Women and agroecology

Photo credit: Farming Matters

Perspectives: Shifting African policy towards women and agroecology

The role of rural women and smallholder farmers in African society has been highly undervalued. This is so despite the fact that around 80% of Africa’s population is dependent on smallholder agriculture, it is the backbone of the rural economy, and women provide over two-thirds of the farm labour. There is clear evidence that agroecology is crucial for women farmers. Now we face the challenge of discovering how its principles can best be promoted and how practice can inform policy at local and national level.

Farming Matters | 31.4 | December 2015

Recently, we have seen unequivocal changes in policies that are transforming African agriculture to facilitate a ‘Green Revolution’. These policies articulate and promote a form of agriculture that focuses on monocropping, expensive external inputs such as agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers, hybrid/GM seeds and large-scale land acquisition. These changes in policies are a result of government alliance with institutions such as the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), multilateral institutions, donors and multinational corporations that aim to produce a layer of commercial surplus producers.  This was reaffirmed in a report published by African Centre for Biodiversity in 2014. For example, soil and seed programmes under AGRA tend to favour the introduction of synthetic fertilizers while supporting and preparing institutional and technical grounds for Public-Private Partnerships in the seed sector.

The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) in Africa was launched in 2012, where 10 African countries made numerous policy commitments in order to ensure agricultural transformation within their countries and ultimately to ‘lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 years’. The initiative is largely dominated by multinationals.  It requires states to revise their seed, land and tax policies and legislation in order to secure investment.
Such policy changes are evidenced through the adoption of Intellectual Property see laws by African countries at the national and regional level. These seed laws give strong rights to commercial breeders while restricting farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell protected varieties/seeds and propagating materials. They favour the use and adoption of improved varieties that are uniformly bred and that must be used with agrochemicals in order to attain high yields.
Read the full article: Farming Matters

Poverty, agriculture and social protection

Photo credit: FAO

Can linking social protection and agriculture end extreme poverty?

by PETER SHELTON

Social protection programs−broadly defined as initiatives offering cash or in-kind assistance to the poor−have expanded rapidly in recent decades, now covering an estimated two billion people living in developing countries. Such broad coverage, which accounts for roughly one-third of the total population living in these countries, has contributed to a dramatic decline in extreme poverty, with the proportion of extremely poor (those living on less than US$1.25 a day) dropping from 43 percent in 1990 to around 17 percent today. Yet research shows that simply scaling up existing social protection programs will not be enough to pull those who remain behind out of the vicious poverty trap.

Why is this? According to Rob Vos from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), social protection only offers a sustainable pathway out of poverty if there is inclusive growth in the economy. Presenting key findings from The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2015 report, Vos underscored the fact that extreme poverty remains highly concentrated in rural areas where smallholder subsistence farming is the main economic driver. The highest concentrations are found in South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, where an estimated 80 percent of the rural population still has no access to any form of social protection. Thus, linking social protection to agricultural and rural development efforts has many practical advantages for pulling the greatest number of people out of extreme poverty.

Read the full story: IFPRI

Food crisis in South Sudan

 

Photo credit: FAO

Internally displaced women seeks refuge from the ongoing violence in the swamps of Unity state, cooking her last supply of sorghum.

UN agencies warn of escalating food crisis in South Sudan

Rise in hunger at harvest time; harsh and prolonged 2016 lean season approaching

Joint FAO-UNICEF-WFP News Release

South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 2.8 million people — nearly 25 percent of the country’s population — remain in urgent need of food assistance, and at least 40,000 people are on the brink of catastrophe, three UN agencies warned today.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) stressed that these numbers are particularly worrisome because they show an increase in hunger during the post-harvest period — a time when the country is traditionally most food secure.

The number of food insecure people is expected to peak during the coming lean season — traditionally worst between April and July — when food availability is lowest.  Humanitarian partners have released an update to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, which projects that the lean season will start early this year, and the hunger period will be longer than in previous years.

