Posts Tagged ‘Benin’

Aug11

Innovation of the Week: Harnessing the Sun’s Power to Make the Water Flow

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By Janeen Madan

Nearly 2 billion people around the world live off the electricity grid. Lack of access to energy can take a huge toll, especially on food security. Without energy for irrigation, for example, small-scale farmers must rely on unpredictable rainfall to grow the crops they depend on for food and income.

SELF’s solar-powered irrigation system is improving food security and raising incomes. (Photo credit: SELF)

In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population. But small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. Women and young girls spend long hours walking to nearby wells to fetch water to irrigate their fields by hand.

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a U.S. nonprofit, has introduced an innovative solar-powered drip irrigation system that is helping farmers—especially women—irrigate their fields. The pilot project launched in partnership with Dr. Dov Pasternak of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRASAT), has installed solar panels in Bessassi and Dunkassa villages This cost-effective and environmentally sustainable project is improving food security and raising incomes by providing access to irrigation for small-scale farmers, especially during the six-month dry season.

Farmers are diversifying the crops they grow to include trees and vegetables, like tomatoes and lettuce. Their production has increased ten times. And, because women and young girls no longer walk long distances to fetch water, they have more time to participate in agricultural activities.

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May30

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.

Sep11

Part 35: Where Would You Like to See More Agricultural Funding Directed?

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Each day we run three of your responses to the question: Where Would You Like to See More Agricultural Funding Directed?

photo credit: Bernard Pollack

1. Michael Misiko, Africa Rice Center, Benin says:

“Water management (as climate change mitigation strategy) among smallholders.  That is where more funding should go.”

2. Emmanuel M. Haambote, Zambia says:

“I would like to see more agricultural funding directed to farmer-private sector linkage development.”

3. Anton Ferreira says:

“I’d like to see more money spent on promoting/researching organic farming and ways of reducing the use of pesticides/herbicides.”

What is your answer? Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg

To read other responses, see:

Part 30: Betty Maeda, Mary Mavanza (Tanzania), & Naude Malan (South Africa).
Part 31Theresa Endres (Mali), Gezahegn Ayele, & Kephas Indangasi.
Part 32: Susan Mwangi (Kenya), Keshab Thapa (Nepal) & Francis Lwamugira (Tanzania).
Part 33: Yohannnes Mariam, Tshediso Phahlane (South Africa), & Nancy Karanja (Kenya).
Part 34: Victor Gatonye Kuria (Kenya), Ahamad Kyaruzi (Tanzania), & Frank Place (Kenya).

Aug30

Celosia: Nature’s Prettiest Vegetable

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By Amanda Stone

You may know it as that pretty ornamental flower in your garden, but did you know that Celosia could also be a delicious snack? This beautiful plant with flame-like flowers is actually a common and important food in parts of tropical Africa, its original home.

Photo Credit: J.M. Garg

Because of its flavor and nutritional value, Celosia is widely consumed in several parts of Africa. It is an especially important food in Nigeria, Benin and Congo because of its affinity for hot and humid climates, and it is also commonly eaten in Indonesia and India. The leaves, young stems, and flowers a can be made into soups and stews, served as a nutty-flavored side dish with meat or fish or with a cereal-based main course such as maize porridge. Celosia has a pleasant, mild flavor, and lacks the bitterness of other leafy vegetables.

Celosia grow easily, require little care, and often reseed themselves making them high yielding, cheap and simple to grow. Having proven widely tolerant to both tropical and dry conditions and usually unaffected by pests, diseases, or soil type, this crop is among the most flexible greens for harsh growing conditions.

In addition to their nutritional and aesthetic value, Celosia may also help repress striga, a parasitic weed which devastates other crops such as sorghum, millet and maize. Though the research on this trait is still far from clear, farmers call it “striga chaser”.

With the potential to increase food security, Celosia is valuable in more ways than one. When cultivated near homes, the colorful flowers will brighten villages and local cooks can also pluck off some leaves each day to add to dinner or for a snack.

Amanda Stone is Nourishing the Planet’s Communications Assistant.