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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

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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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Southern Africa by Air, Land, and Sea on a Budget

7:10 am in International Aid and Development, Uncategorized by borderjumpers

We loved Southern Africa, and we hope this diary is helpful for those planning a trip by air, land, and sea. Yesterday, we did a similar post for East Africa that you can visit by clicking here. Cross posted from Border Jumpers, Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack.

4241982156_8eebe5eb6b_m.jpgIf you haven’t seen our 1,000 words about each country series, you can read more about Johannesburg, Durban, Mozambique, and Botswana. In the coming weeks, we’ll write 1,000 word diaries about Cape Town and Pretoria.

From the United States, the best point of entry is the Johannesburg airport, which runs direct flights from Dulles (DC) and JFK in New York (via Dakar, Senegal). You can find flights as low as $1,100USD round trip per person round trip on South African Airways. Just like Nairobi, people will try to scare you about Johannesburg. Yes, crime is a real problem – but don’t let that stop you from seeing this incredible city.

After a terrific meeting with Africa Harvest, we spent a half-day visiting the Apartheid Museum. This is an unforgettable stop and deserves a solid four hours to really absorb the incredible multi-media exhibitions. Also, check out Soweto, one of the most infamous ghettos in the world. If you can, take a small group tour by bicycle or by foot. We were rapt as we absorbed and listened to the incredible stories of struggle, including the amazing student revolts against Apartheid. On the fun side, the SAB beer museum is a must-do experience. We loved it so much we even blogged about it.

4241993914_acfabefcdd_m.jpgA safe budget place to stay in the heart of the bustling area of Melville is a small bed a breakfast we found called the Sunbury House – make sure to avoid Bob’s Bunkhouse. The Sunbury can also hook you up with a cheap and affordable cab driver named Derrick, who will get you safely around town.

Lots of domestic and international bus companies operate in South Africa. We took them all. In general, our recommendation is to use Intercape. The buses generally left and arrived on time, their offices are safe places to wait, your bags are secure, the air-conditioning works – and they had a working bathroom on every bus we took. FYI, we heard only nightmare stories about SARoad.

In terms of getting to Swaziland, Baz Bus is your best bet, and they will pick you up from most hostels in Mbabane. They are also a good company to use for meeting fellow travelers in South Africa, and continue all the way to Cape Town.

4256725260_9a1c5d5fb0_m.jpgFor Botswana, use Intercape, from J’burg to Gabarone. Botswana is a must stop on your journey, and if you can’t afford to Safari in Kruger or Chobe, an affordable option is Mokolodi Nature Reserve in Botswana – where in addition to an awesome permaculture garden, you can go on private walks or jump on a 4X4 to see some incredible wildlife for a fraction of the price. We stayed at the Gabarone Hotel and Casino.

For Mozambique, also use Intercape, from J’burg to Maputuo. Get a visa in J’burg before leaving, because without it, most bus companies won’t let you on board (costs a hefty $100USD pp). Maputo is a vibrant city, filled with terrific places to eat and incredible live music. A good budget option is Base Backpackers if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom. For those with a little more disposable cash, check out Ibis Hotel. For fellow vegetarians, Maputo is even surprising vegan friendly.

For those who love long bus rides, we took Intercape from Maputo to Durban via J’burg. The whole journey takes about 18-hours, but is doable for those who’d rather not spend a small fortune on flights. Durban is a very interesting stop on your journey with lots of things to do. Make time to enjoy a picnic and free live music at the Botanical gardens. For great organic, vegan, and locally grown food, check out a restaurant called EarthMother. Don’t stay at Gibela backpackers, trust us, lonely planet is wrong.

4307559290_5ea610af6a_m.jpgTo get to Cape Town you can easily find affordable flights (provided you aren’t trying to fly during the World Cup). Discount carriers might be your best bet, such as Kulula. But if you want to reduce your costs, carbon footprint and see the incredible sights from the ground – we recommend you take the Sleepliner on Intercape from J’burg to Cape Town.

In Cape Town, book online in advance and plan a visit to Robin Island. A central and fun place to stay for tight budget travelers is Carnival Court on long street (Note: very loud on weekends). If you have a little more cash to spend (and want a more relaxed, less party-like atmosphere) then book at St. John’s Waterfront Lodge.

If you plan on visiting South Africa during the month around the World Cup, make sure to quadruple most prices listed in Rough Guide or Lonely Planet. With that said, some tickets are still available on the FIFA website, but to find a place to stay and bus transportation – you’re running out of time.

We could easily write another 1,000 words, but feel free to email us for any advice at borderjumpers1@gmail.com.

