Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

Jan15

U.S. Ag Education Groups Make Soil Health a Priority

Share
Pin It

By Carol Dreibelbis

In the United States, some agricultural organizations are beginning to recognize the value of training new leaders in sustainable farming practices. In the state of Nebraska, Nebraska Agricultural Education and the Nebraska Future Farmers of America Association (FFA) are in their second year of providing teachers and students with the skills they need to conserve and restore the local landscape, thanks to a three-year, $200,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Nebraska educators gain skills to take back to their classrooms as part of the Soils Project’s “Excellence in Ag Science Day” 20workshop. (Photo credit: National Cooperative Soil Survey)

With the awareness that the world may need to feed an additional 3 billion mouths by 2050, Nebraska Agricultural Education aims to “prepare students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, and natural resource systems.” The organization provides in-class and experiential instruction to more than 13,000 students in 148 schools each year.

With 93 percent of its land devoted to agriculture, Nebraska is one of the United States’ most productive agricultural areas. In 2012, it ranked first nationally in terms of commercial red meat production, the area of irrigated land harvested, and Great Northern beans production. In 2011, it ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 24 operating plants having production capacity of 2.2 billion gallons (83,279,059,600 liters). In 2010, total cash receipts from farm marketings were over $17 billion, representing 5.5 percent of the U.S. total. In 2008, it was ranked eighth nationally in certified organic cropland acres (52,551 ha) and eighth in certified organic pasture acres (21,518 ha).

The Nebraska FFA Association supports Nebraska Agricultural Education’s leadership and career development roles, with the understanding that “today’s agriculture education students will be…responsible for ensuring a safe and stable food and fiber supply for the growing world.” The FFA reaches more than 6,500 high school students in Nebraska.

During the 2011–12 grant year, 100 schools in Nebraska received free soil testing kits and professional development training for teachers through the Nebraska Agricultural Education Soils Project. More than 100 FFA educators attended a two-day workshop in June 2011 on soil science, where they received soil guides and participated in field- and lab-based exercises to learn how to use the kits.

The soil quality kits, which include buckets, vests, gram scales, measuring wheels, soil probes, spades, measuring tapes, and other equipment, enable the educators to teach their own students how to assess important soil properties, including moisture, electrical conductivity, temperature, phosphate, nitrate and nitrite, pH, aggregate stability, organic matter, respiration, bulk density, and infiltration. Proper soil management can prevent land degradation (i.e. erosion), which can impact agronomic productivity, the environment, food security, and even quality of life. According to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, “Global efforts to halt and reverse land degradation are integral to creating the future we want…Sustainable land use is a prerequisite for lifting billions from poverty, enabling food and nutrition security, and safeguarding water supplies. It is a cornerstone of sustainable development.”

The soil science workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants. “There is so much great information and materials to help me teach soil science. Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of it,” said Amber Endres, an agricultural educator in Hartington, in northeast Nebraska. Beyond the trainings, follow-up sessions provide resources and education to additional teachers.

Ed George, the Soils Project coordinator, views the initiative as a way to boost students’ confidence and engagement both in and out of school. He notes that the Soils Project enables students to recognize the impact that humans have on the environment, to engage with local environmental concerns, and to grow into “future leaders, with the skills to sustain Nebraska’s land productivity and soil health.

What is your region doing to develop future leaders in agriculture and conservation? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project.

Sep11

Celebrating 25 Amazing Women

Share
Pin It

Throughout September, the Worldwatch Institute is celebrating the crucial role that women and youth play in ushering in the just and environmentally sustainable future that we’re working hard to bring about. Even in the 21st century, women own less than 15 percent of the world’s land, earn 17 percent less than men on average, and comprise two-thirds of the world’s 776 million illiterate adults. Today, Nourishing the Planet features 25 amazing women from all over the globe who have been ongoing sources of inspiration, to NtP and others.

If you haven’t already, please vote for Worldwatch as part of the Chase Giving Challenge on Facebook. Click here to cast your vote today! Also please connect with Nourishing the Planet’s Facebook page where you will find infographics, quotes, articles, and news that can’t be found anywhere else.

1.       Rebecca Adamson
Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee, has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate of local tribal issues since 1970. She started First Nations Development Institute in 1980 and First Peoples Worldwide in 1997. Adamson’s work established a new field of culturally appropriate, value-driven development which created: the first reservation-based microenterprise loan fund in the United States; the first tribal investment model; a national movement for reservation land reform; and legislation that established new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for Native Americans. Adamson is active in many nonprofits and serves on the board of directors of numerous organizations, including the Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul FoundationThe Bridgespan Group, and First Voice International.

