From hunger, via best practices to produce fresh food, to ICT
by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM
(Ghent University, Belgium)
All over the world people are starting container gardening at home to react upon the high food prices and/or, in the drylands, upon the effects of drought and desertification. Growing vegetables and herbs at home is nowadays so widely spread, that one can only admit that this is one of the best practices to combat hunger and malnutrition.
I therefore wonder what would be the answer of the African, Asian or South African (female) farmers if they would have the choice between a starting kit for container gardening or a cell phone, “the modern ICT challenge for poor farmers at the global level”.
Shall we first invest in ICT or give priority to local production of food for all those hungry families ? Shall we opt for spending billions in new ICT technologies for malnourished children or shall we first offer them a chance to grow their own vitamins and minerals at school and at home, instead of providing ICT access?
Here are facts, not hopes or speculations: many success stories of container gardening are well known at the universal level, even in the poorest parts of the world, and the best practises are affordable by any poor family. Even for reforestation programmes, like the Great Green Wall in Africa (GGW), production of saplings in containers can lead to successes of survival rate with a minimum of water and thus accelerate the progress of this nice initiative.
Shall the farmers of today get a free cell phone, a free rechargeable battery, never an invoice for the use of their cell phone ? Or shall they be enabled to pay for it ? To whom ?
Even if “ICT helps in the monitoring of crop growth, utilization of new techniques, field management and harvests” (FAO’s Director General Graziano da Silva, see former posting), priority should be given to the cheapest, but most effective way to create food security for the millions of hungry people on all continents, and that is CONTAINER GARDENING.
I keep wondering where the decision makers are heading to !
At this very moment I receive this message on my Facebook page ‘Container gardening and vertical gardening)::
“Something that weighs heavy on my heart… I read all these posts where people in America are dying of starvation and the vast majority are underprivileged children.What makes me just … crazy … is that there are free(ish) resources to help. We could have every single school working on a garden program and giving kids food. We could be legislating that all yards could be, should be gardens. We could be and should be legislating that all of the trees planted for city “beauty” be it parks or just sidewalks, be fruit bearing trees. But how do we go about doing this? I’d so much rather see people picking apples or tomatoes to eat than see them bone skinny and miserable – thinking the only way to get ahead is to lie and steal. Am I the only one that bears this weight?”
Empower women for Africa’s sustainable development
Empowered women are more vital in shaping environmental management.
Promoting active participation of women in environmental management could be one of the much needed key drivers for achieving sustainable development in Africa.
That was one of the prime issues from the discourses that characterised the 2nd session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 2) meeting in Kenya this week (23-27 May), that I attended at the Nairobi-headquartered United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Of concern to me was that environmental changes have different impacts on women and men. However, due to long-standing inequalities that silence women’s voices and neglect their needs, particularly poor women, they are disproportionately impacted by the increasingly longer droughts, more severe storms and flooding, biodiversity species depletion, soil degradation, deforestation and other negative environmental challenges
Experts at the meeting emphasised that women are not only victims ofclimate change and environmental degradation but also possess the necessary knowledge and skills critical to finding context-specific solutions to the environmental challenges.
A woman at her family’s tomato farm in Tartous, Syria, in 2014. The farm is one of the businesses supported by UNDP Syria, which provide food for conflict-affected Syrians. Photo: UNDP Syria
At 50, UN development programme revamps itself to tackle new sustainability goals
A woman at her family’s tomato farm in Tartous, Syria, in 2014. The farm is one of the businesses supported by UNDP Syria, which provide food for conflict-affected Syrians. Photo: UNDP Syria
24 February 2016 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with its presence in more than 170 poor and vulnerable countries, must rise to the challenge of advancing a “big, new, more complex, and transformational” sustainable development agenda, the head of the agency said today at a ministerial meeting to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its founding.
“For fifty years, UNDP has been working on the frontlines of development, advocating for change and connecting countries to the knowledge, experience, and resources they need to help people build better lives,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark told the special meeting at UN Headquarters.
“The world has changed immeasurably in that time, and UNDP has changed with it,” she added.
But UNDP’s core mission remains more relevant than ever, she stressed, citing its mandate to support countries to eradicate poverty in a way which simultaneously reduces inequality and exclusion, while protecting the planet.
