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

What you wear tells a story
Reflect is a new brand founded by young entrepreneurs in Istanbul who believe that what you wear tells a story. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to catch up with Ece Altunmaral, one of the founders of the organization, and asked her questions concerning the origins of their organization’s story and what awaits them in the future.

What is “Reflect”?

How did the idea come up and what were you thinking of changing in the clothing industry?

“Reflect is a textile-oriented design studio, creating narrative products for both organizations and individuals. The studio operates with ‘storytelling design’ and ‘responsible production’ in its heart and relies on the power of stories that make feelings tangible and ideas memorable.

The idea came up as a reaction to the facts we heard about the dirty textile industry, and also as a realization that clothing is a great medium of communication and could be used for a good purpose. Although not widely known, the textile is the second most harmful industry to the environment, only after oil. The process behind our clothes is also kept opaque. We do not know where the fabrics of our clothes are sourced from, nor do we know how many people worked in the making of them.

On the other hand, clothes are the first thing we see when we meet a person. What you wear tells a story, and clothes are dialogue starters. So we thought, ‘why not use clothing as a medium to deliver a message, to highlight stories on social issues through a unique way of design?’ Radical change takes time, but we aim to challenge the current clothing industry by introducing transparency, responsible production and story-telling design.”

 Three Articles in Reflect’s Manifesto

Starting with the article “What You Wear Tells a Story,” would you mind sharing with The Borgen Project the meaning behind the three articles you picked for your manifesto?

  1. Article 1: What You Wear Tells a Story. Appreciating the value of involvement, engagement and different perspectives, we develop our products “together” with designers and brands. The design process starts with collaborative workshops, results in lacing the outcomes onto fabrics and turning them into narratives. Accordingly, we invite all of our clients to become a part of the solution by designing stories around “Sustainable Development Goals”, which focus on environmental, political and economic problems that the world faces.
  2. Article 2: Radical Transparency Establishes Trust. Embracing the worldwide movement of “slow fashion,” we reject being part of the damage that the fashion industry causes on the environment. We guarantee an ethical and transparent operation from production to distribution while only producing internationally certified sustainable products and assuring long-term use.
  3. Article 3: Every Purchase Is an Endorsement. This last article is actually the reason why we have started a company. Every dollar we spend makes an organization live a day more. We do hold the power in our hands by choosing to shop from responsible companies. As three co-founders, we wanted to create a better alternative for responsible consumption.”

Designing “Solidarity”

How was the designing process of your first ever product “Solidarity?” What does it reflect about your organization?

“In our first collection Solidarity, we identified our social challenge as ensuring inclusive and quality education for all. We focused on displaced Syrian refugee children living in Istanbul. We organized art therapy workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. Our creative art therapy workshops encouraged them to express their thoughts, feelings and experiences in a unique and subjective way through art. Their expressions have turned into the design of our garments. Our first organization is the leading example of our collaborative and participatory approach to communities around us as a brand.”

The Impact of the Organization

What kind of impact do you aim to bring to life and clothing industry by showing people that what you wear tells a story? What is the outcome of the desired social and environmental impact of the “Reflect” so far?

“Since our first day of operations (October 2016), we have reached out to 143 refugee children aged from 7-12, who live in Istanbul, to get empowered through our art therapy sessions. Through our sustainable production process for the manufacturing of our first two collections, we saved 53 percent of material waste and 77 percent of water compared to global industry standards. Furthermore, through partnerships with ateliers, we enabled the employment of 43 textile workers under fair-trade conditions.”

The Future

What waits for the organization in the future?

“For our products to be made accessible worldwide. We want to help increase the number of individuals who care about social and environmental causes across the world with our strong corporate commitment to the realization of sustainable development goals. We want more people to buy garment products manufactured sustainably and become part of the solutions that address such challenges through directly impacting vulnerable groups with every purchase they made from reflect.

We would scale up our impact through increased e-commerce activities and physical presence of Reflect products in major markets (European Union and North America). Moreover, we aim at expanding our market share in B2B partnerships for garment products. We are aiming to increase the number of long-term collaborations with mission-driven organizations. Also, we started our application procedure to become a Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) by fulfilling all the required criteria. By mid-2019, we want to become a registered B-corporation!”

