Posts Tagged ‘Rwanda’


Innovation of the Month: Gardens for Health

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By Carly Chaapel

Around the world, gardens provide food for local communities, serve as educational tools, and empower the poor. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 22.5 million people live with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), humanitarian and environmental organizations are turning to community gardens for nutritional and social benefits for HIV patients.

Rwandan farmer harvests plants for her family with the help of Gardens for Health. (Photo credit: Gardens for Health International)

In Rwanda, the most densely populated sub-Saharan country, the average citizen lives well below global average health, education, and income standards. The Human Development Index ranks Rwanda 166 out of 187 countries, indicating “low human development.” According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), nearly 170,000 people (3 percent of adults) suffer from HIV in Rwanda.

Numerous organizations are, however, generating hope for the poor and the sick in Rwanda. Gardens for Health International, for example, partners with local health clinics to provide agricultural solutions for health problems, including malnutrition. Patients who arrive at rural clinics in need of food aid and emergency treatment often leave with the resources necessary to both address their immediate needs and sustain themselves and their families in the future. Gardens for Health experts routinely visit families in their homes, bringing the tools and knowledge needed (e.g., seedlings and market access knowledge) to increase yields, diversify diets, and prevent future malnutrition.

In Swaziland, the International Red Cross has donated money to support community gardens with similar goals. According to USAID, 25.9 percent of adults in Swaziland live with HIV, and nearly 70,000 children have been orphaned due to the virus. Although food crises are prevalent in this drought-prone country, donations from the Red Cross have enabled communities to both develop food gardens and access valuable adaptation technology, such as drip irrigation, which can increase agricultural productivity and boost year-round food security for families living with HIV.

By disseminating resources and information, organizations such as Gardens for Health and the International Red Cross can increase access to healthy foods for the poor, hungry, and sick, and enable families to develop productive and sustainable food gardens just outside their front doors.

Do you know about a garden that is used as a healing space for the sick? Tell us more in the comments below.

Carly Chaapel is a former research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Food and Agriculture Program.


Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change

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By Jeffrey Lamoureux

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change (CSACC), a roundtable of senior natural and social scientists from across the globe, recently released its Summary for Policymakers. The commission is working to promote concrete policy recommendations toward achieving food security in the face of climate change, and its summary is a synthesis of its final report, due in early 2012. Aimed at global policymakers at the recently concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban and the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit, CSACC hopes to bring agriculture into discussions of climate change mitigation.

At the local level, sustainable intensification of production must be achieved (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“Efforts to alleviate the worst effects of climate change cannot succeed without simultaneously addressing the crises in global agriculture and the food system,” said Dr. Bruce Campbell, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, which convened the independent commission in February 2011.

The global food system is plagued with structural issues: a billion are hungry while another billion over-consume, and inefficient practices cause tremendous amounts of waste and make agriculture the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. As the world’s population grows, the tastes of an ever-expanding middle class lean towards consumption of resource-intensive protein-heavy diets, and climate change threatens to disrupt much of the world’s arable land, the food system could reach critical thresholds. “Food insecurity produces widespread human suffering, even in the world’s wealthiest countries, as well as political and economic instability, so it is clear the status quo is not an option,” said Commissioner Professor Tekalign Mamo, Advisor to the Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture.



Supporting Rural Communities, One Acre at a Time: An Interview with Margaret Vernon

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Name: Margaret Vernon

Affiliation: One Acre Fund (OAF), General Partner, Director of Operations, Rwanda, and Co-founder

Location: Rwanda

Bio: Margaret graduated from Georgetown University‘s School of Foreign Service, where she was a Managing Editor for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and setter for the women’s volleyball team. She served in Burkina Faso with the Peace Corps from 2005 – 2007, working in public health, water and sanitation, and microfinance. Margaret joined One Acre Fund in January, 2008.

Photo Credit: OAF

How do you think One Acre Fund’s model differs from those followed by other organizations with the goal of reducing poverty? What are the “business principles” that guide OAF’s efforts?

One Acre Fund serves smallholder farmers directly by providing the basic tools that they need to increase their incomes: local access to inputs, agricultural education, credit (financing for agricultural inputs), and storage tools.  This is a comprehensive package that generates more income for the very poor.  With this spending power, farmers can choose for themselves how to improve their lives.  Some opt to spend more on education for their children or health for their family, some choose to improve their homes, while others invest in a small business.



