A Travellerspoint blog

Holding Families and the Country Together

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

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Fridah Mugo and her 13 siblings grew up in a farming family in rural Kenya, where the majority of young girls are not expected to finish primary school. But, in 1999, with a scholarship provided by Winrock International’s African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment program (AWLAE), she was able to complete her PhD in Natural Resources Policy and Management.

Now, with an education and AWLAE’s Leadership for Change training, Mugo is working to address the problem of devastating deforestation in Kenya where only 2 percent of the country is forested—in the 1950’s one third of Kenya was covered in trees. She provides extension services to rural communities dependent on wood burning cookers. Training women to make and use new and alternative energy sources, such as fireless cookers (reed baskets lined with cloth that can be quickly heated on fires to slowly cook food over the course of an entire day, reducing the need for firewood), Mugo is helping prevent the loss of more forest and improving livelihoods. (See also: Reducing the Things They Carry)

She also lobbies for women’s participation in agricultural development projects in Kenya and other African countries, and founded an education program for young girls, enabling dozens of girls to attend and complete primary school.

But in Kenya and most of sub-Saharan Africa, Mugo’s achievements as a woman are the exception, not the rule. “Women hold their families and country together. The problem is they have no decision-making power and lack access to resources and education. Those who do have resources can make a huge difference,” says Mugo.

Since its start in 1989, AWLAE has presented 570 women with scholarships for advanced studies, helped over 50,000 young girls gain access to primary education, and provided training to more than 100,000 farmers. The program also provides a network, connecting scholarship and training recipients to each other for support and to exchange knowledge and experiences.

And this support is just as important as the education itself because, according to Mugo, “women are brought up to listen. You’re not supposed to talk. At the training, they taught us that we could achieve anything.”

And, according to a growing number of voices in the global agriculture community, when women are allowed to strive to achieve anything, it is their families and the wider community that benefit. To read more about how empowering women can alleviate hunger and poverty, see also: Feeding Communities By Focusing on Women, Women Farmers Are Key to Halving Global Hunger by 2015, and Panelists Call for Women’s Important Role in Alleviating Global Hunger to be Reflected in Agriculture Funding.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Posted by BorderJump 07:16 Comments (0)

Finding Ways to Put Innovations into Practice

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

2Madagascar.jpgMadagascar, like many other African nations, “is based on rice,” says Xavier Rakontonjanahary, the Rice Breeding Coordinator at the Centre National de la Recherche Apliquee au Developpement Rural/FOFIFA or the National Center for Rural Development.

As a result, FOFIFA works with farmers, developing different rice varieties for different regions and different conditions. Their approach, according to Xavier, is to not only introduce different varieties of rice and different innovations, “but also listen to farmers.” FOFIFA works with farmers to adapt different technologies and innovations to fit their own needs through extension services and on-farm testing.

“You need innovation,” says Xavier, “but when you talk about application, it’s not always working.” In other words, it’s not just enough to develop an innovation—such as SRI, which increases yields, but is more labor intensive, or F1 rice hybrids, which requires a lot of expensive fertilizers—unless farmers are able to practice it.

And while conservation farming practices, such as minimal tillage and the use of compost, can help prevent erosion and improve soils in Madagascar, Xavier notes that the country, even with funding from the French government and other donors, “can’t be Brazil when it comes to conservation farming.” In Southern Brazil, cover crops, intercropping, and other conservation agriculture practices are used extensively for maize . But “lowland rice in Madagascar is very different than other crops,” says Xavier. And while rice can be intercropped with wheat or trees in integrated rice and agroforestry projects, not every farmer in Madagascar will be able to use those practices.

“We have enough innovations,” says Xavier, “but they’re not applied” because of constraints, including farmers access to credit or land or markets. Removing those constraints and strengthening farmers’ rights need to be considered, according to Xavier, if you want to improve hunger and poverty.

Stay tuned for more about rice breeding in Senegal when we write from West Africa in a few weeks.

This is a weekly series where we recommend an artist, song, or compilation of songs, from a country in Africa, brought to you by our awesome friends at Awesome Tapes From Africa. Today’s selection is from Ghana:

allan_family.jpgGhana has a wealth of regional music variation and the Accra area (Ghana’s capital) is home to some particularly interesting stuff. Ga music, as performed by the Allan Family Culture Troupe, is excellent. These are the rhythms upon which the dzama (or jama) style of hiplife is based. But even without the now ubiquitous presence of these patterns in Ghanaian pop I would hasten to say this music is some of the most vital traditional music in Ghana.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.[i]
2. [i]Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/">here[/url and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Posted by BorderJump 11:57 Comments (0)

Re-Directing Ag Funding to Small-Scale Farmers for Improved

Cross posted from BorderJumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

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Check out Food First's most recent edition of Alternatives to the Green Revolution in Africa newsletter (AAAGRrrr!). In a piece written by Richard Jonasse and Tanya Kerssen, Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group member, Professor Olivier De Schutter, is quoted about the threat of increasing corporate consolidation in the food system and how it puts small farmers at risk. De Schutter calls on African nations to increase access for farmers to markets and strengthening local and public procurement systems. Food First points out "that the ability-and the willingness-of developing countries to carry out such policies, however, is constrained in part by the enormous influence of the multilateral Aid regime."

"In their struggles for land reform, democracy and food sovereignty, peasant movements must confront not only unaccountable governments and corporations, but powerful philanthropies and international aid institutions that are shaping every imaginable aspect of the political (and actual) landscape," according to the article.

Ultimately, what is needed, says Food First, is "strengthening smallholder agriculture and the social fabric through the promotion of cohesive farmer collectives and smallholder support mechanisms, local control over seed production and research, and stopping land grabs through secure land rights."

