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Text for equator prize 2004 / draft #
Please complete the following nomination in no more than five pages.
Name of the group or organization being nominated.
The Susya Committee and Bio-digester Team
Nominee is best described as:
(choose all that apply)
Community-based enterprise or cooperative
Community-based initiative associated with a conserved area or other biological reserve
Other (please specify) A Community-based Committee in partnership with individuals
: (Please select up to three thematic areas that are relevant to the initiative’s work)
Biodiversity Conservation, Sustainable Use, and/or Access and Benefit Sharing
Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change
Mitigation of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Sustainable Forest Management, including REDD+
Water Resource Management, including freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems
Initiative Description and Innovations (300 words or less):
Provide a description of the origin of the initiative
and its purpose, activities, and achievements. Identify the main social and environmental issues and challenges
addressed by the initiative and describe what innovative approaches are being taken to address them.
Susya village has a well-documented history of suffering since Israel's 1967 annexation of the West Bank. The few
hundred Palestinian residents face constant threats on their lives and livelihoods from Israeli-Jewish settler
communities and since the Israeli government considers Susya an illegal village, it does not provide infrastructure or
This rural, Moslem community has limited access to educational resources and consequently, the village children are
insufficiently schooled. Men and women hold traditional gender roles and survive from subsistence farming and casual
labor. Their homes have no water supply, are off-grid, and without a waste disposal system. Fuel is purchased and
water is carried from nearby wells. Families keep sheep and goats, but as the authority restricts access to their
ancestral land, their grazing range has also been reduced. With livestock kept penned in, manure piles have built up.
Subsequently, villagers often burn it in open fires outside living areas. However, the burning manure releases a thick
smoke that causes respiratory problems and poses a threat of severe burns, especially to women and children who
spend more time close to the fires than adult males.
The bio-digester initiative aimed to provide sustainable solutions to develop Susya's infrastructure. The local Susya
Committee (comprised of 5 representatives from Susya) partnered with Yair Teller and Abeer Abu Sara - respectively
an Israeli alumnus and an Arab alumna of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies - to install low cost, household
bio-digesters systems. The systems convert food waste, manure and gray water into methane gas, and also produce a
by-product called "slurry." Together, the residents and Arava alumni have set up bio-digesters in four households.
Alongside the technology, an educational program has taught women and children about environmental and health
Community Wellbeing and Sustainable Livelihoods (200 words or less):
How has the initiative improved
the socio-economic conditions (livelihoods, incomes, etc) and wellbeing (health, food security, education, etc) of
the community? Describe how these wellbeing and livelihoods improvements are linked to environmental conservation, sustainable natural resource management and to local self-sufficiency.
Today, each of the four Susyan households who have an operational bio-digester system are now benefitting from free biogas fuel. As such, they are purchasing approximately half the amount of propane oil than they did previously, thereby saving approximately US$20-30. Additionally, the nutrient rich, bio-digester slurry is applied to the families' olive groves, the effect of which has enhanced the quality and quantity of the olives harvested, thus commanding a higher price when sold as olive oil. Health-wise, the initiative has also made strides. The bio-digester gas does not emit noxious fumes, thereby eliminating the indoor pollution previously suffered by the households because of open fires. In addition, the manure piles in the livestock areas have diminished because they are being used to supply the bio-digester. As a result, the families are less exposed to the risks of pathogens. Moreover, the initiative has worked with the beneficiaries and endowed them with skills as biogas systems operators. In an area where alternative energy is becoming widespread, these skills are transferable and replicable. Finally, the village's women and children are more knowledgeable about environmental and health hazards, their prevention and solution. 6.
Environmental Impacts (200 words or less):
How has the initiative contributed to sustainable natural resource
management and environmental conservation? Describe how these conservation efforts are linked to improved
community livelihoods and wellbeing.
The project contributes to sustainable natural resource management and environmental conservation by addressing village practices that compromise nature. The project has focused on development by applying a sustainable approach to everyday actions, such as cooking, irrigating and fertilizing crops, and collecting animal waste or wood for fuel. As such, the project has raised villagers' awareness of the hazards of pollution and careless waste disposal, while at the same time highlighting the applied benefits of water and waste reuse. In addition, using animal manure in the biodigester prevents it from piling up and potentially contaminating groundwater. Also, because the bio-digester traps methane gas, the project is reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a daily basis. As a result, the project is having a positive impact on the environment, and as described above, has improved community livelihoods and well-being. 7.
Resilience and Adaptability (200 words or less)
: How has the initiative improved the community’s ability to
adapt and respond to environmental, social and economic change? What specific elements of the initiative help
to ensure community resilience in the face of external pressures?
The Palestinian Susyan community is in a vulnerable position. Since 2001, they have been protected from eviction by an Israeli Supreme Court order, yet beyond this their human and civil rights are constantly abused. Regularly, Jewish settlers sabotage their olive groves and pollute the natural cisterns in the hills from which, as they have done for generations, they draw their drinking water. Yet, the project has impacted the villagers' perceptions of Israelis. They have gotten to know the Israeli members of the bio-digester team, and now have first-hand positive experiences of Israelis, leading to the understanding that not all Israelis are like the hostile settlers. This initiative has familiarized Palestinian Susya's residents with low-tech, renewable energy technology and demonstrates how it can help them meet basic social and economic needs sustainably. Moreover, it is reducing conflict over natural resources in the area. For example, the ability to obtain free fuel is reducing competition over wood and brush that was necessary to collect to make open fires, prior to the arrival of the bio-digesters. As such, the benefits of the project are appropriate to the community and it is why more households are waiting for their turn to receive a bio-digester. 8.
