Over in Austin Texas, there’s a thriving urban farm that offers a massive slice of biodiversity. Author Tom Philpott sings the praises of the produce. Urban agriculture, and an appreciation of the myriad benefits of biodiversity, could be a great way to create a common cause between the rich and the poor, but few people make the connections. How hard would it be to twin farmers’ markets across the globe?
A number of stories in the past few days have highlighted some novel initiatives to “mainstream” traditional medicine in Africa and China. First there was an article in The Economist on the effort by the Association for African Medicinal Plants Standards to develop a pharmacopoeia, or database of plants used in traditional medicine. By early next year this will include information on about 50 plants and how they are used across Africa. Then today there’s a report from a WHO meeting in Lusaka saying that institutionalizing traditional medicine would improve the care provided by African health systems. And there’s also news that the Chinese government has launched a programme to test the safety of traditional medicines, the latest in a series of projects on traditional medicine in China (see links at bottom of the page).
The world is awash with millennial beer traditions, but this frothy cornucopia is increasingly under threat as the Big 5 Brewers globalize their way to domination, according to Chris O’Brien, author of Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World and of this article, from which I borrowed the title of this post. The disappearance of home-brewing would adversely affect social bonds, community identity, women’s position in society and their income, and rural people’s health and nutrition. What to do? Here’s a taste:
“Domestic policies that favor small-scale, local production, just like the ones that now support the American craft-brewing renaissance, must be applied to foreign policy as well. Policies that burden small brewers with regulations must be reduced or removed, while tax incentives and public giveaways to industrial brewers are halted. Proven strategies can be used for promoting small business, such as low-interest loans and other community investments tools. Small-scale technology and structures must be prioritized in order to benefit the greatest number of domestic brewers, while subsidies favoring large-scale production and distribution should be eliminated.”
Surely promoting the local crops and landraces which form the raw materials of local homebrews also needs to be in the mix?
The Slow Food movement 20 years old this year.Â It isÂ having its annual showcase in Italy this week. Slow Food “aims to promote traditional farming techniques and products, to counter the spread of factory farming.” Its potential as a means of promoting neglected and underutilized species is clear, but I wish there were some tangible success stories from developing countries.
Members of the Blackfoot people in the state of Idaho have pioneered the use of oriental mustard as a green manure, growing it on potato fields to combat weeds, erosion and pests and diseases. Now a trial with the University of Idaho is extending the opportunity to mainstream farmers in the potato state. John Taberna, a Blackfoot seed distributor, says that oriental mustard (possibly Brassica juncea, but the article doesn’t say and I’m just guessing) has a fungicidal effect, in addition to other benefits of green manures. The tribe’s business council agreed to reduce pesticide use by 15% over the next 20 years, and the green manure is part of that effort.