Former President Bill Clinton greets attendees after speaking at the iDE annual luncheon in Denver on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Clinton spoke about the importance of helping developing countries become agriculturally self-sustainable and alleviate poverty. Photo: Ed Andrieski / AP
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press SF Gate:
DENVER (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit Tuesday in Denver where he told organizations fighting poverty in developing countries that they can make great strides through collaboration.
Clinton’s appearance drew gasps and a standing ovation at a downtown luncheon. Clinton spoke about his foundation’s work in Africa, Latin America and Haiti to help farmers living in poverty market and sell their products.
Clinton spoke about efforts to bring solar power to farming operation in Haiti, where electricity rates are high.
“Solar is much more economical in the developing world where there are no electrical grids,” he said. But combining solar and wind energy, Clinton said, “You can have an agricultural powerhouse in a way that would alleviate poverty.”
“All of these things are before you. This is stuff I’ve seen with my own eyes. These are the kinds of things you can do, and that’s why I wanted to be here,” he said.
Clinton was speaking to a luncheon commemorating the 30th anniversary of iDE, or International Development Enterprises. The group addresses poverty by educating farmers and giving them access to tools to become self-sustainable.
The group is launching a collaborative with two dozen Colorado organizations that have similar goals around the world, and it’s building a center in Denver.
Clinton praised the plan.
“I think the idea that you should work together, pool your resources, reinforce each other and not fall all over each other is very important,” he said. More than 700 people attended the luncheon, and the money raised will go to iDE and construction of the new center, which opens next summer.
Andrew Romanoff, Colorado’s former Democratic House speaker and iDE’s senior adviser, joked to those at the luncheon that “Clinton just happened to be in the neighborhood.”
Romanoff said the goal of establishing a center is to provide a home for organizations and entrepreneurs who want to target their products and services to poverty-stricken countries and “improve the quality of life for some of the poorest families on earth.” Some of the technologies the group has helped develop include ceramic water filters to provide safe drinking water and drip irrigation systems to help farmers where water is scarce.