Development is a choice: It is Business unusual

I am reminiscencing—a solemn reflection about the past week. Today, I finally resume the blog…after keeping you in suspense---suspense that is not deliberate. Perhaps I was overly optimistic and excited about blogging daily. But my first blog experience is interspersed with intermittent power cuts, weak internet connectivity—a hibernating computer—and a heavy workload. But I am resolute, better late than never, the saying going goes. Come with us as we share the intrigues, insight, interesting experiences and challenges of our last log before departing to Rome.

The workshop is insightful. We go in to talk about finance and investments into broad sustainable land management and its corresponding linkages with national development processes. But a number of issues emerge: the need to address land tenure and land rights; the need for a robust investment framework, and the need for a “green economy” in Zambia. It requires that Zambia move from business-as-usual to business “UNusual”. Land must be seen as an asset, a natural capital and a national pubic good. The sustainability of the country’s development path, requires that it pays attention to land management and its interlinkages with national wealth creation and sustainable development. Therefore, “financing and investments into sustainable land management is not an option but an imperative” says one participant..

Unlocking Financing Opportunities: Internal, External and Innovative Sources of Finance

We focus on three sources of financing namely: internal, external and innovative sources of financing. These three areas are not distinct in themselves but closely inter-linked and mutually re-enforcing. We are amazed at the depth of discussions. In fact, the discussion focus on the need to rationalize the use of huge existing resources and leveraging emerging funding opportunities from a variety of internal and external – public and private sources. Participants focus on internal resources such as pension funds….. This potential is untapped fully.

External Resources: The session on external resources, resonates well with participants. International agreements such as the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, require that, resources from development partners are aligned to Government Priorities. Therefore, land needs to be well positioned and integrated in key national development processes such as Zambia’s Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP). This is one clear way to receive the needed attention and corresponding investments into sustainable land management. The SNDP, which sets the direction of the country in the next 5 years, is a framework within which Government and development partners interact.

Essentially, participants resolve to include land issues into the SNDP. They define key actions. The imminent finalisation of the SNDP offers an opportunity, and requires a number of immediate actions to be devised and put in place between now and June 2010. Given the cross-cutting nature of land degradation and SLM, as well as the inter-linkages between poverty and land degradation challenges, the mainstreaming process requires joint and/or coordinated action between key stakeholders, as well as common understanding of SLM-related issues, options and solutions.

Innovative Finance: We start this session by showing an image of what I call “the paradigm shift” picture. This picture, courtesy of Roshan, depicts different perspectives (depending on the angle one views it). It is always hilarious to hear the different responses when we ask people what they see. I recall one participant say “I see a British girl with a bonnet”, another says “I see an old woman” and a third says, “I see both an old woman and a girl in the same picture”.

So why this image? What is the significance? It reminds us about perspectives, it is about the way one sees things, it is about stretching one’s imagination. And what does it tell us about innovative finance?

We draw a parallel between this image and innovative finance. Simply put, innovation finance is a paradigm that assumes that one can and should use ideas, approaches and resources yet to be fully tapped to address sustainable land management. This includes exploring …

We hold a chat show (another use of the knowledge sharing tools at the disposal of staff). We parade guest speakers including the project coordinator from IFAD’s rural financing programme in Zambia. He shares some good insights into the innovation and outreach facility. Carbon trading issues are also lighted. We follow the chat show with working group exercises outcomes on this are profound. Participants list a number of potential areas novel Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP).

Our First Reality Check

As we bask in all the excitement about the interesting issues and outcomes of the workshop and interesting perspectives, Soledad and I are confronted by one participant who feels Africa has had too many strategies and does not need more. As we talk about strategies, illegal logging in parts of Zambia goes on unabated, he says. He is frustrated. He is angry that not much is being done to stop the onslaught on land. He is angry at the rate of deforestation. He becomes confrontational but he provides no alternatives to address the challenge.

I try to be diplomatic, accommodating and tactful. But I am also firm with him. I can understand is frustration and perhaps he has a point. I am frustrated myself with the onslaught on land. But frustrations must be channelled positively. I explain to him that a strategy is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Therefore, the very essence of the integrated financing strategy is to outline some strategic choices and strategic actions to be implemented. It is not a panacea to all challenges but it offers strategic options, solutions and alternatives, at least, from the financing view point. He calms down after a while and offers an apology later.

The Political Economy of Resource Mobilization

I learn lessons and experiences from the dialogues at this workshop. It reminds me of political economy - what I call the political economy of resource mobilization. The issue of finance and investments cannot be devolved from other economic and political processes. It is about the relationship and interconnectedness between individuals and society and between markets and the state, using methods drawn from economics, political science, and sociology. In order to address the issue of finance, there is the need to concurrently address some of the following:

Economic Valuation of Land: Analytical work to develop evidence-based arguments to make the economic case for more investments into SLM and/or for reforming current practices is imperative. This is intended to raise awareness on the issues and to inform decision-making on finance and investments and to.

Advocacy and awareness: In order for sustainable land management to attract the attention desired, there is the need for information and communication work including strategic engagement of Parliamentarians and the media.

Social Mobilization: to engender positive behavioural changes. Therefore, through planned actions such as national greening campaigns, advocacy, and awareness raising, many communities, households, and villages can be empowered to invest in sustainable land management issues that bear in the implementation of the UNCCD.

Safaris and Strategies: A Journey of Resolve, Rejuvenation and Results

We conclude the workshop with a roadmap agreed by the Government and key development partners to develop the Integrated Financing Strategy. As we get ready to depart Chaminuka, I have no doubt in my mind, the workshop is a success. Commitments are renewed. Resolve to work together and to achieve results. To borrow Simone’s word, the workshop has been rejuvenating. We are all smiles, as we hand out certificates of attendance to participants. We take a group picture afterwards and it feels like a small family already.

And before I forget, for this last blog, we discuss the type of picture to post. Siv feels we should post the picture of participants in the conference—a ‘serious picture’. No pictures of zebras this time around other wise colleagues may feel we have been “safaring” all this while. So here we go with one of the nice picture taken at the meeting room.

It’s been a nice experience blogging through social reporting. Siv, Soledad and Simone have been very supportive in this and kudos to the team. We are off to dinner to have a drink after tedious preparations and all the work that has gone into this.

Thanks for following our journey on safaris and strategies. The actual journey towards the development of the integrated financing strategy continues. The workshop is just a tip of the ice berg. Stay tuned for some future blogs.

Just realised that couldn't upload photo...


Nancy White said…
Your reports have been FABULOUS. Thank you for taking the time to do this to share out with the "rest of the world!" (at least those w/ internet, eh?)