Categories
Archive

Putting Worms to Work

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Overuse of pesticides is now acknowledged as one of the gravest mistakes of the  Green Revolution, launched in the 1970s to dramatically increase food production in the developing world. Pesticides have polluted the environment, poisoned fertile soil, contaminated ground water and damaged human health.

According to Tata Energy Research, 57 per cent of India’s land is degraded. But the country, it is estimated, will need more than 45 million tons of grains to meet the country’s basic food requirements by 2030. There is little arable land left to cultivate, so it is crucial to develop plants that are more resistant to pests and other diseases.

Two innovations developed at  Patnagar University in Patnagar, India – the home of the first Green Revolution back in the 1970s – are now set to spark a second Green Revolution, eschewing harmful chemicals and instead turning to nature to help.

Drawing on the field of below-ground biodiversity (the study of all the nutrients and life forms in soil), scientists at the university are harnessing the elements within the soil, rather than placing chemicals on the soil.

Naturally occurring bacteria microbes have been isolated in the soil. It has been found that they are effective killers of pathogenic fungi diseases that affect plants. They do this by coiling around the fungi and destroying the cell walls of the pathogen. These naturally occurring bacteria effectively disinfect the soil of diseases, allowing the plant to flourish without the use of chemicals.

Patnagar University has patented this technique and sells the bacteria suspended in 200 gram packets of talcum powder to farmers. These so-called bioinoculants can be sown with the seeds or put in manure that is being spread as fertilizer.

Another natural innovation in this second Green Revolution uses common earthworms to tackle animal manure. There are about 1.3 billion cattle in the world, a billon sheep, a billion pigs, 800 million goats and 17 billion chickens (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO]). This huge mass of animals produces vast quantities of manure – an estimated 3 billion tons.

In 2006, an FAO report called animal manure “one of the top two of three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems at every scale.” Too much of it, and groundwater is contaminated and wetlands destroyed.

India produces millions of tons of livestock manure. Dr. R.J. Sharma, dean of veterinary and animal sciences at the Patnagar university, has found a handy way to rid farms of manure and produce highly useful fertiliser (and extra income!) for agriculture by using epigeic earthworms, or vermicomposting.

Dr Sharma explains that his herd of 750 cows and buffalo on his dairy farm were becoming a big problem: “Previously we had a problem disposing this excreta, and we are dumping freshly in the fields and that fresh dung takes a lot of time to decompose and a lot of problems with insects and foul smelling,” he told the BBC.

The worms degrade the manure while increasing the manure’s fertiliser qualities, creating more nitrogen and phosphorus: two essential ingredients necessary for growing crops. They were found to be excellent in breaking down manure from cows, horses, sheep and goats.

And Sharma discovered an added benefit to getting rid of this foul-smelling manure: he can make 30,000 rupees a day selling the fertilizer, while he is only making 20,000 rupees a day from selling his milk. And it only takes the earthworms between 40 and 50 days to turn this manure to money.

Published: January 2008

Resources

  • Digital soil maps: The Food and Agriculture Organization has a CD-ROM soil map available  here, and the GlobalSoilMap initiative is building a real-time soil map here.

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

From Warriors to Tour Guides

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

In the wake of conflict, demobilizing combatants is as critical as ending the fighting if there is hope for the peace to last. When conflict ends, former fighters usually find themselves unemployed. But tourism is proving a viable way to deal with the social and political dangers of neglecting former fighters post-conflict.

Global tourism accounts for more than 10 per cent of global GDP and eight per cent of total employment worldwide. It grew by six per cent in 2007, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. The Asia-Pacific region grew by 10 per cent, and Africa by eight per cent.

Ironically, much conflict has taken place in areas of natural beauty that offer a strong pull to tourists. While perception judging from the media is that conflict is getting worse, in fact trends show the opposite: according to Global Conflict Trends, “The levels of both interstate and societal warfare declined dramatically through the 1990s and this trend continues in the early 2000s, falling over 60% from their peak levels.”

A lot is at stake and it proves it is worthwhile to make peace pay – and that it is possible.

Battle-hardened rebels like 28-year-old Marjuni Ibrahim lived in the jungle and fought as guerrillas in Aceh, Indonesia. On the northwestern tip of Indonesia, Aceh was devastated by both a 30-year war that killed 15,000 people and the 2004 tsunami. Marjuni lost his sister and parents in the tsunami, in which more than 170,000 died or are missing.

Much of the coastline was destroyed, but the shock of the catastrophe pushed both sides into peace talks. The separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) battled the Indonesian army (TNI) up to 2005, when they signed a peace agreement.

Marjuni is now cashing in on a guerilla’s best survival technique: being tough. He now takes adventure and extreme-hiking enthusiasts deep into the jungle, where they once fought and lived. It is a habitat of steep, rocky trails, enormous teak trees – all with the reward of pristine waterfalls and refreshing rock pools for the hardy travelers.

