The food system depends on a healthy environment, but poor agricultural practices are responsible for environmental degradation. Beekeepers continue to lose 30 percent of honeybee colonies during an average winter—likely due to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Soil degradation is occurring at staggering rates, with soils being depleted 10 to 40 times faster than they are being replenished. And up to 100,000 plant varieties are currently endangered worldwide.
The increase in food prices in 2008, Russian wildfires brought on by excessive heat and drought in 2010, and, most recently, the worst drought in more than 100 years in California—all are warning signs that farmers and farmers’ groups, global food producers, industry leaders, researchers, and scientists must address the planet’s food security in the face of weather volatility and climate change.
provides the vital tools needed for fixing the food system.
Farmers depend on just a handful of crop varieties: according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), approximately half of farmland—more than 60 million hectares, or 150 million acres—in the U.S. is planted with corn or soy. This lack of diversity limits farmers’ ability to adapt to varying weather patterns and climate change.
“The question is not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how, and whether when they do, we’ll be prepared to treat the whole idea of sustainability as something more than a nice word,” wrote food author and activist Michael Pollan.
A more resilient agricultural system is needed, especially in the face of climate change. “With 80 million more mouths to feed each year and with increasing demand for grain-intensive livestock products, the rise in temperature only adds to the stress. If we continue with business as usual on the climate front, it is only a matter of time before what we [saw] in Russia becomes commonplace,” said Lester Brown, U.S. environmental analyst, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, and founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute.
Family farmers and food revolutionaries are working to create this paradigm shift by restoring ecological resilience in their local communities. Many farmers are diversifying their cropping systems and working together on projects to preserve biodiversity in fields and on plates.
According to Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Soil Health Division director for the U.S. National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), farmers are improving soil’s “ability to take in and hold ‘water in the bank.’ They’re even creating wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while decreasing risks from extreme weather and harvesting better profits and often better yields.”
Here’s how family farmers, food heroes, and organizations around the world are working to create resilient local food systems that are immune to the shocks of climate change and ecological disturbance.
Adapt-N is an interactive tool developed by researchers at Cornell University, designed to help corn growers reduce nitrogen applications based on site-specific recommendations. The website is part of a suite of decision-support tools from Cornell to help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change in the U.S.
DivSeek, an international partnership launched in January 2015, use big data to catalog the physical and genetic information held within international gene banks, and to make it available online. The initiative, involving 69 organizations from 30 countries, enhances the productivity and resilience of global crops by giving breeders and researchers access to information through an online portal.
In the Philippines, Dr. Wilson Cerbito, Assistant Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture, addressed the First Agriculture Summit on May 7, 2015, noting the Philippines is the third most vulnerable country in the world to climate change. The event outlined strategies for improving productivity of rice and root crops through technologies and practices that promote ecological resilience.
Full Belly Farm received the California Leopold Conservation Award for its land stewardship and conservation efforts. Judith Redmond, a manager of the farm, demonstrated resilience in the face of extreme drought by changing her crop choices, implementing drip irrigation, and reducing her reliance on groundwater. The creek that usually irrigates her crops ran completely dry last year, but Redmond was still able to water her land using micro-irrigation.
La Red de Guardianes de Semillas (The Network of Seed Guardians) is preserving rare plant varieties and culturally important seeds in Tumbaco, Ecuador. The community model for seed-saving fosters the exchange of cultural knowledge between small farmers, trains growers on permaculture techniques, and works to preserve biodiversity throughout Ecuador. The coupling of cultural heritage and biological heredity in something so small as a seed gets at the heart of the resilience concept: the more biologically and culturally varied a system, the more buffered it is against disturbance.
The Lexicon of Sustainability is spreading the word about agricultural resilience through information artworks and inventive media campaigns. Douglas Gayeton, multimedia artist and the organization’s founder, emphasizes that “there are farmers who believe in biodiversity instead of monoculture. Farmers who build soil fertility without depending on chemicals. Farmers who go beyond organic.” By defining terms such as true cost accounting, The Lexicon of Sustainability seeks to describe a vision for resilience through engaging stories.
Who do you know about that is creating a resilient local food system? We want to know! Share them with me at Danielle@foodtank.com.
