Archive for the ‘Education’ Category


Saturday Series: An Interview with Howard Hinterthuer

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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!

Howard works as a Peer-to-Peer Mentor for the Organic Therapy Program (OTP), a veterans’ recovery project that promotes healing through organic gardening (Photo credit: Don Gilmore)

Name: Howard Hinterthuer

Affiliation: Organic Therapy Program

Bio: Howard Hinterthuer served as a medic in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. Returning from the war, he found solace by establishing various gardens in Virginia. Today, Howard works as a Peer-to-Peer Mentor for the Organic Therapy Program (OTP), a veterans’ recovery project that promotes healing through organic gardening.

You recently gave a Ted Talk on the Organic Therapy Program (OTP). Can you tell us how the OTP started and how you, as one of its Peer-to-Peer Mentors, personally became involved with helping veterans recover from the war by gardening?

William Sims, a Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who served from 1966 to 1967, started the Organic Therapy Program. Mr. Sims was wounded after being in Vietnam for about 9 months, and returned home to Milwaukie. He was able to deal with the stress of coming home and experiencing combat by puttering around in his mom’s garden. He remembered that.

The Center for Veterans Issues has about 300 or more formerly homeless veterans in transition with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and depression. These veterans come to us and we provide a wrap around service to deal with their different problems. Mr. Sims figured that if gardening was good for him, then it would be good for other veterans as well. So he began creating raised bed gardens to help veterans cope with their problems.

I was also in the 101st Airborne Division a couple of years later. When I came home, I helped rehabilitate myself by planting a series of gardens in rural Virginia. This was very therapeutic. I was working at Sweet Water Organics as their Executive Director when the Center for Veterans Issues recruited me to become be a Peer-to-Peer Mentor. I took this opportunity because I wanted to help other veterans recover from the war.

Since its establishment four years ago, OTP has expanded into a program that now includes many innovative agricultural practices. What are some of the projects that OTP is currently working on?

The program has evolved over the years. When I first began working with the veterans, I started looking at our food expenditures. Our mess halls service our veterans three times a day and the numbers that we were getting from the mess halls from our surveys were disturbing. We had unusually high expenditures on meat. This was a problem because we serve a population of individuals who are particularly susceptible to diseases related to diet. So we thought of OTP as a way to introduce a better diet for our veterans. There was certainly some social engineering involved in this process. When our veterans say they don’t like something, such as fruits and vegetables, it probably means that they haven’t tried it. I do that sometimes with things, too. So the OTP program took 2 goals: reintegrating veterans into the world and improving their diets. The OTP program is especially important because we’re in a food desert area and it’s hard to get fruits and vegetables here. Now, in our fourth year, there’s enthusiasm and support for the program. Our veterans can’t get enough greens!

Why is it important for veterans in particular to engage in gardening as part of their recovery process?

Gardening is important because it allows our veterans to have an optimistic experience. It takes their mind off of the injustices and bad things that have happened to them in the past, the things that have gotten them to the place of homelessness. The issues veterans suffer from are often chronic; additionally, many veterans are smokers. They’ll smoke and talk about their difficult pasts. But their tone changes when they are in the garden. It’s like magic. Gardening makes sure that they have positive experiences. This is almost guaranteed by the act itself, as it creates such a peaceful place. Gardening is meditative and increases self-esteem. We are trying to assign raised beds to certain people so that there’s an increased sense of ownership. I think that there’s therapeutic value in establishing a pattern of responsible behavior.

How does the OTP introduce veterans to gardening and spark their interest in growing their own food?

OTP brings together people who have gardening in their background with people who don’t. Inevitably, someone who comes into the garden who was raised in Mississippi will talk about their grandmother and their grandfather’s garden. And for people who haven’t gardened, it’s delightful for them to see where an onion comes from and to pick a cherry tomato off of the vine and pop it in their mouths. When they taste the explosion of sweetness in their labor, it’s easy for them to eat healthier. Once our veterans have tried our produce in the garden, they realize that they like it.

What kind of changes have you seen in the veterans who have been working with OTP?

I’ve seen people evolve in a number of different ways. The most dramatic instance is when someone comes in and they’re extremely depressed. We had a key player last season who was like that. When I explained what we wanted him to do, he’d say, “I’m a good solider. I can do that.” Over the years, though, he worked closely with me on a couple of projects. One day, he was in the garden and told me, “You know, this program has just saved my life.” And now he’s in Nevada talking about his gardening experiences. To engage other veterans, we’re putting in a small aquaponics system that we worked on last year. We’ll redo it again this year. Additionally, we’re thinking of adding a green house. The veterans responsible for assembling these projects need to have some plumbing skills. Cutting barrels in half, working with PVC pipes, and other tasks all require certain skills. Our veterans have to apply carpentry skills, too. When they have the chance to use their skills again and to learn new ones, they feel useful. These projects bring our veterans out of themselves. They take pride in their involvement and love explaining their work to our visitors. They are able to think about what’s possible instead of what’s impossible.

