Algeria launches Rural Renewal Programme (Google Alert / Magharebia)

Read at : Google Alert – Algeria

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2008/01/31/feature-02

Algeria launches Rural Renewal Programme

31/01/2008

Algeria’s Rural Renewal Programme has officially begun, with the training of the first group of regional experts tasked with implementing and overseeing the projects in the field. The multi-billion dinar programme aims to stimulate economic activity in the rural areas that are home to 40% of Algerians.

By Mohand Ouali for Magharebia in Algiers – 31/01/08

The Algerian government recently approved a programme intended to revitalise the country’s rural areas – home to more than 13 million Algerians, or 40% of the population. Agriculture officials will recruit some 20,000 trainers before the end of June to implement the Rural Renewal Programme (PRR), developed by the agriculture and rural development ministry.

The new policy was sanctioned by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in October 2006. Following a successful pilot phase that concluded in 2007, it will be formally rolled out over the next five years.

The PRR will teach officials and citizens to use the full potential of Algeria’s different regions – including local skills, initiatives and existing financial incentives – to fuel dynamic, sustainable growth.

The programme also seeks to improve living and working conditions for rural populations and ensure they do not miss out on the benefits of globalisation. It will also aim at improving food safety at home. Continue reading “Algeria launches Rural Renewal Programme (Google Alert / Magharebia)”

Feeling happy when helping to “Heal the World” (Seabuckthorn / Willem)

Read at : http://www.seabuckthorn.net/index.php/?p=87.

Heal the World: Desertification blog

As touched on in my recent post, Seabuckthorn holds back the desert on the windy plains of Asia, desertification is a grave problem throughout the world, from traditionally arid, low-production areas to lush, productive greenbelts. Human activities (including redirection of surface water, siphoning of groundwater, intensive farming practices, clearcutting and many other factors) are implicated in much of this desert encroachment.

There are committed, effective people and organisations working in isolation all over the world to combat this growing threat, but according to Dr Willem VAN COTTHEM, the owner and sole contributor to Desertification: All about desertification and poverty, agriculture and horticulture in the drylands, efforts to act, research and support activists have been hampered by a lack of centralised information.

As he states on the About page of his blog, VAN COTTHEM (Professor Emeritus of Belgium’s Ghent University and current Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development) has been working for years to compile data and resources relating to desertification, low water agriculture, sustainability, poverty and related areas of interest, first via an email network and now through his blog.

The main reason for the establishment of such a network is that I noticed, when speaking with my colleagues of the Committee for Science and Technology (CST) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), that we all spend a lot of time searching the internet for interesting publications concerning our fields of interest. Everyone is looking for the same information, spending considerable time to find mostly the same articles, all of us reading these texts to see if their content is important enough, and if it is, to use that info for our own purposes.

Dr VAN COTTHEM excerpts portions of relevant articles along with links to the full text, supplemental links and occasionally, editorial commentary. The professor’s blog also maintains a selective blogroll, as well as a detailed and relevant categories list.

Again, for me all this is a question of offering time-saving to my readers. This is not MY BLOG, it is OURS for I am only the administrator to easy up the work of many colleagues and friends. My blog visitors seem to be very happy with this system, as I offer them a chance to save plenty of time by aggregating valuable information on all aspects of the topics in a sort of newsletter, in which I (re)publish that what seems to be of some interest to most of us. This way, we all save time for more practical things to do and meanwhile we bring interesting websites and blogs to the attention of many more people worldwide than one single site or blog could do for itself.

The result is a huge compendium of relevant data, articles and research on myriad topics relating to sustainability. For continuing over hundreds of posts to find and make available information to support sustainability efforts all over the world, Dr VAN COTTHEM’s Desertification is helping to Heal the World.

===============

MY COMMENT : SOME CONSIDERATIONS ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Thanks, Seabuckthorn, for your appreciation of my humble contribution to effectiveness in the daily work of many people about desertification, poverty and sustainable development. Should we all join hands to achieve an optimal return on our personal investments, instead of competing each other for “success” in our individual enterprises, we would make this world quite easily better (or should I say “heal this world more easily” ?).  Let us join hands through our blogs !

