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Nourishing the Planet in USA Today: In a world of abundance, food waste is a crime

10:02 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Check out the op-ed on preventing food waste that Nourishing the Planet has in this mornings USA Today. We describe how both the United States and sub-Saharan Africa waste enormous amounts of food. In the U.S. we waste food often by simply buying too much and then throwing it away, while in many parts of Africa food rots in fields or in storage before it ever reaches consumers. But there are ways to prevent food waste and the impact it has on the environment—including buying less food, composting food scraps, and developing better storage systems, such as the PICS bag that protects cowpeas from pests in Niger.

We’ll also be highlighting more innovative ways to prevent food waste in the upcoming State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, will author a chapter addressing innovations that can help prevent waste in the food system from farm to fork.

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With ECASARD You Can See A Real Impact

11:34 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is two parts from a five-part series of our visit with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development and the projects they support in southern Ghana. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Part I: Something that Can’t be Quantified

Check out this video of Nancy Ayesua Outu, ECASARD financial director, explaining why her work to promote agricultural innovations that are affordable, environmentally sustainable, socially just, and culturally acceptable in Ghana is so valuable. “When have built capacity for farmers and you see their lives improving, it’s something that you can’t quantify or measure,” she says.



Part II: With ECASARD You Can See A Real Impact

Check out this video of Stephen Amoah, ECASARD programs officer explaining why he enjoys working with ECASARD. Amoah started out as a volunteer but is now a full time employee. He says, “it’s a joy to hear someone say that because of our training they’ve increased their yield.” Amoah knows that by helping farmers form cooperatives and access agriculture training, he is “really helping the family and community to reduce hunger and poverty” for themselves.

Music Without Borders: Ghana

This is a weekly series where we recommend an artist, song, or compilation of songs, from a country in Africa, brought to you by our awesome friends at Awesome Tapes From Africa. Today’s selection is from Ghana:

4663430315_f4b33bd946_m.jpgListen to some funky highlife music from the good old days of Ghana’s guitar band highlife boom. If this doesn’t make you want to dance I don’t know what will.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
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3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

Working with the Root

9:00 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is the first in a five-part series of my visit with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development and the projects they support in southern Ghana. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog.

4435656867_8293920d8d_m.jpgThe Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD), based in Accra, Ghana, is a unique organization. Not only has it brought together members of the Christian and Muslim faith-based communities to help improve the lives of farmers, it also collaborates with farmers groups, NGOs, policy-makers, and research institutions. “We can’t do it on our own,” says King David Amoah, which is why ECASARD works with these different stakeholders.

Established in 1991, ECASARD works with some 32,000 farmers in 7 regions of southern and central Ghana.

Their goal, says King David, is to both increase food production and reduce rural poverty. They do this by promoting innovations that are affordable, environmentally sustainable, socially just and culturally acceptable.

Read the rest of this entry →

Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities

9:27 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog.

4645208710_1a02b4b5db_m.jpgFor pastoralist communities like the well-known Maasai in Kenya, livestock keeping is more than just an important source of food and income; it’s a way of life that has been a part of their culture and traditions for hundreds of years.

But, in the face of drought, loss of traditional grazing grounds, and pressure from governments and agribusiness to cross-breed native cattle breeds with exotic breeds, pastoralists are struggling to feed their families and hold on to their culture.

The key, however, to maintaining the pastoralist way of life, at least in Kenya, may also be the key to preserving the country’s livestock genetic biodiversity, as well as improving local food security.“Governments need to recognize,” says Jacob Wanyama, coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya— an organization that works to improve the rights of pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, “that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.” (See also: The Keepers of Genetic Diversity)

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only “beautiful to look at,” says Wanyama, but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than the size and milk production of the cattle, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. And indigenous breeds don’t require expensive feed and inputs, such as antibiotics to keep them healthy.

More than just a consistent and reliable source of food, Anikole cattle also help preserve the pastoralist culture and way of life. Though most pastoralists recognize that many of their children might choose to go into the cities instead of continuing the nomadic herding lifestyle of pastoralists, the preservation of Anikole cattle and other indigenous breeds will allow those that choose to stay to feed and support their families and community for years to come. (See also: Maintaining Links to Tradition in a Changing World)

And, similarly, in Mozambique, the International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics are promoting livestock as more than just a means to improve food security.

