id21RuralNews (id21)

*** id21RuralNews, Number 28, May 2008 ***



Understanding poverty in rural Mexico

In situations where inequality and ethnicity are important aspects of poverty, policymakers need to understand the range of strategies people use to survive. Different groups within communities use different livelihood strategies, according to their wealth. To achieve sustainable development, policies must be targeted at their varying needs.

Moving out of poverty in rural Bangladesh

Over the last decade, high economic growth in Bangladesh has resulted in millions of people becoming less poor. However, the country remains one of the poorest in the world, and around a quarter of the population continue to live in extreme poverty. What factors contribute to sustainable poverty reduction in rural Bangladesh?

Understanding the dynamics of poverty in Bangladesh

Strategies to reduce poverty will be more effective if we understand how and why people fall into, stay in and move out of poverty. In rural Bangladesh, one way to do this is to listen to the people themselves: what their own perceptions of poverty are, and what has best helped them escape from poverty.

Does education reduce poverty in rural Bangladesh?

Poverty is a cause of a lack of education, as well as an effect. Is education contributing to poverty reduction in rural homes in Bangladesh? What impact does poverty have on enrolment rates in primary and secondary school? Continue reading “id21RuralNews (id21)”

Amazon Under Threat From Cleaner Air (Google / Science Daily)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

Amazon Under Threat From Cleaner Air

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2008) — The Amazon rainforest, so crucial to the Earth’s climate system, is coming under threat from cleaner air say prominent UK and Brazilian climate scientists in the journal Nature. The new study identifies a link between reducing sulphur dioxide emissions from burning coal and increasing sea surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic, resulting in a heightened risk of drought in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest contains about one tenth of the total carbon stored in land ecosystems and recycles a large fraction of the rainfall that falls upon it. So any major change to its vegetation, brought about by events like deforestation or drought, has an impact on the global climate system. Continue reading “Amazon Under Threat From Cleaner Air (Google / Science Daily)”

Family gardens and urban gardening to reverse the world’s food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens and urban gardening to reverse the world’s food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

Planting a tree helps the planet (Canada / The Gazette)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Planting a tree – or any plant – helps the planet

Edmonton Journal

How does gardening figure into the carbon credit issue?  Well, the “plant a tree; save the planet” principle, although simplistic, has a fair bit of merit. A tree is about 45-per-cent carbon. Therefore, a 100-kilogram tree contains about 45 kilograms of carbon that’s not floating around in our atmosphere. Trees draw in carbon dioxide from the air that we breathe and, with the aid of the sun’s energy, convert the carbon dioxide into a myriad of compounds. The bigger the tree, the more carbon that’s tied up in its tissues.

The basic principle to keep in mind is when it comes to keeping carbon out of the air we breathe, sowing or transplanting any plant is always better than not planting at all. The other side of the carbon credit/gardening issue is the offsetting of food transportation.


Water for All News – April 2008 (adb / IISD)

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Water Issues Announcement List <>

Water for All News – April 2008

Issue 36, April 2008

Ecological Sanitation
Earth- and People-Friendly Toilets for a Cleaner, Healthier Asia

Online Version – <;

Conventional sanitation solutions are expensive— one reason why close to 2 billion people in the Asia and Pacific region still defecate in the open or make do with crude sanitation facilities. Fortunately, a cheaper and environmentally-friendly alternative exists. Ecological sanitation, or ecosan, is an approach that protects human health, conserves water, prevents water pollution, and returns to the soil valuable nutrients that would otherwise have been discarded, helping to ensure food security along the way. This issue focuses on the gains of countries and communities as they embrace the ecosan way of life.


Bindeshwar Pathak on Crusading for Human and Environmental Dignity
“Affordable and sustainable technology is essential for social reform,” says Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organization. That’s why he turned to technology when he started his crusade to restore the dignity of scavengers who clean up human excreta, treated as the lowest of the low in Indian society. His innovations have since improved the lives of millions and liberated over 120,000 scavengers from the scorn and humiliation their work engenders. <;


Philippines: San Fernando’s Dry Alternative
Three years ago, residents of coastal and upland villages in San Fernando City polluted their drinking water with their own excreta. Today, they take pains to practice safe hygiene and sanitation. An innocent looking dry toilet and an untiring city mayor propelled this shift through a 2-town ecological sanitation pilot project that has evolved into a citywide movement. Can the city carry the momentum forward to the entire province and neighboring towns? <;


