Saturday Series: An Interview with Aturinde Emmanuel

By Molly Redfield

In our new Saturday Series, we interview inspiring people our readers have nominated. These people are working on the frontlines to improve the global food and agricultural systems. Want to nominate someone?  E-mail your suggestions to Danielle Nierenberg!

Name: Aturinde Emmanuel

Affiliation: Hunger Fighters Uganda

Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (Photo credit:

Bio: Aturinde Emmanuel is the Executive Director of Hunger Fighters Uganda (HF-UG). Before he worked at HF-UG, he worked as a Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant for the United Nations World Food Programme in Uganda. Emmanuel graduated from Duisburg-Essen University in Germany with a master’s degree in development and governance and from Makerere University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and political science. His research focuses on agriculture, development policy, and food and nutrition security with a special focus on development innovation.

In 2008, participants of a UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Continuing Agriculture Education Center (CAEC) course dubbed ‘Hunger in the 21st Century’ established Hunger Fighters Uganda.

What roles did the WFP and the CAEC play in the organization’s founding?

The most important thing about the WFP and CAEC course was that it focused on the causes, effects, and possible responses to hunger. By looking to address these issues, the course connected many of its participants. After the course training, myself and some of my classmates and instructors were able to initiate Hunger Fighters Uganda. We started out by monitoring the food that is given to refugees in Uganda. The WFP and CAEC course sparked the idea for HFU, but we’ve been able to do what we do because of our staff. This is especially true in regard to capacity building and having other resources to do our work. Our staff now includes people beyond the initial few who participated in the WFP and CAEC course.

What is the hunger situation in Uganda?

Hunger in Uganda affects over 8 million people. Many Ugandans face something referred to as hidden hunger, a deficiency in micronutrients. The lack of micronutrients, especially of vitamins, iron, and iodine, is referred to as ‘hidden’ because it does not show up immediately. It is only clear later when a person’s immune system is compromised and other opportunistic diseases manifest. So we focus on hidden hunger, most notably in the northern and northeastern parts of the country. These regions experience the highest level of malnutrition.

HFU takes a multidimensional approach to fighting hunger. Can you expand upon this?

Our approach is multidisciplinary: we have environmentalists, nutritionists, and others all working together to eliminate hunger. The fruit trees we help people to plant exemplify our multifaceted approach. The trees provide people with both food and a source of income, which help to break the cycle of poverty. The owners of fruit trees might, for example, invest some of their income in healthcare or education. The trees also benefit the environment and promote natural resource conservation.

Why is a multidimensional approach to hunger necessary?

Hunger manifests itself in diverse ways. If we are to develop a sustainable solution, we can’t use only one approach. We must bring numerous approaches together to address hunger in all of its manifestations. We are, in fact, able to use different approaches that complement one another in an attempt to generate a comprehensive solution to hunger. At HFU, we’re working in teams from different departments. This way, we can minimize the deficiencies that may be present in one field. We are then able to implement programs that deal with the social and environmental components of hunger.

Another important aspect of our approach is that it is direct and on the ground. We promote advocacy in our work. At HFU, we help inform citizens about their rights and responsibilities. These citizens are then, in what we call an interface meeting, directly involved in creating an action plan for eliminating hunger. With Citizen Voice we aim to create goals and take actions with inputs from various stakeholders. In our work, stakeholders come together, the community is empowered, and citizen engagement is enabled.

What kind of impact has HFU had in the lives of poor Ugandans?

In the first year, we implemented a food monitoring program for Ugandan refugees. Since then, over 16,544 beneficiaries have been able to get the vitamins they need to have a healthy diet. Additionally, these beneficiaries have come to appreciate the importance of receiving aid.  We used to have only one office, in Krampala, but now have established offices in other parts of Uganda. Most notably, we have offices in the Karamojo region, which is most affected by hunger and poor nutrition. Another aspect of our work that we see as an achievement is the coalition of youth NGOs that we host. This coalition, made up of 17 different agencies, increases focus on the children impacted by food insecurity.

Where must efforts be directed in the future if we hope to eliminate hunger in Uganda and other countries around the world?

We are working to expand our activities beyond Uganda’s borders. We think we’ll be able to initiate a program in the eastern part of Africa in the near future. It depends on the way opportunities come to us. We have a big volunteer base—having them help to increase our engagement outside of Uganda is important.

Investing more in innovations is also important for the future. Furthermore, making sure that these innovations are tailored to the existing resources of a community is crucial. People have a lot of potential. When solutions are created within a community setting, people are able to act on their potential.

