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Cool Scheme to Reduce Food Waste in Nigeria

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ColdHubs installation at Relife Outdoor Food Market, Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria. The World Bank estimates that 40 percent of all food produced goes to waste in Nigeria. Credit: ColdHubs.by Busani Bafana (bulawayo, zimbabwe)Tuesday, December 14, 2021Inter Press Service

Growing up on a farm in Southern Nigeria, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu observed how smallholder farmers rushed to sell their produce before sunset to avoid spoiling or selling it at give-away prices. Ikegwuonu came up with a cool idea to save the produce from spoiling: solar-powered cold rooms.

Smallholder farmers in Africa experience high post-harvest food losses owing to poor handling, poor packaging and lack of storage for their produce before it reaches the market.

According to the World Bank, food loss accounts for 40 percent of all food produced in Nigeria.

ColdHubs Ltd is a Nigerian social enterprise that designs, installs, operates and rents walk-in cold rooms known as ‘ColdHubs’. The Cold Hubs can store and preserve fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable foods, extending their shelf life from two to 21 days.

Describing spoilage as a wicked problem, Ikegwuonu’s ColdHubs concept is helping farmers and retailers preserve their produce for longer, reducing waste and ensuring farmers get better prices for it.

The mission is to reduce food spoilage due to lack of cold food storage at key points along the food supply chain, explains Ikegwuonu, who has won global recognition for his innovations in farming and entrepreneurship. In 2016 he was named a Rolex Award Laureate.

Social entrepreneur and farmer, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, posing in front of one of his solar-powered cold rooms. Credit: ColdHubs

In 2003, Ikegwuonu started the Smallholders Foundation. This non-profit developed rural radio services, delivering information to improve agricultural methods and conserve the environment to more than 250 000 daily listeners across the country.

During a radio roadshow in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state in central Nigeria, where he was doing a radio programme on cabbage, Ikegwuonu realised many farmers were throwing away their produce because it was spoiling before they could sell it all.

“At that point, it dawned on us that there is no form of cold storage which is an important infrastructure for any outdoor markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. After some research, we built solar-powered cold rooms, and these were well received by farmers,” Ikegwuonu told IPS in an interview.”

“Spoilage entraps farmers into poverty cycle because, by the time the food arrives in the outdoor market, the value has reduced, economically and nutritionally.”

Farmers and retailers rent out the walk-in cold rooms for a low fee of $0.25 (100 Naira) per 20kg plastic crate for one day. Each cold room has a capacity of storing three tonnes of food with other storage units that can hold 10 tons and 100 tons of food at a time.

Ikegwuonu said in designing the cold rooms, emphasis was placed on the solar power generation capacity to run the cold rooms every day of the week. The units generate energy from rooftop solar panels during the day. The energy is transferred and stored in batteries that run the cold rooms at night.

Currently, 54 cold rooms are operating in 38 clusters across two states in Nigeria, and Ikegwuonu plans to double the number in 2022.

ColdHubs have created 66 jobs for young women by hiring and training them as hub operators and market attendants. The ColdHubs, located in outdoor markets, serve more than 5 000 smallholder farmers, retailers and wholesalers in Nigeria.

In 2020, the cold rooms stored more than 40 000 tonnes of food which helped reduce food waste and increased farmers’ profits, according to Ikegwuonu.

“Farmers had commended the technology and have increased their income by about 50 percent before we started deploying ColdHubs. Now they are earning about $150 every month from selling the products that used to be spoiled and thrown away or sold at ridiculous rock bottom prices.”

Food waste occurs during industrial processing, distribution, and final consumption of food, research by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition shows. In developing countries, food losses occur upstream in the production chain.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, food loss and waste need urgent action given its environmental and economic impacts. The FSI, which ranks countries on food systems sustainability – is a quantitative and qualitative benchmarking model measuring the sustainability of food systems in the categories of food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges.

Nigeria was ranked five with a score of 74.1 for food loss and waste on the FSI 2018 results for middle-income countries.

Spoilage of fruit and vegetables robs farmers of income while contributing to food waste. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

“Tackling consumer food waste and post-harvest waste (the loss of fresh produce and crops before they reach consumer markets) will involve everything from changing consumption patterns to investing in infrastructure and deploying new digital technologies,”  the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition report noted, emphasising that ending hunger and meeting rising food demand will not be possible without tackling high level of food loss and waste.

Fruits and vegetables have the largest losses across developing countries, accounting for 42 percent of the developing country loss and waste globally, a report by the Rockefeller Foundation found, noting that growth in the commercial sale and use of loss averting technologies among smallholder farmers and value chain actors was an opportunity to reduce spoilage.

An estimated 93 million smallholder farmers and food supply chain actors are affected by food loss in Nigeria.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has urged for accelerated global action to reduce food loss and waste, with less than nine years to the deadline for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Seven years ago, global leaders agreed to the 17 SDGs, and Goal 12 specifically commits to halve by per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030.

Reducing food loss and waste contributes to the realisation of broader improvements to agri-food systems towards achieving food security, food safety, improving food quality and delivering on nutritional outcomes,” the FAO highlighted in marking the 2021 International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. The UN specialised agency has urged investment and prioritisation of new technology and innovations that directly address post-harvest food loss.

Investments to encourage African youth turning away from agriculture to reconsider opportunities in the sector is key given the need to generate jobs and repair food systems particularly impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, says Heifer International, which has promoted young, creative professionals deploying technology innovations to transform agriculture in Africa.

“Young entrepreneurs across Africa understand the struggles of their parent’s generation and have seen how this has discouraged the people around them from pursuing careers in the agriculture sector,” commented Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president of Africa Programmes at Heifer International.

With support from Heifer and the AYuTe Africa Challenge, Ikegwuonu predicts to expand from 50 to 5000 ColdHubs across West Africa in the next five years.

“Too many African farmers do not get the income they deserve because they have no way of keeping their produce fresh. We are revolutionising storage with our Cold Hubs and ensuring that farmers get value for their produce by avoiding spoilage,” said Ikegwuonu.


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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Original Source: globalissues.org

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Up to 70% of Children in Developing Countries to Be Left Unable to Read?

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Credit: Shafiqul Alam Kiron/IPSby Baher Kamal (madrid)Monday, January 24, 2022Inter Press Service

The alarm bell has been rung by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, in his message on the International Day of Education, marked on 24 January 2022.

In fact, some 1.6 billion school and college students had their studies interrupted at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic — and it’s not over yet, said Guterres, adding that today, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, “exacerbating a global learning crisis.”

The UN Education, Sciencia and Culture Organisation (UNESCO), the World Bank and the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) have quantified the economic dimension of this drama.

Giant losses

“This generation of students now risk losing 17 trillion US dollars in lifetime earnings in present value, or about 14 percent of today’s global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as a result of COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures.”

The State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery report,  released in December 2021, shows that in low- and middle-income countries, the share of children living in Learning Poverty – already 53 percent before the pandemic – could potentially reach 70 percent given the long school closures and the ineffectiveness of remote learning to ensure full learning continuity during school closures.

According to the three world bodies’ report, simulations estimating that school closures resulted in significant learning losses are now being corroborated by real data.

And it provides some specific examples: regional evidence from Brazil, Pakistan, rural India, South Africa, and Mexico, among others, show substantial losses in maths and reading.

Analysis shows that in some countries, on average, learning losses are roughly proportional to the length of the closures. However, there was great heterogeneity across countries and by subject, students’ socioeconomic status, gender, and grade level.

“For example, results from two states in Mexico show significant learning losses in reading and in maths for students aged 10-15. The estimated learning losses were greater in maths than reading, and affected younger learners, students from low-income backgrounds, as well as girls disproportionately.”

Inequities of education, exacerbated

Learning to read is a milestone in every child’s life. Reading is a foundational skill, the report explains, adding that all children should be able to read by age 10. Reading is a gateway for learning as the child progresses through school – and conversely, an inability to read constraints opportunities for further learning.

“Beyond this, when children cannot read, it’s usually a clear indication that school systems aren’t well organised to help children learn in other areas such as maths, science, and the humanities either.”

And although it is possible to learn later in life with enough effort, children who don’t read by age 10 – or at the latest, by the end of primary school – usually fail to master reading later in their schooling career.

Even before COVID-19 disrupted education systems around the world, it was clear that many children around the world were not learning to read proficiently, according to the report. Even though the majority of children are in school, a large proportion are not acquiring fundamental skills.

“Moreover, 260 million children are not even in school. This is the leading edge of a learning crisis that threatens countries’ efforts to build human capital and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

No human capital

Without foundational learning, students often fail to thrive later in school or when they join the workforce.

“They don’t acquire the human capital they need to power their careers and economies once they leave school, or the skills that will help them become engaged citizens and nurture healthy, prosperous families. Importantly, a lack of foundational literacy skills in the early grades can lead to intergenerational transmission of poverty and vulnerability.”

As a major contributor to human capital deficits, the learning crisis undermines sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

To spotlight this crisis, the World Bank and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics jointly constructed the concept of Learning Poverty and an accompanying indicator.

“Learning poverty means being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10.”

Aggravating global learning crisis

COVID-19 is now wreaking havoc on the lives of young children, students, and youth. The disruption of societies and economies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is aggravating the global learning crisis and impacting education in unprecedented ways.

Learning poverty to rise

With more than a complete year of schooling lost in many parts of the world, learning poverty is estimated to rise to 63 percent in developing countries.

Gaping inequalities

UNESCO says that this fourth International Day of Education is marked “as our world stands at a turning point: gaping inequalities, a damaged planet, growing polarisation and the devastating impact of the global pandemic put us before a generational choice: Continue on an unsustainable path or radically change course.”

Education is key to charting the course towards more justice and sustainability, but it is “failing millions of children, youth and adults, increasing their exposure to poverty, violence and exploitation,” adds UNESCO.

Education, a human right

And here goes a needed reminder: the right to education is enshrined in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration calls for “free and compulsory elementary education.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989, goes further to stipulate that countries “shall make higher education accessible to all.”

Challenges

“Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future.”

But about 258 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school, and 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic maths…

And less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school.

“Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable,” warns the United Nations.

“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.”

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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Bringing Dry Land in the Sahel Back to Life

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©FAO/ Giulio NapolitanoA field with mid-moon dams used to save water in the coming rainy season in Burkina Faso.Saturday, January 22, 2022UN News

Those trying to grow crops in the Sahel region are often faced with poor soil, erratic rainfail and long periods of drought. However, the introduction of a state-of-the art heavy digger, the Delfino plough, is proving to be, literally, a breakthrough.

As part of its Action Against Desertification (AAD) programme, the FAO has brought the Delfino to four countries in the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal – to cut through impacted, bone-dry soil to a depth of more than half a metre.

The Delfino plough is extremely efficient: one hundred farmers digging irrigation ditches by hand can cover a hectare a day, but when the Delfino is hooked to a tractor, it can cover 15 to 20 hectares in a day.

Once an area is ploughed, the seeds of woody and herbaceous native species are then sown directly, and inoculated seedlings planted. These species are very resilient and work well in degraded land, providing vegetation cover and improving the productivity of previously barren lands. 

In Burkina Faso and Niger, the target number of hectares for immediate restoration has already been met and extended thanks to the Delfino plough. In Nigeria and Senegal, it is working to scale up the restoration of degraded land.

©FAO/ Giulio Napolitano

Workers preparing tractors to start ploughing in Burkina Faso.