Stay tuned for more ground travel advice in the coming weeks. Next up: getting from Malawi, to Zambia, to Zimbabwe, to South Africa by bus.

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.

Innovation of the Week: Farmers Learning From Farmers

6:31 am in International Aid and Development, Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4304488096_d4a0ce917e_m.jpgIn Maputo, Mozambique I had the opportunity to sit in on a workshop organized by Prolinnova, the Spanish NGO Centro de Iniciativas para la Cooperación/Batá, and the National Farmers Union of Mozambique, UNAC, about different agricultural innovations. But the farmers weren’t there to be trained by the NGOs. Instead, they were in Maputo to share their experiences and learn from each other about different innovations each farmer was practicing in her or his community

Energindo Paulo, from Nicassa province, for example, was there to explain how to make pesticidas natural, natural, non-toxic pesticides to protect crops. His ingredients—including leaves from the Neem tree—were displayed on the floor in front of him as he talked about different methods for controlling pests. When Energindo finished his presentation, the group of 50 farmers asked questions about how to apply the pesticide—directly on the leaves—and how long they should wait after applying the pesticide to eat the produce—two or three days.

Throughout the morning, farmers presented other innovations and practices—including how to prevent diseases that affect their crops and fruit trees and how to raise farmed fish.

According to Santiago Medina of Batá, this workshop was the culmination of a series of workshops that Batá/Prolinnova/UNAC held in 2009 to help farmers identify innovations in their communities and then share them with other farmers. They plan to identify 12-14 innovations and practices identified at the workshops for a book which will be translated into three of Mozambique’s languages, allowing these different innovations to spread throughout the country. And the workshops help farmers value—and invest in—their own local knowledge.

Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique

7:24 am in International Aid and Development, Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4289879407_442d12384a_m.jpgMadyo Couto has a tough job. He works under the Mozambique Ministry of Tourism to help manage the country’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). These areas were initially established to help conserve and protect wildlife, but they’re now evolving to include other uses of land that aren’t specifically for conservation.

Madyo explained that in addition to linking the communities that live near or in conservation areas to the private sector to build lodges and other services for tourists, they’re also helping farmers establish honey projects to generate income. In many of national parks and other conservation areas, farmers resort to poaching and hunting wildlife to earn money. Establishing alternative—and profitable—sources of income is vital to protecting both agriculture and biodiversity in the TFCAs.

Stay tuned for more blogs about the links between wildlife conservation and agriculture.

Presribing Improved Nutrition to Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa

6:43 am in International Aid and Development, Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Everywhere I travel in Africa, there’s increasing acknowledgement about the importance of nutrition when it comes to treating HIV/AIDS. Many retroviral and HIV/AIDS drugs don’t work if patients aren’t getting enough vitamins and nutrients in their diets or accumulating enough body fat.

According to Dr. Rosa Costa, Director of the Kyeema Foundation in Mozambique, many farmers are often too sick to grow crops, but “chickens are easy.”

The International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics are working 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.

Breeding Respect for Indigenous Seeds

8:01 am in International Aid and Development by borderjumpers

Today, farmers and breeders alike have a greater respect for Mozambique’s indigenous seed varieties. (Photo by Jose Gonzalez de Tanago)Jessica Milgroom isn’t your typical graduate student. Rather than spending her days in the library of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, her research is done in the field—literally. Since 2006, Jessica has been working with farming communities living inside Limpopo National Park, in southern Mozambique.

When the park was established in 2001, it was essentially “parked on top of 27,000 people,” says Jessica. Some 7,000 of the residents needed to be resettled to other areas, including within the park, which affected their access to food and farmland. Jessica’s job is to see what can be done to improve resettlement food security.

But rather than simply recommending intensified agriculture in the park to make better use of less land, Jessica worked with the local community to collect and identify local seed varieties. One of the major problems in Mozambique, as well as other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is the lack of seed. As a result, farmers are forced to buy low-quality seed because nothing else is available.

In addition to identifying and collecting seeds, Jessica is working with a farmer’s association on seed trials, testing varieties to see what people like best. In addition, farmers are learning how to purify and store seeds (see Innovation of the Week: Investing in Better Food Storage in Africa).

Weevils, the farmers tell Jessica, are worse than ever, destroying both the seed and crops they store in traditional open-air, granaries. But the farmers are now building newer granaries that are more tightly sealed and help prevent not only weevils but also mold and aflatoxins from damaging crops.

Today, farmers and breeders alike have a greater respect for Mozambique’s indigenous seed varieties. According to Jessica, one of the biggest accomplishments of the project has been getting breeders and farmers to talk to each other. “It’s been interesting for both groups,” says Jessica, “and it needs to be a regular discussion” between them.