Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

Jun22

Rio+20 and the Role of Nigerian Women in Sustainable Development

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Today, Daily Times Nigeria published an op-ed co-written by Jill Sheffield, president of Women Deliver, and Danielle Nierenberg, director of the Nourishing the Planet project at the Worldwatch Institute.

The article focuses on women in Nigeria and their role in sustainable development. The piece highlights the need for women’s rights to be a core issue at Rio+20, a conference marking the twentieth anniversary of the first Earth Summit in Rio. In Nigeria, one-third of women have an unmet need for contraception, and nearly 80 percent of Nigerian farmers are women. Recognizing the important role of women as food producers, business owners, care givers, and mothers is key to creating a sustainable future for all.

Click here to read the full article.

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.

Feb03

12 Steps to Go Green for the Developing World

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Check out our latest op-ed, co-authored with Sue Edwards, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development, which was published in Nigeria’s Punch, the country’s largest and most widely read daily newspaper.

The article discusses 12 steps that people in developing countries can take to be more green in 2012.

Click here to read the full article.

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.

Jan03

A Brighter Future for Cassava

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By Yassir Islam 

Yassir Islam is the Head of Communications at HarvestPlus, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that is working to address global micronutrient deficiency, by adding nutrients to staple crops and making those crops more accessible.

Cassava is possibly the most adaptable of all tropical food crops. It tolerates drought, does not need much land preparation or weeding, and thrives in poor soils without chemical inputs.  The leaves are nourishing, and the thick fleshy roots are used to make many different types of foods from cassava flour to tapioca pearls.

A girl enjoying yellow cassava. (Photo credit: International Center for Tropical Agriculture)

So what’s not to like?

Well, no matter how cassava is prepared, one fact remains: it is a good source of calories but provides few other nutrients.  Could this food that is so popular in the tropics, and a lifesaver in times of drought, be made more nutritious?   Scientists began investigating this question in 2003, focusing on a critical nutrient: vitamin A.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is common in sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria, VAD afflicts almost 20 percent of pregnant women and about 30 percent of children under five. VAD lowers immunity which can increase the chances of getting ill or infected with disease. It can also lead to impaired vision, blindness, and even death. While Nigeria has mandated that foods such as wheat and maize flours be fortified with vitamin A since 2000, and provides vitamin A supplements to young children during national immunization day, coverage is low and vitamin A deficiency has decreased only marginally.

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Dec22

Airwave Agriculturist

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Check out this article in the Guardian about a Nigerian radio host, who uses his show to teach sustainable farming practices, including crop rotation and rainwater harvesting techniques, to smallholder farmers.

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu (Photo credit: the Guardian)

“The most simple ideas can solve the greatest challenges,” said Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, who also believes in locally applicable solutions, such as seed sharing between farmers. The station reaches about 250,000 listeners each day.

Click here to read the full article.

Holiday offer: To purchase a copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet at a 50 percent discountplease click HERE and enter code SW1150. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

Nov16

Nourishing the Planet TV: School Feeding Programs Improve Livelihoods, Diets, and Local Economies

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In this week’s episode, we discuss school feeding programs that are helping children and their families in many parts of Africa, where 60 percent of children come to school in the morning without breakfast, if they attend school at all. But, programs such as the The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), are helping to provides school meals for about 20 million children in Africa.

Video: http://youtu.be/HZjiisyOGcc

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.
Nov07

Star Apple: Prized Fruit and Timber

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By Kim Kido

Each year in the town of Ekwulumili, Nigeria, a potluck feast is held at the base of an udala tree to celebrate the women and children of the village. “Udala”, Ibo for white star apple (Chrysophyllum albidum), is a feminine symbol of fertility and generosity.

A star apple of unknown species with seeds arranged in the classic star pattern. (Photo credit: Forest and Kim Starr)

In addition to being the center of the town’s festival, the tree produces a fruit so delicious that children sometimes wait for the fruit to fall. The fruit is usually allowed to ripen on the tree and fall to the ground before it is collected and eaten since the immature fruit contains unpalatable sticky latex. In the same family as chicle, udala is picked immature in some places by children and chewed like gum. Besides children, Nigerian women sometimes eat the fruit to ease birthing. The fruit has a hundred times more vitamin C than oranges, and ten times that of guava.

