Reaching SustainabilityIn recent years, numerous developing countries are attempting to reach a certain level of sustainability. Countries within Asia, Africa and South America strive to increase urban development in several ways including solar energy use, organic farming and an increase in job opportunities. This will allow numerous countries to improve their economy and living situations. Here are three ways developing countries are reaching sustainability.

Solar Energy

Used in millions of industries, solar energy has the capability to take sunlight from the sun and convert it to useful energy. Several countries are focusing on the implementation of solar energy to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainability.

While solar energy can be quite expensive, Anzaga is a new technological platform that provides affordable solar systems for citizens within developing nations. Through flexible payment plans, the company has increased the usage of solar energy within 20 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, allowing over one million African citizens to obtain energy. Within the last decade, there has been a vast improvement in solar energy usage. For example, the World Bank approved two projects within Bangladesh, beginning the installation of more than 1.3 million solar home systems.

Between 2006 and 2010, China updated its five-year plan in which a large portion of investments was dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency. China hoped to decrease the per-unit GDP energy consumption by roughly 20% in comparison to 2005.

Organic Farming

Numerous developing countries have focused on the use of organic farming to attain their goal of reaching sustainability. There is evidence that organic farming and agriculture yields approximately 80% more than conventional farming. Scientists believe that organic farming is one of the most effective ways for a country to farm sustainably.

Moreover, numerous developing countries have focused on the technique of precision farming. Precision farming is the ability to create large amounts of produce within small-scale farms. Millions of citizens in developing countries practice the technique of precision farming within organic agriculture to potentially increase revenue.

Uganda has transformed certain methods of agriculture and used organic farming to reach sustainability. Uganda currently has the world’s lowest usage of artificial fertilizers and hopes to increase organic produce immensely to boost revenue and its economy.

Job Opportunities

Lastly, the focus on creating unique job opportunities for individuals is one of the ways developing countries are reaching sustainability. Higher employment rates improve not only the livelihood of citizens but the overall economy as well.

New sustainable urban planning is practiced within cities of Brazil. Due to the increase in population, job opportunities increase as new and innovative systems for urban planning are necessary. Specifically, the Bus Rapid Transit system exemplifies dedicated planning. The UN Environment reported that the system “provides an example of integrated urban and industrial planning that enabled the location of new industries and the creation of jobs.”

In India, the government also focused on alleviating poverty sustainably. It created the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in which rural citizens receive enhanced security within marginalized households. Hoping to alleviate poverty within rural areas, the act promotes maintenance and growth of rural areas, while providing jobs for rural citizens.

As numerous countries continue to develop, solar energy, organic farming, and new job opportunities are three of the numerous ways in which development is possible. By investing in development that allows the growth of cities in a manageable, sustainable way, countries are more likely to reach a state of national sustainability.

– Elizabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

helping farmers in povertyAbout 78 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and rely heavily on agriculture. They had to turn to farm, livestock, aquaculture and other agricultural methods to place food on their plate. For millions, agriculture is the starting point to get out of poverty. But, out of the 78 percent of people who rely on agriculture, only a mere 4 percent receives official development assistance. And, for those who do manage to get out of poverty, they will face a competing market for organic goods.

Farmers Struggle to Meet the Rising Rates of Consumption

With the rising rates of consumption to an ever-growing world, farmers are struggling. In order to meet the increasing demand and multiply production, farms have to increase the efficiency and productivity of the existing farmland. WWOOF shares in the same philosophy and helps farmers in poverty by providing workers to those existing farms.

Since 1971, WWOOF has been connecting sustainable farmers and growers with visitors through an exchange of education and culture for a hands-on experience to help create food and other agricultural products—a key part of how WWOOF is helping farmers in poverty. The visitor picks the country they would like to be working in and WWOOF connects them to an available farm that will provide them with room and board. The guests can stay in the country while learning about its culture.

Working on the Farms with WWOOF

As for working on the farm, visitors normally stay from two to three weeks but farms are open to shorter or longer stays. Usually, they work from four to six hours a day and have afternoons and evenings free. Currently, WWOOF has farms in 95 countries all around the world. The organization proposes that the search for authenticity and local food, such as items from a farm shop, has the potential to enhance the visitor experience by connecting consumers to the region and its perceived culture and heritage.

Organic Farming

WWOOF focuses on organic farming, an agricultural method that involves not using pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. It helps by reducing the level of pollution and human and animal health hazards by reducing the number of residues in the product. Organic farming keeps agricultural production at a higher level. But, it is more labor intensive. Although organic farmers love the independence and the hard day-to-day work, most find themselves overloaded. Organic systems require 15 percent more labor but the increase of labor may range from seven percent to 75 percent. The WWOOF program offers a satisfying experience to the visitors whilst addressing the additional labor burden on the farming family.

