The Power of Home-Grown Solutions: A Humble Approach to Driving Progress in Communities

Richard Munang
5 min readFeb 27, 2023

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Communities have their own knowledge and traditions that can be used to come up with solutions that will help them move forward.

However, external organizations must be humble when engaging with communities to promote sustainable and resilient futures. In this newsletter, I have examined practical examples and key recommendations to ensure a humble approach to community engagement for driving community progress and promoting sustainable solutions for climate action.

Assessing Knowledge Gaps: Understanding Communities’ Needs and Strengths

Assessing knowledge gaps is an essential first step in understanding each community’s unique needs and strengths. By working with people in the community, outside groups can find gaps in knowledge and resources and build on what’s already working to develop solutions that fit local needs.

For example, through our work, we have engaged with communities and the informal sector setting to understand their strengths and gaps. We have leveraged their local governance structures and accessible systems like cooperatives. For example, by assessing local needs and working collaboratively with the Buganda Kingdom, the communities have, through structured Village Savings Associations (VSLAs), uptake #climateaction solutions of #solardryers which have created income opportunities. Up to 363 farmers in five districts use services for solar dryers to make more money.

@EBAFOSA Uganda

Postharvest losses were reduced by 30% and up to 85% in some cases, amounting to over 270kgs of produce. Beneficiaries could save up to 50% more money using solar dryers, a plus for EBA. Youth manning & maintaining dryers are earning income, an incentive that taps the EBA supply chain. Up to 3 tons of cassava were harvested and dried for value addition to enhance earnings.

Tailored Solutions for Climate Action

It’s also important to have a humble attitude if you want to find climate action solutions that fit the local situation. By understanding that each community has its own needs, outside groups can work with community members to develop and implement long-term solutions that meet local needs.

For instance, from our work in #nigeria, income opportunities are unlocked using clean cooking solutions of fuel #Briquettes. The average savings per woman from switching from charcoal to briquettes was $32 per week. These savings are ploughed back into more briquettes, saving more forests.

EBAFOSA Innovative Volunteerism Youth Nigeria

By working with community members to develop and promote alternative fuel sources tailored to the local context, external organizations can help reduce reliance on firewood for cooking and promote more sustainable and resilient futures.

Building on Existing Strengths: Supporting Local Traditions and Practices

Communities possess a wealth of knowledge and traditions that have sustained them for generations. By building on existing strengths and supporting local customs and practices, external organizations can help to promote more sustainable and resilient communities.

For example, in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the Ijaw people have developed their traditional fishing practices and systems of land management that have sustained their communities for generations, despite environmental challenges. By supporting and promoting these local traditions and practices, outside groups can help build more sustainable and resilient communities better prepared to face the challenges of our changing world.

Leveraging Tontines and Njangi to Drive Progress in Lives

In Cameroon, cooperatives such as Tontines and Njangi have helped drive progress in the lives of local communities.

Members pool their money and make regular contributions, which are used to help other members when they need loans or additional financial help. The cooperatives have made it possible for everyone in the community to have access to money. People can use it to pay for medical bills and school fees or invest in small businesses. The cooperatives show how communities can use their strength to move forward and make changes.

Through our work, 30 tontines/village cooperatives have been engaged in different agro-value chains for gaps in productivity that could be bridged using climate action solutions.

And this generates data to prove the efficacy of these climate action solutions for enhanced food & livelihood security and the achievement of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These tontines were sampled from all country regions — Western, Eastern, Adamaoua, Far-North, Central, and Southern regions. The specific gaps mapped were: — on-farm level application of EBA: the need for increased yields where solutions like organic fertilizer are critical, the need to conserve soils using approaches like agro-forestry etc.,

Cameroon EBAFOSA and Tontines

- value addition using clean energy solutions: need to cut high postharvest losses through applying solar dryers that have been proven to reduce aflatoxin cases by over 50% to enhance food safety compliance, need to increase incomes, savings through value addition of solar-dried produce

– e.g. milling dried cassava to flour, making snacks from flour etc., need to switch to using clean energy solutions for value addition — e.g. switch from open-air dried rice, vegetables etc., to solar dryer dried rice, switching from using fish smokers, chicken smokers to using solar dryers etc. the need for clean cooking/charcoal substitution: where fuel briquettes made from agro-waste can offer more affordable yet non-polluting cooking alternatives to charcoal power agro-value addition in households, eateries etc.

Recommendations for Humble Community Engagement

To ensure a humble approach to community engagement, external organizations must leverage the following recommendations:

Listen actively to community members, understanding their unique needs, and building on their strengths.

Work collaboratively with community members, involving them in decision-making and solution development.

Promote and support local traditions and practices, building on existing strengths to promote more sustainable and resilient communities.

Assess knowledge gaps to identify local needs and strengths, developing tailored solutions that meet the needs of each community.

Implement solutions that are tailored to the local context, working with community members to develop and promote sustainable solutions that meet local needs.

Without a humble approach to assessing knowledge needs and gaps, external organizations may assume that communities do not have local capabilities and we will end up only duplicating efforts which is the biggest operational risk that Agfrica faces today

A humble approach to community engagement is essential for driving progress in communities and promoting sustainable solutions for climate action.

By building on existing strengths, tailoring solutions to the local context, and working collaboratively with community members, external organizations can help promote more sustainable and resilient communities better equipped to tackle the challenges of our changing world.

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Richard Munang

Expert environmental policy, climate change and sustainable development. An accomplished public speaker. Founded the Innovative Volunteerism mentorship program