2.       Lorena Aguilar
Lorena Aguilar—Global Senior Gender Adviser at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature—is an international advisor for numerous organizations, governments, and academic institutions on topics related to gender, water, environmental health, and community participation, with over twenty-five years of experience in the field of international development. She is actively committed to incorporating gender perspectives into the use and conservation of natural resources in Latin America, and has both created and participated in some of the most influential gender networks in the world. Aguilar has authored over seventy publications, and has been the keynote speaker at numerous high-level international conferences.

3.       Helen Browning
Helen Browning is chief executive of the Soil Association, the United Kingdom’s leading nonprofit working for healthy, humane, and sustainable food, farming, and land use. In addition to running the Soil Association, Browning operates a 1,350 acre organic farm in Wiltshire, and runs the village pub. Helen is also chair of the Food Ethics Council, and has been a valuable member of numerous organizations working to improve the British food and agriculture system, including the Curry Commission on the Future of Farming and Food, the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, and the Meat and Livestock Commission. (more…)

Aug31

Challenges Exist Using Video to Spread Farmer Knowledge

Share
Pin It

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.

(more…)

Jul17

Five Organizations Sharing Local Knowledge for Success Across the World

Share
Pin It

By Jenna Banning

As Nourishing the Planet has witnessed first-hand, small-scale farmers and local communities have developed innovative ways to meet the challenges facing people across the world. But until recently, they have often lacked the ability to share their solutions, or their knowledge has been overlooked by governments and international groups.

Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg meets with farmers at the Ecova-Mali center. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five organizations that recognize the valuable contributions farmers can share with their neighbors, with policy makers, and with people across the world.

1. AfricaRice Center:

Created in 1971 by eleven African countries, the Africa Rice Center now works with 24 countries across the continent, connecting researchers, rice farmers, and rice processors.

AfricaRice has been developing learning tools that focus on reaching as many farmers as possible, aiming to both “decentralize and democratize learning within the rice sector.” One powerful method has been farmer-to-farmer videos, which feature local experts sharing their knowledge about seed drying and preservation, rice quality, and soil management with viewers. These videos have been translated into more than 30 African languages, with great impact.

Reaching even beyond the continent, the African Rice Center has also created a set of four videos on seed management with rural women in Bangladesh, helping to further facilitate valuable knowledge exchange between rice farmers.

(more…)

Jun18

Farmer Cooperative Promotes Education, Nutrition, and Prosperity in Nicaraguan Communities

Share
Pin It

By Julio Montealegre

On a farm in the northern Nicaraguan town of Chagüite Grande, Melvin Estrada tends to his cabbage crop. He and his hired workers pick the plants, inspect them for quality and load them into a truck bound for a local collection center – and eventually a major supermarket.

TechnoServe helps farmers receive more income from their crops and land. (Photo credit: TechnoServe)

Melvin used to earn an average of five cordobas – about 20 cents – from each cabbage plant. After joining the Tomatoya-Chagüite Grande cooperative about five years ago, he learned more-effective production practices and gained a reliable market for his crop. He now earns 12 cordobas per cabbage, double what he used to receive.

The extra income has helped Melvin buy medicine and nutritious food, improve his home and send his 10-year-old son to school.

“An education is the best inheritance he can receive,” Melvin says.

With TechnoServe’s assistance, and with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Catholic Relief Services, farmers in the small communities of Tomatoya and Chagüite Grande have turned their cooperative into a successful business. They have learned to grow superior produce and become a competitive supplier in the national market. As a result, their cooperative is growing and creating new prosperity in the communities.

(more…)

May29

Five Microcredit Programs That are Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Share
Pin It

By Isaac Hopkins

One of the best ways to encourage economic growth in poor areas is to provide affordable small loans to farmers and small-business owners. Called microcredit or microloans, these programs can inject capital into communities that lack the collateral required by conventional banks.

Ecova Mali’s first microgrant went to Fatoumata Dembele, to buy vegetable seeds for her village. (Photo credit: Ecova Mali)

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five innovative microcredit programs that are encouraging economic growth in poor communities.

1. Farmer-to-Farmer Programs: Microcredit programs tend to be most sustainable when they promote cooperation between residents of a community. Encouraging farmer-to-farmer support can be an effective technique because it allows participants to be less reliant on outside financing and guidance.

Farmer-to-Farmer Programs in Action:  When Africa’s Sustainable Development Council (ASUDEC) connects farmers with microcredit loans, the recipients have several expectations placed upon them. ASUDEC requires farmers to not only pay back the loans, but also to offer equally affordable loans to their neighbors. This policy generates a ripple effect, helping communities increase their incomes and fund their own progress, rather than relying on ASUDEC. As the trust and cooperation between farmers builds, it “helps the poor transition from subsistence to entrepreneurship,” says ASUDEC’S Director, Dr. Salibo Some.

