The tragic conflict in Darfur has resulted in deaths totaling hundreds of thousands while causing widespread devastation to the local region and the surrounding societies in the Republic of Sudan, and over 2 million internally displaced persons (IPDs) now live in Sudan while millions more suffer from extreme poverty and famine caused by ongoing drought, desertification, and overpopulation.
Citizens of Sudan, the largest country on the African continent, have suffered for well over 50 years. The First Sudanese Civil War (1955 to 1972) was followed by the Second Civil War (1983 to 2005). Today conflict rages in the western region of Darfur, a section of Sudan about the size of France.
“It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The process of desertification can consume entire villages, turning the residents into nomads, which in turn results in tensions and, at times, violent conflict. Few are aware that this environmental crisis is projected to affect approximately one third of the earth’s land surface. According to a recent article in the Yale Environment 360 publication, “Desertification claims a Nebraska-sized area of productive capacity each year globally.”
The Village Reforestation and Restoration Initiative is a pilot project which can be applied to Darfur and many other parts of Africa. The intent of the project is to cultivate indigenous trees and shrubs which produce medicinal herbs, biofuel elements and support the production of honey. This program not only serves to restore the water tables and arable land, but will also be a catalyst for stimulating local economies, fostering entrepreneurs and encouraging environmental rehabilitation.
Business Partnership Leads to Success
I was made aware of this ambitious program by Alissa Sears, Global Betterment Director for Christie Communications. With a background in International Development, Ms. Sears was eager to work on this program which began with an assessment trip to Sudan in 2006. What I found enlightening about the company itself was the business philosophy embraced by Gillian Christie, founder & CEO.
“The Christie Community is succeeding in establishing a new business model where together we are all Making Peace Profitable™ by delivering ethical services and products, helping each other succeed, and working together to build a better world.”
This is an approach that all corporations around the world should adopt. We can no longer separate the goal of profit from the goal of building a sustainable world. It is time that compassion, ethics, fairness, and respect become the hallmarks of a great corporation, not just beating the quarterly earnings estimate.
“We are building replicable, community-based models to address desertification and severe environmental degradation through the community-led development of forest belts, sustainable agricultural lands, biofuel-powered irrigation systems, and sustainable local industries.”
Aid Still Required
I was impressed to learn that Christie Communications had partnered with Aid Still Required to launch the initiative. This international relief organization has served the needs of humanitarian efforts from Hurricane Katrina, to the Asian Tsunami and the current situation plaguing Darfur. Using the donation facilities of Dedicated to Make the Difference Network, you can still make a personal contribution to the planting of trees. You can also watch the Aid Still Required video with Kobe Bryant.
- Addressing the critical issue of desertification while promoting self-reliance through environmental stewardship;
- Offering livelihood and income generation opportunities and thus potentially diminishing the cycle of poverty;
- Promoting cooperation of local communities, non-profit organizations, local academic institutions, and international businesses;
- Improving the status of women by supporting women’s education, community development, and scholarship opportunities.
The idea is to plant a series of forest belts which will protect the soil from the fierce desert winds. Approximately 30,000 trees, comprised of five species, will occupy an 8 square kilometer area. This approach also results in lowering temperatures in the surrounding area.
Rather than a top down approach, whereby outside organizations come in and control the entire operation, this project is managed by a local community-based organization. Approximately 5.8% of the budget will be provided by the local community through a fund-sharing strategy.
Ms. Sears emphasized the point that this project was being lead by well-educated volunteers from the region, many of whom possess PHDs, and that it is the Sudanese who provide virtually all the labor. They own the process, and the success.
The overriding benefit is that The Village Reforestation and Restoration Initiative represents more than just a solution to one particular problem; this type of program is designed to be holistic in nature, inclusive of the community, respectful of the environment, viable for the long term, and replicable throughout Africa.
Dr. C. Jean Weidemann, President of the Weidemann Foundation, is the project advisor. She is known worldwide as a microlending specialist and is the author of more than 40 books and publications, including the recent United Nations Development Programme guidebook, Supporting Women’s Livelihoods: Microfinance that Works for the Majority. Among the Weidemann Foundation’s projects are school lunch programs for underserved children in Dakar, Senegal; co-sponsorship of the UCSB Capps Center lecture on microlending in Haiti; funding for Direct Relief International which trains Rwandan women genocide survivors, and support of Tibetan nuns in India.
Inspiring Us to Greatness
A few years ago a dear friend gave me a copy of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. If you’ve ever read it, you know it to be a seminal work on the simplicity and beauty of life and nature, and after more that 150 years its importance is renewed by our current environmental situation.
I found this quote from Walden in the Christie Communications’ newsletter, and it exemplified one of the ideals of Global Patriot, that we have the ability to achieve unexpected success in our lifetime.
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a sense of success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
What are you dreaming, and what unexpected success is awaiting your efforts?