The three UN agencies noted that the dry season, which is now beginning, could bring additional hardship to people facing the most severe levels of hunger. People displaced in conflict-affected Unity State, who have been living on fish and water lilies to survive, are running out of their only remaining sources of food as the floods recede. Livestock raiding has robbed many people of essential animal products like milk, which were their main means of survival during last year’s lean season. Unless humanitarian assistance can reliably reach them during the dry season, they face catastrophe in the coming months.

For this reason, the UN agencies are calling for a speedy implementation of the peace agreement signed last year, and for unrestricted access to conflict areas to deliver much needed supplies to the most affected areas.

Read the full article: FAO

Drought and food insecurity in Somalia

Photo credit: FAO

A displaced Somali in a settlement near Dhobley Town.

Somalia continues to face large-scale food insecurity compounded by poor rainfall and drought

38 percent of the population classified as acutely food insecure; 304,700 children acutely malnourished

A Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit – Somalia (FSNAU) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) Technical Release

Somalia will continue to face large-scale food insecurity between now and June 2016 as a result of poor rainfall and drought conditions in several areas, trade disruptions, and a combination of protracted and new population displacements — all of which have been exacerbated by chronic poverty. Acute malnutrition remains high in many parts of the country.

The latest findings from a joint countrywide seasonal assessment by the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit for Somalia (FSNAU, a project managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a project funded by USAID, indicate that 931,000 people will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3)* and 22,000 more people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) across Somalia through June 2016. Of the total number of people in Crisis and Emergency, internally displaced persons (IDPs) represent 68 percent, rural populations 26 percent, and urban populations 6 percent.

Approximately 3.7 million additional people across the country are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through mid-2016.

In total, the assessment reports that nearly 4.7 million people or 38 percent of the total population of Somalia are acutely food insecure and will be in need of humanitarian assistance between now and June 2016.

The assessment involved 39 separate nutrition surveys conducted from October to December 2016 by FSNAU and partners across Somalia.

Results from these surveys indicate that an estimated 304,700 children under the age of five were acutely malnourished at the time of the survey. This includes 58,300 children under the age of five that are severely malnourished and face increased risk of morbidity and death.

Read the full article: FAO

Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?

 

Photo credit: * Drums – rain harvesting – Photo Vc Lim – 543009_339426419459768_100001772389418_778512_1937205101_n.jpg

 

Managing groundwater – Gestion de la nappe aquifère

 

Originally published at:

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/03/08/managing-groundwater-gestion-de-la-nappe-aquifere/

 

RESUME FRANCAIS

Le nombre de forages construits dans des régions arides grandit continuellement et provoque une baisse considérable de la nappe aquifère. Il est donc nécessaire d’appliquer une gestion efficace de cette nappe afin de ne pas créer des grands problèmes de tout genre. Nous recommandons donc de se concentrer aussi sur la collecte de l’eau de pluie et sur le stockage de la pluie dans la zone de l’enracinement des plantes (20-30 cm), p.ex. avec le conditionneur de sol TerraCottem.

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I have been reading today (2007-03-08) an interesting article on “Managing groundwater for dry season irrigation”, written by I.M. FAISAL, S. PARVEEN and M.R. KABIR. Should you look for the full text, please find it on “id21 natural resources highlights – water – 2006“, an annual publication of the Institute of Development Studies – University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, to which you can easily subscribe.

The article mentioned above tells us first:

Using groundwater for dry season irrigation has been the preferred strategy of the Bangladesh govenment for many years. For example, the privatisation of irrigation in the 1990s led to huge growth in the number of shallow tube-wells. However, groundwater must be managed carefully: there is not enough information available on national groundwater resources to understand or predict long-term environmental impacts of continued use“.