“We have already taken steps to ensure that UNDP is fit for purpose in the SDG era,” she said, noting that a more focused Strategic Plan includes the restructuring of headquarters to eliminate duplication and improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as a shift of policy, programme, and other support closer to the field. UNDP also implemented measures which led to the agency being ranked among the most transparent development organizations in the world.
Women test a solar cooker in India (2009)
With the support of UNDP, India’s Ministry of New and renewable Energy in India, has been developing and promoting solar concentrators to reduce and replace the use of conventional fuels that degrade the environment (2009). UN Photo
Women in Mozambique are carrying fuelwood that will be sold by the roadside to create additional income for the rural forest community.
Community-based forestry can be a driving force in boosting sustainability and people’s livelihoods
FAO calls on governments to take steps to unleash its full potential
Community-based forestry has shown itself to be a potent vehicle for promoting sustainable forest management, reducing poverty and generating jobs and income for rural communities, but unlocking its true potential will require greater support by governments through policy reforms and other measures.
Many community-based forestry regimes are showing great promise as engines for sustainable development but are still performing below their potential, a new FAO report released today at the start of Asia-Pacific Forestry Week says.
Under the approach, local communities partner with governments to play a lead role in making land-use decisions and managing the forestry resources they depend on for their livelihoods.
According to “Forty years of community based forestry: A review of extent and effectiveness”, almost one-third of the world’s forest area is now estimated to be under some form of community-based management.
Yet in many cases, while in practice policies may exist for the decentralization and devolution of rights and responsibilities to communities, the right conditions may not yet be in place for them to fully exercise their rights.
The report outlines a series of actions needed to make community-based forestry more effective, including providing communities with secure forest tenure, improving regulatory frameworks, and transferring appropriate and viable skills and technology.
Access to markets and knowledge of market mechanisms are also essential if communities and smallholders are to commercialize their forest products, which can significantly contribute to poverty reduction.
“Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale”, said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen. Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future”.
Sharing best practices
The report also cites a number of successful examples of community-based forestry from around the world.
Back in 2007, I have read with interest the following text published in Development Gateway’sdgCommunities :
“Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa”
“This collection of essays by key experts in the field of international development looks at the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa. This year has seen an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest. The report of the Commission for Africa, chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair, Our Common Interest, set out the themes that dominated the G8’s discussions at Gleneagles over the summer, while a mass movement, in the form of the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, affirmed that the political agenda was matched by a widespread public demand for action. Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies.”
Calestous Juma, ed. The Smith Institute, London, November 2005.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
ISBN: 1 902488 97 0
Document Length: 129 pp.
For more information about this publication please contact:
Contributor: John Daly – Published Date: February 7, 2007
Going for Growth in Action: Smith Institute Report’s Ideas Applied to Africa’s Mining Industry
“Science, Technology, and Globalization Project Director Calestous Juma has sparked a serious debate about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry in Dr. Chris Hinde’s “Comment” column which appears in Mining Magazine. Juma is the editor of Going for Growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa (.pdf), a collection of essays published by the Smith Institute, a British think tank. “Going for Growth” emphasizes building Africa’s capacity to solve its own problems.
Juma starts his essay with “Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
He has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa. See “African Lessons” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (February 2006) for the complete interview.
A later issue of Mining Magazine continued the discussion, focusing on the need for the proposed schools to teach how both the international risk-capital markets operate and mining ventures are financed. African mining operators and investors must be trained on how and where to obtain capital. See “Money Matters” (.pdf) by Dr. Chris Hinde in Mining Magazine (June 2006).
On June 22, 2006, Professor Calestous Juma resumed the discussion by addressing the Human Rights & Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C. The Roundtable is comprised of representatives of the extractive industry (oil & mining companies), human rights organizations, and development agencies. They meet regularly in invitation-only, confidential sessions to discuss issues of common cause and concern — specifically the promotion of the rule of law and open societies. Over the last few years the group has focused increasingly on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement.
This session, entitled “Bain or Blessing: Can the Extractive Industry Help Reinvent African Economies?”, focused on how resources can be utilized to “extract growth” for Africa, as well as other developing countries. Professor Juma discussed how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability. The Roundtable explored the direct links between community/development activities, including corporate partnerships with international donor agencies and the larger strategy of economic development. As companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment.
