Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique

 Cross posted from Nourishing the Planet.

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Innovation of the Week: Providing an Agricultural Answer to Nature’s Call

It’s hard to believe, but an estimated 2.6 billion people in the developing world—nearly a third of the global population—still lack access to basic sanitation services. This presents a significant hygiene risk, especially in densely populated urban areas and slums where contaminated drinking water can spread disease rapidly. Every year, some 1.5 million children die from diarrhea caused by poor sanitation and hygiene.

It is in these crowded cities, too, that food security is weakened by the lack of clean, nutrient-rich soil as well as growing space available for local families.

But there is an inexpensive solution to both problems. A recent innovation, called the Peepoo, is a disposable bag that can be used once as a toilet and then buried in the ground. Urea crystals in the bag kill off disease-producing pathogens and break down the waste into fertilizer, simultaneously eliminating the sanitation risk and providing a benefit for urban gardens. After successful test runs in Kenya and India, the bags will be mass produced this summer and sold for U.S. 2–3 cents each, making them more accessible to those who will benefit from them the most.

In post-earthquake Haiti, where many poor and homeless residents are forced to live in garbage heaps and to relieve themselves wherever they can find privacy, SOIL/SOL, a non-profit working to improve soil and convert waste into a resource, is partnering with Oxfam GB to build indoor dry toilets for 25 families as well as four public dry toilets. The project will establish a waste composting site to convert dry waste into fertilizer and nutrient-rich soil that can then be used to grow vegetables in rooftop gardens and backyards.

In Malawi, Stacia and Kristof Nordin’s permaculture project (which Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg visited during her tour of Africa) uses a composting toilet to fertilize the crops. Although these units can be expensive to purchase and install, one company, Rigel Technology, manufactures a toilet that costs just US$30 and separates solid from fluid waste, converting it into fertilizer. The Indian non-profit Sulabh International also promotes community units that convert methane from waste into biogas for cooking.

On a larger scale, wetlands outside of Calcutta, India, process some 600 million liters of raw sewage delivered from the city every day in 300 fish-producing ponds. These wetlands produce 13,000 tons of fish annually for consumption by the city’s 12 million inhabitants. They also serve as an environmentally sound waste treatment center, with hyacinths, algal blooms, and fish disposing of the waste, while also providing a home for migrating birds and an important source of local food for the population of Calcutta. (See also “Fish Production Reaches a Record.”)

Aside from cost and installation, the main obstacles to using human waste to fertilize crops are cultural and behavioral. UNICEF notes in an online case study that a government-run program in India provided 33 families in the village of Bahtarai with latrines near their houses. But the majority of villagers still preferred to use the fields as toilets, as they were accustomed to doing their whole lives. “It is not enough just to construct the toilets,” said Gaurav Dwivedi, Collector and Bilaspur District Magistrate. “We have to change the thinking of people so that they are amenable to using the toilets.”



Innovation of the Week: School Feeding Programs Improve Livelihoods, Diets, and Local Economies

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

In many parts sub-Saharan Africa, 60 percent of children come to school in the morning without breakfast, if they attend school at all. Many suffer from health and developmental problems, including stunted growth. Exhausted from hunger and poor nutrition, they often have trouble paying attention and learning during class.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides school meals for about 20 million children in Africa. While some national governments, including in Côte d'Ivoire, have provided school meals for decades, the food, fuel, and financial crises of 2007-08 highlighted the role that school nutrition programs can play in not only improving education, health, and nutrition, but also providing a safety net for children living in poverty. For some children, these programs provide the only real meal of the day.

Improved school menus provide students with much-needed nutrition while also creating an incentive for both students and parents to keep up regular attendance. Some programs include a take-home ration, targeted specifically at improving the attendance of girls. In exchange for an 80-percent attendance rate for one month, for example, students are able to take home a jug of vegetable oil to their family. Students also often share the nutrition information they learn at school with family members, helping to improve the nutritional value of meals made at home.

Earlier this year, the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), in partnership with the WFP and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program. HGSF, modeled in part after programs developed by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), works with governments to develop and implement school feeding programs, improving the diets and education of students while also creating jobs and supporting local agriculture.

