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Archive for January, 2013

Communicating Climate Change in Fayoum

Written by Amena Adel – International Youth Climate Ambassador

On January the 3rd 2013, 18 media enthusiasts from all over Egypt came together in Zad Al Musafer in Tunis- Fayoum to explore possibilities of communicating climate knowledge. From Sinai in the east to Alexandria in the west, and from governorates all over Egypt, they had each experienced the indirect and in some cases the direct impacts of climate change. With the help of Frank Thor Straten, Danish media and communication consultant, Mostafa Hussein, trainer in the field of Environmental professions, the Egyptian DEMENA team and 350.org volunteers, they went through a 3-day workshop to sculpt their skills and utilize them to encourage citizen journalism on Climate Change.
The global climatic crisis is the most demanding issue facing humanity in this era of environmental oblivion, and that’s why there’s a need for strong Media products communicating the issue, the ramifications, the consequences and the solutions.

Egypt is one of the countries most vulnerable to Climate Change, even though the river Nile passes through Egypt, in a lot of places water is an extremely scarce resource. Egypt’s share of the river Nile water has been 55 million cubic meters since 1995, which wasn’t enough for the entire population then, and it sure is not enough now that the population tripled. Add to that rising water levels of salty sea water submerging parts of the Nile Delta, and salinating massive parts of agricultural land and submerging parts of the coastal cities. Other than water issues, Egypt faces a lot of health challenges as a result of deteriorating air and water quality and escalating energy insufficiency issues.

The current political and economic scene in Egypt is very turbulent, which gives very little space for climate change and environmental issues in the public arena. But if we fail to draw the connection between environmental issues and economic issues then we fail to solve either problem, Egypt has recently changed from a gas exporting to a gas importing company, which will take an incredible toll on the national economy and clearly shows that our dependency on conventional energy resources no longer works.

There’s a grave need for localized climate solutions in Egypt including spreading environmental awareness, which pushed for having a Media workshop, and Fayoum was the best place to do it. Fayoum is an Agricultural governorate overlooking Qaroun Lake, a salt water lake. An extremely peaceful Tunis city in Fayoum was definitely an inspirational and resourceful place to hold a workshop to spread the word about environmental problems in Egypt. Participants went through a 3-day training and brainstorming to come up with the best topics to tackle and the methods to tackle them with, and here’s what they came up with!

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXyKx0QiGOLSUYGVDvvu1E0qZYGMkzFCj

The enormity of the problem makes it surprising how simple the solutions are. Mobilizing local communities towards a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways of living would soon enough change national tactics. And what is the world but a community?

1000 Gardens Workshop with DEMENA

Written by Nour Khalil – DEMENA Egyptian National Ambassadors

 This was a workshop I attended as a volunteer for DEMENA, it was hosted by Nawaya at the remote “Fagnoun”, however the area fit the bill exactly with its clean water and stretches of surrounding agricultural land. At the start of the workshop, everyone introduced themselves briefly and I was struck with how varied our backgrounds were. There were teachers and agricultural experts from Fayoum, members of other environmental organizations in Cairo and simply interested individuals with no special affiliations.

After the usual ice-breaker phase, we were introduced to Slow Food and the 1000 Gardens Project aiming “to create a thousand food gardens in schools, villages and on the outskirts of cities in 25 African countries.” As well as permaculture. I will be using a few quotes here to illustrate as well as humbly recognize that I am still “green” at all this stuff…see what I did there? Can’t blame me for trying. Slow Food, the organization that initiated the project is “a global, grassroots organization with supporters in 150 countries around the world who are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to their community and the environment” Needless to say; they had me at “pleasure of good food”.  Egypt is sadly the African country with the least gardens so far:http://www.slowfood.com/international/1/about-us?-session=query_session:29ED6F83189683665Ckt1D9889FA

Moving on to the elements of Permaculture:  “Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.”Graham Bell, from The Permaculture Way. The way permaculture is often explained to me is the picture of a forest, the way layers upon layers of earth and canopy and organisms co-exist so that life naturally grows.

