An -Upworthy- island movement

Keron

When last was there an international story about the Caribbean, a small, relatively known region of the world? Stereotypically the most recent is more than likely a story on relaxing island life, the beautiful weather and friendly people. Threatening this serenity and way of life is climate change – this is obvious due to the increased number of hurricanes in recent years that have completely destroyed infrastructure and the livelihoods of so many islanders. However what is not clear is the fact that tackling the climate change issue seems to be one of few things that the region can do together as one.I confess myself ignorant.

Prior to writing this article most would think, including myself that there is little talk of the climate change issue despite the heavy impact the Caribbean has felt. Never has a notion been so inaccurate. One glimpse into the climate change diaspora of the region gives an insight into the progress that has been made and what is yet to come.

Together in policy for climate change

Those that live in the region we feel that there are so many developmental, organizational and infrastructural issues that we believe our progress has all but halted. Fortunately this is another highly inaccurate notion. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate change centre (CCCCC) reveals a multitude of new programmes, strategies and most importantly policy decisions in the field. The CCCCC acts as key node for information and knowledge exchange for climate change issues in the region beginning operation in 2005 — 10 years of work!

The organisation coordinates a regional response using, an information resource portal, a blog, partnership projects, a regional clearing house/data repository and other outlets. Firstly there were a slew of bi lateral and multilateral projects some of which are still ongoing. Regardless, beginning with Liliendaal declaration on climate change and development issued by the 13th meeting of the conference of heads of government of CARICOM in 2009, policy efforts have truly been a coordinated at the regional level.

Following this a regional strategy and implementation plan for dealing with climate change that member countries use as a guide. Together at the international level there is a common set of thoughts about what issues are articulated and advocated for – a unified position – coming out of the region. Yet it is difficult as small islands with varied concerns and limited power. Nevertheless a concerted effort is there.

“Encapsulated in the declaration is the main thrust to ensure that life and viability in the region is maintained as it is today keeping the surface level temperatures down to a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees. However temperatures have been rising, therefore it opens up a lot of room for discussion,” explains Tyrone Hall Communications Specialist at the CCCCC.

He says “For many islands (collectively in comparison to other nations) there are low emission rates and carbon footprints therefore the focus is on adaptation initiatives of which many projects are based, in order to maintain these lower levels. Additionally there is focus on energy and water projects as well as livelihood initiatives.”

Rising up and taking strides

Certainly such project and initiatives do have an impact at the national level but what about at the ground level? At this stage the youth take the reins with a vast number of civil society and youth based groups promoting and making a change for the climate. Leading such efforts is the Caribbean Youth Environmental Network.(CYEN)

“We at CYEN stay committed to ensuring that young people are made aware of the impacts of climate change. We have members who have participated in the previous COP meetings and others who will in Peru this year as well.” – Rianna Gonzales – President of the CYEN Trinidad and Tobago Chapter.

Other activists to note include the University of the West Indies Environmental Society as well as grassroots and ground level programmes or events such as the 1.5 to stay alive (an education initiative) VYBZING (the Guyana youth forum for climate change), and Ja REEACH (Jamaica – Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change project and training programs.) Coming on stream is the first Caribbean Youth Congress on Climate Change to be pitched to donors for funding.

Why is there ignorance?

With so many activities going on at so many levels and real change taking place in people’s attitude, mindset and behavior, how could I miss this? It’s clear as day that the Caribbean is well on its way to tackling climate change. Therein lies the problem. Although we live in the same region the effects of climate change vary. In Trinidad and Tobago we have yet to suffer from super hurricanes, or any other climatic calamity that tips us to our breaking point. A vast majority of the other islands have experience this devastation that is so severe it literally ruptures standard thinking and change occurs.

Another important fact is that due to the natural pleasant climate of the Caribbean islands, many of them depend on tourism. With erratic weather this sector is negatively affected drastically reducing the livelihoods of millions that depend on the sector for a sustainable life. Trinidad and Tobago depends on its oil and gas resource – its energy sector bolsters its economy meaning all effort is placed there which ironically contributes more negatively to the climate problem.

Climate change has been mainstreamed in the Caribbean but this may not be true for Trinidad and Tobago. What is the status of our greenhouse gas emissions? It is true we have a number of active groups, youth and civil society doing excellent work but what about at the policy level; is Trinidad and Tobago right up there with the other Caribbean islands making waves at high level talks? What government initiatives are in place and of what nature are they?

To be blunt I existed in a fish bowl, looking from the inside out when really I should have been looking from the outside in. So the next step…more research!

Post written by Keron Bascombe. Keron blogs on ICT in agriculture and other related topics on his blog Tech4Agri

Youth, the Future of Family Farming

Involving Youth in Foresight Activities

It was the first day of June in the serene and sunny – but slightly windy – city of Montpellier, and from all around the world researchers and academics in the fields of agriculture and family farming were gathered: experts in international development, decision makers, NGOs, as well as farmers organizations’ and private sector representatives. The stage had been set for the “International Encounters on Family Farming and Research”.

