Sustainable Agriculture in the Democratic Republic of CongoThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa. With approximately 70 percent of its population living in rural areas, the large and mineral-rich land has shown immense potential for sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The development of agriculture and other sectors in the DRC have been hindered by the simple fact that the country has been healing from more than 15 years of war. This has unfortunately created serious infrastructure and systematic issues that have tested the nation’s business environment.

The agricultural sector contributes 18 percent of the DRC’s GDP and accounts for about 60 percent of labor, yet it still fails to establish food security and create enough revenue and sustainable jobs. Nearly half of Congolese people live below the poverty line, and the nation must import more than 70 percent of the food it eats.

Malnutrition still remains one of the leading causes of death among the population, with iron-deficiency being the second most common cause of disability. Infant mortality exists at 3.3 percent and life expectancy remains low, with more than half of the country’s inhabitants being under the age of 20.

Recently, the World Bank authorized additional credit of $75 million to Congo for the Agriculture Rehabilitation and Recovery Support Project. This funding is expected to increase agricultural production and improve crop promotion and animal products for many agricultural households.

The Congolese government backs this project with the hope that it will lower rural poverty by 2020 through establishing and streamlining systems used for agricultural production, progressing nutrition and food security and mobilizing backing from both public and private sectors. The additional funds will also hopefully be able to increase activities that acknowledge issues such as nutrition-sensitive activities, climate smart agriculture and job generation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has also developed numerous projects to strengthen the capacity for food security and nutrition and to develop sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo, such as:

  • Supporting the development of an irrigation system tied to a priority investment program, which will contribute to the use of water for agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
  • Endorsing the creation of the national seeds policy, in order to support the government in developing a system for the manufacturing, preservation and control and distribution of high-quality seeds.
  • Putting into action the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions in the area of cultivation and forestry, a project proposal to be submitted to the Green Climate Fund, which is expected to contribute to the reduction of emission and increase forest carbon stocks.

With so much fertile land at its disposal, this country has the potential to feed the whole of Africa. But in order for sustainable agriculture in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be achieved, farmers must have access to ample financial services and strong infrastructure.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

The Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization whose aim is to make the planet green again through fighting deforestation and preventing soil erosion. It engages the community, especially women, in its process and, in return, compensates participants with a small monetary payment. It has now become an international platform for women’s empowerment through the conservation of natural resources.

The Green Belt Movement was started by the late professor, Doctor Wangari Maathai, who founded the organization in 1977 in Kenya. Dr. Maathai is a recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman to receive such an honor. She is also the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in East and Central Africa. Dr. Maathai witnessed the struggles of rural Kenyan women with finding drinking water, food and firewood, saw the connection between deforestation, scarcity of rainfall and food insecurity and wanted to address the problem as a whole. She encouraged men and women to practice reforestation, binding soil to prevent soil erosion, food processing, beekeeping and many more sustainable values.

The Green Belt Movement has also dealt with larger issues in the daily lives of Kenyans. It has protected public lands from private landowners, known as “land grabbing.” It has trained farmers with simple techniques to grow indigenous vegetables and fruits that are sustainable in harsh environments. It also uses a water-shed based approach to harvesting. Furthermore, the Green Belt Movement launched the Community Empowerment and Education program, which helped to educate common people on the environment, natural resources and civics.

Since its foundation in 1977, over 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya. The movement also invented a method of spreading ideas among the community through “trainers of trainers.” In 2015 alone, over 200 women who participated in training from the Green Belt Movement have gone on to train over 20,000 members of their communities, thus assisting in the spreading of the Movement’s ideas. The Green Belt Movement has addressed important issues such as deforestation, climate change and women’s empowerment, gaining international status in the process.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

SwazilandSwaziland is a small, landlocked country in southern Africa with a population of approximately 1.1 million. An estimated 63 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line, and 350,000 people are food insecure and in need of food aid. Swaziland also has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world, with nearly 26 percent of people aged 15 to 49 living with the disease. The average life expectancy is only 49 years so, as a result, 45 percent of children are left orphaned or vulnerable at a young age. Here are just some of the primary ways in which humanitarian organizations and the Swazi government are working to help people living in poverty in Swaziland.

Helping Vulnerable Children Access Necessary Resources

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS which predominantly affects the country’s younger population, many children have lost one or both of their parents. Parents of children who are HIV-positive often cannot afford retroviral therapy. Many HIV-positive children are cut off from basic health services and education. One in 10 children in Swaziland is severely malnourished. There is also a low school enrollment rate of 60.1 percent, with one in five primary-school-aged children not enrolled in primary school.

Organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages and the World Food Programme are currently working on providing orphaned and vulnerable children with access to education and healthcare services. SOS Children’s Villages provides daycare and medical assistance in three different locations in Swaziland. The World Food Programme also provides nutritious meals to children at community-led daycare centers throughout the country. The project aims to provide vulnerable children with both nutrition and access to social services such as early childhood education, psychosocial support and basic healthcare services.

Providing Treatment for HIV/AIDS and TB

With 26 percent of people aged 15 to 49 living with HIV, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has also greatly depleted Swaziland’s labor force. Tuberculosis (TB) is also one of the leading causes of death in the country, although 80 percent of TB patients are also infected with HIV. In order to combat the spread of these diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Swazi Ministry of Health work together to broaden the scope of HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment in Swaziland. Since 2012, thousands have been provided with access to antiretroviral treatment, HIV testing and counselling services. In addition to helping those in need, combating HIV will also help ease the strain HIV puts on the Swazi economy.

Providing Communities with Sustainable Sources of Clean Water

Approximately 330,000 people in Swaziland do not have access to a source of clean water, and half a million people do not have access to adequate sanitation. Every year, over 200 children under the age of five die due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation conditions in Swaziland. The high incidence of HIV/AIDS only makes the need for safe water and hygiene even greater.

This is why organizations such as WaterAid and the Thirst Project have made it their goal to provide a source of clean water to all those in Swaziland who do not currently have one. WaterAid works with local communities to introduce affordable technologies that can be easily maintained by the communities themselves. It also lobbies the Swazi government to ensure water and hygiene are prioritized and budgeted for.

The Thirst Project also works to bring clean water sources to communities and hopes to have provided all Swazi communities in need with safe water by 2022. “They build something sustainable, that’s not going to dry up even though there are tremendous droughts right now in Swaziland,” states Paola Pozzaglia Nilsen, an adviser for a local chapter of the Thirst Project in New York. Nilsen added that clean water is an integral part of how to help people in Swaziland as it helps communities to become self-sufficient, healthier, and safer.

By investing in the nutrition and education of children, the treatment of diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and the construction of clean water sources, progress toward eradicating poverty in Swaziland can begin to happen.

Amanda Quinn
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Poverty RateOver the last decade, the Tanzania poverty rate has decreased to about 47 percent. Political stability, agricultural growth and increased access to education have all widely contributed to Tanzania’s victory in poverty reduction. Improving infrastructure, gender equality and employment are the keys to helping the remaining 2 million people still struggling on less than $0.60 a day.

The 2015 World Bank Poverty Assessment showed a strong link between poverty and low access to public infrastructure. Tanzania’s infrastructure is limited, which leads to only 2.9 percent of poor people having access to grid power. Additionally, only 16 percent of the poor have access to paved roads. A further reduction in poverty and sustainable economic growth will require additional investments in transport and energy infrastructure.

Gender Equality
Even though the Tanzanian Constitution assures equal participation for women and men, discrepancies still exist. Disparity still exists in education, while women continue to face inequality in social, economic and political activities. Recently, The National Gender Development Policy and Strategy have set new targets within the constitution for gender equality. But to successfully achieve goals on the poverty reduction level, institutional support will be essential.

35 percent of people in Tanzania between 15 and 35 years of age are unemployed. Lack of basic skills, poor infrastructure and unavailable jobs are key contributors to youth unemployment. Addressing unemployment requires both supply and demand interventions. The enhancement of quality education will need to be available to even more people. Demand-side measures will have to provide advanced solutions in finance, infrastructure deficiencies and business support services.

Despite these issues, the Tanzania poverty rate has seen tremendous improvements. Tanzania deserves credit for its reduction of child mortality, a decrease in the incidence of HIV/AIDS and a significant drop in food insecurity. As for the areas that still need work, the country has partnered with the African Development Bank to achieve even more progress in poverty reduction.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Flickr

A recent University of Illinois study indicates that including trees in the agricultural industry has the potential to reduce poverty in Africa. Lead researcher Daniel Miller reported that one-third to half of rural farmers in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda incorporate trees into their farming plans. Miller explained that within the target group, trees alone contributed 17 percent to the annual household income. He acknowledged that the trees were a very important source of economic benefits for these households. He discovered that the most popular tree types were fruit trees and coffee trees. Timber and fuel-producing trees were also found, but only five percent of the farms studied contained them.

Colonial Law No Longer a Stumbling Block

In addition to using satellite images and comprehensive surveys, Miller’s study relied heavily on personal interviews from farmers in the five countries.