We discussed a basic permaculture plan: according to the following criteria

  • What is usable? what is biodegradable and what isn’t?
  • What is available on location?
  • What is the sunlight’s location and direction? What is the wind direction?
  • Are there any “plant buddies” that will help this plant grow? Like plants that can grow on top of each other: corn, mellon and green beans.

General notes to remember: careful that the soil contains essential nutrients, N, P, C and K by having the appropriate organic matter as fertilizer.

To test for soil type use this test: fill a jar with the soil with 2/3 water, shake it and let it precipitate into layers with sand being the heaviest type staying at the bottom of the jar

The rest of the workshop was devoted to rooftop garden methods, and composting methods

In boxes, padded with plastic with small drainage tubes, cloth under seeds, rocks to provide air between seeds and soil. Cover with organic matter to prevent excess evaporation.

The model my group worked on; I thought it was easy enough to do just about anywhere, vertical plastic bottles, can be strapped to wooden board in kitchen with wire.

  • Seeds and soil, cover with organic matter to prevent excess evaporation.
  • Plastic mineral water bottle growing: as in picture, strapped to wooden board with wire, holes made with cutter
  • Compost soil and rice straw for cover against evaporation. Seeds placed from top to bottom according to least needing water, to most needing water at bottom.

Directions for 18-day compost:

  • 18 day compost: tree leaves is the first layer to allow water, carbon on bottom: fallen leaves or rice straw,
  • Saplings, animal droppings, green plants. 3 parts carbon to one part nitrogen. Covered with rice paper, the
  • measure temp in a few days 70 degrees Celsius, then the heart is brought up to the top in another 2 days,
  • Repeat each two days till 18 days completion.

There you have it! I went home sore but with a delicious smelling sapling of thyme and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Plus the packs of seeds we got in our packs should come in handy soon if I have anything to say about it. My neighborhood better be ready…or at least not slam the door in my face upon hearing prospects of more work.

 

Original post can be viewed here: http://puddleofcats.tumblr.com/post/33183424139/1000-gardens-workshop-with-demena

Crossing Borders Global Studies: An Experience

Written by Rana ElMeligy – DEMENA Youth Climate Ambassador

 

I am lying down on my back, eyes closed, breeze gently going back and forth.  I think to myself how I never imagined or planned on being in this place at this time, or ever really. I am on top of a green hill, by the sea, in Samso- the model island of renewable energy-Denmark.

Spending five months in Denmark attending the Crossing Borders Global Studies program in Krogerup Hojskole is an experience I will never forget. The combination of time-off from the conventional life, and being away in a little town in Denmark, mixed with a fantastic combination of diverse students and teachers, all resulted in me living a very memorable time. It was in Krogerup when I usually had the peace of mind to sit down and write down my thoughts, usually by a beautiful tree or in the cozy fireplace room. It was in Krogerup that I engaged in endless discussions about religion, politics, feminism, culture, and so much more. Why is that? Were the students luckily extremely well educated and sophisticated young minds? Well, they were, but this is not the reason. When a group of people are put together in one place, encouraged to interact, socialize, coexist, discover, bridge the gaps, party, study together, great things happen. For me, I found myself in a setting different than any other setting I have been in before. It was very international, yet very traditional Danish. I was so different, yet I had no trouble blending in at times, and showing my uniqueness at others. I reached a whole new level of tolerance and acceptance of differences, and I am happy that I made this happen for other people as well.

Something that strongly characterizes Krogerup is that nothing stays in the classroom, or just the classroom. While the classroom is a space for expression, creativity, debates and a constant exchange of thoughts and opinions, dreams and aspirations, plans and experiences, these can take place anywhere, anytime, with anyone.  It was quite normal for me to indulge in an interesting conversation about the Arab Spring at 2 a.m. in the Portuguese kitchen.

It is rare to find yourself in a place that is so busy, enriching, challenging, yet provides you the opportunity to grow, discover yourself, and pushes you to go crazy with your future plans! I still remember how odd the term ‘global citizen’ sounded to me the first day in the CB classroom, and I look at how much meaning has been added to it now as I write this. I hope I go back there one day, possibly for the reunion of my class of twenty different nationalities.


