate private participation in infrastructure, to improve the business enabling environment, to increase access to finance, and to strengthen environmental and social sustainability. For more information, please visit www.ifc.org.
ICF works worldwide to conserve cranes and the wetland, grassland, and other ecosystems on which they depend. To learn more about ICF’s innovative approaches to conservation, visit www.savingcranes.org.
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