Categories
Archive

Ecotourism to Heal the Scars of the Past

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The legacy of underdevelopment during the communist era in parts of Eastern Europe is now being seen as an advantage in the global tourism trade. Well off the beaten path for tourists, areas as diverse as Chechnya and Romania are working to turn their rustic rural hinterlands into a strategic advantage in grabbing the market for ecotourists. Ecotourism – tourism that takes people to fragile and beautiful areas – is one of the tourism industry’s fastest growing areas.At stake is the lucrative and ever-growing world tourism market. Global tourist arrivals passed 800 million in 2006, with tourism in the world up by 5.5 per cent (World Tourism Organization), earning US $680 billion globally. In 1993, just seven per cent of travel was nature tourism; that share has now passed 20 per cent.

Romania, now a member of the European Union, boasts rural countryside like Europe of old: all hillsides are common land and there are no walls or fences to impede the view. Life is heavily dominated by agriculture and the rhythms of farm life.

Southern Transylvania is a high plateau of wooded hills and valleys and shielded by the Carpathian Mountains.

“The Carpathians of central and eastern Europe,” said Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, “are among the world’s richest regions in terms of biodiversity and pristine landscapes. I have no doubt that the Carpathians, like the Alps, the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains, will become world famous for walking, hiking, climbing, wildlife watching, photography and similar leisure pursuits.”

In order to preserve this way of life and generate income, various schemes are encouraging low-key tourism. This takes the form of renovating decaying farm buildings for guesthouses. The guesthouses are kept clean and simple and the focus is on typical local food like hearty stews and soups and pork sausages.

Much of this has been paid for by the Mihai Emenescu Trust, a charity seeking to preserve the traditions of the Saxon villages.

Patrick Holden of the Soil Association, a patron of the Mihai Eminescu Trust, thinks the organic agricultural methods of the local farmers could be a model for the rest of Europe.

Romania is also part of the Organization for Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), which is taking the lead in promoting ecotourism as an economic development option.

Ex-communist nation Bulgaria has also turned to ecotourism, launching its “Ecotourism: Naturally Bulgaria” campaign in September.

Even the once-war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya is trying to radically re-shape people’s perceptions. It is hard to believe, but the former site of a bitter civil war that left the capital Grozny in ruins now wants to be Russia’s Switzerland.

Shatoy region in southern Chechnya, during Soviet times, saw 20,000 visitors every month to ski, ride horses, and hike in the Caucasus Mountains. The new government plans to spend UK £40 million on new hotels, reconstructing old holiday camps, building spas and health centres. The region’s head of government, Mr Khasukha Demilkhanov, is confident that natural beauty can compete with the West: in the Argun Gorge, he pointed out to the Guardian newspaper, the scene is reminiscent of a 19th century woodcutting. Stone towers litter the hills, alpine meadows are full of wild flowers, the mountains are snow-capped and new roads have been built.

The Chechens hope to start with Russian holidaymakers and extreme tourists from the West, before moving more into the mainstream market.

Published: October 2007

Resources

  • Ecotourism.org: The International Ecotourism Society.
  • Ecotourism Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan has put together a dedicated website on ecotourism.
  • Planeta: one of the first ecotourism resources to go online (since 1994) and still offers plenty of information for those wanting to start a business.

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson.
Environmental Public Awareness Handbook: Case Studies and Lessons Learned in Mongolia by Robert Ferguson.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

African Trade Hub in China Brings Mutual Profits

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

South-South trade is the great economic success story of the past decade. World Trade Organization (WTO) (www.wto.org) figures show South-South trade accounted for 16.4 percent of the US $14 trillion in total world exports in 2007, up from 11.5 percent of the total in 2000. While the global economic crisis has slowed things down, the overall trend is firmly established.

Trade between China and Africa has surged over the past decade since China joined the WTO in 2001, from around US $10 billion in 2000 to US $73.3 billion in 2007, registering a year-on-year increase of 32.2 percent. In 2008, it soared by 44.1 percent to reach a record high of US $106.84 billion, registering a year-on-year increase of 45.1 percent, according to Zhang Yongpeng of the Institute for West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS).

In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangzhou) , a trading hub nicknamed “Africa Town” has emerged since 1998. A conglomeration of buildings around the Xiaobei road in Yuexiu district of the city, it has been equated to the famous Chungking Mansions of Hong Kong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chungking_Mansions) . There are officially 20,000 African traders and entrepreneurs in the city of 18 million, but unofficial estimates put the number at more than 100,000. This African trading hub has emerged to the benefit of both the Chinese and Africans. It is a coming together of small traders matching Africa’s strong demand for consumer goods with China’s manufacturing powerhouse.

The traders export generators, toys, mopeds, construction equipment and other products back to Africa. The traders act as go-betweens, bringing their local knowledge of African market demands to the Chinese manufacturers.

Citizens from over 19 African countries are represented, the majority from Nigeria.