How do you see the program itself changing in the future? Could the concepts behind OTP expand into other veteran recovery programs?

In terms of the future, we’re expanding our gardens and renting out two greenhouses that we’ve used in previous winters. We have received funding through the department of labor for it to heat these green houses with compost. This work will be a part of a jobs program to teach growing skills to our veterans. A big component of our expansion is sustainability. Using compost to heat our green houses is an example of the sustainable techniques we want to apply.  In terms of expanding into other veteran recovery programs, after the TED talk I gave, I was contacted by a woman in Scotland working with veterans of the British military. Her program used horticulture for veterans’ recovery, so I think gardening is an approach to dealing with difficult issues that can definitely be replicated in other places.

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.


Sustainable Development through Information: the Community Innovation Resource Center

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By Victoria Russo

Today Nourishing the Planet highlights the Community Innovation Resource Center, a program started by Kaganga John, a Ugandan community activist, farmer, and environmentalist.  Through a partnership with the Global Giving Project, the program aims to collect funds for technological hardware including computers with internet capabilities, radios, and televisions in order to improve the flow of information to Kaganga John’s home community of Kikandwa. Throughout Kaganga John’s life, he has seen his community struggle with chronic issues of hunger and environmental degradation. As a young adult he committed himself to improving the quality of life in his community; through projects such as the Resource Center, he will sustain these changes for future generations to come.

The Community Innovation Resource Center aims to improve the flow of information to Kaganga John’s home community of Kikandwa (Photo credit: Community Innovation Resource Center)

Kaganga John knows firsthand the difficulty and importance of obtaining quality education. Largely self-educated, he started his own second-hand bookstore in order to have greater access to knowledge. When Kaganga John saw that his community largely lacked quality education, he dedicated his life to improving the situation. After helping to reforest, educate, and ensure the sustainability of his community, Kaganga John now faces the challenge of connecting Kikandwa with the rest of the world. Kikandwa is located 50 kilometers from the nearest technology resource center, and has, until recently, lacked access to the internet. Kikandwa is not unique in this respect, as only 10 percent of Ugandans have access to the internet, though that number is growing. Kaganga John hopes that the Global Giving Project will allow his fellow community members to increase their knowledge and to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Aqua Shops

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet discusses FARM-Africa’s aquacultural initiative in western Kenya, which has established an Aqua Shop franchise that provides farmers with technical advice about aquaculture practices and give them the necessary materials to set up and maintain healthy fish ponds.


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


Challenges Exist Using Video to Spread Farmer Knowledge

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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.



In Case You Missed It: This Week in Review

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In just over a month, the Women’s Congress for Future Generations will convene in Moab, Utah. From September 27 to 30, the Congress will engage in meaningful, productive conversations about the challenges facing current and future generations. The Congress is actively seeking women of all ages, cultures, colors, and backgrounds to attend. Click here to learn more and register.

Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack

This week, we interview Patrick Odoyo, Program Coordinator at the Dago Dala Hera Orphanage of Kenya. Odoyo discusses what it is like to provide education, skills training, and room and board for children affected with HIV/AIDS, and the benefits of teaching sustainable farming to children. And in our innovation of the week post, we discuss Scale up Nutrition (SUN), a United Nations program working to meet the Millennium Development Goals concerning poverty and malnutrition. SUN helps various organizations coordinate efforts to combat malnutrition in women and children—particularly malnutrition in children under two years old—by helping to maximize efficiency.

Our Citywatch post examines the drought currently affecting the American Midwest, and how government departments could avoid future devastation caused by climatic variation. In the post, guest blogger Wayne Roberts writes, “It’s almost impossible to think of a crisis of the scope of this year’s worldwide drought, which arises from such predictable factors, yet has been subject to so little oversight or preparation by public authorities.”

We highlight First Peoples Worldwide, an Indigenous-led advocacy organization that recently surpassed the milestone of awarding US$1 million in grants to Indigenous communities. The grants awarded by FPW have funded innovative projects in countries like Botswana, Bolivia, Ghana, and Sri Lanka, and have focused on topics as diverse as land reclamation, water development, and traditional medicine. Click here to learn more about First Peoples Worldwide.



Innovations to Make School Food Healthier in London

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Check out our latest op-ed published in the London Free Press of Ontario, Canada. The op-ed discusses school food programs in the area that are helping to improve child health and nutrition.

