In the run up to the first Smart City Africa event by Basic Lead in Abidjan, Ivory Coast (April 2016), we decided to take a closer look at what African cities really need to be smart. Today we talk food.
How much it costs to put food on your African table
Popular in sub-Saharan Africa vegetables, such as amaranth, sorrel, lettuce and tomato, start to spoil within a few days of harvesting. Bad roads and lack of fridges do not help here at all. Shortage means higher prices.
Chaotic, unhygienic central markets in Africa’s cities — built decades ago — add to the cost of produce and increase food contamination risks.
What do smart city dwellers in Africa chew on?
Horticulture grown within 30 km of city centre. It provides nutrition that is rich in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals – essential for good health. It uses recycled urban waste as a productive resource. It offers a constructive channel for young people’s energy. It creates green belts, lowers air pollution: chops down city temperatures.
Clean, modern, decentralized markets in smart African cities offer
cold storage, transparent information on prices, attract more customers.
As of 2012, African cities generated around 50 million tonnes of garbage annually that could be composted.
Globally, urban diets that are high in energy, but low in micronutrients, are behind the increasing prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases, such as hypertension and heart disorder. Poor urban families usually end up eating cheaper starchy staples or “junk food” rich in low-cost fats and sugars.
In 2011 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Ministry of Agriculture of Ivory Coast launched in Abidjan’s Treichville district a two-year project to train 200 low-income households in hydroponic production of vegetables.
Low-income households in smart African cities “grow their own”, as a way of improving the quality of their diet, saving cash to spend on other needs, and earning income from the sale of surpluses. Schools in smart cities of Africa operate their own gardens as well.
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania financial institutions regard urban farming as “backward” and a risky investment.
Where African city farmers grow food
Vegetable plots are often found on land reasonably safe from construction, such as roadsides, and near zones unfit for habitation – and food production – such as garbage dumps and industrial waste sites.
Change in regulations on farming and food processing is timely in African cities. Clarity in land allocation too. In Kigali, Rwanda lack of secure title to land has prevented peri-urban farmers from switching from sweet potatoes, which require only small investments, to vegetables that give much better returns.
Horticulturists in Africa reduce the risk of losing produce due to fuzzy zoning rules by sowing indigenous leafy vegetables that can be harvested within a few weeks, and by using low-cost (and portable) technologies such as watering cans.
In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire loss of land to real estate development is one of the main threats to gardeners’ livelihoods.
Please share your suggestions in the comments section below:
From sub-Saharan Africa’s infrastructure gap to organizing data on cellular neurophisiology, the world of today is filled with information challenges that only crowds of smart volunteers can help tackle.
With this, we tap into the treasure trove of cases and data that we have been gathering for you in the first six months of 2015 and sharing in our newsletter. To subscribe to the Steppes in Sync Figures and Facts That Tell The Tale newsletter, click here.
How do you execute on big stuff, to get big stuff done, inspire the builders of the new world?
Social entrepreneurs, says Jeremy Rifkin, will be less driven by the profit motive, and will willingly give their talents to the various networks they are in, to improve their social reputation within them. Mr Rifkin is a senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Executive Education Program, where he instructs CEOs and senior management on transitioning their business operations into sustainable economies. In this connected and collaborative world economy, the idea of the artist as an individual genius, which is so implanted in our consciousness, is “absurd”.
[The millennials] have a different idea of freedom. My generation defines it as being autonomous, not beholden to others, and values exclusivity. Young people are all about inclusivity, access to networks, transparency. Further autonomy is death.
… Artists will no longer be so interested in creating a sense of immortality. The transitoriness of the experience, the enjoyment of the moment, will be everything. Life will be seen as a series of unique moments. And maybe we will see that reflected more in the art.
So how exactly do social entrepreneurs take to tackling the world’s complex problems once we realized that it’s up to our generation to do it now?
One important thing to remember is that if you can’t measure it you cannot make it. So it’s about reliable, real-time data.
You need money or, once again, loads of volunteer man/hours to collect and analyze the data in a professional way. In 2013, out of a total aid budget of $134.8bn, a mere $280m went in support of statistics.
Establishing a statistical office is less eye-catching than building a hospital or school but data driven policy will ensure that more hospital and schools are delivered more effectively and efficiently.
NeuroElectro, an open access database of electrophysiological properties of different types of neurons. Become a neuron curator here.
