Being Green – A Hand Up

Hi Folks:

Well, since my absence from this area of our blog last Friday, in a way one could say this is last week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.

The phrase ‘A Hand Up, not a Handout‘ is a common one among those involved with programs around the world that help people improve their life situations, and in its own way it is a common thread running through all of them. There are many, MANY good programs around the world that are working in myriad ways, and while it’s impossible to profile all of them, I thought I’d mention a couple with the intent that these provide impetus for you to start your own search to find one that resonates with you. Many of these groups deal with food in one way or another, and while food may the most basic ‘green’ subject of all, the procurement of food is such a basic necessity that it can overlay other, larger concerns, like environmental destruction, deforestation, wildlife loss, etc. My own knowledge of this first came through a couple of friends who volunteered their time with a group called Plenty Canada. My friends and I have parted ways over the years, but at that time Plenty Canada was involved in a number of different projects around the world – from teaching farmers in Dominica to grow soybeans for consumption and sale rather than sugar for export – to installing wells and catchment basins for clean drinking water and planting fruit trees in Africa. I’m sure their work continues apace.

A group that I heard about recently is ‘Working Villages International‘; that link came from an article I found on their first project in the Congo. In Kenya, Su Kahumbu-Stephanou is working with ‘Beyond Profit‘ to assist local farmers with growing organic food and selling it in the local markets. On a large scale this plan has the potential to transform Kenya from a food importer to being self-sustaining or better. In Indonesia, Willie Smits (Masarang Foundation) and the people in the province of North Sulawesi took a barren land and made it back into a productive rainforest. In the process they gave life back to the land, provided food and a living for local communities and provided habitat for local wildlife. In 1989, faced with both the collapse of the Soviet Union (and subsequent pull-out of fuel and machinery) and the US trade embargo, the country of Cuba began what has become probably the largest and most successful urban and rural organic agricultural program in the world. It took a lot of time and effort, but the Cuban people continue to enjoy the benefits of these programs and interested parties from many countries are visiting Cuba in order to learn from them.

Such projects aren’t just happening in developing countries, and this is a good thing. In Detroit, MI in the US a plan is underfoot to convert up to a third of city’s empty lots and abandoned buildings into urban agriculture sites. It may be a good plan to implement in other urban centres as well. In Atlanta, GA the Atlanta Botanical Garden has recently undergone a major renovation that includes the Edible Garden project. This area of the garden includes fruit trees and small circles of crops hemmed in by a 400-ft ‘living wall’ that includes a 55-foot herb wall. In amongst the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs is an outdoor kitchen, designed to provide cooking demonstrations, wine pairings and the like. Vegetables not required for the Garden’s onsite café will be donated to a local food bank.

Another aspect of this food revolution is what some are calling ‘Robin Hood’ restaurants. There are several in the US that I’m aware of; the first one I heard about is the SAME Café in Denver CO. In Canada, I know of one in Ontario – the Cambridge City Café Bakery. The basic premise shared by all of these restaurants is that there are no fixed menus and no fixed prices. The food served is generally local and generally fresh, and rather than being given a bill, clients are given an envelope instead – to which they add whatever they feel is appropriate for the meal, and/or as much as they can afford. If they can’t afford to pay, at the SAME Café people can offer to help out in the kitchen instead – washing dishes and cleaning up.

Of course, the ‘hand up’ approach isn’t limited to food, nor need it be. One group called ‘Apps<4>Africa‘ is using the power of the 50 million mobile phone subscribers in east Africa “to leverage the power of digital technology to make a better world”. As I mentioned at the top of this post, these are only a few examples of what’s happening in the world today. There are many more, and all of them need support – whether one donates time, technology, expertise or finances. Our sole concession to ‘advertising’ on this site is a link to ‘Global Giving’ over on the left side of the page. It’s a good place to start. Before I close out this post I’m going to add one more nod, this time to a book by Peter Dalglish. The book is called ‘The Courage of Children: My Life with the World’s Poorest Kids‘. It’s well worth a read.

Oh, by the way, a few weeks back I mentioned a group in Madagascar (Vakan’Ala) that is working to reforest their country. Now you can “Plant a tree in Madagascar and see it grow on-line!”

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now. Have a great week!
Mike.

P.S.
Marcia and I are big huggers, as can be seen from the ‘Hug Certificate‘ section of our site. If you go to Hug it Forward you can Track Your Hugs! “Every hug you track on this site earns 25 cents to build “Bottle Schools” in Guatemala.” So go out and hug someone already!

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