Benchmarking Program for Central Asian Water Utility Network Takes Off
Member of the Central Asia and South Caucasus Water Utilities Network (CASCWUA) met on 22-28 March in Tashkent for a workshop on performance benchmarking and continuous improvement, marking the start of CASCWUA’s first initiative to develop the capacity and improve the service levels of its members. The workshop was followed by a meeting to discuss the network’s business plan for 2008-2009. <; <;

Indonesia: Pilot Projects on a Roll in Water Utilities Collaboration, Soil Erosion Prevention, and Watershed Protection
Indonesia is having its fill of new small water projects supported by ADB. Four water utilities are collaborating to optimize Greater Bandung’s raw water resources. The viability of vetiver plants in preventing erosion is being tested in the Citarum river basin. A Geographic Information System is being established to bring better water resources management in the Cimanuk river basin. What impacts would these three projects bring to Indonesia’s water sector? <; <; <;

Nepal: ADB Backs Huge Infrastructure Project to Ease Water Shortages
After delays due to political circumstances, Nepal’s $317.3 million Melamchi Water Supply Project is finally pushing through, with ADB providing a $137M loan and the Government of Nepal contributing $90.6M. Other development partners will shoulder the rest. ADB’s Leonardo Boenawan Sondjaja said, “This project is the only realistic way to obtain a sustainable, long-term supply of drinking water for Kathmandu Valley.” <;

Pakistan: $75M ADB Loan to Help Farming
ADB will lend Pakistan $75 million to build multipurpose dams, irrigation canals, and drinking water supplies across the Potohar Plateau near Islamabad. ADB’s Arnaud Cauchois says, “The project will give farmers reliable water supply, which will increase crop and livestock productivity, and people’s incomes. It will also increase households’ access to cleaner water and reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases.” <;

Viet Nam: Apex Body Undertakes Performance Benchmarking and Peer Review
Viet Nam’s National Water Resources Council will benchmark its performance against those of other Asian national water sector apex bodies, starting with a peer review exercise in April to be conducted by the heads of Malaysian, Philippine, and Thai apex bodies. These countries undertook performance benchmarking in 2006 and are currently implementing their change programs. This exercise is part of ADB’s support for national water reforms. <; <;


Share and Inspire: Tell us your Water Story
The country water actions aim to harness the power of a good example. Learning about how on-the-ground water reform initiatives overcame potential failures to achieve much deserved success can inspire others to continue the work or come up with fresh solutions to their own problems. Know of any ongoing or completed water reform in your country or community? Share your water story. <;


The Hows and Whys of Water Connection Charges
High and upfront connection charges can pose a significant barrier to connecting the poor. Fortunately, the prevailing practice of collecting fees upfront is currently challenged by innovative solutions that reach out to the poor while simultaneously giving utilities good business. This paper argues the need to explore these options when designing water supply and sanitation projects. <;

Food Security : new items (dgAlert)

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Food Security : 12 new items

1. Review of Incorporation of Essential Nutrition Actions into Public Health Programs in Ethiopia
The Essential Nutrition Actions (ENA) package is an approach to expand the coverage of seven affordable and evidence-based actions to improve the nutritional status of women and children, especially those under two years of age. The Food and…
Contributed by Kevin Blythe on 07 Apr , 2008


5. “Agriculture Research: A Growing Global Divide”
Preface: “Sustained, well-targeted, and effectively used investments in R have reaped handsome rewards from improved agricultural productivity and cheaper, higher quality foods and fibers. As we begin a new millennium, the global patterns of…
Contributed by John Daly on 12 Apr , 2008

6. “The World Food Situation: New Driving Forces and Required Actions”
Abstract: “The world food situation is currently being rapidly redefined by new driving forces. Income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are transforming food consumption, production, and markets. The…
Contributed by John Daly on 12 Apr , 2008

7. The World Food Situation_IFPRI
The world food situation is currently being rapidly redefined by new driving forces. Income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalization, and urbanization are transforming food consumption, production, and markets.The influence of the…
Contributed by Sidy Sissoko on 11 Apr , 2008


9. FAO’s Initiative on Soaring Food Prices
FAO has launched an Initiative on Soaring Food Prices (ISFP), offering technical and policy assistance to poor countries affected by high food prices in order to assist vulnerable farmers to increase local food production. Field activities are…
Contributed by Carmen Villegas Caballero on 14 Apr , 2008