The main objective of my 3 blogs on “Desertification” (Engl.), “Secheresse” (Fr.) and “Zaden voor Leven” (Dutch for “Seeds for Life“) is to create a spiritual tie between all those wanting to help people living in poverty, be it in the rural areas of the drylands or in any other poverty conditions, e.g. the urban poor.

A country is much more than the sum of its expanding, wealthy cities, more than GDP, big business or capital alone. Development of agriculture and horticulture, necessary for provision of the basic food for those living off the land, is one of the key elements in sustainable development of a country. Continuously growing attention for development of Information Technologies (IT) should not push the primordial role of farming in a country’s welfare into oblivion.

In developing countries many children die of preventable diseases and malnutrition. At the very bottom, in poor neighborhoods of the cities and in the distant villages, children remain very vulnerable because of lack of investment in field actions and slow economic changes. Supply of clean water and sanitation seems to be the major challenge, but enrichment of food, particularly in vitamins and mineral elements, should be part of their care picture.

Lately, I noticed a certain trend to move some of the agricultural workforce of the rural areas to jobs in industry and services by delivery of improved school education, which is in growing demand in towns, but also in the villages. In many developing countries, education is seen as an important step to enable poor rural youngsters to exit from agriculture, especially in the drylands where drought is affecting annual income of the families. As a major part of the rural labor force is still active in agriculture, some governments try to lower its percentage by opening doors of low-technology industries to better educated young people. Thereby, rural exodus seems to be stimulated, which would be catastrophic for the future of “green” agriculture.

However, if sufficient public investments in agriculture and horticulture would lead to diversification, as they certainly can, important added value would be created. Not only the bulk food crops should keep pace with the growing world population, but higher quality food and cash crops or herbs should become an interesting tool in the quest of sustainable development of the rural areas.

I do not agree that higher income in agriculture would lead to higher aspiration of the youngsters and consequent migration from farming to services and industry, in other words to rural exodus, from the family farm or garden to the factory or office in town. On the contrary, marked improvements in farming methods and infrastructure will make the agricultural sector much more attractive. Better education and capacity building in that sector, fine-tuning and adaptation of modern methods and technologies to local conditions, will yield higher productivity. Nowadays, the aim of developing countries should not be to attract youngsters from their low-skilled farming environment towards a high-skilled industrial environment, but to invest fully in the development of the agricultural sector.

It is my personal experience that still a lot has to be done to improve the daily life of rural people in the drylands. Therefore, I started a few months ago with an action to collect seeds of vegetables and fruits, which would otherwise disappear in our Western garbage bins. Isn’t it extraordinary that our “waste seeds” are able to make children in the drylands healthier ? Time will come that we create a European network with enthusiastic volunteers to collect seeds in their own country and send these to development projects of their choice all over the world.

It is as simple as the “seed of Columbus“: each viable seed can germinate in the most hostile of environments and bring new plants. When each of these plants produces flowers and fruits, local seeds can be harvested, thus making the local poor less dependent on help from outside. Isn’t that a nice contribution to “healing the world” ?

ASSOCIATION FOR THE PROMOTION OF SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION (P&CD / SP&C)

We announce the creation this year of the

ASSOCIATION FOR THE PROMOTION OF SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION (P&CD / SP&C)

localized in Yaounde -Cameroon. Our missions lean on the resolutions of Marrakech, Morocco in June 2003 in the Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Consumption and Production. “Marrakech-Process” includes regular global and regional meetings supported by informal expert task forces and roundtables to promote progress on the framework and on promoting sustainable consumption and production”. Association P&CD/SP&C promotes sustainable consumption and production patterns according to the African Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production (ARSCP) whose overall objective is to facilitate the development of national and regional capacities for sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and promote the effective implementations of the concepts and tools of sustainable consumption and production in African countries. For more information on the Association objectives, see the information notice in the attached file or contact us at the following address:

