Meike van Ginneken: 2018, a year of renewal
Some show me how they have improved their livelihood. A female farmer in Amhara in Ethiopia told me how she multiplied her income by shifting from cereal to vegetable production. A rice farmer in Kinzau Mvuete in the Democratic Republic Congo showed me that the harvest is going well this year as we walked around the courtyard of the cooperative filled with bags and heaps of rice. She narrated how her group now sells rice in larger quantities and at better pre-set prices thanks to technical assistance on commercialisation.
Others tell me about new or improved services they now have access to, such as energy, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and nutritious food. I met pig farmers in Vietnam who demonstrated how they use biogas for cooking their own meals and that of their animals. I was welcomed by village elders to an open defecation free village before getting a tour of latrines in rural Cambodia.
Often lifting incomes and improving services are interlinked. The chair of a women’s cooperative that I met in a fishing village in Ghana showed me how her improved oven helps her to process fresh fish into smoked fish, resulting in increased income. Women cultivating more nutritious crops in Mali explained to me how they are now able to serve healthier food to their children.
These are just some examples of the 4,400,000 people whose quality of life improved in 2018 as a direct result of our projects in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Creating systems change
While meeting these women and men is a great inspiration, I am convinced that our most important impact is often less tangible. The changing of systems from within - so that many can work their way out of poverty - is a far-reaching result that goes well beyond the immediate scope of our projects.
So in Ghana, we do not only directly improve water and sanitation services. We also work with a private bank to leverage additional financing for WASH entrepreneurs. In Ethiopia, we apply our inclusive value chain approach to link input suppliers, cow farmers, dairy processors, and buyers. The market for dairy products we helped create will sustain itself and grow over time. In Cambodia, we not only helped homestead gardeners and commercial farmers to increase their household income, we also built the capacity of private firms, government, and civil society working on horticulture. The improved business models and professional networks will far outlive the project duration. In Rwanda, over fifty biogas entrepreneurs will serve additional schools, prisons, and homes for years to come. In Kenya, we have supported pastoralists in finding a voice on climate adaptation policies to hold governments accountable. Our rural sanitation programme has built capacity to modernise institutions and develop and implement policies in 15 countries in addition to extending services to millions of people. And so on.
My first year in SNV has convinced me that our 1,300 staff members around the world are our unique strength. Our extensive local presence means we know how governments work, which written and unwritten rules exist, and how relationships are built. Our staff are regarded as honest brokers. We adjust our approaches when circumstances change on the ground. And we generate know-how that we share amongst ourselves and with our partners. We know that the main predictor for a successful solution in a given country or context is the enthusiasm with which our staff and partners embrace it. Only by listening can we adapt our global expertise to each specific setting.
SNV is an organisation that renews itself constantly. In 2018, we took stock of the lessons learned from the previous strategic period to position ourselves for the future. As a Managing Board, we welcome what the future will bring and look forward to working with our colleagues across the globe, to consolidate progress, to step up on implementation, and to scale up our impact.