The “Encounters” had been organized as part of the International Year of Family Farming, declared by the United Nations for 2014 by research institutions of Montpellier hub – Agropolis International – in collaboration with international partners like the CGIAR Consortium, the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the World Rural Forum (WRF). With the support of the Government of France, the aim of the conference was to foster exchanges between all stakeholders and enhance research agendas dealing with family farming and the global change challenges.

“The” Youth Co-chair

Over three hours before the opening event at 7:30pm – a public debate kick-started by Hans Herren, a passionate elderly man I admire: all the chairs, co-chairs and facilitators of the working groups’ event had a briefing. Their task was to plan the methods of engaging the audience in the discussion groups based on the orientation papers earlier prepared – weeks ahead – to guide the conference discussions. I was a co-chair representing YPARD within the working group on “Family Farming facing the challenges of urbanization and employment”. From my assessment, I can say that I was the youngest face in the room.

Prior to the main event, while working on the orientation paper for my discussion group, I had managed to persuade my older colleagues to include an expanded section on the relationship between youth and family farming in order to reflect better youth’s insights. Indeed, although senior people are willing to address youth’s challenges, youth perceptions on these challenges often fall onto the sidelines.

During the following two day event, I facilitated and presented the outcomes of the discussions of the English sub-group, which counted with two young researchers – a lady and a man. One of them, a researcher from the Imperial College UK, intimated me that she had joined the group because the orientation paper discussed two topics she is presently concerned about: youth employment and agriculture.

A future for family farming without the Youth?

In the course of the discussions, among other things, it was generally agreed that youth have a positive role to play as the future of family farming. Moreover, the different participants stressed that although young people currently operate in a difficult environment with lacks of vital resources coupled with a negative perception, they are increasingly tackling these issues with  advocacy, use of technology as well as  with their energy and various innovative ideas.

Apart from this, one interesting high point for me as a youth representative at the conference was the presentation of Robin Bourgeois, Senior Foresight and Development Policies Expert at GFAR, titled “What could research do for the futures of family farming?”, where he highlighted, among other important factors, the vital role of young people to the future of family farming and global food production. The most exciting statement was when he asserted that “we cannot think about the future of family without taking on board the perspective of the youth”.

Towards Youth’s Forward Thinking

This statement made me think about what could be the role of youth in the futures of agriculture. Likewise, as a young member of the Forward Thinking Platform of the GFAR, I would like to figure out if young people, especially in the agricultural development field, are doing enough and engaging the right stakeholders to drive key policies that not only make agriculture more appealing to the youth, but also strive to give more visibility and recognition to the positive and important roles of youth to the futures of farming, food security and sustainability.

These are thoughts and questions I believe we should start addressing as young agriculturists. Moreover, identifying the alternative futures of agriculture is crucial to recognizing and pinpointing the areas of maximum impact where young people could contribute to a food secure world. This is a call for young people at YPARD  to embrace the challenge of getting involved in the Forward Thinking Platform to deepen our strategic thinking and positioning towards the future we want.

In the end, I must say it was an exciting sharing and learning experience that let me put across my views as well as to learn from others’ perspectives on the issues that family farms face around the world and on the ways to make research more responsive to family farming. Thanks to this experience, I have also learned more about the way to work with senior researchers and other professionals, regarding particularly their natural inhibitions in working with young people and the challenge of tactfully working around this to get youths’ views acknowledged.

Oluwabunmi Ajilore is YPARD Foresight Ambassador since the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week 2013 (AASW6), organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). To get more familiar with the topic, you can check Oluwabunmi’s blog post “Youth foresight for their Future”, as well as a more detailed article on involving young people in foresight activities titled “The future belongs to the youth”.

Picture credit: Come to the light, by bschwehn.

This article was first published by the same author on the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) Blog

Nigeria: FG Commits N7.7bn to IITA Youth Agripreneur Programme

Agropreneurnaija

minister-n-iita

Efforts to tackle unemployment among the youths through agriculture has received a boost as the federal government is supporting the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Youth Agripreneur programme with $500,000(N77million). The funds will go into training and capacity building for youths and will create the next generation of young farmers in the country.


The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, disclosed the financial commitment recently at a workshop on “Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa” held in Ibadan recently.
Initiated two years ago, the IITA Youth Agripreneur programme builds the capacity of youths and exposes them to the numerous untapped opportunities in agriculture and, more importantly, changes the negative perception that young men and women hold about agriculture. The programme has already engaged some Nigerian youths from different backgrounds.