P&CD/SP&C
Rue du Lycée de Tsinga,
P.O. BOX 8005 Yaounde Cameroon
Tél. : (237) 77 86 22 76 / (237)   22 15 11 52
Fax: (237) 22 20 51 52
E-mail: cleanafrica@gmail.com <mailto:cleanafrica@gmail.com>

Within UNCCD good NGO-friends are very valuable (Willem)

The high value of NGO-friends

I have been active in 1992-2006 within the UNCCD as the representative of the Belgian experts on desertification and as a member of the scientific community of the Convention (CST).  We are all aware of the very important role played by NGOs in the combat of desertification and the alleviation of poverty, particularly in the field actions for sustainable development (agriculture, horticulture, pastoralism, etc).  Looking back at that fantastic period, I am happy to have lived several opportunities to underline the importance of NGO-contributions in successes booked within the UNCCD-framework, although it was not always easy to get NGO-participation in decision-making accepted at the highest (political) level.  I know what I am saying, because I have also been the president of the Belgian NGO TC-DIALOGUE for many years.  Fortunately, a lot of progress for the NGOs has been registered in most of the countries, but not in all.

Today, I received a message reminding me of that successful cooperation with some of the NGOs, in particular the very effective cooperation in field projects, like the one with SCOPE PAKISTAN of my very good friend Tanveer ARIF.  Here goes his message :
It’s me again, your friend Tanveer Arif.
Greetings for Christmas and New Year.
This is a wonderful, really wonderful blog. Please include http://www.dry-net.org which is a EU supported networking project, of which SCOPE Pakistan is also a partner, including 14 NGOs around the world. The main objective of DRYNET is to strengthen capacities of civil society organizations in all regions to strengthen implementation of UNCCD. We launched DRYNET at CoP-8 at Madrid, where we missed you a lot.

Regards, Tanveer
———-

Dear Tanveer,

Sincere thanks for the appreciation for my blog.  You know that, since the very first COP, I asked the UNCCD and the CST to set up such a “well of information on desertification“. Being unsuccessful with that idea (reasons given : lack of money, lack of UNCCD-staff), I launched my private TC-Dialogue/UNCCD network by sending almost every week an email with the most important info on desertification to more than 1000 interested people (The TC-CCD Network).  I was very happy when the UNCCD-secretariat took over this network, but unfortunately this lasted only for one year, after which it came back to me. That was the moment to transform the email-network into my actual DESERTIFICATION-blog.  Today, I am proud to be able to collect info on desertification from the internet and other sources and to offer the result of such a screening to all the visitors of my blog, which in turn offers them considerable saving of a lot of time (see my introductory page “Why this blog?“).

At my age, it is more important to serve others than to perform for personal ambitions !  So, if my readers discover interesting information about all aspects of desertification, poverty, agriculture and horticulture, they can always send me that information and I will put it on this blog, which is functioning as a sort of library on desertification.  That’s what you did, Tanveer, by sending me the info on DRYNET and its website  http://www.dry-net.org , which I  strongly recommend to my readers.

Thanks, Tanveer, and I hope your example will be followed by many others.  Here is my appeal to all my visitors (close to 100.000 already !) : please send me information on interesting publications on desertification, in order to help me to pass it on to all friends of the desertification family.

Send your “desertification news” to :

<willem.vancotthem@gmail.com>

As we move through this holiday season, all the best to you and your loved ones. I hope that you will have the opportunity to rest and enjoy yourself during these days. Let us be excited about finishing 2007 in good health and preparing for an excellent start in 2008.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


wvc-1999_avatar.jpg

Family gardens blooming in the desert (Willem)