Starting with five countries that were either already running school food programs or had demonstrated an interest in them and a capacity for implementation--including Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Mali, Kenya, and Ghana--HGSF hopes to create a bigger market for rural farmers through demand created by purchasing only locally grown and processed food for school meals.

"The definition of `local' varies from country to country," says Kristie Neeser, program coordinator at PCD. "Some schools keep their food purchasing within the local community and some keep their purchasing within the country. But what is most important is creating that relationship between the farmers and the government program."

To best facilitate links between farmers and governments, HGSF works closely with the ministries of education to develop programs that will suit local needs and customs. In Ghana, for example, markets are run by "market queens," women who purchase vegetables from farmers and then sell them to commercial buyers at markets. To avoid disrupting this system, HGSF works to incorporate the market queens with Ghana's school purchasing process, instead of attempting to deal directly with the farmers, as programs in other countries often do.

Ultimately, HGSF hopes to work with 10 countries, transitioning each program to being fully government owned, funded, and implemented--creating a permanent safety net for school children and a dependable demand for local, small-scale, farmer-sourced produce.

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Reducing Wastewater Contamination Starts with a Conversation

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

In Accra, Ghana, most homes do not have indoor plumbing or sewage systems. Instead, households dispose of waste into the same ditches and streams that urban farmers use to irrigate the crops they sell at local markets. The use of wastewater on farms presents a significant health risk and has been banned by the government. But because many farmers don't have access to clean sources of water, they lack other options for irrigating their crops.

In 2005, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a non-profit organization working in Asia and Africa to improve water and land management for farmers and the environment, received funding from several groups, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) initiative Challenge Program for Water and Food, to work with urban farmers in Ghana to develop improved farm wastewater management.

"Ideally we would start at the city level to address wastewater treatment through infrastructure," says Ben Keraita, an irrigation and water engineer and researcher with IWMI. "But there is no money or support for a big project like that, so we start with the farmers to find affordable, small, and simple ways to reduce the risk of contamination."

Starting with the farmers is critical for another reason, Keraita explains. "There are too many different kinds of interventions when it comes to reducing the risk of contamination from waste water, and farmers do not react well to having new techniques pushed upon them." Instead, Keraita and other project coordinators used their existing relationships with local farmers to call a meeting to discuss the problem and hear potential solutions from the farmers themselves. "Farmers know that the waste water is a problem and have lots of their own ideas about how to address it."

Keraita and his colleagues created a list of innovations suggested by farmers and then introduced a few of their own, exposing the farmers to best practices from around the world. "Nothing we introduced was invented on the spot, and many are simple enough to be adopted immediately, like avoiding stepping into irrigation water and stirring up sediment that might contain contaminants by putting down a plank to walk on instead," Keraita explains. Farmers are then asked to volunteer to adopt the practices that they think will be most effective, keeping track of their work daily so that an assessment can be made of the innovation at harvest time.

"If farmers don't like a technique then we suggest doing another trial with a new technique," Keraita says. "And we invite other farmers to view the harvest and the weighing of the crops so that they can give each other feedback and learn from the experiments of others."

Based on these group discussions and trials, urban farmers in Accra are now irrigating with water collected in "waste sedimentation ponds"-ponds built specifically to allow sediment to sink to the bottom so farmers can irrigate with the cleaner surface water-and with simple containers of filtered water. Some are now also using drip irrigation from kits produced by International Development Enterprises (IDE), allowing them to use water more precisely and to conserve clean water (see also Slow and Steady Irrigation Wins the Race).

To read about more innovations in irrigation and reducing the risk of contamination from waste water, see: Getting Water to Crops, Access to Water Improves Life for Women and Children, and ECHOing a Need for Innovations.

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Will Obama's budget proposal hurt the poor?


There are a number of Black BloggersProgressive bloggers and journalist  who are reporting on how Obama's budget proposal will hurt the poor, cut aid to middle class & burden students.  Read: Black Americans Especially Vulnerable To Budget Austerity, Study Shows 

Now the question is whether President Obama is Channeling Ronald Reagan?