Source: Food tank
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Co-ordinating, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is at the top of his department’s priorities, according to Jeff Radebe, the planning, monitoring and evaluation minister in the Presidency.The Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation was committed to institutionalising long-term planning, building on its five years’ experience since it was established, he said on 5 May before tabling his department’s budget vote.It was pleased with the work it had done so far.
Since the launch of Operation Phakisa, the first project focusing on the ocean’s economy, key initiatives had been identified to realise the immense potential of the ocean’s economy to contribute to radical economic transformation, Radebe said.”Progress made since the launch of the Ocean’s Economy Operation Phakisa includes commitment of R7-billion of public sector investment in our ports by Transnet Ports Authority, amongst other investments made.”Construction of a new berth in Saldana Bay had been started, and progress could also be seen in the extension of the Mossgas Quay and the refurbishment of the Offshore Supply Base, valued at R9.2-billion of public and private investment.The Department of Trade and Industry had also designated that working vessels must meet a 60% local content target. “The Treasury Instruction Note issued will ensure compliance with this in all tenders,” said the minister.Various aquaculture projects had been launched, he said, that were benefiting many rural communities by enabling them to make a living from the seas and inland fresh water reserves.”Furthermore, the Department of Higher Education and Training has developed skills implementation plans aligned with these initiatives… To this end, the South African International Maritime Institute has been identified as the institution that would facilitate maritime skills development, with the support [of the education department].”
Health and mining
The second Operation Phakisa initiative introduced in 2014 focused on improving the quality of services in primary health care, said Radebe. A detailed plan for improving service delivery in public sector clinics in all provinces had been developed and approved by the National Health Council.”We call this the Ideal Clinic initiative. It was undertaken in collaboration with provinces, districts, clinic managers as well as the private sector and non-profit sector,” he said.”Operation Phakisa Labs will also be conducted in the mining and education sectors.” In the former, the focus would be on increasing investment, transforming the sector and improving mineral beneficiation to drive radical economic transformation.In education, the focus would be on an information and communication technology approach to enhancing basic education.
National Youth Policy
Deputy Minister Buti Manamela would explain the youth aspects in detail in the Budget Vote Speech, Radebe said. His department has a mandate to mainstream, provide oversight and lead the government’s efforts on youth development.”We have taken a different approach to tackling youth issues and we have gotten rid of [the] government’s approach to youth issues whereby we would ask them what they think, ignore what they say and do as we want, and adopted a new approach of consultation,” Radebe said.Manamela recently held several consultative meetings with youth across the country regarding the National Youth Policy (NYP) 2020. These culminated in the NYP 2020 Consultative Conference in March, which resulted in the inclusion of one more pillar to the four that existed initially.”When we commenced with the consultative process of the NYP 2020, we initially had four pillars of the policy comprising skills and education, economic inclusion and participation, health and well-being of young people, and nation building and social cohesion.”Through the inputs received from the youth through this consultative process that took place, we have included another pillar to form part of the policy, which is building youth machinery for effective delivery and responsiveness.”Inputs from the NYP 2020 conference were being finalised and would be adopted during Youth Month, in June. He said the policy would then guide the drafting of the integrated youth development strategy, which will be the blueprint for radically spearheading youth development against the backdrop of lack of skills and high unemployment.”The [Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation] will monitor the implementation of the policy and its impact. As we finalise the youth policy… we give meaning to it by championing the development of the youth who are future leaders of this country,” Radebe said.”Thus, by prioritising youth development through education, entrepreneurship and job creation, it will be both a tribute to the Freedom Charter as well as to the future of our country.”
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HALF MILLION RAND AVAILABLE IN NEW #COCREATESA FUND
Cape Town, 8 April 2015 – Today, the Kingdom of the Netherlands officially kicked-off the Open Call for the new #cocreateSA Fund 2015. An investment of half a million Rand will be made in projects that aim to combine Dutch and South African knowledge, that seek innovative solutions to local challenges and involve the sectors of agriculture and food, energy, life sciences and health, logistics and water. More information on the application process and requirements can be found on www.cocreatesa.co.za.