Reflect is doing its part to provide sustainable clothing to the mainstream market. The organization is also reaching out to communities around the world, working with refugee children, supporting sustainable sourcing and working for a better future for our planet.

Orçun Doğmazer
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Change in UzbekistanAfter Karimov’s 27-year rule, the U.S. is supporting sustainable change in Uzbekistan, partnering with the World Bank by loaning $500 million.

A Changing Economy

The Development Policy Operation’s goal is to switch from a privatized, government-ruled economy to a market economy. A strong market economy should translate into jobs being created for the youth. However, Uzbekistan’s 2017 Development Strategy also wants to make these economic changes sustainable while implementing social reform to protect less fortunate people.

So far, Uzbekistan’s government has committed to these transformations by “liberalizing its currency, lifting trade and investment barriers, reducing business regulations and opening markets to attract investment and boost imports and exports.” While these changes are already putting the country on a great trajectory, other projects like urban development are raising living standards for those who are less fortunate.

Modernization in Uzbekistan

The World Bank supported the modernization of the District Heating system at the beginning of 2018, which will provide 240,000 Uzbek residents new and improved heating and hot water services. By providing these services, the quality of life will go up for those dealing with harsh winters, reducing the risk of health-related issues caused by the cold. This will be great for young school children who sometimes go to school with no heat. Not only is this a health risk, but it is a distraction from learning. The new heating project will ensure kids have a brighter future in a healthy learning environment.

The District Heating Energy Efficieny Project will help people living in apartment building in Andijan, Bukhara, Chirchik, Samarkand and Tashkent. Government buildings like hospitals, schools and municipal offices also benefit from this project, and state-owned power companies will see a reduce number of power outages due to more networks being added. This project will also reduce CO2 and natural gas emissions in cities.  With all added benefits aside from helping people stay warm and healthy, the District Heating Energy Efficiency Project is a sustainable change.

A Free Market

In addition to education, health and safety being increased by public works projects and foreign aid, Uzbekistan is celebrating a free market with the switch of power from a private market to a public one. Uzbekistan’s market formerly known as Abu Sahiy became Tashkent Silk Road in early December 2017. Because former President Karimov owned this market, trade bans were in place that didn’t allow merchants to import goods. Now, small businesses are thriving and buyers can buy everything from food to phones.

The new market is also inspiring trades between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Opening the door to trade with neighboring countries will continue to boost the economy of Uzbekistan. Continued aid and progress of political reform is inspiring hope for Uzbekistan’s poor. A free market, foreign trade and the new government’s commitment to do good allows for sustainable change in Uzbekistan.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure In Burkina FasoMore than 50 percent of the 100 million people living in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes Burkina Faso, lack access to adequate housing. This is partly caused by deforestation and the spread of arid landscapes, leading to a scarcity of timber used for traditional housing construction that has dramatically impacted infrastructure in Burkina Faso.

The modern materials used in its place, such as imported wood and corrugated iron, are unhealthy to live in, poorly insulated and unaffordable in a country where 44 percent of people live on less than $1.90 a day and the majority are subsistence farmers.

Ancient Architecture Updated to Create Affordable Homes

But strides have been made in tackling this crisis by the multi-award winning Nubian Vault Association (AVN) under its multifaceted A Roof, A Skill, A Market program. AVN was founded in 2000 by Seri Youlou, a farmer and native of Sahel, and French mason Thomas Grainer.

The first part of the program refers to the building of nubian vaults, an architectural style developed 3,500 years ago in Egypt, that utilize locally produced adobe bricks and are much more affordable, ecological and durable. Not only are they are 50-60 percent cheaper than comparable concrete structures, but nubian vaults are expected to last 50 years or longer as opposed to the seven to 10-year lifespan of houses built out of concrete and corrugated iron roofing.

The influx of this new infrastructure in Burkina Faso is especially beneficial because it continually generates a multitude of new jobs. Cohorts of locals gain new skills as they are trained as masons to build these homes. As the majority of these builders in Sahel are otherwise seasonal farmers with little income security, this opportunity is crucial in providing additional revenue.

