Sustainable Agriculture in TanzaniaThe agricultural sector of Tanzania employs over 66 percent of this African nation’s workforce and accounts for nearly one-quarter of its GDP. Coffee, cashew nuts, and cotton are Tanzania’s top exports next to gold. Other important agricultural products in Tanzania include sisal, tea, pyrethrum (an insecticide made from chrysanthemums), tobacco, cloves, corn, wheat, cassava, bananas, various fruits, and vegetables, cattle, sheep and goats. In 2016 and 2017 Tanzania exported over $5 billion in goods. Because agriculture is such an important pillar of the economy, sustainable agriculture in Tanzania has special attention of big and small groups, domestic and international.

Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme

Two of the largest and most powerful supporters of sustainable agriculture in Tanzania are the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union. With the help of the European Union, the FAO established the Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme (IPPPA) in Africa in 2001 and through their Farmer Field School Approach, they have been working hand in hand with local governments and NGOs to improve food security and economic stability of farming communities in Africa. The food security portion of the program helps by training farmers to mitigate the risks associated with climate change and limited water access.

Domesticated cereal grains is what kick-started civilization and we have been reliant on them ever since. In 2013, cereal grain production reached a peak but due to insects, climate change, and lack of new farming equipment, it has been hard to surpass the yield of this year. The IPPPA is trying to rectify the situation with sustainable agricultural practices in Tanzania.

European Union-Africa partnership on cotton

Cotton has become an important crop from the cash perspective. Unfortunately, cotton needs a lot of water and a lot of pesticides to make sure the crop produces a proficient yield. When done incorrectly water supplies can become poisonous or dry up which causes soil quality to degrade. In 2014 the IPPPA began to specifically support the cotton industry in Tanzania with the Support Programme for the Consolidation of the Action Framework under the EU-Africa Partnership on Cotton.

The program heavily favors the investors in the Tanzanian cotton industry but in the long run, will help sustainable agriculture in Tanzania. The plan is to increase support of sustainable farming to increase the stability of the cotton yield. The deal will include better education and better equipment for farmers. A deal like this can be good for the Tanzanian economy in total. Belgium is already one of the countries largest trading partners.

Sustainable Agriculture organization

There is an important NGO operating in Tanzania, called Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT). This organization has been in operation since 2011. It does exactly what it says on the label. It promotes sustainable agricultural practices in Tanzania through its multi-platform plan. Dissemination, research, application, and networking about the information about sustainable agricultural practices. It also runs farmer training centers where people from other NGOs and agricultural professionals can share ideas and learn new techniques.

Tanzania’s agricultural sector looks to be stable and heading in a right direction. This has a huge importance for the nation. Currently, all farmland is owned and leased on 99-year leases to farmers. There has been tension and disagreement over if this should change. The biggest fear is that foreign investors will buy the land and hold too much power over the Government, the people and the market. The current relationship is working for both Tanzania and their investors. Hopefully, this harmony will continue and sustainable agriculture in Tanzania will flourish.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Google

Food Insecurity in America and World’s Poorest Countries Has Common SolutionThe United Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10, 1948 as a minimum standard of treatment and quality of life for all people in all nations. Article 25, section 1 of the declaration states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food…” As important as these words are, they have not yet become a reality for many people in the world. Some common solutions to food insecurity may help alleviate world hunger.

Falling Short of the U.N. Standards

Often, countries represented in the U.N. fall short on the promise to provide adequate, nutritious food to everyone, including the United States of America. Malnutrition and food insecurities can be attributed to many causes worldwide: political turmoil, environmental struggles and calamities, lack of financial resources and lack of infrastructure to distribute food equally within a country.

It is widely known that the poorest nations often lack the means or the will to sufficiently supply food to the people and their most vulnerable populations. Ethnic minority groups, women and children and those living in rural areas often suffer the most. In 2006, the Center for Disease Control reported that widespread media attention in 2005 brought global awareness to a food crisis in the West African country of Niger. According to the report, out of Niger’s population of 11.5 million in 2002, 2.5 million people living in farming or grazing areas were vulnerable to food insecurities.

Identifying the Problem in Food Distribution

In her article entitled Food Distribution in America, Monica Johnson writes, “With each step added between the farm and the consumer, money is taken away from the farmer. Typically, farmers are paid 20 cents on the dollar. So even if the small-scale/medium-sized farmer is able to work with big food distributors, they are typically not paid enough to survive.” Essentially, the middlemen are taking profit directly out of the farmer’s hands.