Be aware that we live in a world of growing — often conflicting — needs for public funding. Space consumed more than 4 % of government spending in the US during the 1960s race to the moon. 0.5 % — the current proportion of federal spending devoted to Nasa — is reasonable. If other industrialised countries raised space spending closer to that level (the UK figure is about 0.05 %) there would be enough to fund robotic exploration and to send people further out than the moon or space station.
We have sent a probe 500M km to a comet to analyse rock samples, but virtually no geologist has yet dug his spade into the crater of the highest mountain in the planet’s largest desert.
Same applies to the ocean exploration. Some argue that we now know more about the outer space, fund more research of space that about our own oceanbed. But fields of study can be combined.
Working in the Antarctic wilderness, 630km from the South Pole, 760m under the floating glacier ice and 500km to 600km from the nearest open ocean that isn’t covered by ice, scientists recently found fish, about 15 cm long. It lends credence to the possibility of finding extraterrestrial life, as some of the environments that scientists are targeting for study lie in what are thought to be oceans under thick ice covers such as on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.
The $8bn Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful atom smasher, restarted in spring after a two-year maintenance shutdown — a second round after inaugural three-year run from 2009 to 2012.
Be aware of industrial megatrends and timings. IMS Health, the healthcare information group, expects almost 200 drugs to be launched worldwide in the next five years, the highest level since the mid-2000s. The length of time it takes to get a new product to market is highest in pharmaceuticals, at 10-12 years, beating the 6-8 years taken to develop an aeroplane. The cost of launching a drug, at $1.25bn, says Deloitte, is equal to that of developing a new car and behind only the $3.75bn cost of a new aeroplane.
With this in mind, don’t forget that timing and setting the right, meetable deadlines is a skill to develop throughout your career as a strategic volunteer, social entrepreneur.
NASA says its Mars campaign is aimed at sending humans to the Red Planet and its moons by the 2030s — but Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, says there’s a downside to having such a stretched-out timeline.
You can’t do this on a 24-year timeline because God’s patience is not infinite, and the U.S. Congress is considerably worse.
Meanwhile a mission plan is being discussed that calls for a 9-month cruise to Mars; 12 months in orbit, with a potential landing on Phobos or Deimos; and nine months back to Earth. The orbital odysseys could open the way for sending a two-person crew for a 30-day stay on the Martian surface in 2039 — and then putting four astronauts on Mars for a yearlong stay in 2043. NASA is committed to supporting the International Space Station through 2024, and the agency has not yet spelled out what will happen after that.
Get the science, technology of it, be a science communicator.
Towers of height 15-25 km could be easily built using present-day materials. Space launch from the top of such a tower would have a long list of advantages.
Keep training your brain in chartering the most efficient route from A to B. Cunard, a luxury brand, saves money on fuel by propelling its hulls through the waves at a slower pace. Trans-Atlantic voyages that decades ago took 5.5 days are now taking 8. Compare it to trans-Saharan camel caravans that began in Southern Morocco and ended their 52-day journey in Timbuktu, Mali.
The global count of cadavers as a result of smoking aside, this account of 21th century Zimbabwe’s Tobacco Revival will cold-shower you with its ridiculously low wages and remind you of the environment-unfriendly stance held by international lender-funders like the World Bank. On top of that, there is deforestation and mountain acacia’s best friend — western Zimbabwe-sourced coal.
Coal emits warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while the water-hungry eucalyptus trees may deplete water sources.
With this, be reminded that the world as a whole is in a mess and it’s high time for all of us to come up with Swiss-knife solutions to the complex problems. Right..
Then remember: if you can’t measure it you probably can’t make it. And yet again, our local, national and international sets of data are a reflection of the world as it is: complex and incomplete, outright fraudulent at times.
Only 37% of the country’s land receives rainfall considered adequate for agriculture. This is according to the data sourced back in 2014 from Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture website — which was down at the time this post went public.
Local press reported back in May 2014 that most farmers pay their workers USD2-3 for eight hours of hard labour for either cultivating or applying chemicals in the fields. This was a far cry from the agreed poverty datum line of around USD520 — probably a monthly stat.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agricultural extension was introduced in Zimbabwe in 1927 by Emory D. Alvord, who started with nine agricultural demonstration workers.
