Many of us are thinking about the changes we want to make this year. For some, these changes will be financial; for others, physical or spiritual. But for all of us, there are important resolutions we can make to “green” our lives. Although this is often a subject focused on by industrialized nations, people in developing countries can also take important steps to reduce their growing environmental impact.
By using biogas collection tanks, farmers in Rwanda are already helping to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
“We in the developing world must embark on a more vigorous ‘going green’ program,” says Sue Edwards, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD). “As incomes rise and urbanization increases, a growing middle class must work with city planners to ensure our communities are sustainable.”
ISD’s Tigray Project recently received the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development 2011, shared with Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Since 1996, Tigray has worked to help Ethiopian farmers rehabilitate ecosystems, raise land productivity, and increase incomes through such practices as composting, biodiversity enhancement, the conservation of water and soil, and the empowerment of local communities to manage their own development.
Broadening sustainability efforts is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty. The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
Hunger, poverty, and climate change are issues that we in the developing world can help address. Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:
Urbanization is on the rise throughout the developing world. According to the United Nations, the highest urban-area growth is 3.5 percent per year in Africa. But waste management is not keeping up with population growth. It is inefficient in urban areas and virtually nonexistent in rural areas, resulting in the pervasive unloading of waste in unmanaged dump sites and bodies of water and endangering public health.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. In the United States, an estimated 40 percent of edible food is thrown away by retailers and households. In the United Kingdom, 8.3 million tons of food is wasted by households each year. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.
Food waste remains a large factor contributing to food insecurity around the world, but consumers can help reduce the amount of food that is wasted each year. (Photo credit: Back to the Garden Inc)
Today, Nourishing the Planet presents five ways that consumers can help prevent food waste.
1. Compost: In addition to contributing to food insecurity, food waste is harmful to the environment. Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient rich organic fertilizer for gardening.
Compost in Action: In Denver, the city contracts with A1 Organics, a local organic recycling business, to take people’s waste and turn it into compost for local farmers. Similarly, a new pilot program in New York City allows patrons to donate food scraps to a composting company that gives the compost to local farmers.
2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.
As we head into 2012, many of us will be resolving to lose those few extra pounds, save more money, or spend a few more hours with our families and friends. But there are also some resolutions we can make to make our lives a little greener. Each of us, especially in the United States, can make a commitment to reducing our environmental impacts.
Here are 12 simple steps that you can take be more green in the new year. (Photo credit: Julie Carney, Gardens for Health International)
The United Nations has designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. Broadening access to sustainable energy is essential to solving many of the world’s challenges, including food production, security, and poverty.
Hunger, poverty, and climate change are issues that we can all help address. Here are 12 simple steps to go green in 2012:
Recycling programs exist in cities and towns across the United States, helping to save energy and protect the environment. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require all homes and businesses to use recycling and composting collection programs. As a result, more than 75 percent of all material collected is being recycled, diverting 1.6 million tons from the landfills annually—double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for each pound of aluminum recovered, Americans save the energy resources necessary to generate roughly 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity—enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years!
In sub-Saharan Africa where nearly a third of the population is hungry, over a quarter of food produced is lost to spoilage. And the hundreds of millions of livestock on the continent are responsible for degrading almost half of crop land on the continent, which makes up over one-third of overgrazed lands worldwide. But the uneaten food, manure, and other forms of waste are being used by farmers to produce fertilizer, fuel, and food.
Decorated compost piles in Malawi (Photo credit: Scott Gregory)
South Africa has been diverting organic matter from its landfills since 1969. About 2 percent of waste generated in Cape Town, and 15 percent in Johannesburg, is diverted through composting. In Johannesburg, compost sales were projected to completely offset production costs by 2006. Two other municipalities operate smaller scale composting facilities in the country. A project funded by the World Bank in Uganda has nine municipalities establishing composting plants.
Composting food waste relieves pressure on landfills while producing an inexpensive, nutrient-rich soil amendment that farmers use to improve soil fertility. Compost adds organic matter to the soil, increasing the water-holding capacity of its structure, facilitating root penetration, and making nutrients available to crops over time.
Chef and author Arthur Potts Dawson is passionate about incorporating sustainability into his restaurants. (Photo credit: www.londonsdc.org)
Dawson now works with the Shoreditch Trust, a charitable organization working to address the causes of disadvantage in the most deprived areas of Shoreditch, London. With the Trust, Dawson founded Acorn House, London’s first truly environmentally sustainable restaurant and Water House, a restaurant offering delicious seasonal food and a firm commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. Arthur published the Acorn House Cookbook in 2008 which shows its readers how to prepare “good food from field to fork.”
Arthur is the founder of The People’s Supermarket a sustainable food cooperative that responds to the needs of the local community in London and provides healthy, local food at reasonable prices. He has also given informative speeches on his methods of creating sustainable restaurants on TED Talks.
Nourishing the Planet’s op-ed on food waste was recently published in Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, the largest daily newspaper in Ohio.
A technician at Sansai Environmental Technologies in Cleveland spreads out a bucket of treated carrots on a soil bed that contains earthworms. (Photo credit: John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer)
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, industrialized countries waste 222 million tons of food annually. In the United States alone, 34 million tons of food goes to waste each year. But there are many simple ways that we can reduce food waste, such as composting and recycling. Making use of what we already produce will be key if we are to adequately feed a global population that is approaching 7 billion.
