Looking back at 2016


As we’re stepping into 2017 with renewed ambitions for a better world, it’s time to reflect on the global events that impacted the world in 2016 and look back at our work, achievements and lessons learnt. The past year was marked by a series of events that will give the global environment new contours in the upcoming years.

Global political changes

In 2016, major political changes took place across the world, changes that analysts predict to have an impact on the international development field sooner or later.

Ongoing conflicts and natural disasters displaced millions of people and caused atrocities, famine, extreme poverty and many deaths. Unfortunately, we had to wind down operations in South Sudan but our thoughts are with our colleagues over there.

In some cases, despite ongoing conflict, we can organise support from outside. In Congo-Brazzaville we manage our activities from DR Congo; and recently, SNV Tanzania and EnDev trained Burundian cookstove producers 250 km from the border, in Mwanza, so that the supply of clean cookstoves carries on in the country.

By contributing to youth employment, climate resilience, stable economies and societal cohesion, we hope to do our bit in preventing further conflicts. Examples are: scaling up our Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project, fostering inclusive businesses (see SIDA-funded project), implementing advocacy programmes and coming up with innovative climate action solutions.

2030 Sustainable Development Goals

On 1 January 2016, implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) officially started, striving for a world free of poverty by 2030. At SNV, fighting poverty lies at the heart of what we do, and our work in 27 countries across Africa, Latin America and Asia is geared towards the achievement of more than half of the SDGs. With more than 1.3 billion living in extreme poverty, it is essential that we all join forces to turn the #GlobalGoals into reality.

Successful take-off at SNV

2016 was the first year in half a century in which we worked without core subsidy from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS), although they remain our biggest partner. Our funding has become entirely project-based, coming from partners all over the world. They have shown their confidence in our work by entrusting their resources to us.

Read on to explore some of the work we carried out last year.

Gender equality

On 8 March 2016, the world celebrated International Women’s Day with two main themes: #PledgeforParity and #Planet5050. Worldwide, SNV experts and supporters pledged to work every day to accelerate gender equality, create inclusive and flexible cultures and challenge biases. We all have a role in breaking gender norms, advancing gender equality and creating a more socially enabling environment. At SNV, our 'Balancing Benefits’ solution works with both women and men to build equal incomes and business opportunities.

In addition, we focus on increasing women’s access to clean energy, protecting their health and strengthening their roles in energy value chains. In March, together with the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group (BA) in Cambodia, we published a study that quantifies the positive health impact of clean cooking solutions and paves the way for results-based financing.

This year, we also started a major gender-focused project in Vietnam and Kenya, aiming to advance women’s economic participation and self-reliance by creating an environment for female entrepreneurship: Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises.

Start of the Nutrition Decade

1 April 2016 marked the start of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, a goal that feeds into all the SDGs. With 795 million people lacking enough food and 2 billion people suffering from malnutrition, the importance of the #NutritionDecade cannot be emphasised enough. In December 2016, we interviewed Gerda Verburg, Coordinator of Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), about what’s needed to end malnutrition in all its forms: Malnutrition hampers economic growth, so it is in the interest of all government departments to develop coordinated plans for tackling the issue. As Verburg says, “it is time to roll up our sleeves” and start acting.

From promoting the Supermom concept in Cambodia to support women in choosing the right food for their children and using a cross-sectoral approach in Laos, to raising awareness and changing deeply rooted dietary habits in Uganda and Zambia, we basically trigger the emotion of every parent wanting the best future for their children.

The Paris Agreement comes into force before COP22

COP22 in Marrakesh revolved around the ratification of the Paris agreement – a promising development considering that never before was a treaty ratified this quickly after signing. Great news indeed, but for those living in developing countries, the effects of climate change are already devastating.

This is why, in addition to developing mitigation strategies it is essential that we come up with effective adaptation solutions.

With our Climate, Business & Landscapes product, we take the landscape angle as a starting point using technologies like drones and Akvo’s data-driven tools to assess vulnerable forest areas. In collaboration with private and public sector partners, we aim to improve adaptability to climate change, increase crop productivity, reduce greenhouse gases, and build the resilience of livelihoods, food systems and markets. In Indonesia for example, we have helped set up sustainable palm oil production.

This year at COP22, our side event with Dutch Minister Ploumen as keynote speaker, highlighted a series of innovative solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation at scale. Check out the #ClimateAction blog series we put together for the event and a recap of the discussions.

