Saturday Series: An Interview with Dr. José Daboub

By Devon Ericksen

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Dr. José Daboub of GAIN (Photo Credit: GAIN)

Name: Dr. Juan José Daboub

Affiliation: The Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN). GAIN  is a non-profit made up of global leaders and climate scientists focused on the urgent need for adaptation in a changing world. By measuring what is at risk and supporting projects that are working towards adaptation, GAIN hopes to save lives and livelihoods around the globe.

Bio: Dr. Juan José Daboub is the Founding CEO of GAIN, as well as Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Climate Change. Dr. Daboub’s career began in El Salvador, where he became a respected business leader and from 1999 to 2004 he served as both the country’s Minister of Finance and the Chief of Staff to President Francisco Flores. In 2004 he joined Flores in starting the America Libre Institute, a non-profit that implemented projects in Latin America promoting liberty, stability, and growth. From 2006 until the creation of GAIN in 2010, Dr. Daboub was the Managing Director of the World Bank, where he oversaw operations in 110 countries around the world. Dr. Daboub brings his global experience to GAIN, and shares with us his thoughts on the Institute’s work.

How did the Global Adaptation Institute begin and what led to the creation of the GAIN Index?

The Global Adaptation Institute was created in 2010 in order to fill a gap in helping countries, especially those in the developing world, to be more resilient and have a better capacity to adapt to an ever-changing world. We brought together a group of world leaders in both the private and public sectors to encourage organizations, especially private ones, to be more conscious of the urgent need to adapt.

With that in mind, the Institute focuses on three areas that we believe are very effective at helping to save lives and livelihoods:

  1. We need to be able to measure what matters. We need a proper matrix to know whether policies and investments are helping to build resilience. Creating this matrix, called the GAIN Index, is a focus of the Institute. We believe the GAIN Index is the most modern and advanced tool out there for measuring a country’s readiness and vulnerabilities in order to improve their conditions.
  2. Identify what’s going on in the real world and highlight practical solutions that investors can focus on.
  3. Build strategic alliances with organizations such as universities and think tanks that are interested in the subject of adaptation.

What kind of response have you received to the GAIN Index? Have you had much success in convincing governments and private businesses to adopt climate adaptation measures?

Many companies, such as ABM, Caterpillar, Cargill, Pepsi-Cola, and Coca-Cola, are beginning to consider adaptation risks in certain countries and in certain parts of their production lines when making investments and building resilience in their supply chain. Any company that deals with food production, insurance, water, infrastructure, or energy in the international sphere must consider these factors, and many are beginning to do so.

What are some of the factors used to measure a country’s agricultural readiness and vulnerability in the GAIN Index?

The GAIN Index contains information on the level of irrigation, use of modern technology and fertilizers to show a country’s food capacity. These are factors that reflect the ability of people to access and use technology to adjust to changing conditions. Access to and quality of water is another important factor in agriculture, as it takes a great deal of water to grow food and nourish livestock.

Other indicators, such as “yield change,” show how the agriculture sector might suffer based on the projected impact of climate change. Readiness indicators reflect factors such as regulations and subsidies, investment freedom, level of corruption, and education. These show how quickly and efficiently countries can utilize new technologies, information and investments to build resilience. The Index helps manage all of these factors and reach conclusions on a case-by-case basis.

What are some examples of the GAIN Index being utilized to focus attention on agricultural adaptation strategies?

Through the GAIN Prize, we have highlighted two projects, run by Engineers Without Borders and the Mennonite Economic Development Association, that are building agricultural resistance in Peru. EWB is helping increase irrigation access while MEDA is strengthening the use of agricultural technology amongst small- and medium-sized farmers. These are factors directly measured in the GAIN Index.

What kind of potential is there for the private sector to find profit in adaptation strategies, specifically in relation to agriculture? 

There are opportunities all along the value chain. Small industry and manufacturers can benefit from the sale and installation of irrigation equipment, improved fertilizers and other basic agricultural technology that can increase yields significantly. Farmers themselves can gain by becoming more knowledgeable about changing weather patterns and growing conditions and the strategies that help maintain food production. Research and technology firms can continue to refine varieties of crops that can withstand altered conditions—be they increased aridity, expansion of pest and predators, or more severe flooding.

The potential for the private sector to find profit in adaptation strategies, especially in agriculture, is extremely high. This is not only because of the return on investment, but also the great possibility of helping a country save lives and improve livelihoods. There is great opportunity for companies of all sizes, from large corporations to small micro-enterprises, to make these types of investments and help people have better living conditions.

What can your community do to adapt to climate change? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Devon Ericksen is a media and communications intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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