Most of Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers are reported to rely on wood to cure tobacco, a practice that’s stripping Southern African nation of its woodlands. Chopping down the trees to get flue-cured tobacco –used to flavor cigarettes — proves to be cheaper than using coal or electricity. Coal can amount to 10 % of the farmer’s production costs.
While coal is cheap at source — about 800 km away in Hwange, western edge of Zimbabwe, close to the renowned resort area of Victoria Falls — the cost of transporting it to the tobacco-growing regions makes it expensive.
A farmer needs at least 3.5kg of coal to cure a kilogramme of tobacco
In an interview for IRIN, a news agency focusing on humanitarian stories in regions overlooked by international media, Rodney Ambrose of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association said the average cost of coal to a farmer is USD170 per ton.
Eating into the otherwise small profit of over 90,000 small-scale cultivators is the cost of inputs like seed, fertilizer and chemicals.
The growers account for about 15 % of Zimbabwe’s annual deforestation of about 330,000 hectares, according to the state’s Forestry Commission.
An estimated 7.5 million trees are destroyed annually, mainly due to curing tobacco.
At the current rate, expect indigenous forests to disappear within 50 years.
Only 45 % of natural forest to go
Back in the day, Zimbabwe rivaled the U.S. as the source of the world’s best quality tobacco. 237 million kilograms is no small amount, is it? The record crop is forecast to be back this year.
Does the tobacco revival mean Zimbabwe sees msasa, mountain acacia and mnondo — indigenous hardwoods — out of the door by 2050?
State-run Tobacco Industry Marketing Board:
While in 2000 all of the crop was sold at auctions, today 70 % is grown under contracts for the likes of British American Tobacco Plc and Universal Corp.
Do the multinationals lead the environmental movement around the world?
Mind you! It’s not that bad in Zimbabwe only. Guided by the reduction of poverty as their official goal, the World Bank still suffers from a pervasive ‘loan approval culture’ “driven by a perverse incentive system that pressures staff and managers to make large loans to governments and corporations without adequate attention to environmental, governance and social issues.”
World Bank lending for coal, oil and gas was USD3 billion in 2008 — a sixfold increase from 2004. In the same year, only USD476 million went toward renewable energy sources.
Scarcity of land under management of small-scale farmers and low margins probably mean no big incentive for the cultivators to plant trees in a sustainable manner.
In Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, Sustainable Afforestation Association — set up in October 2013 by tobacco growers and merchants with the support of Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board — vowed to spend USD33.5 million to replant about 5,000 hectares of trees a year by 2021.
Checked today, last time the SAS site reported news was back in June 2014.
The money — SAS promised in a local news report — would be raised through a 0.5 % levy on net annual tobacco earnings.
The Environmental Management Agency’s Steady Kangata told IRIN that more trees are being felled than being planted.
Tobacco farmers are required to pay USD25 for a permit to cut firewood to the Forestry Commission every year. This money is then used to plant seedlings in deforested areas.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board reportedly talks with various coal distributors to see if they can make the coal available in affordable bags for the farmers.
Delivered by the wagon load of about 40 tons, most small-scale growers only afford to buy 50 or 100 kg bags of coal at a time.
And then there are rocket barns (furnaces), which use 50 % less wood because of their design. How many can you buy at USD5,000-6,000 a piece?
According to IRIN, income from tobacco in 2013 accounted for at least 10.7 % of Zimbabwe’s GDP and 21.8 % of all exports, compared to 9.2 % for other agricultural commodities.
For comparison, agriculture as a whole contributes 14 -18.5% to the GDP. Zimbabwe’s nominal GDP currently hovers around USD11 bn.
On the UNESCO website, there is a talk of one Rural Afforestation Programme , a government-run program implemented with the help of national and international NGOs — World Development Bank, African Development Bank, The Netherlands Development Organization among them — to grow mainly gum trees like Eucalyptus spp, “to provide communities with a source of fuelwood and with poles for construction”.
No figures in view on the above-mentioned UN-run page to cry out SUCCESS STORY!
Ultimate solution? There have been reports of research by the Tobacco Research Board on the use of solar energy and biogas in Zimbabwe.
Environmental Management Agency’s Steady Kangata maintains renewable, clean energy is the ultimate solution for tobacco growers.
Now major question remains: what exactly do we all need to prioritize to help promote these alternative energy sources in Zimbabwe? And don’t forget those two-dollar per diems!