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The Nobel Economics Prize and Africa

Tapping Elinor Ostrom as one of the winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics is exciting for anyone interested in issues of saving forests, wildlife conservation, agricultural development, and environmental protection—all of critical importance in Africa.  Aid for Africa members bring to life the ideas and principles Ostrom identified about how people come together to manage their common lands, resources, and futures.  This approach doesn’t focus only on the economic theory of getting prices right or market demands, but instead looks at how societies create institutional arrangements that best work for them to manage natural resources.  This approach is more apt to include community-based actions on the ground and thus involve understanding of traditional systems, customs, and needs.  As communities throughout Sub Saharan Africa work to manage watersheds that provide irrigation for their farms or determine where to graze cattle while protecting wildlife habitat, for instance, they are more likely to create sustainable economic futures when they work toward common goals of all the key players. We see it everyday in our work in Africa. In Uganda and Kenya, Aid for Africa member Ecoagriculture Partners is working with farmers and communities to manage their lands in ways that provide food, protect the natural order, and expand livelihoods.  Green Belt Movement International, which was started by Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathi, began as a grassroots tree-planting program in which women were empowered to restore critical forests and watersheds while improving their livelihoods.  Forest Trends helps rural communities come together with private and public interests to find ways to manage forests products.  And African Rainforest Conservancy is funding work that ensures that communities surrounding coastal and mountain rainforests in Tanzania protect critical habitat while developing eco-friendly businesses.