Mason Training Diversifies Economic Opportunities for Farmers

The benefits received are not solely monetary. Two to three-day conferences are held at the start and end of each construction season that all AVN masons are welcome to attend. They function as networking events where masons can make contacts and share experiences as well as extended educational spaces with workshops on how to run a small business and be a successful entrepreneur.

This additional training is especially important because of AVN’s ultimate goal of creating autonomous local markets that are not dependent on external cash flow in order to perpetuate this model’s long-term sustainability. After picking a project site, AVN recruits an individual as an ambassador to find new customers within a 100km radius of the project. New customers are then connected with masons who are paid directly by the client.

The builders themselves can also find new patrons, which as of 2013 made up 35 percent of the new client base. This indirect facilitation role fostered by AVN is both important in creating community empowerment and independence. Grainer commented: “Our work expands on the famous saying: we teach a man to fish; we teach him how to mend the nets; we teach him how to sell the fish.”

The Growth of Infrastructure in Burkina Faso and the Sahel

This success is not just limited to the market and infrastructure in Burkina Faso, but has expanded to other African communities as well. More than 2,000 homes and commercial/community buildings have been built as part of the program, which have benefited roughly 25,000 people and reduced 65,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions across Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Ghana.

When projects expand into new territories, established masons from one country sometimes travel to another to train new apprentices. This strengthens ties across communities and has created a pan-African community of roughly 732 masons to date that has generated a total of $2.6 million for local economies.

The tremendous and multifaceted global impact that AVN has had through A Roof, A Skill, A Market program would not have occurred without the original collaboration between Youlou and Grainer. Together, they forged a creative solution that provides affordable and sustainable housing, increased income stability and economic development across entire communities. Their partnership demonstrates the importance of collaborative global development in creating new ways of living together that build a better future for everyone.

– Emily Bender
Photo: Flickr

Million Tree Project
Desertification has been a prolonged, aggravating problem in northern and northwestern China. The Roots and Shoots (R&S) Shanghai branch has achieved significant success in slowing desertification with its Million Tree Project.

Founded by renowned primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall, Roots & Shoots is an influential international non-governmental organization aiming to inspire people of all ages, especially youths, to take part in making the world a better place.

The Roots & Shoots branches around the world maintain only loose connections with each other so that each individual branch can carry out unique projects tailored to its regional needs. One of the main missions of R&S Shanghai is to have a positive impact on China’s natural environment.

Desertification in China poses a great challenge to environmental protection as well as the development of those desertified regions. In recent decades, growing deserts have devoured 3,600 square kilometers of grassland each year and forced nearly 200,000 residents from the desertified areas to relocate.

To fight the consequences of desertification, including powerful sandstorms, the loss of arable land and people being driven out of their hometowns, R&S Shanghai initiated its Million Tree Project in 2007. It is also the inaugural project of the organization.

Led by Tori Zwisler, Chairman of R&S Shanghai, and Executive Director Zhong Zhenxi, the Million Tree Project aims to reduce the combined effects of land exploitation and climate change, which eventually leads to desertification, by planting one million trees in Inner Mongolia.

The project began its work in Tongliao Municipality, Inner Mongolia. By cooperating with local and foreign forestry and agricultural experts and mobilizing tens of thousands of volunteers across the globe, the Million Tree Project achieved its first million tree milestone in 2012 and passed the second million mark in 2016.

In consideration of local soil and climate conditions in order to achieve long-term reforestation success, local and Oregon State University forestry experts have carefully chosen specific species to plant in the area.

The majority of the trees planted are hybrid poplars, chosen specifically because it needs little water. In 2009 and 2011, yellowhorn and Scots pine trees were added to the planting list and proved to be beneficial to the region not only ecologically but also economically.

Working with the Baijitan tree farm, the experts have developed an integrative sand control method by planting a combination of different shrubs along with an expansive straw grid. While the straw grid can increase the roughness of the terrain as well as reduce water evaporation, which can give the shrubs better soil conditions to grow in, the matured shrubs can benefit soil development and the restoration of vegetation diversity.

Apart from the standard procedures of planting trees like many previous forestation projects, the Million Tree Project worked closely with local farmers and tree planters on post-planting maintenance. Licensed farmers can harvest trees but are required to replant new trees on the same spot, making the planted forest a sustainable environment.