Is Barack Obama trying to be more Republican than the Republicans, in order to appease the GOP? You remember what Ronald Reagan was able to do:

1. Dismantled labor unions.

2. Decreased living standards.

3. Deregulated financial industry.

4. Decreased wages by freezing minimum wage at $3.35 per hour for eight years.

5. Increased gap between rich and poor.

6. Increased number of Americans in poverty.

7. Increased homelessness.

8. Appealed to the most color aroused, bigots in America.  Read more HERE

As Kevin Alexander Gray, over at reports, "The president proposes cutting $2.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This program helps families heat or cool their homes, and Obama’s cut would eliminate this crucial support for 3.5 million low-income households. And as far as helping poor and working people advance, this budget actually kicks the ladder down. It freezes or reduces funding for everything from Head Start, summer jobs for youth and afterschool initiatives to GED programs and Pell grants."  Read More HERE

He adds, "Meanwhile, Obama criticized the intelligence community’s failure to foresee the Egyptian uprising, but did not reduce its $80 billion budget. And the military is being cut less than $16 billion next year, a pittance in light of massive Bush era increases. “Community organizer” Obama will cut organizing jobs in low-income communities more than any president since Reagan, which is consistent with his failure to even mention the poor or poverty in his recent State of the Union address."

AAP says, OUCH! Read More HERE

AAP says: I knew it was going to be ugly for the black community when President Obama gave Black leaders the bad news on likely budget cuts. Candidly, I'm also wondering like other black bloggers, why are blacks always the biggest targets of budget cuts? I'm also wondering how our President could do this to us, after all black voters  did, to help in get into office?

Recently Alexis Stodgill over at Black Voices gave various examples on how the poor and the middle class may be getting screwed by President Barack Obama, less than two months after signing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans into law. 

Yes, unfortuantely it looks like the first African American President is proposing a budget to congress that as Alexis Stodgill noted, "attacks programs that assist the working poor, help the needy heat their homes, expand access to graduate-level education and undermine that type of community-based organizations that gave the president his start in Chicago."

AAP Says: I'm reminded More HERE how the White House sent out emails to black leaders last year declaring that giving tax cuts to the richest of Americans was a"major victory for African-Americans," arguing that a series of middle-class tax cuts will give "targeted" aid to minorities. Hmmm..

I'm also reminded how the White House invited one of its key negro surrogates, the Rev. Al Sharpton, to the Tax bill signing and scheduled a private meeting with top labor union leaders who had railed against extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Read more HERE.


The national office of the NAACP, House GOP and Boehner Republicans are probably dirty dancing in Support of more Barack Obama's Budget cuts  

on poor and elderly.

Candidly, I wonder if the President will be able to sell the cutting of these 4 key programs that impact the poor and African Americans to his key negro surrogates like Al Sharpton, the national office of the NAACP and other negroes who seem to care less about the poor these days.

A few examples of the programs that are on the chopping block:

1. The president proposes to cut roughly 50 percent or $2.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association director Mark Wolfe said the administration's proposal would cut off 3.5 million households.

2. $405 million from community service block grants and $300 million of Community Development Block Grant dollars.

3. According to the Huffington Post, The Food Research and Action Center estimated that a family of four will receive $59 less per month starting in November 2013 as a result of the $2.2-billion budget cut in the food-stamp program.

4. The president is planning on slashing billions in education over the next decade saving the government over $60 billion in next decade -- interest on graduate school loans will begin building up while students are still in school under Obama's new plan. Currently, interest does not begin compiling until after students graduate. Read More at The

President Obama says he is committed to creating the most open and accessible administration in American history. I believe it's important for Black Americans to send comments and concerns regarding his budget proposals to the President and his staff.

You can call or write President Obama at:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Please include your e-mail address

Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

Comments: 202-456-6213

Here is a link to the White House

 UPDATE:  A big soul clap to an awesome blogger, Jill Tubman, and the folks at Jack and Jill Politics for covering this important issue on how Black Bloggers & CBC are pushing back on Obama’s Budget

Another soul clap to another awesome blogger RIPPA, for his post on Obama's Austerity Budget Means More Unemployment [VIDEO]

Read more at:




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