Archive for the ‘Niger’ Category


The Kuri: A Unique Study in Natural Selection

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By Edyth Parker

The Kuri cattle are a rare breed, found along the shores of Lake Chad Basin as well as across north-eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Niger. Kuri are classified as humpless longhorns, but are known by many other names such as Baharie, Dongolé, Koubouri, or Buduma. The most common name, Kuri, stems from the regional tribe who herded the breed for centuries in the Lake Chad area.

The Kuri male. (Photo credit: International Livestock Research Institute)

This natural habitat of the Kuri is hot, with an average temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and semi-arid with an extremely seasonal rainfall pattern. Lake Chad is surrounded by semi-aquatic and aquatic vegetation, which is the main food source of the Kuri. Their reliance on aquatic food sources and water as cooling mechanism has required some interesting adaptations in their physical appearance.

The Kuri breed is characterized by its unique horns. Though the horns can be anything from 60-150 cm in length, the internal fibrous material and thin exterior casing leaves the horns surprisingly lightweight. These hollow horns are used as flotation devices, necessitated by their semi-aquatic habitat.



Good Samaritans Help Feed Those in Need

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By Graham Salinger

In the mountainous rural communities of  Bolivia, thousands of children receive food through a school feeding program implemented by Samaritan Purse. Samaritan Purse is a faith-based organization that has been working since 1970 to support communities impacted by natural disaster, war, disease, and famine. Through food security programs, Samaritan Purse works to bring nutritious food to impoverished communities while helping them develop economically sustainable agricultural practices.

Samaritan Purse programs help people in regions suffering from food crises. (Photo credit: Samaritan Purse)

In Bolivia, where 23 percent of the population is undernourished, the school feeding program  delivers food to72 rural schools while  helping farmers who struggle to grow crops. Many children, up to 30 percent in the Chucananqu region, do not have access to milk, eggs, or meat. Through the school feeding program, which purchases food from local businesses, 28,000 children under the age of 14 receive food that is high in protein, fiber, and essential vitamins.

Two of the businesses that supply food for the program were set up by Samaritan Purse. The Andean Grains Processing Center processes local crops that are brought in by local families and then purchased for the feeding program. Samaritan Purse also built a meat processing center that helps local herders sell their food. The Samaritan Purse also trains parents to prepare healthy meals for their children. Through this initiative they created a cookbook with recipes using local food. Samaritan Purse also helps parents track their children’s nutritional health by training more than 580 local volunteers to record the children’s height and weight every month.



Nourishing the Planet TV: “Re-Greening” the Sahel through Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration

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In this week’s episode, research intern Graham Salinger discusses the natural regeneration methods being used in the Sahel region of Africa to bring back indigenous trees and improve the livelihoods of traditional farmers.


To read more about farmer-managed natural regeneration, see: Innovation of the Week: “Re-Greening” the Sahel through Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Manufacturing success: an interview with Navyn Salem

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Navyn Salem, founder and director of Edesia, talks about her July  field diary reflection and explains the global impact that  emergency food aid programs have.

 Name: Navyn Salem

Affiliation:  Founder and Executive Director of Edesia

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Bio: In 2009 Navyn Salem founded Edesia -a non-profit factory that specializes in producing Plumpy’nut- a high calorie edible paste made of peanuts that is rich in vitamins and provides nutrition to starving children. As a manufacturer of Plumpy’nut and other nutritional supplements including, Supplementary’Plumpy, Plumpy’doz, and Nutributter, Edesia is a member of Nutriset’s PlumpyField Network, a global network of partners that produce these ready to use foods.

Photo credit: Boston College Magazine

By way of background, can you talk about why you founded Edesia and how you decided to focus your efforts on producing Plumpy’nut?

When I first started, I was certain of one thing- I wanted to have a big impact on children but get there by using a smart business approach. For over a year, I traveled, consulted and spoke with some of the most amazing development and global health leaders to gather ideas.