FAMILY GARDENS BLOOMING IN THE DESERT

I have the pleasure to announce to all visitors of this blog that the UNICEF ALGERIA project on “Family gardens and school gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahrawis – S.W. Algeria” is very successful. As the refugees are extremely motivated to have fresh vegetables and fruits growing in their “own” garden, the number of such gardens is continuously growing, from 220 to more than 1200 in 2006-2007. During the current winter season, different vegetables are seeded or planted and the young plants are growing very well (see some pictures below). Seeds of tropical fruits, like melon, watermelon, avocado, sweet pepper, … have been sent by many supporters of the project in Belgium and the Netherlands. The Belgian and Dutch press, radio and television paid a lot of attention to this new initiative. Growing interest in Europe now leads to expectations that even a European network for saving and collecting seeds of different species of fruits or vegetables can be set up in the near future. That kind of solidarity with the developing world seems to please a lot of Europeans : “Save seeds from the garbage bin and offer them to rural people in developing countries as part of a solution for the hunger problem“. Isn’t it one of the simplest ways to create sustainable development !

It is expected that this seed collecting action, running until the end of 2008, will get massive support from numerous groups : schools, elderly people, companies, producers of seeds, youth associations, women organizations, etc. More news about the success of this action will follow.

 

Today, I have the honour of offering you some pictures taken during my last mission to Algeria in October 2007.

Overhandiging zaden 01 Overhandiging zaden 02
(Click onthe pictures to enlarge them)
The first 30 kg of seeds brought from Belgium handed over to 2 representatives of UNICEF and 2 Sahrawis in Smara camp.

 

2007-11 Prosopis bij Santé 01 2007-11 Prosopis + Laroussi
2007-10
Rabouni : Prosopis juliflora tree, planted in September 2005 as a young tree 40 cm high , treated with 30 g of TerraCottem in December 2005, watered every 3 days instead of every day. Now alreday more than 4 m high ! Not irrigated anymore.

 

2007-10 Smara tuin van ir. Ahmed 01 2007-10 Smara tuin van ir. Ahmed 02
2007-10 – Smara camp : New family garden with drip irrigation on lines treated with TerraCottem soil conditioner, inspected by two Sahrawi agronomists. Early stages of vegetable development.

2007-10 Smara tuin met boompjes 2007-10 Smara TV tuin
2007-10 – Smara camp : Family gardens constructed in spring 2006-2007. Left, with young trees. Right, with drip irrigation from a drum (water tank).

2007-10 Taleb met courgettes 2007-10 Taleb en jonge courgettes 2007-10 Smara Taleb met groeneten
2007-10 – Smara camp : family garden with courgettes (zucchinis) and other vegetables.

 

2007-10 Rabouni - Zaden van UNICEF 01 p1010373.jpg 2007-10 Rabouni - Zaden van UNICEF 02
2007-10 – Rabouni : Distribution of seeds purchased by UNICEF in Algeria.

2007-10 Layoun - Familie bij nieuw tuintje 2007-10 Layoun - Vrouw bij waterput
2007-10 Layoun - Nieuwe tuin 01 2007-10 Layoun - Nieuwe tuin 02
2007-10 – Layoun camp : Newly constructed family gardens / Family members, engineers, UNICEF people / Women at well, protected with tyre / Garden with millet and recently seeded fields.

 

2007-10 Layoun - Overhandiging zaden UNICEF 2007-10 Layoun - Overhandiging jonge bomen
2007-10 – Layoun camp : UNICEF seeds and young trees from Tindouf nursery, handed over to local Sahrawi families.

 

2007-10 Layoun Nieuwe tuin met Ricinus 01 2007-10 Layoun - Cantaloup meloen 2007-10 Layoun - Courgettes
2007-10 – Layoun camp : New family garden with Ricinus shrub, under which cantaloup melons and courgettes (zucchinis).

2007-10 Layoun - Nieuwe tuin met jonge bomen en cactus 2007-10 Layoun - Dadelpalm met cactus 2007-10 Layoun - Nieuwe tuin met jonge bomen 02
2007-10 – Layoun camp : New family gardens with young trees, treated with TerraCottem soil conditioner, a palm tree with a spineless Opuntia cactus in front / Small fields ready for the Belgian and Dutch seeds.

2007-10 Layoun - Tuin met gierst en groenten 01 2007-10 Layoun - Tuin met gierst en groenten 2007-10 Layoun - Tuin met gierst en groenten 03 2007-10 Layoun - Eenvoudige installatie voor drip
2007-10 – Layoun camp : Family garden with millet and fields with young vegetables / Simple construction for drip irrigation from a drum.