Miller’s research delved into the ramifications of an old colonial law in Nigeria concerning tree ownership. He reported that the old law gave the government the right to claim any tree as being within the domain of forestry. As a result, farmers shied away from having trees on their farms because authorities would have a legal right to enter their land and claim the trees for the central government.

Miller indicated that the law in Nigeria recently changed to allow farmers more control of the trees on their land. He explained that this was a clear case of where previous government intervention adversely affected the decisions of landowners. Nigerian farmers are beginning to incorporate more trees into their farms, albeit slowly. Miller reported that of the five countries studied, the prevalence for trees on Nigerian farms was the lowest, at 16 percent.

Climate Change Mitigation

The weight of climate change is also a major consideration in the effort to reduce poverty in Africa. Miller’s results indicate worth for increased attention on farms incorporating more trees, especially considering food security and poverty-related policy concerns. Miller reports, “Trees are climate smart because they aren’t as fragile as agricultural crops are to extreme shifts in climate…trees can continue to produce when you might have a crop failure due to a drought.”

Diverse Sustainability for Farmers

Miller’s study found that farmers incorporating trees into their agricultural plans had greater food security. In his report, the uses of products harvested from trees included self-consumption, cash income, storage, and even gifts.

With the hope to reduce poverty in Africa at the forefront, Miller remains optimistic about the potential of future studies. “We see significant scope for future research…to gain a complete picture of the dynamics of rural livelihoods in Africa over time.”

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr

Protecting the Coffee Farmers
The exponential rise in demand for coffee has led to insuperable pressure on coffee farmers all over the world. The 22 percent decrease in global coffee exports has adversely impacted the supply of coffee as climate change patterns continue to debilitate.

The major cause of the decrease in supply lies in the rapidly rising global temperatures. This temperature spike has culminated in poor yields as the coffee plants thrive on more moist and cooler conditions for flowering and fruiting. If not, the crop becomes more vulnerable to the combined effects of pests and various diseases.

Consequently, a large proportion of coffee growers in developing economies in African countries, Brazil, Colombia and India are smallholder farmers. Protecting coffee farmers is especially essential because they do not have the means to support and adapt to the changes in the market, especially during the concurrent price volatility for coffee. There are around 120 million individuals who rely on this produce for their livelihoods.

A recent report consolidated by Australia’s Climate Change Institute highlighted that by the year 2050, 50 percent of the land dedicated to growing coffee would shrink. This will lead to negative impacts on yields.

Protecting the coffee farmers is vital to ensure continued production of coffee to meet the increasing demand. Using sustainable practices and approaches will be instrumental in achieving this goal, along with carefully monitoring supply chains. Many organizations have therefore recognized the need of addressing this key objective.

The 15-year collaborative effort that Conservation International has embarked on with Starbucks, with the establishment of the CAFE (Coffee and Farmer Equity) practices program, has been a pillar of strength to coffee growers. Moreover, the concept of Ethical Sourcing has brought about the inception of the components: Quality, Social Responsibility, Economic Accountability and Environmental leadership. These initiatives will ensure that coffee growers have an efficient way of sustaining their produce every year.

The Smart Coffee ID Card has also helped in protecting the coffee farmers in Colombia. Through this scheme, farmers get a chance to make payments effectively. Digitizing payments has been proved to stimulate more financial and social inclusion within communities to help combat poverty, as accentuated by the U.N. led coalition, Better Than Cash Alliance.

Fortunately, this channel is now also being used for the provision of government subsidies and incentives. From 2007- 2014 alone, a record 5.4 million payments were made.

Moreover, the Kagera Co-operative is also protecting coffee farmers. It has a widespread influence in Tanzania and reaches out to 60,000 smallholder farmers who aspire to sell their products on the fair trade market. Fair trade Coffee Cooperatives have a massive outreach with a renowned reputation for alleviating trading and price restrictions, along with granting workers considerable autonomy.

Overall, protecting coffee farmers effectively can be achieved by the concerted efforts of the coffee farmers, governments, local charities and international organizations so that coffee farmers continue to have an outlet for their produce and can earn high returns. Collaboration in this manner will pave the way for a sustainable future, where conservation, farming practices and livelihoods are all safeguarded.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Examples of Sustainable Development Project Resource Management Sustainability
Although sustainable development is defined in multiple ways, the most often cited definition of the term comes from the Bruntland Report titled, “Our Common Future.” According to the report, sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” From this particular definition, sustainable development can be reduced to two key concepts: needs and limitations. Needs refers to those in need—the world’s poor.  The limitations are those “imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.” Though many examples of sustainable development exist, the leading models are discussed below.