Edesia was created with the purpose of creating jobs and contributing to economic development as well as having a social mission that contributes to a global health challenge. We first got started with this model in Tanzania where 38 percent of the population is stunted due to malnutrition, most of the raw materials needed to make Plumpy’nut are available locally and products were being imported from France.  We began back in 2007 to develop this project and our factory there called Power Foods has been operational since December 2010.  They can now produce enough Plumpy’nutto fulfill the demand in Tanzania and some of the bordering countries.



Targeting Gaps in the Food Supply Chain: Going Beyond Agricultural Production to Achieve Food Security

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Agricultural production is only the first step in moving the world’s food from farm to fork, according to Nourishing the Planet, a project of the Worldwatch Institute. The other links in the food chain—harvesting, packaging, storing, transporting, marketing, and selling—ensure that food actually reaches consumers. Inefficiencies in these activities, rather than just low yields or poor farming techniques, are often to blame for food shortages and low prices for growers.

Farmers need the right tools, including access to markets to sell their products, in order to improve their livelihoods. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“Many of the farms and organizations we visited in Africa seemed to have the most success reducing hunger and poverty through efforts that had little to do with producing more crops,” said Nourishing the Planet director Danielle Nierenberg, who spent two years traveling across sub-Saharan Africa researching food chains in over 25 countries.

With the United Nations projecting a global population of more than 9 billion by 2050, increasing food chain efficiency will become ever more essential. Producers and consumers must be part of a food chain that feeds the world, provides fair prices to farmers, and works in harmony with the environment. “When groups of small farmers better organize their means of production—whether ordering the right inputs at the right time or selling their crops directly to customers—they become more resilient to fluctuations in global food prices while also better serving local communities,” said Robert Engelman, Executive Director of Worldwatch.



Aizen: The Sahel’s Number One Famine Food

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In the Sahel—a semi-arid area along the southern edge of the Sahara desert that stretches from Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the Ethiopian highlands—drought persisted from the late 1960s to the 1990s. The region has experienced repeated bouts of famine since the 1960’s, and once productive croplands have given way to desert. But in the face of adversity, some farming communities across the Sahel have been reviving traditional land management practices to reverse desertification. Among these practices is planting native, food-producing, and drought-resistant trees and shrubs in and around crop fields to improve soil fertility and moisture and reduce erosion.

A girl harvests Aizen in Niger. (Photo credit: Eden Foundation)

Aizen (Boscia senegalensis) is one of the native edible species that has the potential to make conditions more bearable in the Sahel, a region rife with poverty and coping with rapid population growth and increased incidence of drought as a result of climate change. Aizen can handle extreme drought and heat. The shrub naturally occurs in poor, rocky, hardened, and barren soils on slopes, sand dunes, and cracking clay plains. It can withstand intense direct sunlight year-round, offering slight shade relief to surrounding plants—including crops—that otherwise could not bear the exposure. These qualities make it ideal for use in farmer-led re-greening practices to reverse desertification.



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 charcoal since it lights quickly, even in the presence of moisture.

The bark, leaves, and roots help to treat a variety of ailments throughout West and Central Africa. Boiled powdered bark is used as a painkiller, fresh bark or leaves are used to dress wounds to prevent infections. In Mali, the bark is used to treat measles and hypertension while the leaves or roots are used to treat meningitis and cramps in people and diarrhea in cattle. The fruit pulp is used in Burkina Faso to treat skin infections, whereas in Niger and Togo the fruit is used to treat dizziness. In Senegal, the leaves mixed with those of other trees and milk is used to treat snakebites, while in Benin the leaves are boiled to treat fainting and convulsions.

The tree itself is heat and drought tolerant and capable of thriving on infertile sites. With its many uses, the tree would be a good candidate for reforestation of degraded lands.

Its usefulness, hardiness, nutritive value, and ability to be propagated by budding also make the tree a good candidate for domestication, according to a study of wild African fruits in 2008 by the U.S. National Research Council.

Kim Kido is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


What Works: Stopping the Sands and Increasing the Harvest

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By Molly Theobald

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!

