Cattle grazing on pastures that were on an ecological knife edge and desertification.

 

Photo credit: International Business Times

The Sahara desert was lush and green 10,000 years ago. Within a few thousand years it became barren. Humans are now thought to have pushed it over the edge – Wonker / Flickr

Did humans turn the Sahara from a lush, green landscape into a desert?

Cattle grazing on pastures that were on an ecological knife edge could have pushed the Sahara onto the path of desertification.

martha-henriques

The Sahara used to be a fertile landscape with lush vegetation thousands of years ago, but something killed that landscape, leaving only desert behind. Neolithic humans may have played a role in pushing it over the edge of an ecological tipping point, an archaeological study finds.

The Sahara used to be a lush, green environment as little as 6,000 years ago, when humans grazed cattle on green pastures. Theories for what turned the Sahara into a desert in a period of just a few thousand years include shifting circulation in the tropical atmosphereand changes in the Earth’s tilt.

Archaeological evidence now suggests that Neolithic humans who grazed cattle on the Saharan pastures played a role as well. These pastoral communities pushed the delicate ecosystem past a tipping point that led to widespread desertification, according to a paper published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science.

Study author David Wright of Seoul National University, South Korea, mapped the spread of scrub vegetation, which is a precursor to full desertification, and evidence of Neolithic cattle grazing. As more and more vegetation was removed from the land, the albedo – or amount of light reflected from the ground – increased, changing the atmospheric conditions over the Sahara. This in turn made monsoon rains less frequent.

About 8,000 years ago, cattle-grazing communities originated near the River Nile and began gradually to spread to the west of the continent. Rather than the spread of the communities happening in response to desertification and loss of vegetation, the humans could have been actively driving the desertification, Wright suggests.

Read the full story: International Business Times

Innovative technologies for young agricultural entrepreneurs

 

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Turning the youth into agricultural entrepreneurs

Equipping the youth with innovative technologies could expand their business opportunities in agricultural value chain and turn many into entrepreneurs in Southern Africa.

This was one of the major impressions I got from Canadian Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF) entrepreneurship and innovation training last month (21-24 February) in Lilongwe, Malawi, where I also learnt that youth in agriculture face limited access to natural and financial resources, inadequate opportunities for upward mobility skills and experience to run successful business.

This necessitated call of interest from youths on fish value chain to generate and test novel, creative and bold models that increase the participation of youth in fish industry in Malawi and Zambia and maize post-harvest agribusiness sector in Zimbabwe.

YAAD is of the view that the presence of the food science department within the campus will help them raise the bar in terms of standards, nutrient identification but also quality before marketing.

Priscilla Nsandu, YAAD

I gathered from the meeting that the review process was initially developed around five core evaluation criterion: product understanding, strategies for capturing the market, business vision, management and financial discipline.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

A part of the international response to prevent another famine in Somalia

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Women milking goats on the outskirts of the village of Qardho, Somalia. Photo: FAO/Karel Prinsloo

UN approves $22 million loan to boost agricultural work to prevent famine in Somalia

The United Nations agricultural agency will be further scaling up its activities in drought-hit regions of Somalia thanks to a $22 million loan approved this week by the UN emergency response fund.

“More than 2.9 million people are at risk of famine and many will predictably die from hunger if we do not act now,” said the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, in a news release.

As under-secretary-general, Mr. O’Brien heads the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which manages the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

“CERF is one of the fastest ways to enable urgent response to people most in need,” he said, explaining that the loan will bridge a crucial gap and allow FAO to immediately save lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders until additional funds from donors are received.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Wastewater, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater as well as energy and agriculture.

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

A wastewater treatment facility in Manila, the Philippines. Photo: Danilo Pinzon / World Bank

Wastewater should be recognized as a valuable resource, UN says on World Water Day

In a world where the demand for water continues to grow and the resource is finite, a new United Nations report argues that wastewater, discarded into the environment every day, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater as well as for raw materials for energy and agriculture.

Needless to mention, treating wastewater and removing pollutants can also remarkably reduce the impact on the environment as well as on health.

