DJ Bwakali meeting with a women group in rural Rwanda. This group is supported financially by ARAMA, a local NGO. Wouldn't it be great if this group could access the Green Climate Fund?! DJ Bwakali meeting with a women group in rural Rwanda. This group is supported financially by ARAMA, a local NGO. Wouldn't it be great if this group could access the Green Climate Fund?! Photo by Cathy Nanzala

They Just Need One Thousand Dollars to Stop the Smoke

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If you are twenty-five years old and below, then John Kioli was already striving to make this world a greener place when you were still a child. For almost two decades, he has been the CEO of Green Africa Foundation, an organization that is on the frontlines of ensuring that Kenya adapts to a changing climate.

He is also the current Chairman of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group. Through the latter organization, John provided leadership that led to eventual enactment of the Kenya Climate Change Act 2016.

Why am I telling you about John? Because he exemplifies the utter difficulty of accessing international climate funds from climate funding platforms like the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund. You would think that either the Green Africa Foundation or the Kenya Climate Change Working Group would have been some of the first organizations to access the Green Climate Funds since they have been on the very forefront combating climate change. But nope. They are yet to access even a single cent of these funds.

But maybe am creating a tropical storm in a masala tea-cup. So hands up if you know a grassroots-focused organization that has accessed a few hundred thousand dollars from the Green Climate Fund. Anyone? Do I see a hand over there in Tororo, Uganda? Oh, you were just scratching your head, searching for such a beneficiary organization? Okay. What about the lady in that stunning purple kitenge dress over there in the second row? You mentioned that you are from Kumasi in Southern Ghana? Oh, you are adjusting your sunglasses and not raising your hand. Ok. Anyone? No one.

It seems that just like me, none of you are aware of an adaptation project in your communities that was actualized by Green Climate Funds.

Now, am not by any stretch of imagination claiming that none the $100 billion that the Green Climate Fund is on course to raise and disburse by 2020 has reached African communities. Some of the money has thankfully funded projects on the African soil. It’s just that virtually all my friends and I haven’t seen those funds in our respective communities. As a former coordinator for a UNEP project that created a pan-African youth network, I am fortunate to have friends from all corners of the continent. None of them can point to projects right there in their communities that owe their existence to international climate funds. I haven’t seen such projects in Lamu Island in Coastal Kenya. Neither have I seen them in Matsangoni, which is a few hundred kilometres further down the coast from Lamu. As I wrote in another article, I have also not seen them in Wasini Island, in Kenya’s South Coast.

Before you dismiss me as too critical, it turns out that my ‘hands-up’ survey is actually spot on. The London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) conducted a research on this very issue. IIED is a reputable policy and action research organisation composed of more than 120 experts from different countries and backgrounds. Its research and strategy team is led by a guy named Dr. Andrew Norton. His expertise is in Climate change; natural resource governance; social policy; social inclusion; human rights; poverty; gender; social analysis; and urban social change. The guy is an expert who knows what he is talking about. Plus he speaks Bambara, Mali’s national language; so he is not just some westerner whose knowledge of Africa has been primarily sourced from Google and CNN. Why am I telling you all this? Because I just wanted you to know that the folks at IIED are very competent people who take their research seriously.

Let me now look directly into your eyes and quote directly from a Reuters article on the 2017 IIED research, “less than 10 percent of funds spent to help poorer communities adapt to climate change impacts and adopt clean energy are reaching the people most in need of the money.” The research went on to explain the reasons behind this unacceptable trend, “international climate funds, under pressure to get donated funds into action, are opting to work with development banks and other big international agencies that can quickly spend millions - rather than with smaller-scale local governments and projects.”

Arama womenWomen groups in Eastern Rwanda. Such are the groups that need to access international climate funds!Aha! No wonder none of us here knows any community project that has benefited from international climate funds! It is very, very difficult for Wasini Women Group, a Community Based Organization (CBO) based in Wasini Island, or Africa Youth Trust, a youth organization based in Nairobi, or those other thousands of CBOs across Africa to navigate the labyrinth between them and the international climate funds.

Can you imagine if the only place you could access your tomatoes was the World Tomatoes Organization (WTO) whose headquarters were in a faraway place like Oklahoma in USA or Lucerne in Switzerland?! It wouldn’t be any easier to access those tomatoes even if the said World Tomatoes Organization had Tomato Centres a few hundred kilometers from your home and about 100-metre long forms that you had to fill before your application for tomatoes could be considered.

I know that the Green Climate Fund has accredited entities in many countries. These entities are ideally supposed to channel funds to smaller organizations in communities. Here are examples of accrediting entities that are considered as micro, which I would assume means that they are closest to communities: Acumen Fund; Environmental Investment Fund; Fiji Development Bank; National Environment Management Authority of Kenya(NEMA) and World Food Programme. You can read the rest of them in this link. Now, hands up if your local women organization, or youth organization knows the Acumen Fund. Anyone? Oh, no one.

This doesn’t mean that the good people at Acumen Fund are not channeling funds to deserving organizations. They are doing so. But as Helmut Schmidt the former West German Chancellor once said, “The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.” When it comes to international climate finances, this room for improvement is not just large. Its gigantic. It’s time to fill this room with much more innovative, grassroots-centered funding that will truly empower grassroots organizations to stand tall against a changing climate that is destroying their lives.

Some of these organizations just need one thousand dollars to roll out projects like: production of energy efficient cookstoves; irrigate communal farms and buy cold rooms for storing fish.

With one thousand dollars, they can produce the first batch of energy efficient cookstoves that will stop the firewood smoke and halt the deforestation.

Do these grassroots organizations really have to answer one thousand questions to get that one thousand dollars?

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