Information and news about sustainability

Environmental conservation is an often-forgotten aspect of reducing global poverty and providing sustainable income for coastal communities. Conserving the ocean has become an even more pressing issue now because of overfishing. However, one company is putting this at the forefront of their work. Rare’s Fish Forever campaign is working to end the unprecedented endangerment of our coastal waters and protect the families who depend on them.

What Is Rare’s Fish Forever?

Founded in 1995 by Brett Jenks, Rare is an organization with a focus on conservation as a means to protect the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure that the wetlands, forests and oceans they depend on continue to thrive. Fish Forever is a campaign that targets coastal revitalization and conserving biodiversity along coastlines through bottom-up solutions. Jenks says, “The aim isn’t to teach a community to fish; it’s to help ensure they can fish forever.” Ensuring a future for these coastal communities relies on sustainable fishing practices.

Rare’s Fish Forever campaign uses community-led initiatives to provide solutions to issues like overfishing and coastal mismanagement because it empowers local populations and incentivizes future compliance with new regulations. These local people work with all levels of their government to come up with solutions that fit their unique situation. Active in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Belize and Mozambique, Rare’s Fish Forever acts as a guide for communities while also providing tools the improve the data needed for these countries to make informed decisions.

Fish Forever in Mozambique

Mozambique is an African country with more than 1,500 miles of coastline, sustaining millions of people. Half of the population lives on the coastline in fishing communities. In fact, the economy is largely dependent on fisheries, particularly small-scale or artisan fisheries. Almost 85 percent of all fish caught in Mozambique are done so on a small-scale. Communities such as those in the Nampula, Sofala, Inhambane, Maputa and Cabo Delgado regions are good candidates for Rare’s Fish Forever solutions because they are home to most of the small-scale fisherman.

The country’s coastline is very diverse, second only to the Coral Triangle. However, due to climate change and unregulated fishing, the size of the fish catches has declined. In the last 25 years, small-scale catch sizes have declined 30 percent, and it is continuing to decline. Additionally, fisherman asserted that some species of fish had all-together disappeared. Climate change would only worsen these issues, so Rare’s Fish Forever worked with communities to come up with solutions to this threat. Together with Rare’s Fish Forever program, communities came up with four broad solutions to revitalize coastlines, protect biodiversity and ensuring sizeable fish catches for families.

  1. First, they decided to adopt government frameworks to better regulate fishing behaviors and make fishing more sustainable.
  2. Then, they built and strengthened community-based management of coastal fisheries.
  3. Thirdly, communities established fishing areas with managed access – places where fishing was prohibited or limited – and provided social and economic benefits to communities who abided by these rules.
  4. Lastly, they made environmental conservation more of the social norm through education and marketing campaigns.

All in all, Mozambique is on its way to recovery. With more than 100 organizations and institutions supporting Rare’s Fish Forever program, the country’s coastal waters and fishing communities are in good hands. That means a higher chance of conserving the ocean.

Rare’s Fish Forever in the Philippines

Coastal communities in the Philippines face the same sorts of issues as those in Mozambique. Looc Bay is a beautiful location that is home to many communities and attracts its fair share of tourists. Unfortunately, a combination of overfishing by local fisherman and environmental degradation from irresponsible tourism have caused a significant decline in the fish populations. This has only been accelerated by climate change.

The communities in the area have always been wary of external intervention. Their greatest worry when initially approached by Rare’s Fish Forever program was that coastal management would restrict fishing to a point that families could no longer sustain themselves through small-scale fishing. This distrust was fortunately misplaced.

Today, more than 4.4 square miles of coastal waters have been declared as Managed Access Areas and sanctuaries. These protected critical habitats require exclusive clearance, which is only granted to fisherman who comply with sustainable practices. To date, more than 800 fishermen have been granted exclusive access area, meaning that they are also faithful practitioners of sustainable fishing.

Jose Ambrocio, the Looc Municipal Councilor and chairperson of the Agricultural and Environmental Committee, has noted that “With Rare’s Fish Forever program, we are working to balance the economic needs of the people and the need to conserve the resources for the future generation.”