Throughout West Africa, the fruits are also sold in local markets, fermented into wine, or made into jam. In Nigeria, the pit of the fruit is used to make a musical instrument. In some parts of West Africa, the oil is extracted from the seeds for cooking or to make soap. The seeds are also strung together to make anklets worn when dancing, or collected for children’s games. Latex is tapped from the tree trunk to make rubber, and the wood is used to make many things, including furniture, flooring, toys, and cabinets.

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Sep21

Nourishing the Planet TV: It’s All About the Process

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In this week’s episode, research intern Jenna Banning discusses the benefits of processing. By providing the right tools and services, organizations such as the Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) and the East Africa Dairy Development, are helping farmers improve their livelihoods and communities.

Video: http://youtu.be/H46OA_RPsR4

To read more about processing, see Innovation of the Week: It’s All About the Process 

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.

Sep12

Industrial poultry production and reemerging avian flu

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By Emily Gilbert

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there are alarming signs that a new mutant strain of the avian flu, or H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, is spreading in Asia and beyond. H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is a potentially devastating virus, associated with a high mortality rate and high economic losses.   HPAI viruses can jump species barriers and infect humans, becoming a potential source of a future pandemic.

A chicken being vaccinated against the H5N1 virus (Photo credit: CRDF)

Although wild birds and small-scale poultry production have been blamed for the spread of avian flu, recent research conducted by Tour du Valat, a Mediterranean wetland conservation research center, has found that when the avian flu virus infects poultry, not wild bird species, it mutates into the highly pathogenic strains of the flu .  These findings are supported by separate research on outbreaks in Nigeria and Thailand, which found that human agricultural activity and industrial poultry production, or factory farming, are major sources of the global spread of the avian flu.

After a 2002 bird flu outbreak in Chile, a study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases  identified poultry as the primary species in which the more highly pathogenic strains evolved.  A separate study produced in part by the Joint Influenza Research Centre at Hong Kong University found that, “transmission within poultry is the major mechanism for sustaining H5N1 virus endemicity in this region.”  Interestingly, in the Southeast Asian countries where most of the bird flu outbreaks are concentrated, including Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, poultry production grew eightfold over the last three decades, from around 300,000 metric tonnes of meat produced in 1971 to 2,440,000 metric tonnes in 2001. In China where the H5N1 virus has also spread, poultry production tripled during the 1990s, with 15 billion ducks, geese and chickens raised in 2004.

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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.

May20

Closing the Gender Gap in Agriculture

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By Supriya Kumar

Women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, yet they face considerable inequalities, such as limited access to important resources. The recently published State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presents the potential gains of reducing the gender gap in agriculture and rural employment – gains that will not only benefit women farmers, but also the agricultural sector as a whole.

Improving women farmer’s access to inputs could increase global food security (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

On average, female farmers produce less than their male counterparts, not because they are less efficient, but because they have limited access to necessary inputs. Access to land is a basic requirement of agriculture, but in North and West Africa, women represent fewer than five percent of all agricultural landholders. Not only are men more likely to own land, but on average male-headed households own larger plots of land, according to the FAO.

Cultural norms and government policies normally dictate land ownership in developing countries, but FAO suggests that a key step is to both review and reform relevant national legislation. Since tradition plays an important role, simply changing a law might now achieve immediate results. It’s important, therefore, to recognize local customs and work with community leaders to increase and protect women’s access to land.

Another input that women farmers have limited access to is financial services such as credit and insurance. Legal and cultural barriers mean that women generally cannot have bank accounts or sign off on any financial contracts and, as a result, are less likely to use credit. In Nigeria, a mere five percent of women obtain formal credit, compared to 14 percent of men.

Much like improving access to land, access to financial services for women will require legal and social changes in developing countries. In addition, promoting financial literacy among women and simplifying financial literature will also improve women’s access to these valuable services.

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