In America, conventional food supply chains are used in the mass distribution of food. This method starts with produced raw goods. These products are transferred to distribution centers that may offload goods to wholesalers or sell them directly to food retailers where these goods are finally purchased by consumers at grocery stores and markets. Food may travel very long distances throughout this process to be consumed by people who could have purchased comparable foods grown much closer to home.

One example is the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center (HPFDC), which is one of the largest food distributors in the United States, with over $2 billion in annual sales. According to the New York Economic Development Commission, it sits on 329 acres of land in the Bronx, New York. It supplies over 50 percent of the food consumed by people in the area and also supplies its goods to about 20 percent of people in the region. Yet, still, the Food Bank of New York City reported a meal gap of 242 million in 2014 and food insecurity levels of 22.3 percent, with 399,000 of those people being children.

Solutions Lie in Local Support

About 13 years after the Niger food crisis, the country is still one of the poorest in the world. The World Food Program (WFP), headquartered in Rome, Italy, continues to focus on fixing the problem of food insecurity in nations like Niger. Through helping those like Nigeriens build sustainable livelihoods and ecosystems for crop cultivation, the WFP hopes to lower the high levels of food insecurities and issues related to them, such as malnutrition and the high mortality rate among children under the age of five.

One essential component in the common solutions to food insecurity is assisting locals with the sustainable management of local natural resources through soil conservation, water harvesting, rehabilitating irrigation systems and reducing the loss of biodiversity. This is directed toward localized measures to solve food deficiency issues.

The same steps need to happen in America. The HPFDC in New York, in an effort led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, is planning to upgrade facilities and operations. A plan that includes working with other food distributors at the state level to increase integration with upstate and regional food distribution, supporting local farms and providing growth opportunities for emerging regional food distribution models.

These common solutions to food insecurity could help feed millions of people around the world. Reducing the middlemen in food distribution will put more money back into the hands of the farmers. Additionally, by reinforcing sustainable farming at local levels, farmers will have more opportunities to provide relief from food insecurity in their own communities with more nutritional diversity, which can reduce malnutrition and high mortality rates.

Matrinna Woods

Photo: Flickr

Architects for Society Designs Sustainable Housing for Refugees
Architects for Society (AFS) defines itself as, “a group of experienced architects from the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East and India who are committed to engage practitioners, policy-makers, and the public in a collaborative dialogue.” In other words, its members use innovative design techniques to develop the environment of vulnerable communities. The organization’s sustainable housing designs are helping to make strides in contributing to the global refugee crisis.

Currently, the world is struggling to cope with a global refugee crisis. A record number of people worldwide have been forced from their homes due to violence, lack of economic opportunity and a plethora of other reasons. The global community has faced many challenges in supporting displaced peoples, included economic and social problems. Architects for Society, as an organization, is looking for answers to these problems.

The nonprofit was founded in 2015 and since has focused on designing sustainable housing, schools, youth and community centers. The organization’s staff is made up of experienced architects who have been educated on design research and production.

The AFS website also features art by several members of the team that aims to educate on current global issues. The organization states, “A key component of our education programs will be to promote the interest of these communities in a positive light and stimulate the public to support development efforts.”

This year, the Minnesota-based nonprofit developed a design called the “Hex House.” The design is meant to serve refugee communities, as it is affordable, self-supporting and versatile. The organization describes the homes as “both dignified and cost-effective.”

The structures are 431 square foot units mostly made of steel and foam Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). Each unit is said to cost between $15,000-$20,000 but differs from other emergency housing in that it is designed to last between 15-20 years.

Shaped like a hexagon, the homes can be arranged in various ways and can be combined to create larger dwellings. They are equipped with modern conveniences, a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living space.

AFS designers carefully thought through the provision of utility services when designing the Hex House. Rainwater is collected through a gutter system that filters the water into a storage tank. Each side of the home is equipped with a ventilation system that can be adjusted according to the direction of the wind. Power is stipulated by solar panels.

Another aspect of the design is its versatility. The homes are user-friendly in a way that allows for anyone to put it together using basic tools. Hex Houses are designed to be flat packed and delivered to emergency sites in trailers or trucks, which could potentially solve safety and humanitarian issues for those living in refugee camps. Considering that the average time spent in a refugee camp is 17 years, the Hex Houses could solve issues for many people.

The designs are still in their first stages in terms of tangible effects, but funding for the development of a Hex House prototype is ongoing and AFS will move forward with the project as finances allow.

AFS’ groundbreaking designs offer a humanizing solution for people stuck in dehumanizing situations. Recognizing that, “there are natural and man-made catastrophic event affecting the living conditions of large population groups,” Architects for Society sustainable housing could easily contribute to a solution for the global refugee crisis.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr