Girl Scouts build bee hotels to help save wild bees

October 22, 2019 by  
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Wild bee populations in the United States face catastrophic collapse from climate change , habitat loss, shrinking food supply, disease and pesticide exposure. Of the 4,000 native U.S. wild bee species, 40 percent face extinction. To help save these vital pollinators, a Denver-based Girls Scouts day camp built miniature hotels to house and protect solitary wild bees. The sustainable endeavor was part of the Think Like a Citizen Scientist Journey initiative, encouraging young girls to create positive environmental change. Making a wild bee B&B proved to be an exciting learning experience for many Girl Scouts. “There were times it was hard because there were so many girls and lots of ideas, but we worked together, and it was fun,” explained 11-year-old Imani, one of the girls who participated in the project. “We found a way to compromise and work together to make a fun bee hotel.” Related: Girl Scouts introduces 30 new badges with emphasis on the environment and STEM As solitary insects, wild bees house themselves in fallen timber, branches and bushes. But forest fires, urban sprawl and agricultural intensification have diminished their natural habitat. Consequently, the Girl Scouts were inspired to protect these important insects by building tiny homes or mini hotels for individual wild bees, much like birdhouses are fashioned for individual birds. Materials used for the bee hotels included repurposed cardboard boxes, paper straws and toilet paper rolls. According to the Entomological Society of America, campaigns to save the bees have included installation of bee hotels in efforts to save wild bee populations and aid in their conservation . If well maintained, these bee hotels can provide a safe sanctuary for wild bees. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland, College Park associate professor of entomology, added that every effort counts, and the Girl Scouts’ endeavors are meaningful. “What you’re seeing is that you need bees to survive, and so who better to be concerned than the people who are going to inherit the next generation?” he shared. “These efforts are really good because hopefully they set up a lifelong commitment to preserving biodiversity.” Those interested in getting involved with the Girl Scouts’ environmental initiatives can join or volunteer here . + Girl Scouts Via Grist Images via Girl Scouts and Maja Dumat

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Girl Scouts build bee hotels to help save wild bees

New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

September 19, 2019 by  
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Tomorrow, on September 20, a global climate strike is scheduled to bring awareness about the need for transformative action against the growing climate crisis . The strike will take place three days before the United Nations Climate Summit in New York City. Unlike other strikes, this one invites New York City minors to participate, thanks to the event coinciding with efforts already begun by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. In support of Thunberg’s efforts, the New York City Department of Education recently announced via Twitter that it will excuse any of the city’s 1.1 million students who are interested in attending the scheduled September 20 climate strike . But they must provide parental consent, per their school’s attendance protocols, to be formally excused from class. Related: Can’t make the climate strikes? Here are a few tips on how students can live sustainably New York Mayor Bill de Blasio similarly tweeted his stamp of approval, saying, “We have 10 years to save the planet. TEN YEARS. Today’s leaders are making decisions for our environment that our kids will have to live with. New York City stands with our young people. They’re our conscience. We support the 9/20 #ClimateStrike.” Thunberg will be speaking at the NYC event, as will climate activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez. The event is supported by organizations such as Fridays for Future, National Children’s Campaign, OneMillionOfUs, 350.org, Zero Hour and many more. Participants in the New York City climate strike are asked to assemble on Foley Square at noon Eastern Time, then head southward toward Battery Park, where the rally is to take place between 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time. Meanwhile, students and adults alike will be striking around the world, with strikes taking place in cities from September 20 to September 27. You can join in by using this map to find an event near you. + Global Climate Strike Via CNN Image via Jasmin Sessler

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New York allows students to miss class for the climate strike

Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle

September 19, 2019 by  
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Costa Rica has long been renowned for its commitment to protecting its natural environment, but one home nestled into 2.5 acres of a permaculture farm is really setting an example for green building. Located in the idyllic area of Diamante Valley, the House Without Shoes is an incredible rammed-earth complex made up of three interconnected domes, which are joined by an open-air deck that looks out over the stunning valley and ocean views. Measuring a total of 2,000 square feet, the House Without Shoes is comprised of three domes that were constructed with bags of rammed earth. All of the domes feature custom-made arched windows and wood frames with screens. They also have skylights that allow natural light to flood the interior spaces. Related: Biophilic dome homes produce more energy than they consume The main dome , which is approximately 22-feet high, houses the primary living area as well as the dining room and kitchen. A beautiful spiral staircase leads up to the second floor, which has enough space for a large office as well as an open-air, 600-square-foot deck that provides spectacular views of the valley leading out to the ocean. The two smaller domes, which house the bedrooms, are separated by the main dome by an outdoor platform. The rammed-earth construction of the structures keeps the interior spaces naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition to its tight thermal mass, the home operates on a number of passive and active design principles. The home’s water supply comes from multiple springs found in the valley. Gray water from the sinks and shower are funneled into a collection system that is used for irrigation. At the moment, the house runs on the town’s local grid but has its own self-sustaining system set up. The domes are set in a remote area, tucked into the highest point of a 60-acre organic, permaculture farm in the Diamante Valley. Not only is the house surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and abundant wildlife, but it also enjoys the benefits of organic gardening. The vast site is separated into three garden areas that are planted with everything from yucca and mango to coco palms and perennial greens, not to mention oodles of fresh herbs. + SuperAdobe Dome Home Images via Makenzie Gardner

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Spectacular rammed-earth dome home is tucked deep into a Costa Rican jungle

Trailhead Ambassador Program enhances hiking in Oregon

August 30, 2019 by  
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Wilderness lovers often see dismaying things on hiking trails: litter , thirsty people in flip flops who forgot to bring water, rambunctious dogs whose owners have never heard of leash laws, clueless couples who carve their names into trees. Instead of simply griping about these miscreants, some parks and wilderness areas have developed constructive ways to educate the public and make recreation safer and more fun for everybody. The Trailhead Ambassador Program at Oregon’s Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge recruits volunteers to greet hikers at trailheads, answering questions and offering suggestions. Inhabitat talked to Lizzie Keenan, wilderness lover and co-founder of the program, about how trailhead ambassadors can make tangible differences in the local environment. Inhabitat: Tell us about your involvement with the Trailhead Ambassadors Program. Lizzie Keenan: I co-founded the program with Friends of the Columbia Gorge in the summer of 2017. The program was a mesh of an idea the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge Tourism Alliance had merged with Trail Talks, a program Friends of the Columbia Gorge piloted that summer. The Tourism Alliance, which I manage, has funded the bulk of the program since its inception, and I have been there every step of the way helping to shape and grow it into what it is today. Related: Seven commandments of Leave-No-Trace camping Additional partners to get it launched included U.S. Forest Service for the Columbia River Gorge and U.S. Forest Service for Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon State Parks, and local tourism entities like Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory . The idea came from increased feedback from our local communities in the region that search and rescue at our trails was at an all-time high, that congestion at trails was becoming unmanageable and there was a general call for help for educating visitors on best practices in our recreation areas. I did some research and found a couple of programs in different parts of the U.S. running something like what we were looking for. In the end, we mirrored a lot of our program from the White Mountain National Forest Trailhead Steward Program . Inhabitat: What are some of the more unusual questions ambassadors have heard? Keenan: Upon seeing the dog that our volunteers brought with them to the trail, a young boy asked, “Will I see other mountain lions like that one on the trail?” Ambassadors working at Multnomah Falls have been asked by visitors, “How do I get to the Columbia River Gorge from here?” The answer is usually, welcome! You made it! Someone asked at the Dog Mountain Trailhead, “Is there a restaurant or store on top of Dog Mountain, so we can buy food?” Inhabitat: What kind of traits should a volunteer have? Keenan: Being a trailhead ambassador requires someone who enjoys talking with people. We ask that our volunteers study up on the trails they will be volunteering at so they can share advice with confidence and authenticity. Finally, ambassadors should love the region. Love the trails, the communities, the culture of the area. That translates to visitors loving and appreciating the land they are recreating on more. Inhabitat: Have you seen any results? Keenan: Yes! In our first season, which ran over the course of 20 weekends, our volunteers talked to over 23,700 visitors in the Gorge and on Mt. Hood. They helped to shape visitors’ experiences. Example actions visitors have taken after speaking with a trailhead ambassador include going to their car to get better shoes and/or water, taking a picture of the map of the trail so they can reference it on their hike, getting a parking pass when they didn’t have one already and much more. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials Other results include fewer car break-ins on the weekends that volunteers staffed the trails as well as a feedback loop of trail information that would go directly to the local land manager. One example of this was at Starvation Creek; after speaking with hikers in the area, the ambassadors found out there was a landslide on the trail. They were then able to inform Oregon State Parks about it, and soon rangers came in to close off that portion of the trail. Inhabitat: What kind of feedback have you received from visitors? Keenan: It has been 99 percent thankful and supportive. Both regular recreators and new folks visiting from out of town have been incredibly thankful to have trailhead ambassadors stationed at their trail. Those who are local are thankful to have people sharing advice at the trails, because they have seen and helped unprepared visitors in the past. Those new to the trails are excited to have someone nice and approachable to talk to, to ask questions of and feel more confident about heading out on a new adventure. Inhabitat: Do you have any advice for other places interested in starting similar programs? Keenan: Borrow materials from another program who is running a program like the one you want to do; don’t recreate the wheel. Start small and develop your dedicated group of volunteers. Finally, collect data. This program has been a huge opportunity for us to learn and track common issues and trends at our trailheads that we and the other agencies involved can use to better serve the land and visitors in the future. + Trailhead Ambassadors Program Images via Trailhead Ambassadors Program and Bureau of Land Management