The two organizations are partnering to work with farmers—most of them women—to raise chickens on their farms. Because women are often the primary caregivers for family members with HIV/AIDS, they need easy, low-cost sources of both food and income. Unlike many crops, raising free-range birds can require few outside inputs and very little maintenance from farmers. Birds can forage for insects and eat kitchen scraps, instead of expensive grains. They provide not only meat and eggs for household use and income, but also pest control and manure for fertilizer. (See also: Prescribing Improved Nutrition to Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa)

In Rwanda, Heifer International is helping farmers use livestock to rebuild their homes and improve their income after the devastating genocide that occurred 15 years ago. Heifer began working in Rwanda in 2000, introducing a South African dairy breed, known for its high milk production, because, according to Dr. Karamuzi, “no stock of good [dairy cow] genes” was left in the country after the genocide.

And he says that these animals help prove “that even poor farmers can take care of high producing cows.” Heifer has certain conditions for receiving cows—including that farmers build a pen and dedicate part of their land to growing pasture—which made people skeptical, especially when they were used to letting animals roam freely to graze on grass. But as people began seeing the results of Heifer’s training, they become less suspicious and more interested in working with the group.

And these animals don’t only provide milk—which can be an important source of protein for the hungry—and income to families. They also provide manure, which provides not only fertilizer for crops, but also is now helping provide biogas for cooking to households raising cows in the country as part of a the National Biogas Program. And they give families a sense of security as they, and the entire country, continue to recover and rebuild. (See also: Healing With Livestock in Rwanda)

To read more about how smallscale livestock can improve food security and preserve and rebuild communities, see: Teacher Turned Farmer. . .Turned Teacher, Got Biogas?, Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya.

Photo Credit: International Livestock Research Institute

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Acting It Out for Advocacy

9:58 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is the final blog in a three-part series about FANRPAN’s work. It was co-written by Sithembile Ndema, FANRPAN’s Natural Resources and Environment Programme Manager and Danielle Nierenberg. Crossposted from Nourishing the Planet.

4365732015_2ecfe90f0c_m.jpgThe Food and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network’s (FANRPAN) Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project aims at strengthening the capacity of women farmers influence in agriculture policy development and programmes in Southern Africa. It doesn’t sound especially entertaining—but it has some innovative strategies for bridging the divide between women farmers, researchers, and policy makers.

FANRPAN is using Theatre for Policy Advocacy to engage leaders, service providers, and policymakers; encourage community participation; and research the needs of women farmers. Essentially, theatre is being used to explain agricultural policy to people in rural areas, and to carry voices from the countryside back to government. Popular theatre personalities travel to communities in Mozambique and Malawi and stage performances using scripts based on FANRPAN’s research, to engage members of the community. After each performance, community members, women, men, youth, local leaders are engaged in facilitated dialogues. The dialogues give all community member—especially women—a chance to openly talk about the challenges they are facing without upsetting the status quo. More importantly, it allows women to tell development organizations what they really need, not the other way around.

Ultimately, FANRPAN hopes to train women community leaders to use the theatre advocacy platform to discuss other issues and problems in their villages, including HIV/AIDS. And because this project involves all members of the community, it doesn’t alienate men, but includes them in developing solutions.

For more information on FANRPAN and its work in Africa see the following www.fanrpan.org

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
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Improving Farmer Livelihoods and Wildlife Conservation

8:33 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4256721580_9bb6be24f0_m.jpgEarlier this week, we highlighted Nicholas Kristof’s OP-ED in the New York Times about Gabon, a country in West-Central Africa where the rights of farmers are frequently in conflict with wildlife conservation efforts. One young village chief and farmer, Evelyn Kinga explained that she doesn’t like elephants because they eat her cassava plants—a crop her livelihood depends on—because she doesn’t benefit from rich foreigners who come to Gabon for eco-tourism.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, says Raol du Toit, Director of the Rhino Conservation Trust in Zimbabwe. His organization works closely with farmers on the ground to help communities realize that protecting wildlife can be in their own best interest.

du Toit promotes “landscape-level planning” that takes into account the needs of wildlife, the environment, and farming communities. Rather than relying on development agencies and governments to decide where cattle fences should go or where farmers should plant their crops, local communities and stakeholders need to be part of the process. Development aid, says du Toit, should follow what local stakeholders need and perceive, not the other way around. Additionally, the Rhino Conservation Trust provides classroom materials for schools so that students may learn the connections between sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation at an early age. (See also Helping Farmers Benefit Economically from Wildlife Conservation)

And du Toit is not alone in his effort to improve the lives of farmers, as well as protect wildlife.