Top Five Examples of Sustainable Development


  1. Solar Energy: The greatest advantages of solar energy are that it is completely free and is available in limitless supply. Both of these factors provide a huge benefit to consumers and help reduce pollution. Replacing non-renewable energy with this type of energy is both environmentally and financially effective.
  2. Wind Energy: Wind energy is another readily available energy source. Harnessing the power of wind energy necessitates the use of windmills; however, due to construction cost and finding a suitable location, this kind of energy is meant to service more than just the individual. Wind energy can supplement or even replace the cost of grid power, and therefore may be a good investment and remains a great example of sustainable development.
  3. Crop Rotation: Crop rotation is defined as “the successive planting of different crops on the same land to improve soil fertility and help control insects and diseases.” This farming practice is beneficial in several ways, most notably because it is chemical-free. Crop rotation has been proven to maximize the growth potential of land, while also preventing disease and insects in the soil. Not only can this form of development benefit commercial farmers, but it can also aid those who garden at home.
  4. Efficient Water Fixtures: Replacing current construction practices and supporting the installation of efficient shower heads, toilets and other water appliances can conserve one of Earth’s most precious resources: water. Examples of efficient fixtures include products from the EPA’s WaterSense program, as well as dual-flush and composting toilets. According to the EPA, it takes a lot of energy to produce and transport water and to process waste water, and since less than one percent of the Earth’s available water supply is fresh water, it is important that sustainable water use is employed at the individual and societal level.
  5. Green Space: Green spaces include parks and other areas where plants and wildlife are encouraged to thrive. These spaces also offer the public great opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, especially in dense, urban areas. According to the UW-Madison Department of Urban and Regional Planning, advantages of green spaces include, “helping regulate air quality and climate … reducing energy consumption by countering the warming effects of paved surfaces … recharging groundwater supplies and protecting lakes and streams from polluted runoff.” Research conducted in the U.K. by the University of Exeter Medical School also found that moving to a greener area could lead to significant and lasting improvements to an individual’s mental health.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: World Bank , International Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentGreen Living, Science Daily, Project Evergreen, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Photo: UN

Poverty_Agriculture Olam International
Agri-business firm Olam International has pledged to help eradicate global poverty and mitigate climate change impacts that threaten food security.

Olam International is a world-leading firm operating in 70 countries, supplying food and raw materials to over 16,200 customers worldwide. Its business model is based on ensuring that profitable growth is achieved in an ethical, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable way.

The agri-business knows its responsibility to the earth, as changing weather patterns are affecting crops and communities. The organization realizes that climate change will threaten food security by creating less than ideal conditions for optimal food production, thus threatening the world’s chances to end global poverty.

According to Olam, “Ensuring we and our 4 million farmer suppliers, the vast majority of whom are smallholders in emerging markets, are implementing mitigation and adaptation measures to achieve the 2°C goal is therefore integral to our strategy.” In addition, the company has adopted four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations.

“Based on our configuration of assets and our capabilities across the 70 countries that we operate in, we have chosen four of the SDG Goals where we believe we can create a real impact,” said Sunny Verghese, the chief executive of Olam, at the U.N.’s High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Olam is prioritizing mitigating climate change through multiple goals: reducing GHG emissions from their farming and processing operations, adapting their own farming operations to build in climate resilience, encouraging farmer suppliers and logistics providers to improve their GHG emissions intensity and collaborating at a sector level to speed up implementation of climate-smart practices.

Olam will accomplish these goals through public, private and plural society partnership. Verghese said at the debate that a U.N.-to-private-sector partnership is key to successfully implementing the SDGs.

Verghese went on to say, “If after all of this hard work and overwhelming effort, if we are not going to be leaving a better place for our children, what is the point of it all?”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr


The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations announced the introduction of the Global Development Lab Act. It was introduced by Senators Ben Cardin and Johnny Isakson on March 4, 2016. This bipartisan legislation states that the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid could be significantly enhanced through the use of scientific and technical innovations and by involving the private sector. As a result, there would be more low-cost and common sense solutions to development challenges such as improved health outcomes and reduced global poverty.

Established in April 2014, USAID’s Global Development Lab builds upon the belief that innovation, technology and partnership can accelerate development impact fast, cheap and sustainably.

“The Lab’s role is to rethink assumptions and harness the power of the crowd and America’s leading research institutes and universities, coupled with the democratization of science and technology, to lead to new breakthroughs that it can bring to scale,” Alex Dehgan, USAID’s former chief scientist said interviewing with Center for Global Development. “If the Lab isn’t pushing boundaries, it isn’t creating discomfort, it isn’t attracting new solvers (including from the developing world), it will fail to achieve its promise.”