Our work in evidence-based advocacy

At the beginning of the year, together with IFPRI and funded by DGIS, we kick-started the ‘Voice for Change Partnership’ project, an evidence-based advocacy programme aiming to strengthen the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras and Indonesia.  Since then, we have been conducting context analyses and selected and trained CSOs in addressing their case. Find out what issues we are tackling through this programme.

Zooming in on the Agriculture sector

In the first half of the year we started a World Bank-funded project on cassava, palm oil and rice value chains in DR Congo. We successfully wrapped up the Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding project (PG-HGSF) as well as the Rural Agriculture Revitalisation Programme (RARP). Due to the PG-HGSF programme, 16,200 farmers are now selling to school feeding programmes and as a result of the RARP programme, 259,000 smallholder farmers have better food security and incomes.

In July we commenced the Gender and Youth Empowerment in Horticulture Markets project in Ethiopia and later in the year we launched the Horti-LIFE project, aiming to increase the food security and safety of Ethiopian smallholder farmers and consumers: 30,000 farmers are being addressed.

In the summer, BBC went to Kenya to meet the women who have switched from cows to camel rearing to withstand the impact of drought on their livelihoods. Watch the video below.

After a successful first phase of the Mangroves and Markets project along the coastal areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, where we developed a mangrove zone to protect shrimp farmers, the second phase started in November 2016, aiming to scale the project up to 5000 farmers.

In December, we published a book together with KIT: ‘Unleashing the potential of pastoralism to develop West Africa’ (in French).

Zooming in on the Energy sector

In January 2016, our energy practice was nominated for the Zayed future energy prize and in December we were nominated for the UN energy ‘Powering the future we want’ award.

In April, our Biogas Programme in Vietnam was selected one of the best carbon-reducing projects worldwide and in July, the Biogas Milk Chiller developed in cooperation with SimGas won OpenIDEO's Agricultural Innovation Challenge.

In June we celebrated 100,000 improved cookstoves produced in Lao PDR, where the Improved Cookstoves programme has significantly contributed to the development of the clean cookstove market in the country.

For our annual magazine Connect, we interviewed Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All. As Kyte states, “governments needs to realise that distributed renewables can help close the energy access gap while simultaneously working on grid improvements and grid-connected projects.” Read the full interview.

2016 was the first year in which more people had access to mobile phones than to electricity. See for example how we are working with mobile phone company MTN, using their extensive distribution network to bring solar energy to rural areas in Benin.

Thanks to EnDev’s support, we also scaled up our Results Based Financing (RBF) Solar project in Tanzania. With our off-grid solar product, we de-risk investments of private solar companies for rural areas. Until now we have ensured access to solar PV for 1.2 million people worldwide, and we are up for more in the coming year.

2016 was also marked by the launch of the World Bank-funded Climate Innovation Center in Ghana, the EU’s approval of direct sourcing for a €20.8 million biogas programme in Ethiopia and a €5.5 million World Bank carbon funding contract for biogas in Burkina Faso.

Zooming in on the WASH sector

In March, we co-organised the Asia Regional Learning Event ‘Thinking beyond the finish line: Sustainable sanitation services for all’. With our successful Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All (SSH4A) approach, we are not only looking at achieving open defecation free status but also at what’s needed to keep it that way. Read about the action we’ve been taking in this regard and find out how we overachieved our targets in our SSH4A programmes. Thanks to DFID, we have recently extended this nine-country project to four more years.

In August, we took part in the World Water Week in Stockholm to discuss sustainable sanitation and hygiene as a cornerstone of sustainable development: city-wide sanitation services, gendered WASH needs as well as enforcement and compliance in local government contexts.

This year we also furthered our partnership with the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, as part of our Urban Sanitation & Hygiene for Health and Development programme. Check out some papers that have resulted from our collaboration.

2016 was also a year in which we further developed our efforts in the Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) project in Bangladesh – a programme funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that supports authorities in realising city-wide sanitation and building up from workable pieces of existing on-site sanitation. A central issue is desludging, or ‘what to do with poo’. In December we took part in the first national convention for septic tank and pit emptiers in Bangladesh, where almost 100 representatives of this socially stigmatised group were invited to share their life stories. Together with government and development officials they came up with ways to improve their situation.

Lastly, EKN in Benin pledged €14,750,000 to increasing access to water and sanitation in the country, where almost half of the population lack access to safe drinking water and toilets.

Thank you and Happy New Year!

These are only some of the events and highlights of 2016. We thank all our donors and partners for working with us to break the cycle of poverty and wish everyone a bright, clean and green 2017. Happy New Year!

Written by Laura Tufis, SNV Global Marketing & Communications Adviser.