(more…)

May25

Bringing Public Health to the World’s Poorest: An Interview with Joan Van Wassenhove

Share
Pin It

By Laura Reynolds

Name: Joan VanWassenhove

Affiliation: Partners in Health

Partners in Health delivers health care, education, and employment to impoverished communities. (Photo credit: PIH.org)

Bio: Joan VanWassenhove is the Assistant Coordinator for Nutrition in Haiti at Partners in Health (PIH), a health care organization that fights poverty by providing education, medical care, and employment in disadvantaged communities worldwide. VanWassenhove holds a dual Masters in International Affairs and Public Health at Columbia University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

What inspired you to become involved in global health and development?

In 2007 I was doing graduate work at Columbia University, studying international affairs and public health,and I interned at Partners in Health during that summer. I never really saw myself working in the medical field because I had no plans to go to medical school, but while I was interning I saw how broad PIH’s approach to health care and poverty alleviation was, and I wanted to stay involved.

(more…)

May22

USAID to Use Permaculture to Assist Orphaned and Vulnerable Children

Share
Pin It

By Stephanie Buglione

Nearly one quarter of children in the developing world are underweight, and one third are experiencing stunted growth, according to a UNICEF report. In addition, many of these children have a family member, or are themselves, afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Jacob, a student in Malawi, explaining permaculture to other boys. (Photo credit: NeverEndingFood.org)

According to the Joint U.N Programme on HIV/AIDS, worldwide, 16.6 million children aged 0 to 17 have lost parents due to HIV. Families afflicted with HIV have less help harvesting and planting crops or selling them at the market. Additionally, when a parent dies prematurely, their children are denied their generational agricultural knowledge and skills. But this missing information, and other lessons on ethics, patience, and responsibility, can be taught in schools through the use of permaculture.

A new USAID project, Permaculture Design for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, is focused on providing long-term food security solutions to orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC) that are coping with the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Permaculture is their means to achieving this food security.

Kristof Nordin is one of the co-authors of this initiative. He and his wife, Stacia, a registered dietician and previous School Health and Nutrition Advisor for the Malawi Ministry of Education, live in a home outside of Lilongwe, Malawi. On their land, they have been demonstrating permaculture practices for several years to help educate the community about indigenous vegetables and to reduce the cultural fixation on monocropping.

(more…)

Mar09

Ending Africa’s Hungry Season for Smallholder Farmers

Share
Pin It

By Jameson Spivack

Every year, in parts of rural sub-Saharan Africa, residents experience what is known as the hungry season. This is when people run out of food before the next harvest season and cannot afford to buy food. During this period of time, in which many experience malnutrition, the most vulnerable, including the young, the elderly, and the sick, are even more at risk of illness and death.

During the “hungry season,” yields from the harvest season die out, and many face starvation. (Image credit: partnership-africa.org)

Many projects have attempted to provide assistance to Africa’s struggling agriculture and development sectors. Sometimes the approaches are top-down instead of bottom-up, or political and economic considerations interfere with the proper implementation of the project.

But Andrew Youn, founder of the One Acre Fund (OAF), believes using business models that support small-scale farmers, as opposed to large-scale, donation-heavy projects, is a more effective way to develop a sustainable solution to the agricultural difficulties people in sub-Saharan Africa face. “We are going to build the largest network of small holding farmers in Africa,” he projects.

OAF supports smallholder farmers by providing affordable “bundles” of goods and services to those in need of assistance. These “bundles” include fertilizer, seed, agricultural training, credit, and access to markets. By designing the organization with business principles in mind, instead of operating as a charity, OAF intends to develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency among the farmers the organization is supporting. “I really believe in charging for a service, so that we know that farmers actually want it,” says Youn.

(more…)

Jan26

Videos Help Farmers Learn New Techniques

Share
Pin It

Check out this post by Food + Tech, an organization that connects decision makers with the information and technology they need to support food production innovations.

Many development organization are using educational videos to help spread their messages. (Photo credit: Food+Tech)

According to the article, “Cuts to agricultural extension programs have left agents in many countries now attempting to serve tens of thousands of farmers and many farmers do not live near farm field schools.” But many organizations, including the Africa Rice Centre and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, are designing and disseminating educational videos on agricultural techniques, such as seed preparation, to reach out to those farmers.

Click here to read the full article and to check out some of the videos.

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.