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FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS (FAO)
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TECHNOLOGY FOR MYANMAR’ S POOREST. “We hardly have any expenditures on fire wood anymore,” says
U Kyaw Sein Aung. Since the installation of a small biogas plant
in his house, this farmer covers almost 90 percent of his fuel
needs with biogas.
Between March and April 2009, 75 similar plants have been
built in Northern Rakhine State, where U Kyaw Sein Aung lives,
part of a European Union-funded FAO initiative, employing
modern technology to stem the depletion of the area’s forest
resources by developing alternative fuels for the growing
population that uses more and more forest wood.
“The integration of new technologies into farmers’ social
systems is of paramount importance in predominantly
agricultural economies such as Myanmar’s,” said Shin Imai,
the FAO Representative in the country, stressing that providing
technology is one of the pillars of FAO’s activities funded by the
EU in 2008–2010 in support of Myanmar’s neediest farmers.
AFRICA: ALLY AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE.“Agriculture must play a central role in reducing Africa’s carbon emissions,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Regional Representative for Africa, told the opening of the CarboAfrica conference in November 2008. Over 100 participants from the international scientific community, governments and the United Nations flocked to the Ghanaian capital to discuss the preliminary results of research led by CarboAfrica, a consortium of 15 institutions from Africa and Europe, including FAO, set up in 2006 with €2.8 million from the European Commission. Sub-Saharan Africa’s role in the global climate system has been little studied. In the context of climate change and the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, CarboAfrica attempts to provide scientific evidence to underpin policy in resource management and participation in carbon credit markets.
CASSAVA’S COMEBACK. After years of massive crop losses caused by a devastating virus, farmers were harvesting healthy cassava – one of Africa’s principal food stuffs – throughout Africa’s Great Lakes region in the fall of 2008. Harvesting became possible after virus-free planting material was distributed to some 330 000 smallholders in countries struck by the virus – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. The improved crop now benefits a total of some 1.65 million people.
KEEPING TABS ON SOARING PRICES. This small country in the Caucasus saw food and fuel prices soar in 2007–2008. The government tried to protect the most vulnerable people by raising the minimum wage, pensions and social assistance. How did they know how much to increase the payments? This is where accurate, timely and easy-to-use statistics are critical. The Armenian National Statistical Service monitors the cost of 200 food items all over the country every 10 days. The ministry of agriculture and the metrological service also collect data on food production and the weather. Together all the data paint a picture of the country’s situation and help the government make important policy decisions.
DEALING WITH DROUGHT. One early morning, Thalasso Badage, a young Gabbra woman, is fastening two containers on the back of a crouching camel. Once the load is fixed, the camel rises and joins a departing caravan. On the plain leading to the rain basin at the foot of the mountain of Afkaba, it’s hard to imagine how this terrain of dark volcanic rocks interspersed with scant grass can be used for grazing. Although the Gabbra, camel herders from the dry north of Kenya, have adapted to their harsh environment, the pressure on their way of life is mounting. Population growth and conflicts over limited resources have made them ever more susceptible to shocks like soaring food prices. In early 2009, the United Nations warned that 20 million people are in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa.
BRINGING BACK BASIC FARMING SKILLS. Scores of farmers have come to help Sylvestre Bucumi to dig ditches on his field in southern Burundi’s Ramvija district, where he plants banana, maize and beans. This is a collective effort, he says, explaining that together the farmers also take care of the fields of all the others. “Even our president has said: ‘It is time to work together.’” The farmers dig these transversal ditches to trap highly fertile topsoil that could otherwise be washed away by rain. “It is a way to preserve the little bit of fertilizer we have,” says Cassien Nsanzurwimo, who leads their work. Nsanzurwimo graduated from a nation-wide training programme for extension workers. In 2006, the Burundian government hired 2 803 extensionists, one for each colline or hillside, the country’s smallest administrative unit. With €1.5 million in funding from the European Union, FAO helped to train these new extension workers.
© FAO 2009