The initiator of the #cocreateSA Fund is Bonnie Horbach, the Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cape Town. She calls on everyone with innovative ideas for local challenges to reach out and find a Dutch counterpart – and vice versa, of course – and to apply by writing a project proposal. A professional jury will consider all applications and make a final decision on who is granted the #cocreateSA Fund awards on 25 June. The main requirement is that the project is based on South African-Dutch collaboration with a long-term outlook. Ms. Horbach explains: “To me, international trade relations can only be successful when we take our time to build genuine and long-term partnerships so that we truly understand the demand and the local challenges.
Luckily, I am not alone in this. When we launched the #cocreateSA Fund last year, we were overwhelmed by the number of South African and Dutch projects that were based on exactly that vision.” #cocreateSA is a platform for South African and Dutch counterparts to exchange ideas and innovations and thereby find solutions for a sustainable future. It was launched by the Netherlands last year during World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. Nine projects in the field of electricity, water management, solar lighting, health services and urban farming were awarded through the first round of #cocreateSA funding. Ms. Horbach: “Last year’s winning projects included incredible, ambitious projects that are now starting to report their first results.
A great example is the Ikwhesi Clinic near Khayelitsha where they are working to drastically reduce the waiting times and improve the waiting experience through innovative design-thinking. Things like this encourage me to continue this fund. If we can help kick-start these types of projects, we can truly make a difference and co-create innovations for South Africa.” Submissions for this year’s #cocreateSA Fund can be made until 1 June 2015. Ms. Horbach continues: “With the new round of funding, I again hope to inspire and spark innovative thinkers and doers from South Africa and the Netherlands to reach out to each other, share ideas, partner up and create the solutions that will work in South Africa.” For more information on the application process and requirements, please visit www.cocreatesa.co.za and keep an eye on the official #cocreateSA Facebook page.
Source: Press Release
Internationally renowned architect Tye Farrow told an audience in Sydney, Australia recently that there is a connection between architecture and health. “What if our health became the basis for judging every building and every public space?” he asks. “What if each of us – every person, everywhere – asked, ‘Does this place cause health? How does it make me feel?’”
Farrow lists 5 attributes every architect should have firmly in mind when designing a building:
- Nature: Incorporating materials that grow naturally and that let in natural daylight as it moves with time have been proven to stimulate the brain.
- Authenticity: Usiing designs that draw on things we know and stimulate our memories.
- Variety: Buildings don’t all have look the same. They can express the aspirations of the organizations they are built to serve.
- Vitality: Designs should come alive and activate spaces.
- Legacy: Creating designs that make a lasting contribution.
If the industry understood the health-causing potential of every building, every public space and every home Farrow says, then “dreary design and merely functional places would become unacceptable. Instead, people would expect optimistic design that encourages social interaction, pride in community identity, connections to nature, cultural meaning and a positive legacy.”
Farrow advocates for designs that focus not just on a sustainability, such as a building’s carbon footprint, but also on whether a space “causes health”, or allows people to thrive mentally, socially and physically. Farrow refers to those factors as “salutogenic” elements.
He points to the South Africa Health Center (right) which takes the shape of South Africa’s national flower, the Protea, and therefore serves as a metaphor for hope, healing and renewal. “One of the team’s goals was to demonstrate what can be done in a tangible way to move beyond minor improvements in achieving a healthier population. On a global scale, the design will serve as a ‘leapfrog model’ that opens the eyes of decision-makers,” Farrow explains.
In recent years, expectations for environmental impact have been expanded to include awareness for how physical surroundings affect our state of mind,” he said. “We believe that sustainable building objectives must embrace human health issues as well as environmental effects. This means that the public should expect design to make a holistic, meaningful contribution to their lives.”
When it comes to design of outdoor spaces Farrow says, “A walkable neighborhood…..has potential in enlivening a suburb, but distance, safety and access aren’t the only ingredients for a successful recipe – it also requires streetscapes that are not boring and repetitive but which attract local residents.
“This requires thinking about the visual and physical qualities that motivates people to create thriving spaces.” He points to New York City’s Highline Park (right) as an example of healthy design. The park is built on top of an unsightly railroad trestle that used to bring freight trains into Manhattan’s West Side.