More than 50 companies have purchased forests in increments of 2000 trees, and more than 20,000 volunteers have helped plant two million trees between 2007 and 2016. Additional tree planting projects have been started in Ningxia Province, adding more land to the reforestation project portfolio.

The 2016 Rio Olympics opening ceremony featured R&S Shanghai’s Million Tree Project as a significant achievement of humans fighting against the great odds of mother nature.

The Million Tree Project is a great example of a small environmental NGO having a huge impact on the natural world as well as a successful collaboration between the experts and volunteers. It demonstrates that everybody has the ability to change the world. The project, with the collective efforts of people coming from every corner of the world, will generate greater momentum to eventually eliminate desertification in China.

– Chaorong Wang

Photo: Flickr

The UN Sustainable Development Agenda and Its Relationship with Soft Power
Soft power, a phrase coined by Joseph Nye, is at the center of debates surrounding foreign aid and assistance. In Nye’s 1990 journal article titled “Soft Power,” Nye describes the strong shift in global powers.

The Shift to Soft Power

As the world grows more interdependent, there is a decline in the practicality of hard power — military might as a form of international governance and conquest. In our technologically advanced era, the strength of power no longer solely lies with resources, land and power of military, but rather in a nation’s soft power. Soft power can refer to a multitude of actions, and can be defined by multiple factors:

  • Technology
  • Education
  • Economic Growth
  • Cultural Ideology

The extent to which a nation can control the global political environment, the cultural standing and domestic relations with other nations, and identify common goals and standards, all work to strengthen soft power.

Soft power must be developed over years, and in many instances, may be like walking a tight rope as nations compromise and work to maintain positive diplomatic relations along the way.

In a technologically advanced time where we move toward a global economy, hard power is becoming more expensive as it works to decrease the legitimacy of a nation’s leadership and can undermine its control over other nations in the global sphere. If other countries admire the values, culture and prosperity of a powerful nation, that nation can use soft power to co-opt rather than coerce compliance.

The U.N.’s Response: 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda

The United Nations (U.N.) was formed in 1945 when 50 countries met in San Francisco to create the United Nations’ Charter. Since their first meeting, nearly 200 countries are now member states of this esteemed organization.

In late 2015, the U.N. convened at the General Assembly for the 70th session; here the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was introduced. The “Preamble to the Agenda” outlines the resolve to promote prosperity and peace across the planet, ending the “tyranny of poverty” with a desire to “heal” the planet.

Sustainable development is the idea of developing and progressing forward, without damaging the future potential for progress, prosperity and growth. With this agenda, the U.N. and its 193 member countries agreed to the three core elements of sustainable development:

  1. Economic growth
  2. Social Inclusion/Equality
  3. Environmental Protection

All three of these goals are interconnected with one another and cannot succeed without the other. These core elements contribute to the development of soft power as it works to strengthen the U.N.’s standing in the global sphere and promote global peace.

The Relationship to Soft Power

Furthermore, the eradication of poverty is stated as necessary for the growth and prosperity of nations and is ranked number one out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Within the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, there are five areas of critical importance on the U.N. Sustainable Development Agenda:

  1. People: desire to end world hunger and poverty with an emphasis on equality.
  2. Planet: sustainable management of resources supporting the needs of present and future generations.
  3. Prosperity: desire for all people to enjoy prosperous lives where progress can occur in harmony with the environment.
  4. Peace: hard power loses its place as the U.N. fosters peaceful societies. They make it clear: no peace, no sustainable development. No sustainable development, no peace.
  5. Partnership: highlights the importance of the interlinkages and solidarity between nations. Through common goals for peace and prosperity these goals can be reached.

The Fight for SDGs

The focus of the U.N. and its 193-member states to co-opt other nations into common goals is the epitome of soft power. This peaceful but necessary force will work in the U.N.’s favor to ensure the U.N. achieves its 2030 Agenda, pushing for a more prosperous and peaceful world where all of humanity is seen and treated as equals.

– Kelilani Johnson

Photo: Flickr

accomplishments of ONEThe ONE Campaign is an advocacy organization of more than nine million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. The accomplishments of ONE have been acheived through their work of raising public awareness and educating policymakers about the importance of smart and effective policies and programs to save those in the poorest countries. They engage in grassroots and direct advocacy with policymakers and key influencers around the world in support of such policies and programs.