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The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills

May 24, 2019 by  
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Based in Assam, India, the Akshar Foundation is on a mission to create a new type of sustainable school with its unique education model. The education reform initiative strives to create government schools that are eco-friendly, low-cost and centered in building the most successful environment for children to learn and grow. At the forefront of the school’s positive environmental impact is its recycling model. Instead of tuition, students pay “plastic school fees” by bringing in a minimum of 25 pieces of plastic from their homes or communities each week. Most of these plastic items are non-recyclable and would otherwise be destined for a landfill. Instead, the school staff and students find creative ways to reuse the plastic throughout the campus. While India doesn’t have nearly as much plastic use per capita compared to the United States, the country’s massive population (and the fact that 40 percent of plastic waste is neither collected nor recycled) means that India still produces enough plastic to pollute its oceans and rivers substantially. Luckily, thanks to the country’s recent bans on single-use plastics, along with innovative organizations like the Akshar Foundation, India is beginning to fight back against plastic pollution. Related: India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 Clean plastic waste is collected by the children, who can take items that would otherwise be thrown out from their own homes or collect plastic from around their communities. The material is then separated and cleaned, and the plastic bottles are compacted with other plastic materials, such as plastic bags and packets, to create a “brick.” These “eco-bricks” are used to construct things for the school, everything from toilets to flower planters, to save money and teach the students important vocational skills. The kids learn how to make the bricks, mix the cement and learn the construction skills necessary to build with and reuse recycled materials. In addition to the recycling program and regular curriculum, students are trained in sustainable subjects such as gardening , carpentry and solar tech. The foundation plans to eventually implement irrigation, electronics and lighting into the educational program to supplement the Akshar Landscaping Enterprise as well. Through this program, students are taught to run a profitable business in the landscaping industry and how to beautify public spaces, all while connecting with nature. India accounts for over one-third of the world’s rabies-related deaths, most of which are spread by the large number of stray dogs that live on the country’s streets. The school runs a campus animal shelter in order to bring awareness to the street animal crisis. The students and faculty sheltered, cared for and found homes for 20 dogs in the first year of the program. The children play a part in the medical care for the dogs, as well as caring for them while they are recovering from medical procedures before finding them forever homes. Students are able to learn basic medical skills thanks to this program. Akshar schools enable a “meta-teaching” program so that each student has access to personalized, private tutoring to supplement regular lessons. Each younger child is mentored by an older student who has been trained to tutor, all while being guided by an adult teacher. Related: Green school in Bali shows students how to live sustainably Children in India are often motivated to quit school out of pressure to earn an income and help their families, resulting in about 47 million students dropping out of school by the 10th grade throughout the country. Akshar has this covered, too. The foundation pays students to work part-time at the school to supplement their learning, with wages based on academic level and teaching skill (meaning students are motivated to improve grades even more). With sponsorship from the Motivation for Excellence Nalanda Project , Akshar students have access to the latest technology to aid in their learning. Student teachers are able to utilize tech such as tablets to add an extra resource to tutoring and mentoring. Younger students are therefore able to familiarize themselves with technology and be taught by a peer who is closer to them in age in addition to an adult teacher. All students take part in the secondary curriculum that combines abstract learning with practical life skills. Some examples include pairing carpentry with mathematics, solar technology with physics, embroidery with economics, teaching with psychology, recycling with ecology and landscaping with biology. Through these inventive school models, the Akshar Foundation hopes to arm its students with skills that will help them in all aspects of life. In addition to gaining experience in the usual subjects of math and science, children learn empathy, responsibility, sustainability and cooperation. The flagship 100-student school, Akshar Forum, serves as a “testing ground” for teaching methods that will eventually spread to more and more schools throughout the country in the coming years. By implementing a fellowship program, government schools will have the chance to learn Akshar’s innovative education design for a period of two years by a trained fellow. Partners for the school include the United Nations, The Education Alliance and the Education Research & Development Foundation. Learn more about the Akshar Foundation by visiting its website . + Akshar Foundation Images via Akshar Foundation

