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Educate. Empower. Act. The mission of Project WET is to reach children, parents, educators and communities of the world with water education. We invite you to join us in educating children about the most precious resource on the planet — water.
State of the World 2011: Innovations
that Nourish the Planet (available
Assessing the state of agricultural innovations with the goal of both informing global efforts to eradicate hunger and raising the profile of these efforts, the Nourishing the Planet project is culminating this week with the release of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. Nourishing the Planet is a program of the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C. that its website says is "recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues." Produced with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, State of the World 2011 is a comprehensive report that focuses on the global food crisis, with particular emphasis on global innovations that can help solve a worldwide problem.
Danielle Nierenberg (photo
courtesy of Bernard Pollack)
With the book launch imminent, Project WET asked State of the World Project Director Danielle Nierenberg to address some of what the project has uncovered, how ordinary people can impact agricultural problems and how water education can improve lives.
Project WET Foundation (PWF): How did the Nourishing the Planet project get started, and how would you describe its primary goals?
Danielle Nierenberg (DN): We decided that we wanted to highlight innovations in Africa that are successful-agricultural practices that are helping alleviate hunger and poverty, while also protecting the environment. Too often the only "news" we hear about Africa focuses on conflict, disease or famine, but we wanted to make sure that our readers also knew about the stories of hope and success from the continent. From school garden projects in Uganda to solar drip irrigation techniques in Niger, we wanted to shine a light on innovations that can be replicated or scaled up in other parts of Africa and the world.
At a field visit with the International Crops Research Institute
for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Niger (photo courtesy of Bernard
PWF: Nourishing the Planet has been featured in a variety of media outlets all around the world. Why do you think the project has resonated so strongly?
DN: I think it's for a couple of different reasons. One is our focus highlighting African-led success stories. As I mentioned before, people are used to hearing bad news from Africa. The pictures they have in their head of the continent are of children with swollen bellies from malnutrition or riots in the streets of Cote d'Ivoire. And while it is important to know about these issues, there is another side to Africa, one that is full of hope and courage and solutions. Second is the variety of stories we're telling. Every week we highlight an innovation of the week; every Monday we focus on a different indigenous vegetable; and we frequently incorporate video and photos from our on-the-ground research and interviews (Nourishing the Planet Communications Consultant Bernard Pollack has taken most of the beautiful photos we put on the blog).
PWF: The State of the World 2011 report is about to be released, and I noticed in the table of contents that Chapter Four is devoted to the issue of water and agriculture. What do you see as the primary ways that water plays into the global food situation?
DN: In sub-Saharan Africa, only 4 percent of the cultivated land is equipped for irrigation and a majority of African livelihoods are dependent on rainfed agriculture. Meanwhile, due to climate change, rainfall on the continent is expected to decline in the coming decades. Improving access to water as well as conserving water that is already available will be a critical component in improving livelihoods and diets for farmers across the continent. One example of an innovation helping to do just that is the foot-operated treadle-pump which is enabling some 250,000 farmers in sub-saharan Africa get more water to their crops, boosting productivity, improving harvest reliability and increasing incomes. Affordable micro-irrigation such as drip irrigation technology helps farmers to use limited water supplies more efficiently, often doubling water productivity by delivering water directly to the roots of plants through perforated pipes or tubes. These systems can be as affordable as a $5 bucket kit or a $25 drum kit. And farmers are also learning to use rainfall more effectively by implementing conservation tillage methods such as timely weeding and mulching, and planting vegetative barriers that all help to maximize rainwater stored in the soil and plants as moisture.
With ICRISAT in Niger (photo courtesy of
PWF: Your "What Works" feature attempts to engage people on the ground in sharing solutions for problems that cross national boundaries. How else are you engaging directly with "street level", and how are you disseminating any lessons learned?
DN: We try to create a dialogue on Nourishing the Planet. We engage readers by asking questions, issuing surveys and featuring their responses in regular posts on the blog. Many of the innovations we visited on the ground throughout sub-Saharan Africa were at the suggestion of readers in response to columns we've done for newspapers, posts we've featured on the blog and questions we've asked on Facebook and Twitter. We also publish a weekly newsletter that hits tens of thousands of subscribers—now weekly in five languages French, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin—where we frequently encourage readers to write back to us. We'll be pushing the many valuable lessons we've learned throughout the project through the launch of State of the World 2011 on five continents, briefings with policymakers, visits with universities, editorial boards and so much more. Finally, our on the ground research continues in February where we will unearth new innovations working on the ground in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and other countries.
PWF: As a water education organization, we're interested in finding ways to implement education that leads to meaningful local action. What role do you see for education in general and water education specifically in solving the global food crisis?
DN:Water is obviously vital for growing food everywhere in the world and particularly in places where climate change is taking a bigger hold. We need to find better ways of educating farmers, policymakers, eaters, consumers and others about ways of more efficiently using water and taking care of water resources. I'm a big believer in knowledge as power—the more they know, the better they are able to protect not just water but all of our natural resources. Organizations like Project Wet are playing a critical role in disseminating vital information on these issues, and I think that is so important.
Project WET is seeking the input of early childhood educators on our Early Childhood Water Education Survey. The results will help us as we work on developing educational materials for young children. In addition to being a part of shaping future materials for classroom use, all educators who complete the survey will also be entered into a drawing to win an iPad®. (Not bad for 15 minutes of your time!)
Project WET Healthy Habits Model School teacher and AfricaSan Grassroots Champion runner-up Aggrey Oluka sent along some of the pictures he was able to get at the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) AfricaSan Awards ceremony, which was held in late 2010 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Oluka was presented with an honorarium, trophy and certificate in a special ceremony at the 3rd Africa Water Week.
Aggrey Oluka with his Grassroots Champion Runner-Up Award
Naturally, Mr. Oluka was not the only award winner being honored. As the Sanitation Update blog reports:
"A musician and activist whose songs about using latrines and washing hands are positively influencing the hygiene practices of communities in Mozambique; a widow who has risen through her caste status to lead a campaign against open defecation in her village in Ethiopia; and a toilet entrepreneur whose innovative partnership with local authorities is changing the way public toilets in Kenyan towns are managed, are the top winners of this year's AMCOW AfricaSan Awards."
The 2010 AMCOW AfricaSan winners pose for a group picture
To learn more about Aggrey Oluka, read "Success Story: Uganda Science Teacher Named Grassroots Champion Runner-Up." For more information about the awards, visit the African Water Week Daily newsletter or the Sanitation Update blog.
We received this fun email today from one of the people that Molly and Morgan trained this summer in Tanzania:
"I am...greeting u all the way from newala-mtwara. the project here in newala is doing well and schools has established and adopted handwashing habits."
These sorts of emails are the best holiday presents for the international staff, who can see their impact on one person and a community.
The office will close for the holidays on December 24th and will re-open on January 3rd. See you in 2011!
Happy Holidays from Project WET!