Four of the major accomplishments of ONE include:

  • Helping secure at least $37.5 billion in funding for historic health initiatives, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
  • Helping secure legislation in the U.S., Canada and the EU on transparency in the extractives sector to help fight corruption and ensure that more money from oil and gas revenues in Africa is used to fight poverty.
  • Successfully advocating for official development assistance, which has increased globally by $35.7 billion between 2005 and 2014.
  • Helping to get new U.S. legislation passed on energy poverty, such as the Electrify Africa Act of 2016.

ONE highlights 17 global goals for sustainable development including quality education, gender equality and more.

Through the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative, a partnership of Save the Children, Pearson and UNHCR, ONE shows how the global community can improve access to education for refugee girls in three ways:

  • Promote more gender-friendly education systems
    ONE’s focus is to develop curriculum that includes female role models, encourages children to pursue non-traditional professions and supports teachers to increase their awareness on gender inequality.
  • Strengthen digital literacy
    Digital skills need to be taught in the classroom and training programs in online research and popular software programs are necessary to supporting refugee youth’s education.
  • Explore opportunities to expand Canada’s private refugee sponsorship model
    By expanding this program, private sponsorship will allow more people to be resettled at lower costs for national governments.

The accomplishments of ONE are seen in their efforts to empower girls, women, refugees and people in poverty through education, legislation and advocacy. Their goals, policies and programs are a key part of the global fight to end poverty.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia Increasing Electricity and Decreasing WasteIn Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a landfill the size of 36 soccer fields is being turned into renewable energy, meeting the needs of 30 percent of the city’s electricity. The landfill, previously the only waste disposal site in Addis Ababa, made the news in 2017 due to an onsite landslide that killed 114 people. The new energy plant, known as Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia, plans to turn 80 percent of the city’s waste into energy each day.

Waste is turned into energy through incineration, a process already popular in many European countries. About 25 percent of European waste is turned into energy and there are over 100 waste-to-energy plants in both France and Germany. Strict European Union emissions standards ensure that no harmful emissions from the incineration process enter the atmosphere, standards that the Reppie project will be held to as well.

Electricity is produced directly from the burning of the waste. As garbage is burned in a combustion chamber, heat is produced. The heat boils water, creating steam, which in turn produces energy in a turbine. The emissions that occur in this process are cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, making this a renewable and sustainable source of clean energy.

The Reppie facility came into development out of a partnership between the government of Ethiopia and several international partners, including Chinese and Danish companies. This partnership came together to tailor the needs of the new energy plant to sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to the waste-to-energy plants already operating in Europe.

The Ethiopian project further protects the environment and its citizens from harmful toxins that are released into groundwater supplies and the atmosphere at landfill sites. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that adds to the negative effects of climate change and is typically produced at landfill sites; this project will reduce methane emissions, as well as save space and generate electricity.

In addition to providing energy to three million people, the Reppie project plans to make an additional three million bricks from the waste and recover 30 million liters of water from the landfill. These materials will be additionally used to benefit the population of Addis Ababa. Furthermore, the plant will create hundreds of jobs for people who previously relied on scavenging at the waste site, a dangerous occupation.

In Ethiopia, only 27 percent of the population has access to electricity. While that number includes rural areas, in only urban areas such as Addis Ababa, the number rises to almost 92 percent. However, the Reppie plant is connected to the national grid and the introduction of waste-to-energy in Ethiopia will spread from urban areas and be able to serve rural areas as well, increasing access to electricity to all Ethiopians.

The Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia will aid in reducing poverty conditions through increasing access to electricity, creating jobs and improving the environment to the benefit of human health. The plant will additionally be a model for similar plants across the continent of Africa. Already, seven other plants are being planned. These plants together will leave a lasting positive impact on both the environment and the energy needs of people across the continent.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in the PhilippinesThe Asian Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative (AFACI) created the Asian Network for Sustainable Organic Farming Technology (ANSOFT) project in 2009. In 2015, sustainable agriculture in the Philippines was recognized out of 11 participating ANSOFT nations with the “Outstanding Country” award.