The WWOOF program realized that organic farming has a vital role in helping farmers in poverty. As the years pass, organic farms will earn a higher income than those of the conventional farms due to the increasing awareness of pesticides and the ability to charge higher premiums. Not only that, organic farms have the potential to improve local food and nutritional security because of diversified production and resistance to weather variables. Because of the diversified production, organic farmers live a healthier lifestyle when using their own crops for food. The organization gives a small part that makes a big difference for those organic farms.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

World Hunger Relief

Although it might seem logical to believe that world hunger relief can be solved by increasing food production, top research shows that lack of food is not the major factor contributing to world hunger. In its new report, “Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” Friends of the Earth reports that world hunger is primarily influenced by the economic and social factors that prevent people from accessing food.

The global network Friends of the Earth advocates for a healthier world by focusing on the economic factors that contribute to environmental degradation. Its report presents four decades of research about sustainable farming techniques that preserve natural resources. The report claims that this form of agriculture, called agroecological farming, is the best way to combat the environmental problems that threaten global food security.

Here are the report’s three myths about farming and how agroecological methods can provide world hunger relief:

1. Increased food production will help feed more people.

Farmers already produce enough food to feed about 10 billion people, which is far more than the 7.3 billion who currently live on the planet. Much of this food is wasted or used for purposes besides feeding the impoverished.

Many crops are used for feeding livestock and for biofuels, which limits space for crops that could go to feeding people in poverty. Because of this, the report suggests that better farming techniques, reductions in global food waste and consumers shifting to plant-based foods can provide world hunger relief.

Also, smallholders makeup about 90 percent of farmers worldwide and produce about 80 percent of food for developing countries. Even so, they are often impoverished due to increasing corporate control and low crop prices. The report calls for public investments in these farmers and better policies to elevate them out of poverty.

2. Organic farming cannot feed the entire human population.

According to the report, organic farming is an agroecological farming technique that can make plants more resilient to climate change than plants grown industrially.

The report cites a UC Berkeley study that found that depending on the crop and technique, organic farming systems can produce as much or more crops than conventional techniques, increase profits for farmers, and reduce water toxicity due to the use of less synthetic chemicals. Organic methods also provide low-income farmers with more accessible farming techniques and more job opportunities in their communities.

3. Industrial farming is more efficient in providing world hunger relief than organic methods.

When calculating efficiency based on health, social, and environmental devastation, industrial methods are not more efficient than organic methods. “Rather than feeding the world sustainably into the future, the industrial food system is cutting off the branch we’re sitting on by degrading the ecosystem functions we rely on to produce food,” the report states. Although the calorie and economic efficiency of industrial methods might be higher, conventional farming methods destroy the environment and threaten food security for the future.

Since agroecological farming methods cut down on environmental damage costs and improve incomes for farmers, the report presses for policy makers to invest in low-income farmers who use organic methods. It also warns that large-scale trade deals can cause farmers to go into debt through input-intensive farming.

Similarly, genetically engineered (GE) farming systems restrict farmers to expensive contracts. Most GE foods go to livestock feed and biofuels instead of to the impoverished. For these reasons, agroecological farming methods are better suited to support small farmers and provide world hunger relief.

Hopefully, global policymakers and leaders will consider some of the arguments that Friends of the Earth lays out in its new report in order to help solve world hunger in more environmentally responsible ways.

For the full report, click here.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

In Cameroon, cultural beliefs have created a perception that farming is for subsistence, not profit- many believe that business farming is not honorable for this reason. AgricInspiration wants to change this notion.

Cameroon is home to cheap, fertile farmland. Observing the abundance of female laborers and the equally plentiful farmland, AgricInspiration believes much opportunity exists for women to support themselves.

Sustainable, organic farming is not just better for the environment. In Cameroon, the organization AgricInspiration plans to provide single mothers with training on sustainable, organic farming techniques.

AgricInspiration will also teach these mothers how to sell their products at local produce markets so they can turn a profit in addition to feeding their families.

How? Wise Nzikie, the founder of the project, plans to recruit local agricultural experts near the town of Bamenda, Cameroon, to assist in training women in nearby rural localities.

The World Bank finds that unemployment causes many social problems among Cameroonians, especially for women. AgricInspiration aims to support disadvantaged women who can not otherwise find work, such as school dropouts, persons with HIV/AIDS and other displaced women.

A key component of AgricInspiration’s project emphasizes mass communication. The organization aims to reach younger women through tools such as social media, television programs and radio to educate and inspire them to embrace agribusiness.

A crowdfunding website, the 1% Club, created a profile for AgricInspiration in the beginning of 2015. Within 25 days, their goal of €15,000 was reached. Nzikie responded on their website, “A million thanks to all who supported us in one way or the other.”

In September, the project also became a beneficiary of The Pollination Project, a social change organization that provides seed grants of $1,000 to people fighting for change and projects that promote a better world for humanity.

The Pollination Project makes one grant every day, beginning in 2013. They focus on discovering grassroots movements that will not likely qualify for other grants or funding from other foundations or institutions.