“Almost 90 per cent of goods in African markets come from China, Thailand and Indonesia,” Sultane Barry, president of Guangzhou’s Guinean community, told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Barry has an entire floor for business in a 35-storey building packed with shops, offices, freight-forwarding companies, African restaurants, hairdressers and furnished apartments for rent by the week.

“We’re not here for fun,” said Ibrahim Kader Traore, an entrepreneur from Ivory Coast. “We work hard and do well. In Abidjan, people still swear by France, where you might be able to save US $13,000 over 25 years; in China, you can have US $130,000 in just five years.”

A trading success story, the hub has run into problems over visas and the upcoming November Asian Games in Guangzhou, which is increasing identity checks.

“I sell more than 50 per cent of the output of my brother-in-law’s TV factory to Africans,” one saleswoman told the Globe and Mail. “We need them and I’m worried there are going to be fewer of them.”

Brought together by trade and mutual interest, both communities still have much to learn about each other. Relations have had their ups and downs and Africans can face discrimination.

But the trading relationship is teaching both sides important lessons. “The arrival of the Africans taught the Chinese how to look for business opportunities,” said Barry. “The secretaries we had here didn’t speak a word of English. Our presence started a craze for learning languages: English and French. The Chinese didn’t know the basic rules of international trade. They knew nothing about documentary credit. They paid for everything cash in hand.

“The Chinese people will soon realize that it’s better for business to deal directly with ordinary Africans.”

And the pressure is on to see who will keep trading relations with Africa positive. “The door to the Chinese market has only opened a crack, mostly because visa requirements are so tough,” said Zango, a trader from Mali.

Published: July 2010

Resources

1) A Financial Times report on Africa-China trade in 2010. Website: http://www.ft.com/reports/africa-china-trade-2010

2) An article about “Africa Town” from the official Guangzhou website. Website: http://www.lifeofguangzhou.com

3) Trade Winds: Guangzhou’s African Community by Graeme Nicol is a photo book about the community. Website: http://graemenicol.com/?page_id=115

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Indian Toilet Pioneer Champions Good Ideas

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Access to adequate sanitation and toilet facilities is critical to making development gains. Yet this simple fact of life often gets overlooked, especially in fast-growing cities where populations are on the rise or in transit. Out of an estimated 2.6 billion people in the world without toilets, two-thirds are in southern and eastern Asia (World Toilet Organization).

It is easy to take toilet technology for granted in developed countries, but in the fast-growing urban world of the global South, increasing access will be the dividing line between a future of good human health and dignity, or misery and poor health. The biggest gains in human health always come about once people have access to clean water and sanitation. Yet this proven fact gets lost in many places for a wide variety of reasons.

One country currently failing to meet the needs of its population is India. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, by 2030, 70 percent of India’s jobs will be created in its cities, and 590 million Indians will be city-dwellers. An enormous infrastructure task lies ahead for India: a city the size of Chicago needs to be built every year. But so far this challenge is not being met, leaving the country with the largest number of urban slum dwellers anywhere in the world. Housing is just not keeping up with populations’ needs.

As K.T. Ravindran, a professor of urban development, told the New York Times: “We require radical rethinking about urban development. It is not that there are no ideas. It is that there is no implementation of those ideas.”

It is this ability to act that makes the Sulabh International Social Service Organization stand out. The Indian non-governmental organization (NGO) sees itself as a movement and is a passionate advocate for toilets and toilet innovation for the poor and underserved.

Sulabh was founded in 1970 by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, who saw the vast task ahead. “I thought the challenges to provide toilet facilities have been overcome in rich countries; it has still to be met in developing countries like India,” he said.

So far, Sulabh has brought together 50,000 volunteers across the country to build toilets and sanitation facilities.

The organization’s success flows from understanding that it needs to do more than supply the ‘hardware’ of the toilets; it also needs to address the ‘software’: ideas and innovation and concepts.

The organization has directly built 1.2 million household toilets – but the government of India has built a further 54 million toilets based on the designs made by Sulabh. It’s an example of a good idea multiplying its impact when picked up by others.

While 10 million Indians use a Sulabh-built sanitation facility each day, according to the group’s website, an estimated 300 million are using a toilet based on Sulabh’s designs.

Most influential is Sulabh’s two-pit, pour-flush toilet (www.sulabhenvis.nic.in/Sulabhtechnology.htm). It consists of a toilet pan with a steep slope using gravity to flush the pan. Water is poured in to the pan to flush the toilet and the waste goes into either one of two pits. As one pit fills up with waste, waste is diverted to the second pit. After around 18 months, the first, filled pit’s waste becomes a safe, organic fertiliser suitable for agriculture and the fertiliser’s value covers the cost of emptying the pit. The successful design has been evaluated and approved by UNDP and the World Bank.

Sulabh has also been designing ways to get power and energy from toilets, building 200 biogas plants that turn the gas generated from the human excrement deposited in the toilets into a source of energy. Biogas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogas) is a clean-burning gas that can be made from animal, plant and human waste with the right technology and is a green solution to the need for gas to cook and run electricity generators.