By challenging communities to develop their own solutions, Rare’s Fish Forever program is sustainable and empowering. Through this program, and programs like it, more sustainable fishing practices can be put into place, thus working towards a better future by conserving the ocean.

Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Global Poverty
When one thinks about what it means to be a chef, whether celebrity or not, aiding in the fight against global poverty does not usually seem to be a prerequisite. However, as foodie culture is in its heyday in the United States, chefs are becoming more publicized in the fight against hunger, as well as bringing unfamiliar cultures to Americans via food. In addition, they often play custodians of the world via sustainability.

The history of chefs in the fight against global poverty within the U.S. and abroad is brief but significant. The creativity and innovation that chefs use to aid the less fortunate and encourage sustainability are inspiring and motivating, encouraging people to think outside the box.

Chefs and Other Cultures

The essence of a chef is that they are there to serve or at least there to create a dish for guests to enjoy. Though chefs all over the world prepare creative, exquisite and unimaginable meals, the thought that they can serve something other than food is overlooked. However, when one digs more into the existentially philosophical explanation of what chefs do in the modern era, it becomes apparent that chefs are not just serving food to their guests; they are also familiarizing guests with recipes from other cultures.

For example, when debating the best foodie destinations, many people start by naming the classics like Paris, Rome or Naples. However, when chefs serve dishes inspired by other cultures around the world, they shift the paradigm by making people familiar with places often overlooked. Anthony Bourdain’s show, “Part’s Unknown”, is an example of bringing people’s attention to different cultures; Bourdain used his reputation as a world-renowned chef to showcase the food and cultures of places that food critics do not usually discuss. He brought viewers to Tanzania, Trinidad and numerous other destinations that Americans forget as cultural destinations. Bourdain did this not by visiting the most elite restaurants in these places, but by eating the food of local street vendors and home cooked meals with the locals.

Nicholas Verdisco and No Kid Hungry

Portland chef, Nicholas Verdisco, a Jean-Georges alumni, spoke about the accessibility of other cultures in an interview with The Borgen Project, but speaking about the similarities between cultures: “Most cultures have a stuffed dough whether it be fried or steamed, think ravioli, dumplings or empanadas… [Simply] Flour and water.” Essentially, cultures have much more in common than one may think. People should not stray from various foods because they are different but enjoy them because of their similarities to more familiar foods. This is an important lesson when discussing how to familiarize different cultures to mainstream America.

Verdisco also talked about how he and other chefs fight against global poverty and poor living conditions. Verdisco focuses on feeding children that are hungry by working with multiple charity organizations, such as No Kid Hungry, a charitable organization that is working to end child hunger in the United States by providing children with access to food. Verdisco says that chefs feel that there is still a chance for children to not worry about where their next meal may come from. He also envisions that food may be their way out of poverty and its symptoms.

Other Chef Endeavours and Sustainability

Along these lines, many other chefs have worked with organizations that battle tough issues like hunger and child poverty; chefs have even created their own organizations. Notably, Jose Andres created Think Food Group which is an organization that attempts to bring food to those in need via education and innovation. Massimmo Botura created Food for Soul, which fights “food waste through social inclusion.”

Upon the lines of food waste, sustainability is also an important area of focus for many chefs around the world. Chef Verdiso told The Borgen Project, “I was raised to eat sustainable… Italians shop a couple of times a week. As a kid growing up I seemed to be at the grocery store all the time… It was definitely not a one stop and get all the shopping done… Now as a chef I write menus with the seasons and with the location of where I am cooking, try[ing] to buy from local farms.”

In terms of food waste, Chef Verdisco notes that chefs’ hands are tied behind their backs with the regulation of food disposal. Food redistribution is difficult without an organization like Think Food Group and most food redistribution organizations are understaffed, to begin with.

Never before have chefs had such an important role in reducing poverty and hunger. Advocacy groups and charitable organizations, sometimes created by chefs, allow chefs to reduce hunger and childhood poverty. With sustainability as a focal point, chefs are also, now more than ever, creating less food waste and a more educated citizenry through serving local and fresh foods. What people must keep in mind, though, is that many organizations that chefs work with suffer understaffing. Also, red tape makes it difficult for chefs to send food to various organizations after restaurants no longer need it.