“Improved wastewater management is as much about reducing pollution at the source, as removing contaminants from wastewater flows, reusing reclaimed water and recovering useful by-products [as it is about increasing] social acceptance of the use of wastewater,” noted Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General in her foreword to the World Water Development Report 2017 – Wastewater: An untapped resource.

The report, launched today in Durban, South Africa, on the occasion of World Water Day, also highlights that improved management of wastewater is essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It’s all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities,” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Chair of UN-Water, urging for reducing and safely reusing more wastewater.

“Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase safe water reuse by 2030.”

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) has specific targets on halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally (target 6.3) as well as supporting countries in wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies (target 6.a).

Read the full article: UN News Centre

600 millions of children lack access to safe water

 

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Shown here in this 2016 photo from Siyephi Village, Bullilima District in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe, a 17-year-old girl is seen at the drying up dam where she and her family fetch water. Photo: UNICEF/Mukwazhi

‘Nothing can grow without water,’ warns UNICEF, as 600 million children could face extreme shortages

Warning that as many as 600 million children – one in four worldwide – will be living in areas with extremely scare water by 2040, the United Nations children’s agency has called on governments to take immediate measures to curb the impact on the lives of children.

In its report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and children in a changing climate, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explores the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.

“This crisis will only grow unless we take collective action now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release announcing the report, launched on World Water Day.

“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water – endangering their lives, undermining their health, and jeopardizing their futures,” he added.

According to the UN agency, 36 countries around the world are already facing extremely high levels of water stress.

Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems. These combined with increasing populations, higher demand of water primarily due to industrialization and urbanization are draining water resources worldwide. On top of these, conflicts in many parts of the world are also threatening access to safe water.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Dragonfruit, a cactus with delicious fruits to be planted in all the drylands

 

Photo credit: Google

Hylocereus megalanthus

CHILDREN IN THE DRYLANDS LACK VITAMINS AND MINERALS ?
LET THEM GROW HYLOCEREUS CACTI !

by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM (Ghent University, Belgium)

It’s so easy: just put a cutting in the soil and it will become a huge, fruit-bearing tree-like cactus in the tropics. One could also start by germinating seeds in a mini-greenhouse, e.g. a plastic cake box. Offer them some seeds and invite the children to grow seedlings at school.  Later they can plant them at home.

Why don’t you try it ? Success !

You may also check my video: https://youtu.be/McIp5nuKH9U

I wonder why people do not plant dragonfruit cacti in the African Great Green Wall.  It would be so much easier than planting trees.

 

Agricultural water productivity for sustainable development

 

Photo credit: IWMI

Sprinkler irrigation used in Eastern Highlands on the Mozambique border to irrigate farms. Photo: David Brazier / IWMI

The “biography” of a bold idea

Adoption of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has added new impetus to the far-reaching concept of agricultural water productivity. This is the idea that raising farm outputs or their value relative to the amount of water used in agriculture, by far the world’s biggest water consumer, is critical to address water scarcity.

SDG 6 (“ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”) includes a target (6.4) to “substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors.” For the first time, efficient water use has gained a prominent place on the international development agenda.

fulani-farmer-abdullah-ahjedis-daughter-demonstrating-how-she-takes-readings-from-rain-guage
Fulani farmer Abdullah Ahjedi’s daughter demonstrating how she takes readings from rain guage. Photo: Thor Windham-Wright / IWMI – http://g9jzk5cmc71uxhvd44wsj7zyx.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/fulani-farmer-abdullah-ahjedis-daughter-demonstrating-how-she-takes-readings-from-rain-guage.jpg

Bringing the idea to life

To help realize and track progress toward this target, researchers working with World Bank support have prepared a report that traces the theory and practice of improved water productivity in agriculture. They argue that future progress depends on making good use of past research.

Resulting from a study carried out by the Bank’s Water and Agriculture Global Practices, the new report (titled Beyond more crop per drop: Evolving thinking on agricultural water productivity) is a co-publication with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). The authors describe the origins of the water productivity concept (chronicling its evolution in IWMI’s work over two decades), the development of methods to measure it, efforts to put the concept to use through applied research and lessons learned.

Read the full article: IWMI