Village Earth

Village Earth: The Consortium for Sustainable Village-Based Development (CSVBD) DBA: Village Earth is a publicly supported 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Fort Collins, Colorado. The organization works for the empowerment of rural and indigenous communities around the world with active projects with the Oglala Lakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the Shipibo-Konibo of the Amazon region of Peru, India, Cambodia, and Guatemala. Village Earth is associated with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) at Colorado State University. Village Earth is also the publisher for the Appropriate Technology Library and The Appropriate Technology Sourcebook , a low-cost rural-development resource initiated by Volunteers in Asia in 1975 but transferred to Village Earth in 1995.

The roots of Village Earth’s approach to community development grew from the reformist tradition of development which emerged in the 1970s as a reaction to liberal and neoliberal development policies which were blamed for increasing income gap and as well as increasing human migration from rural to urban areas around the globe. To address this situation, reformist approaches attempt to achieve greater equity, sustainability, and local self-reliance through an integrated multi-sector approach emphasizing the use of „appropriate technology“ the creation of local participatory institutions.

While the roots of the Village Earth approach can be traced to reformist traditions of development, it combined many practices used in community development programs around the world in a new way. In particular these include:

Village Earth differs from many traditional development NGOs in the following ways:

Village Earth can be most closely classified within a specialized subset if Intermediate NGO’s, referred to in the literature as “Grassroots Support Organizations” or GSOs. According to Carroll(1992): „A GSO is a civic development entity that provides services allied support to local groups of disadvantaged rural and urban households and individuals. In its capacity as an intermediate institution, a GSO forges links between beneficiaries and the often remote levels of government, donor and financial institutions. It may also provide services indirectly to other organizations that support the poor or perform coordinating or networking functions. It may also provide services indirectly to other organizations that support or perform coordinating or networking functions.”

Village Earth advances its mission through the following means:

The CSVBD was founded in 1993 as a result of a mandate on the part of participants at the International Conference on Sustainable Village-Based Development September 27-October 1, 1993, at Colorado State University. Founders were Maurice L. Albertson, (deceased Jan. 11, 2009) then president, Miriam Shinn, and Edwin F. Shinn. The purpose of the conference was to find ways to cause sustainable-village-based development (SVBD) to occur in Third-World villages to help meet the needs of the world’s rural poor.

Village Earth (originally called the Consortium for Sustainable Development or CSVBD) was born at a conference on Sustainable Village-Based Development held from 27-October 1, 1993 at Colorado State University. It was organized by Maurice L. Albertson, (deceased Jan. 11, 2009) then president, Miriam Shinn, and Edwin F. Shinn and attended by approximately 250 delegates from 40 different countries. The purpose of the conference was to find ways to cause sustainable-village-based development (SVBD) to occur in Third-World villages to help meet the needs of the world’s rural poor. The majority of those in attendance were from developing nations, and most of those individuals represented non-governmental organizations working in very grassroots and participatory projects around the world. More than 200 papers were submitted and formed five volumes of Proceedings. By the end of the conference it was agreed that the organizers should form a consortium made up of the participants. The purpose would be to launch several pilot projects, establish a newsletter to be sent to all conference participants and to find ways to make the proceedings generally available to attendees and the interested public. CSVBD was to serve as a sort of information hub for the different chapters, provide training in the methods discussed at the conference, provide monitoring and evaluation services and coordinate demonstration projects on the ground. According to Ed Shinn, “Perhaps one of the most important functions of [Village Earth] is to insure that the local NGO build teams with expertise in key development sectors that can interact with both the public and private sectors to secure needed resources.“

The conference, as well as the roots of the Village Earth approach, were heavily influenced by Agenda 21 produced at the United Nations Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro on June 14, 1992. In particular, its recognition that poverty is not the problem, rather, lack of access to resources is the primary obstacle to building a better life for the majority of the world’s poor. As such, the Village Earth Approach was designed to transform the role of the NGO from being a service provider (health, irrigation, education, etc.) to functioning more as an “intermediary,” working to mobilize village leadership and planning and from that, develop linkages to resources institutions such as governments, single sector NGO’s, universities and the private sector. In development circles, an NGO that works in this capacity is referred to an “Intermediate” NGO.