Bailey Wenzler

Sources: One Percent Club, Huffington Post, The Pollination Project, World Bank
Photo: Pixabay

agriculture basics
Most organizations who train farmers in impoverished countries champion ‘sustainable agriculture,’ and who wouldn’t? Self-explanatory though it may sound, ‘sustainable agriculture’ encompasses a variety of techniques that benefit people economically and physically while still protecting the environment. Here are some sustainable agriculture basics:

1. Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is one of the earliest methods of sustainable farming, and has been employed since the mid-19th century. A farmer who plants fields of corn year after year eventually depletes his soil of essential nutrients. Because these are required for healthy corn to grow, the farmer must replenish his fields with fertilizers that contain elements like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.

This is a problem for farmers in countries without developed infrastructures. Because transporting the fertilizer becomes so labor intensive, the price skyrockets.

Crop rotation is the natural solution to this particular conundrum. Studies have shown that corn grown biennially, with soybeans grown in the same fields on the off years, yields 5 to 20 percent more harvest.

But it’s not just soil health that crop rotation affects. It is an essential part of another technique called ‘Integrated pest management.’

2. Integrated Pest Management

The same crop planted year after year provides a reliable food source for insects that prey upon it. Replacing that food source with another breaks down the reproductive cycle of the insect population, ultimately controlling the insects’ numbers.

Integrated Pest Management also advocates the reintroduction of insects’ natural predators. Bats, birds and spiders all play a role in managing pests, though they are often killed off by insecticides.

3. Water Conservation

One of the most important aspects of sustainable farming is water conservation. Nearly 70 percent of the world’s water consumption goes to the agriculture sector. This amount can be minimized by ensuring that irrigation systems are in order and effective and by preventing water evaporation using cover crops and mulch.

The greatest way to conserve water is to plant crops in regions similar to that of their native climates. Transporting large amounts of water to sustain non-native plants is, at least, uneconomical. It is commonly practiced in the industry, nonetheless. In Spain, ‘summer crops’ like tomatoes and melons are grown during the winter at the cost of terribly water-intensive irrigation systems.

On the other hand, many varieties of amaranth and barley are drought-resistant; they thrive in areas with very little rain.

4. Weeds

Weeds are perhaps the obstacle sustainable farmers can say the least about. On small farms, some advocate removing them by hand. On larger farms that is implausible. Other people propose burning fields after harvest to prevent weeds from spreading seeds. This, though effective, is a source of pollution and a potential health hazard to farmhands.

5. Sustainable is not Organic

A sustainable farm is not always an organic farm. Often, the only way to deal with pests, weeds and the like is to use commercial products. In practice, sustainable farming seeks to make farms healthier for people and their environment. They are not meant to bankrupt the farmer in the pursuit of a totally ‘green’ enterprise, nor are they meant to be advertised by those who make minimal effort to be sustainable.

Sustainable farming is an endeavor requiring moderation, effort and strategy, but the benefits are worth it.

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Discovery, National Geographic, Agriculture Sustainability Institute
Photo: The Atlantic

Bhutan: World Leader in Organic Farming

Bhutan, a small country located in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India, has announced its plan to become the first country to use entirely organic agricultural methods. The country has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability in many of its policies and practices, and now Bhutan is a world leader in organic farming practices.

The country has not set a date for when the change will be complete. Minister of Agriculture and Forests Pema Gyamtsho stated, “Going organic will take time… We cannot do it tomorrow. Instead we will achieve it region by region and crop by crop.” Organic agriculture is a method of growing crops that uses no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides.

Agrarian culture and lifestyle dominate Bhutan, where many politicians are also farmers, and most farmers already utilize organic growing methods. Minister Gyamtsho cited several reasons for the country’s push to go entirely organic, including increased food production. He hopes that Bhutan will increase its high quality food exports to neighboring India and China, while retaining food security for its citizens. Other reasons for the complete organic transition include the country’s strong Buddhist beliefs, and the negative effects of chemicals on the natural environment.

Like the rest of the world, Bhutan’s future depends on how it reacts to global issues such as climate change, population growth, and food security. While Bhutanese farmers who already practice organic methods surely support the government’s decision, other famers are unsure about growing crops without chemicals. In some regions, the last few years of warm temperatures and unpredictable weather have yielded smaller harvests and more pests. Some family farmers whose children have moved into the city are forced to use chemicals to maintain sufficient levels of productivity.

Nevertheless, the nutritious products of organic agriculture continue to be in high demand around the world. Organic farmers use natural methods to control pests and practice soil-building techniques, such as composting. Building and maintaining healthy soil is necessary for long-term sustainable agricultural systems. While there is debate over whether organic farming practices produce a lower yield per acre than conventional practices, there is no question that chemically based farming is detrimental to natural ecosystems.

With a population of around one million people, Bhutan is a unique country in many ways. Rather than using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure prosperity and growth, Bhutan gauges its citizens’ productivity and health according to Gross National Happiness (GNH). As a world leader in organic farming practices, Bhutan will continue its track record of setting a standard for sustainable development that other countries can model.

Kat Henrichs

Source: Guardian

Photo: NPR