– Kurt Thiele
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in PortugalLocated on the Iberian Peninsula in Western Europe, Portugal was one of the world’s most powerful seafaring nations throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. However, environmental destruction, loss of colonies, war and political instability catalyzed the decline of Portugal’s wealthy status.

In a bid to turn things around, the coastline country has been emphasizing sustainability since 2014. Through the reallocation of resources and renewable energy, Portugal seeks to enhance economic, social and territorial development policies. Here are 10 facts about sustainability in Portugal and its dedication to responsible and sustainable growth.

10 Facts About Sustainability in Portugal

  1. Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission dedicated to sustainable economic and social development. Between 2014 and 2020, the European Commission agreed to allocate 25 billion euros to Portugal. This funding will allow for the stimulation of growth and creation of employment.
  2. Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth is at the center of Portugal 2020. Within the next calendar year, Portugal aims to have a greenhouse gas emission equal to that of the early 2000s. The goal includes having 31 percent of energy come from renewable sources, along with increased exports from the promotion of sustainable development.
  3. Portugal 2020 is designed to have a large impact on social development. This impact includes a 75 percent employment rate, 200,000 fewer people living in poverty, decreased early school dropout levels and a dedication to combating social exclusion.
  4. One improvement stemming from Portugal’s emphasis on sustainability is water quality. Since the beginning of Portugal 2020, 100 percent of urban and rural drinking water and bathing water meets health standards. This is just one way in which civilians are benefiting from the emphasis of sustainability in Portugal.
  5. Another area of improvement is air quality. As of 2019, Portugal has satisfactory air quality with pollution posing little to no risk on human health. However, Portugal still plans to improve its air quality further.
  6. Portugal is on target to hit the goals outlined in Portugal 2020. With the aid of the European Commission, Portugal is set up to meet the economic, environmental and social goals outlined in the partnered agreement.
  7. Portugal’s goals for after Portugal 2020 include decarbonization. By 2050, the country aims to be carbon neutral, which means they will not release any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Aside from utilizing environmentally-friendly methods of energy production, another goal is transportation reform. Portugal’s plan includes replacing more than 500 buses with electric powered vehicles and investing in two new underground networks. Increasing access to quality public transportation will hopefully have a drastic impact on the use of carbon emission via cars.
  8. Solar power is another focus of Portugal 2020. The Portuguese Minister of Environment believes the country can harvest more than 10 percent of energy production within the next five years. Currently, Portugal harvests more wind than solar energy. However, this other prospect for sustainable energy sets new goals for the future and more opportunity for job creation.
  9. Portugal has embarked on a green growth agenda. The country aims to be a national leader in sustainable and economic growth. Portugal’s Commitment for Green Growth targets a low-carbon economy, high efficiency in resources and more jobs centered around sustainability. This sets a high standard for countries wanting to build up their economies in a sustainable way.
  10. A 2030 agenda will outline new goals for a sustainable and inclusive Portugal. This new plan aims to focus on issues pertaining to peace, security, good governance, increased emphasis on fragile states, conservation and sustainable use of oceans. It also aims to focus on human rights, including gender equality. Although the seaside country will have many successes to celebrate in 2020, the Portuguese government is already preparing its next steps to keep driving forward sustainability.

Portugal 2020 and other national sustainability goals highlight the country’s commitment to investing in the future. Focusing on resourcefully building its economy, sustainability in Portugal also focuses on improving societal issues, such as poverty and education.

Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

sustainable irrigationIrrigation is as important to farming as seeds are. Irrigation, especially sustainable irrigation, is an oftentimes taken for granted by the general population in the United States where the average shower last over 8 minutes, using roughly 17 gallons of water at an estimated 2 gallons a minute. Being clean is important for many reasons but so is sustainability. In farming, especially in countries where water is not abundant, there are a few sustainable irrigation methods to choose from where less water is wasted.

Water Sources for Farmers

Many rural farmers around the world get their water from surface water. Surface water is water that has yet to reach the water-table underground. It can be found in naturally occurring pounds, streams and rivers or collected in basins, reservoirs or man-made ponds for later use. This is for those lucky enough to be near a body of freshwater or who have learned to collect water during their rainy seasons.

