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mushroom farming combats povertyIn the United States, mushrooms pop up on pizzas, in salads and as a side to any number of popular dishes. Most people do not give much thought to where the fungus on their fork came from. However, mushrooms are not an afterthought to many around the globe. Indeed, mushroom farming combats poverty globally, providing both a source of nutrition and income.

How Mushrooms are Farmed

Unlike most crops, mushrooms are not grown in a field. Instead, these edible fungi thrive in dark, warm places. Thus, many people farming mushrooms on a small scale do so in their homes or in an outbuilding.

Mushrooms thrive off decaying vegetation and other agricultural waste, and they can be raised in stacked beds, making them fairly low maintenance, especially compared to fruits or vegetables. They can also grow three times as quickly as some other crops, so they provide a steadier source of food or income.

Successfully cultivating mushrooms can yield a return of up to four times the initial investment. Additionally, mushrooms are a source of “potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron” as well as fiber and protein. This makes them an adaptable and potent tool in fighting malnutrition.

Successes in East Asia

Mushrooms provide an alternative income source for many women in Bangladesh. One such woman is Kajal. At a young age, both her legs were paralyzed. After she married, Kajal discovered Access Bangladesh, an initiative designed to teach disabled people practical skills they could use to earn money.

One such skill was mushroom cultivation, which provides Kajal and her family around 3,000 taka ($35) monthly. For a country with a GDP per capita of around $1,200, this additional income can be a deciding factor in a family’s subsistence. With funding from Canada, the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity Project and Access Bangladesh have helped nearly 600 people learn mushroom cultivation, around 300 of whom are women.

In Nepal, mushrooms possess the power to play a critical role in alleviating poverty. However, many communities lack the key resources needed to successfully cultivate mushrooms. These resources include sufficient upfront investment, current technologies and high-quality mushroom spawn.

To address these barriers, PHASE Worldwide, an NGO operating in Nepal, provides high-quality mushroom spawn and teaches cultivation methods to impoverished communities. In addition to their work with mushrooms, PHASE has trained more than 1,000 farmers in vegetable cultivation.

A Growing Market in Africa

As in East Asia, mushrooms are helping farmers in Africa combat poverty and create sustainable agriculture. In Rwanda, Laurent Demuynck, a former New York brewery operator, started Kigali Farms in 2010. His goal was to create a commercial mushroom enterprise in Rwanda. African mushroom farmers commonly ran into trouble with low yield and high costs, something Demuynck wanted to solve. Kigali Farms started growing oyster mushrooms, and in 2016, USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative partnered with Kigali to establish button mushroom production as well. Today, Kigali Farms is exporting mushrooms to Kenya and Uganda, as well as selling them locally.

One input needed for mushroom cultivation is straw, which Demuynck purchased from local wheat farmers, mainly women. This proved a boon for the wheat farmers since the straw left over after the harvest had previously held little value. USAID assisted in the effort and established three collection centers for farmers to store their straw before selling it to Kigali.

How Mushrooms Made One Girl Famous

In Tibet, matsutake mushrooms—one of the most valuable mushrooms in the world—grow at elevations of 13,000 feet or more. Faced with increasing bills, Geru Drolma went searching for matsutakes and live-streamed the search. That video received a large number of views in a short period of time and requests for matsutakes and cordyceps, another type of fungus, poured in.

This led Drolma and other villagers in her remote Tibetan community to set up a cooperative. They made more than $500,000 harvesting fungi in their first year. Drolma’s initial mushroom video also led her to concentrate on filming and posting snippets of Tibetan life. She has garnered 1.9 million followers since then.

Mushrooming Success

People like Laurent Demuynck and Geru Drolma all started with an idea that grew into something that impacted those around them. Additionally, initiatives in Bangladesh and Nepal also helped kickstart similar ideas. Thanks to ideas with backing, East Asian and African mushroom farming combats poverty at an extremely successful rate.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Pixabay

Climate Change and Water Scarcity
It seems nearly impossible to understate the global importance of water. In the age of climate change, water scarcity is rising at levels predicted to impede sustainable development and slow progress against poverty for years ahead. However, better preparing for climate change and water scarcity can redirect water to a source of development.

As a result of interconnected issues pertaining to climate change, the world is expected to experience a 66 percent decrease in water availability by 2050. Ultimately, climate change negatively impacts every facet of the water cycle as it creates drought, uncertain weather patterns, increased natural disasters and other phenomena. Climate change is predicted to send new areas into drought and exacerbate already vulnerable areas. The greatest losses in water availability are likely for the Middle East, East Asia and much of Africa.

Climate change’s impact on water availability impedes food production, as seventy percent of global water use is devoted to agriculture. Without enough water to meet the rising demand for food, expected to be 60 percent higher than today by 2030, this spikes food prices and worsens food scarcity. For Sub Saharan Africa, food prices are expected to rise by 77 percent by 2080 as a result of climate change, compared to a worldwide average increase of 17 percent.

