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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on August 29th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute
From “Innovation of the Week: Harnessing the Sun’s Power to Make the Water Flow” by Janeen Madan:

Nearly 2 billion people around the world live off the electricity grid. Lack of access to energy can take a huge toll, especially on food security. Without energy for irrigation, for example, small-scale farmers must rely on unpredictable rainfall to grow the crops they depend on for food and income.

In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population. But small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. Women and young girls spend long hours walking to nearby wells to fetch water to irrigate their fields by hand. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a U.S. nonprofit, has introduced an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system that is helping farmers—especially women—irrigate their fields. The pilot project launched in partnership with Dr. Dov Pasternak of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRASAT), has installed solar panels in Bessassi and Dunkassa villages.  This cost-effective and environmentally sustainable project is improving food security and raising incomes by providing access to irrigation for small-scale farmers, especially during the six-month dry season.

Read the full article by Janeen Madan for Nourishing the Planet.

Flexible Trading Systems: Mobile Phones as Debit Cards for Farmers

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on July 11th, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

Image: Energy For All 2030 via flickr CC

From “Phone Banking for the Unbanked“, by Matt Styslinger:

You might have a few dollars in your wallet, but chances are most of the money you spend is through your credit or debit card. The cashless system we’ve grown accustomed to across North America, offers consumers instant access to products and services—giving us the freedom to buy whatever we want whenever we want it. Much of the developing world still relies solely on cash and barter transactions.

But now entrepreneurs in Africa are pioneering a remote electronic money network for the continent’s “unbanked” rural people, allowing customers to use their cell phones like a debit card. Investing in this social entrepreneurship could bring prosperity to markets that need it most. Over the past decade, cell phone use has increased fivefold in Africa. Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project traveled across sub-Saharan Africa over the last year, and has found that nearly everyone, from remote villagers in Ethiopia and Uganda to poor farmers in Niger, has a cell phone.

Farmers are using their phones to gain access to information and other things they didn’t have before. They can check crop prices before investing time in long trips to city markets, for example, giving them the option to wait until prices increase. Agricultural extension agents and development agencies use cell phones to inform farmers about changes in weather that could affect crops.

Thanks to the efforts of companies like Mobile Transactions in Lusaka, Zambia—which Worldwatch highlights in its recently released, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet—Zambian cotton farmers without bank accounts can now electronically receive payments for their crop direct to their mobile phones. About 80 percent of Zambians, particularly in rural areas, don’t have bank accounts. By using mobile banking, farmers are not only able to get paid more quickly and transparently, but they can also use their mobile accounts to send money transfers, buy phone credit, pay school fees for their children, and order agriculture inputs such as fertilizer and seed. Electronic payments also allow them to build up a credit history over time, which will make getting loans easier in the future.

The cashless system has several benefits. First, money stored electronically is less likely to be stolen or misused. Second, electronic transactions can be instant—lowering transaction costs—whereas in-person cash transactions often mean investing time and money in transportation. Electronic money can benefit more marginalized people who often have to rely on middlemen to help them access markets.

But Mobile Transactions does not have the luxury of riding off of the coattails of highly successful ventures like Twitter and the iPhone. “We’ve faced similar challenges to any start-up of trying to do a lot with a little,” says the company’s CEO, Mike Quinn. “The investment funds are out there, but we are a new business in an emerging industry in a country that few people know much about.”

The investment needed to firmly establish mobile banking in Zambia is large, and even more is needed for it to go international. But the models are there. The technology is there. The expertise is there and growing daily. And according to Quinn, “There is no better place or time to be an entrepreneur in an emerging mobile payments industry.”

From “Phone Banking for the Unbanked“, by Matt Styslinger.