ANSOFT looks to promote communication networks in terms of organic technology development, both nationally and internationally.  The project produces a database of successful organic farming techniques, pest and soil management, traditional practices and knowledge of natural resources.

Here are more innovative projects underway in the region as the Philippines establishes its reputation as a leader in developing sustainable agriculture:

Empoldering technique bolsters agriculture

Empoldering, a method of reclaiming low-lying land from bodies of water by building up dikes and constructing drainage canals, has proven effective in the Philippines. After the technique was implemented, a 2008 study found that empoldering improved the fish, rice and vegetable production systems through better access to fresh water, as it creates a new upland microenvironment. The microenvironment serves as a seedbed and allows for the integration of fish into the rice crop.  The high-impact method helped increase food availability and employment opportunities in farming, thereby increasing food security for the region.

Pasali Philippines Foundation and “Brain Gain”

Sustainable Agriculture Programs of the Pasali Philippines Foundations are housed under the larger concept called “From Brain Drain to Brain Gain”, a strategy to alleviate poverty by investing technologies and skills learned nationally and internationally into local development. The Brain Gain concept focuses on food security, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability through climate change mitigation.

The Pasali Foundation backs sustainable agriculture programs that work toward infrastructure support, capacity building, seed banking and agroforestry, as well as addressing issues of land tenure and seeking the interest of microfinancing institutions.

Philippine Rural Development Project

In 2014, the World Bank approved financing for the Philippine Rural Development Project. The project focuses primarily on farming infrastructure that supports sustainable agriculture in the Philippines, including farm-to-market roads, bridges, greenhouses, fish sanctuaries, solar dryers, and facilities for pre- and post-production and harvest storage.

The project estimates a direct impact for nearly two million farmers and fisherfolk, and indirect impacts for 22 million citizens in the region. Currently in its fourth year, the project expects to achieve major increases in the household incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, as well as small business incomes and product values. The project also partners with the Global Environment Facility, whose focus is on the conservation and protection of selected coastal and marine areas in the region.

As recognized by AFACI and through the implementation of other ambitious initiatives, the Philippines leads the way in setting the standard for sustainable farming practices in Asia. Accordingly, sustainable agriculture in the Philippines may just set the standard for alleviating poverty in Asia as well.

– Jaymie Greenway

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica
Costa Rica has become a developed country success story, according to the World Bank, with steady economic expansion and smart government spending over the last 25 years. Costa Rica is now a global leader for accomplishments and policies involving the environment, building a Green Trademark and pioneering the Payments for Environmental Services Program (PES), which promotes forest and biodiversity conservation, as well as working to improve sustainability in its agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica is vital to this country’s success as it depends on agriculture for about 6.5 percent of its gross domestic product and 14 percent of its labor force relies on it for work. In 2012, Costa Rica’s agricultural system was threatened by farming practices that overexploit natural resources in order to maximize short-term profit.

Since the mass-produced cash crops of Costa Rica are popular exports such as coffee, bananas and pineapple, all of which required a extensive amount of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, Costa Rica’s agricultural situation created problems. The consequences of poor farming practices include depletion of soil, contamination of freshwater, deforestation and dangerous conditions for workers. Addressing this crisis led the country to put sustainable agriculture in Costa Rica at the forefront of change.

Organic farming has now become increasingly popular. Organic agriculture relies on specific technology like crop rotation, natural fertilizers and biological pest control. This is safer for the environment and the workers, solving both problems at the same time.

In November of 2017, new public-private alliances were formed in Costa Rica to open access to international markets with a focus on biodiversity and strengthening rural economies. These alliances included a Green Growth Program signed by the Costa Rica USA Foundation for Cooperation (CRUSA). The CRUSA five-year strategy will promote sustainable models for economic development that will “improve the quality of life of Costa Ricans while reducing environmental risks as a way to face the effects of climate change in our country.”

With the Green Growth Platform, the focus will be on converting 200 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) into green businesses, exporting food products, including organics and superfoods, to markets including North America, Europe, Central America and the Caribbean.

Although classified as a developed country, Costa Rica is far from perfect, with poverty rates neither declining or rising. But with sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture on the rise, Costa Rica is marching toward its place as a great and prosperous nation.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr