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Sustainability and Mobile Technologies, New Pathways Toward Conservation

In April of 2017, Amaterra returned to the Seventeenth International Conference on Current Issues of Sustainable Development hosted at Opole University in Poland.

The theme of the conference was “Different views on sustainable development: what is really sustainable?”

The general aims of the conference were to discuss and analyse:

  • direct and indirect impacts of actions and tools aimed at sustainable development,
  • methods and tools which can be used to measure these impacts,
  • institutional and governmental framework for sustainable development, 
  • challenges for sustainable development in different sectors, e.g. transport, energy, waste management etc.,
  • the role of technology in building sustainability.

The conference hoped to address one of the most important questions: do efforts and actions aimed at sustainable development really lead to sustainability?

As a result, Amaterra prepared research and presented on the role of emerging technologies in development and conservation, and their impact on sustainability. 

Executive Director David N. Berger, presenting Amaterra’s research

Amaterra’s presentation abstract:

In today’s contentious political and economic climate, sustainable development initiatives are being both promoted – as a solution to decreasing funding levels and falling support for international development programs, and undermined – in terms of an assault on scientific methods, anti-climate change rhetoric, and reluctance to innovate because of risk aversion practices due to the same decreased funding. 

Amaterra’s research focused on the role of emerging mobile technologies to increase the validity, efficiency, and access to data, and the repercussions this increased access has on development programs. Further, Amaterra’s analysis and research explores the particular nature of opportunities presented by these technologies.  Ranging from data aggregation through the promotion of new economic opportunities, and production of and access to improved indicators in education and health care.

Despite challenges, and weaknesses observed in ongoing pilot programs utilizing mobile technologies, the promise of increased transparency, access, and validity of data offers an exciting opportunity. To not only analyze the direct impacts the technologies are having on sustainable development programs, but also to record and observe indirect impacts they are having through unexpected correlations and synergies across the private and governmental sectors (e.g. the advent of mobile money, and the use of forcasting and trend monitoring in analytics to predict/recognize vulnerability/crises based on financial behavior).

These synergies are helping us address the question of if sustainable development programs are yielding sustainability, and how we can utilize emergent technologies to support and enhance these outcomes.

Reception:

The presentations were well-received, and Amaterra’s research and exploratory presentation on the role of mobile technologies and the opportunities and pitfalls they bring with them, particularly in the aspect of monitoring and evaluation within the development world, encouraged deeper conversation.

Activisms in Africa: discourses on civil society and activism

On January 11th, 12th, and 13th 2017 Amaterra’s director David N. Berger collaborated with Andrzej Polus, the president of the Polish Centre for African Studies and an assistant professor at the Institute of International Studies at the University of Wroclaw, to host a panel and present their paper at the Activisms in Africa: Discourses on civil society and activism conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Panel:

Titled: “Exercises in Activism and Citizenship – Trajectories of Government – CSO’s Relations in SSA.”  Focused on citizenship and activism and drew upon an understanding of political and social forces that have shaped civil society and government interaction. It built from the supposition of an ideational structure of mutual suspicion and mistrust that has adversely affected activism to encourage discussion and consideration of this structure and its effects. The panel worked to analyze the evolution of CSOs’ role and position in Sub-Saharan Africa, through the examination of structures that promote development and activism.

The panelists were asked to attempt to outline a “map” of CSOs’ positions toward the governments in the entire region. Regional or country-orientated research proposals were also included as they provide vital references on the nature of CSO-government relations. 

In an effort to map CSOs’ role in activism, submissions that addressed historical, economic, cultural, political, policy-orientated, or even descriptive aspects of the evolution of CSO – government relations, were welcomed and vigorously discussed. Additionally, David and Andrzej welcomed proposals devoted to the evolution of the Sub-Saharan political landscape in times of economic decline as well as those related to relatively new aspects of CSO activism.

These included how mobile technologies, wider access to information, and new means of communication and organization encourage mutual transparency and strengthen the social contract between government and citizens.

Additional topics that addressed exogenous factors, including aid structures (Western vs. China and the emerging powers factor), political pressure, and economic pressure, were key focal points of discussion.

Activisms in Africa, The International Conference organized by Center for International Studies of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (CEI-IUL), took place at ISCTE-IUL on January 11-13 th 2017. Fotografia de Hugo Alexandre Cruz.

The Paper:

David and Andrzej also collaborated on a paper, which pulled on David’s experience with Amaterra and his time serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Zambia between 2011 and 2014. Andrzej brought a wealth of experience and passion to the team with his focus on the political economy of hydrocarbon management and the constantly evolving political situation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Andrzej has conducted field research in Botswana, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. 

Together they wrote “Contention and Mutual suspicion: Civil Society in Zambian Politics.” At the conference, they were able to present research regarding contention and suspicion between civil society and government.

The principal aim of their research was to critically examine the relationship of local non-governmental organisations with Zambian governments under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), and the Patriotic Front (PF).   Their major finding is that relations between the MMD and later the PF government, and advocacy NGOs were characterized by mutual distrust, and mutual accusations of a lack of transparency and legitimacy.

The NGOs were mainly employing a ‘name and shame’ strategy whilst engaging the government, which together with the government’s suspicious attitude towards NGOs created a specific ideational structure of mistrust and mutual suspicion. This dynamic has been extremely difficult to break, and is the dominant influence on government – NGOs relations. 

Activisms in Africa, The International Conference organized by Center for International Studies of the Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (CEI-IUL), took place at ISCTE-IUL on January 11-13 th 2017. Fotografia de Hugo Alexandre Cruz.

Amaterra’s Work Continues: Discussing Sustainability and the Environment

Amaterra has recently attended the Sixteenth International Conference on Current Issues of Sustainable Development. The conference, titled “Generations for generations – priorities of sustainable development yesterday, today and tomorrow” in Opole, Poland focused on the need for a new perspective regarding sustainability and sustainable development from a generational approach.

Amaterra was drawn to the conference due to its focus on generational responsibility for the protection, and maintenance of the environment. The premise of the conference aligned with Amaterra’s mission, in that the environment was positioned as the basis for the subsistence of humanity, but more importantly as the foundation of natural capital from which all other socio-economic processes originate. Protection of that foundation, and initiatives through sustainable development to ensure its health, maintenance and enhancement are key to our future.

The stated primary goals of the conference were to discuss and analyze:

  • – the responsibility of young, medium and old generations in building capabilities for sustainable development,
  • – improving common, international dialogue for creating sustainable development patterns,
  • – institutional and governmental framework for sustainable development,
  • – challenges in developing sustainable consumption and production,
  • – challenges for sustainable development in different sectors, e.g. transport, energy, waste management etc.
  • – and the role of technology in building sustainability.

Sixteenth International Sustainability Conference

On the 25th and 26th of April, 2016, Amaterra’s Executive Director presented on the topic of “Sustainable development and community mobilization – through failure to success.” The presentation was designed to discuss the role of sustainable development, and specifically to address the necessity of a different view and approach to current and future development capabilities, primarily those of more contextual and comprehensive approaches to sustainable development. Approaching development not as sustained growth, but as a holistically sustainable closed system, which would allow for higher quality of life, while maintaining the health of the ecosystem and environment. The presentations were well received, and Amaterra’s perspective on sustainability encouraged deeper conversation and linkages and an invitation to collaborate with new partners and academics.

The presentation and resulting short paper were published in the Central and Eastern European Journal of Management and Economics Vol. 4, No. 1, 41-61, March 2016.

WMG’s Sabino Creek Restoration Campaign

In 2015 Amaterra provided $1000 for seed funding to support Watershed Management Group’s Sabino Creek Restoration Campaign launch.

Photo from the Watershed Management Group's website at https://watershedmg.org/rivers

Photo from the Watershed Management Group’s website at https://watershedmg.org/rivers

The campaign’s goal is to restore habitat and surface flow to Sabino Creek, located downstream of Sabino Canyon, the most visited natural area in Tucson.  Sabino Creek is located in a shallow groundwater area, where groundwater is 50 feet or less and still supports riparian habitat.  This and other shallow groundwater areas are declining as groundwater pumping increases from area residents and as development encroaches.    The campaign is a long-term, multi-faceted program including an educational/advocacy program with local residents; on-the-ground restoration efforts in private and public spaces; and policy actions to protect and enhance shallow groundwater areas.

Some of the things to be accomplished in the next two years:
  • Facilitate a stakeholder group to develop a restoration plan for Sabino Creek.
  • Lead watershed restoration workshops in public spaces in the Sabino Creek watershed, such as schools, ranches, or trailheads. Lead hands-on watershed restoration workshops with private residences in the Sabino Creek watershed, focusing on rainwater and greywater harvesting, green infrastructure, and small-scale restoration practices such as one-rock check dams.
  • Partner with four schools to teach our Shallow Groundwater Youth Advocacy Program, including two schools located within Sabino Creek watershed.  In 2014 this program was piloted with Western Institute for Leadership Development, a Tucson charter high school.
  • Run a public marketing campaign to raise awareness and inspire action to restore Sabino Creek. Publish the “Get Wet Guide: Sabino Creek,” an interactive guide highlighting recreation opportunities, cultural destinations, wildlife, and ways to protect/restore shallow groundwater areas. Create a series of 3 “Get Wet Videos” about the importance of shallow groundwater areas and a specific call to action for Sabino Creek.