Water scarcity caused by climate change also wreaks havoc on economies, especially ones that are still developing. This is largely due to the fact that water is vital to sustaining development for health, incomes, properties and agriculture. These factors have the potential to generate economic downturn. Many regions that were already water-insecure face a six percent decline in GDP by 2050 as a result of climate change and water scarcity.

Ultimately, these interconnected issues can bring about conflict between nations over resources and water allocation. Water scarcity also spurs increased waves of migration to water-abundant locations. Most conflicts are expected in places with large social inequities, especially in the developing world.

Despite the fact that all people require water security, climate change and water scarcity especially impact low-income populations. Not only are developing nations most at risk of climate change, but insufficient resources make it difficult to cope with climate stressors. Poor water availability also exacerbates improper sanitation and safety in drinking water. This disproportionately threatens health and equality for marginalized populations.

But what can be done to impede the impact of climate change on water availability? The World Bank explains that ensuring water is used most efficiently is crucial to fighting water shortages, especially in dominant sectors such as agriculture. Meaningful changes are possible by drastically investing in climate-smart equipment and infrastructure around the world. These changes work to sustainably end pollution cycles while conserving resources.

Maybe most impactfully, changes in governmental policies are crucial; these can act as insurance plans against worsening climate stressors. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim explains that “countries can enact policies now that will help them manage water sustainably for the years ahead.”

Ultimately, making use of the world of available tools redirects water back to a potential for prosperity.  Richard Damania, an economist for the World Bank, explains that “by allocating even 25 percent of water to more highly-valued uses, losses decline dramatically and for some regions may even vanish.” Instead of seeing negative growth from lessened water, some economies can predict a six percent increase in GDP if they sustainably develop water usage.

Water is a tool for lifting people out poverty and lessening the global impacts of climate change if the world makes sufficient use of proper tools. And although the drastic progress against water scarcity still needed today may be costly, the World Bank epitomizes that when it comes to water, “the costs of inaction are far higher.”

Cleo Krejci

Photo: Flickr

regional-food-security-in-indonesia
Sufficiency, self-reliance, accessibility, utilization and affordability are key principals in providing food security. Policy makers must focus on maintaining a balance in these principals. When demand is not met by supply, the shortfall can lead to unstable food accessibility. 

Self-sufficiency, in many countries, remains the key to continuously providing food security. However, in Indonesia, self-sufficiency has come under threat and the integral agricultural market is at risk. The livelihood of subsistence farmers is increasingly impacted by global issues such as climate change, international food price volatility, and the increasing demand for food from a growing population. The fluctuation and rise in prices of staple foods such as rice, garlic, and onions is leading Indonesia to cooperate with its neighbors to ensure the future of food security nationally and regionally. 

Currently, Indonesia’s food policy is based on the aim of self-sufficiency and production is sustained within the economy to such a level that it could eventually lead to a food crisis. While this encourages small-scale farming, it makes food availability uncertain for many of the nation’s poor and compromises a well-balanced diet. While recent changes in dietary patterns and private-sector investment in agriculture will allow for growth and diversification in agricultural production, it may not be enough. As the country of highest productivity and production of rice in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indonesia could potentially generate earnings in the regional market. Subsequently, local markets would gain a boost from the benefits of an export-oriented economy. 

Since 1979, East Asian countries have integrated rice reserves to create a formal Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in 2009 with the end goal being regional food security. While regional food security still has yet to be accomplished, many strides have been made in regional crop risk management, insurance schemes, strategies for regional transportation, and public-private partnerships. Indonesia holds the potential to strengthen self-sufficiency and national food security through aid to domestic competitiveness, systematic cash transfers, and cooperation with non-state stakeholders to minimize the adverse impacts of open food trade regimes. Implementation of these policies and principals would eventually lead to the accomplishment of national and regional food security for Indonesia and East Asia.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Jakarta Globe
Photo: New Security Beat

Smog From China is Crossing BordersSmog in China is an ongoing issue. China’s ongoing process of industrialization has resulted in extreme amounts of pollution in many of its cities. Because of the national dependence on particularly dirty fossil fuels, millions of citizens wear surgical masks when venturing outside because the air is just too dirty to breathe safely.

Until recently, the problem has been largely confined to China itself. Those afraid of global climate change, however, have been calling attention to the issue for years. Now, smog from China is crossing borders and affecting its Japanese neighbors. This presents another challenge to test Chinese-Japanese already strained relations.

Associate Professor Toshihiko Takemura of Kyushu University, who studies pollution for the University, explained that in Kyushu, “the level of air pollution has been detectable in everyday lives since a few years ago.”

China is notorious for quashing public dissent on sensitive issues like government shortcomings. However, in recent weeks, there have been uncanny amounts of focus put on environmental shortcomings by both state television and party officials.

Hopefully, the new Chinese Premier will work hard to drastically reduce China’s levels of pollution, bettering the health of the country’s citizens while improving relations with China’s estranged neighbor.

Jake Simon

Source: news.com.au
Photo: Japan Times