In Tanzania, the Jane Goodall Instutite (JGI) started as a center to research and protect wild chimpanzee populations in what is now, thanks to their efforts, Gombe National Park. But by the early 1990’s the organization realized that in order to be successful it would have to start addressing the needs of the communities surrounding the park. JGI was planting trees to rebuild the forest but members of the community were chopping them down—not because they wanted to damage the work but because they needed them for fuel and to make charcoal.

In response, JGI started working with communities to develop government- mandated land use plans, helping them develop soil erosion prevention practices, agroforestry, and production of value-added products, such as coffee and palm oil. “These are services,” says Pancras Ngalason Executive Director of JGI Tanzania, “people require in order to appreciate the environment” and that will ultimately help not only protect the chimps and other wildlife, but also to build healthy and economically viable communities. (See also: Rebuilding Roots in Environmental Education)

In Botswana, the Mokolodi Wildlife Reserve is doing more than just teaching students and the community about conserving and protecting wildlife and the environment, they’re also educating students about permaculture. By growing indigenous vegetables, recycling water for irrigation, and using organic fertilizers—including elephant dung—the Reserve’s Education Center is demonstrating how to grow nutritious food with very little water or chemical inputs.

When school groups come to learn about the animals, the reserve also teaches them about sustainable agriculture. Using the garden as a classroom in which to teach students about composting, intercropping, water harvesting, and organic agriculture practices, the Wildlife Reserve helps draw the connection between the importance of environmentally sustainable agriculture practices and the conservation of elephants, giraffes, impala, and various other animals and birds living in the area.(See also: Cultivating an Interest in Agriculture Conservation)

To read more about innovative ways to protect agriculture and the surrounding wildlife, read: From Alligator to Zebra: Wild Animals Find Sanctuary in the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Kigoma, Tanzania, Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique, Honoring the Farmers that Nourish their Communities and the Planet, and Investing in Projects that Protect Both Agriculture and Wildlife

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

In the Fight Against the Spread of HIV/AIDS, There is no Silver Bullet

12:20 pm in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

4171475659_58ce059e20_m.jpgIn the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS, there is no silver bullet.

And as we travel throughout sub-Saharan Africa we are seeing dozens of innovative ways that organizations, governments, and individuals are working to fight the disease.

One of the organizations that stands out, thanks to their variety of innovative strategies and approaches to combating the spread of the disease, is the Solidarity Center , an AFL-CIO affiliated non-profit organization that assists workers around the world who are struggling to build democratic and independent trade unions.

We want to share with you three different ways they are making an impact on the ground as we visit projects across the continent.

1) Changing Behavior with Worksite Education and Testing

4314897623_c61c251801_m.jpgJohnson Matthey in Germiston , South Africa , just outside of Johannesburg , sees 600 workers pass through its doors every day, heading to work on an assembly lines to make catalytic converters that are inserted in cars to reduce pollution, complying with South Africa ‘s auto environmental emissions standards.

As we arrived there last January, Percy Nhlapo, a trainer with the Solidarity Center , was leading a discussion with a group of workers, correcting misconceptions about contracting HIV and urging participants to get tested. The Solidarity Center is working in partnership with the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), an industrial affiliate of the country’s largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), to provide free HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to several thousand manufacturing workers a year (literally going from plant to plant providing trainings).

Following the HIV/AIDS education session, more than 200 workers voluntarily agreed to be tested. At the testing area, we spoke with registered nurse Dorothy Majola, who said that before workers are tested they are given private counseling, and then she administers two separate tests – both with 99.99 percent accuracy – to ensure correct results.