The tours target mainly the community of aid workers in the area helping to re-build Aceh, but the hope is to expand: “I want to make the Acehnese aware of the potential for community-based tourism, and put Aceh on the map as a friendly tourism destination”, said Mendal Pols, a Dutch tour operator and founder of Aceh Explorer on the island, to Reuters.

The jungle is home to endangered Sumatran tigers, deer and hornbills.

“The area is very beautiful. I like trekking and I was interested to see what life was like during the conflict,” said Hugo Lamer, a Dutch trekker. “It’s difficult to imagine but three or more years ago they were running around here with guns and fighting the TNI. When I went, they took us to a place where they had lost some of their friends. And then you realize that we are there for fun, but for them this was really serious.”

In Vietnam, the famous Cu Chi Tunnels, formerly used by the Vietcong during the Vietnam War, have become major tourist attractions. The vast network of underground tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City link up with a tunnel network stretching across the country, and were used as hiding spots and as supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon dumps and living quarters.

In Rwanda, the government turned to tourism to help heal the wounds of the massacre that led to the deaths of almost 1 million people in 1994. It markets its population of mountain gorillas, diverse landscape with volcanic ranges, hills, lakes and savannah. But it is also not covering up the past: genocide sites are also on the tourist itinerary. And it is meant to shock: in the town of Murambi, classrooms still contain the bodies of the people who were killed there, covered in lime to preserve them. In Kigali, a museum documents the genocide. Survivors lead the tours to help them heal from the horror.

The goal is to restore the country’s tourism industry and generate US $100 million a year by 2010. It is currently bringing in US $45 million. The approach is to target the ethical end of the tourism market. The idea is to use tourism as a means to avert the tensions that helped to cause the genocide in the first place: poverty, illiteracy and government hording all the wealth. The idea is to employ as many people as possible and spread the wealth as wide as possible.

Published: March 2008

Resources

  • The UN Environment Programme has a special division to advise on post-conflict and disaster management.
    Website: http://postconflict.unep.ch/

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Traditional Healers can Heal the Mind, as well as Body

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Mental healthcare is critical to physical health and overall wellbeing, yet it is seriously neglected around the world – and especially in poorer countries.

Often seen as a luxury for the wealthy or an indulgence for the weak, mental health services are often left at the bottom of any list of development priorities. Yet Professor Martin Prince of King’s College London in the United Kingdom found that an estimated 14 percent of the global burden of disease is due to neuropsychiatric disorders, mostly depression, alcohol- and substance-use disorders, and psychoses.

Since the contribution of mental disorders to physical illness is inadequately appreciated, the actual global burden of mental disorders is probably higher than this. Dr. Shekhar Saxena of the World Health Organization has reported that a scarcity of resources for mental health is compounded by inequities and inefficiencies in the delivery of mental healthcare.

As a result, people who need care get none. “The treatment gap – the proportion of those who need but do not receive care – is too high for some mental disorders,” Saxena said. As many as one in three people with schizophrenia and one in two with other mental disorders do not receive any treatment. The WHO has reported that the treatment gap for serious disorders is 76 percent to 85 percent for low- and middle-income countries. And the organization says shortages of healthcare professionals have been shown to be the main limiting factor in delivering mental healthcare in most low- and middle-income countries.

But an ingenious solution to this problem has emerged in the South American country of Ecuador. It involves turning to the traditional healers who are already well-established in communities. They are both cheaper and faster than waiting for medical psychiatrists to turn up in poor communities, and they can start right now to provide the support people need in a culturally tolerant way. Their effectiveness has been proven by Dr. Mario Incayawar, director of the Runajambi Institute for the Study of Quichua Culture and Health in Otavalo.

“Poor countries where you find numerous traditional healers could benefit the most,” he said.

In findings published in the prestigious British Journal of Psychiatry (The British Journal of Psychiatry (2008) 192: 390-391. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.107.046938), Incayawar found there are just 800 psychiatrists in Ecuador, and most live in the cities and speak Spanish. The native population on the other hand, mostly speak the local Quechua language and are served by only one psychiatrist, but thousands of traditional healers.

In the Andean mountain city of Otavalo, most people are descendents of the ancient Inca people. Health conditions are poor and far worse than in Spanish-speaking regions. Over 3 million of Ecuador’s 12 million residents speak Quechua, many of them living in indigenous communities high up in the mountains, bypassed by development. Roughly 90 percent of indigenous communities live below the poverty level, a fact reflected in high maternal and infant mortality rates. In some remote communities, maternal mortality reaches 250 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to the national average of 130, and one in 10 infants does not live to see his or her first birthday.

For 5 million Indigenous people in Ecuador, for example, there is not one single mental professional paid to work within the Indigenous communities.

