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Entries in human development (13)

Thursday
Sep212017

The Dawn of the Genetics Revolution | 2001 - 2003

 

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was officially declared complete in 2003. A rough draft of the human genome sequencing carried out by the HGP was formally announced in 2000 and the completed sequence was announced in 2003. This breakthrough spawned many initiatives, including Iceland's deCode (below), and was reflected in the work I was called upon to undertake for the GOSH Child Health Portal at the time, such as designing websites for the London IDEAS Genetics Knowledge Park and the UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre (at bottom). I photographed the author of Our Genes, Steindor Erlingsson, in Reykjavik, Iceland for The Associated Press in 2002.

"Frenzy fades over ambitious genetics mapping project" by Jill Lawless, Associated Press, December 1, 2002.

UK Newborn Screening Programme Centre website screen grab.Read a story I did for the UNDP e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions here: China Pushing Frontiers of Medical Research 

© David South Consulting 2017 
Saturday
Mar052016

UNDP Travelling Seminar: Environment and Development | Mongolia 1998

 

As head of communications for UNDP/UN Mongolia, I organised and led press tours across the country for international journalists in 1997 and 1998.

A book published by UNDP chronicled the press tour in 1998.

Tuesday
Jun302015

Staple Foods Are Becoming More Secure in the South

 

Finding ways to ensure food security in countries experiencing profound economic and social change and stress is critical to achievement of development goals.

Food security is crucial to ensuring economic development is sustainable, and it is vital to long-term human health. Just one bout of famine can damage a generation of youth, stunting brain development and leaving bodies smaller and weaker than they should be.

Thankfully, many innovators are working on this problem and are making significant progress. A report from the Asian Development Bank, The Quiet Revolution in Staple Food Value Chains (http://www.adb.org/publications/quiet-revolution-staple-food-value-chains), found improvements to security of rice and potatoes – common staple foods in many countries. It said the so-called value chains – the various activities a company does to deliver a product or service to the marketplace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_chain) – for potatoes and rice have seen significant improvements in Bangladesh, China and India.

This is important because improvements in access to staple foods will mean better food security and less threat of extreme hunger events. This matters because it just takes one extreme hunger event and a generation is scarred for life.

The human brain is a heavy user of energy: it uses between 20 and 30 per cent of a person’s energy intake. Failure to consume enough calories means brain functioning begins to  be altered (brain-guide.org).

Hunger and starvation slow a person’s mental responsiveness. Low energy intake from minimal diets leads to apathy, sadness and depression. Fetuses and infants are especially sensitive to brain damage caused by malnutrition. A malnourished child can suffer life-long low intelligence and cognitive defects.

More than 70 per cent of the world’s 146 million underweight children aged five and under live in just 10 countries, with more than 50 per cent located in South Asia alone (UNICEF). A quarter of all children – roughly 146 million – in developing countries are underweight, and it is estimated that 684,000 child deaths worldwide could be prevented by increasing access to vitamin A and zinc (WFP).

Undernutrition contributes to 53 per cent of the 9.7 million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries (UNICEF).

Food insecurity also shows on the faces of people who experience it. This extreme stress scars people and harms their prospects in the labour market and their ability to improve their incomes.

Why is access to staple foods improving? It seems, according to the report, to result from innovations such as rapid modernization, with the increasing roll out of supermarkets, the use of cold storage facilities and large rice mills. It also cites the impact of small farmers taking on modern technologies, such as mechanized farming, and making the most of soil by using fertilizers and efficient techniques.

Supermarkets by their nature encourage highly sophisticated supply lines to ensure a steady stream of fresh produce coming in from farms to urban areas. Because of the variety and vast range of produce on offer, they require finely-tuned organizing models and information technologies. In short, they radically alter the way people buy their food, and what people will expect from food providers.

By negotiating deals with farmers, supermarkets create stability, as well as low and competitive prices. They allow for better traceability for food and give consumers more confidence in what they are purchasing. They use cold storage, which means food lasts longer and there is less waste than if food is left to spoil in a marketplace without refrigeration – a revolutionary change in hot countries.

The downside with supermarkets, as has been the case in some countries, is they can quickly dominate the marketplace and push out all other competitors with their economies of scale. When this happens, farmers can also find themselves with little bargaining power again and be hostage to the price the supermarket tells them to sell their product at.

Another critical improvement is the rapid spread of mobile phones. Armed with a mobile phone, small-scale farmers are able to access critical knowledge and information. This means they can make better decisions and quickly adjust what they are doing when mistakes are made.