Farmers in the Sahel are using creative solutions to combat desertification. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Throughout the Sahel, recurrent drought, deforestation, and over-farming, is turning once lush farm land into desert.  And when the sand starts spreading, it can be difficult to stop. Picked up by the wind, dust and sand travels vast distances to cover villages, roads, crops, and irrigation systems, making it increasingly difficult to farm and maintain infrastructure.

Farmers are especially impacted by desertification. Dry, cracked and depleted soils make for poor harvests, while sand covered roads make it nearly impossible to transport crops to the market. Yet, farmers are also the people who hold some of the best tools with which to put a stop to the spreading sands.

In Mauritania, for example, where moving sand dunes cover two-thirds of the country’s land area, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), partnered with the government of Mauritania to help protect the country’s towns and cities. Between 2000 and 2007, a series of fences were designed to use wind to create artificial dunes surrounding Nouakchott, the country’s capital. These dunes reduced the strength of the wind and slowed the advancement of more sand. Set at a 120 to 140 degree angle, deflection fences were also erected in order to redirect the incoming winds and sands, further reducing sand build up. Both fences are made from branches and twigs that were collected from mature forests.

Once the dunes have been halted with hand-woven fences, the process of creating long-term barriers begins.  Although dunes are perhaps the least hospitable environment upon which to grow trees and other vegetation, walls of mature plant growth also provide one of the most effective barriers for sand. Depending on the climate and soil conditions, drought-tolerant and indigenous tree species are selected and planted to act as barriers.



Harnessing the Potential of Agriculture to Cope with Future Challenges

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In this interview with Radio Free Asia, Danielle Nierenberg, Nourishing the Planet co-project director highlights some of the ways that agriculture can help cope with environmental challenges, while also reducing poverty.

Radio Free Asia-Vietnam-Purdue-PICS-Kibera-urban-farms-Nourishing-the-Planet-Danielle-Nierenberg-State-of-the-WorldAs climate change takes hold, populations continue to grow, and food prices escalate, many people around the world—especially those in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa—are pushed into chronic hunger. “Agriculture is often blamed as one of the causes of environmental problems. But we are trying to highlight how agriculture is a solution to many of the world’s pressing challenges,” says Danielle.

Focusing on agriculture offers tremendous potential to reduce food waste, effectively manage water resources, and mitigate climate change. And instead of focusing on increasing production, we should invest in making better use of the food we already produce. Between 20-50 percent of the harvest is lost worldwide before it even reaches the table.

Danielle discusses how farmers in Niger are working with researchers at Purdue University to protect their cowpea harvests—a staple food crop and important source of protein in West Africa. The Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage bags, or PICS, are hermetically sealed, and prevent contamination by pests. This type of low-cost innovation is helping farmers in Niger save around $255 million per year. And the extra income means that they families eat better and they can send their children to school.

The examples that Danielle highlights offer models for efforts that can be scaled up and replicated beyond Africa.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Farmers of the Future – Building the Curriculum

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Check out Eliminate Poverty Now’s work with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and Pencils for Kids to develop Farmers of the Future, a project that is using the classroom and small demonstration gardens to teach children in West Africa about farming techniques that will improve diets and livelihoods. Below is a post written by Eliminate Poverty Now’s John Craig for the project’s blog that discusses how he and his partner, Judy, are working to develop the classroom curriculum for the pilot program. To learn more about Farmers of the Future, check out Nourishing the Planet’s interview with Robin Mednick, Executive Director and Vice President of Pencils for Kids and John Craig last October.

Eliminate_Poverty_Now_ICRISAT One of the four major strategies of Eliminate Poverty Now is to promote economic development through agriculture, to encourage farmers to make the leap from subsistence farming to agribusiness. It requires changing what they grow, how they grow it and how they sell it.There’s a more detailed description at our website if you’re interested.

Problem is, many adults resist the change. They’ve raised the same crops in the same way for generations and they’re often set in their ways. But children are open and receptive to new ideas. (more…)