Within ten minutes of being tested, workers receive their results. The companies work in coordination with NUMSA and the Solidarity Center , agreeing to host the HIV/AIDS outreach, allowing workers to attend and get tested at the beginning and end of their work shifts. Before each outreach, shop stewards mobilize their co-workers to participate in the HIV/AIDS activities at their workplace.

2) Curbing the Spread of AIDS Along Transportation Routes

4172231376_54ebcc3a1e_m.jpgWhen we arrived at the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna , Uganda , about 20 long-haul truck drivers were sitting on chairs and intently watching a match between Manchester United and Chelsea on a small television while they waited for their vehicles to be cleared by customs before entering Rwanda .

But just eight months ago, instead of television, billiards, and camaraderie among workers, the easiest diversion for truckers was sex. Katuna is one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor-a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa , Kenya through Uganda , Rwanda , Burundi , Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti .

In the past, the truckers were often delayed for days on the border, giving them little to do. Boredom–and drinking–often led to unsafe sex with commercial sex workers at the truck stops along the highway. As a result, truck drivers have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa . Unfortunately, the virus doesn’t stop with them, and is often spread to their spouses.

Now, thanks to the work of the Solidarity Center and Uganda ‘s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU), the amount of time truckers spend on the border has been reduced from days to just hours. The union has worked with the government to reduce the amount of time it takes their paperwork to go through, which reduced the amount of free time they have on the border. When they don’t have as much free time waiting for clearance, they’re not as likely to engage in unsafe sex.

Additionally, the Katuna resource center, like many others dotted along the transport corridor, offers HIV/AIDS education, and free testing to truck drivers and local community members (directly impacting more than 150,000 workers so far). The Solidarity Center has similar programs in Kenya , Tanzania , Rwanda and Burundi .

3) Helping Orphans who Lost Their Parents to AIDS, by Putting Them Through School

4366464934_46940f3513_m.jpgOutside of Harare, Zimbabwe, we visited an orphanage for children whose parents died of AIDS-related illnesses that the Solidarity Center ’s partner, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations (ZCIEA), an associate of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), is helping to support.

In addition to providing HIV/AIDS education and HIV counseling and testing to workers, ZCIEA is also providing a way to immediately help the children of parents who’ve died from the disease.

As we arrived, a hundred children were singing, clapping, and rushing to offer us hugs and high fives. The orphanage provides them not only with a place to learn and go to school, but also gives them a family in a nurturing environment. More than providing meals and a roof, the orphanage is built around the community, and the children are well-supported.

The teachers and caretakers who work there are mostly volunteers from local communities and you can see that they share a deep commitment and passion for the future of these kids. None of this would be possible without the support and efforts of the Zimbabwean labor movement in providing funding and helping to secure outside funding through grants.

Music Without Borders: Senegal
4621762929_ec63828391_m.jpgThis is a weekly series where we recommend an artist, song, or compilation of songs, from a country in Africa, brought to you by our awesome friends at Awesome Tapes From Africa. Today’s selection is from Senegal:

Mbalax is a local musical genre in Senegal; most people have heard of Youssou N’Dour, who is a major artist in that world. Here is another mbalax great, Thione Seck.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

1,000 Words About Ethiopia

7:41 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from BorderJumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

4058150241_1a4149aa01_m.jpgWe started this trip in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a place most Americans associate with war and hunger because of the famines of the mid 1980s and 1990s. Even today, more than 6 million people in Ethiopia are at risk for starvation so we think we had mentally prepared myself for seeing very desperate people. Instead, though, we found farmers and NGO workers full of hope for agriculture in their country. That’s been our greatest surprise about the continent in general — how vibrant, entrepreneurial, friendly, positive, and alive people are here. Six months and fifteen countries later, we’re now in Dakar, Senegal, feeling more hopeful than ever that things are really changing.

The trip is surprising in a lot of different ways. While we’ve seen extreme poverty and environmental degradation during our trip, we’ve also been impressed by the level of knowledge about things like hunger, climate change, HIV/AIDS and other issues from the farmers we meet. The people in many of these countries know better than anyone how to solve the problems their facing, they just need attention–and support–from the international community. In Africa, maybe more than anywhere else we’ve traveled, a little funding can go a long way (if used the right way).