The survey found that India is a country where the food-supply game has changed dramatically. In the past, traders would advance cash to farmers in the form of loans. But since the use of mobile phones has increased, the balance of power has shifted: farmers now have many other options to finance their operations than turning to middlemen and traders. This means they are no longer as easily manipulated by the traders and can negotiate better prices. Also, better roads, combined with greater competition to provide services to farmers, are improving farming of staple foods in general.

Among potato farmers in rural areas, 73 to 97 per cent have mobile phones and use them to organize deals with traders or receive market information. The take-up of mobile phones was also a recent development for the farmers: most had acquired a mobile phone in the last four years.

It is clear this quiet revolution in food security for staples is a result of greater use of innovative technology and taking on of new techniques.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: July 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP's South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South's innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rvVcAwAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+july+2013&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challenges-july-2013-issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Tuesday
Jun302015

Thai Organic Supermarkets Seek to Improve Health

 

A Thai business is working hard to expand access to organic food in the country. It sees this as part of a wider campaign to improve health in the country – and its success has caught the attention of the government, which wants to turn Thailand into a global health destination.

The Lemon Farm chain run by Suwanna Langnamsank (http://www.lemonfarm.com/lmf/) was started 13 years ago and has grown to nine organic supermarkets in the capital, Bangkok. Lemon Farm works with 200 organic farms in Thailand and employs 160 people.

Organic food (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food) – grown without chemicals and artificial fertilizers and not irradiated or subjected to other tampering – is believed by many to be healthier because it avoids the harmful effects of accumulating chemicals. It is also thought to be richer in vitamins and minerals because of the use of non-chemical fertilizers on the soil.

Lemon Farm sells made-in-Thailand organic vegetables and fruit, natural gift sets, soap and tea. There are also macrobiotic cafes in the supermarkets called Be Organic.  A macrobiotic diet avoids foods containing toxins (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-help/about-cancer/treatment/complementary-alternative/therapies/macrobiotic-diet).

The supermarkets use eye-pleasing modern design to set themselves apart from more conventional supermarkets.

According to Lemon Farm’s website, it is a social enterprise and practices fair trade. It is using market-driven solutions to increase the availability of healthy food in the country. It seeks to support small-scale farmers and champion change in farming methods, encouraging a move away from dependence on harmful chemicals that damage human health and the environment and promoting “agricultural and economic self-sufficiency”.

The macrobiotic restaurant operates to six values, among them using fresh vegetables and only using produce from associated farms. The restaurants do not use added sugar, they cook using a pressure cooker, and use natural ingredients such as sea salt, ginger, fermented soy sauce and natural miso. They do not use any artificial preservatives or flavour enhancers such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), a common practice in Asian cooking.

Lemon Farm’s success as an organic food pioneer has caught the attention of the Thai government. The Ministry of Commerce (http://www2.moc.go.th/main.php?filename=index_design4_en) has contracted Lemon Farm to join its campaign to offer organic food in schools and hospitals.

By promoting organic food, the government is hoping to boost farmers’ incomes while improving health in the country and bolstering the country’s thriving medical services industry serving foreign patients.

“We need to promote healthy food and a healthy environment,” Piramol Charoenpao, deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, told Monocle magazine. “Thailand is a medical hub. The idea is to have retreat-style hospitals serving organic food. We’re increasing organic food production and educating people about it.”

Thailand has already built a good reputation with its medical and health services. More than 1.6 million non-Thais are treated in Thai hospitals annually, with an estimated 500,000 travelling specifically for medical treatment (The Guardian).

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra mooted the idea of making the country an international leader in medical tourism in 2003. It is expected providing medical services to overseas patients will make the country US $3.3 billion by 2015 (The Guardian).
 
It is hoped that offering organic food in hospitals and health facilities will boost the attractiveness and effectiveness of using health services in Thailand.

Medical tourism is considered one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world. Estimates place it as a market worth US $100 billion. Three countries that compete in this market by offering medical services in the English language include India, Singapore and Thailand. They compete by offering services comparable to wealthier countries but at considerably less cost.