Having noticed myself the dramatic fall of the groundwater level over the years 1975-2005 in many African Sahel countries, I could not agree more with the statement above. Most probably, this fall is not only caused by the well-known continuous drought in that region, but also to the ever growing number of wells and pumps. It would be wise to ring the alarm bell for any proliferation of the well-intended “humanitarian” projects to drill more and deeper wells to “bring water to people and animals“. On the contrary, it would be wiser to take better care ofwater harvesting and to look for more efficient water use, like these authors say.  The authors also tell us: “Most water projects in Bangladesh have a narrow focus, such as flood control, drainage or irrigation. Social, economic and environmental factors are largely ignored and there is little monitoring or evaluation. The Barind Multipurpose Development Project (BMDP) consciously tries to overcome these problems to meet the challenges of creating the physical and social infrastructure necessary for groundwater irrigation in a semi-arid area. For example, the project encourages maximum use of carefully spaced deep tube-wells (DTWs), which minimises water wastage.

………..

The BMDP also constantly monitors quality and quantity of groundwater and aquifer levels. Thousands of poorly maintained rainwater collection tanks have been renovated.

…………

Several positive features of this approach are mentioned:

° Water use groups, consisting of users from many different social groups and institutions, give feedback to BMDP managers to improve project performance.-

° A large reforestation campaign and distribution of medicinal plant seedlings are examples of the project’s environmental improvement activities.

According to the authors several problems are encountered, the most significant being when hand wells, used to collect drinking water, began to dry up in DTW target areas. It has highlighted a need to integrate the planning of irrigation projects with drinking water supplies. This phenomenon is also widespread in semi-arid areas in Africa, and probably on other continents too.

It brings me to the following question:

Why are many people so careless about water harvesting and water stockage in the soil?

Rainwater that comes free from the sky runs off, infiltrates deep or evaporates without any human action to stop this. Oh yes, we will construct dams (or even little dikes – diguettes) and we will install expensive tube-wells and pumps. In other words, first we do nothing and then we spend a lot of energy (and money) to bring the water back where it belongs, i.e. in the rooting zone of the cultivated fields.

It would be more logic and more efficient to collect that free rainwater mechanically (in drums or bigger reservoirs/tanks) or chemically (with water stocking substances that can easily be mixed with the soil, let us say 20-30 cm/ 1 foot deep).

Ever heard about the TerraCottem soil conditioner developed at my laboratory at the University of Ghent, Belgium? Please have a look at the websitehttp://www.terracottem.com and learn something about efficient use of rainwater.

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Family garden of the Saharawis refugees in the Sahara desert (S. W. Algeria) – (UNICEF project 2005-2007)- Photo WVC P1000375 copy 1.jpg

 

Vegetable garden in the Sahara desert (Smara refugee camp, Algeria). Soil is pure desert sand without any amendment. Drip irrigation every day. Very poor production.

Jardin de légumes au Sahara (camp des réfugiés à Smara, Algérie). Le sol est du sable du désert pur sans aucun amendement. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les jours. Production très pauvre.

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Photo WVC P1000372 copy 1.jpg – Family garden in the refugee camps in S.X. Algeria ( Sahara desert)

Neighbour’s garden in the same Smara refugee camp. Desert sand mixed with 50 g of TerraCottem soil conditioner/25 cm deep. Drip irrigation every two days. Magnificent production.

Le jardin du voisin dans le même camp de Smara. Sable du désert mélangé avec 50 g de conditionneur de sol TerraCottem/25 cm de profondeur. Irrigation goutte-à-goutte tous les 2 jours. Production magnifique.

 

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Instead of letting all the rainwater become groundwater, let us use it for keeping our fields moistened for a longer period. And don’t miss that important information: TerraCottem soil conditioner is only applied one single time ! It stays active in the soil for many years.

You don’t believe it? Give it a try !