4234860769_139e179ea2_m.jpgWe met Kes Malede Abreha, described by our guides/interpreters as a “farmer-priest,” on his farm near Aksum in the Central Zone of Tigray region. A small, wiry, soft-spoken man with a neatly trimmed beard, Kes Malede is one of the leading “farmer-innovators” in his community. Roughly eight years ago, he started digging for water on his very dry farm. His neighbors thought he was crazy, telling him he would never find water on the site. His wife even left him, moving their children into town.

But about 16 meters down, Kes Malede hit water. After his wife returned, he began sketching ways that would make it easier to “push” that water to the surface. He developed a series of pumps, improving on each one. The one he’s using now is built from inexpensive wood, iron, and metal piping, all available locally. It can push or lift water not only to the surface, but also through a system of hoses to irrigate his fruit trees and farm crops, including teff, sorghum, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

As part of a group of farmers who can apply for and receive funding for their innovations from the global, NGO-initiated organization, Prolinnova, Kes Malede is teaching other farmers in the community by example, showing them how small investments in technology can make a big difference on the farm.

Before he developed his water-management system, Kes Malede and his family lived in a one-room house and could grow only enough staple food to feed the household. Today, the family lives in a bigger house, grows a diversity of crops, and raises chickens, cattle, goats, and bees. Kes Malede’s investment in more beehives has not only provided income from honey production, but also helped pollinate his fruit and vegetable crops. He’s now helping other farmers—the same ones who thought he was crazy—by teaching them about his water lifting system and by selling modern, box-style beehives that allow farmers to both manage the bees better and harvest more honey.

4056174384_1e7255eb7e_m.jpgAlso, we’ve been reading about how China is investing in African agriculture for a few years now, but this week is the first time we’ve really seen what that means on the ground. As we traveled from Addis to Aksum, it’s impossible not to notice who is building the roads here. Hint: it’s not the Ethiopian government. The Chinese, even though they can’t legally own land in Ethiopia, have brought in bulldozers and trucks to improve already-existing roads and build new ones. Along with building roads, they’ve also built good will with Ethiopian policymakers and farmers because better roads allow farmers to get their goods from farm to market more easily.

In Aksum alone, the Chinese have built more than 150 kilometers of roads and provided cell phones for farmers — allowing them, for the first time ever, to check prices before they go to market and to call ahead for supplies and materials. The Chinese are also leasing huge amounts of land for isolated compounds stacked with pre-fabricated homes, complete with satellite TVs and Chinese cooks, for the road engineers.

4058149577_d772cb73e7_m.jpgBut this investment isn’t entirely altruistic. China, a nation of more than 1. 3 billion people and counting that is concerned about its ability to feed its own population today and into the future, is buying up Ethiopian-grown cabbage, carrots, onions, and other crops to ship back home. One of our guides/interpreters said that sometimes the Chinese show up at markets near Aksum before they open, buying up all the goods before Ethiopian customers even arrive. It’s an ironic situation, to say the least, as news reports warn of impending famine in the southeastern region of the country, where more than 6 million people are on the verge of starvation.

Because we are limited by length, here are some additional observations:

1) We ended the trip in Addis Ababa, which is one of our favorite cities in Africa. Alongside the bumper to bumper traffic, are people hearding flocks of sheep, vendors walking between cars hawking everything from mentos to vacum cleaners.

2) Lots of government control over services, the one major internet company was frequently out of service, sometimes spanning across the entire coutnry.

3) It’s a terrific place to be vegetarian. Most restuarants observe "fasting" days twice a week, and almost all menus have good veg and vegan options.

4) It’s generally pretty safe. We never felt scared or threatened in any way. Tourists are welcomed. People are extremely friendly and as excited to learn about you are your culture as you are about them. While it may be off-the-beaten path, it will be a visit you never forget.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

Peanut Butter and Progress

7:19 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

It’s not every day you meet someone from Raleigh while traveling in Lusaka, Zambia. Dale Lewis might not have intended to spend decades in the landlocked African country of 12 million, but his passion for protecting wildlife and for conservation led him there – and his entrepreneurial spirit and desire to lift farmers from poverty while protecting the environment compelled him to stay.

How does Lewis, who attended Broughton High School and whose parents were longtime Raleigh residents, help alleviate hunger and poverty in Zambia’s most rural areas?

By making peanut butter, and lots of it!

