Next Steps towards Scaling Up Eco Village Development Solutions

Climate Action Network South Asia partnered with DIB in Denmark, IDEA Sri Lanka, Centre for Rural Technology Nepal, CAOST and Grameen Shakti Bangladesh, INSEDA India and INFORSE to organise a one-day regional event on ”Next Steps towards Scaling UP Eco Village Development Solutions” in Dhaka recently. Civil society organisations, academicians and government representatives from Sri Lanka and Nepal  participated in the event along with project partners. The current advocacy for upscaling project on Eco Village Development (EVD) activities is funded by CISU, Denmark and was initiated in 2017. The project focuses on upscaling EVD activities and concepts by influencing and aligning with national and international policies such as NDCs, NAPs and SDGs.

The regional event revolved around the notion of accessing finance for EVD activities that has both mitigation and adaptation benefits. The event commenced with an introduction to the concept of EVD and its applicability in varied socio-economic, geographic and agro-climatic conditions in South Asia. The knowledge products produced in the form of regional and international policy briefs, national publications and the plans for documenting climate mitigation and adaptation effects of EVD solutions were shared.

While delivering the special remarks, Mr. Sohel Ahmed, Managing Director, Grameen Shakti explained how his organisation is transforming the lives and livelihoods of rural poor by improving energy access through solar home systems. By including SHS with other EVD solutions, an integrated approach of village development could be formed. EVD finds resonance with Sustainable Village Development (SVD) concept under implementation by Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) of Bangladesh. To get the discussion started, numerous challenges to finance EVD solutions for replication of EVD solutions were presented. Partner organisations from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka shared their perspective of challenges in scaling up of EVD solutions.

Challenges in Scaling Up EVD

  • Financial gap: Mismatch of scale, size and type of financial products to promote EVD solutions such as off grid lighting products. The emphasis on larger energy and infrastructure projects creates a barrier for small scale local solutions in financing particularly funding obtained from GCF.
    However, recent success in sourcing CSR funds to fund EVD activities in India opens up a funding channel of involvement of private sector in promoting EVD solutions.
  • Knowledge gap: Lack of awareness and low climate finance literacy among end users. Knowledge gap in measuring, reporting and communicating on carbon abatement and adaptation co-benefits hinders replication of EVD solutions. There is a need for collaboration to seek synergies with similar programmes. Thus, the way forward includes documentation of carbon abatement and to organise good co-operation between administrative units, movements, etc.
  • Policy gaps: The NDC of Nepal, the action plans for climate action in the country have not prioritised promotion of local solutions. In addition, integration of EVD solutions into the development plans of local government has been a challenge. Working with new local governments is a difficult proposition because of their unfamiliarity with the EVD concept as illustrated in Nepal.

In Sri Lanka, the national development plans do not reflect the real needs of the villagers, while EVD starts with village plans (participatory rural appraisals). Most development programmes are centralised and geared towards centralised solutions while ignoring the local solutions.

Mainstreaming EVD: Government Perspectives

Dr. Atiq Rahman from the Bangladesh Centre for Advances Studies mentioned the roadblocks created in replicating Solar Home Systems in Bangladesh including fossil fuel lobby. He explained that there are problems with promotion of good solutions and there must be a market for local solutions. He concluded that scientists and inventors are not always good sellers and thus assistance in marketing the solutions is desired.

Dr. Leel Randeni Assistant Director, Environment Planning and Economics, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment (MMDE), Government of Sr Lanka explained the Sri Lanka Next – the Blue-Green Era programme in detail. The programme involves developing eco-friendly and smart 10,000 villages by 2017 – 2025. The programme encourages preparation of Village development Plans (VDP) by using PRA / Participatory Learning and Collective Action (PLCA) tools. The challenge has beeen to create synergy, integrate different national administrations activities to villages. The programme also include identification of the needs of villagers, SWOT analysis and action plans for each village based on log frame.

Dr. Kundan Pokhrel, Alternate Energy Promotion Centre, Government of Nepal briefed about the situation in Nepal with the new local governments. Interestingly, new members of the new local government are interested in new concepts thus right time for vigorous EVD advocacy. A Low Carbon Development Strategy has been submitted to the ministry after wider consultation. Thus, there is policy space available for integrating EVD solutions into the local as well as national planning.

Way Forward

For EVD solutions to replicate, prevailing policy gaps and finance gaps need to be addressed. Financing climate action in Bangladesh could be an issue in future as tapering funding to the country because of graduation from a Least Developing Country to a developing country. Moreover, the solar home system revolution took 30 years to get the policy support from the government but integration of EVD into development agenda should take far lesser time because of international commitments and momentum created from favourable domestic policies in place. It is important that EVD solutions be economically viable to scale up. Private sector investment is crucial and thus bankable and profitable project ideas need to be developed.