2007-10 Layoun - Minituin met groenten 01 2007-10 Layoun - Minituin  met groenten 02
2007-10 – Layoun camp : Mini-garden for a small family, surrounded by a group of interested people. In that little garden the first vegetables.

2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 01 2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 02 2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 03 2007-10 Layoun- Verzorgde tuin 04 2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 05 2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 06 2007-10 Layoun - Verzorgde tuin 07
2007-10 – Layoun camp : An extremely well kept family garden with numerous different vegetables and tree seedlings.
————————-

Together with UNICEF ALGERIA, I hope that this success story will motivate organizations, companies and private people to support this project. For any additional information, please contact me at
<willem.vancotthem@gmail.com>.
We stand ready for advice on any duplication of this success story in other places of the developing world or other refugee camps.

Seeds for Life : a new initiative in Belgium (Willem)

My new personal initiative in Belgium

Do you want to help me to make the world of the poorest better ? If your answer is “yes”, then go ahead and read this.

Seeds for Life

At the end of 2005, I was invited by UNICEF ALGERIA as a consultant for their project “Family gardens and school gardens in the refugee camps of the Sahrawis in S.W. Algeria“. The Sahrawi refugees (most of them originally nomads and fishermen) are living already more than 30 years in these camps in the Sahara desert. Although some UN-organizations, like the World Food Program (WFP), are providing the necessary food quantities for the survival of these people in rather dramatic conditions, malnutrition is still registered, in particular among children. UNICEF ALGERIA takes care of 3 different programs in the refugee camps: (1) Vaccination of children program, (2) Educational program (alphabetization) and (3) Nutritional program.

Within the framework of this third UNICEF program, a preliminary study has shown :

(a) That it is possible to create small family gardens and school gardens in the desert, in which vegetables and trees can be grown with a minimum of water, when using a water stocking and fertilizing soil conditioner like TerraCottem (see <www.terracottem.com>.

(b) That is possible to “teach” quite easily children and adults (without any agricultural experience) how to grow fresh vegetables and fruits.

A Technical Committee and some Sahrawi agronomists take care of the follow-up of this interesting project.

In that part of the Sahara desert, the region of Tindouf, there are two seasons for horticulture : (1) The autumn and winter season (September – January), in which several vegetables like lettuce, carrots, onions, garlic, beetroots, peas, beans, eggplants, parsley, … can be grown, and (2) The spring and summer season (February – June) when temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius and vegetables do not grow anymore. This is the time for growing “tropical” species, like melon, watermelon, pumpkin, sweet pepper, chilipepper, etc.

Construction of small gardens is not a problem : people are building a low wall with bricks of local soil to protect their “garden” against goats and sheep. Training the local people and children is not a problem too, and even a minimal quantity of rather brackish water is available. Thus, using the water stocking soil conditioner TerraCottem, one can keep the garden soil moistened for quite a time without excessive irrigation.

The most difficult part of the project seems to be the delivery of seeds, as quality seeds are quite expensive on the market. However, taking into account that there is no necessity whatever to provide selected quality seeds or special varieties to these people in the desert, they can do a good job with seeds of an average quality, as long as they can produce juicy fresh vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins.

This is the basic reason why I asked in August 2007, with the help of the Media, my Belgian compatriots to show their solidarity with the refugees in Algeria.

I did not ask them some financial support, but only to send me the seeds of the “tropical” fruits they are eating from time to time : melons, watermelons, sweet peppers, pumpkins, papaya, avocado, etc. In most cases, these seeds are simply thrown in the garbage bin.

I was only hoping to get a certain quantity of those seeds to start up some production in the desert gardens. But, imagine my big surprise getting, even up to now in November, every day an extraordinary heavy load of envelopes and boxes with all kinds of seeds. Explanation of this extremely positive reaction is given by : “Here is someone NOT asking for money for a humanitarian project, but only for some seeds, normally going to our garbage bin !“. Why not ?

