GSRs Newsletter is a collection of news, reflections, innovations and ideas that our team hasfound important enough to write down and share with you. We hope youll be as excited as weare with all the latest developments around the world and what it means for us all.GSR NewsletterIssue No.4June 2013Desertification and Ways to Combat ItUN reports state that every year the amount of farmable landmass lost to thedesertification is roughly three times the size of Switzerland. Desertification is aform of land degradation that is caused by several compelling factors such aslack of water reservoirs in a region to overtaxing the nutrients in the soilthrough poor farming techniques. This phenomenon puts a strain on the localeconomy and society. Often it forces farmers in the central Sahel areas of Africa,South America (i.e. Brazil and Argentina), Australia and parts of South East Asiato relocate from what becomes unusable land (i.e. a desert) to unused areas.Desertification is both a cause and an effect of climate change as degraded landrelease its carbon into the air while such land is also more susceptible to damagefrom a changing climate as it lacks the resiliency of healthy, diverse landscapes.Oftentimes these are forested areas,creating a new problem with the slash andburn technique, which is a form of landclearance that deforests an area for theexpress purpose of gaining access to fertilesoil for new farmland. This new farmlandwill almost certainly become deplete ofproper nutrients within three to five yearsupon slash and burn (due to continuedimproper management of the farmland)and the rural community will find itself once again on the retreat ever deeperinto forested areas. Now we find that the average rural farmer in the developingworld is caught in a vicious cycle to escape the encroaching desert and thepoverty that drives them to adapt unsustainable farming practices.GSR has a solution to combat theprocess of desertification. Since the1970’s Australia has had adesertification major crisis. Somefarmers and agronomists gottogether and decided to find a way tostave off imminent self-destruction.They realized that the only way tostop the expanse of the desert wassustainable agricultural practice. Theresulting epiphany and team up wasthe foundation of the method known today as Permaculture. Permaculture usesinnovative techniques advanced by newfound understanding of sustainability. Inaddition to these innovative techniques such as keyline contouring, windbreaks,planned rotational grazing systems, and agroforestry, GSR follows theengineering principle of “appropriate technologies” meaning that we apply highlevel or low level technology depending on the local region’s ability to sustainthe level of resources needed to sustain that technology. Therefore, in an areawhere fossil fuel is uncommon, a gas powered tractor is not consideredappropriate to the region as compared to an ox team tethered to a plow. Some
examples of appropriate technologies are the yeoman’s plow (check ourprevious article featuring the Yeoman’s plow) and biodigesters.How important is Water Sanitation for HealthyLiving?With its many great lakes and rivers, people often falsely assume that Africa is acontinent of overflowing clean water. But in reality Africa suffers from severewater scarcity, rivaling Australia as the driest continent on the planet. Its lack ofwater is exacerbated by high demands from multiple sectors of the localeconomies and general population. Africans are sometimes forced to vie for thesame water resources for drinking, livestock grazing, farming, industry, andregrettably dumping needs. All these needs create conditions which undeniablycontaminate the scarce water resources of these developing nations.For children this can be especiallydevastating. “Every year, around 700,000children die from diarrhea caused by unsafewater and poor sanitation,” said DavidWinder, CEO of WaterAid USA. “Thats almost2,000 children a day. In addition, one-third ofall cases of under-five mortality areattributed to undernutrition; 50 percent ofundernutrition is attributed to unsafe waterand poor sanitation...” UNICEF also confirms this, stating that six thousandchildren die each day from diseases transmitted through unsanitary water. Manyof the national governments in Africa simply do not have the resources to investin infrastructure to protect the purity of their sparse water resources. This iswhy Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the highest mortality rates, is riddled byconstant epidemics, and is one of the poorest regions in the world; due in largepart to a lack of access to clean water. This is the gut-wrenching story of theaverage developing nation.With such a great need in the developing world for action, the world communityanswers the call with the formation of international government and businessalliances, planning strategic deployment of people, resources, and equipment.Yes, ordinary people who want to make that extra difference needed to foreverchange the life of an innocent child suffering from water related disease or want,need not venture into the jungles of Africa or the mountains of South America.They can support B-corp businesses such as Green Self Reliance, Inc. throughcrowdfunding and promoting GSR across cyberspace via social mediaendorsement. GSR will be completely transparent from the launch of ourupcoming crowdfunding campaign and will explain all the processes fordevelopment projects in such a manner that is simple, succinct, and timely.Our solutions to the challenges of water availability revolve around:1. Minimizing waste generation and storage2. Maximizing our use of clean water, through sound conservation practices3. Scout for new technologies that help generate clean waterCurrently, there are many low cost appropriatetechnology solutions being developed that make itpossible for rural communities to provide freshclean water for rural communities. One technologyproduced by Saltworks Technologies uses passivesolar energy to create an osmotic process that candesalinate water with up to 70% more efficiencythan conventional standards. This potentially grants rural communities,especially located in arid regions, with a reliable source of fresh clean water.There are also promising new low cost technologies being developed to reducethe cost of recycling waste water using algae technology as a sub-branch of bio-digester technology.