The endeavours of women in the drylands to provide healthy fresh food for their children

 

Originally published at:

https://desertification.wordpress.com/2007/03/08/one-world-new-zealandalgeria-un-monde-unique-la-nouvelle-zelandealgerie/

One world: New Zealand/Algeria – Un monde unique: La Nouvelle Zélande/Algérie

MESSAGE FROM THE ANTIPODS

I just received this nice message from Jenny LITCHFIELD (New Zealand, 2007):

Dear Willem,

That’s very kind of you to write. Thank you. Your Desertification link has been added to my blog. Your project reports are fascinating to read. I had no idea such work existed in this arid region – perhaps, unfortunately, that’s a reflection of how remote New Zealand is. The impression I get is that essentially we want the same things for our families and loved ones. My heart goes out to the women in Algeria and I admire their endeavours to provide healthy fresh food for their children with your support. My gardening messages are informed by practical gardening experiences, personal observations, knowledge passed on from older people I have known, intuition, a strong sense of ecological values, reflection and lots of reading. I love to engage children in the environment in naturally occurring ways. I am a specialist teacher of learning and behaviour in secondary schools and understand only too well the basic human needs of children and youth must be met in order that they might learn in ways that have meaning to them and in ways that are relevant to their lives. Kind regards, Jenny.

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2007-01 – Boumerdès (Algeria). A school where love for nature and the right ecological principles is visible all over the premises. Here we start a school garden for vegetable production. Photo WVC P1000675 copy 1.jpg – Boumerdès (Algérie). Une école où l’amour pour la nature et les bons principes écologiques est visible partout. Ici nous construisons un jardin potager de l’école.
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2007-01 – Girls and boys in the Boulerdès school (Algeria) already made a collection of medicinal plants. – Photo WVC P1000677 copy 1.jpg – Filles et garçons soignent déjà leur collection de plantes médicinales

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Well Jenny, that’s the way I love to cooperate with likeminded people from all over the world. It shows how close our minds are, right across oceans and frontiers, as if New Zealand and Algeria are neigbours of Belgium. Our minds should never be divided by political or religious barriers. We should never hesitate to help people living in conditions much worse than ours. Development cooperation is one of the nicest things on earth: we are able to share our experience and expertise with the people in the developing world to make their standards of living better too. And gardening is one of the nicest and most practical fields . Let us not be selfish ! Sharing our knowledge and transferring our cost-effective and affordable technologies should be considered as one of the important step towards effective development aid. Therefore, let us try to translate our experience into simple and practical methods, easily applicable in the developing world, where human beings are counting upon our contributions. Sincere thanks, Willem.

RESUME FRANCAIS

Voici un message de Jenny LITCHFIELD (Nouvelle Zélande). Elle trouve les rapports sur nos projets dans les régions arides fascinants. En fait, nous voulons tous et toutes la même chose pour nos familles et ceux qui nous sont chers. Le coeur de Jenny bat pour les femmes de l’Algérie et les efforts qu’elles produisent pour obtenir une nourriture saine pour leurs familles, avec l’aide de l’UNICEF. Professeur à l’enseignement secondaire, Jenny comprend très bien les besoins de base des enfants.

C’est bien de ce trouver à la même longeur d’ondes!

Are we killing the earth?

 

 

Population, agriculture and energy: Are we killing the earth?

What is the future of earth?futureearth

As the world’s population grows, the already depleted natural resources are reduced further. As citizens of the planet, we are the only ones who can change how we live in order to make the way we live sustainable. Continuing to consume like we are does not seem sustainable without new innovations being created.

In the 1960s the planet reached what the scientists said was the max capacity of human beings at 3 billion. We were told this was the optimal number of people for earth to sustain. We are now at 7.4 billion with projections of around 8.9 billion by 2050. In order for this enormous population to survive, we had to adapt. What is known as the Green Revolution occurred.

greenrevolution

We began monoculture, created fertilizer and pesticides, dwarf crops, irrigation and genetically modified crops in order to produce enough food to feed the world. These practices have impacted the earth negatively in a number of ways. Water systems have been affected by either being diverted or polluted by agriculture. In addition, farms on such a scale have diminished biodiversity and have damaged ecosystems. Agriculture is just one aspect of the consumption that occurs around the globe. Since food is kind of important to us, how we grow that food should be as well.

Food is not the only resource we are consuming. Energy consumption is another issue as standards of living in nations around the globe continue to rise. This energy currently comes mostly from a nonrenewable source: fossil fuels.

Read the full story: Restore our Planet