Groundwater is another important source for farmers to get their water. This water is underground and, therefore, can more difficult to use. A well must be dug down to the water table or a pump installed to get the water back to the surface for use. Digging a well uses a lot of energy, time and money. Finding ways to do this more efficiently is one way the United Nations is supporting sustainable irrigation methods.

Sustainable Irrigation Methods

Each of these sustainable irrigation methods has its upsides and downsides. The main drawback of using a more efficient method is often the time or money needed. For example, it is cheap to redirect a stream or direct groundwater already collected into a field where furrows are dug. The water runs along these furrows flooding the field for a short time without damaging the seeds or crops. This method is known as flood or furrow irrigation. However, this uses a lot more water than might be necessary.

Installing a sprinkler system to collected groundwater or pumping it up from underground is a better sustainable irrigation technique than flood irrigation. The water can be directed and controlled, which cuts back on water usage. However, these pumps cost money upfront, plus there are funds needed for upkeep. Fuel and parts must be taken into consideration when purchasing any farming equipment. Luckily the United Nations is working with groups around the world to supply solar and mechanical pumps to rural farming villages. The mechanical pumps look like bikes or “Stairmasters.”

The best sustainable irrigation technique by far is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a system of pumps and tubes. The tubes are either suspended above the soil or planted alongside the roots of the plant. A predetermined amount of water is then pumped through the tubes and released through tiny holes poked in the tubes. These systems come in a variety of complex options. This is also a technique promoted by the United Nations, specifically solar-powered drip systems.

A Sustainable Future

Sustainable irrigation methods are essential to farmers all over the world. There are several methods to choose from depending on the resources available to the farmers in any given region. What is important is ensuring a water supply so that farmer is arid regions can continue to grow and profit off of their crops.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Alleviating Poverty and Waste in AfricaWith trillions of pounds of trash produced worldwide per year, it is safe to say that trash is a growing problem. While the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day, many do not realize the immensity of trash built up in communities as it almost mythically disappears from curbs weekly. Comparatively, Africans produce considerably much less waste with only 5 percent of the trash worldwide coming from the entire continent. However, in less developed parts of the world like Africa, only 10 percent of trash is regularly collected. This build-up of trash becomes problematic as it pollutes the land and water, causing disease and environmental degradation. There are many creative entrepreneurs in Africa now exploring new ways to tackle both poverty and the growing waste problem. These entrepreneurs are using creative ways to reuse the waste in their communities to create quality products to sell. From bags to shoes to fence posts, here are three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa.

Rethaka Repurposes Schoolbags

Two young South African women entrepreneurs, Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane, designed a school bag that offers a creative solution to numerous problems. Their school bags are each made out of 20 recycled plastic bags. Their idea removes plastic waste from their communities while offering a sustainable, waterproof school bag. Additionally, the bags are reflective, ensuring that kids are visible during their walks to and from school. The cherry on top of this sustainable solution is the solar charged light attached to each bag. This light charges while a child walks outside to school, providing them light to study by at home after dark. With over 10,000 bags sold already, Rethaka created local job opportunities paying fair wages, ultimately helping lift employees out of poverty.

SoleRebels

SoleRebels of Ethiopia boasts that it was the first ever fair trade certified footwear company back in 2005. Creating jobs for over 600 locals paid on average 233 percent more than industry averages, soleRebels truly prioritized creating an ethical job market in Ethiopia since its creation. Recognizing sustainability as a deeply ingrained cultural tradition rather than a contemporary trend, soleRebels made creating footwear with a low environmental impact a priority. The soles of the shoes are made out of recycled car tires. The company uses a variety of other reused and recycled materials like cotton for the rest of the shoe. This locally owned business promotes the importance of local ownership over charity. As wealth gets more evenly distributed, more people can escape poverty through job creation and ethical wages.