The efficacy of any water management system can be observed directly by itsresults. Is the improvement significant in terms of meeting basic needs for themaximum number of people? Is it environmentally sustainable? Is it costeffective? We shall discuss these extremely important topics in great detail in thecoming months, and even further on, as GSR begins to mobilize watermanagement systems for more and more communities.The Undiscovered Role Model for AfricanDevelopmentImagine a small landlocked country comprised almost entirely of mountainousterrain, with very little in the way of natural resources – boasting one of thehighest per capita incomes on the planet. What is their secret to success? Andcan this success be replicated in Africa?That country is the Swiss Confederation, akaSwitzerland. At first glance, Switzerland andAfrica don’t appear to have much in common.Unlike many countries in Africa, Switzerlanddoesn’t have much in the way of rare mineralresources. Instead, it is famous for bankingand high quality technology products. It is verystable – both in terms of economics andculture. However, on taking a closer look,African countries should look carefully atSwitzerland as a role model. Switzerland contains, like Africa, a plethora of manydifferent ethnic groups, religious traditions and languages. Additionally,Switzerland was not always a bastion of tranquility. The confederation hasexisted in some form or another since the 13th century and was formed as ameans for organizing a defense force to oust any would-be invaders. Nowadays,invaders no longer threaten its borders but the modern Swiss State hasremained sincere to the principles, of the original confederation, to protect theliberty and sovereignty of the Swiss peoples.Switzerland engages in alot of internationalbusiness and trade. Weoften hear how thecountry loans money to Xdeveloping nation, or hasinvested in Y technologicaladvancement. Yet theSwiss Government neverforgets to regulate trade inways that favor locallygrown crops andmanufactured products.Can the Swiss success story be replicated in Africa? What we see in Switzerlandis good old-fashioned conscientiousness that is the necessary precursor ofsuccessful community-based self-reliance. This scenario demonstrates how theSwiss make the best of the bad bargain. Despite severe limitations, they haveeven managed to create one of the world’s most successful economies.Today, African nations must also try to “make the best of a bad bargain” viafocus on strengths, work on shortcomings and unite together to create a potentregional bloc much like the Swiss Confederation. These regional blocs won’trequire tribes or ethnic groups to give up their identities, but at the same time itwill function for the purpose of regulating economics, trade and finances tosecure a better future for its constituents. This can best be accomplished byfocusing on community self-empowerment.Of course, each place on the planet is a little different – with its own specialgeopolitical makeup, advantages and challenges. What Africa can learn fromSwitzerland is the efficacy of banding together into a cohesive organization andplacing a high priority on community empowerment to build up the regionaleconomy. Rather than trying to fit into the jigsaw puzzle of the global economy,African communities will do better to first master teamwork with their closestneighbors, much like the role model of the Swiss Confederation has done.What is Good Disaster Relief?Currently, the need for major disaster reliefoperations is looming over large sections of the