The history and impacts of hydropower



Water and power: Mega-dams, mega-damage?


‘Water grabbing’ refers to a situation in which public or private entities are able to take control of, or reallocate, precious water resources for profit or for power — and at the expense of local communities and the ecosystems on which their livelihoods are based.

The effects have been well-documented: examples include families driven away from their villages to make room for mega dams, privatization of water sources that fails to improve access for the public, and industrial activity that damages water quality.

This piece, taken from the atlas “Watergrabbing – a Story of Water”, part of a project funded by the European Journalism Centre, outlines the history and impacts of hydropower as well as planned mega dams in key locations across the globe.

Water for energy

The industries that drive the use of water in the energy sector are hydropower, electric energy production from fossil fuels, and nuclear power.

Water is being used by power plants indirectly, for cooling. An estimated 583 billion cubic meters of water is extracted for use in plants that produce energy from fossil fuel and natural gas — that’s 15 per cent of all water extracted. Some 66 billion cubic meters of this water does not return to the supply source. According to the International Energy Agency, by 2035 water extraction is projected to increase by 20 per cent and consumption (for energy) by 85 per cent, a trend driven by construction of new power plants that extract less water but consume more energy per unit of electricity produced.

The burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shifting from rural areas to cities



Food and nutrition are moving to the city

For too long, we have traded off calories for nutrition in our quest to end world hunger. While the numbers of people with caloric deficits is falling, the number with micronutrient deficiencies is stubbornly high – an estimated 2 billion people – and the number suffering from over-nutrition is rising distressingly fast.

The impact of these nutrition challenges on people’s quality of life and their productivity is devastating, and the impact on public sector budgets will continue to increase unless we find a way to achieve food security and improve nutrition. Sustainable Development Goal 2 — End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture — requires no less. That will be challenging enough.

In addition, for too long, most efforts by the agricultural development community to reduce hunger have only focused on rural areas. But already 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas and by 2050, more than two-thirds of those people are going to be in cities. This poses a new set of challenges.

The Global Food Policy Report 2017, published today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), one of our CGIAR research partners, makes that clear.

James Garrett, Bioversity International Senior Research Fellow who contributed to the book, explains that one in three stunted children now lives in a city. That proportion is likely to increase. In addition, overweight and obesity are also concentrated in urban areas. As the report notes, the burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shifting from rural areas to cities, and so we need to ensure that our efforts now and in the future respond to this new reality.

Read the full article: Bioversity International

Social shifts, not just technological


While scientific research is an important component of the development of an agricultural innovation system, it is not enough. –

New Publications: Successful agricultural interventions require social shifts, not just technological

Traditionally, agricultural research organizations measured impact by the number of technologies developed, with less attention given to whether or not these technologies were adopted by farmers and the impact they had in communities.

Today organizations must clearly demonstrate impact in farmers’ fields. Research and extension approaches based on agricultural innovation systems, or networks of organizations within an economic system that are directly involved in the creation, diffusion and use of scientific and technological knowledge, as well as the organizations responsible for the coordination and support of these processes.

This shift represents a new focus on innovation as a social process, as opposed to a research-driven process of technology transfer.

Despite growing interest in agricultural innovation system, little is still known about the most effective ways to operationalize these systems, especially within short and medium timeframes, according to researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in a new paper “Agricultural research organisations’ role in the emergence of agricultural innovation systems.”

The study claims that external input is often needed to generate an agricultural innovation system, and that network brokers – actors like NGOs and others, who catalyze collective action by enhancing farmers’ access to information and technical assistance – play a crucial role.

Read the full article: CIMMYT

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

Few governance systems are yet able to keep up with the pace and scale of change

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 21.20.30


Access to farmland gets quick and dirty in sub-Saharan Africa

Read the full article: IIED

Who can access and use the land? The answer to this age-old question is changing fast in many parts of rural Africa. Land that used to be allocated within the community by chiefs is now increasingly changing hands in more diverse ways. The wealthy and well-connected within the community or from further afield are frequently able to override local statutory or customary land rights, dispossessing the previous occupants or forcing them to divide their already small plots of land. When government-backed investors obtain large tracts for agribusiness, local farmers who manage to participate in the schemes do well, but those who cannot may find themselves in dire need of support. While the scale and pace of these changes are growing fast, policy responses are lagging. This briefing sets out some suggestions for how to close the gap.

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


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:

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