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News and Updates from our Chapter

09 Mar

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‘Science’ Special Issue On Food Security

March 9, 2010 | By |

A special collection of articles in the February 12th issue of Science (the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) examines a wide range of topics on the subject of Food Security.

If you just have two minutes, check out the short promo video “Feeding the Future” on the introductory page of this issue.  If you have 30 minutes, you may be interested in the special audio podcast.

Science has made access to this special section free, though non-subscribers are required to fill out a simple registration.  You may find it useful to complete the basic free registration to AAAS anyway if you’re not already a member, as it gives you full access (hoorah!) to all Science journal articles (after 1997) over one year old.  For those who might not feel like using the registration process, I’ve starred the few titles from this special issue where you can access the article in full, just by clicking on the “Read the Full Text” tab at the end of the summary paragraphs.

If you only have time to skim through one article, I’d suggest the excellent review article Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People.  And if you’re looking for an interesting Dorothy (who is Dorothy?) story in this issue, do check out the news story From One Farmer about Winifred Omoding, a farmer in Olagara, Uganda.

Here’s the listing of articles:

News

From One Farmer, Hope – and Reason for Worry  Gaia Vince
Getting More Drops to the Crops  Gaia Vince
China’s Push to Add by Subtracting Fertilizer  Mara Hvistendahl
*Sowing the Seeds for the Ideal Crop  Elizabeth Pennisi

*Armed and Dangerous  Elizabeth Pennisi
Holding Back a Torrent of Rats  Dennis Normile
Spoiling for a Fight with Mold  Dennis Normile
*Dialing Up Knowledge – and Harvests  Richard Stone
*What It Takes to Make That Meal
Could Less Meat Mean More Food?  Erik Stokstad
For More Protein, Filet of Cricket  Gretchen Vogel

Reviews

* Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People  H. C. J. Godfray et al
Breeding Technologies to Increase Crop Production in a Changing World   M. Tester and P. Langridge

Perspectives

Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed-Crop-Livestock Systems  M. Herrero et al
Measuring Food Insecurity  C. B. Barrett
Precision Agriculture and Food Security  R. Gebbers and V. I. Adamchuk
African Green Revolution Needn’t Be a Mirage  G. Ejeta
*Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century N. V. Fedoroff et al

07 Mar

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Change Agent Series presents Tal Dehtiar, founder of Oliberté

March 7, 2010 | By |

DISCLAIMER: This event is NOT hosted by EWB-Grand River or any affiliate and has been posted only as a service to the greater community. This posting does not imply in any way EWB’s endorsement of the event or information presented.

Change Agent Series: Tal Dehtiar, founder of Oliberté

March 18th, 2010 – 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Accelerator Centre
295 Hagey Blvd. – 1st Floor
Waterloo, ON
Free (Registration required)

Hot off the ‘heels’ of hosting EWB’s own George Roter, on March 18th, 2010, Capacity Waterloo Region is presenting Tal Dehtiar – the founder of Oliberté – as part of their Change Agent Series, which highlights the stories and strategies of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are making change.

 Oliberté, based in Oakville, ON, is the first company to market premium urban-casual footwear exclusively made in Africa. To Oliberté and its founder, Africa is “more than just poverty” with their product demonstrating Africa’s “pride, power and liberty”.

 Dehtiar will be coming to Waterloo to share his stories – including surviving CBC’s the Dragon’s Den – and business strategies for building his social venture. Also the co-founder of MBAs Without Borders, he believes you can create change – and help build lives – through a for-profit model such as employed with his company. Tal is a recipient of the 2004 Global Trader Award, the 2005 Arch Award, and a nominee for Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. 

 About Capacity Waterloo Region

Capacity Waterloo Region is a five-year pilot project to fuel social innovation. We’re working toward a future where a vibrant, resilient non-profit community is strengthened by leaders from all sectors working together to leverage resources and cultivate a social innovation “center of excellence” here in our region.

Links

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01 Mar

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A Year of Impact: Engineers Without Borders’ 2009 Annual Report

March 1, 2010 | By |

Part financial review, part story telling, the 2009 Engineers Without Borders-Canada Annual Report was released today.