The Global Development Lab Act (S. 2629) establishes five key duties: (1) increase the application of science, technology, innovation and partnerships to cultivate and gauge new ways to end extreme poverty; (2) discover, test and scale development innovations to increase cost effectiveness and support U.S. foreign policy and development goals; (3) leverage the expertise, resources and investment of businesses, private organizations, science and research organizations, and universities to increase program impact and sustainability; (4) utilize innovation-driven competitions to expand the number and diversity of solutions to challenges of development; and (5) support USAID missions and bureaus in applying science, technology, innovation, and partnership approaches to decision-making, obtainment and program design according to the legislation.

On March 4, 2016, in a press release, Senator Isakson stated: “The Global Development Lab Act would provide the integration of science, technology into our development solutions for eradicating poverty. The USAID Global Development Lab has created cost-effective solutions to solving challenges around the world. Through public and private coordination, we are leveraging the resources of business, nongovernmental organizations, science and research to advance greater global health and economic development.”

The House version of this legislation (H.R. 3924) was introduced by Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-TX, and Michael McCaul, R-TX, on Nov. 4, 2015. The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a consideration and mark-up session for this legislation on Feb. 24, 2016.

Summer Jackson

CrowdsourcingThe process of collecting contributions in the form of ideas and services is not a new phenomenon. In fact, crowdsourcing has historically been used to solve challenging innovation problems.

Companies have for a long time used consumer wisdom to tackle tough scientific and technological challenges, design new products, generate marketing ideas and increase customer satisfaction. Platforms like the Heineken Ideas Brewery, BMW customer innovation lab and My Starbucks Ideas show how major organizations are successfully tapping into the power of the crowd to co-create innovative concepts.

Beyond simply a new approach to research and development, some companies have taken crowdsourcing a step further. Organizations are now using the powerful platform to tackle social challenges in the areas of sustainability and poverty reduction.

Unilever Foundry Ideas is a crowdsourcing platform that was launched by a corporate giant, Unilever in 2015. Through the platform, Unilever seeks to make sustainable living mainstream by sourcing ideas from customers and entrepreneurs. An article in CSR Asia talks about the success of Unilever Foundry ideas highlighting how it has generated over 300 ideas to encourage recycling of bathroom products, reduction of water dependency while doing laundry and invention of concepts for more luxurious and sustainable showers for the future.

“Big social, environment and economic issues are so huge that no one organization or company or group can solve them alone,” says a Unilever Foundry Ideas representative. “Aspects of sustainability affect all of us and so all of us have ideas.”

General Electric has the open innovation branch of its Ecomagination program. This is a collaborative problem-solving environment.

Open innovation posts a variety of challenges and creates an open call to the global brain, a growing community of over 400 million, to submit creative ideas to tackle these challenges. Contributors of winning ideas normally receive cash prizes, internships and future collaboration opportunities.

Open innovation has so far fielded challenges in the areas of solving water scarcity through Water Reuse and managing chronic disease by developing wearable monitoring technologies to mention a few.

BASF, one of the world’s leading chemical companies, has the co-creation platform the Creator Space. In 2015, Creator Space conducted a tour in six cities around the globe, Mumbai, Shanghai, New York, Sao Paulo, Barcelona and Ludwigshafen. Creator space aimed to develop solutions for problems that citizens in the different cities were facing. It did this through enlisting inputs from government officials, NGOs, the society as well as artists.

In Mumbai, for example, BASF Creator Space was tackling the challenge of water accessibility. According to a white paper on the Mumbai visit, a holistic approach has been developed to augment Mumbai city’s plans to revamp the on-grid water infrastructure.

Coca-Cola takes part in the crowdsourcing space by hosting an annual grant challenge known as “Shaping a Better Future”. For the grant, Coca-Cola has partnered with the Global Shapers Community of the World Economic Forum to scale proven solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

There are over 500 Global Shaper hubs around the world that comprise of young people with an exceptional drive to make a contribution to their communities. They have a focus on matters such as bettering the environment, kick-starting civic engagement and eradicating poverty to name a few.

Coca-Cola offers five 10,000 dollar grants through the program to accelerate the most impactful and promising Global Shaper hub projects.

François Pétavy, eYeka CEO notes that crowdsourcing often has its beginnings in the creation of better products and experiences, but often results in a more collaborative and sustainable world.

June Samo

Sources: BASF 1, BASF 2, Coca-Cola,, CSR Asia, Entrepreneur, GE 1, GE 2, Open Innovation, Unilever