I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS from VOA Special English. Today, we tell about a World Bank program that supports people with new ways to solve social problems. It is called the Development Marketplace. The World Bank program identifies and pays for the best ideas in development.
Many people around the world are trying to create new kinds of businesses. They often are called entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are people who organize, build and support their individual business proposals. They may have ideas about new products that the world has never seen. Or, they may have ideas about new ways to do business.
Social entrepreneurs are similar to business entrepreneurs. However, social entrepreneurs try to improve conditions in their communities. They organize, build, and support new and creative programs. Their goal is to improve people's lives. Their work is very important. Usually, social entrepreneurs do not receive much support for their work. However, the World Bank is trying to change this. The bank recognizes the need for social entrepreneurs and has developed a special program to offer them support.
About every eighteen months, the World Bank brings together social entrepreneurs in a friendly competition called the Development Marketplace. During the gathering in Washington D-C, competitors are able to explain their ideas to groups that can provide financial and technical support. At the end of the two-day competition, winners are given start-up money to carry out their plans within one year.
The World Bank competition serves as a chance for the development community to share ideas. Non-governmental organizations, aid groups, government agencies, educators and private companies are able to discuss new ways to solve social problems.
Anyone can compete in the Development Marketplace. The only requirement is that their idea be creative, designed to change people's lives, and help end poverty. Also, other people must be able to copy the idea in their own communities. A group of judges from the World Bank and other organizations chooses the winners.
One hundred eighty-three social entrepreneurs were in Washington earlier this month for this year's Development Marketplace. They came from sixty-three countries. Each competitor offered an idea in one of twelve areas. These included agricultural development, civil society and social protection, disabilities, education, energy and transportation, and the environment. There were also ideas for improved health and nutrition, H-I-V and AIDS, information and communication technologies, small and medium-size business development, financing, and clean water. The main message of this year's Development Marketplace was "Making Services Work for Poor People."
Each social entrepreneur competing at the Development Marketplace offered a creative approach to easing world poverty. For example, Peter Clark was hoping to receive money to pay for a video education program in Afghanistan. He and Shahzad Ahmed work for a not-for-profit group called ARCA Associates. The group believes that people learn best with tools that relate to their own life experiences, such as videos.
ARCA was seeking money to create a series of videos for Afghani women and girls. These would be used to teach females about the important part they play in Afghanistan's growth and development.
Although ARCA's proposal did not win money at the Development Marketplace, an environmental plan from Vietnam did. Tran Triet is a professor at the national university in Ho Chi Minh City. He hopes to save a special wetland area in southwest Ha Tien, Vietnam. Money from the World Bank will be used to teach farmers how to harvest grass from the wetland without harming the environment.
Currently, the Vietnam government wants to use the wetland area for rice farming. However, Mr. Tran says this is a bad idea because the soil contains too much acid. Instead, he says farmers should protect the wetland and harvest its grass from year to year.
Such sustainable harvesting will also protect the home of Vietnam's sarus crane. This long-legged bird is at risk of dying out completely. The sarus crane is also an important sign of the ethnic Khmer Buddhists living in Ha Tien.
Mr. Tran believes the Khmer population can use the wetland grass to create hand-made hats and containers. He says the products will be sold in markets in Ho Chi Minh City. About two-hundred Khmer families live near the Ha Tien wetlands. Mr. Tran says his program will improve their economic situation as well as protect the environment.
Another winning proposal is for growing chili pepper plants for conservation and development in Zimbabwe. This project supports the production of chili peppers in the Zambezi Valley as a way to protect farmers from invasion of their land by elephants. In addition, the chili crop will create a new valuable export product for the farmers.
Another winning project is from Brazil. This project seeks to help poor young people whose parents had died of AIDS. It helps find useful jobs for these AIDS orphans.
In Nepal, a proposal for the Doko Dai Mobile Library also is a winner in the Development Marketplace. This project seeks to teach children to read and write. It also increases jobs for adults who take books and educational materials to communities in mountainous areas.
Another Development Marketplace winner is from the Philippines. It is a project called the Hilwai Rehabilitation Boat for Disabled Persons. This project will build a boat and sail to far-away islands to help people with disabilities who cannot get health services.
Perhaps the most interesting idea to win money at the Development Marketplace comes from Tanzania. Researchers at the Sokoine University of Agriculture are training rats to identify tuberculosis. Usually, health officials in developing nations use a microscopic test to identify the disease. Experts examine liquid from a patient's mouth under a microscope.
They try to identify cells infected with T-B bacteria. Although this method is effective, it takes a long time. Trained laboratory workers may spend up to a full day to complete just twenty tests.
Belgian scientist Bart Weetjens says his idea is faster and more effective. He says one rat can complete more than two-thousand tuberculosis tests in a single day. The rats can smell tuberculosis bacteria. They are trained to stay in front of a T-B test if the disease is present.
Mr. Weetjens gives the rats food when they correctly identify tuberculosis. He says money from the World Bank will be used to carry out a full scientific study with the rats. He hopes to prove that his method is a dependable, effective way to identify T-B in poor nations. The social entrepreneurs presenting ideas at this year's Development Marketplace gave Mr. Weetjens' project the People's Choice Award. The scientist said he was honored and pleased that so many people consider his work valuable.
The first Development Marketplace competition was held in two-thousand. At that time, forty-three winning ideas shared five-million dollars in start-up money. Last year, four-and-one-half million dollars was divided among thirty-nine winners. And at this year's competition, forty-seven projects won financing. The winners divided the largest amount of start-up money -- six-and-one-half-million dollars. World Bank President James Wolfensohn described the winners as imaginative people with the ability to solve difficult development problems.
More than two-thousand-seven-hundred people entered ideas at the start of this year's competition in June. To learn more about how you can take part in the next Development Marketplace, visit the World Bank website at w-w-w-dot-worldbank-dot-org. World Bank is spelled as all one word.
This Special English program was written by Jill Moss and produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.