“I am proud to share [this report],” says EWB-Canada co-CEO, George Roter. “In [these] pages, you will read stories about our work and impact, both in rural Africa and right here at home in Canada.”

These stories include ones like that from northern Ghana, where the Asongtaaba farmer group struggled to grow enough food to feed their families. In 2009, EWB-Canada volunteers and partner organizations helped implement the Agriculture as a Business program, which helped the farmers gain business skills and opportunities to run profitable farms.

“The transformation has been truly remarkable,” says Roter. “The farmers have earned a steady stream of profits; so much so, that our volunteers recently told me that they opened a bank account to save for future investment in their farms.”

The Asongtaaba group represents just one of 130 farmer groups – 2,100 farmers in total – who are now thriving, in part due to EWB-Canada’s help in 2009.  To read more stories like these, and to learn how EWB-Canada is working to help build a more prosperous future for rural Africans, follow this link to the report. To view the 2009 financial statements, click here.

28 Feb

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2010 Olympics: A Canadian rallying point for social change

February 28, 2010 | By |

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical leading up to these Olympics.   It’s not that I was set against them, more that I just didn’t really care.  Surely there were more important things to devote time and energy to, than to watch people from (the rich) half of the world pushing themselves to their physical limits.  What difference could really be made by these Games?  It pretty much all boiled down to a big party, political fanfare and corporate sponsorship, right?  And don’t get me started on nationalism – stereotyping at its finest – it fosters prejudice, creates division, and alienates others, doesn’t it?

Now, before I start getting hate mail – the past 17 days have actually drawn me in more than I ever imagined.  I cheered, I cried, I held my breath with the best of them, and as I sit watching the closing ceremonies, it’s with a sense of optimism instead of indifference.

It’s true that a majority of the world is severely under-represented in the Winter Olympics.  But unknown to most, there were actually athletes from seven African nations who participated.  The athletes were predominantly self-funded, most had lived and trained outside of the continent at some point, and none of them won a medal, but their presence does make this a global event in every sense of the word.

Kwame Nkrumah-AcheampongMost well known of these athletes by far, was Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, “The Snow Leopard,” from Ghana who found his way into the hearts of many, and was supported by the entire communities of Comox and Mount Washington on Vancouver Island.    Although not as big of a headline as the 14 gold medals, I think it’s something to be equally, if not more, proud of.  These communities directly contributed to this skier achieving his goals.  It was one of the many reminders that the Games are about more than partying, politics and purchasing power.  This story was about what people can do to support one another to create opportunity and achieve their best. Sounds suspiciously similar to human development, doesn’t it?

My optimism is rooted not directly in this story per se; supporting one lone skier is a far cry from solving the challenges of the world.   What I am most excited about is the taste that Canadians have had experiencing how powerful it is to be part of a common goal. This is the secret ingredient I had forgotten about regarding national pride: people pulling together, uniting and taking action for a common objective.

In a timely manner, the Canada’s World Initiative, a three year project of intense cross-country dialogue and debate focused on Canada’s role in the World, is currently coming to a conclusion.  Through this dialogue Canadians from all backgrounds and locations have identified that we want to see our country lead by example in five areas:

  1. Fostering innovation
  2. Advancing a green economy
  3. Championing good governance
  4. Promoting human development and gender equality
  5. Embracing diversity

With Canadian pride running at an all time high, many would read that list and suggest those are the things that for which Canadians are renowned. As illustrated in this Canada’s World video, the reality is we have a strong history in these areas but are not currently living up to our reputation. In fact, we have a long way to go in order to meet our expectations.

I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade here.  Despite the fact that we’ve fallen short of a number of goals in recent years and we’re not actually living up to the perception that many Canadians have of our current role in the world, the Canada’s World dialogue has shown that the will and desire for change is there.

More importantly, Canada’s World has also identified that coherence, collaboration and community are what it will take to make these goals a reality, and I feel that all three of those received a huge vote of support throughout the 2010 Olympics.  Whether it’s celebrating in the streets after the gold medal hockey game or the vast gathering of people at torch ceremonies across the nation, our communities have come together in ways I have not seen in the past.  The media is saying that the coherence of our nation has never been stronger.  Without collaboration, the games would not have attained the level of success being attributed to them.

