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Development Marketplace Grants: Three Success Stories

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  • One Development Marketplace grantee’s clean water project in Zimbabwe leveraged an additional US$25 million in funding to reach an additional 8 million people in two countries.
  • Khmer villagers in Vietnam switched from making floor mats to high-end handbags, reinvigorating the local economy and preserving 5,000 acres of wetlands.
  • A rooftop rainwater harvesting project in Rajasthan, India, has cut water collection time and ensured household water availability in a region plagued by drought.

January 5, 2010 —Development Marketplace awards go to innovative, early-stage community projects in developing countries that aim to benefit poor people and their local environment, and have the potential to be scaled to other communities. Here’s how three winning Development Marketplace projects have fared since winning awards:

Zimbabwe, Malawi: Clean Water Venture Reaches Millions

In 1999, when Ian Thorpe was teaching English in rural Zimbabwe, two pupils at his primary school died of dysentery after drinking water from a local well into which a snake had fallen and decomposed. The shocking incident drove Thorpe – with two former teacher colleagues, Tendai Mawunga and Amos Chiungo – to develop an inexpensive (US$400) contamination-proof pump.  Thorp’s team adapted an ancient Chinese technology that used bamboo for pipes and sisal rope and discs of leather to bring buckets of water from hand-dug wells.  The “Elephant Pump” has a concrete casing protecting water from contamination.  It is simple enough for a five-year-old to use.

Winning a Development Marketplace grant of US$120,000 in 2006 allowed Thorp’s PumpAid – a U.K.-based international charity – to expand its nascent program beyond a few schools and villages and install 1,000 pumps that benefited 250,000 Zimbabweans. Development Marketplace funds were also used to create the Elephant Toilet, an innovative, low-cost, low-maintenance approach to sanitation.

Three years later, PumpAid has secured an additional US$25 million in funds that will support expansion of both the water and the sanitation programs to reach an additional 8 million people in Zimbabwe and Malawi over the next five years.


To preserve bird habitats in Vietnam, Khmer villagers make handbags instead of floor mats.

Vietnam: Handbag Project Preserves Wetlands

At six feet tall, the Eastern Sarus crane is the world’s tallest flying bird.  For all its eight-foot wingspan majesty, it was rapidly disappearing from Vietnam, one of its main habitats, until biodiversity specialist and Vietnam National University professor Dr. Triet Tran developed the Ha-Tien Habitats Handbags project in 2003 with the support of a US$102,750 award from Development Marketplace.  

The project has given the cranes a protected home in 5,000 acres of reclaimed wetlands and the villagers of Phu My a reinvigorated economy that has tripled incomes of the Khmer ethnic minority. Instead of producing low-value floor mats from the Lepironia sedge they harvest (and the cranes feed on), 200 families now craft high-value handbags and hats for the tourist trade in Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2007, the project, located in Kien Giang Province in southern Vietnam, received the US$30,000 UN-Habitat/Dubai Municipality "International Award for Best Practices to Improve the Living Environment." The project is slated for expansion in neighboring wetlands, which cross the Cambodian border.

India: Harvesting Rainwater Reduces Water Collection Time

Collecting water for household use in drought-prone desert state of Rajasthan southwest of New Delhi can be an arduous, time-consuming, and sometimes thankless task.  It can be a two-week wait for the water tanker.  But thanks to the Development Marketplace-funded Aakash Ganga (River Sky) rainwater harvesting project, women in Sarapura and five other villages with a total population of 10,000 can fill their matkas (water pots) every day.

Aakash Ganga, which won the US$200,000 Development Marketplace award in 2006 through project developer Sustainable Innovations, rents village rooftops for a fee. Rainwater is channeled through gutters and pipes to a network of underground storage reservoirs. The cost of capturing and storing rainwater is about $0.002 per liter. The capital layout is $2-$3 per person per year.

The government of India is now considering scaling up Aakash Ganga to several thousand villages in Rajasthan in public-private-community partnership. The United Nations Development Program has given Sustainable Innovations – headed by “social entrepreneur” B.P. Agrawal – a planning grant to bring Aakash Ganga to several hundred villages in Nagaur District in Rajasthan. 

In May 2009, the Asian Development Bank gave Aakash Ganga a US$10,000 pilot grant to demonstrate its collection system in Guiyang Municipality in China, where water has been contaminated by pesticides and is in short supply because of agricultural production.





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