Information and stories on development news.

Nature Iraq: The One and Only
In a land where so much global attention is focused on its politics, Iraq’s environmental and agriculture issues have been left on the back burner. Until 2003, there was no sustainability or environmental organization that dealt with the dried-up marshlands of Iraq. Saddam Hussein purposefully dried them up to reduce the use of the marshes as hiding spots during his reign. This in turn damaged irrigation systems and the flow of water, almost bringing an end to thousands of years of Iraq’s farming culture.

Azzam Alwash, an Iraqi-American civil engineer and former CEO of Nature Iraq, found himself back in Iraq to tackle this very issue in the early 2000s. “If Iraq does nothing to improve irrigation standards, agriculture is going to die in the place where it started,” Alwash stated. After hefty biological surveys, Alwash and his team began restoring the marshlands and reintroducing sustainable irrigation techniques. Their work was met with constant adversities and even threats from the government. Despite these obstacles, about half of the marshlands have been restored in the past decade and will now become a national park.

Achieving such a success is vital to the economy of Iraq, as many of its people rely on farming for food and livelihood. Alwash’s next project is working with the Syrian and Turkish governments to address the issues of the dams that are being built on the borders of those countries which stop the flow of water to the marshes. While the main goal is to prevent the loss of water, Alwash also sees this as an opportunity to prevent war in the Middle East. Of it, he says, “If we succeed in creating economic ties [between the countries], it’s going to be too difficult to go to war. Borders disappear when ties are strong.”

Nature Iraq, still the only environmental non-profit in Iraq, has expanded since its founding in 2003. It works with global organizations such as the UK’s Darwin Initiative to collect data on biodiversity and educate communities in those areas about the dangers of ignoring environmental issues. It also built the Adobe House on the banks of the Euphrates River to illustrate how people can build low-cost and sustainable housing even in marshlands.

Among all its projects, Azzam Alwash’s organization has proven that no matter the political stability of a country, environmental issues can be addressed. By creating stable communities that will foster a growing economy, it eliminates possible grounds of impoverished people and politicians forming uprisings.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST

Ethiopia Embraces Bamboo
According to the government of Ethiopia, the country is experiencing an industrial boom due to the supply of bamboo, foreign investment, and interest from foreign markets.

Although there has been no existing bamboo economy in Ethiopia, minister for agriculture and rural development Mitiku Kassa has said that the country now has the right mix of resources, foreign interest, and investment to create an industry from the 2.47 million acres of bamboo previously untouched.

Africa Bamboo, a public-private partnership between Ethiopia and a German development group, plans to invest over $10 million into manufacturing for bamboo flooring products. Associate engineer Felix Boeck of Africa Bambo commented that there was much market potential for bamboo in Europe. “We believe that there can be a reliable and effective supply chain built here in Ethiopia to create a bamboo manufacturing industry,” said Boeck.

Unlike traditional wood sources, bamboo is fully sustainable and sees regrowth within three years. In comparison, trees can take up to 30 years until they are mature enough to harvest again for wood. Many local farmers hope to capitalize on the booming bamboo industry in the country, and hope that foreign investment is available to small-scale growers.

Other organizations are stepping in to ensure that the government of Ethiopia recognizes the vast potential that bamboo has to create economic growth and development.

Christina Kindlon
Source: Guardian

American Chemical Society Advocates For Reduced Food Waste
Did you know that the average American wastes almost 20 pounds of food a month? How about that 4 out of every 10 pounds of food produced in the United States goes to waste? These surprising facts – gleaned from recent scientific research calling for reduced food waste – was discussed at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society last week in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The topic of reduced food waste, along with various other subjects highlighting specific energy and sustainability challenges was raised in order to meet the needs of an estimated worldwide population of nine billion by 2050. As the global population increases and demands greater food quality – via development and increased standards of living – new and creative methods of food security must be implemented in order to prevent future agricultural and energy constraints. John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State remarked that “We will need another ‘Green Revolution‘ to feed the world by 2050, That will mean scientific innovations, such as new strains of the big three grains — rice, wheat and corn — adapted for a changing climate and other conditions. It also will require action to reduce a terrible waste of food that gets too little attention.”