Hotspots and Hopespots: Points of Intervention

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on January 3rd, 2011

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From ““Hotspots” and “Hopespots” for Africa’s Water Challenges Outlined in New Water Atlas” by Matt Styslinger:

Africa faces growing challenges to its water resources. Many of these challenges have been laid out in the new Africa Water Atlas from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Atlas uses over 224 maps and 104 satellite images from 53 countries to detail threats to Africa’s water supplies—such as the drying of Lake Chad in the Sahel and the erosion of the Nile Delta in Egypt—as well as increasing water scarcity as a result of climate change. According to the Atlas, the amount of available water per person in Africa is well below the global average and declining. A majority of Africans are dependent on rainfed agriculture, and scientists are predicting that by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will live in conditions of increased water stress from climate change.


“The dramatic changes sweeping Africa linked with both positive and negative management of this continent’s vital water resources is graphically brought home in this Atlas,” says United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. Steiner also notes that the Atlas brings “into sharp relief” the way in which infrastructure development and environmental degradation are impacting African livelihoods. “But so too are the many attempts towards sustainable management of freshwaters,” he says.

Agriculture is the biggest user of water in Africa and only 4 percent of cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. The Atlas maps out new solutions and water management success stories from across the continent in what the UNEP calls “hopespots.”


Read the full article by Matt Styslinger

Zeer Pot Fridge: Low-energy technology

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on December 9th, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

Practical Action’s Zeer Pot Refrigerator:

In the heat of Sudan, food doesn’t stay fresh for long. Tomatoes go off in just two days. After four days carrots and okra are rotten. For poor families in North Darfur and Blue Nile State, without any means of preserving their crops, this can lead to hunger and even starvation. The situation is especially grave for those most vulnerable like children and elderly family members.

One ingenious solution is the zeer pot: a simple fridge made of local materials. It consists of one earthenware pot set inside another, with a layer of wet sand in between. As the moisture evaporates, it cools the inner pot, keeping up 12kg of produce fresh for up to three weeks.

Fruit, vegetables, water. The zeer pot keeps them all fresher for longer – providing much needed help to starving families.

You can see from the table below the incredible difference that a zeer pot makes to food preservation in Sudan. For many families, it can mean the difference between potential starvation and having enough food to feed themselves.

Visit the website for more details on the Zeer Pot Fridge, including how to make one, and basic information on evaporative cooling.

What if we didn’t use electricity to store all of our fresh food?  Our energy-hungry fridges could be much smaller if we used more passive technology. For other fridge designs, check out these VEIL student works: “Circular“, “Tower of Power” and “Split Fridge”  -KA

From Township Garden to City Table: Cape Town Planters

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 22nd, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “From the Township Garden to the City Table” by Molly Theobald:

Around 1 million people in South Africa—the majority of whom are recent arrivals from the former apartheid homelands, Transkei and Ciskei— live in the shacks that make up Khayelitsha, Nyanga and the area surrounding the Cape Flats outside Cape Town. Just under half, or 40 percent, of the population is unemployed, while the rest barely earn enough income to feed their families. In Xhosa, the most common language found in the area, the word ablalimi means “the planters”. Through partnerships with local grassroots organizations, the aptly named, Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit organization working with the people living in these informal settlements, is helping to create a community of planters who can feed the township.

Abalimi Bezekhaya is helping to transform townships into food—and income—generating green spaces in order to alleviate poverty and to protect the fragile surrounding ecosystem. Providing training and materials, Abalimi Bezekhaya helps people to turn school yards and empty plots of land into gardens. Each gardens is run by 6 to 8 farmers who, with support and time, are soon able to produce enough food to feed their families. Abalimi Bezekhaya encourages community members to plant indigenous trees and other flora in the township streets to create shade and increase awareness of the local plant life, much of which is endangered due to urban sprawl.

But while Abalimi Bezekhaya is bringing food and wild flora into the townships, it is also helping the townships to bring fresh produce into the city.  Harvest of Hope (HoH), founded in 2008, purchases the surplus crops from 14 groups of farmers working in Abalimi Bezekhaya’s community plots, packages them in boxes and delivers them to selected schools where parents can purchase them to take home.

