Tuesday, 29 April 2008

International Day for Biological Diversity

This year’s theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD), is “Biodiversity and Agriculture.” The IBD aims to highlight the importance of biodiversity for a sustainable agriculture capable of ensure of feeding the world and maintaining agricultural livelihoods.

Farmer awarded Honorary Doctorate

You don't come across it all that often, or often enough, so it is worth highlighting. Farmer Terry Enright has become the first farmer to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in agriculture by the University of Western Australia (UWA). I wonder if any universities in Ireland have bestowed such awards on innovative farmers.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Meet the Spuds

Agri Aware, the Agricultural Awareness Trust for food and farming in Ireland, has almost 2,000 schools have registered for it's Meet the Spuds potato-growing challenge to celebrate the United Nations designated International Year of the Potato. More than 100,000 pupils are busy digging, sowing and watering as they compete for over €10,000 in educational funds. Since the initiative’s launch in February, hundreds of schools have submitted pictures and letters testifying the educational benefits of the challenge and showcasing their hard work.

Can youth dig agriculture?

I just returned from New Caledonia where I participated in the Pacific Regional Youth Stakeholders meeting at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea. While the purpose of the meeting was to examine approaches to improved regional coordination of youth development issues there was an interesting discussion on things that might be done to improve participation and inclusion of youth in agriculture. In fact SPC are in the process of developing a strategy to achieve just that. Just how do you encourage youth involvement in agriculture when there are so many problems besetting agricultural and rural development in many countries to begin with?

We identified ten areas that could be examined, as have many other groups tackling the same challenge. These might include:

1. Youth is mainstreamed by relevant organisations into agricultural projects and programmes which ensure youth have equal access to the benefits;

2. Relevant agricultural and youth organisations and agencies work together in equal partnership with effective planning and coordination among relevant stakeholders who can contribute substantially to improving youth livelihoods in the agriculture sector;

3. Youth are provided with opportunities for active effective and on-going participation in agricultural activities

4. Youth receive appropriate and relevant education and training to ensure they can build and support a livelihood based on agriculture;

5. A supportive enabling environment is created that can promote youth enterprise and entrepreneurship (e.g. access to credit, mentoring, leadership training) and which improves job and income-generating activities through agriculture;

6. Developing community-based organisations, young farmer clubs and groups and other youth peer organisations that can assist in mobilising and supporting Pacific youth in developing a livelihood through agriculture

7. Agricultural Research and Extension systems are more responsive and supportive to the needs and issues facing Pacific youth;

8. Pacific youth are trained in ICT technologies to support agricultural livelihoods and employability;

9. Opportunities are created to showcase the contributions of young people to economic development through participation in regional youth trade shows and other large gatherings;

10. Funding support is secured from relevant donors, agencies and other bodies.

If you have any suggestions for activities that might support or contribute to these areas we would be very glad to hear from you. Alternatively, if you have any thoughts on the broader picture and have been involved in programmes to promote youth in agriculture please do share your thoughts and experiences.

The World Food Situation

The world food situation is being rapidly redefined, as income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalisation, and urbanisation transform food consumption, production, and markets. A recent paper from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides an overview of the the key forces driving these changes, and considers what policy responses are required to address the challenges and avoid increased misery for the world's poorest.

Read more here.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Why some rural communities prosper while others do not

Andrew M. Isserman, Edward Feser and Drake Warren penned a paper in May 2007 that examines rural prosperity in the US, something oft overlooked and unknown. In fact, more than 300 rural counties and 200 mixed rural counties are more prosperous than the country as a whole. Each has lower unemployment rates, lower poverty rates, lower school dropout rates, and better housing conditions than the nation. This research seeks to understand why. The diverse theories considered focus on location, the economy, urban-rural linkages, highways and airports, human and social capital, diversity and homogeneity, knowledge and creativity, and climate and topography. Read the paper here.

Mind the Gap - Aid

Despite Irish Aid's announcement that Ireland’s development aid has reached its highest ever level (it still lags somewhat behind other countries and is some distance from the UN target of 0.7%) it was another poor year for overseas aid.

Ireland’s official development assistance reached €869m in 2007 - its highest level ever and an increase of 6.7% on 2006 figures. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the OECD confirmed today that Ireland’s aid was 0.54% of our Gross National Product last year, exceeding the Government’s interim target of 0.5%. This puts us on track to reach spending of 0.7% of our GNP on overseas aid by 2012 ; three years ahead of the UN target and in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. Our aid volume has increased five-fold over the last ten years. Ireland is now the sixth largest donor of development assistance in the world in per capita terms.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Mind the Gap - Gender

Ireland has a long way to go compared to its Scandinavian neighbours in terms of closing the gender gap as highlighted by the Gender Equity Index. I wonder how the gender gap would appear if it was possible to disaggregate the data based on rural or urban location?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The State of Civil Society

The newly released CIVICUS Global Survey of the State of Civil Society: Volume 1 Country Profiles and Volume 2: Comparative Perspectives draws on information collected by the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) project in more than 45 countries. Northern Ireland is included as one of the sampled countries. The books explore civil society’s accountability, its relationship to the state and business, and its role in governance and development, among other issues. Development of the Northern Ireland 'country paper' was led by the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) and the CSI project represents the first-ever attempt to put the civil society concept into practice in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland report can be downloaded here or a brief Executive Summary here.