Microentrepreneurship program for villagers in the Gambia
FAO press release
September 9, 2005
Rome – Poor communities in the Gambia are now earning regular income by selling forest products, thanks to an FAO programme that helps communities to build up markets for local products.
In a pilot area of 26 villages suffering extreme poverty, people learned about the potential value of forest products and how they could be marketed more successfully.
Villagers interested in marketing forest products have set up their own businesses and organized themselves in producer associations to sell honey, logs, fuelwood, mahogany posts, handicrafts and palm oil on nearby markets. They are also making additional income from tree nurseries and ecotourism.
“Before the start of the project, villagers had not explored the market potentials of handicrafts made of Rhun palm leaves, because they did not have the practical skills or market knowledge. Now they are selling products such as chairs, tables, lampshades, baskets and beds made of these leaves,” said Sophie Grouwels, an FAO community forestry expert.
A proposal to create a refuge for African wildlife in North America has come under harsh criticism from African conservationists according to a report from Sapa-AFP.
August 23, 2005
In a new report, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says energy poverty is seriously impeding socio-economic development in the world’s poorest countries. Noting that in the developing countries some 1.6 billion people still lack access to electricity and about 2.4 billion continue to rely on traditional biomass like fuelwood for cooking and heating, Annan calls for intensified efforts to promote renewable energy sources for the poor
The Wall Street Journal today featured an article on a contingent of American representatives who went to Mali to help local cotton farmers as a PR gesture. While the group offered poor African farmers tips on boosting productivity the real reason for the trip was to build regional goodwill in the face of a World Trade Organization ruling that found subsidies to American cotton farmers illegal.
African scientists, in conjunction with research facilities in the United States, are working toward developing super strains of traditional nutritional staples in Africa. This project was stimulated in part by the Grand Challenges program, which seeks to tackle major problems associated with global health. The program has an operating budget of $500 million primarily from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has contributed $450 million. The United Kingdom’s The Wellcome Trust and the Canadian government have also contributed, $27 million and $4.5 million, respectively to the program. This sum will be divided among 43 individual projects designed to address and ideally, conquer these problems.
Key to Elephant Conservation is in The Sauce: Fiery chillies keep elephants out of crops and make a great sauce, say African entrepreneurs.
For all the talk about “making poverty history” through aid and debt relief at the G8 meeting in Scotland and among aging rock stars at Live8 concerts, perhaps the best tool for poverty alleviation on the continent is the mobile phone. Yes, that ubiquitous handheld device has done wonders for the poor around the world.
This past Saturday millions of people watched the anti-poverty “Live 8” concerts held in London, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Philadelphia and Barrie, Canada. Live 8 coincides with tomorrow’s G8 summit of world leaders and aims to raise awareness of the need for aid, debt relief and fairer trade for Africa. While the cancellation of debt and delivery of aid to Africa is a noble and needed cause for a desparately poor continent, policy makers will need to ensure that funds are spent wisely to maximize the benefits for the largest number of Africans. In the past, aid to the developing world has met mixed reviews. Some of the largest recipients of aid are still some of the world’s poorest countries. What’s going on here? Have aid agencies just been throwing money into a hole?.
For all the hype around sending billions of dollars in aid to Africa, it is important to remember that money must be spent wisely. Some of the largest recipients of aid in the past are still some of the world’s poorest countries thanks to corrupt regimes that consumed massive amounts of aid. Direct aid has not only bred corruption and the misallocation of resources away from those who need it most, but it has also fostered dependency and skewed the perceived value of goods and services. One program that could have potential for real poverty alleviation in Africa is a “Gray Corps” concept which would take advantage of the experience and expertise of aging Americans (aged 65 and older), a segment of the population that is expected to grow from approximately 35 million in 2000 to an estimated 71 million in 2030. This group could be key to addressing a number of looming social issues both here in the United States and abroad.
Environmentalists usually oppose logging, associating it with deforestation and biodiversity loss. A new report, Life after logging: reconciling wildlife conservation and production forestry in Indonesian Borneo, from CIFOR suggests that in reality, many logging operations have a lesser impact than than generally believed by conservationists. Further, since more forests in Borneo — the area of study — are allocated for logging than for protected areas it is imperative that we have a better understanding of how biological diversity and ecological services can be maintained in such areas and how they can be integrated with protected areas into “multi-functional conservation landscapes.” Conservationists, loggers, and policy-makers alike need to recognize that logged-over forests have conservation value and work to ensure that these areas are indeed used for this purpose especially when other options for biodiversity conservation are not available.
Old growth tropical forests are valuable and irreplaceable ecosystems that house the majority of Earth’s known terrestrial biological diversity. While these forests are rapidly disappearing, they are not necessarily being completely cleared without replacement. In some regions, primary forests are being replaced with “cultivated forests” or “forest gardens,” where useful trees are planted on farmlands after the removal of pre-existing natural forests. A new report Domesticating forests: How farmers manage forest resources by Geneviève Michon explores the characteristics and implications of these forests in Indonesia..
China, as the fastest growing economy in the world, is poised to make significant impacts on the global market and the global environment, especially with its expanding involvement with nations rich in natural resources but deficient in economic and political stability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa where China has rapidly bolstered its ties in recent years with the majority of the continent’s 54 nations.
In the Gambia, forests were deteriorating at an alarming rate partly due to the state-controlled forest management approach, which ignored the local population. Therefore, in the 1990s, the Gambian government introduced community forestry, giving ownership to the communities, in an attempt to improve forest management. Despite this change, the communities still did not have many incentives to conserve the forests until the programme was introduced.
“In the past, when people from the village saw bushfires, we only protected the village but didn’t care if the entire forest burned. We thought it didn’t matter because regardless of what happened, the government would take whatever was there. Now, we know things are different. If we see a fire five kilometres away, we go and see where it is and where it is going. We don’t let our forests burn,” said Modu Jarju from one of the villages.
“People who used to shun managing forests or exploited them, are now asking for more forests to own and manage in order to earn more income,” said Grouwels.
Communities that used to sell a truckload of fuelwood at around US$50 prior to their involvement in the FAO project are now selling the same amount of wood at around US$700 after having organized themselves in a producer federation.
“Given the success of this project, FAO hopes its methodology will be applied in other parts of the Gambia and other countries,” Grouwels said.
The project is funded by the Government of Norway.
Information Officer, FAO
maria.kruse [at] fao.org
(+39) 06 570 56524
(+39) 348 141 6590
This is a modified press release from the FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. This original can be found here