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The Akshar Foundation is creating sustainable schools to teach children important life skills

Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

January 31, 2019 by  
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Officials in Bangkok have closed schools for the rest of the week amid growing concerns of toxic smog . The Ministry of Education in Thailand announced the closing of around 450 schools in Bangkok and the surrounding area this week as the government tries to deal with a massive pollution problem. The air quality in the city of Bangkok has dipped to unacceptable levels. The amount of dust particles — also referred to as PM2.5 — deemed dangerous to health has far exceeded acceptable standards. This fine particulate matter is hazardous to health , because it is tiny enough to enter the body and do considerable damage to organs. Related: Scientists find air pollution leads to a significant decline in cognition According to The Guardian , the massive amount of pollution is caused by poor construction standards, car exhaust, factory fumes and crop burning. The pollution is so large in scale that it is unable to escape the city, leaving people trapped in a toxic environment. To combat the situation, residents in Bangkok have been wearing respirator masks to avoid inhaling the fine particles. The government, which has been under considerable criticism for not actively fighting pollution , has attempted to make it rain in the city by seeding clouds. The rain helps fight pollution by trapping the toxic particles. Officials have also sprayed water in strategic locations to help decrease the amount of dangerous particles in the air . Residents have been avoiding burning incense, which is a popular activity over the Chinese New Year. Despite their efforts, authorities were forced to close down 437 schools in Bangkok. They also declared a “control area” around the city that is over 580 square miles in size. Officials hope that closing schools will help alleviate some of the traffic and reduce vehicle emissions. “The situation will be bad until February 3 to 4, so I decided to close schools,” Aswin Kwanmuang, the governor of Bangkok, shared. School authorities plan to look at the situation next week to determine if the closing should be extended. The air quality index in Bangkok was measured at 171 this week, which is the highest it has been in more than a year. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic smog causes school closures in Bangkok

Connecticut could mandate climate change education in schools

January 22, 2019 by  
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Connecticut state Representative Christine Palm, a Democrat from the town of Chester, has proposed a bill in the state legislature that would mandate instruction on climate change in public schools across Connecticut . If Palm’s proposed bill became law, the study of  climate change  in Connecticut would begin in elementary school. It would also be the first bill in the U.S. to make climate change instruction mandatory via statute. Some people don’t believe the legislation is necessary, because the state already adopted Next Generation Science Standards back in 2015. Those standards include teaching about climate change, Phys.org reported. “A lot of schools make the study of climate change an elective, and I don’t believe it should be an elective,” Palm said. “I think it should be mandatory, and I think it should be early, so there’s no excuse for kids to grow up ignorant of what’s at stake.” Related: Climate change is causing spring to come earlier in national parks The Next Generation Science Standards already make climate change studies a core of science education , but it doesn’t start until middle school. Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said that because the curriculum is already addressing climate change and educators are already teaching the standards set forth by the 2015 legislation, this new proposal isn’t needed. So far, 19 states and  Washington D.C.  have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. However, it does leave the specific curriculum up to individual school districts and only gives indications about what the state wants students to learn. During the last legislative session, a similar bill to Palm’s was introduced, but it did not pass. Some states have also proposed legislation to either allow or require teachers to present students with alternative viewpoints about climate change and other topics. Palm believes that climate change is such an urgent and threatening matter that it should be a top priority in a child’s education. “I’d love to see poetry be mandated,” Palm said. “That’s never going to happen. That’s not life or death.” Via Phys.org Image via Wokandapix

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Connecticut could mandate climate change education in schools

