Lifegiving venture

A PROGRAMME called Local Initiatives for the Environment -- LIFE -- is using novel approaches to finance and implement environmental projects. A product of Agenda 21, the international agreement drawn up during the Earth Summit (1992) in Rio de Janeiro, LIFE is "aiming to be more of an initiative catalyst than a funding agency," explains Jussara de Carvalho, the programme's communications officer. LIFE's projects are designed to improve urban environmental conditions by promoting productive dialogue between the government, NGOs, local communities and the private sector.

Local community involvement and commitment is a basic prerequisite for LIFE financing; with an upper funding limit of only US $30,000 per project, community participation is imperative for the sustenance of the projects.In Brazil, LIFE projects -- ranging from mussel farming to educating small communities -- are being implemented in Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and Recife. Funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, projects have also been initiated in Tanzania, Thailand, Senegal, Pakistan, Morocco, Jamaica and Egypt.