Traditional healers’ practices are widespread around the world, yet their diagnostic skills have rarely been investigated. Incayawar’s study found the yachactaitas (Quichua healers) in the Andes were able to identify cases of psychiatric illness in their communities. During the study over 18 months, 10 yachactaitas participated in the identification of 50 individuals with a condition. None of the participants was found to be healthy in biomedical or psychiatric terms when reviewed by psychiatrists. The results suggest yachactaitas can be an early warning system for identifying general psychiatric cases in their communities through their powers of observation.

“From the Quichua perspective, it is a matter of common sense,” said Incayawar. “We have a sizable number of traditional healers, why not promote their clinical skills for taking care of our communities.”

“Healers are paid in cash or by gifts such as a bag of potatoes, a basket of eggs, or a couple of chickens. The Quichua people are not familiar with psychiatrists or mental health professionals.”

He also sees a bright future for the role of the traditional healer: “Young people feel less threatened to pursue a career as a traditional healer. Currently, the trend points to an increase of traditional healers.”

In the future, Incayawar would like to see a happy co-habitation between the scientifically-trained psychiatrists, and the traditional healers: “We would like to see traditional healers working in a respectful partnership with biomedically trained mental health workers. The collaboration between equals … could be something to work on for the coming decade.”

Published: August 2008

Resources

  • Dr Mario Incayawar has new book coming out in February 2009 called “Psychiatrists and Traditional Healers: Unwitting Partners in Global Mental Health,” Publisher: John Wiley & Sons.
    It can be pre-ordered here: Amazon.co.uk And the draft chapters read here: www.mediafire.com
  • An innovative UNFPA project has managed to give the Quecha-speaking descendents of the Incas the benefits of both traditional and modern medicines in a culturally sensitive manner.
    Website: http://www.unfpa.org

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Agricultural Waste Generating Electricity

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Agriculture around the world produces a great deal of waste as a by-product. It can be animal faeces, or the discarded plant husks thrown away when rice, grains or maize are harvested. When this waste meets the urgent need for electricity, something special can happen.

The number of people still without electricity in the South is vast. The failure of major electricity generating power stations to reach so many people has spurred entrepreneurs to come to the rescue. Power is critical to so many things: small businesses need it, anyone wanting access to computers and the Internet needs it, and modern appliances like refrigerators run on it. During the past 25 years, electricity supplies have been extended to 1.3 billion people living in developing countries. Yet despite these advances, roughly 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the global population, still have no access to electricity and some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass fuels, including wood, agricultural residues and dung, for cooking and heating. More than 99 percent of people without electricity live in developing regions, and four out of five live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (International Energy Agency, IEA).

Power outages in Africa are a serious and frequent problem and a significant force holding back development. With global oil prices on the rise, turning to diesel generators is an expensive option.

According to the IEA, the lack of electricity leaves poor countries “trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment.”

In India, 80,000 of the country’s half a million villages lack electricity. Two students, Charles Ransler and Manoj Sinha, have started a business providing electricity to some of these villages by turning rice husks – a by-product of rice milling – into gas that then powers an electricity generator.

Already, two of their rice-burning generators are providing electricity to 10,000 rural Indians. The hope is to rapidly expand the business to hundreds of small village power plants.

The business, Husk Power Systems, was started while the two were at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

While the generator burns the rice husks to make a gas to produce electricity, it also leaves behind a waste product of ash that is sold as an ingredient in cement.

This technology can provide off-grid power to rural Indian villages of 200 to 500 households. Using the husk-powered mini power plant, the team plans to offset close to 200 tons of carbon emissions per village, per year in India.

The idea for the rice husk generators was originally conceived by Sinha and Gyanesh Pandey, the third partner in Husk Power, who left an engineering career in Los Angeles to return to India and oversee the rice husk project. Sinha and Pandey went to college together in India and both come from rural Indian villages that struggle with a lack of electricity.

“We grew up in those areas,” said Sinha. “Our relatives still do not have electricity. We wanted to give back to those areas.” Originally they envisioned refining the generator concept and raising enough money to donate rice-husk generators for two or three villages near where they grew up, said Sinha.

But instead, after some research, they realised it could be a financially viable business expandable to hundreds of villages. There are 480 million Indians with no power and 350 million of them live in rural villages, concentrated in eastern India’s “Rice Belt,” where the villagers are “rice rich and power poor,” said Ransler.

The project has already won a fistful of prizes, including US$50,000 from the Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas.

They think that each rice husk generator is to break even in about two and a half years.

And they like to think this is the Starbucks of off-grid electricity generation, potentially as successful as the globe-spanning US coffee shop chain. “You can put one of these in 125,000 locations, hire local people, and turn a raw material into money – just substitute rice husks for coffee beans,” said Ransler.

Another maker of biomass mini power plants in India is Decentralised Energy Systems India (DESI power). It is a New Delhi-based non-profit company specialising in building a decentralised power network for rural India. It was formed by Development Alternatives, India’s largest sustainable development NGO. It is able to provide a megawatt of electricity to a village for the cost of 44 million rupees, rather than 57 million rupees from the central grid.

Published: June 2008

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022