MY VIEWS ON “GOING FOR GROWTH IN ACTION” (Willem Van Cotthem)
What an interesting text about “the role of science, technology and innovation in encouraging a risk-taking, problem solving approach to development cooperation in Africa”!. This is what we were looking for since long: “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, and all other developing regions of course, in particular when entering a period of “an unprecedented determination by the world’s richest nations to engage with the development of the poorest” (Make Poverty History campaign).
It sounds like a dream-come-true when we read:
“Central to this transformative agenda will be the role of science, technology and innovation, both as a driver of economic growth within the developing countries and as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies”.
Let us go a bit deeper into the “serious debate” about education, entrepreneurship, and Africa’s mining industry, sparked by Director Calestous Juma (see above) when he starts his essay with …
“Most African economies have historically been associated with natural resources and raw materials. There is growing recognition, however, that a transition into modern economies will involve considerable investment and use of new knowledge.”
We learn that Juma “has since called for the mining industry to fund and lend expertise to a school of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy — and be located in the African country that makes the best case for hosting it. The school would have places for approximately 100 students per year and would serve as a model for similar centers of learning all over Africa.
That is the turning point where I am not following anymore the heartbeat of the “serious debate”. Looking for “a problem solving approach development cooperation in Africa”, a continent where drought, desertification, hunger, poor public health and poverty are the main obstacles for a swift development, shall we now turn to funding and lending expertise to schools of entrepreneurship that would raise scientific literacy?
I would rather think that transfer of Science, Technology and Innovation should first concentrate on funding and lending expertise in agriculture, horticulture and health sciences, used as drivers for sustainable economic growth and as “as a core element in nurturing managerial and governance competencies” in those basic fields mentioned above.
I can never believe that it will be possible to educate good entrepreneurs in schools of excellence (100 students a year!), as long as the stomachs of those students will be empty or only partly filled. But maybe we are not speaking about the same students, members of the poor rural communities?
Let us not put the horses before the carriage of the rural population!
If we really want to focus “on community and economic development projects and issues surrounding community engagement”, it will be necessary to first solve the problems of the community’s primary needs, like food and health care, before spending mountains of financial resources on creating “top managers for the mining industry”.
Instead of discussing “…how the extractive industry, which is becoming dominant in many African economies, can be used as an engine of sustainable growth, breaking the widely held view that natural resource extraction is associated with corruption and environmental non sustainability”, it would be better to discuss possibilities to create first an engine for sustainable growth in agriculture and public health, where environmental sustainability can be the crux of the matter.
If it is really true that “… companies invest to increase the local content of their work and managerial force, they are promoting (and could further promote) higher technologies in the fields of business, communications, engineering, and the environment”, I would rather invite those companies to promote higher technologies in the fields of agricultural and environmental engineering, without thinking too much at “extracting or mining natural resources”, because that almost never happens with the clean objective to improve the daily life of the local people.
Crops growing on the outskirts of Fayoume in Egypt.
Feeding the world’s cities: a critical challenge for sustainable development
Providing healthy diets for the world’s growing urban population requires forging stronger links between rural producers and urban markets and building food systems that are more socially inclusive, environmentally sound and less wasteful, FAO Deputy Director-General for Natural Resources, Maria Helena Semedo, said today.
Semedo warned of the difficulties that many cities face in ensuring regular and stable access to adequate food for all. “This will worsen as an increasing proportion of the hungry will be living in urban areas,” she said.
More than 50 percent of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas and this is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2050, particularly in developing countries.
Increasing effects of climate change, including storms, floods and other extreme weather events, pose an added threat to how people in cities, especially the poor, access food.
Re-shaping food systems and making them more sustainable
The World Bank says 75 per cent of the poorest nations are in Sub-Saharan Africa
The17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) could transform the continent
But this can happen mainly through embracing and financing the SDGs
Embracing and financing the sustainable development goals could help Africa develop, writes Alberto Leny.
Africa is in the limelight as the world ushers in the post-2015 development agenda.
The World Bank statistics indicate that 75 per cent of the world’s poorest countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, including ten with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty. 
SDGs aim to end extreme poverty, hunger and inequality, tackle climate change and build resilient infrastructure to meet Africa’s urgent priorities — economic growth, achieving access to safe drinking water and energy, and investments in agriculture.
Water from a river is diverted to a small tank to be used in Ethiopia for cultivation – Photo Fitsum Hagos
Is small beautiful for Africa’s farmers?