The Clinton Foundation: Helping Rural Farmers in Rwanda and Malawi

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By Dana Drugmand

Former President Bill Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2001, and the organization has been working to fight childhood obesity, mitigate climate change, provide access to healthcare and treat HIV/AIDS, strengthen rural economies and alleviate hunger and poverty. The Clinton Foundation’s work in Africa focuses on bolstering income for smallholder farmers, increasing agricultural productivity, and alleviating poverty

With help from the Clinton Foundation, Rwandan farmers are seeing measurable increases in crop yields. Pictured above: Elephant grass in Rwanda. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The Foundation operates programs under the Clinton Development Initiative in both Rwanda and Malawi. In Malawi, smallholder, rain-fed farming supports almost 90 percent of the population. The national poverty rate is 52 percent, and most of the 12.3 million people live in rural areas with little access to health and educational services. Similarly, in Rwanda, nearly 90 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the majority of people here live below the poverty line.

The Clinton Foundation has worked with and helped nearly 19,000 farmers in Rwanda and Malawi to improve soil quality to increase yields. Through the Foundation’s programs, farmers have been supplied with affordable fertilizer and better-quality seed, and have gained profit from high-yield fruit trees and establishment of a coffee collective.



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.


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.


Nourishing the Planet TV: Turning the School Yard into a Classroom

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet research intern, Graham Salinger, discusses the Farmers of the Future Initiative (FOFI), a three year long program designed by CARE International to implement environmentally sustainable agricultural training in Rwanda’s schools.


To read about agricultural training in Rwanda, see: Innovation of the Week: Turning the School Yard into a Classroom

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.




Rainwater Harvesting

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By Dan Kane

In sub-Saharan Africa, many farmers are already watching their crop yields dwindle as water becomes more scarce and difficult to access. Even in areas where freshwater is still available, technologies such as pumps and filtration facilities can be prohibitively expensive.

Innovations in irrigation, such as this home-made water pump, are helping many small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Maintaining food security in Africa, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on the continent, will require finding inexpensive, sustainable ways of obtaining freshwater. Fortunately, some farmers have already found their solution by returning to an age-old practice of rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater usually infiltrates the soil and is retained within the first foot or so, but a significant portion is also lost to evaporation and runoff. Most sub-Saharan African nations are using less than 5 percent of their rainwater potential. Capturing even a fraction of rainwater can provide several gallons for consumption and irrigation at minimal cost.

While researching for the recently released State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet report, Nourishing the Planet found that with the help of international NGOs, many communities across Africa have installed successful rainwater harvesting techniques that are cheap and useful.



Nourishing the Planet TV: Building a Methane Fueled Fire

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In this week’s episode, media intern Mara Schechter explains how biogas stoves take advantage of what is typically considered waste to provide a clean and safe source of energy. Biogas units use methane from manure to produce electricity, heat and fertilizer, emitting  significantly less smoke and carbon monoxide than other sources of fuel and reducing the amount of time that women spend gathering firewood. Smoke inhalation-related illnesses result in 1.5 million deaths per year worldwide, and the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that women spend up to 10 hours per week gathering wood for cook fires in some rural areas.


To read more, see: Building a Methane Fueled Fire

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.


What works: Increasing Food Sovereignty

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By Supriya Kumar

In 1996, members of La Via Campesina, an organization that defends the values and basic interests of agricultural workers, coined the term “food sovereignty” to bring attention to the growing distance between farmers and the food they grow. Small farmers often suffer from unfair agricultural policies and the idea behind food sovereignty is to provide them with more opportunities to participate in the decision making process.

Fast forward almost fifteen years later, and small farmers still have limited bargaining power, even though they represent 80 percent of farmers in the developing world.


FANRPAN has helped women farmers access markets through its WARM project. (Photo credit: Julie Carney)

One organization that helps connect farmers with policy makers is the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) which currently operates in thirteen African countries. FANRPAN enables discussions between farmers, researchers and policy makers throughout Africa and has also helped women farmers access markets through its Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project

In some cases, farmers themselves get organized to regain sovereignty over the food they grow. In Senegal, farmers groups from around the country formed an association in the 1970s to oppose state owned cooperatives. The group, the Senegalese Federation of NGOs (FONGs) now represents thousands of farmers, fishermen and pastoralists. FONG advocates for improved access and better rights to land, better market infrastructure, and other policies that directly help small farmers. (more…)


East Africa Organic Conference 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya

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Yesterday marked the start of the East Africa Organic Conference 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya, an event that brings together members of both the private and public sector from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia to exchange experiences and best practices in the ongoing effort to promote organic agriculture throughout the region.

(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The event was co-hosted by UNEP-UNCTAD Capacity Building Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development (CBTF)—a partnership between the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) that helps developing countries address environment and trade development issues. Other co-hosts include the Kenyan Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture.

Yesterday’s event followed Wednesday’s first National Consultation on Kenyan Organic Agriculture Policy which brought together over 50 private and public sector representatives from six countries in Eastern Africa to facilitate a collaborative development of organic agriculture policies.