One of the first things you notice about grocery stores in Zambia is the plethora of processed foods from around the world, from crackers made in Argentina and soy milk from China to popular U.S. breakfast cereals. Complementing these foreign foods, however, are a variety of locally made and processed products, including indigenous varieties of organic rice, all-natural peanut butter and honey from the It’s Wild brand.

It’s Wild was started by the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO), which Lewis founded over 30 years ago to conserve and protect local wildlife.

COMACO helps farmers improve their agricultural practices in ways that can protect the environment while also creating a reliable market for farm products. It organizes farmers into producer groups, encouraging them to diversify their skills by raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management and other practices so that they don’t have to resort to poaching elephants or other wildlife.

By targeting hard-to-reach farmers who live near protected areas, "we’re trying to turn things around," Lewis says. For decades, many farmers in eastern Zambia practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and were involved in widespread elephant poaching. It was their only option. Degraded soils and drought left many farmers in the region desperate.

By training more than 650 "lead" farmers to train other farmers, COMACO hopes not only to protect the environment and local wildlife, but also to help farmers increase their incomes by connecting them to the private market. The organization supports creation of regional processing centers and trading depots to make it easier for farmers to process their crops and transport them to market. It also offers a higher price to farmers who grow rice and other products organically and for those who use the conservation farming techniques they’ve learned from trainers and lead farmers.

Lewis says that when farmers comply with COMACO, they see benefits, including improvements in food security and health.

The resulting products are then sold under the It’s Wild brand in major supermarket chains across Zambia, such as ShopRite, Checkers and Spar. Next year, COMACO plans to export its products to Botswana. The organization is trying to do as much of the product distribution as possible so that the money stays with the farmers and not middlemen.

COMACO has also gotten technical support from Minneapolis-based multinational food giant General Mills. The company paid for a COMACO food technician to visit its headquarters in early 2009 to learn how different food processing techniques can increase the nutritional and economic value of the foods the organization is selling. Lewis hopes that eventually COMACO will be self-sufficient, and profitable, without the current dependence on donor funding. But that’s not easy for an organization that works with thousands of farmers and has high administrative, transport and salary costs.

He says that he is 70 percent there and is determined to show that his model is not only sustainable, but also profitable.

Danielle Nierenberg is a senior researcher at the Worldwatch Institute and co-project director of "State of World 2011: Nourishing the Planet." Bernard Pollack is a travel writer from the District of Columbia, currently based in Africa.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:

1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3.Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

FANRPAN: Working to connect farmers, researchers, and policy makers in Africa

6:58 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is the first in a three-part series about the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4365732015_2ecfe90f0c_m.jpgThe Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) lives up to its name by linking farmers, businesses, academia, researchers, donors, and national and regional governments. “One thing that we {Africa} fail to do is form coalitions for a common cause,” says Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, the CEO of FANRPAN. But by connecting rural farmers directly to the private sector, to policy-makers, and to the agricultural research community, they’re trying to build a food secure Africa.

FANRPAN’s has national nodes in thirteen countries that help bring its members together, with a national secretariat hosted by an existing national institution in each country that has a mandate for increasing agricultural research and advocacy.

Another problem that plagues Africa, according to Dr. Sibanda, is that “we don’t know how to learn from the local.” But she says “farmers know what to do” when it comes to dealing with climate change and other issues that impact agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, FANRPAN works to create dialogue and allow exchange of ideas directly between farmers in the field, researchers in laboratories, and policy makers in conference rooms and parliaments throughout Africa.

FANRPAN’s projects include everything from helping improve access to markets for women farmers through its Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project to helping develop and strengthen the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Regional Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact (See In Eastern and Southern Africa, Improving Trade and Identifying Investment Opportunities and Creating Game Plans for Investment and Policy to Improve Food Security.) They also recently completed the Africa-Wide Civil Society Climate Change Initiative for Policy Dialogues that brought together African NGOs and farmers groups at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change last December. And the Strategies for Adapting to Climate Change in Rural sub-Saharan Africa, to help the most vulnerable populations deal with climate change.

And while Dr. Sibanda says investment in research is important, “it’s not the panacea. For me, it’s about people driving investments.”

Stay tuned for more about FANRPAN’s projects later this week.

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