EcoPost

All while creating thousands of jobs for locals, EcoPost eliminated over 6 million pounds of plastic to create fence posts. Its fence post design mirrors the look of traditional wood fencing but is much more durable as it is not vulnerable to termites, mold or theft for firewood (a growing problem in Kenya).  EcoPost proved to be safer for local communities as it does not leach harsh chemicals into the water supply as treated timber does. This sustainable fencing option also reduces the number of forests cut down to create fencing from virgin wood resources. By recycling and reusing thousands of plastic bags, EcoPost helped reduce the amount of flooding in local communities caused by plastic bags clogging sewer systems. EcoPost is helping to build up communities from the inside out through the intersection of job creation and waste reduction.

As Africa continues to urbanize, the amount of municipal waste is expected to double by 2025. As growing waste negatively impacts those in poverty, it is crucial for new local businesses to take on this low impact business model. By removing waste from the waste stream and creating new jobs, sustainable businesses like the ones discussed here are effective options. With more businesses like these three businesses alleviating poverty and waste in Africa around, the path to escape from poverty becomes more accessible.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Cocoa Farming
The Hershey Company is committed to achieving its goal of 100 percent sustainable cocoa farming by 2020, investing in two programs targeting small farmers and poverty in West Africa.

Learn To Grow Cocoa

The focus of this program — launched in 2012 — is to help farmers in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire increase their productivity and improve their livelihoods. Currently, poverty rates in Nigeria are rising while Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are not on target to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

In West Africa, where about 70 percent of cocoa is grown, most cocoa farms are only about two to four hectares in size. The Learn To Grow program empowers farmers by teaching them environmental, social and sustainable agricultural practices. Through Learn To Grow, Hershey offers a three-year training program that “can lead to UTZ certification as producers of sustainable cocoa.”

Farmers who meet the certification requirements will receive premium payments for their cocoa yields, providing a considerable boost in income. The program also provides greater opportunities for their communities to thrive as it, “encourages women and young cocoa farmers to take leadership roles in farmer organizations by leveraging training and knowledge sharing.”

One of the key features of the Learn To Grow Program is called CocoaLink. This is a mobile phone service that connects even the most rural farmers in West Africa. It shares practical information with these farmers, including things such as farm safety, information on good fertilization practices, pest and disease prevention, post-harvest marketing and more.

Learn To Grow also has plans to distribute 1 million higher yielding, drought and disease resistant cocoa trees to West African farmers.

Cocoa For Good

In April of 2018, The Hershey Company launched Cocoa For Good, pledging $500 million by 2030 to support farming communities. This initiative aims to help all cocoa-growing communities, with a focus on West Africa. The initiative targets four key areas:

  • Nourishing Families. People are most productive when they are healthy, and the Hershey Company provides increased access to good nutrition, enabling children to be more successful in school and adults to be more successful in their jobs. Of note, every day, 50,000 children in Ghana receive ViVi, a nut-based healthy snack, provided through the Hershey Energize Learning program.
  • Elevating Youth. Child labor is a side effect of poverty in West Africa, and children aged 14-17 are at the most risk. Hershey currently targets child labor by increasing access to educational opportunities for the most vulnerable children. So far, the company has built five schools and supported 31 education institutions.
  • Prospering Communities. The Hershey Company is investing in programs that support women farmers who make up 45 percent of the cocoa farming industry in West Africa.
  • Preserving Ecosystems. The Hershey Company encourages the use of sustainable agricultural techniques such as shade-grown cocoa farming in order to preserve the environment for future generations.

The Hershey Company recognizes its important role in the cocoa value chain and has repeatedly shown its commitment to improving sustainable cocoa farming practices, especially in West Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in ghana
Ghana is a small country located in West Africa along the Guinea Bay. The country is rich in natural resources, especially oil and gold, but nearly 45 percent of the country’s population is employed in the agricultural sector and agriculture makes up 18 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Coca, rice, cassava, peanuts, and bananas are some of the top agricultural products grown in Ghana. Coca is one of the country’s popular exports, alongside oil, gold and timber. Despite being resource-rich, Ghana’s economy has been contracting. Its current growth is around negative 6 percent. Countries and organizations around the world, alongside Ghana’s government and people, have recognized this problem and are currently promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana so that they can carve a brighter future for this recovering African nation.

Feed the Future Program

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has chosen Ghana, specifically Northern Ghana, as one of its focus nations for its Feed the Future Program. USAID reports that the majority of farmers in this part of the country own small farms that are often less than five acres. Much of this land is covered in pour soil. Due to climate change and the inherent climate of the region, rain is unpredictable.