The emergence of the Chinese middle class – roughly the size of the entire US population – was a popular topic, including their greater demand for energy and evolving dietary tastes predicted to strain worldwide energy and food resources, necessitating increased sustainability and seed development. By taking the first steps in raising awareness of issues such as reduced food waste, scientists are optimistic about meeting future food security challenges through greater collaboration and agricultural research. John Floros further remarked that “Consumers, industry, universities and governments all need to pitch in. The first step is more awareness of these issues and the need for action on multiple levels of society.”

Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Salon

The Link Between the Artificial Leaf and Development
For roughly three billion of the world’s population, access to traditional forms of energy is a luxury afforded to a privileged few. However, increased scientific research focused on finding “personalized” forms of energy production aimed at alleviating energy constraints in remote populations has resulted in amazing technological breakthroughs. Of these exciting new innovations, none has more potential in global poverty reduction than that of the artificial leaf and development.

Made of little more than a thin piece of silicone, the artificial leaf is coated with a self-healing substance that is able to produce a chemical reaction under certain conditions. The artificial leaf is able to utilize water and sunlight – not unlike the photosynthetic reactions of a real leaf – to produce enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for up to 24 hours. Furthermore, the artificial leaf has the unique ability to use dirty water as a means of energy production, a benefit considered instrumental in rural areas with little available drinking water. In regards to the artificial leaf and development, Harvard professor Daniel G. Nocera remarked that “They are a kind of ‘living catalyst.’ This is an important innovation that eases one of the concerns about the initial use of the leaf in developing countries and other remote areas.”

Scientific breakthroughs that open up exciting new energy possibilities such as artificial leaf and development are a reason to be optimistic in the fight against global poverty. In regards to the energy benefits of the artificial leaf, Nocera stated that “We’re interested in making lots of inexpensive units that may not be the most efficient, but that gets the job done. It’s kind of like going from huge mainframe computers to a personal laptop. This is personalized energy.”

Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: The Guardian

For many North African and Middle Eastern (MENA) countries, the goal of greater water acquisition had been the standard policy for developers and government officials aiming to combat the low annual rainfall and dry climate of the region. Huge projects involving the construction of desalinization plants, dams, and canals resulted in only marked successes in solving the region’s water scarcity problems. Enter the Canadian-led International Development Regional Centre (IRDC) in 2004 that – with a fresh set of eyes and a renewed focus on efficiency – set out to implement a new policy of development that focuses on water reduction as opposed to acquisition.

The water conservation project, known as WaDlmena and co-sponsored by the IRDC, introduced a “demand management” program that focused on decreasing the amount of water used through innovative water conservation methods and development that focuses on water reduction. Techniques such as greywater – which utilizes non-sewage wastewater for crops – along with drip irrigation and nightly crop watering were researched, implemented, and tested by local farmers, policymakers, and community members. Various concerns such as issues involving poor farmers and tariffs on water usage were also addressed, leading to creative new ideas such as allowing small amounts of free well water to local growers.

Since the WaDlmena program has been enacted, nations such as Jordan and Morocco have adopted water conservation techniques ranging from mandatory wastewater systems in new buildings and drip irrigation for the agricultural industry. Thanks to the IRDC’s efforts in funding development that focuses on water reduction instead of water acquisition, a realistic solution to the water scarcity problem in the Middle East may soon be reached.

Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: National Geographic

As the world continues to deal with economic financial crises, there is still a need for global contribution and aid to countries of extreme poverty. With the amounts of Western foreign aid decreasing, there is a need for new and innovative means of development to lift people out of poverty. The main themes that are the current focus include taxing, gender equality laws, inclusive growth and regional integration.

The Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank, Mthuli Ncube, urged the need for transparency between investors and the African people. He points out that it is problematic how even when commodity prices increase, African governments’ revenues do not follow the pattern. He suggests that international investments in African natural resources should be monitored so that they “benefit the African people through job creation, protecting the environment, developing African entrepreneurs,” and then using all the resulted revenues to create a diverse African economy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has stated that there has been a shift in aid from extremely poor countries to those of middle-income, and it emphasizes the point that in order to meet the U.N. Millennium Goals by 2015, this shift must be reversed to prioritize and address the extremely poor countries. A professor of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Warwick in the U.K., Franklyn Lisk, discussed how African countries suffer from an irony where their natural resources have not been giving them any returns on improving human development. He argues for tax justice, citing that there are many extranational companies who enter developing nations “paying little or no taxes, through manipulation and connivance with corrupt regimes.” With taxation, Lisk says, revenue would increase to 6 times the amount of total aid.

In 2012, 9 members of the Development Assistance Committee increased their aid, and those members are: Australia, Iceland, Austria, Korea, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, with other donors including Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Leen Abdallah

Source: All Africa
Photo: National Geographic


The World Travel & Tourism Council predicts that travel and tourism will be one of the world’s fastest growing industries between 2013 and 2021, and the best part is – this will create about 66 million jobs.

According to the World Tourism Organiza­tion (UNWTO), international travel to developing countries is on the rise and the tourism boom is driving development, exports, and jobs. Tour­­ists are increasingly looking for cultural and natural attractions in rural areas, thereby exploring more developing countries. Overall, two-thirds of people living in extreme poverty live in rural areas, so these communities will benefit from this pro-poor tourism according to the Rural Poverty Report 2011 (International Fund for Agricultural Development).

Tourism requires local labor and thus presents more employment opportunities for even low-skilled people. According to the UN International Trade Center (ITC), “tourism offers superior poverty reduction opportunities.” And the UNWTO points out that women and young people, who are generally proportionally disadvantaged, have more opportunities to find jobs within tourism.

It is not all trouble-free, tourism is vulnerable to natural disasters and political instability, and poor communities do not automatically benefit as some companies prefer to import supplies and services. But the ITC is taking measures to promote “inclusive tourism” and elevate the priority of this industry with international organizations and corporations. In 2003 it launched a project in Brazil’s Coconut Coast to increase capacity building activities for  agriculture, arts and crafts, the hotel business, computer science, English, environmental education, design, and culture, all as part of the tourism industry. They even installed an organic waste processing plant, providing balanced fertilizer at subsidized rates to 300 farmers. Today, 70 percent of the 3,000 beneficiaries of the project have found employment (mostly in nine five-star partner hotels) and the monthly income of 390 local women artisans has risen from $40 US to $250 US. The portion of the population earning less than one minimum salary has also decreased from 40 percent to 28 percent. The success of this and other projects confirms the fact that tourism represents an important opportunity for developing countries in their fight against poverty.

– Mary Purcell

Source: UN ITC

New Website Will Boost Ghana's AgricultureThe internet has become a great way to bring people and news together. With the click of a button, people can easily find old friends on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, simultaneously read up on local and world news, and put their views and opinions on internet platforms for other people to view. And, as people in Ghana have discovered, the internet can help boost the agriculture industry.

The United States Agency for International Development and Ghana’s Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services at the University of Ghana in Accra have recently developed an online platform that creates easy access to important information and data, such as locations of small farm holders, tractor service providers, weather stations, and warehouses. Increasing accessibility to this type of information is expected to increase the efficiency of farmers.

Currently, agriculture makes up about 25 percent of Ghana’s GDP, while approximately 50 percent of Ghanaians are employed in some aspect of the agricultural realm. Increasing efficiency will increase the product and success of crops, leading to an increase in GDP and the income of individual workers. The website will provide tools that allow for the sharing of information on agriculture and other relevant topics, leading to quicker dissemination of information and, in essence, helping to boost Ghana’s agriculture.

