Posts Tagged ‘community sustainable agriculture’

Nov01

Documentary Sheds Light on Thriving Community Gardens

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By Carol Dreibelbis

In A Community of Gardeners (2011), filmmaker Cintia Cabib offers an intimate look at the vital role that seven community gardens play in Washington, D.C.

Naasir Ali participates in the “Growing Food…Growing Together” program at the Washington Youth Garden. (Photo credit: Cintia Cabib)

At Common Good City Farm, a work-exchange program enables local residents to volunteer in the garden in exchange for fresh produce. One volunteer explains just how important the garden is for her: “The garden plays a big role in my life because it feeds me. I live out of this garden: whatever I get every Wednesday, that’s what feeds me for the whole week.”

At Fort Stevens Community Garden, an organic garden run by the National Park Service, gardeners from around the world grow fruits and vegetables that are native to their homelands in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The National Park Service also provides land and water for the Melvin Hazen Community Garden, which was once a World War II victory garden.

Nature’s Retreat at C. Melvin Sharpe Health School serves as an outdoor classroom. This handicap-accessible school garden enables physically and cognitively disabled students to undertake a more sensory approach to learning. One student remarks in the film, “I plant marigolds and I water the flower bed. I just like the fresh air.”

The Pomegranate Alley Community Garden fills an alleyway once known for little more than drug dealing. Neighborhood residents transformed the space into a garden that currently holds 13 plots. Similarly, at the Marion Street Garden, neighbors and volunteers cultivate once-abandoned land. This intergenerational garden offers educational opportunities for people of all ages. (more…)

Mar11

Argan Oil: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Most people have heard of the health benefits of using olive oil instead of butter or other saturated animal fats. The monounsaturated fats in olive oil have been shown to reduce levels of harmful cholesterol, and as a result nutrition experts have touted it and other aspects of the Mediterranean Diet as heart healthy.

Photo Credit: Jane Alexander

But olive oil isn’t the only celebrated oil from that region of the world. In Morocco, argan oil has been consumed by the Berber people for centuries. Berbers add the deep yellow, toasty-flavored oil to couscous, serve it alongside bread, or eat it on its own. Argan oil has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and recent research by France’s Institut Pasteur, Morocco’s Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis Research Laboratory, and others suggests that it might contribute to the prevention of various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

Beyond the health benefits of consuming argan oil, there are also important environmental benefits associated with its production. The same deep root systems that make argan trees well adapted to heat and frequent drought in southwestern Morocco also protect the land against soil erosion and desertification. Meanwhile, argan trees provide shade and protection for crops or pastureland, presenting opportunities for agroforestry.

Arguably, however, the most noteworthy impact of argan oil production is social. This rare oil has captivated a global audience, primarily because of its use in cosmetics. As a result, market prices have been on the rise (making it the most expensive edible oil in the world), and argan oil producers—largely local Moroccan women—have been reaping the benefits.

Because the process of extracting argan oil is extremely labor intensive (it can take 50 kilograms of seeds to produce just half a liter of oil), the women who produce it by hand are frequently part of production co-operatives, such as the UCFA (Union des Cooperatives des Femmes de l’Arganeraie). Founded in 1999, this innovative co-operative produces and markets argan oil and is supported by the Moroccan government as both a conservation and development strategy. Today, the UCFA unites 22 smaller women’s co-operatives. The women who make up these groups gain status, a steady income, and, in some cases, an education through their work.

Yet the argan oil boom has been a double-edged sword. Argan trees and the area in which they grow are threatened by overuse and deforestation. A study by the University of California, Davis finds that “the boom has predictably made households vigilant guardians of fruit on the tree, but it has not incited investments in longer term tree and forest health.” While the development of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Morocco is a step in the right direction, it will be both economically and environmentally critical for the same non-governmental groups, development agencies, and government offices that supported argan oil production in the first place to keep sustainability in mind.

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

 

Jan24

Documentary Sheds New Light on Thriving Community Gardens

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By Carol Dreibelbis

There are an estimated 18,000 community gardens in the United States and Canada, according to the group Why Hunger, and thousands more worldwide. Designing Healthy Communities, a project of the nonprofit Media Policy Center, notes that community gardens “can play a significant role in enhancing the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being necessary to build healthy and socially sustainable communities.”

Naasir Ali participates in the “Growing Food…Growing Together” program at the Washington Youth Garden. (Photo credit: Cintia Cabib)

In her 2011 documentary A Community of Gardeners, filmmaker Cintia Cabib offers an intimate look at the vital role that seven community gardens play in Washington, D.C.

At Common Good City Farm, a work-exchange program enables local residents to volunteer in the garden in exchange for fresh produce. One volunteer explains just how important the garden is for her: “The garden plays a big role in my life because it feeds me. I live out of this garden: whatever I get every Wednesday, that’s what feeds me for the whole week.”

At Fort Stevens Community Garden, an organic garden run by the National Park Service, immigrant gardeners from around the world grow fruits and vegetables that are native to their homelands in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The Park Service also provides land and water for the Melvin Hazen Community Garden, which was once a World War II victory garden.

(more…)

May08

In Case You Missed It: The Week in Short

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We have arrived in New York City after another great week in in Johannesburg, South Africa, meeting with NGOs, journalists, and development organizations.

week-in-review-nourishing-the-planet

(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Here are some highlights from the week: This week’s episode of Nourishing the Planet TV features a farmer from Togo who  is bringing the vegetables he remembers from his home to consumers in the greater Washington DC area, and in the process, helping to create a new source of income for local farmers.

This week we also featured one way that organizations like the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Cargill, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAAPD) are working to alleviate Vitamin A deficiency- by fortifying vegetable oils used for cooking.

This week’s innovation highlights World Neighbors, a non-profit organization that works with communities worldwide to inspire positive, lasting changes in hunger, poverty, disease, and the environment. Their approach to development is unique—WN operates by inviting all residents of an area to participate in identifying community needs. By doing this, WN programs address interconnected issues rather than individual problem areas.

Now it’s your turn: What were your favorite posts from the week? What do you hope we’ll write about next week? Let us know in the comments!

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.

May01

In Case You Missed It: The Week In Short

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We’ve had another exciting week in Johannesburg, South Africa, meeting with NGOs, journalists, and development organizations. Next week we’ll be heading to New York City.

texting-on-the-farm-hunger-agriculture-nourishing-the-planet

(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Here are some highlights from the week: This week’s episode of Nourishing the Planet TV research intern Kaia Clarke discusses how cell phones are becoming just as important to farmers as the seeds, soil, and water needed to cultivate food for the table and to sell at the market. From five-day weather forecasts and new techniques in planting to up-to-date information on current market prices, the more farmers know the more they can benefit. And as cell phones become more prevalent worldwide, farmers are gaining even more access to the information they need.

Check out this blog about Carolina for Kibera (CFK) with an interview with the organization’s founder, Rye Barcott. CFK is based in Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya—one of the largest slums in sub-Saharan Africa and it works to prevent violence and conflict by empowering young slum dwellers to become community leaders.

Don’t miss this slide show put together by the Mail & Guardian, featuring images from thirty of the innovations that nourish the planet that are highlighted in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

This week’s innovation features a recently released report, Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems Work for People and Climate, from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that suggests that small-scale farmers who grow crops for food and fuel can help reduce both food and energy insecurity.

Now it’s your turn: What were your favorite posts from the week? What do you hope we’ll write about next week? Let us know in the comments!

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.