As an international development student I have learned and read about multiple development approaches from the most successful to the least effective ones. If you’re in the development field, then you have probably heard many times that the ‘’one size fits all’’ solution is most often inadequate as all countries and situations are far from the same. In just a few months I have come to learn yet another approach that everyone can learn from.

I have been working in Lima, Peru for about two months now as an environmental education officer with IPES – Promoting Sustainable Development. This private NGO works towards developing sustainable cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a focus on populations in social and economic risk.

During my first week, I was introduced to a project that IPES works on named RRR  “Recovery and Safe Reuse of Resources”. This project promotes business models that convert liquid and solid waste into physical and financial resources that could be of interest to private and public entities. Within this project a set of diverse actors made up of local and international organizations, academic institutions and government entities come together to establish a public and private working group (Grupo PP) with the purpose of having technical and political dialogue that can promote, accelerate and multiply these business ventures. The group has chosen to prioritize four business models which they believe have financial viability and positive environmental and socio-economic impacts.  These models are:

  • Production of biodiesel from used cooking oil
  • Production of compost from sludge
  • Production of compost from organic waste
  • Irrigation of green areas with treated wastewater

Luckily, I have been able to attend all their meetings and workshops experiencing how efficiently they work towards their goals. Seated at a round table with a moderator, these various actors take turns sharing their ideas and concerns about the advances and challenges of the business models.  The type of diversity that exists within this group benefits a participative approach where everyone’s ideas, expertise and opinions are heard to make more well-informed decisions.

An important aspect of this project is the commitment to providing the necessary tools needed to develop these ventures. For example, last week relevant actors and entrepreneurs gathered for three days to receive training from international experts on Sanitation Safety and Planning (SSP), based off a manual published by the World Health Organization. The purpose of this was to provide participants with the necessary knowledge for managing risk in sanitation systems with the means of protecting public health and adopting SSP as a regulatory framework in Peru. These types of activities give participants the capacity to develop and implement tools of safety necessary for the sustainability of their ventures.

Working with IPES and groups like RRR has taught me that sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand. It is imperative to provide people with opportunities that contribute to their economic development, while instituting a participative educational model that ensures a sustainable future.


Participating in the working group meeting.
Members of the working group.