Adesina commended IITA for developing the programme, and the milestones recorded by the…

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Microdosing: Cutting waste and putting nutrients exactly where they are needed

micro-dosing

Putting nutrients where they are neeed

For many smallholder farmers, the cost of purchasing fertilizers to nourish their crops is a necessary but often exorbitant part of their cost of production. Often, it is part of the main costs that determine if the farmer makes a profit or loss on production at the end of the harvest season.

And due to an awareness of this fact, many African governments – including Nigeria – are now subsidizing the cost of fertilizer purchase for their farmers to drive down their input cost, their entire cost of production and as a result help make their produce more competitive and gain better market access through reduced selling price.

Despite this expensive cost of fertilizer and its effect on the competitiveness and market access of farmers, the conventional mode of fertilizer application by many farmers – including smallholders – calls into question the efficiency of the use of this expensive resource. Many farmers usually practice the age-long broadcasting/heavy application with little thought for use-efficiency and often with the erroneous belief that the higher the dosage the better the yield.

This is not only economically inefficient but it is also damaging to the health of the soil and ecologically unsustainable. Also, over the years, this indiscriminate and uncontrolled application can lead to soil acidification and salinization. These can significantly reduce the productive capacity of the soil and may require heavy investment in corrective measures or, for smallholder farmers, lead to the abandoning of farmlands and deforestation or the opening up of new agricultural lands – another act which is unsustainable in the long term.

Besides, the indiscriminate use of fertilizer also impacts other natural resource sectors like fishery negatively. The excess nutrients in the soil are leached out during the rains and are washed downstream into groundwater and surface water bodies causing eutrophication – a process whereby waters in lakes/streams become abnormally enriched with nutrients.

This excessive enrichment causes an explosion in the population of algae and other microorganisms in the water and subsequently leads to the depletion of oxygen available to the fish and other water organisms. This reduced oxygen, in turn, may lead to suffocation and death of many aquatic organisms and negatively impact local fisheries and those whose livelihoods depend on them.

This is why microdosing is a more sustainable approach to fertilizer usage. It is a usage approach that strives to cut waste and put fertilizer exactly where it is needed. According to an article posted on the Farming First magazine website in January 2011, “microdosing involves the application of small, affordable quantities of fertilizer onto the seed at planting time, or a few weeks after emergence”.

It is a method particularly suited to smallholder farmers with small piece of farmlands. Because the fertilizer is applied at the base of each crop plant, microdosing can also help in weed management by starving weeds seeds of this growth resource and helping crops to out-compete weeds through the stimulation of a faster growth rate and canopy formation of crops which shuts out other vital resources like light from weed seeds. This method leads to a reduction in the cost of weeding and herbicidal control.

In all, the technique enhances the efficiency of fertilizer use and result in improved productivity. In economic terms, it reduces the cost of production of smallholder farmers and at the same time increases their output through better and more efficient resource use. That, in my view, is a right combination for wealth creation for smallholders.

 

Photo: ICRISAT

Rare Breeds: Young women pushing back socio-cultural barriers in ICT4Ag

ICT4Girls

Rare Breeds: Young women challenging assumptions regarding ICT fields

Last week (Thursday) was the International Girls in ICT Day. To commemorate the day many development organizations recounted tales of the increasing involvement in – and the use of – ICT by girls (and women) in their various development spheres. Many also used the avenue to highlight their own contributions to promoting the use of ICTs by girls/women and the increasing involvement of the other half of the society in the ICT fields – which are largely perceived as a male preserve.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, CTA, one of the highly visible international organizations in the agricultural development field, which focuses on the Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific regions, used the spotlight beamed on Girls in ICT on the day to ‘’honour the women finalists and some (other) female participants of the YoBloCo Awards (blog competition organized (with)in the framework of CTA’s ARDYIS Project)”.

This honour was shown to these young women “to recognize their efforts and contribution in raising the youth voice in agriculture through their blogs”. They were 15 in all – with different nationalities that span across the 3 regions of the CTA’s focus i.e. the ACP region.

Among them is Kofo Durosinmi-Etti, a young woman whose blog and journey into agriculture I have found quite fascinating. With academic and professional backgrounds that have nothing, however remote, to do with agriculture, and “approximately 6 years in the Banking and Technology sector”; Kofo’s decision to actively engage in and combine the “posh” world of the Nigerian banking/management sector employee with the “dirty/unrefined” sphere of a farmer and agribusiness player is a case far from the norm – especially among young Nigerian women.

More important and equally enthralling is the fact that she actually gets involved in doing the “dirty” works on the farm herself and even goes a step further to tell her own stories and relay her experiences through her blog – in such a passionate way that makes any young person wants to do agriculture.