For more information about Watershed Management Group, please visit their website at www.watershedmg.org

2015 Native Seeds/SEARCH $2000 Grant

2015 Native Seeds/SEARCH $2000 Grant

Amaterra’s $2000 grant to Native Seeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm for improving and building new  infrastructure will help take their seed conservation mission to a new level. To meet a critical infrastructure need of expansion and growth, a green house is being constructed for the production of crop seedlings and food crops.

nssseedprocesing400Sorting and Packaging Seeds

The seedlings will be sold in the NS/S Retail Store for our Spring, Monsoon, and Fall plant sales. The retail store sells seedlings from several growers in Arizona. Seedlings from the Conservation Farm will introduce new crops from the seed bank and make them more widely available to gardeners, thereby increasing the diversity of adapted and drought tolerant crops for local food production. Food produced in the green house will be sold to restaurants to promote the mission of NS/S to the public. The sale of the plant seedlings and produce from the green house will also provide a reliable income stream for the Conservation Farm each year.

Another function of this green house will be to produce seedlings for the Conservation nssfarmsunflower175Program’s grow-outs of crops from the NS/S seed bank. A new seedling house with phytosanitary protocols ensuring disease-free seedlings is, therefore, critical. Some seedlings are grown from seeds that are endangered so there is a need to ensure that the seeds can be multiplied from healthy plants. The green house also provides a season extension function so that crops that may need a longer growing season than the Patagonia site normally provides, have an improved chance of producing seed in the field.

Farm Greenhouse under big windIn addition to the season extension function, the green house will provide climate  mitigation for seed crops and for food production. This is an ever more important function in this time of changing and extreme climate. The unheated hoop house type of greenhouse will use only solar energy and ventilation to control the conditions inside the structure. This type of inexpensive, energy efficient, structure is widely used in agriculture today. These efficiencies are transferable to a wide geographic area, urban areas, and to different scales of food production.

2014 Amaterra $1000 grant to assist NSS in the following two projects

SEED CLIPPER CLEANER
We (NSF) are purchasing a seed cleaner and screens to make our seed processing more efficient and to provide higher quality seed for our seed distribution programs. The new seed cleaner costs $5,800 and is partially funded for $3,500 by a USDA SARE grant that NS/S received to work on heirloom wheats in Arizona. The seed cleaner uses different types and sizes of screens for cleaning a variety of crops. At the Conservation Farm, we grow and clean a lot of crop diversity, therefore we will also be purchasing a set of 13 screens for the seed cleaner that cost $60 each ($780). This seed cleaner is a small-scale, 2-screen type that is an appropriate model for small-scale farms. It will be available to our farming community to use, including Borderlands Restoration who work on native plant seed conservation for land restoration. It is an example of appropriate technology that is transferable to other small farms and it could be run on solar power.

OVERHEAD SPRINKLER SYSTEM
We are in the process of improving our water and energy conservation on the Farm by switching from flood irrigation to overhead sprinkler irrigation. The Farm has always pumped water up to an irrigation pond using a lot of electrical energy in order to flood irrigate. The pond is now in a endangered species restoration project with Fish and Wildlife that requires a continuous level of water to be maintained in the pond. For this reason, and for reducing the Conservation Farm’s water and energy use, we have decided not to use the pond to flood irrigate. We are looking to fund the equipment for an aluminum sprinkler irrigation system that will include mainlines, moveable hand-line sprinklers, and valves. This system will replace the gated PVC pipes that we have been using to flood irrigate. The aluminum pipes and metal sprinklers will be more durable and eliminate PVC from our farm landscape. PVC is a material that breaks down under UV in 3 to 7 years and it is not recyclable when it wears out.

Thank you Director Nancy Wall for arranging this grant.

2014: Amaterra $1000 grant to the Children’s Library in Yachats, Oregon

The Yachats Public Library is located in a coastal town of 700 in Oregon. Even though it is a “public ” library it is solely funded by the generosity of local residents. This grant  is for the Children’s Library program to create and offer a weekend children’s program in conjunction with the local adult community celebration of Earth Day 2015. This addition to the various seminars, demonstrations, beach cleanups, etc.  will, hopefully, become an annual event at the library.