For families in Cape Town, HoH means fresh vegetables instead of the older, and often imported, produce at the grocery store. But for families of the farmers working with Hope of Harvest, it means much more. “To grow these vegetables here for me, first, is a life,” said Christina Kaba, a farmer working with HoH in a video about the project. “Second, is how you can give to your family without asking anyone for a donation for money or food. Here you are making money, you are making food.”

Getting Produce to Market: Transport “Innovation”

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on August 23rd, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “Innovation of the Week: Getting to the Market” by Molly Theobald:

For many farmers, an abundant harvest is only the first step toward feeding their families and earning an income. Vegetables ripening in the field—or even harvested and stored nearby—are still a long way from the market where they can be sold for a profit.

One farmer in Sudan’s Kebkabyia province, Abdall Omer Saeedo, has to travel 10 kilometres twice a week to the nearest market to sell his vegetables and green fodder. Without a cart, truck, or other means of transporting a large amount of goods efficiently, he couldn’t make enough money to cover his production and packing costs, let alone the cost of seeds for the next season, education for his children, and other household needs. And after making it to market with his 10 sacks and five bags of produce on the back of his donkey, he was still at risk for loss if he wasn’t able to sell it all. Instead of dealing with the hassle of trying to pack it back home again, he would throw away whatever wasn’t sold.

Saeedo sought the help of Practical Action, a development non-profit that uses technology to help people gain access to basic services like clean water and sanitation in order to improve food production and incomes. Working with local metal workers, the organisation designed a donkey cart for him. Now, Saeedo is not only able to cart his produce to market twice a week, he can also easily bring back whatever he is unable to sell. His income has increased along with the quality and quantity of his product, which is no longer lost or destroyed by travel time and conditions.

Practical Action’s transportation innovations are helping to improve farmer livelihoods throughout sub-Saharan Africa and around the world. In Kenya, the organisation introduced bicycle taxis as a way for people to earn a living, as well as an energy-efficient means to transport people from place to place. In Nepal, Practical Action’s bicycle ambulances help carry sick or injured people from remote areas to hospitals safely and comfortably. And in Sri Lanka, the group’s bicycle trailers—capable of carrying loads of up to 200 kilograms—are used to transport goods to market, people to hospitals, and even books to local communities.

Read the full article by Molly Theobald.

Eating Locally in Dakar: Shifting the Focus

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 10th, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From Reigniting an Interest in Local Food by Danielle Nierenberg:

After journalism school in Senegal, Seck Madieng worked for the government. But he wanted to do “something real. I didn’t want to be a bureaucrat.” He left his job and started AgriInfos, the only Senegalese newspaper to focus entirely on agriculture, food, and healthy diets. “I’m interested in going into villages, talking to farmers, seeing how they work, how they eat. I’m trying to understand why they are poor and why they are hungry,” says Madieng.

In 2007, Madieng, along with local chef Bineta Diallo, started the Mangeons Local (Eat Locally) project in two schools in Dakar. Their goals? To teach students how foods were made and who grew and prepared them. Most urban residents in Dakar depend on foods made not in Senegal, but from Europe.
But their lessons aren’t just theoretical, they also teach students how to cook. According to Diallo, for many students it’s the first time some students have ever prepared or cooked food. Instead of baguettes and imported canned foods, the children are learning how to cook cereals and grains, including local rice varieties, fonio (a small grain typically used in couscous), millet, and sorghum. And rather than drinking milk out of boxes imported from Amsterdam, they’re learning how good local milk can taste, as well as all of the things that can be made from dairy products, including crème, cheese, and butter.

Children are the best communication vehicles to parents, according to Madieng and Diallo. They bring the skills they learn at school home, helping to improve their families’ diets. Mangeons Local also celebrates at the end of the school year with a big party highlighting local foods that parents, students, teachers, and the community can all attend. In addition to local food and juices, they play music from Senegalese musicians and singers, including Grammy winner Youssou N’Dour and Ismael Lo, and Bill Yiakhou, who all sing about agriculture.