These challenges mean that malnutrition is high amongst the population. USAID’s Feed the Future Program aims to increase the productivity of these farms that mainly produce corn, rice and soybeans and promote sustainable agriculture in Ghana. Since 2012, Feed the Future has helped supply 156 thousand producers with better farming equipment and educate them on sustainable farming techniques. These techniques have led to the alleviation of some of the malnutrition and poverty issues. They also earned the farmers a total of $40 million and $16 million in private investment.

Governments Role in Sustainable Agriculture in Ghana

This private investment is important to the government’s idea for the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana. The Ghanaian Times reports that the government of Ghana recognizes the United Nation’s latest report about the future of food security. The government wants to do its part on the world stage and at home by promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana.

Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda mention a few ways in which the country plans to do this. The government works with organizations such as the USAID and many programs based in Africa, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. Sustainable agriculture in Ghana is seen as a way to strengthen food security, alleviate poverty in the country and promote private sector growth.

Trax Ghana

Trax Ghana is a small nongovernmental organization that promotes sustainable agriculture in Ghana for all of the reasons mentioned above. Like the USAID Feed the Future Program, Trax Ghana operates mainly in Northern Ghana. It promotes the nitty-gritty of sustainable agriculture. It teaches farmers about the importance of soil management and how to construct proper animal pens. The organization also promote gender equality, teach business skills and farming skills to both women and men for over 25 years, since the organization was founded.

Attacking the issue of poverty from multiple fronts and with multiple allies, the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana looks bright. Ghana’s government is in collaboration with USAID to set up the Ghana Comprehensive Agriculture Project to increase private sector investment into the agriculture sector. It will take time and there will probably be some setbacks, but with so many people dedicated the practicing and promoting the practice of sustainable agriculture, the country has a good chance of succeeding.

– Nicholas DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Many Hands Fair Trade ShopMany Hands Fair Trade Shop, located in Liberty, Missouri, sells fair trade items from a global community of artisans and workers. The shop — open between the months of March and December — benefits fair trade sellers in over 30 countries.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a concept that began around the 1980s in an effort to provide sustainable compensation and livelihoods to the producers and workers who make globally-traded products.

Essentially, consumers pay slightly more for internationally-traded products to ensure that a fair wage is paid to the producers of the products. Additionally, fair trade organizations set standards on the products produced, including environmental and human rights standards for producers and a fair trade minimum price for consumers.

What is Fair Trade’s Impact?

In 2016, there were over 1,400 fair trade certified producer organizations in over 70 countries who work to ensure fair compensation to over 1.6 million workers and producers. In fact, 23 percent of fair trade workers are women, a position that empowers them to help build their communities and work in a meaningful way.   

By selling solely fair trade products, Many Hands Fair Trade Shop uses their small storefront to contribute in a large way to producers all over the world. Established in 2015, the store works to ensure they are providing “a channel for these [fair trade sponsored] artisans to sell their products, [and] offering them an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty and embrace a better life.”

What is the Many Hands Fair Trade Shop?

Cindy Noel, one of the managers of the Many Hands Fair Trade Shop, spoke with The Borgen Project about the efforts of the store’s managers to ensure as much income as possible goes to the fair trade producers.

“We put everything back into buying fair trade items so we can support more fair trade artisans and farmers. We have had to purchase a few shop displays but we ask for donations of most things and really have bought very few things. We are frugal. No one takes a salary,” said Noel.

The store is so serious about putting all the profit back into fair trade they have made an agreement with the Second Baptist Church of Liberty in Missouri — the owners of their property and sponsors of the store’s mission — to pay no rent on the storefront.  

The store purchases its products from a variety of companies, mainly SERRV, Papillion and Equal Exchange — all of which are members of the Fair Trade Federation or the World Fair Trade Organization.

All three of the store’s suppliers buy and sell products from fair trade producers in many different countries. SERRV purchases from producers in 24 different countries; Papillion benefits artisans in Haiti; and Equal Exchange has partnered with over 40 farmer producers over the world.