Lemon Farm says it is on a mission to develop the marketplace for organic food in Thailand by educating consumers and producing “innovative natural food”.  It looks like it has already made a big impact.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP's South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South's innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=hvRcAwAAQBAJ&dq=development+challenges+february+2013&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challenges-february-2013-issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Wednesday
Jun242015

Indian City Slum Areas Become Newly Desirable Places to Live

 

 

With India’s urban economy experiencing rapid growth, its slums – once seen as the most undesirable places to live in the country, if not on Earth – are attracting the attention of affluent residents and developers inIndia’s rapidly expanding cities. The prosperity inIndia’s cities has made these areas’ proximity to business and entertainment zones highly desirable. In turn, this has led to slum dwellers either upgrading their homes and in the process boosting their value, or being offered the opportunity to sell their rudimentary dwellings to real estate agents and property developers.

For some, this could be a great leap forward in income and opportunity; for others, it could mean exploitation and hard choices, weighing up the cash boost against moving out of the slum area.

How to best handle slum areas in urban and peri-urban communities will be a major challenge for most countries in the South as they continue to urbanize.

India’s phenomenal economic growth rate – forecast to be 7.9 percent this year by the Asian Development Bank, after averaging 7.7 percent per year over the past decade – has been the force behind an expanding middle class population, now estimated at 50 million people (McKinsey). Forecasts see it swelling from 5 percent ofIndia’s population to 40 percent by 2025.

With 30 percent of the population living in urban areas and cities contributing 60 percent of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of government revenues (Wall Street Journal), city-dwellers’ fate is critical to the functioning of the economy.

According to the 2001 Indian census, slums make up 25 percent of all housing and 26 percent of urban households lack access to sanitation facilities.

But Indu Prakash Vaidya, a 32-year-old housewife, is part of new trend in India’s city slums. Vaidya lives in a small shanty house in Mumbai with no running water, no sewage services and a jerry-rigged electrical connection.

Vaidya’s home is a just a single room for the five people in her family. They sleep on the cement floor and the ‘kitchen’ is a two-burner gas stove. The dwelling is so poorly constructed that they have to move around inside the room when it rains outside to avoid getting soaked.

But her humble home has been valued at US $24,000 by people looking to buy it.

According to real estate agent Hari Ram, the average price of a 91 square metre shanty home in Mumbai is now US $46,000.

“Shanties as small as 120 square feet… are as expensive as US $93,000,” Dinesh Prabhu, a construction company owner, told NDTV television.

Sixty percent of Mumbai’s 21 million people live in slums. And many are now finding themselves the subject of a property boom. This has led to the bizarre spectacle of luxury high-rise buildings sprouting up in a sea of slum housing. The slums are attracting the attention of those with money because many busy city workers face long commutes and are desperate for homes closer to work and entertainment areas.

The value of living close to the action is summed up by one slum dweller:

“People would kill to be in a place like this,” said slum dweller Sundar. “There are four local train stations close by. And the bus stop is a stone’s throw away.”

Some say this real estate boom offers enormous potential for the poor.

“All I can say is, given the current real-estate rates, those slums are invaluable,” said Sharad Mahajan of the Pune-based nonprofit organization Mashal (http://mashalindia.org).  Mashal focuses on the problem of urban shelter and also implements housing projects. It has been working in the Dharavi slum area with theMaharashtra government on its redevelopment. The slum is well-known for its representation in the film Slumdog Millionaire, and the area is next to the Bandra-Kurla Complex business district of Mumbai. Mashal has been mapping the area, home to 60,000 families, to make sure the redevelopment is fair to the families living there.

Land tenure is an issue however. Many slum dwellers do not have official title to the land they live on. Over time, they have become semi-official places to live as governments have hooked many up to electricity and drinking water. Issues of corruption and exploitation are also other problems that need addressing if this real estate windfall is to actually benefit slum dwellers.

Typical slum dwellers are day labourers and poor migrants. But others are people who good easily afford to live somewhere else but don’t want the long commutes to work.

“It is simpler and less expensive to live here,” said Sankaralingam, a plastic merchant, who estimates his annual income at around US $9,300: an amount that could get him a home somewhere nicer.

For Indu Prakash Vaidya, the dilemma – to sell or not to sell – makes for some painful choices. While her current home is prone to flooding during the rainy season, she feels she would have nowhere else to go if she sold the home.

Yet the pressure to sell is great and elemental.

“I have three children, and their education and well-being need to be taken care of. Financial constraints can push me to sell this shanty in the future, then where will I live? I will have nowhere to go,” she told NDTV.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: December 2011

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP's South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South's innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ps0RezX0QbAC&dq=development+challenges+december+2011&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsdecember2011issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.