Belgian citizens got so excited about this initiative that even radio and television invited me for an interview or presentation. Of course, it is quite simple to contribute this way to a humanitarian action, and it costs almost nothing, but a stamp.

I gave the following advice :

(1) When preparing to eat a melon, a watermelon, a pumpkin or sweet peppers, take out the seeds, put them in a sieve and clean them thoroughly with running water to wash the pulp away.

(2) Put the clean seeds on a plate and let them dry for several days in a warm and dry place. Shake regularly to prevent them from sticking together.

(3) Put the dry seeds on a piece of kitchen roll, fold it, label it and tape it well.

(4) Put the labeled seeds in an envelope, a bag or parcel.

(5) Keep the different species of seeds apart (don’t mix them).

Now they are ready to be sent to:

Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem
Beeweg 36
B-9080 Zaffelare – Belgium

This Seeds for Life project aims at improving the self-sufficiency of rural people in developing countries. The project has an educational part as well. Together with their teachers, pupils are constructing and keeping a school garden. When harvesting vegetables and fruits, children get all the necessary vitamins and in the meantime they learn how to use local resources and to start the cycle of sowing and harvesting, so as to take care of their own future. The practical skills children are learning at school will serve them in their adult life, wherever they will live.

MY CONCLUSION

 

One doesn’t need millions of euros or dollars to help rural people in developing countries. Let us simply collect seeds that would otherwise go to the garbage bin! And in the meantime we reduce our waste.

Taking all these seeds in a proper way to small family gardens and school gardens, where they are so badly needed, will be a fantastic solution for traditional problems like hunger, famine, malnutrition, poor health, poverty etc.

Who is afraid of helping me to realize a dream? Let us reach hands and form a wordwideweb to collect seeds for those who need them !

You want to help ? Send me an email with your coordinates and I will put you on my list of “members of the SEEDS FOR LIFE – family“.

 

For more information and some pictures :
e-mail: willem.vancotthem@gmail.com

Website in Dutch : http///zadenvoorleven.wordpress.com (English translation in preparation).

Over 535,000 Trees Planted at 174 Sites Throughout Armenia (ARMENIA TREE PROJECT)

ARMENIA TREE PROJECT
65 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Toll Free: (866) 965-TREE
Email: info@armeniatree.org
Web: www.armeniatree.org

PRESS RELEASE
November 20, 2007

Armenia Tree Project Exceeds 2007 Pledge to United Nations Billion Tree Campaign

— Over 535,000 Trees Planted at 174 Sites Throughout Armenia

For Armenia Tree Project (ATP), this will be a year of significant achievements in community tree planting, large-scale reforestation, nursery expansion, and community development programs. In 2007, ATP planted over 535,000 trees at 174 sites throughout Armenia, fulfilling its pledge to the worldwide campaign launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). As part of the “Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign,” ATP pledged to plant at least 500,000 trees in 2007, as part of Armenia’s contribution to the UNEP goal to plant at least one billion trees worldwide during 2007. Continue reading “Over 535,000 Trees Planted at 174 Sites Throughout Armenia (ARMENIA TREE PROJECT)”

Clases Verdes / Green Classes (UNICEF / Sahrawis)

During my recent mission in Algeria, we organized a workshop for teachers of 5 schools in the Sahrawi refugee camp of Smara (Region of Tindouf, S.W. Algeria). The main objective was to look for opportunities to set up a program for so-called “GREEN CLASSES” (“clases verdes” in Spanish) in 10 already identified Sahrawi schools.

Five schools in Smara agreed to function as a test case to study the effect of some practical activities for the school children concerning their environmental awareness. These activities are centered on the daily care for the environment in the refugee camps, food production in school gardens and afforestation.