Based on this experience, my hope is that the spirit of the Games witnessed over the past 17 days doesn’t end with the closing ceremonies.  Let’s not just unite in being Canadian, but in the role Canada can play in the World.   I hope this new sense of collectivism and collaboration ignites action to make the changes we, as Canadians, want to see for our country and our global community.   Now’s the time Canada!  Let’s not make the 2010 Winter Games just our legacy, but the starting point for things to come.

10 Dec

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Ethical Travel Destinations: Ghana Ranks #4

December 10, 2009 | By |

On December 3rd, 2009, California-based EthicalTraveler.org released their 2010 annual report detailing the “world’s best ethical destinations” for travellers who want to have a great experience but also feel good about where their travel dollars are being spent. The report identifies the countries in the developing world that are “best protecting their natural environments, promoting responsible travel, and building a tourism industry which provides real benefits to local communities”.

“There’s no doubt that worldwide interest in mindful, responsible travel is growing – not only among travellers, but within the countries that host us,” says Jeff Greenwald, executive director of Ethical Traveler and co-author of the report. “Now is the perfect time for savvy travellers and well-intentioned governments to evolve together, each encouraging the other. This is especially true in the developing world, where travel and tourism can be developed as lucrative, low-impact alternatives to forestry, mining, and the destruction of ocean habitats.”

The report utilizes data from a variety of sources including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Millenium Development Corporation to develop indices for environmental protection, human rights and social welfare for each country.

The full report can be found here, but to spoil the surprise, the developing world’s Top 10 destinations include:

  1. Argentina
  2. Belize
  3. Chile
  4. Ghana
  5. Lithuania
  6. Namibia
  7. Poland
  8. Seychelles
  9. South Africa
  10. Suriname

Eligibility for ranking was determined by economic data from the World Bank. For example, in 2009, Croatia and Estonia made the Top 10 but are now considered “high income economies” and therefore became ineligible for this year’s ranking.

Most interestingly, 40% of the list is occupied by African nations, with Ghana reaching as high as #4.

Ghana joins the list for the first time due to an “impressive commitment to genuine democracy, as well as a growing culture of sustainability, environmental consciousness and grassroots efforts towards responsibly improving Ghana for Ghanaians and tourists alike.”

Similarly, South Africa landed in the #9 spot for “supporting eco-friendly, community-based tourism ventures, as well as for sustainable coastal development and environmental management.” Disparity between the rich and the poor and high crime rates in certain areas prevented the country from reaching a loftier rank.

Conversely, “irresponsible development, human rights abuses, and  lack of strong environmental [policies]” have prevented any Asian nations from making an appearance at all – a trend consistent in previous year’s rankings.

However, before African pride grows too much, the report also notes that none of the ranked countries are perfect. Notably, homosexuality in Namibia and Seychelles remains criminalized – generally a “deal-breaker” for the study. But as Greenwald and report co-author, Christy Hoover, note “the laws do not appear to be zealously enforced [and] we sincerely hope that our vote of confidence will persuade these country’s leaders to repeal these backward laws.”

With Ghana leading the African charge on this list and, as Erin Antcliffe notes in her post Water Complex, also being a “development darling due to its stability and support for [development] projects”, it appears development in Ghana is projected in the right direction. Hopefully it can act as an example for the other African nations in which EWB works and the continent as a whole.

31 Oct

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EWB 2010 Wall Calendars On Sale

October 31, 2009 | By |

EWB’s 2010 wall calendar brings the perspective of our overseas work from our colleagues on the ground across Ghana, Malawi, Burkina Faso & Zambia.

The Engineers Without Borders 2010 wall calendar tells the stories of our colleagues on the ground across Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi & Zambia. In a unique piece unlike anything you’ve seen before, the stories are in their own words, and from their own perspective. We hope that you’ll share the calendar with as much pride as we had collecting the stories and producing it. The cost per calendar is $20

If you are interested in purchasing calendars for yourself, your family, friends or colleagues, please contact us. All proceeds support volunteers from EWB-Grand River overseas as they help in our African Programs.