Archive for the ‘Burkina Faso’ Category


Protecting “The Last Farmer” from Globalization

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By Leah Baines

Throughout the world, agriculture from small farmers provides food for 70 percent of the population, while industrial agriculture only supplies 30 percent. But, ironically, most of the 2.8 million people living in poverty around the world are farmers. The documentary “The Last Farmer” highlights how small-scale farmers are suffering from poverty as a result of globalization and the growing shift towards industrial agriculture.

"The Last Farmer" highlights the lives of small-scale farmers in developing countries. (Image credit: "The Last Farmer")

Directed by Giuliano Girelli, the documentary follows three farmers and their families in Indonesia, Guatemala, and Burkina Faso throughout their day. It draws attention to the struggles they face from lack of agricultural diversity, diminishing soil fertility, food insecurity, and decreasing incomes. The video also includes commentary from experts about the effects of globalization all over the world.

“Agriculture [has] the word culture in there, right? It’s actually doing something in a cultural way,” said Hira Jhamtani, an environmental activist in Indonesia. “But we have made it into an industry…the multinational companies are taking over the role of small farmers. Everywhere…whether it’s Europe, whether it’s in the US or whether it’s in Indonesia, family farmers are being displaced by big companies.”



Nourishing the Planet TV: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet intern Julia Eder discusses the Kew Millennium Seed Bank, which is collecting seeds from endangered plant species to conserve plant diversity and to find crops that are resistant to global threats such as climate change and water scarcity.



To read more about the Kew Millennium Seed Bank, see: Innovation of the Week: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future.

Holiday offer: To purchase a copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet at a 50 percent discountplease click HERE and enter code SW1150. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Shea: For people and planet

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By Kim Kido 

Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa, nilotica) is one of few trees that can withstand the harsh, semi-arid climate of the Sudan and Guinean savannas and the Sahel. Hardy, drought-resistant, and with fireproof bark, the uses of the shea tree are numerous and ancient, dating back to the 1300s.

Woman processing shea kernels into butter. (Photo credit: TREE AID)

Tools and coffins are made out of the wood, while the wastewater from processing seeds acts as a pesticide against weevils. The tree provides forage for sheep and goats as well as food for people. The sweet pulp of the fruit, similar to an avocado, is eaten fresh, providing a valuable source of nutrition early in the rainy season when food can be scarce. And, the tree’s flowers can be added to salads.

The shea tree also provides many environmental benefits. Farmers often intercrop the shea tree with cereal grains where they help to prevent wind erosion, provide shade, and contribute organic matter to the soil.

The uses of the shea nut are most widely known and offer the highest economic value. The seed contains a kernel that is eaten fresh, roasted like almonds, or processed to extract shea butter. Shea butter is traditionally used as a waterproofing material for houses, a cosmetic, a primary source of vegetable fat in cooking, and as a medicine for treating various skin diseases, arthritis, and other ailments.



Innovation of the Week: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future

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By Janeen Madan

According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a quarter of the world’s known plant species—some 60,000 to 100,000 species—are threatened with extinction.

The Millennium Seed Bank is a global network of organizations that bank seeds of rare and threatened plants. (Photo credit: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew)

And even though plants may not receive as much attention as endangered animals, like polar bears or tigers, they’re extremely important. Plants are a vital source of food, they can help stabilize the climate, and they also provide shelter, medicines and fuel.

The Kew Millennium Seed Bank (MSB), located at Wakehurst Place, in West Sussex, U.K., is working with its global network of partner organizations to bank seeds of rare and threatened plants. With 120 partner institutions in over 50 countries, MSB is the largest plant conservation project in the world. In 2009, the bank achieved its target of collecting seeds from 10 percent of the world’s plant species. Its next goal is to secure 25 percent by 2020.

The bank was started with the simple idea of collecting and conserving the world’s wild plant species. Banking seeds of useful plants is the first step in finding varieties that can help confront pressing global problems—from water scarcity, to deforestation, to restoring endangered habitats. “As seed conservationists, our role is not only to conserve plant diversity, but to make it available to as wide a range of users to enable both innovation and adaptation,” says Paul Smith, head of the Seed Bank in the U.K.



Tree Grape: Form, Function, and Flavor of a Grape on an African Tree

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By Matt Styslinger

Tree grapes (Lannea microcarpa) are actually in the same family as mangoes, cashews, and pistachios, but they look and taste more like grapes. And although they do not grow on vines, tree grapes hang from trees in grape-like bunches.

The African tree grape, although more like a plum in structure, looks and tastes like a grape (Photo credit: B. Belem, Plant Resources of Tropical Africa).

Tree grapes are often sold in both city street markets and along roadsides in West Africa. In Burkina Faso, the tree is cultivated commercially on a small scale and the trees can be seen in and around villages. The fruit can be eaten fresh or dried like raisins for longer-term storage. The fruit makes an excellent jam, can be made into wine, and the pulp fermented into a potent alcoholic drink. The tree’s young leaves are nutritious—18 percent protein and 5 percent minerals—and are eaten by both people and livestock. An edible and water-soluble gum can also be extracted from the tree.

The tree has important non-food uses as well. The seed kernel is high in oil, which is sometimes extracted and used to make soap and skin lotions. The fibrous bark can be made into rope, and a dark red-brown dye is also extracted from it. The bark is also used to treat diarrhea. Cloth dyed with this tree is often associated with healing, because of the medicinal properties of the bark and the blood-red color. The leaves, bark, roots, and fruits of this tree are applied to treat blisters, boils, sore throat, and rheumatism. The flowers are very attractive to bees, and beekeepers often hang their hives among the branches of this tree.



Sweet detar: Food, Fragrance, Fodder, and More

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By Kim Kido

From food to fragrance, virtually no part of the sweet detar tree (Detarium microcarpum) goes unused. A study of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve in western Burkina Faso identified the tree as one of six multi-use species “most appreciated by people” and thus “most important”. Two varieties of the species exist. The tall, forest variety produces bitter fruit while the shorter savannah variety produces a sweet, green fruit that is particularly popular in West Africa. The brown pods of sweet-sour fruit have the shape and size of apricots but a shell and pulp akin to its relative the tamarind.

Illustration of detar fruit and flower published in 1891. (Photo credit: Paul Hermann Wilhelm Taubert via Wikipedia Commons)

Usually eaten fresh by children, the fruit is sometimes sun-dried then sold in markets. The fruit is boiled with jackalberry and black plum and concentrated to make fruit leathers in northern Nigeria, while in Sierra Leone, it’s made into a drink. Detar is higher in vitamin C than guava, and has a very good shelf life. It can be returned to its fresh state if it dries out by soaking it in sugar water, and the liquid by-product makes a fruity drink.

Boiling the fragrant seed breaks down the seedcoat to expose a kernel rich in essential amino acids and fatty acids, which is pounded into ofo flour in Nigeria and used to thicken egusi soup. Alternatively, cooking oil is extracted from the kernels by crushing them, with the by-products of this process used as an animal feed. When the seeds are not eaten, they are strung together to make fragrant necklaces.

The fragrance of other parts of the tree is useful as well. If the bark is damaged, a sticky, fragrant gum is secreted that is used to deter mosquitoes. Heated roots produce a sweet scent that is used as a perfume by women in Sudan, and as a mosquito repellent in Chad.

Resistant to moisture, weathering, and pests, the dense, hard wood is workable and thus highly desirable for carpentry and joinery when making houses, boats, and fences. The wood is also sought for firewood and charc