City Provisions chef Cleetus Friedman collects vegetable scraps and returns them to the farm where he buys his pigs. (Photo Credit: Al Podgorski, Chicago Sun-Times)
The article discussed food waste, and how innovative agricultural solutions, such as composting, can help to deter the problem. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, a staggering one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted, rather than consumed. In North America, more than 20 percent of all meat is wasted. Some of that meat spoils before it can be distributed and some is damaged by bad handling, but more than half is simply wasted by restaurants, grocery stores and consumers.
Nourishing the Planet and State of the World 2011 were recently highlighted in the Mail & Guardian, one of South Africa’s oldest and top news sites.
The article focused on agricultural innovations that are using human waste to provide nutrients for farms, which is not only helping to fertilize crops, but also helping to improve sanitation in many African countries.
An estimated 2.6 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation services in developing countries and these same people are also suffering from food insecurity due to the lack of clean, nutrient-rich soil. But organizations, such as SOIL/SOL and Oxfam, are helping to build public toilets and waste composting sites to convert dry waste in to nutrient-rich fertilizer, turning two problems in to a solution.
To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.
Pesticides are expensive and often hazardous to human health and the environment. In developing countries, farmers sometimes apply toxic chemicals without protective equipment, causing related health problems. And sometimes pests become resistant to pesticides, leading to increased—and less and less useful—pesticide applications.
The project’s researchers showed Ugandan farmers that IPM methods were “better, safer, and cheaper” than applying pesticides by conducting farmer field experiments and field research to find easy-to-apply tactics. (Photo credit: Shanidov, Flickr Commons)
One of eight collaborative research support programs set up by USAID, IPM CRSP supports research and education in 33 countries to spread adoption of the alternative agricultural approach Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM includes a variety of methods to reduce chemical inputs, such as planting pest-resistant crop varieties, waiting to plant for several months during “no-host periods” to reduce opportunities for pests to reproduce, and using organic controls, such as insects that eat pests. When absolutely necessary, temporary and low-toxic pesticides are used by farmers. (more…)
This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!
Crop management practices such as crop rotation, intercropping methods, and increasing crop diversity are viable alternative options to chemical inputs. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)
Pests in a farming system—insects, birds, rodents, and even large mammals—can be devastating to production. This holds true for farms large and small, tropical and temperate, organic or conventional.
But are pesticide inputs the best solution for farmers wanting to rid themselves of pests and boost crop production? Not necessarily, according to organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and agricultural experts like Jules Pretty. Several agricultural production methods tackle pest problems without using chemical pesticides. The ability to cut costs, without sacrificing yields, can make these alternative systems more sustainable, particularly for small farmers.
Crop management practices such as crop rotation, intercropping methods, and increasing crop diversity are viable alternative options. Each of these approaches addresses the fact that pests grow in strength and number as farm production—in both farming methods and crop type—becomes too redundant over periods.
Crop rotations help deprive pests of the host necessary for long-term replication—growing different crops, more frequently means the pests don’t have a permanent host. Intercropping and mixed cropping can provide a means of “confusing” pests in their ability to find their natural host. In Kenya, for example, farmers have developed a “push-pull” intercropping technology with maize and cereals that has greatly reduced the effects of the devastating maize stem borer. Overall farm biodiversity is also an excellent tool for pest management. In The State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, Jules Pretty places particular importance on biodiversity in maintaining on-farm resilience to pests: “Pests and diseases thrive in monocultures because there is an abundance of food and few or no natural enemies to check their growth. In the end, pesticide resistance inevitably develops within populations and spreads rapidly unless farmers are able to use new products right away.”
Designing farms that provide habitats for pest predators also keeps crops safe. Maintaining or developing beetle banks, hedgerows, wild grass areas, and overgrown field margins are ways of providing predator environments. In an extensive study of biodiverse farming systems in developing countries published in 2006, Jules Pretty found that production on these farms averaged a 79 percent increase in crop yields over previous agricultural systems that did not focus on biodiversity in operations.
Managing soil fertility with natural fertilizers, such as animal manure, green manure, or compost can also help crops to ward off pests. Many farmers note that the best way to avoid pests is for crops to “outgrow” attacks. Since agricultural productivity starts with good soil, using on-farm materials to bolster soil organic matter will help to produce healthy, fast-growing crops.
For a holistic approach to keeping pests at bay, the system of Integrated Pest Management has proved effective. The FAO defines Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as the consideration of all available pest control techniques and appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations. IPM users aim to develop a holistic pest management system which considers the well-being of the overall farming system, encourages natural pest control options—such as those mentioned above—and minimizes pesticide use. This practice of viewing a farm holistically and adapting pest-management strategies on an individual basis makes IPM an effective tool. For example, in Asia, FAO has worked with farmers to develop IPM systems to improve the pest-resistance of various crops including cotton, okra, and watermelon.
Alternatives to chemical inputs exist when confronting pests in agriculture. Further research and outreach is necessary to help farmers develop effective and input-free pest management plans specific to their farming systems.
Tell Nourishing the Planet what works and have your answers featured on the blog. Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg.
Amanda Strickler 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 .