Stay tuned for more about innovations that put farmers in the driver's seat in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

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Posted by BorderJump 09:10 Comments (0)

Despite Financial and Political Challenges,

Conserving Natural Resources and Improving Livelihoods in Madagascar

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

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Madagascar has had more than its share of bad luck in the last year. In 2009, a military coup deposed the government. But the government wasn’t the only thing that collapsed. The island nation’s $400 million per year tourism revenue also disappeared, which has led to increased logging and deforestation of Madagascar’s forests. And many of the NGOs and aid agencies that were working in Madagascar for decades have found their projects hindered by new regime’s policies—as a result, many have scaled back or left the country.

One NGO, however, the Italian-based Reggio Turzo Mundo (RTM), has continued to work with farmers in the country, despite the challenges. RTM works with farmers and farmers groups to develop alternatives to slash and burn agriculture, including organic farming practices that help build up soils.

RTM is also helping develop a manual for organic agriculture for farmers. “Organic agriculture,” says Tovohery A. Ramahaimandimbisoa, RTM’s organic agriculture coordinator, “is not promoted by the government.” In 2009 the former government provided farmers with a subsidy for fertilizer, but the current government won’t be providing farmers with fertilizer or other inputs, forcing many to burn forests to provide nutrients to the soil.

By teaching farmers how to compost, prevent erosion, and keep nutrients in the soil, RTM hopes to prevent slash and burn agriculture and help improve livelihoods. According to Ramahaimandimbisoa, “many small producers in the field are already organic, but they’re not making money.”

And RTM is also helping farmers develop certification collectives for organic products, such as cloves, ginger, black and white pepper, and vanilla. These collectives, says, Lorena Iotti, RTM program coordinator, will help make it possible for farmers to develop their own certification standards and make it easier to export products to Italy and other countries.

Stay tuned for more about agriculture in Madagascar later this week.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Posted by BorderJump 09:04 Comments (0)

A Conversation with Dave Andrews

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In this regular series, we profile advisors to the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature Dave Andrews, Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch.

Dave.jpgName: Dave Andrews

Affiliation: Food & Water Watch

Location: Washington, D.C., United States

Bio: Dave Andrews is Senior Representative for Food & Water Watch and a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, an international Catholic religious order of men. Dave has over 30 years of work on sustainable development, food and water issues, and public policy both nationally and internationally. He was the Executive Director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference for 13 years. He has served on many Boards of Directors including the Organization for Competitive Markets, Heifer International, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. He has attended the last three World Trade Organization meetings, World Food Summits and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Can you describe your recent work and how it relates to Nourishing the Planet?: There are two major issues that have been the focus of my recent work. The first is the Global Food Security and Nutrition programs and the second is anti-trust efforts in agriculture. The global food security issue is one that has arisen from the recent food crisis and serving as I do on the steering committee for a Food Crisis Working Group as well as an Interfaith Working Group on the Food Crisis, two different efforts with a small amount of overlapping organizations, I am watching and writing regularly as these programs develop in Congress and in the State Department. Soon, I think the results will be announced but it has been a yearlong effort. My concern has been to try and influence the debate on behalf of Food & Water Watch, to keep the solutions proposed as sustainable as possible and to emphasize decision making power at the grass-roots level throughout the developing world. At the global level there is similar policy being articulated by the World Bank and by the United Nations. The World Bank has organized a trust fund for development, our work is to keep civil society in the process of decision-making, especially a farmer from the south. At the global level too, there is now a process for revising the Comprehensive Framework for Action (on the food crisis) with significant inclusion of civil society. My work has been to communicate and link US civil society efforts with global civil society. These are significant because the newly organized Committee on Food Security will be the major global actor dealing with the food crisis. These activities are time consuming, intense and involve detailed attentiveness. They are probably the most significant food and agriculture activities nationally and globally for the past 50 years and are meant to go into effect in the next 50 years.

Another serious effort at present is my involvement with the anti-trust work of the federal government. There is a historic effort by the Justice Department and the Department of Agriculture to explore anti-trust in agriculture. The series of workshops around the country are a first. I organized a reception to follow up the workshop held in Iowa and Food & Water Watch helped organize a highly attended pre-meeting which educated the public about anti-trust in agriculture. I am currently helping to organize an independent effort in New York City soon as a teach-in on anti-trust. Soon there will be meetings on poultry in Alabama, beef in Colorado, and retail spread in Washington, DC. One issue I’m researching is the relevance of US anti-trust efforts in agriculture to European and other efforts and the relevance of anti-trust to development. Does the power of a few big companies and their influence impact development? That is a question that I’m currently exploring.

Can you describe the relationship between global agriculture policies and small-scale farmers? We have a global economy and in many ways are a global society. Most of the world’s work is agriculture and most of that is done by women. The small holder farmer is the focus of much of development work today, having been ignored by governments and foundations in development work for the past 30 years. In the light of climate change, gender considerations, and effective pro-poor policies there have developed several policy preferences, one I call productivist and the other I call holist. One focuses mainly on increasing production, the other looks at the ecology, economy and social concerns of agriculture in development. My emphasis has been on the latter sustainable approach, whether focused on anti-trust or global food security, it fully appears to me that an appreciation of complexity calls for a long-term, nuanced approach. That approach has been articulated in the 2008 International Assessment of Science and Technology in Development (IAASTD) report of the United Nations and funding through the World Bank. It fully appears to me that the way forward requires action at every level: global, national, and grassroots. It is a time of challenge and it is a time that requires us to be nimble in our policy advocacy.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Posted by BorderJump 09:37 Comments (0)

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