Lastly, we need to get youth back into the agricultural sector. Too many of our youth are leaving their family farms to look for work elsewhere. We must seriously invest in agriculture if we wish to eliminate hunger in Uganda.

Molly Redfield is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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Drought Pushes International Food Prices to Record Levels

The Inter Press Service quoted Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg this morning in its article, “International Food Prices Again at Record Levels, World Bank Warns.” The article discusses the latest global food price statistics released by the World Bank.

Statistics for July indicate a 10 percent rise over just the previous month, and a 6 percent increase over already high prices from the same time frame a year ago.

Danielle Nierenberg argues in the article, “[t]he silver lining of the current drought is that the West can perhaps take a new look at the sustainable practices that have been helping many African farmers combat drought. This is an opportunity for the Western world to look to the developing world – they have a lot to teach us.”

Click here to read the full article.

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Green Jobs on the Rise

Companies that recognize the potential of a green economy are employing skilled workers with knowledge of new design and construction techniques, in order to get ahead of the coming market transitions. Interest in green jobs continues to grow, but without defining, standard-setting, and benchmarking, this will remain a vague term that can be interpreted in many different ways. The US Bureau of Labor Statists (BLS) has developed tools to help us better understand the increasing role green jobs play in industries nationally.

The BLS measures green jobs using two approaches. It counts jobs associated with establishments that produce green goods and services (GGS), and jobs associated with environmentally friendly production processes and practices. By measuring the jobs created due to output of GGS and production processes, the BLS can quantify the total number of green jobs created in business practices.

Wind Farm (Photo via Flickr, by Bush Philospher – David Clarke)

According to the BLS, a green job produces goods or provides “services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.” Additionally, green jobs are those in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources. These technologies and practices fall into one or more of four categories: Generate electricity from renewable sources; improve energy efficiency, including cogeneration; reduce and remove pollution; conserve natural resources; and enforce environmental compliance, education and training.

The BLS report documents industries with the largest percentages of green jobs. Among the highest-ranking industries is construction, with 820,700 establishments, or about 38% of the industry having GGS, as of 2009.

Green construction aims to design and construct a building that uses environmentally responsible practices and is resource efficient. For example, green buildings reduce environmental impact by incorporating energy-saving technologies and reusing water. Companies like McGraw-Hill Construction are developing innovative, green building methods in order to meet the increasing demand. In 2005, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated green nonresidential building construction in the US to be worth approximately $3 billion. Just five years later, in 2010, McGraw-Hill increased that estimate to $43 to $54 billion – and by 2015, estimates it will be worth $120 to $145 billion.

Green Jobs now! (Photo via Flickr, by

In order to distinguish GGS from other goods, BLS employs standards or product ratings. For example, federal standards classify sustainable foods and food production as USDA Certified Organic, and goods and services that are energy efficient as Energy Star products. Furthermore, buildings can be classified as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which indicates the building has met the green industry standard. While labeling helps consumers purchase GGS, one concern is that many of these standards are voluntary. Therefore, establishments may opt out of the rating system.

Between 2000 and 2008, green construction supported more than 1 million workers, of the 7.2 million people working in general construction in 2008. The US Green Building Council suspects that this figure will increase to 3.3 million between 2009 and 2013. The 3.3 million people employed by green construction does not include those employed by suppliers of green building goods and services.

Companies will continue to innovate, producing more green jobs. The deployment of new technologies in the energy sector alone has the potential to support 20 million jobs and trillions of dollars in revenue by 2030. Government support of GGS, and increasing consumer demand for these goods will be vital to their competitiveness in the market. Developing green goods and services will bolster preparedness for climate change and buffer the rising costs of energy into the future.


(Written by Antonia Sohns)




Challenges Exist Using Video to Spread Farmer Knowledge

By Angela Kim

By the end of 2011, there were 6 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions in the world. Most of this growth was driven by developing countries, which accounted for 80 percent of new mobile-cellular subscriptions. Although this rapid expansion of technology has created advantages for rural farmers, including linking farmers to markets, improving transportation logistics, and greater access to videos via cellular devices, substantial challenges still exist in the use of video to teach and learn sustainable agricultural practices.

Videos can be used as a teaching method to share experiences in sustainable farming. (Photo credit: Naimul Haq/IPS)

Video has become an alternative medium for helping farmers learn to integrate crop and pest management. Instructional videos can overcome the problem of illiteracy among rural farmers—according to United Nations data, approximately 80 percent of those living in developing countries can’t read. Women in rural farming communities, in particular, who more often lack access to education, land, and capital, have benefited from video-based training, which has helped them to become rural entrepreneurs.