Also, this grant will be applied to develop a summer reading program focused on environmental issues and concerns as they relate to the local community.  In addition to readings and videos, will be the involvement of participants with relevant expertise–trail management; sea life protection; ocean clean-up; flora habitat protection;  birding.  Also, the inclusion of previous Amaterra grant recipients; Washed Ashore and Gerdemann Botanical Preserve in your activities may be possible.

Thank you Director Joe Swaffar for arranging this grant.

2014: Grant to the Watershed Management Group, Tucson, Arizona

2014: Grant to the Watershed Management Group, Tucson, Arizona

Watershed Management Group, Tucson, Arizona

WMG6workersPreparing the land

The specific project that Amaterra is funding is a green job training program that WMG is running in partnership with Goodwill. The funding will be used to cover the time of expert instructors working with the youth and for some project materials to complete the project. Over the next two months, WMG will teach how to create a food-producing rain garden.

We will start with facilitating a design activity, where young people will learn how to design a landscape and contribute their ideas. Once the design is finalized, they will help with implementing the garden step-by-step. They will create sunken veggie beds, work on soil enhancements, and create a surrounding rain garden with native plants to attract pollinators like bees to the garden area. They will participate in planting and caring for the garden as well. They will learn about water-wise gardening and desert appropriate food crops at WMG’s Living Lab and Learning Center. We will work with the youth weekly to implement sustainable features at the Living Lab, including rain gardens, greywater systems, native and edible gardens, rain tanks, and natural building projects at WMG’s Living Lab and Learning Center.

WMGrainbarrel350
Rain harvesting

WMG also has been working in Tucson neighborhoods (three currently) as teaching composting, demonstrating ways to capture runoff from rains and guide the water to tree wells (a really important project in areas where the streets regularly flood during storms), and encouraging the implementing of water storage tanks.

In addition to the strong local presence, WMG also has similar projects in foreign countries. Last year they partnered with Grampari, an organization in India, to give technical support and train new workers in the areas of sanitation and watershed management. This year they are shifting their emphasis to the Southwestern United States and Mexico.

WMGwoman350
Another shovel full

The Mission Statement of WMG: “Watershed Management Group develops and implements community-solutions to ensure the long-term prosperity of people and health of the environment. They provide people with the knowledge, skills, and resources for sustainable livelihoods.”

Click here to view their excellent website complete with Youtube videos.

Bee “101” Our Fascinating Bees Grant

“Bee Friendly, Bee Loving, Bee Kind, and most of all Bee yourself.”
–Apiarist Britt Hopper

bees101500
Bees, spaceman, blue tubes, and boxes!

There are many devastating challenges facing us if we lose the precious honey bee through colony collapse caused by climate change and unsustainable use of herbicides and pesticides.  Through apiarist Britt Hopper’s own passion for the bees and Robin Macy’s Bartlett Arboretum ecosystems, both have discovered that the tenuous ecological future lies as much in the hands of our youth as it ever has throughout all of human history.

In 2013 Hopper helped Bartlett Arboretum establish their bee colony, now numbering eight hives.  In addition he is presenting Bees 101 (his bees and presentation about the bees, and bee-sticks full of varied honeys) for Second Sunday Salon — A cornucopia of Culture programming held in Bartlett’s historic train depot.  Nestled in a 100-year -old forest canopy, the 135 -year-old Santa Fe Railroad depot is located at the edge of the Arboretum property.  In 2013-2014, the depot became a restored sunny studio that attracts a creative community inspired to escape to a rural retreat to create , educate and be inspired just 20 miles south of Wichita, Kansas.  Also, at the same time Hopper took Bees 101 to more than 500 students in schools throughout central Kansas.

With Amaterra’s grant, Hopper will be able to expand the number of hives both at his home-base in Valley Center, Kansas and the Arboretum in Belle Plaine, Kansas. The goal is to increase honey production by 30% and support local pollination. Hopper will work with educators Connie Bonfy MAE, Nancy Holman MSE, and Robin Macy MSE to create Bee Happy — Bees 101educational activity book for youth grades 2-5.  The activity will contain curriculum-specific activities in science and arts infused with activities by grade level to help students learn and retain the information he demonstrates and shares with them during classroom visits.  As an aid to their grade level science curriculum, Bee Happy will help classroom educators teach Kansas youth about bee colony collapse as well as the broader issues of climate change and the other negative forces that threaten the health of bees thereby reinforcing Hopper’s presentations. Through Amaterra’s support Hopper will be able to increase Bees 101 presentations  to students both in the schools and Bartlett Arboretum school tours (30 classes per year) to reach at least 1500 students grades 2-5 each year beginning in the 2014 school year.