Eco-friendly Brae restaurant and retreat targets net-zero energy in Australia

January 22, 2019 by  
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Sustainability is woven throughout Brae , a renowned restaurant and retreat nestled on a hillside of a 30-acre organic farm in rural Australia. Designed by Fitzroy-based studio Six Degrees Architects , Brae is best known for its seasonally inspired menu and talented chefs — the restaurant was named among the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2017 — and the idyllic establishment also boasts six eco-friendly guest suites designed to target net-zero energy consumption. Durable and recycled materials are used throughout the handcrafted buildings, which are powered with solar energy and use recycled rainwater. After Six Degree Architects completed Brae in 2013, the firm revisited the site to add a new accommodation building that would emphasize the restaurant’s commitment to sustainability and seasonality. Completed in 2016, the six guest suites are housed in a structure referencing the archetypal utilitarian rural shed and built with simple and robust materials including recycled timber and brickwork, raw steel and brass. Local builders and tradesmen built the project, and the guest suites are carefully fitted out with bespoke, engaging objects to make each room feel homey and welcoming. “The restaurant is renowned for seasonally sourcing raw produce from either the property or local region,” the architects explained. “There was a desire to bring this careful, considered approach into the crafting of the rooms and restaurant. Simple robust materials, contrasting hard and soft, and a level of intricate detailing remind you that hands have made and shaped the buildings. The project purposefully plays off the materiality and self-build nature of old rural buildings, reinterpreting them into contemporary and luxurious interiors, framing views of the working landscape beyond.” Related: Peek inside the BIG-designed garden village for one of the world’s best restaurants The guest suites are oriented for south-facing views of the landscape, while a landscaped berm to the north protects the building from view of the carpark. To achieve net-zero energy use during operation, the project is equipped with 48 solar panels that generate a daily average of nearly 44 kWh. Rainwater is harvested in two 40,000-liter tanks and reused for drinking and washing. Waste is broken down in a large worm farm. Thanks to these systems and passive thermal design, the 500-square-meter Brae guest suites have achieved a NatHERS energy rating of 7 stars. + Six Degrees Architects Photography by Trevor Mein via Six Degrees Architects

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Eco-friendly Brae restaurant and retreat targets net-zero energy in Australia

These are the world’s top vegan cities

January 22, 2019 by  
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If traveling is a top priority for you in 2019 and you follow a vegan diet , there are some cities that are more vegan-friendly than others. Vegan website Happy Cow has compiled a list of the 10 most vegan-friendly cities in the world based on the number of fully-vegan restaurants, the number of vegan-option restaurants and their impression of overall vegan-friendliness. London At the top of the list is London, because the number of vegan restaurants in the city has exploded over the past year. It was the first city on the list to hit 100 completely vegan restaurants. A recent survey showed that more than a half million people are following the vegan diet in Great Britain. Related: Veganism on the rise, record number of sign-ups for Veganuary Berlin Because its vegan scene continues to grow, Berlin comes in at No. 2. There are now 65 vegan restaurants in the German city and 320 additional vegan options at restaurants within a 5-mile radius. New York City Many people consider the Big Apple to be the international food capital of the world, and its vegan scene is flourishing. There are now 64 vegan restaurants in NYC that range from fast food to upscale dining. Portland Veganism is a way of life in Portland , and that means the city has a wide variety of plant-based food options. You can easily find a vegan burger and a variety of vegan artisanal cheeses. There are also a number of vegan food carts and even a vegan bed and breakfast. Tel Aviv With an estimated 5 to 8 percent of the Israeli population being vegan, the country has the highest percentage of vegans in the world. The 31 vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv serve a variety of cuisines from Israel, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Some also have a Western influence. Rounding out the top 10 are Los Angeles, Warsaw, Toronto, Prague and Paris . + Happy Cow Image via 12019

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These are the world’s top vegan cities