Despite several benefits of using videos to spread farmer knowledge, the quality of content has a major influence on farmers’ interest in participating. Digital Green, an India-based project that uses video to advance existing agricultural extension systems, has demonstrated that videos of classroom-style lectures were perceived by farmers to be monotonous. Instead, they like more intimate, diversified-content types that include concrete demonstrations, testimonials, and even entertainment. And according to Digital Green, the degree to which farmers trust the content of a video depends on the language, clothing, and mannerisms featured in the film. Farmers involved with Digital Green were more inclined to trust information in videos that featured their neighbors than those which featured government experts.

Farmer-to-farmer videos can be utilized when sharing mechanisms and networking are available. The Video Viewing Club, organized by Sustainable Tree Crops Program in northern Ghana, brings farmers together to watch videos every two weeks. The viewing is followed by a discussion, exposure to an illustrated guidebook, as well as practical fieldwork.

Although communication technology has created numerous opportunities for sharing information and the use of video has helped to close knowledge gaps, challenges still exist. To address language barriers that may inhibit knowledge-sharing between different linguistic groups, an initiative led by researchers at the University of Illinois called “Scientific Animations Without Borders” incorporates scientifically valorized approaches to sustainable farming and health skills into two-minute animated videos viewable on cell phones for both low cost and universal appeal. Their videos also use voiceovers to customize to appropriate languages.

Videos can cross cultures, teaching smallholder farmers new agricultural practices that maximize yields and advancing rural development through community engagement.

Do you think that increased access to mobile technology, particularly educational videos, has the potential to promote sustainable agricultural development on a large scale? Tell us in the comments!

Angela Kim is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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Innovation of the Week: Policy Analysis at Your Fingertips

By Ronica Lu

The Farm Bill Budget Visualizer, recently released by the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an innovative, web-based application that provides a visually pleasing, interactive breakdown of Farm Bill legislation spending.

A screenshot of the Farm Bill Budget Visualizer’s homepage (Photo Credit: Food and Tech Connect)

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill, first passed in 1973 and updated every four or five years, that deals with food and agricultural affairs under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Farm Bill is the primary food and agricultural policy tool of the U.S. federal government and addresses issues from numerous perspectives—including everything from food assistance and nutrition education, to efforts to improve access to fruits and vegetables.

With the upcoming release of the updated 2012 Farm Bill from Congress later this year, the Budget Visualizer helps the general public, advocacy groups, and policymakers make connections between the provisions of the bill and the amount of federal spending allotted to each program.

The visualizer displays Farm Bill programs in collapsible and expandable boxes. The sizes of the boxes are proportional to the amount of funding the programs receive. The use of the app does not require a software download, but does use the latest versions of Java and Adobe Flash.

By selecting the category, “sustainable agriculture,” one will find that one of the related provisions is the “Sustainable Research and Extension Program.” The visualizer displays a short description of the program and the budget allotted, which includes a 5.2 percent increase in funding from US$19 million to the proposed US$20 million for the 2012 Farm Bill.

Roni Neff, CLF’s research and policy director, says, “Transparency is a key theme and objective of our work; we’ve not only provided our audiences with access to details of the Farm Bill budget, but also provided a new way to understand this complex piece of legislation.”

What have you learned about the issues most important to you from the Farm Bill Visualizer?  Let us know in the comments section below! 

Ronica Lu is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet Project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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Rot Riders Collect Compost on Bikes

By Eleanor Fausold

In Kirksville, Missouri, a group of college students and volunteers are collecting compost and making it easy for area residents to reduce their food waste, nourish their gardens, and even fight climate change. The group, The Rot Riders, travels by bicycle through the neighborhoods of Kirksville, picks up compost from residents’ homes, and delivers it to a community compost pile, where it is later available for community members to use as a natural fertilizer.

The Rot Riders collect compost by bicycle. (Image Credit: Rot Riders)

The founders of The Rot Riders were originally inspired by a Northampton, Massachusetts group called Pedal People, a worker-owned cooperative that delivers farm shares and picks up trash, recycling and compost from people’s homes, all by bicycle. The Rot Riders concept was developed as part of a student-led grassroots environmentalism course at Truman State University, and the group has been making weekly rounds since the spring of 2010.