Mangeons Local gets some support from Slow Food International, but all the staff are volunteers, which limits the number of schools who can participate in the program.

Original article by Danielle Nierenberg.

Chemical Free Farming

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on June 29th, 2010

Source: The Ecologist

From “Malawi reaps the reward of returning to age-old, chemical-free farming” by Molly Stevenson:

Mr Kanjanga is a farmer from Ntcheu District in Phambala, Malawi. In 1975, having seen the deteriorating effect that the application of chemical fertilisers was having on his crops, he decided to return to the composting techniques he had seen used by his father in the 1930s. His crops started to improve so significantly that he decided to set up the Lipangwe Organic Manure Demonstration Farm (LOMADEF) in 1980 so as to share his learning with fellow farmers. He decided that the most effective way to make sure that the learning reached as many people as possible would be to train community members to act as Agricultural Advisors in their communities. LOMADEF set about carefully selecting Agricultural Advisors on the basis of their innovative approach to farming, training them in sustainable farming techniques and in communication and facilitation skills so they can pass on their learning to fellow farmers.

Eveline Msngwa, an Agricultural Advisor from Bwese village, has been working with LOMADEF for ten years. The land that she and her husband Charles own is a textbook in sustainable farming practices. In one corner of the field are three heaps of harvested maize. The first heap was planted using only chemical fertilisers, the second using a basal compost top dressed with chemical fertiliser and the third using basal compost and liquid manure. ‘As you can see each heap is more or less the same size. Our fellow farmers can clearly see that there is little to gain in using chemical fertiliser. In fact when you use chemical fertiliser you effectively make a loss because you spend more money on the crop!’

There are also a variety of crops in their field. Eveline and Charles have planted nitrogen-fixing crops such as soya, groundnuts, pigeon peas and cowpeas that replenish lost nutrients in the soil. And, instead of simply growing maize as their staple crop they are now growing cassava and sweet potatoes. As a result they are less vulnerable to crop failure and have a variety of produce to sell at the market. ‘We have made 20,000 kwa (£185) from the sale of the cassava and the sweet potato crops. We are going to invest this profit in cultivating the additional land that we have. We have also already bought goats with some of the profits and have been using the manure in maize production. We were the first family in our village to do this.’

Just as Eveline and Charles’ successes serve as an example to their fellow farmers, so LOMADEF’s efforts have helped to pave the way towards a new approach to farming at a national level. After a number of years of promoting subsidised fertiliser and hybrid seeds as the best way to increase harvests, the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture, prompted by a rise in global fertiliser prices, decided that it was time to look into different ways forward. They therefore decided to hold a national composting launch at LOMADEF and a range of government officials, NGOs, businesses and farmers made their way out to the remote farm to watch demonstrations on a range of different composting techniques.

As a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture remarked in a speech at the launch, LOMADEF has demonstrated that ‘there is a need for an intensification of soil fertility management activities especially manure-making, conservation agriculture, and agro-forestry if we are going to have a hunger free nation.’

Read the full article by Molly Stevenson.

Call for proposals: Addressing the climate vulnerabilities of urban Africa

Posted in Uncategorized by fedwards on October 2nd, 2008

To better prepare Africa’s urban settlements for climate variability and change, the Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program invites combined research and capacity building proposals that address the vulnerabilities of Africa’s urban centres to climate change, and will help urban stakeholders work together in developing adaptation options.

This call for proposals is co-funded by CCAA and IDRC’s Urban Poverty and Environment program. The application and project development process is led by CCAA.

Full details on this call can be found at: Completed applications, accompanied by full proposals, must be submitted no later than midnight, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), November 30, 2008 to: ccaa-urbancall

The Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) research and capacity development program is jointly funded by IDRC and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).