How to grow nutritious food and to sell it at markets

Photo credit: IPS News

Women organise themselves into small collectives, to better bargain and trade their produce. Credit: Helen Keller International

Farm Projects Boost Bangladeshi Women, Children

“It’s not just about growing their incomes, it’s about education leading to healthier and more productive lives.” — Kathy Spahn

By Josh Butler

Women in Bangladesh are carving healthier, wealthier futures for themselves and their children – and they have chicken eggs and pineapples to thank.

Since 2009, the non-profit group Helen Keller International has overseen programmes in the eastern Bangladesh region of Chittagong, mentoring women in agriculture to produce food not only for their own families, but also to sell at market.

Kathy Spahn, president of HKI, said one-fifth of homes in Chittagong are considered hungry, while half the children are stunted and one-third are underweight due to poor nutrition. In the area HKI works, around 75 percent of people survive on just 12 dollars a month.

“The area is stigmatised and has little access to health services,” Spahn said at an event this week organised by Women Advancing Microfinance New York.

“We’re teaching women to grow nutritious fruit and vegetables, raise chickens for meat and eggs, and grow enough to sell at markets for extra money.”

The programme, ‘Making Markets Work For Women,’ or M2W2, gives both initial start-up capital and ongoing guidance. Women in Chittagong, who may have previously been viewed solely as homemakers, are given tools to grow nutrient-rich crops like spinach and carrots to feed their own families, as well as more lucrative crops like pineapple and maize to sell.

Chickens are raised, eggs are eaten and sold, ginger and turmeric are harvested and refined and packaged using supplied machinery; and women who never before had any control over family finances are suddenly bringing in their own income to pay for education and healthcare.

The future of rooftop gardens

Photo credit: Pictures.Dot.News

New York’s Riverpark Farm

Citizens Take Back Power in the Food System


In their article entitled Deepening Food Democracy, Jill Carlson and M. Jahi Chappell highlight an innovative new take on democratic rule, known as deep democracy that is being used to address the problems in the food system. In theory, deep democracy is a system of governance in which all voices must be heard in order to fully understand and act upon a current issue. Instead of rule by a simple majority, deep democracy is accessible to everyone. It particularly ensures that marginalized and minority populations are involved and heard in the process of creating policy and implementing change. No issue, even the most divisive, is off-limits, according to the authors: in smaller, local contexts there is less emphasis on winning or losing, less expectation that everyone will agree. Instead, say Carlson and Chappell, the deep democracy formats allow for all citizens to share knowledge and experiences and engage in valuable compromises that result in the best scenario for the most people.

So while vertical farm concepts are to be applauded, their construction deserves much more.

New York has been the focus of intensive urban planning, especially in relation to urban farming. Fantastic concepts have been designed that create imagery of giant lush vertical forests, and amazing futuristic spaces, all of which have a very distinct focus on the US city. Perhaps because of its chic nature, stereotypically trendy population and dense population, New York has become something of a Mecca for urban farm concepts.

What some designers are missing in the maze of bright greens and blues of stylish concept images, is that for some time now, New Yorkers have been making the most of their extensive rooftop space and creating their own ground up rooftop farming systems.


Read the full article: FoodTank

Details of precipitation across the planet

Photo credit: Scientific American

The new mix of satellites and sensors aboard the International Space Station provide a flurry of information.
Credit: NASA/Flickr

Rain Revealed in Unprecedented Detail by Satellites

A constellation of new satellites are showing details of precipitation across the planet like never before

By Brian Kahn and Climate Confidential

Few things on our planet connect us like precipitation. The storm that drops snow in the mountains of Tennessee one day can bring rain to the plains of Spain a week later.

Yet there hasn’t been a way to effectively monitor all the precipitation across the globe at once, let alone create a vertical profile from the clouds to the ground. All that changed last year, though, when NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the last piece of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, a constellation of at least 12 satellites that give an unprecedented view of global precipitation available in near real time. And on Thursday, NASA released its first map produced by those satellites.

Read the full article: Scientific American



Deforestation of the Amazon

Photo credit: ZME Science

It’s a black period for Brazil’s environment, and things will get even worse in days to follow; the government just applied (2011) a reform of the forestry code which will make it extremely easy to cut down massively on the rainforests in Brazil.

Amazon deforestation soars after a decade of stability

by Richard Schiffman

Deforestation in the Amazon has skyrocketed in the past half a year, according to analysis of satellite images issued by Brazil’s non-profit research institute,IMAZON.

The results compared the deforestation in a particular month with figures from the same month a year before, and the difference ranged from a 136 per cent increase in August to a 467 rise in September.

