08 June 2005

08.06.05. Dutch Awards for entrepreneurs combating poverty

Editor’s note: Why is it so important to try to give widest recognition to outstanding successes in the area of sustainable development and social justice? Well, first because it is such a hard uphill struggle, and any good news at all is going to be much appreciated. And secondly because emulation is such a strong device for learning and leading change. "I see, I understand, and why not? I may even try it myself." At least that's my theory.

Dutch Awards for entrepreneurs combating poverty

And the winner is… Rinette Soeropawiro, Noel Sarmiento Percil, Hervé Millet, and a whole range of other young entrepreneurs with promising business plans.

The international contest ‘Business in Development Challenge’ intended to generate innovative plans to combat poverty. It succeeded. Almost 800 plans were delivered, of which two-third by people from developing countries.

Rinette Soeropawiro, who had to postpone her graduation as an agriculturist in Surinam to be able to participate in the contest, will start cultivating tropical mushrooms on agricultural waste for local consumers and for export to the whole Caribbean. Gaining a first prize of 20.000 euro, she commented delighted: “Now I can really start growing oyster and straw mushrooms. Initially we’ll employ seven people, and I hope we’ll soon be able to double this amount.”
Noel Sarmiento Percil from the Philippines, also a first prize winner, came up with an intricate plan to collect plastic waste and recycle it into material for the plastic industry. “We already started advocating waste collection among the people in the region of Luzon, but now we have the money to start the plant. Some twenty people will find employment in the factory, and some 150 waste collectors can enhance their income.”

The Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Agnes van Ardenne, president of a jury consisting of Dutch CEOs, commented that the problem has never been a shortage of ideas, but the lack of tools, contacts and resources to make them financially viable. That is why forty selected candidates have been assisted by professional coaches to turn their ideas into realistic business plans. Thanks to this approach the physicist Henry de Gooijer will be able to start manufacturing lanterns on solar energy in rural Cambodia. His plan is not among the winners, but he says “our business would not be viable if it depended on winning a prize. Participating in the contest meant for us that we were forced to seriously think through our ideas and come up with something beautiful and practical. Providing electric lighting means people do not have to rely on kerosene and candles, but can study and work in the evening. We have already laid the foundations for the workshop. We will start with four employees, which will rise up to thirty people in five years.”

Since the organizers, the NCDO, Fair Ventures with help from Stichting DOEN, considered the contest a great success, it will be repeated this year.

See all the plans here


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