Farming seen through a half-moon lens

This technology, whilst impressive, is proving to be successful because it is being used in tandem with traditional farming techniques.

“In the end the Delfino is just a plough. A very good and suitable plough, but a plough all the same,” says Moctar Sacande, Coordinator of FAO’s Action Against Desertification programme. “It is when we use it appropriately and in consultation and cooperation that we see such progress.”

The half-moon is a traditional Sahel planting method which creates contours to stop rainwater runoff, improving water infiltration and keeping the soil moist for longer. This creates favourable micro-climate conditions allowing seeds and seedlings to flourish.

The Delfino creates large half-moon catchments ready for planting seeds and seedlings, boosting rainwater harvesting tenfold and making soil more permeable for planting than the traditional – and backbreaking – method of digging by hand.

“The whole community is involved and has benefitted from fodder crops such as hay as high as their knees within just two years”, says Mr. Sacande. “They can feed their livestock and sell the surplus, and move on to gathering products such as edible fruits, natural oils for soaps, wild honey and plants for traditional medicine”.

©FAO/ Giulio Napolitano

Women dig mid-moon dams to save water in Niger.

Women taking the lead

According to Nora Berrahmouni, who was FAO’s Senior Forestry Officer for the African Regional Office when the Delfino was deployed, the plough will also reduce the burden on women.

“The season for the very hard work of hand-digging the half-moon irrigation dams comes when the men of the community have had to move with the animals. So, the work falls on the women,” says Ms. Berrahmouni.

Because the Delfino plough significantly speeds up the ploughing process and reduces the physical labour needed, it gives women extra time to manage their multitude of other tasks.

The project also aims to boost women’s participation in local land restoration on a bigger scale, offering them leadership roles through the village committees that plan the work of restoring land. Under the AAD programme, each site selected for restoration is encouraged to set up a village committee to manage the resources, so as to take ownership right from the beginning.

“Many women are running the local village committees which organise these activities and they are telling us they feel more empowered and respected,” offers Mr. Sacande.

Respecting local knowledge and traditional skills is another key to success. Communities have long understood that half-moon dams are the best way of harvesting rainwater for the long dry season. The mighty Delfino is just making the job more efficient and less physically demanding.

©FAO/ Giulio Napolitano

Tractors at work to prepare the land for plantation in Burkina Faso.

Millions of hectares lost to the desert, forests under threat

And it is urgent that progress is made. Land loss is a driver of many other problems such as hunger, poverty, unemployment, forced migration, conflict and an increased risk of extreme weather events related to climate change.

In Burkina Faso, for example, a third of the landscape is degraded. This means that over nine million hectares of land, once used for agriculture, is no longer viable for farming.

It is projected that degradation will continue to expand at 360 000 hectares per year. If the situation is not reversed, forests are at risk of being cleared to make way for productive agricultural land.

Africa is currently losing four million hectares of forest every year for this reason, yet has more than 700 million hectares of degraded land viable for restoration. By bringing degraded land back to life, farmers do not have to clear additional forest land to turn into cropland for Africa’s rising population and growing food demands.

When Mr. Sacande talks about restoring land in Africa, the passion in his voice is evident. “Restoring degraded land back to productive good health is a huge opportunity for Africa. It brings big social and economic benefits to rural farming communities,” he says. “It’s a bulwark against climate change and it brings technology to enhance traditional knowledge.”

A version of this story first appeared on the FAO website.

Action Against Desertification – Delfino ploughs for land preparation and landscape restoration

© UN News (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

Original Article: globalissues.org

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From Milan to Glasgow, Young Moroccans Commit to Fighting Climate Change

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© United Nations MoroccoYoung Moroccan climate activists and entrepreneurs are taking a group photo with Sylvia Lopez-Ekra in Morocco.Saturday, January 22, 2022UN News

Behind all these initiatives, are the young men and women featured in “From Milan to Glasgow: Moroccan Youth Leaders in the Spotlight“, a new campaign launched by the United Nations team in Morocco to empower young people to take climate action and reduce the harmful carbon emissions that are dangerously heating the planet.