One of the Smara teachers, A. BRAHIM was so kind to produce a nice text about this workshop. You will find his text in Spanish together with an English translation by my good friend Jos BUYS of the Belgian Development Cooperation. Continue reading “Clases Verdes / Green Classes (UNICEF / Sahrawis)”

Uganda: farmers’ field schools (Google Alert / allAfrica / The Monitor)

Read at :

Google Alert – poverty

http://allafrica.com/stories/200710021157.html

Uganda: Field Schools to Help Farmers Fight Poverty

 

Proscovia Nansubuga & Ashah Ntabadde

In a bid to control the various agricultural problems, farmers countrywide will have to adopt a new approach – the farmer field school. This is an arrangement through which farmers play the leading role in learning how to observe, identify and analyse the various technologies used in agriculture. The approach requires farmers to design a programme that guides them in determining the duration of their field visits that enables them share observations and recommend the way forward. Continue reading “Uganda: farmers’ field schools (Google Alert / allAfrica / The Monitor)”

Considering William Easterly’s “Time for a grand re-think of grand aid plans” (Willem)

I couldn’t agree more with my colleague William EASTERLY. Trying to concentrate on some of his ideas, I made a short list of his valuable points:

(1) Over the past five decades, the West has donated US$2.3 trillion in foreign aid to poor countries. Most of this money has been funneled into a series of grand plans to eradicate poverty…

(2) African children are still dying of malaria for sleeping without a mosquito net and for lack of 12 US cent medicines that could treat them once infected. Of course, aid has helped, mainly through piecemeal efforts such as oral rehydration therapy to counteract the effects of diarrhoea, or with sanitation projects. It is this type of success that is more feasible than a grand plan aiming, for example, to provide everyone in the world with clean water by 2015.

(3) Although the West’s ambitious plans to end poverty are well intended, they are doomed to failure by an apparent refusal to learn from previous mistakes, their unaccountability and because they try to solve everything at once. It’s time for a re-think. Aid programmes must be driven by economic principles: find out what is in demand, rather than assuming what poor people need. Ensure that aid actually reaches the people it’s aimed at. Rather than planning what Western aid should do, we should find out what it can do.

(4) Small-scale, piecemeal plans are far more likely to succeed and be taken up by local communities.

(5) Big plans may garner public support, but they can backfire as a cynical backlash if their promises are not kept. By contrast, public goodwill is generated when many poor people are seen to benefit through smaller, accountable initiatives.

(6) …let aid agencies find their own methods for specific interventions (rather than having them dictated from the top) and let them be accountable for their results through independent evaluation.

(7) One approach would be to use development vouchers for the extremely poor, which could be redeemed at any aid agency for benefits such as vaccinations, textbooks or seeds.

…………

As “the West has donated US$2.3 trillion in foreign aid to poor countries”… isn’t that an awfull lot of money for the actual achievements? I am convinced that, if this mountain of dollars had been spent for a larger part on programs like vaccinations (UNICEF?), education (construction of class rooms and sanitary installations, decent payment of teachers and vulgarization workers, textbooks, stationery…), and construction of small family gardens and school gardens, to name but these, it would have thrown a different light on today’s “partial success” of the MDGs.

The remarkable successes booked with mosquito nets, anti-malaria medicines, oral rehydration therapy to counteract the effects of diarrhoea and other sanitation projects should be nice examples of “best practices” to be multiplied at a global scale. However, why is it so difficult to convince “decision-makers”, foundations, sponsors, rock stars, etc. to concentrate their efforts on such success stories? Who is for instance understanding the “urgent need” to eradicate poverty in the Third World by offering cell phones and wireless to the poor rural people (see former messages on this blog), instead of teaching them how to produce their own food by combining traditional methods with modern and cost-effective agricultural and horticultural technologies? (“Don’t send them food, but teach them how to grow it“).