(above adapted from original grant proposal by Ms. Connie Bonfy)

beeltr

student “thank-you” letter

The Kansas State Department of Education has adopted A Framework for K-12 Science Education Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas(2012) as the core science curriculum and standards of what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. This core curriculum along with art standards for each grade level will be used to develop Bee Happy which will contain puzzles, games and art projects that children can enjoy while learning in the classroom and at home with their families. Grant arranged by Amaterra member Jerry Harney and grant writer Connie Bonfy.

Thank you Amaterra

To Amaterra,

I am very humbled and very grateful. Your generous gift means so much to Bee University/Bees 101. I’ve been doing this on my own. Teachers would ask if I would come teach about bees. They would inform me there is nothing in the budget to have me come. But would I come anyway? My answer has always been yes. Sometimes teachers try to bless me out of their own pocket.
$15. Every now and then. I never asked for compensation from them.
I’ve found that old ears do not hear.  Bees are dying. Oceans are dying. Water is being misused. So it occurred to me to educate children of any age, any one that would hear. So I started Bee University/Bees 101. My motto is “Bee Friendly Bee Loving Bee Kind and most of all Bee yourself.”

The Honey Bee is one of a kind. The benefits from the honeybee and the hive is a major lifeline for all mankind. So to change the future I’ve taken the importance of the honeybee to children. With your help it will be done to more schools and to more listening ears.  Ears that can change the environmental course that we are on. The end result a better future a healthier world.

I am very grateful and humbled by your generosity and support. Thank you! We say/hear that every day thank you. I’m typing it in this letter it’s often taken for granted those simple words. But for me I’m screaming inside on the tallest hill Kansas has to offer with gratitude. Thank you. Thank you for being a game changer. Thank you for caring for the future of children and mankind everywhere.

With warm regards,

B.E.e Hopper

Native Seeds Search Grant 2013

Native Seeds Search Grant 2013

Native Seeds/SEARCH was named as the recipient of a $1000 grant for 2013. Their mission statement best describes the nature of this rapidly growing organization.

Native Seeds/SEARCH conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Arizona.

In April of this year, Danielle Johnson, who recently received a Master’s degree in social anthropology, along with four other impressive apprentices, was selected to assist at the NS/S farm and learn the process of conserving seeds. They were given room and board in exchange for 30 hours of work a week.  All of these interns put in a lot of extra time—planting, dealing with an infestation of squash bugs, harvesting the seed and working on special events for the organization. But Danielle put in more than 150 hours beyond those devoted to the other activities when she agreed to take on an extra project, The Seed Diaries.

This project was inspired by an art exhibit, Sacred Places: Watercolour Diaries of the American Southwest by Tony Foster. Each of his paintings was accompanied by topographic maps, his journal entries, and sketches of local flora and fauna that, in the words of Belle Starr, Deputy Director of Native Seeds/SEARCH, gave the viewer “a much more engaged and curious appreciation of the natural settings captured on the canvas. More than just beautiful images to be casually observed, through the attending materials the landscapes began to come alive with a complex, multi-layered story.”

In what she described as an “aha moment,” she thought about the possibility of using this approach to tell the stories of the seeds in the NS/S collection. A discussion with an art professor who was also at the exhibit led to a meeting with Bobby Long, a professor of illustration at the U of A. He agreed to take on the Seed Diaries as a project for a fall semester class. In October students in the class visited the NS/S Conservation Center for a presentation by Executive Director Bill McDorman and a tour of the Seed Bank. Danielle also volunteered to give a presentation, telling the students stories of the seeds, and to curate a sampling of 25 seeds from the collection. She photographed the seeds and plant materials and sent these photos along with information on each seed—origin, use, cultural importance, etc.—to the class, at which point each of them selected a seed to work with.

Danielle continued to devote her time to this project, visiting the class along with Melissa Kruse-Peeples, the NS/S Collections Manager, to work individually with the students. The results of the project, now completed, will be displayed at one of the University galleries, and Janos Wilder has suggested displaying them at some point at his Downtown Kitchen.

The Seed Diaries would not have happened had Danielle not graciously agreed to take on this ambitious project because, in Belle’s words, “she believed so solidly in its ability to inspire and viscerally change the way people look at and experience our seeds. As one student exclaimed upon leaving his visit at the Conservation Center, ‘This was 500 times more interesting than I expected.’”

The grant, this year, goes to compensate the unpaid apprentices for the incredible work they performed for Native Seeds Search during 2013. These funds are to be distributed at the discretion of Bill McDorman, Executive Director and Belle Starr, Deputy Director, under whose creative and inspiring leadership this organization is wildly flourishing. We thank Director Nancy Wall for arranging this grant.