The group is composed of five core riders and a few volunteers. On Sunday afternoons, the riders gather, split up into pairs, divide the route, and set off on bicycles, trailers in tow, to collect compost in Kirksville. The cyclists stop and collect buckets of compost from the lawns and porches of more than 40 houses and apartments in the Kirksville area, and the number of donors continues to grow.

Once the compost is collected, it is taken to the compost pile at Truman State’s University Farm. There, it is mixed with other ingredients such as campus food waste, leaves, straw, sawdust, and manure. It takes about three months for the compost to break down, but once it’s ready, it is made available to all local gardeners.

The Rot Riders concept is a system that can serve as a model for other small communities that do not yet have access to a municipal composting service but are looking for ways to reduce their waste and help the environment. When rotting food scraps end up in landfills, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is a major contributor to climate change. But when the scraps are used to make compost, they get reused and provide community members with a nutrient-rich fertilizer that helps gardens flourish.

Most of The Rot Riders are Truman State students, but the group is looking to expand. Bikers, organic waste collectors, and composters are all welcome to join in the effort. For more information, email

Do you know about other community projects that are helping to reduce food waste? Comment below!

Eleanor Fausold is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.

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Making the Green Economy Go

Emerging from the Rio+20 conference this June, governments and citizens continue to discuss what a sustainable economy should look like. Some see salvation in green growth; while others argue that structural, not just technological, change is necessary. Indeed, fundamental cultural change away from materialism is critical to success.

It’s indisputable that a green economy must offer adequate numbers of good-quality jobs in order to have traction. At a time when the world needs to create 600 million jobs over the next decade, when some 200 million people confront unemployment and many others contend with insecure, dangerous, or low-paid work, sustainable and fulfilling livelihoods is a critically important goal. Thus, a focus on “green and decent jobs” has developed in recent years, which emphasizes employment that not only preserves and restores environmental quality, but also offers workers a secure income and a perspective for the future.

Forestry Walk (Photo via Flickr, by Duncan Brown)

In my chapter, “Making the Green Economy Work for Everybody” in State of the World 2012: Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity, I discuss the importance of addressing social inequities in order to achieve environmental sustainability. With deep social divisions, collaborative solutions will not develop. Policies must be more inclusive to counter the growing sense of disillusionment in a world marked by tremendous gaps in wealth and power.

Two recent studies by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) provide additional insights and innovative solutions in moving towards a green economy. The ILO’s report, Working Towards Sustainable Development [PDF], is part of the Green Jobs Initiative – a joint initiative between the ILO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organization of Employers.

The ILO report outlines necessary steps toward building a green economy, examining a range of sectors from agriculture, forestry and fisheries to energy production, transportation, and buildings. Additionally, the report states that employment opportunities must be improved by incorporating social concerns into sustainable development strategy. For an effective, new development model, ILO places social dialogue at the center of policy reform.

While the ILO report details the role of green jobs in a broad range of sectors of the global economy, IRENA’s report, Renewable Energy: Jobs & Access, focuses on the employment opportunities of renewable energy projects in rural areas of the developing world. According to IRENA, at present, more than 1.3 billion people are without electricity access and another 1 billion have unreliable access.  At least 2.7 billion worldwide lack access to modern fuels, relying instead on highly polluting kerosene or burning biomass, which cause dangerous indoor smoke.

Wind farm and San Jacinto Peak (Photo via Flickr, by WayFinder_73)

Decentralized forms of renewable energy offer solutions to the lack of energy access. Through the development of biogas, various forms of solar energy, small-scale hydropower and improved cookstoves, substantial employment opportunities are possible.  Although most developing countries do not manufacture renewable energy equipment, jobs can be generated in the distribution, sales, installation, operation, and service of these systems.  The IRENA report estimates if the UN target of providing sustainable energy for all by 2030 is reached, it could yield some 4 million jobs.

Small-scale renewable energy technologies are well adapted to the rural context, and the bulk of skills required for installing and operating them can be developed locally.  Case studies highlight linkages between local job creation and renewable energy, such as integration of the renewable energy sector into local economies, skills and training, gender impacts, and standards and quality assurance measures.

These reports add to the literature emphasizing the importance of a green economy and the role of green jobs. Such studies are significant not only in generating better data on existing and potential green jobs, but also in attempting to improve our understanding of important qualitative aspects.

(Written by Michael Renner; Edited by Antonia Sohns; Originally published on CSRwire Talkback as a part of a series on Moving Toward Sustainable Prosperity).

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