Stories from the Grassroots: The Greengrants Blog

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    Deconstructing Jargon: Capacity Building and Awareness Raising in Burkina Faso

    Oct 20, 2016 | No Comments

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    Photos and words by Robert Riker, Grants Associate

    If you Google the phrases capacity building and awareness raising, you’ll be hard pressed to find a universally accepted definition—or any definition at all.

    I see these two phrases all the time in grant proposals at Global Greengrants,but even I’ve struggled to understand the full meaning of these activities or their value for local struggles. It’s just holding a meeting, right? Fortunately, I recently visited a grantee community in Burkina Faso and saw firsthand the impact these activities can have in promoting a transition towards sustainable change.

    In August, I joined our West Africa Advisory Board at its annual meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and visited the town of Manga. The area has experienced heavy deforestation as a result of local people cutting down trees for fuel, which takes a toll on the land by degrading soil and increasing the risk of erosion. Poor land-use practices and the prevalence of bush burning have also contributed to soil depletion. I was in Manga to see the work of a grantee organization, Association Faso EnviProtek, which received a Greengrant in 2015 to address these critical issues.

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    The group used the funds to hold trainings for local officials, farmers, and land owners about the impacts of climate change and tree cutting, and to encourage environmental practices that protect forests and restore soil. During our visit, I had the chance to hear over 50 local farmers, who participated in the trainings, share their experiences and talk about ways they have incorporated what they learned into their lives and work.

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    Something that stood out very clearly to me while listening was that a lack of knowledge is often the biggest obstacle to sustainability. While the farmers were more than willing to change and improve, they needed information and guidance. That is exactly what they received through these essential trainings.

    This is why awareness raising is so important: Not only does it make community members aware of the problems at hand, but it also helps them begin to develop solutions to overcome them. Those lessons are then shared with a larger audience leading to incremental change.

    One training participant said it best:

    “We were told at the training that it is not good to cut down trees because trees protect the environment and preserve the soil.” He went on to say that his local group has since organized itself to fight against tree cutting and has reached out to other farmers and groups to explain why they should protect trees.

    While awareness is the first step towards progress, communities also need help developing and implementing solutions. This is where capacity building comes into play, helping people take real action.

    One participant spoke briefly about how his group is already seeing positive impacts from its efforts.

    “Since the training our consciousness has been raised, in the past we were farming this way, but the soil was not impoverished. Today we burn bushes and cut trees and the soil degrades. We dig holes and then they become ditches. Since the training we have stopped, and we are slowly seeing the results of our efforts.”

    Another trainee said,

    “[Through] the training last year on climate change and soil restoration, we were able to see the changes in our farming methods. When we were thinking about support, we pictured something different, but the capacity building allowed us to do soil and water restoration, and we have applied this knowledge to our farming.”

    The farmer in southern Burkina Faso doesn’t hold a candle to a person in the United States in terms of his role in causing climate change. But with an increased awareness of the impact that tree cutting and bush burning have on his soil, he has realized that his actions do have consequences. With that awareness comes a desire to find a new paradigm, and with a newfound capacity to act, he has begun to inspire significant change.

    My experience in Burkina Faso increased my understanding of the terms capacity building and awareness raising by giving me a real sense of the impact these activities have on the ground. The terms themselves are vague, no doubt about it, but that ambiguity allows each community to define and shape the terms to fit their needs. There is no easy way to create all-encompassing descriptions of this work, but these come closest, and the importance of capacity building and awareness raising cannot be overstated. Knowledge is power, and through these strategies and activities communities are able to realize the issues they face and take steps to address them. This increased knowledge and capacity then results in real change.


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      And the 10,000th Grant Is….

      Oct 13, 2016 | 2 Comments

      Exciting news! We just made our 10,000th grant. We would not have been able to achieve this milestone without the help of our network of advisors who have eyes and ears on the ground making it possible to find and… Read more

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        Three Ways our Grantees Are Ensuring Food Security on World Food Day

        Oct 13, 2016 | No Comments

        World Food Day is on Sunday, October 16, and this year’s theme is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” Food security is one of the biggest climate change related issues facing people around the world today. Farmers, fisherfolk,… Read more

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          From the Front Lines: Bettina Cruz and Indigenous Land Rights in Mexico

          Oct 11, 2016 | No Comments

          By Alex Grossman, Digital Marketing Specialist “For us, the wind isn’t just a resource, it’s part of our life from nature that shouldn’t be sold,” says indigenous activist Bettina Cruz. Last Thursday, October 6, Global Greengrants Fund and Global Fund… Read more

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            Global Greengrants Welcomes Fall Interns

            Oct 4, 2016 | No Comments

            Each year, our office processes 700 grants that go to grantees around the globe. This task is made possible by the exceptional team and staff we have here in Boulder. We are pleased to introduce four interns who are joining… Read more

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              Activism around the World: Highlights from September 2016

              Sep 26, 2016 | No Comments

              Each year Global Greengrants Fund makes over 700 grants to environmental activists around the world, helping to support grassroots initiatives to protect the planet and the rights of the people who call these natural places home. We wish we could… Read more

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                Protecting Mangroves: The Intersection of Land and Sea

                Sep 20, 2016 | No Comments

                Recently, Sri Lanka became the first nation to protect all mangroves, even going so far as to open a mangrove museum as part of a project aiming to protect 8,800 hectares of mangrove forests throughout the country and restore 3,900… Read more

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                  Changing the Face of Rural Tanzania: Ecological Entrepreneurship for a Sustainable Future

                  Sep 15, 2016 | One Comment

                  Words and photos by Eva Rehse, Director of Global Greengrants Fund / UK & Europe (@greengrantsuk) Kilimanjaro. The highest peak on the African continent is a place of breathtaking beauty that ascends through a variety of climates and ecosystems to… Read more

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                    Global News: The US and China Ratify Paris Climate Agreement

                    Sep 6, 2016 | No Comments

                    On Saturday September 3, two of the world’s largest economies, the United States and China, formally ratified the Paris agreement.  Anticipating a snowball effect, the joint statement from the two influential countries will likely inspire other countries, such as Brazil… Read more

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                      How Small Grants Can Make a Big Impact: Taking on Mining in Western Ghana

                      Aug 30, 2016 | No Comments

                      In 2004, local farmers in western Ghana didn’t exactly welcome an incoming gold mine with open arms, but they didn’t resist when Canadian company Kinross Mining offered them financial compensation in exchange for building the mine on their lands. But… Read more