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World Bank Competition Recognizes Grassroots Innovations


Each year, the World Bank sponsors a global competition for innovative grassroots projects. In this year's Development Marketplace, 22 entries among 1,800 proposals received cash awards. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.

For a few days in late September, the atrium of World Bank headquarters in Washington was turned into a bustling marketplace of ideas. Finalists in the competition set up booths to explain their projects on posters and in person. After a lot of looking and listening, World Bank judges chose the winners.

Among them is Nigerian Kolawole Adebayo, who has big ideas about cassava, a root crop that is a staple for millions of people around the globe. His country is the world's leading producer.

Adebayo works as a senior lecturer at Nigeria's University of Agriculture, where he has done a lot of thinking about cassava. What he wants to do is simple: Dry discarded cassava peels, which are usually burned as waste, and use them for goat feed.

"By being able to sell cassava waste, processors can make additional income, and goat keepers [would] benefit because their goats would fatten faster and go to market sooner," he says.

With his grant money, Adebayo plans to create a business network among farmers, goat keepers and cassava processors in the southwest part of the country. He says the project would raise the standard of living for thousands of farm families in the region.

Another income-generating idea that also saves energy comes from Daniel Bode, a technical advisor to Mission Goor Goorlu, a vocational school in Senegal. Bode says the project is designed to help farmers get their produce to market quickly and cheaply. That is often a difficult trip because of poor roads and high fuel costs. Senegal has a lot of navigable rivers, but even boats need fuel. So Bode developed an outboard motor than runs on indigenous oils made in a seed press.

"People can actually bring their engines to the press, located in a market hub, and make fuel for transportation," he says.

Trainees at Mission Goor Goorlu will build 50 such motors and introduce them into rural villages along waterways in Senegal. The school's director, Saidou Ba, says the new engine will jump-start a weak economy.

"It's going to create a lot of employees from the villages, and by giving people access to the right market, I think this project will be very helpful," Ba says.

Ping Li is a staff attorney with the Rural Development Institute, a nonprofit legal aid group based in Seattle that works to bring land rights to poor people in many countries. RDI will use its grant to create the first legal aid and education center for farmers in China.

Li explains that under Chinese law, farmers have 30-year land-use rights with a renewable contract. But he says many have lost their land or are threatened with loss because of local government violations of those regulations.

"We are doing this project to implement the central laws to protect farmers' land rights," he says. "When farmers have secure land rights, they will make a long-term investment in the land, diversify their production to increase their income and also increase social stability."

The RDI center will offer services that educate and empower farmers. Trained student volunteers from China's agricultural regions will assist staff attorneys in 15 rural communities in the southern part of the country. Lee says these students come from the countryside and are committed to the project.

"They are basically doing work for their parents, their sisters, brothers, their relatives, their friends [who still live and work in the countryside]," Li says.

The $4 million in grant money awarded this year is well spent, say World Bank officials. They are hopeful that the winning Development Marketplace projects will be scaled up and replicated elsewhere around the globe.

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