Postcards of Hope and Success from Africa

Worldwatch Researcher Visits 150th Project, After 21 Sub-Saharan African Countries

Lomé, Togo-Highlighting Africa-led innovations that offer sustainable ways to alleviate hunger and poverty, Worldwatch Institute Nourishing the Planet Program Director Danielle Nierenberg visited her 150th site today as part of a one-year tour through Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Niger, Madagascar, and 17 other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The research-driven itinerary, part of Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project, will culminate in the January 2010 release of the Institute's flagship publication, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

About 120 kilometers outside Lomé, Togo, Nierenberg reached this exciting benchmark while spending the day visiting conservation projects with a local organization called "Les Compagnons Ruraux," which is working with communities living in or near the rain forest to help them practice sustainable agriculture and prevent deforestation. Other projects that Danielle has visited to date include: 

  • School garden and nutrition projects in Senegal and Uganda that produce healthy food for children while instilling pride in local cultivation practices and a taste for indigenous vegetables;
  • Pastoralists in Kenya who are working to keep both their livestock biodiversity and their cultural traditions alive;
  • Women-run co-operatives and value-added projects in Ghana that improve livelihoods, empower women, and help them face challenges together;
  • Farmer-to-farmer trainings in Mozambique that help farmers share their experiences while valuing and investing in their own local knowledge;
  • Zulu sheep and indigenous breed protection projects in South Africa that preserve the pest-tolerant and drought-resistant animals that are being replaced by exotic and foreign species.

"The news media in the West tends to be very negative in its coverage of Africa," says Nierenberg. "We often hear stories about conflict, HIV/AIDS, famine, and disease. But there are stories of hope, too. Everywhere I travel on the continent, I see examples of Africa-led innovations that are succeeding in reducing hunger and poverty where past approaches have not worked. Nourishing the Planet seeks to shed light on these solutions."

Nierenberg is reporting daily from farms, co-ops, and offices in Africa, posting updates on the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet blog. In addition, she has co-authored dozens of op-eds throughout her travels-often co-written with African innovators-in media outlets that include USA Today, The Seattle Times, the Ghana Daily Graphic, and South Africa's Cape Town Argus.

"Nourishing the Planet represents a new research paradigm for Worldwatch," says Worldwatch Institute President Christopher Flavin. "The on-the-ground examples featured in State of the World 2011 will demonstrate the success of sustainability innovations in agriculture to policymakers, consumers, and the donor community worldwide."

The State of the World 2011 report will focus on agriculture innovations and will be accompanied by derivative materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts. The project's findings will be disseminated to a wide range of influential agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, farmer and community networks, and the increasingly influential non-governmental environmental and development communities.

"One of the main goals of the project is to create a roadmap for the funding and donor communities to ensure that the increasing amount of agricultural funding in Africa goes to projects that are effective and long-lasting even without outside support," says Brian Halweil, co-project director of Nourishing the Planet. "In addition, a local innovation working in rural Cameroon might be something that could be scaled up or replicated in Zambia. We hope to connect projects in different regions and help to improve knowledge sharing."