Good Food Goes Bad

Tristram Stuart

“If we fail to deal with the disposal of edible food, then what about problems that do not depend only on us!”

He is an environmentalist from a young age. When he was fifteen he started his own little farm and fed the animals in it with discarded food from the school kitchen and local shops. Then he realized that the complex system for creation and delivery of food to consumers leads to heavy losses throughout the supply chain. Later he began unravelling this problem through a targeted media campaign. After releasing his book “bloodless revolution” ( Bloodless revolution ), he published “Waste: exposing the global food scandal” ( Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal). In the same year he comes to a thought that the best way to demonstrate the extent of the scandal – and moreover the fact that his decision tastes superb (ie – eating food instead of throwing it) – is to feed five thousand people with food that would otherwise be discarded. Since then, the event (called Feeding the 5000 ) occurs in several cities in the United Kingdom and the European Commission, hearing the whole story, ordered its organization throughout Europe.

In addition to promoting the ideas and delving into containers in supermarkets, Tristram Stuart has been involved with teaching English in one of the colleges of the University of Cambridge.

You can learn more about his initiative from this video:

Sooo… what is the fuss all about?!? I don’t spill that much food!!!

The publication of the UK Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Report, ‘Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not’ estimated that 30-50% of food produced around the world (or between 1.2-2 billion tonnes) ends up as waste every year.

This is an obscene statistic when millions of people globally go to bed hungry every night, and it has serious implications for climate change: the amount of fossil fuels used to grow, fertilise, harvest and transport goods that are then thrown away, is immense.

It also puts strain on water resources as many of these wasted crops are irrigated, depleting rivers and reservoirs and leading to conflict ‘downstream’. The manner of disposal of this ‘waste’ must be questioned too. Is it redistributed for social good, composted or as a last resort, burned to create energy from waste? No – much of it is landfilled, producing methane and other greenhouses gases as it rots. What a waste!

One of the reasons for the shocking wastage of perfectly good food is ridiculously limiting sell-by and use-by dates. Food is often safely edible days after its expiry date, but consumers will throw it away because of the use-by date.

There are lots of pioneering organisations in the UK that are looking at reducing food waste, but one of my favourites is The Gleaning Network, which takes its name from the ancient practice of ‘gleaning’: the collection of surplus crops after harvest.

The Gleaning Network aims to address food waste on farms by coordinating local volunteers, growers and food redistribution charities to harvest unwanted fruit and vegetables (rejected because they don’t conform to supermarkets’ strict ‘aesthetic’ regulations) and transport them to groups that are helping the most vulnerable members of society.

To ensure that the maximum amount of surplus produce is saved in the most energy-efficient way, The Gleaning Network established a national network of local ‘gleaning hubs’, each consisting of local growers, food redistribution charities and volunteers who can rapidly mobilise and work together to harvest and redistribute the produce to local charities.

To date, five pilot projects have already salvaged several tonnes of apples, cabbages, spring greens and strawberries on farms in Kent, Sussex and Lincolnshire; food which has the been used to make thousands of meals for vulnerable people across the country. Gleaned produce was also used in Feeding the 5000 events in London and Bristol, which provided a free meal for 5,000 people made from food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

Tristram Stuart, Founder of The Gleaning Network, said: “Amazingly, there has been no systematic study of food waste at the farm level either in the UK or elsewhere in Europe or the US. In my experience, it’s normal practice for farmers to assume that 20% to 40% of their fruit and vegetable crops won’t get to market [because they are misshapen or the wrong size], even if they are perfectly fit for human consumption.”

Another good initiative is the Fødevarebanken in Denmark. The Foodbank is a voluntary association that receives surplus food from food manufacturers, supermarkets and wholesalers and distribute it among society socially vulnerable – including children, crisis battered women, the homeless, drug addicts and mentally ill. People who have no psychological or economic profits to buy and make healthy and nutritious food.