Another name on the list that is not particularly surprising to me is Sandra Chao from Kenya. As a writer and a professional journalist, Sandra has never hidden her passion for writing about agriculture, youth and other development issues using ICT means. From my rather brief acquaintance with her in the social media group during the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra last year, one could easily feel her drive and passion to use ICT tools to tell the stories that are dear to her heart – usually in an interesting and an appealing way.

Apart from these aforesaid two, all the other young women on that list, many of whom I do find their blogs appealing (especially Emmie Kio’s) are not only effectively using ICT to tell their stories but are actively challenging the assumption that the ICT field and the use of its tools for development purposes are largely for men.

Moreover, the result of the YoBloCo Awards Public Evaluation stage where women got 11 out of the 30 places for finalists and got the first 3 positions on the ranking log – according to the number of votes garnered – shows the increasing numbers, strength and capacity of women using/in ICT.

 

Photo: ITU

But what is there in Agriculture? (Part one)

Tech4agri

‘What is there for me in agriculture?’

I studied agri-science but what will I do with it when I’m done? Where am I suppose to work, these businesses will not accept my degree in agribusiness? Agriculture is too frustrating and stress, I will move on to something else.

So what really is there for young people involved agriculture related areas in one way or another…The answer is clear as day. We need to eat.

A look at global trade will tell you just how much our world depends on food. It is the number one economy anywhere in the world simply because it is a necessity. As a result there will always be jobs to be found and created in agriculture. However the importance of the sector varies sharply across the countries and regions.

Therefore many young people upon leaving their studies in agriculture feel that they have no place to go…

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Youth Foresight for their future

Sunflower - Foresight

It was the first day of the Africa Agriculture Science Week (6th edition)– hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana – and like every other young social reporter/blogger for the conference I was struggling to find my way around the International Conference Centre and locate the venues for the side events I had penciled down to attend – either for live-tweeting or for blogging.

I had just scurried out of the side event on “Empowering women and youth for improved productivity and resilience of African agriculture” where Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda of FANRPAN had dazzled the mostly women and youth gathered with facts and figure, and her understanding of the plight of women and youth in agriculture in Africa, when I ran into a colleague who had just left the next side event on my list – The future of sustainable rural areas in Africa.

As I entered the foresight session I noticed the small size of the group – arguably the smallest number of all the events I attended at the conference – but, although I had expected to see more people participate in such an important session, I was not really bothered by the turnout.

Nonetheless as I settled down, I found myself being drawn increasingly into the discourse and over time transmuted from a social reporter – out just to get a story – to an active participant and a young professional with know-how in issues being discussed.

The transformation reached its peak when the issue of youth rural-urban migration and reluctance to pick up agriculture as a profession was raised within the context of “Future sustainability of rural areas in Africa”. Then, the space was ceded to me as a young African, an agriculturist, an advocate of ICT for agriculture and one of the very few young persons in the session, to share my views and experience about the topic being discussed.

Thereafter, my contributions as a young person were really considered, and sometimes sought, in all the activities that took place at the session, from identifying trends to scenarios building and finally to recommendations of the side event to the FARA General Assembly.

By and large, it was a great learning experience for me. The discussions were stimulating, insightful, participatory, inclusive and above all focused on identifying key issues that may influence future scenarios and brainstorming on possible solutions to those issues. The facilitation, led by Robin Bourgeois of the GFAR secretariat, was outstanding and succeeded in blending the views of the different stakeholders – especially on women and youth – in the group.

In the end, not only was I enthralled and educated in the two days of the side event, but I also met experienced foresight experts, like Ms. Katindi-Sivi Njonjo and Dr. Ann Kingiri, with whom I have had the privilege of relating and learning more from ever since then. Now, with the rate at which I frequent the GFAR website and read about scenarios building and foresight activities/briefs, I can only say that I have been bitten by the bug of foresight – and I hope not to recover from it.

That’s for the same reason I wrote the article: “The future belongs to the youth“, which discusses the interest in getting the youth involved in Foresight activities in order for them to shape their future. Particularly, it is about bringing awareness and mobilizing YPARD community of Young Professionals to contribute to the Global Foresight Hub of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), towards this. Have a look at it.

Picture credit: Roxanne727

This article was first published by the same author on the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) Blog

Green Poetry: The Sahara Stole Our Land

The Sahara Stole Our Land

Like a guest that ejected the homeowner

Your sandy hands covered our lands

And banished us from our fields

 

Like an armed bandit that came to steal and to kill

Your parched throat sucked our plants dry of moisture

And boiled our livestock’s blood till they dropped and rose no more

 

Oh Dear Sahara

The vast ocean of nothingness

The mighty giant that strangles greens with dusty fingers;

 

In our ignorance and greed of yester-years

We had invited your unwelcomed presence

But now that we want you out of our territory

You have taken over our boundaries.

 

(c) Bunmi Ajilore. This poem cannot be republished without permission from the author.

Picture: Reuters UK