How Does Fair Trade Benefit its Producers?

Noel continued to describe the ways in which the store, and more generally fair trade, benefits its producers:

“The artisans and farmers are guaranteed an ethical wage and provided a safe place to work before we order our merchandise. Most times their children are cared for and educated in schools where their parents work. Sometimes workers who have broken free of the sex trade, or who have diseases and are shunned, work at home and provide for their families by joining a home based co-op,” Noel said.

Going Above and Beyond

Through the international network of fair trade, Many Hands Fair Trade Shop is making it possible for hundreds of fair trade producers to pursue meaningful work while earning fair and sustainable wages.

By taking no profit or salary from the shop, the managers at Many Hands are going above and beyond to see to it that every possible cent is put back into purchasing fair trade products. Through these admirable efforts, the organization will continue to support producers and workers in over 30 countries all over the world.

– Savannah Hawley

Photo: Savannah Hawley

sustainable agriculture in KenyaThe first thing that may pop into people’s minds when they here “sustainable agriculture in Kenya” is coffee. This coffee may appear on the menu of a coffee shop or just sitting in a thermos in the back of the local gas station, labeled fair trade. Either way, it is probably the most the average person knows about sustainable agriculture in Kenya. Coffee is one of Kenya’s most important agricultural exports. Kenya boasts an average economic growth rate of around five percent a year over the last decade, and agriculture makes up 35 percent of the economy and employs up to 75 percent of the population with full-time and part-time jobs.

Development of farming techniques

Sustainable agriculture in Kenya is becoming more important as the world’s climate changes and the Kenyan government relies on a bountiful harvest for export. For the men and women working on the soil in Kenya, it is more than just an economic statistic. For them, it is a way to feed their families and themselves. As climate change wreaks havoc in eastern and southern Africa and what used to be modern farming techniques become outdated, the people have learned to adapt.

In order to combat changing rain patterns and decrease in rainfall, farmers in Kenya are learning how to adopt new farming techniques. Where once farmers mono-cropped (planted only one seed type or plant such as a cereal grain) now there is intercropping (the planting of multiple seeds and plant types such as cereal grain planted with legumes). This helps the farmers by increasing their crop output and provides insurance against the failure of one of the crops. In multiple small studies done by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, the multi-cropping system introduced improved agricultural output and reduced the reliance on herbicides and fertilizers.

Threat to agriculture

A major threat to sustainable agriculture in Kenya is the overuse of industrial fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Heavy use of these chemicals may increase crop yields in the short term but will decrease the soil quality over time. The low crop yields over time will not only hurt the Kenyan economy but also the people. Consequences of low crop yields are a lack of money to buy food or just the lack of food availability.

An NGO called ACE Africa is working on community livelihood programs to educate farmers and their families on the proper use of these chemicals. They are also teaching farmers the importance of crop rotation and mulching. Different types of crops use different nutrients from the soil. By planting one type in one field this year and a different one in the same field next year, nutrients will have time to naturally replenish. By mulching or placing plant matter over top of a field that was just planted, moisture is retained, so a farmer has to use less water. Also, nutrients from the dying plants seep into the soil, decreasing the need for fertilizers.

Tea production in Kenya

Coffee is not the only popular and important hot beverage export of Kenya. Tea is also a major agricultural product. Farming tea is labor intensive because it must mostly be done by hand. Damaging the tea leaves before they enter the factories can result in a lesser product. As tea farming and production is already labor intensive, the Rainforest Alliance has taken on the mission of teaching tea farmers sustainable techniques to help them increase their yields and lower their overhead cost, to give them alternative to artificial chemicals. This is a large mission since there are thousands of small tea farms in Kenya and an estimated 500,000 tea farmers and workers. It is not possible to teach every farmer directly. They have decided to take a different approach and let their actions and results speak for them. By showing the neighboring farms the good results of their sustainable farming techniques, hopefully, others will begin to transition as well and learn from their neighbors.

Next time the menu offers Kenyan coffee or maybe tea, try it. Know that the farmers on the other end of the trade route worked hard to get that product in your table. Also know that they are trying their best to be citizens of a better world for themselves, their country, and in the end for all of us.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr