After 17 years in the field, working in front line humanitarian emergency response, of which 15 years in food aid relief, I took a sabbatical break. Taking a distance allowed me to discover an other side of the humanitarian work, something more longer term, but with no less impact: agricultural development.
Over the past sabbatical year, I had the opportunity to work with a team at CGIAR, mostly on social media related projects. That work brought me to the field, talking to farmers about ways they adapt (or don’t) to the economic and climatic changes, their needs, their wishes,… I wrote about it, made videos, published pictures.. I realized the impact even small things can have, on their daily lives. I talked to researchers, to extension agents, to suppliers… In short, I got hooked.
At this moment, I have the opportunity to work with CGIAR on an event taking place in Nairobi on Sept 1st, highlighting the importance of longer term agricultural research to augment the resilience of farmers confronted with a rapidly changing world, specifically related to the current drought (again) in the Horn of Africa.
The work of the CGIAR is not well known to the outside world. Having worked in food aid for the better part of my professional life, the CGIAR was certainly an unknown to me. It is part of my job is to make it known. And this is where you all can help, even though the effort is still at its early beginning (isn’t it great to be part of something from the start?).
We have set up a repository (in the form of a blog), in which I post simple examples of agricultural research the CGIAR is doing, particularly in the Horn, leading up to the Sept 1 event.
At the same time, we are “populating” a brand Twitter account @cgiarconsortium , using the hashtag #Ag4HoA (Agriculture for the Horn of Africa) for all tweets related to agricultural development. We started publishing development projects related to the Horn, but after Sept 1, we will broaden to other projects the CGIAR does, as time goes by.
On Sept 1st (followed by another event on Sept 2nd and 3rd), I will be live blogging/tweeting from the event, using the same Twitter account.
Now where can you help?
Just as I called out to the social media community for the Addis Sharefair, I am calling out to you now. I am looking for people active in the social media community to help spreading our worthwhile message. You don't have to be related to development or agricultural research, but any reach you have within your own social community, can help.
I am looking for people who are willing to retweet, reblog, post our articles on Facebook, Google+, in short "make some social media noise". I have assembled a good list of people in an email list already, whom I update daily of the new events and posts we are broadcasting.
Are you willing to help? Leave a comment, or email me via peter (at) theroadtothehorizon (dot) org and I will include you on our mailing list.
I hope with this effort, we can do some good, make a change, and maybe contribute our small bit to make sure droughts and floods no longer turn into famine.
Maybe one day, we won't need to put up pictures of cattle starving due to a drought. Maybe one day, we will be able to publish pictures of thriving crops and well-fed cows, even though the area has been hit by yet another drought, or a flood.
A sweet, unpretentious, yet significant TEDtalk by Cary Fowler, the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, on the importance of preserving the bio-diversity of our seeds, and the role of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in this.
While often dubbed as "the Doomsday Vault", the half a million seeds stored at Svalbard guarantee a future rather than a doomsday: As the natural conditions under which we grow our food continuously change, our seeds also need to adapt. As these changes happen much faster now than before, also the seed adaption needs to go faster, and more targeted.
Unless if we store all varieties of seeds for every crop we grow, they will get lost. Check out my previous article about the ICRISAT genebank, to understand the true implication of this.
In this TEDtalk, Gary explains it in simple terms, but the message can't be misunderstood: "If agriculture does not adapt to climate change, neither will we". And crop diversity is the key to that adaptation.