– Angela Hooks

Source: The Africa Report
Photo: Guardian

Since 1945 the United Nations has established the contemporary global, obligation to address the economic and social well-being of ordinary citizens. A very new concept when written into their charter: “The United Nations shall promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of progress and development in the economic and social order.”

Over time, for at least economists and policy makers, this development agenda has become synonymous with “improving economic opportunities through increased production of goods and services.” The implicit assumption is that economic growth will increase quality of life standards, life expectancy, improve nutrition and health.

Since 1945, there have been impressive advancements in the elimination of extreme poverty, but still many professionals wonder how to accelerate growth even more throughout the world – particularly in Africa and South Asia, two regions with a great number of poor. The issue has prompted economists and policymakers to analyze the importance of several factors, policies and institutions, finding six factors for successful development:

1. Social inclusion – With a healthier and more educated population, nations can enjoy a more effective economic and political life. Illiteracy is a major barrier to participation in the economy. Without widespread education, citizens are more easily manipulated by un-just governments – allowing for the empowerment of counter-productive leadership.
2. Quality management – Governments must manage their national macro-economic environment; if there is no over-arching/holistic governance, the nation loses its credibility both in private sector business, and the citizenry. The “political capital” of a country cannot be wasted, and moreover, if public resources and urgent needs are not continually addressed, then the country falls into a burden of “catch up” where they are always behind in development, comparatively.
3. Transparency and accountability – Transparency is essential to prevent corruption and financial fraud, and promotes citizen participation. Experience shows that trust in one’s government encourages citizens and businesses to pay their taxes, thus advancing development and social services. Companies invest and expand more, creating greater confidence in the government and a “virtuous circle” of development ensues.
 4. Technology and innovation – Economic production is no longer just about capital and labor, now knowledge and innovation are just as important. It has been proven that technology gaps can explain the disparity in productivity between different countries. Technological adoption, knowledge dissemination and information communication technology (ICT) are imperative for national competitiveness.
5. Economic opportunities – Increasing the access and use economic resources to citizens is imperative. Free and open access to markets can contribute significantly to development; access to goods, labor and financial markets for personal use, production and exchange; especially the promotion of small-businesses.
6. Administrative Infrastructure – Business and society often come down to bureaucratic needs:  issuance of licenses, permits, birth certificate, passport, filing taxes, starting a business, registering a title, property rights, contract settlements, foreign trade authorization, hiring an employee, use the public health services, etc. The efficiency of bureaucracy is pertinent to advancing greater and more equal access to public resources.
 – Mary Purcell

Source: ITC

It is predicted that by 2015 China will decrease the number of its citizens living in poverty by 50 million. Other developing countries are taking note of China’s success and, with the help of foreign investment, hope to employ the same methods. With its growing economy and monetary assistance, China is, by example, taking a leading role in foreign aid and assisting the developing world.

China’s representative for the World Food Programme, Brett Rierson, explains how China used a bottom-up method of alleviating poverty. The Chinese government focused on aiding poor farmers by implementing policies that permitted farmers to keep a higher percentage of their profits and allocating foreign investment and technology to small villages. Investment in infrastructure, as well as improving nutrition education, women’s health, and agriculture production, are also factors responsible for China’s success story.

A majority of China’s aid goes to countries in Asia and Africa. These developing countries can mimic China’s strategy by investing in infrastructure and farming communities. Deborah Brautigam, director of the international development program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, reminds us that it was China’s decision to invest in agriculture that helped reduce poverty, not just foreign assistance. African countries have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty, but it depends on how they invest the money they received from foreign aid.

China formerly received foreign aid from Western countries and is now ready to begin investing in other developing countries. With China’s help, the United Nations is on track to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.

-Mary Penn
Source: SCMP
Photo: The Guardian