For the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Morocco, Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, the new campaign is a “bet on the importance of partnering with Moroccan youth invested in climate issues.”

Tipping the balance

One of the activists featured is Manal Bidar, an 18-year-old from the city of Agadir, who believes “it is young people who can tip the balance to the right side in the fight against climate change.”

She first got involved in climate and environment action at 13, when she joined a group of friends from a local club, to clean a beach.

She is now an ambassador for the African Youth Climate Hub, a platform that brings together activists from the continent, and serves as an advisor to the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), an international non-profit dedicated to promote climate-resilience around the world. 

‘Fight of our lives’

Like Ms. Bidar, Hasnae Bakhchouch, a 22-year-old student from Rabat, is taking action to tackle the impact of climate change. 

“With its adverse effects on biodiversity and the health of living beings, climate change jeopardizes societies and can cause conflicts over access to natural resources”, she says.

Ms. Bakhchouch was a National Coordinator of the Moroccan youth delegation to the UN Conference of Youth on Climate, held in September 2021 in Milan, Italy. 

She explains that the goal was to draft recommendations for the 26th UN Climate Change conference (COP26), which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, a couple of months later. 

The Conference closed with a “compromise” deal, which the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said was simply “not enough”. 

At the time, the UN chief encouraged young people and everyone leading the charge, to keep fighting. 

“We are in the fight of our lives, and this fight must be won”, he said. 

From coffee to bricks

One day, while enjoying a cup of coffee, Hamza Laalej, a 23-year-old Moroccan student from Meknes, asked himself if there was a way to recycle the large amount of coffee grounds that end up in the garbage every day. 

Months later, Mr. Laalej managed to turn his idea into a viable green business, where one of the main products is an eco-friendly brick made with a mix of coffee grounds and regular clay.

“Inspired by the Moroccan craft tradition, the production of these bricks relies on [using less] heating, thus helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, he explains. 

Since then, he has teamed up with 23-year-old Moroccan, Nour El Houda Ben Khoudja, to launch a company that specializes in the collection, sorting, and transformation of coffee grounds into building materials and decoration products.

“You don’t have to wait for the perfect time to start [a green business]. It’s the obstacles you encounter along the way that make business creation an inspiring and fruitful adventure”, he says. 

Green entrepreneurs

A roundtable organized last November, during the launch of this UN campaign, saw other young people present their green start-up projects.

Oussama Nour and Mohamed Taha El Ouaryachi, for example, introduced WAVEBEAT, a company that aims to produce electricity from ocean waves.

© United Nations Morocco

Oussama Nour, President, and Mohamed Taha El Ouaryachi, General Director of WAVEBEA in Morocco

The goal is to provide companies operating in the Moroccan port of Tangier Med, with a renewable alternative to meet their energy needs.

Younes Ouazri presented an ecological and energy-efficient construction method to build homes, including seasonal residences and tourism resorts, using locally sourced materials. 

Hicham Zouaoui and Otman Harrak spoke about their carpooling app, that currently allows some 400,000 Moroccans to travel across the Kingdom, helping save on transportation costs and reducing CO2 emissions.

For his part, Seifeddin Laalej heads a start-up that specializes in recycling plastic waste to manufacture building materials, which he sells all over the country.

“It is important that young people believe in their potential and launch their own projects based on their skills and professional networks”, he said. 

A key player

According to the UN Resident Coordinator, “thanks to its climate policy for the past years, Morocco has become a key leader on initiatives for climate action.”

Through an ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction programme and strategies for the preservation of natural resources, Morocco intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45.5 per cent by 2030 and achieve a 52 per cent share of renewable energy in its energy mix in the same year. 

The country is currently one of the few nations with a nationally determined contribution (NDC) in line with the global target of 1.5°C.

© UN News (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

Article: globalissues.org

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