In 1982, the late Dr. Margrit Kennedy’s work on ecological architecture led her to the conclusion that it is “virtually impossible to carry out sound ecological concepts on the scale required today, without fundamentally altering the present money system or creating new complementary currencies." Now in 2014, at this advanced stage in global capitalism it is evident that alternative economic development programs must go hand in hand with environmental and community development programs. With these conclusions in mind, Koru-Kenya has piloted complementary currencies as tools for poverty reduction and environmental restoration in Kenya since 2010. Based on the successes of pilot programs like Bangla-Pesa and Eco-Pesa we envision here their applicability in large scale environmental restoration and community development efforts.
Complementary currency systems for this purpose begin with knitting together a network of goods and service providers in an area surrounding environmental degradation and social needs. This business network develops a mutual-credit voucher among its members to exchange goods and services. Such credits promote economic development by providing a supplementary means of exchange when poverty and economic instability make national currency scarce. Members of the network can also use the voucher to pay local community associations for resource permits which then in turn pay for environmental management and preservation. Because the voucher is only redeemable with local businesses, the system promotes local trade and economic stability. Thus, the local community’s mandated payments to support resource management and other programs are in turn used to promote the local economy.
Non-local businesses and other development actors can also take part through a matching funds program. Often community development and environmental programs need more than what a local community can provide in terms of local goods, labor and services. They also need infrastructure, like construction materials and expert training. The community collects membership fees in the mutual-credit that can be target local programs. Because these credits are backed by the goods and services of local businesses, they are an ideal means to measure how committed a community will be in joint development or environmental programs. This community fund in mutual-credit complementary currency is what we would like to see corporations and governments matching in national currency to actualize real development, lead by the communities themselves.
These programs working on large regional scales is not only possible, but necessary, to carry out sustainable ecological and community programs on the scale required today.