Unequal access to healthy foods is a serious issue in London—obesity disproportionately impacts poor families who can afford only cheap, processed foods. Thankfully, a number of organizations, like London Food Bank and Community Harvest Ontario, are helping low-income children gain access to healthy foods.

Click here to read the full article.


A Home of Love: An Interview with Patrick Odoyo

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By Ronica Lu

Organic farming work being done on the Dago Dala Hera orphanage property.
(Photo Credit: Patrick Odoyo)

Name: Patrick Odoyo

Affiliation: Program Coordinator, Dago Dala Hera Orphanage of Kenya

Biography: Patrick Odoyo is the program director and coordinator for Dago Dala Hera Orphanage in Dago Kaminasuo, Kenya, a children’s center and home offering the services of education, skills training, and room and board for children affected with HIV/AIDS. He is also a guest lecturer on African studies and his life experiences at the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and the University of Michigan.

What are the day-to-day operations like at Dago Dala Hera?

There are 114 children who attend the day school at the orphanage and 36 girls who permanently reside there during the day and night. The day is a mixture of residential activities centered on the main component of education and schooling for the children.

How successful have your fundraising events in the U.S. been?

Fundraising in the U.S. has been difficult but we have been active in organizing church meetings and creative fundraisers. Due to donor fatigue and the fact that we are not yet a 501k organization, it has been difficult to get people to donate. But our soccer tournament has been very successful—it started in 2008 from the planning efforts of village volunteers. The annual Kick it with Kenya soccer tournament held in rural villages all across Western Kenya, brings vital public health education on HIV/AIDS to its youth, and earns proceeds that benefit the orphanage operations.

How does intensive organic farming benefit the Dago Dala Hera?

Through organic farming we teach ways in which students can be self-sustaining. Planting Moringa trees benefits residents because the trees provide immense medicinal and nutritional value in addition to water purification properties the seeds provide. Our vegetable nurseries provide nutrition and nourishment while at the same time saving the residents money. Instead of buying produce from vendors or the market, residents of the orphanage can grow them out of their small garden, sell the excess, and make money at the same time. The money is also used to pay for their schooling beyond the 8th grade, which comes at a fee for children in Kenya.



Register for the Women’s Congress for Future Generations!

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By Ioulia Fenton

The Women’s Congress for Future Generations (WCFFG) will convene in Moab, Utah on September 27 to 30, 2012. The objective: to make a united stand for future generations. “We seek solidarity with those working for environmental justice, for Climate Justice, for indigenous sovereignty, for the health of women and children, and with those living on the frontlines of the struggle against industrial pollution and climate change,” according to the WCFFG.

The Women’s Congress for Future Generations will convene in Moab, Utah September 27-30, 2012 (Photo Credit: WCFFG)

The Congress is actively seeking women participants of all ages, cultures, colors, and backgrounds. While recognizing the centrality of women as life givers and caretakers to the environmental movement, the congress is also pursuing the input and guidance of men. “Men too have great responsibilities in this journey of protecting the Earth and we invite them to partner with us at this Congress in an unusual way, as Sacred Witnesses. With men acting as sacred partners and observers, they will have a rare opportunity to serve the common good by bearing witness to women fulfilling their responsibilities to Future Generations,” say the organizers.



The Hunger Shames: Schools Can Set Children on Lifetime Path of Healthy Eating

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Check out our latest op-ed about school meals and student health, published in The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Indiana gets a bad grade for childhood obesity and malnutrition. In 2011, 15 percent of Indiana high school students were considered obese, meaning their body mass index was at or above the 95th percentile. Fortunately, schools can play a key role to reverse this trend and reinforce healthy eating behaviors. By emphasizing hands-on nutrition education, such as school garden projects and classroom cooking demonstrations, and by providing fresh, local fruits and vegetables in cafeterias, schools can encourage students to improve their diets.

Read the full article here.

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


Five food guides that are combating malnourishment

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By Jenna Banning

If you are what you eat, our world is certainly unhealthy. People across the globe are not getting the nutrients that they need, resulting in high levels of both hunger and obesity. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. At the same time, the World Health Organization estimates that over 1 billion people are overweight, and at least 300 million obese. (Such estimates are based on Body Mass Index measurements, which compare one’s height and weight. Individuals with BMI’s over 25 are considered overweight, and over 30 are obese).

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can prevent obesity and malnutrition (Photo Credit: Carol Lee)

In order to tackle this issue, food pyramids and other guides have been used by organizations and governments to suggest better nutrition for the needs of their populations for many years. Today, Nourishing the Planet shares visual food guides from five countries (and one organization) being used across the world.