Permaculture feeds and empowers refugees in Uganda

January 18, 2019 by  
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Refugees arrive at Palabek refugee camp in Northern Uganda with the clothes on their back and what little they carried. New arrivals, many from South Sudan, receive a tarp, tent poles, a water can, a cooking pot and a ration card for enough food to make starvation a slower process. While aid agencies swarm Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than 26 percent of the world’s refugee population, few make their desired impact. But African Women Rising (AWR) is having startling success. The organization educates women and girls in Northern Uganda, schooling them in literacy, micro-finance and agriculture . Within Palabek, the nonprofit’s lessons in permaculture may make the difference between people surviving the camp and eventually thriving in a new home or not. Seeds and tools Permaculture is small-scale agriculture designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient. AWR developed the permagarden program at Palabek “as an antidote to the widespread seeds and tools offerings of most NGOs, especially in refugee settings,” said founders Linda and Tom Cole. “There’s a seldom-challenged maxim within the humanitarian sector that if you provide a refugee with some packets of seeds and a few tools, she might translate that into a regular supply of food for the family.” But the Coles have seen this approach fail, primarily because of poor soil fertility and lack of water. Instead, AWR provides a deeper agricultural education for refugees.  “It focuses on building understanding around the basic principles of water and soil biology, and then uses a design framework to help the farmer understand the best way to capture rainwater and enrich the soil using locally available — and often waste — materials such as manure, wood ash, tree leaves and charcoal dust.” Related: Nonprofit teaches communities how to build homes out of straw, clay and soil When AWR started at Palabek, they trained about 20 people. Now, more than 6,000 South Sudanese refugee families cultivate vegetables here. The permagardeners at Palabek learn to harvest water and capture waste streams to enhance the fertility and productivity of their 30m by 30m plots. They manage existing trees , plant new ones and cultivate living fences and biomass plantings that provide materials for building, pest remedies, dry season nutrition and medicine. “This helps reduce pressures on the environment — such as the collection of fuelwood, gathering of wild foods, burning of charcoal — that will continue to worsen as time goes on, exacerbating tensions between host communities and refugees,” the Coles told Inhabitat. “Strengthening the ecological base of food systems also reduces vulnerability across time by shoring up resilience in the face of climate instability and extreme weather events.” Permagardening is not a magic solution. The refugees don’t learn it in a day. Instead, refugee farmers participate in a series of trainings throughout the growing season. Local field staff called community mobilizers regularly monitor the gardens and troubleshoot problems as necessary. Why women? The Coles founded their nonprofit in 2006 to empower African women rebuilding their lives after war. “AWR’s vision is to build social, economic and political equality for women and girls in Africa,” the Coles said. The small-but-mighty nonprofit’s programs help Northern Ugandan women to improve their lives through increased food production, natural resource management, financial security and education. Women traditionally care for children and keep households going, and therefore carry heavy post-war burdens. As Ugandan women try to feed families, they contend with financial lack and environmental challenges including deforestation , drought, erosion, water shortages and climate change . AWR works with the most vulnerable of vulnerable women: widows, formerly abducted women and girls, ex-combatants, girl mothers, orphans, those who are HIV-positive and grandmothers taking care of orphans, all of whom earn less than a dollar a day. Most have had little or no formal education and are stigmatized for their disadvantages. AWR is adamant about the women themselves being actively involved in decision-making. Before launching programs, AWR partners with community-based groups to find out what the women themselves want and need, then make plans to carry that out. “There was broad consensus that education, savings and agriculture should be the foundation of recovery,” Linda and Tom said. Once programs are up and running, community mobilizers meet weekly with program participants to monitor progress. Money is power, and so is literacy In addition to agricultural projects, AWR is the major player in adult literacy in Northern Uganda. AWR runs 34 literacy centers serving more than 2,000 adults in Northern Uganda. With literacy comes power. Nearly 50 students and staff members at the centers, dismayed by a lack of trustworthy candidates, have run for public office. Two-thirds won. AWR also runs a micro-finance program that teaches financial literacy to women. Participants learn record keeping, basic business skills and strategies for saving money, and they gain access to capital. “AWR groups saved more than $1 million last year,” the founders said. “Groups are on track to save more than $2 million this year, $0.50 to $0.75 at a time.” Related: The farmers growing food across frigid northern latitudes Within the refugee camp at Palabek, the rows of vegetables thriving in the permagardens are a welcome contrast to the bleak expanse of red dirt and a rationed diet of maize, beans, oil, sugar and salt. The permagardens also provide a symbol of hope for the future. “Most refugees arriving in Palabek have lost many of the friends and family structures that were relied upon previously for social support,” the Coles told Inhabitat.  “Apart from providing food for the family and some residual income, the most profound effect of AWR’s programs is to help rebuild those layers of social capital.  Extra food to provide to neighbors. Some small money for school fees or church offerings. Female mentors and role models.” They hope to have the same success in the intense poverty and displacement of the refugee camp as they’ve had throughout post-war Northern Uganda. “AWR began its work in one of the most aid-dependent areas of the world. We have the long-term goal of shifting this paradigm from complete dependency to one of engagement and personal capacity.” If you are interested in supporting AWR in its efforts, donations can be made here . + AWR Photography by Brian Hodges Photography, Thomas Cole and Macduff Everton via AWR

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