Economic studies

Chen and Ravallion, World Bank, 2008, October 2008

Chen and Ravallion, World Bank, 2008.
Author: Geoff Wilson

Green roof and green wall enterprises can help rural poor

A globally-expanding green roof and green wall industry can be expected to be part of nature-based enterprises that help increase income for the world's rural poor at a crucial time.

This was predicted by Professor Manfred Koehler, President of the World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN) based in Toronto, Canada.

He was commenting on the just-released "World Resources Report 2008; Roots of Resilience", which said that the rural poor's involvement in nature-based enterprises can develop the rural poor's resilience to social and environmental threats such as climate change.

Professor Koehler, of Neubrandenburg University in Germany, said the opportunity for growing urban-used roof and wall plants for cities, and stocking them with appropriate natural fauna, was well perceived by WGRIN's planners.
"We shall try to include a study of this opportunity in the program of one of our forthcoming annual World Green Infrastructure Congresses, Professor Koehler said.

According to "World Resources Report 2008", three-quarters of the 2.6 billion people who live on less than $2 a day are dependent upon local natural resources for their livelihoods.

Threats such as climate change and ecosystem degradation are beginning to strain those livelihoods, and it will be necessary to shape development strategies that build resilience against such threats and ensure stable and prosperous communities.

Professor Koehler said: "We also foresee a new rural poor opportunity in growing economically, new selections of native plants developed for tough urban conditions on rooftops and walls, so that the more pleasant buildings do important urban things such as reduce urban energy use, reduce storm-water handling costs and provide healthy fresh food with minimum transport cost."

" "World Resources 2008: Roots of Resilience" was released on October 8, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain, as part of the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
The report closely examines existing community-based efforts. The report argues that properly fostered nature-based enterprises can improve rural livelihoods and, in the process, create resilience to economic, social, and environmental threats.

Achim Steiner, under-secretary general of the United Nations and executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "Poverty will never be made history unless we invest in more intelligent management of the world's nature-based assets. There are now countless models and case studies of how ecosystems can be managed to boost rural livelihoods and incomes while meeting the goal of environmental sustainability.

"Mainstreaming and making these models and blueprints more commonplace and widespread is now a matter of great urgency in a world challenged by climate change, in a world where we are pushing, if not pushing past the regenerative limits of the planet's life support systems," Steiner added.

Roots of Resilience concludes that expanding the scale of already successful models requires an emphasis on three critical elements:

- Ownership: A groundwork of good governance must both transfer to the poor legal authority over local resources and elicit local demand for better management of resources.

- Capacity: Local communities must have the ability to manage ecosystems competently, carry out ecosystem-based enterprises, and distribute the income from these enterprises fairly.

- Connection: Establishing adaptive networks that connect and strengthen nature-based enterprises will give them the ability to adapt, learn, link to markets, and mature into businesses that can sustain themselves and enter the economic mainstream.

"Local communities clearly have an interest to sustain the ecosystems on which they depend," added Manish Bapna, executive vice president, World Resources Institute (WRI). "But all too often, they face a disabling, not an enabling environment. Governments and donors have a crucial role to play in constructing the right policies and institutions necessary to protect ecosystems and grow the wealth and resilience of the poor."

One of dozens of examples from the report is an effort in Bangladesh to help villagers sustainably manage fisheries and wetlands. Before the program was implemented fishing was difficult, waterfowl had been eliminated and fierce competition for fishing rights had disrupted the lives of villagers that depended on the ecosystem for their income. Once the pilot program was implemented, however, villagers were granted new fishing rights that included responsibility for managing the fisheries. They were also trained to manage fisheries and supported with micro-loans to start new businesses. The results, over the past eight years, included a reversal of the degraded bird and fish habitat, a 140 percent increase in fish catches, and a 33 percent rise in local income.

The report includes recommendations for national governments, donors, and the private sector to help create enabling environments that nurture rural enterprises and the resilience that can come with their growth.

"The international community must fast-track this model to the center stage of development policy. By doing so, countries can bring a new level of commitment and creativity to the poverty- and environment-related Millennium Development Goals," said Veerle Vandeweerd, director of the Environment and Energy Group at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

World Bank President Robert Zoellick writes in the foreword to the report: "Increased resilience must be part of the response to the risks of climate change. The efforts that foster resilience chart the first steps on the path out of poverty."

World Resources 2008 is a joint effort produced by WRI, UNEP, UNDP and the World Bank. It is free to download at Or write to: World Resources Institute, 10 G Street NE Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002-4213, United States.