More than half a billion Africans, or some two thirds of the continent’s population, depend on farming as their primary source of livelihood. While this number includes pastoralists and the landless, the great majority of these are smallholder farmers, 80 per cent of whom farm less than two hectares.  For many the one key factor constraining an improvement in their lives is a lack of access to water. This is not because the landscape lacks water – far from it: only a tiny fraction of the available water is productively used. The critical issue is one of timing…
Rainfall in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa is highly seasonal. This means that unless farmers can store water and then have the means to access it, they are limited to one harvest per year. Aside from natural surface stores like lakes and wetlands, water can be accumulated in ponds or reservoirs, or underground in aquifers. Then, of course, some form of pump is usually needed to get the water from where it is stored to where it is needed.
Early attempts to improve agricultural water access in Africa usually revolved around the construction of large publicly run irrigation schemes. But the results were generally disappointing: overall the large systems did not deliver the expected increases in crop yields or farm incomes. More recently the focus has shifted to smaller on-farm water access. Both approaches are important, but ceding control of water management to individual farmers has many advantages in countries where public institutions are often weak. If farmers can control their own water access, they have a much better opportunity to grow high value crops like vegetables during dry periods.
The situation is complex, however. Well managed public irrigation schemes can still deliver spectacular results. Individual farm innovations are popular with smallholders, but many do not have the resources to invest. In some areas a combination of the two can be the most appropriate solution to equitable and sustainable water management.
A researcher conducts tests at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Terrestrial Environment Laboratory, in Seibersdorf, Austria. Photo: IAEA/Dean Calma
Science stands at heart of sustainable future, UNESCO says on World Science Day
Citing science, technology and innovation as key components of the upcoming United Nations climate change negotiations in Paris, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today urged governments to “do everything to support societies across the world, on every continent, to create and share knowledge.”
Established by UNESCO in 2001, World Science Day is celebrated worldwide on 10 November each year to demonstrate to the wider public why science is relevant to their daily lives and to engage them in debate on related issues.
This year, the UNESCO World Science Report, issued every five years, is being launched on the Day to identify trends in science, technology and innovation, across every region.
“The key message of the Report can be summarized in just four words: more research – better development,” according to the agency.
This article was written by Helen Mountfort, Consortium Co-ordinator for Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies (PRISE)
Building economic resilience in semi-arid regions: what role for the sustainable development goals?
As the world adopts the sustainable development goals (SDGs) to help drive the implementation of sustainable development, it is imperative that these must do more to consider how economic resilience can be built in semi-arid regions.
Semi-arid regions are among the areas that have been identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as being particularly exposed and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Home to over 2.5billion people, highly variable arid and semi-arid systems are already affected by climate change, and will increasingly struggle to support the people who depend on them unless we can find ways to harness the resilience that is inherent to many of these systems.
The SDGs must consider several major challenges, for inclusive consideration of sustainable development
Working alongside her male team member, a female employee checks the quality of work at a dam under construction in Sri Lanka. Photo: World Bank/Lakshman Nadaraja
Global Goals cannot be achieved without ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment – UN chief
As world leaders continued their Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Women and China co-hosted a landmark event today on gender equality and women’s empowerment at which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that the new Global Goals could not be achieved “without full and equal rights for half of the world’s population, in law and in practice.”
At the high-level ‘Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action’ world leaders are expected to make concrete commitments and firm pledges to overcome gender equality gaps. The event was convened in New York at UN Headquarters on the closing day of the three-day UN Sustainable Development Summit.
“Today, world leaders are signalling their personal responsibility for gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the event. “This is as it should be.”
But, said Mr. Ban, while progress has been made in many areas, there was still a long way to go.
“Far too many women and girls continue to be discriminated against, subjected to violence, denied equal opportunities in education and employment, and excluded from positions of leadership and decision-making,” he continued.
“We cannot achieve our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without full and equal rights for half of the world’s population, in law and in practice. We cannot effectively respond to humanitarian emergencies without ensuring women and girls are protected and their needs prioritized,” he declared.
UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “The highest leaders in the land are taking personal responsibility for their commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women.” She added that now, the world looks up to them to lead the game-changing actions that secure and sustain implementation. Today we take the first firm steps towards 25 September, 2030.
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