Intense discussions marked the two days of discussions about the future of the Wetlands Alliance, at the ‘Celebration and Dissemination Workshop’ from 20-21 January 2014 in Bangkok, with 34 participants from 19 partner organizations. The workshop featured many highlights as partners reviewed achievements since the Alliance was established.
In her opening remarks, Anne-Charlotte Malm, Sida, said that Sweden’s contribution of US$15 million over eight years to the Wetlands Alliance has been an important part of Sweden’s support for regional initiatives in Southeast Asia, and has helped to address concerns about inequality. Many participants affirmed the participatory, bottom-up approach of the Alliance, saying its activities are demand-driven and have a high level of community ownership.
Several partners indicated they have already secured new funding sources or have begun to do so. Alliance partners agreed to continue cooperation to seek further sources of funding for local partners.
Next steps will include a smaller meeting to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalize working arrangements among partners, and to continue knowledge sharing and communication, through the Wetlands Alliance website, as well as in other ways.
Wetlands Alliance partners usually agree that addressing gender inequity is also a way of tackling poverty. However, a 2011 participatory gender audit of WAP activities found that gender was far from being mainstreamed in all activities. While partners could report some positive impacts, gender considerations had not been systematically integrated across all activities.
To promote gender mainstreaming, the audit recommended that WAP should: collect and report gender-disaggregated data; strengthen the understanding of connections between gender equality and poverty; and include gender in WAP’s monitoring and evaluation framework.
Many months down the track, the Alliance’s contributions have supported some gender-specific livelihood activities, and some partners report significant impacts on gender relations. It’s probably fair to say that gender is still not mainstreamed, although some partners, such as the Fisheries Administration of Cambodia, have taken important steps in this direction through their awareness raising activities.
Three reports by Wetlands Alliance partners specifically address gender issues in the WAP: a participatory gender audit conducted in 2011, a joint report on community-based ecotourism in Stung Treng, and The Learning Institute’s review of its gender-focused activities in Cambodia. So, what did we find?
Network Activities Myanmar (NAG) is well known in the development community for its work on community fishing rights. With the Wetlands Alliance, NAG has also been working in the Dry Zone of Myanmar to encourage small farmers in goat raising - specifically, on enhancing productivity and improving the position of goat farmers in the market value chain.
NAG research into goat farming in the dry zone showed that smallholders and landless farmers, women farmers and families with children were most likely to be goat farmers. It also showed that goat farmers are in a weak position in the market. Buyers control the price of goats, while sellers control the price of feed.
What was needed was a joint effort to advocate for the rights of livestock raisers.
Collaboration between Wetlands Alliance partners has boosted over 200 household enterprises in Northeast Cambodia by providing access to finance, skill development and job creation in the space of less than two years. The new jobs have provided incomes for fishing communities along the Mekong, whose livelihoods have been impacted by recent conservation efforts.
WWF, with the Government of Cambodia, has been working on conservation of the Irrawaddy dolphin, the giant Mekong catfish and the giant freshwater stingray for many years. As conservation efforts began to have impact, local communities in Kratie and Stung Treng requested assistance in establishing alternative livelihoods. The answer came through collaboration with Hand in Hand, India.
Hand in Hand organizes self-help groups in poor communities. These groups manage their own saving schemes that can provide financing for people to open their own businesses, generating additional household income. With Alliance partners the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the Cambodian Rural Development Team (CRDT), Hand in Hand’s model has been successfully adapted to the Cambodian context.
The key to building sustainable and resilient rural communities is their ability to engage in and expand income-generating activities. However, more often than not, the communities in which the Alliance engages are too poor to make the investments needed that will allow them to expand and diversify their livelihoods and increase their incomes. CRDT, with Hand in Hand, are taking this approach to the next level, laying the foundation to create a thousand microenterprises.