Sustainability (200 words or less):
Describe the operational sustainability of the initiative. When did the
initiative begin? What are the key social, institutional, financial, and ecological elements that make this initiative
sustainable over the long term? Describe any plans for expansion of the initiative.
The initiative began in 2009, with research and planning by the Susya Committee and the Arava alumni. It is designed to be a sustainable initiative that employs household resources without harming the environment – applying food and animal waste, reusing gray-water, producing gas and cooking with it, and finally the by-product is also used as fertilizer. Once a bio-digester system at the household level is installed, and the family has been trained in its maintenance, it has a span of a lifetime, and is theirs for life. A number of donors generously provided funding to build the bio-digesters. Over the long-term, these digesters are a sustainable means of social, environmental and economic development and empower the community to take steps to change their desperate situation in a very simple way. As fuel costs rise, biogas has been termed a viable alternative to fossil fuels and the indigenous community of Susya are the first residents of the West Bank to reap the benefits.
Empowerment of Women (200 words or less):
Describe how the initiative has facilitated the empowerment of
women in its approach to community wellbeing, livelihoods, and environmental conservation.
Susya is a traditional Arab Moslem community. Women and men have specific and often separate roles in decision-making and household management. Installing bio-digester systems has provided the village women an alternative to cooking over open fires, a practice which exposes both themselves and their children to respiratory irritants. Using clean methane gas produced by the bio-digester is reducing their risks of burns, a constant hazard in the current conditions. The project trains the women of the household in maintenance of the bio-digesters, and together with the team is working on developing cooking methods appropriate for the methane gas which has lower pressure than propane gas. In addition, other environmental and health hazards are discussed in monthly meetings open to all women in the community. For example, the issue of garbage disposal in and around the community which is a pollutant to the natural groundwater in the area. The initiative is therefore giving the women new information and responsibilities. In addition, they are exposed to women from outside the village who have are leading components of the initiative, sit and talk in the men's circles and overall give a new impression of the range of roles women can take on.
Social Inclusion and Governance (200 words or less):
Describe how the initiative has facilitated the
involvement of indigenous and/or economically marginalized segments of the community in its governance.
What specific elements of the initiative promote community empowerment, community co-ownership, and
The Susya Community Committee governs the entire project and Mr. Teller and Ms. Abu Sara from the Arava Institute work together with the committee to implement the initiative, which has inspired a great deal of meetings and discussions that included all interested residents. A main issue has been prioritizing who will receive the bio-digesters, since there is not enough funding to provide for every household. This has led to a process that has encouraged the villagers to develop criteria to help decide who will receive the bio-digester and come up with community solutions that create the maximum benefit. Some households chose to share the bio-digester, and others have acknowledged their neighbor's need is greater than theirs and therefore moving their name lower on the waiting list.
Partnerships (200 words or less):
If the initiative works with partner organizations, briefly describe the nature
of the partnership, its origins, and how the partnership has contributed to the success of the initiative.
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies supports its Israeli and Arab Arava alumni who are working together to improve environmental problems in the region through peaceful and sustainable means. After speaking with the Susya Community Committee, Mr. Teller, Arava alumnus, turned to the Arava Institute to provide financial backing for the project. The Institute has raised over US$20,000 to install the bio-digesters, have alumni implement the environmental education program and has also encouraged Arava Institute students to adopt the project as a study case of environmental justice. Please answer questions 12 and 13 if they apply to the initiative.
Influencing Policy (200 words or less):
Describe the initiative’s impact on policy development or change at
the local, national, regional or international levels. Has the initiative successfully influenced changes in land use
policy or contributed to national environment and development strategies, or been used as an example on which
policy change was based?
Knowledge Sharing and Replication (200 words or less):
Describe how the initiative has successfully shared
its knowledge and innovations with other local and community-based groups. Has the initiative’s model been
replicated by other groups? How many individuals and groups have benefited from the initiative’s wil ingness to
share its knowledge?
Other Information (200 words or less):
Include any other information you wish to convey about the initiative.
Please provide name, position, organization, street address, city / town, postal code,
province or state, country, telephone, fax, email, website for the following individuals:
Contact person(s) for the nominated initiative
Nasser Nawajaa, Susya Committee, Susya, West Bank950-0959509
Contact person(s) for all partner organizations Abeer Abu Sara; Tawasul, Al-Raed Building, Hospital Street, Al-Masyoun, Ramallah, Palestine – Tel: 059 9941346
Nominator Sharón Benheim, Alumni Programs Director, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, D.N. Eilot, 88840, Israel – Tel: 052-8964559, Fax: 08-6356634 Two references who are well informed about the initiative’s activities and achievements and who are willing to
be contacted by the selection committee during the verification process.
Yair Teller, Biogas Coordinator, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, D.N. Eilot, 88840, Israel – Tel: 054-7736518, Fax: 08- Dr. Tareq Abuhamed, Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, D.N. Eilot, 88840, Israel – Tel: 052-426261, Fax: 08-6356634
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