Pride of place for the NGO is its vast toilet and bath complex at the holy shrine of Shri Sai Baba in Shirdi, Maharashtra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maharashtra). Millions flock to the shrine every year, but it lacked proper sanitation facilities. To solve this problem Sulabh’s local branch has built a vast complex occupying two acres. The brightly coloured and palace-like facility has 120 toilets, 108 bathing cubicles, six dressing rooms, and urinals and can serve 30,000 people a day. There are telephones and 5,000 lockers for tourists to keep possessions safe.

There are also three biogas plants connected to the facility, generating electricity and hot water for bathing used by the toilet and bath complex. This solves the puzzle of how to fund the utilities. Water discharged from the facility is used to irrigate the surrounding green spaces.

Sulabh has also built a museum dedicated to toilets and toilet technology (http://www.sulabhtoiletmuseum.org). The museum places the toilet as a critical part of human civilisation and shows how it fits in with the cultural context of India. Toilets and toilet designs from around the world and throughout history are gathered together and make a fascinating journey through this essential human need.

Published: May 2011

Resources

1) World Toilet Organization: World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non- profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org

2) World Toilet Day: On November 19 every year, this event draws attention to the lack of access for 2.6 billion people. Website: http://www.worldtoilet.org

3) Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life: An exhibit by the prestigious Wellcome Collection on the human relationship with dirt and hygiene in history. Website:http://www.wellcomecollection.org/whats-on/exhibitions/dirt.aspx

4) World Toilet College: Established in 2005, the World Toilet College (WTC) started as a social enterprise, with the belief that there is need for an independent world body to ensure the best practices and standards in Toilet Design, Cleanliness, and Sanitation Technologies are adopted and disseminated through training. Website:http://worldtoilet.org/ourwork3.asp

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Women Mastering Trade Rules

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Market trading is a vital lifeline for most people in the South. Plenty of delights usually await people in the market, where live animals, herbs and spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, and life’s necessities compete for customers’ money. The formal and informal food sector plays a crucial role in empowering women and providing food to the poor. Women are often those mostly responsible for selling fresh products and street food, and running small catering operations. By being a vendor and getting food at a lower cost, they are able to contribute to their families’ food security.

Trading and selling in the marketplace can be one of the best options for poor women. By trading, women gain economic independence, learn vital business skills and enjoy the social benefits of interacting with others. But the highly individualistic nature of market trading has its downside: traders must do everything themselves and a day not spent at market is a day’s income lost. They also can only buy in small quantities, and usually pay a higher price. Or don’t know what the competitive price is, so are in a weaker bargaining position with wholesalers.

Making market trading more efficient has huge advantages, the primary one being more money for the trader.

Women market traders in Nigeria are improving their efficiency and income with mobile phones. Rural women market traders in the Obiaruku market are using mobile phones to call their suppliers, access information like commodity prices, and contact customers. A survey of the traders found 95 per cent thought mobile phones had a big impact on their business. This has included fewer trips to suppliers, a quicker way to get help when they have been robbed, and opportunities to top-up incomes by selling airtime, handsets or mobile phone accessories.

In Nigeria, mobile phone use has shot up at a rate of 25 per cent a year. A recent study found that out of a population of 140 million, 12.1 million now have mobile phones and 64 million use mobile phones through street-side phone centres. Phones are also helping women market traders to keep tabs on price fluctuations – giving them an advantage when bargaining with crafty – mostly male – suppliers. A weak bargaining position is a common problem: In Ghana, for example, product producers are forced to sell through “market queens” who take advantage of the lack of price transparency and do not always pay producers fairly (De Lardemelle, 1995).

In the Madurai region in southern India, women market traders are using a system called CAM. It allows them to record all their business transactions. CAM uses a Nokia 6600 mobile phone to record daily transactions. This includes small loans, buying livestock, or operating tiny retail businesses. The phone’s camera takes pictures of bookkeeping forms to identify and track all documents. The phone then asks the user to input numbers to the data fields. At the last key, the data is sent via text message to a central server. According to Tapan Parikh, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Information in the United States, the most successful technological solutions work because they include village leaders, customers, NGOs, and others in the design process. “This is the only way to ensure long-term sustainability and benefit,” he said.

In Soweto, South Africa a simple solution to a chronic problem for women market traders has emerged. After seeing hundreds and sometimes thousands of women selling their goods in the marketplace, it became clear they all had one thing in common: they closed on Mondays. They did this because they needed to go to the wholesaler to buy their goods. And they mostly did this by piling into taxis to get there. It hurt the profitability of their businesses in many ways: there was the cost of the taxi, the fact they could only buy small amounts to squeeze in the taxi, a day’s business was lost, and the lack of a discounted, bulk price.

But the solution to this problem is a bright one: the women place a bulk, wholesale order with a go-between who works with a computer out of a former shipping container. He logs the orders into his computer and sends one big order. The wholesaler is happy with the big order, and delivers it and gives him a 15 per cent discount. This is his profit. The women pay the same price as before, but do not have to pay for the taxi and the goods are delivered directly to them. On top of this, the women can stay open on Monday and make more money!

Published: May 2008

Resources

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022