“Rates have way more than doubled over the equivalent period in the previous year,” says Phillip Fearnside, an ecologist with Brazil’s Amazon research agency INPA. And the numbers probably underestimate the problem, because the satellite system used, DETER, can only recognise clearings larger than 250,000 square metres. Many farm plots are smaller than that.

Deforestation rates started inching up in Brazil in 2013, a year that saw a 29 per cent rise in deforestation compared with 2012, according to IMAZON. But the latest figures come as a surprise, given the recent trend: deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon declined by 77 per cent between 2004 and 2011.

Global pattern

Several factors may be to blame, according to Fearnside. As the world economy continues to recover, demand has increased for beef and soybeans – commodities that are often produced on deforested land – and so too have the prices for these risen on the global market. The Brazilian currency, the real, has been gaining strength, which has spurred investment in new agricultural projects.

Read the full article: New Scientist

Rainforest destruction

Photo credit: Google

To save the rainforest, let the locals take control

by Fred Pearce

Global intervention in tropical forests to combat climate change could sideline their most effective guardians

SATELLITE images of the Amazon rainforest are startling. Islands of green are surrounded by brown areas of land cleared for farming. In places, the brown advances, year by year. But in others, the forest holds firm. Why the difference? Mostly, the surviving green areas belong to local tribes.

Brazil’s Kayapo, for instance, control 10.6 million hectares along the Xingu river in the south-eastern Amazon, an area often called the “arc of deforestation”. They held back the invasion that engulfed areas close by, often violently repelling loggers, gold miners, cattle ranchers and soya farmers. The Kayapo have kept deforestation rates “close to zero”, according to Daniel Nepstad, a long-time Amazon researcher now at the Earth Innovation Institute in San Francisco.

In these critical frontier zones, the assumption was that government protection could best halt the onslaught. But there is growing evidence that indigenous peoples often provide a stronger bulwark than state decree. The 300 or so indigenous territories created in the Brazilian Amazon since 1980 are now widely held to have played a key role in a dramatic decline in rates of deforestation there.

Similar effects have been documented in many other parts of the world. Forest dwellers are typically seen as forest destroyers. But the opposite is often the case, says David Bray of Florida International University.

Read the full article: New Scientist

Illegal logging – formal agreements to clean up trading routes

Photo credit: CIFOR

Certified timber in a log pond in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Efforts to curb illegal logging may be better-served to focus on large-scale loggers first, research suggests. Michael Padmanaba/CIFOR photo

EU plan to curb illegal logging: Think big by thinking small?

Existing legislation is not ready for small-scale operators, and seeking blanket compliance will outlaw them overnight


Indonesia—Faced with growing pressure to root out “illegal timber” from international trade, some tropical timber-producing countries have a choice.

Massive logging -
Massive logging –

On one hand, they can adopt and enforce a legality verification system that instantly covers their entire timber supply chain, from large-scale industrial logging for export markets to small-scale artisanal operators serving the domestic market.

On the other: They can start “small” and ramp up enforcement slowly.

The decision could have wide implications for the short-term success and long-term sustainability of the initiative.

For a decade, the European Union (EU) has been negotiating with tropical timber-producing countries to stem illegal logging. Recent research indicates that they may have to leave small-scale producers aside—temporarily—to bring their joint efforts to fruition.

Formal agreements are now in place to clean up several major trading routes from Africa and Asia to Europe. A recent paper by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) suggests, however, that their gradual implementation could avoid disrupting the livelihoods of many thousands of people in timber-producing countries. This could be done with “the ‘weakest’ parts of the sector, notably current informal operators, being granted a grace period of learning before implementing and fully enforcing any new rules,” the authors write.

Recent developments illustrate why.

Read the full article: CIFOR

Forests and food

Photo credit: Google


To what extent does the presence of forests and trees contribute to food production in humid and dry forest landscapes?: a systematic review protocol

Authors: Foli, S.; Reed, J.; Clendenning, J.; Petrokofsky, G.; Padoch, C.; Sunderland, T.C.H.

CIFOR Working Paper no. 168 – ISBN: 978-602-1504-73-4

This publication was first published as Foli et al. 2014 Environmental Evidence 3:15;

This review assesses the strength of the evidence that reports how forests and trees contribute to agricultural (food) production in order to prioritize further research for better decision-making. The search strategy employs terms from studies on forests, agroforestry, ecosystem services and agriculture across a range of bibliographic databases, internet and specialist search engines and an open call for gray literature. Retrieved articles will be screened by title, abstract and full text and inclusion/exclusion exercise will generate the final list of studies. Data from these studies will be extracted using a coding tool. Due to anticipated heterogeneity in the retrieved data, we will group findings into appropriate categories as an initial presentation of the data. Sub group meta-analysis by types of ecosystem services and other appropriate predictors will be conducted to show the positive or negative effects of forests and trees on food production.

Read the full text: CIFOR