 The amount of food lost through its supply-chain journey throughout the world is unthinkable. This is an estimation of the amount of food lost in India and China:

Food is lost at every stage of the farm-to-table journey. Take produce: a report from America’s Natural Defense Resource Council estimates that 7 percent of planted fields in the United States go unharvested each year. Some fruits and vegetables are never harvested because of damage from pests, disease, or bad weather. (Consider this summer’s record-setting drought.) Produce also goes unpicked when farmers can’t find buyers, or when prices are so low they don’t even cover the cost of harvest and transport.

Even produce that’s harvested may still be thrown out simply because of its appearance: it isn’t the right color, size, or shape, or it has other imperfections. If a peach isn’t pretty enough, it doesn’t make it to the store.

Grocery stores are another source of food waste. Heaping displays of fruits and veggies that are designed to entice consumers crush produce at the bottom. Milk and dairy products with sell-by dates — which are not the same as expiration dates — are often pulled from the shelves well before they would spoil. Prepared foods are also an increasing source of food waste, as groceries keep their buffets fully stocked until closing time, resulting in many trays of discarded edibles.

A staggering amount of food waste, however, occurs in restaurants and in our own homes. American families throw out a significant portion of the food they buy, according to the report. “Imagine walking out of the grocery store with three bags of groceries, then just leaving one in the parking lot,” says Dana Gunders, a food and agriculture expert at NRDC and the author of the report. “A lot of people are trying to be conscious eaters, but this issue just isn’t on their radar,” she says. Even when consumers buy organic and limit meat consumption, they often buy and cook more than they can eat.

Restaurants often contribute to the problem by featuring extensive menu choices and oversize portions. Diners leave 17 percent of their meals uneaten, and 55 percent of those leftovers aren’t even taken home, according to the report.

Conclusion:

Now that the problems are identified, we should not hide them in the closet and pretend that they do not exist. These problems call for attention and there are many possibilities to solve them. The farm-to-market supply chain craves for modernisation, the food waste networks long for attention and participation in them. Let’s take the challenge and face the problems!

DEMENA evaluation videos: Climate Ambassadors (Egypt)

Interviews with two of the Egyptian Climate Ambassadors about being part of the project:

DEMENA evaluation video: Climate Ambassador (Jordan)

Interviews with one of the Egyptian Climate Ambassadors about the project:

The first DEMENA evaluation videos, Innovation Cup winners (Jordan)

Interviews with two of the Jordanian Innovation Cup winners about their projects:

Adaptation to a changing climate in the Arab countries

Countries in the Middle East and north Africa will be among those hardest hit by global warming, unless the upward trend for greenhouse gas emissions can be checked, the World Bank warned last month at the Doha climate change conference.

There will be lower rainfall, higher temperatures and continuing desertification, said Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president for sustainable development, during her presentation of the report on Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries.According to the report extreme weather events are the new norm for the region. The consequences of the global phenomenon of climate change are especially acute in the Arab world.  While the region has been adapting to changes in rainfall and temperature for thousands of years, the speed with which the climate is now changing has, in many cases, outstripped traditional coping mechanisms.

According to the forecasts, average temperatures could rise by 3C between now and 2050. But night temperatures in city centres could increase by double that figure. The report notes that over the last three decades 50 million people have been affected by climate disasters. Severe flooding is now a recurrent event. But the increasing scarcity of water resources is the biggest challenge for countries in the region, which already have some of the lowest per capita reserves in the world.Fortunately, Arab countries can take steps to reduce the impacts of climate change. The report outlines measures that not only potentially reduce the region’s vulnerability, but can also contribute to more sustainable long-term development.

The report offers a model, an ‘Adaptation Pyramid Framework,’ to strengthen public sector management in a changing climate, and to assist stakeholders in integrating climate risks and opportunities into all development activities. The main messages suggest that countries and households will need to diversify their production and income generation, integrate adaptation into all policy making and activities, and ensure a sustained national commitment to address the social, economic and environmental consequences. With these coordinated efforts the Arab world will be able to rise to the challenge once again and, as it has for centuries, successfully adapt to a changing climate.

What is your opinion about this information? You can share your opinion in the comments section.

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