You are fully right, William Easterly, in saying that: “It’s time for a re-think. Aid programmes must be driven by economic principles: find out what is in demand, rather than assuming what poor people need. Ensure that aid actually reaches the people it’s aimed at. Rather than planning what Western aid should do, we should find out what it can do”. The most important thing in demand is FOOD, because malnutrition leads automatically to poor health and thus to a number of diseases. What’s the sense of vaccinating children if they are subject to chronic malnutrition? Take the example of those poor kids in the refugee camps, chronically undernourished and too weak to resist the harsh conditions of the environment in which their families live. Do they really need a free cell phone or a wireless, like some interested people declare? Never in those conditions! Let us offer instead more opportunities to aid agencies to set up “small-scale, piecemeal plans that are far more likely to succeed and be taken up by local communities“. Let us follow the example of UNICEF ALGERIA, building family gardens and school gardens in refugee camps to improve drastically the standards of living of the children and adults, who lived for years without decent fresh food.

I also take Easterly’s point that “public goodwill is generated when many poor people are seen to benefit through smaller, accountable initiatives“. Here is a good example of it: many Europeans got already tired of being invited by numerous NGOs, year after year, to offer some financial contribution for their aid actions. One of the reasons for this “growing reticence” is the lack of “visibility of the results” of that panoply of aid actions all over the world.

But when we recently launched in Belgium the collection of seeds of melon, watermelon, pumpkin, papaya, sweet pepper and avocado, people and the media reacted very positively. Today, I am submerged with seeds. I will take them personally to the family gardens and school gardens of the UNICEF project in Algeria. And that is what the Belgians seemingly like very much in this “new, small and accountable initiative”: they can see the immediate benefit of growing fresh fruits in small gardens, using the seeds that would otherwise be thrown in their garbage bin. Ask the Belgians one single Euro to buy some seeds for a project in the developing world and many will hesitate. But ask them to produce an effort to dry some seeds and to pay for a stamp to send them, and they cooperate a minute later, telling us how nice this “idea” is. What a wonderful experience! What a lesson learned!

Hopefully this example speaks for itself. I am very thankful for William Easterly’s suggestions:

* … let aid agencies find their own methods for specific interventions (rather than having them dictated from the top) and let them be accountable for their results through independent evaluation.

and

* One approach would be to use development vouchers for the extremely poor, which could be redeemed at any aid agency for benefits such as vaccinations, textbooks or seeds.

May our voices be heard for it is Time for a grand re-think of grand aid plans“.

Time for a grand re-think of grand aid plans (SciDev.Net)

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Mise à jour hebdomadaire de SciDev.Net: 17 – 24 septembre 2007

Time for a grand re-think of grand aid plans

William Easterly
20 September 2007
Source: SciDev.Net

Aid donors should re-think their self-appointed role as saviours of the poor, and try more modest and realistic approaches, argues William Easterly.

 

Over the past five decades, the West has donated US$2.3 trillion in foreign aid to poor countries. Most of this money has been funnelled into a series of grand plans to eradicate poverty — plans that have become increasingly high-profile in a bid to attract money from both public and private purses. After being lobbied by rock stars to “make poverty history” in Africa, G8 countries doubled foreign aid to Africa from US$25 billion to $50 billion in 2005. But as advocacy for increased aid grows ever stronger, what do we have to show for it? Continue reading “Time for a grand re-think of grand aid plans (SciDev.Net)”

Cambio climático llegó a los Andes y Amazonía (SciDev.Net)

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Mise à jour hebdomadaire de SciDev.Net: 17 – 24 septembre 2007

Cambio climático llegó a los Andes y Amazonía

Zoraida Portillo
19 Septiembre 2007
Fuente: SciDev.Net

 

[LIMA] Deshielo de los glaciares, aumento en el régimen de lluvias y en las temperaturas, aumento de sequías e inundaciones son los primeros indicios del cambio climático en las regiones andinas y amazónicas y traerán nefastos efectos sobre la agricultura, señalaron expertos durante una reunión internacional organizada en Lima por la Comisión Andina de Naciones (CAN), del 11 al 13 de septiembre. El objetivo del encuentro fue elaborar un diagnóstico y ofrecer orientaciones para la mitigación de los riesgos agrícolas asociados a la variabilidad climática, e identificar mecanismos financieros y políticas sectoriales que se puedan aplicar en el agro para disminuir las consecuencias del cambio climático. Continue reading “Cambio climático llegó a los Andes y Amazonía (SciDev.Net)”

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