One Farrow creation the embodies all of his design ideas is the tree house shown below that Farrow Partners designed for Eterra Resort. Who wouldn’t want to cozy up inside and feel at one with nature?
Source: Green Building Elements
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Eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 will not be achieved by rich countries giving money to poor countries , but will require financing, trade and partnerships from public and private sectors in all countries, say experts from the World Resources Institute.
The question of how the world can end extreme poverty and improve human wellbeing will take on new urgency in 2015, as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire and a new set of goals – the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – are finalized.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s “Synthesis Report,” outlining the main elements of the post-2015 agenda, provides strong guidance regarding what sustainable development should look like and what world leaders must do over the next 15 years to achieve it. After two years of crafting the “what” of sustainable development, the year ahead must focus on how to get it done.
The central ambition is bold: the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030. To make that happen, the SDGs will need to shift away from the twentieth-century model of development, in which rich countries gave money to poor countries, mostly to feed the hungry and improve health and education. The MDGs were remarkably successful in several of these areas. But the picture has changed significantly since then. A new set of emerging economies – including China, India, Brazil, and South Africa – is racing to modernize. The private sector is assuming a greater role in economic development. And environmental degradation is threatening the gains of recent decades.
The SDGs will have to transcend the idea of a planet divided starkly between those who give aid and those who receive it. The new goals must account for a world undergoing rapid globalization, in which all countries have assets as well as needs. Today’s challenges go beyond health, food, and education. The SDGs will have to integrate these concerns with the demands of the growing global middle class, the effects of shifting political and economic power, and the challenges of environmental sustainability, including climate change.
Three ingredients will be essential to achieving the goals: financing mechanisms, trade, and partnerships. Forty years after rich countries promised to dedicate 0.7% of GDP to aid, their commitments remain at less than half that level. Though most emerging economies no longer rely on aid, it remains crucially important for low-income countries. That said, even if aid targets were met, the shift to sustainable development will cost much more than what aid alone can cover. We need to look for new sources of funds, ensure that government spending is aligned with the sustainable-development agenda, and target those areas where the money can do the most good.
In much of the developing world, investing in sustainable development is complicated by the fact that tax revenues are too low to pay for what is needed. This is not always a matter of raising tax rates; it is also often a matter of collecting what people and companies owe. Closing loopholes and cracking down on evasion are two ways to ensure that taxes are collected. The OECD estimates that a dollar of aid spent on improving tax collection yields an average of $350 in revenue. A shared commitment that builds on initiatives by the G-8 would make tax evasion that relies on tax havens or money laundering harder to hide.
Governments cannot deliver a sustainable future alone. The private sector also has an important role to play in energy, agriculture, and urban development, including transport and water systems that can drive innovation and economic opportunity. While levels of private finance dwarf international public finance, directing these private funds to programs that reach the poorest and protect the environment requires the right policy incentives, such as a price on carbon, regulatory certainty, and the wise use of public money.
Trade boosts domestic production and generates revenue that can help pay for development. There have been important gains in market access in the past 15 years: 80% of developing countries’ exports to developed countries are now tariff-free, while average tariffs are down overall.
But non-tariff barriers can cost exporting countries more than tariffs do. What is needed is an international partnership that helps low-income countries integrate into the globalized marketplace while improving environmental and labor standards. The SDGs can create political momentum for these efforts, which could then be framed by the World Trade Organization in December 2015.
Making development sustainable will also require accelerated innovation and diffusion of technology between now and 2030. A global partnership could spur investment in research and development and ease the flow of information among scientists, business people, and policymakers.
Such new and creative partnerships can make progress on complex problems that governments, civil society, or the private sector cannot or will not solve alone. For example, the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization), a partnership comprising international organizations, philanthropies, governments, companies, and research organizations, has immunized 440 million children since 2000 and helped avert more than six million deaths. We must improve and expand these types of partnerships to other challenges, such as infrastructure, agriculture, and energy.
Between now and September 2015, when heads of state will gather for the UN General Assembly, we have a historic chance to set the world on a more sustainable path that will eradicate poverty and enhance prosperity for all. Ambitious goals provide a firm foundation for a brighter future. Over the coming months, however, leaders must work together to set the world on the right course to realize this vision.
Book your seat here.
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