10. Un Report: Crop Prospects and Food Situation
April 2008. Highlights: “World cereal production in 2008 is forecast to increase 2.6 percent to a record 2 164 million tonnes. The bulk of the increase is expected to be in wheat following significant expansion in plantings in major producing…
Contributed by Carmen Villegas Caballero on 14 Apr , 2008


12. MDG’s Global Monitoring Report 2008
“At the halfway mark to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) deadline of 2015, the world has not made the necessary progress, but success is still possible given certain conditions, said World Bank economist Zia Qureshi, lead author of this year’s…
Contributed by Carmen Villegas Caballero on 14 Apr , 2008

Reopening my blog on container gardening (Willem)

The last message published on my “container gardening”-blog was :


Dear Readers,

Recently, I found out that there is a huge overlap in the readership of this blog (”Container Gardening”) and one of my other blogs (”Desertification”). Therefore, I decided to merge the content streams for both blogs, with Desertification becoming the central merged location. The content of the Container Gardening blog posted prior to November 17th will stay available on this site. As of today, new Container Gardening content will be posted on my Desertification blog here:

Please update your bookmarks with the new blog address? Thanks! Willem”


Today (April 5, 2008), noticing that most of the visitors of my blogs are still consulting this former “containergardening”-blog of 2007, I feel the necessity to reopen it. From now on, I will publish all information related to gardening on this blog. All messages on drought, desertification and poverty will be published on my “desertification”-blog. Thus, people particularly interested in all aspects of mitigation of drought, combat of desertification and alleviation of poverty will find specific information on these topic on this “desertification”-blog without having to go over a series of messages concerning gardening (and vice-versa). I hope my readers will appreciate this decision.

Biochar, char, biogas, Terra Preta (Comment David STEWART)

A new comment on the post #2588

“Biochar (Wikipedia)”

Author : David Stewart
URL    :

Good going with the blog.  Glad to see the references to agrichar/biochar/terra preta.  I’m working on implementing the use of biochar on my farm.  Looking to heat my home with wood while concurrently making char and capturing the biogas for running a generator.  I’m excited about the prospects.  I’ve started a google group re: this project.  type “terra preta” into the google group search box and it should come up.  Will include a link to your blog on the resource page.  Best wishes and keep up the good work.


Thanks, Dave (Willem) 

Kenya : drought in the north (Google / Nation Media)

Read at : Google Alert – drought

Drought ravaging northern Kenya

Drought has struck once again in northern Kenya. The new MPs must act swiftly to avoid a disaster. There is an acute shortage of water as pans, dams and wells have all dried up. Residents are today forced to trek long distances, approximately 30 to 50 kms, to fetch water. It is unfortunate that MPs from the affected region are yet to issue a joint press statement to alert the Government, the international community and well wishers on the current situation.

Leadership Development Programme
Write to the author

About desertification (Google / Endangered Peoples)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

A few words about desertification

March 27, 2008

Desertification is one of the big environmental problems of our century and we hear about it everywhere but it’s interesting to know how this process operates.

In this purpose, I give you some links about this theme.

-a blog in French created by a man who wants to compile interesting articles about desertification, drought, deforestation and so on:

-the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) website about desertification. This site contains serious technical and scientific information about the theme, a lot of articles, maps, statistics etc:


Urban farming against hunger (FAO)

Read at : FAO Newsroom

Urban farming against hunger
Safe, fresh food for city dwellers

1 February 2007, Rome – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has opened a new front in its battle against hunger and malnutrition – in the world’s cities where most of global population growth is set to take place over the next decades. “Urban agriculture” may seem a contradiction, but that is what FAO is supporting as one element in urban food supply systems in response to the surging size of the cities of the developing world – and to their fast-advancing slums – according to Alison Hodder, senior horticulturist with the Crop and Grassland Service. This year will be the first time in history that the world’s urban population – more than three billion people – exceeds the number of those living in rural areas. Currently, one third of city dwellers, one billion people, live in slums, and in many cities of sub-Saharan Africa they account for three quarters of all urban residents. Continue reading “Urban farming against hunger (FAO)”

Interesting quotes and thoughts (#3) – (Willem)

 On the significance of gurus :

If you put a thousand people in barrels and push them over Niagara Falls, some of them will survive. And if you take those survivors and push them over again, some of them will survive once more.  Do it again, and some will survive that too. And so on. Then the remaining few will write books about “How to survive being pushed over Niagara Falls in a barrel”. These books will be bought en masse by the herd. People will watch these gurus talk on national television. People will pay money to attend their seminars… But does what they say really carry any value?

Speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos

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