The grass is always greener on the other side ;)

Schapiro’s Explanation:

The grass is always greener on the other side,

but that’s because they use more manure.

If you are jealous of someone else’s success, if you are constantly comparing yourself to others and coming up short. Then the time has come for you to have an honest conversation with yourself about whatever it is that you are jealous of in others. Take an inventory of your life and decide on what needs to change for you to be happy.

Just remember ….

You can’t change others, you can only change yourself.

When you can’t change a situation, you can change your attitude towards that situation.

Whatever you can’t change – you have the power to decide on whether to accept or discard.

Whatever you can’t accept, discard it, if that means having to let go of people, situations, dreams, jobs, clothes in your closets… just do it.

You only get one life to live, why waste it in unhappiness of jealousy?

Should safe food be a privilege? or a right?

The issue of Food Safety has been on the media for quite some time now. The resulting backlash has been worrisome, not just for the families wondering what to feed their children but also for the small holding farmers linked to the markets.

For example – there has been an outcry against use of formalin in fish. The market mechanism responded by transporting live fish to the kitchen markets in small drums. It’s a commendable effort and many families has resorted to buying live fish only. Live fish typically retails at a higher price – the cost of transporting the fish is higher, you can transport only a certain amount of fish in these makeshift tanks and fit in a significantly reduced number of these tanks & barrels in the trucks. These higher costs essentially relegate the poorer segment of consumers to resign to the reality of buying whatever other fish are in offer within their price range. On the small farmer side, the cost of investing in this supply chain can prove to be either inhibiting or alternatively leaves them more open to exploitation by the middle men.

This begs the question – should safe food be a privilege? or a right?

The constitution of Bangladesh is the only one in the world which guarantees safe food to its citizens. The recent Safe Food Act 2013 and other measures put in place demonstrate a certain level of commitment to this issue. Yet media are rife with news of adulteration and subsequent drives by the government inspectors. All these are made more difficult by the lack of widespread access to scientific tests for accuracy in determining the level of adulteration or other contamination in the food.

A certain level of chemical fertilizer and pesticide use is inevitable in the field. We cannot feed 160 million people on organic production alone. Chemical fertilizer, pesticides & certain human-grade preservatives on their own are not dangerous – in the right doses. And there in lies the crux of the matter – adequate and safe use of chemicals in the production process and monitoring the value chain against contamination and adulteration.

At the same time, a Canadian study indicates that 40 to 60% of food-borne illness are acquired in a home setting. In the rural setting of Bangladesh and with lack of adequate awareness on the importance of hygiene in food preparation, this could be significantly higher. Therefore, large-scale assumption and panic created from assumption that outbreaks of illness are created by adulterated or contaminated food should also be avoided. 

What is needed to tackle the issue of food safety is knowledge, commitment and awareness of the public, private and regulatory actors. Awareness of importance in hygienic preparation of food, greater information accessibility, self-regulation and reporting by the private sector and a functioning authority on Food Safety could start to tackle this threat to public health in a holistic manner.

For more information, you can check out the following website: http://www.bdfoodsafety.org/

Why you should never argue with idiots ;)

They’ll pull you down to their level and then beat you with experience :D

 

The world’s toughest question:

 

This reasonable argument:

 

Technology letting us down YET again:

 

Leonardo’s best role:

 

America’s NEW independence day:

 

This interesting meditation on dogs:

 

THE FUTURE:

 

Nate and his Americans:

 

This bit of troubleshooting:

 

And… this:

 

For more WTF moments that seals the deal on not engaging with idiots, visit this page here on buzzfeed :)

 

Things that make me go Yayyyy – declining fertility rate & population growth

We are possibly the only country in the world to have recruited religious leaders to the movement of halting and reversing the trend of high-fertility to bring about astonishing change over a period of three decades – fertility rate dropped from almost 7 to 2.4 in 2005-2010.

Increase in use of contraceptive and other family planning methods has been key to the declining trend. However certain regions still significantly lag behind in providing adequate pre & post-natal medical care as well as neonatal care. While there’s work to be done, this achievement in itself is no mean feat.

bangladesh-population-growth-annual-percent-wb-data

Graph & information courtesy of World Bank.

Our work in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights here in Bangladesh aims to increase knowledge, demand and utilization of services, and to improve service delivery to reduce maternal mortality. The emphasis is on adolescents (irrespective of their marital status), access to family planning and advocacy. Activities within the private sector aim to bring them on board as equal partners in providing services & information to their employees, or collaborating in designing services & products to fulfil unmet demand – for example, affordable sanitary napkins for the lower quantile of earners.

If you would like more information on our work in SRHR and our specific projects you can check out this page here.

The Amazing Bangladeshi Women series #2

Bangladesh Women’s cricket team captain Salma Khatun is the No. 1 T20 bowler and all rounder in the latest ICC rankings! Congratulations Salma Khatun for this fantastic achievement!

 

You can read more on her in wikipedia and here in ESPN cricket info ;)

Opportunity cost in the age of consumerism

Everyone wants more …. whether it’s ‘more’ wealth, success, material possessions, the newer model car or a new designer bag.. everyone is always wanting more. It’s the times we live in – the age of Consumerism – the mechanics that keep our economies running.

The more you produce, the more you sell, the more you create jobs and wealth in the economy. Now where is all these products going to go, if people don’t want them. So we have entire industries devoted to studying consumer behaviour and the science of creating the ‘wanting’ of more. Be that through advertisement, repeated exposure in multiple media, direct or indirect selling, word of mouth. The idea is quite simple – people don’t know that they want your product, so you introduce them ‘to’ your product so that they desire to ‘own’ your product for the supposed value proposition that your product brings – whether that’s status, elegance, beauty, whatever sells. Hence we are constantly blasted with ads and campaigns selling the dream of youth, power etc.

In this world of constant consumerism – it is important to see another side of this economics. What’s the opportunity cost of the item that you wish to own? What are others giving up in order to for you to get what you want? This planet that we live in is exhaustible and this cycle of consumerism is unsustainable.

Now, a beautiful poignant series of photos illustrating just that with the campaign “People in Need” by Cordaid.

Elisabeth Leonkokwea is the woman posing with the bag and the watch. She’s Samburu and she lives in Wamba, a district in the Samburu province in the North of Kenya. She was born before 1960, so she is in her 50s. Her husband passed away years ago. Since then, she takes care of her four children who still live at home. Elisabeth has six children, but two of them are married and have their own families.

During the drought of 2005, one of the worst droughts this area has seen, she walked for days to find water for her children and animals. She lost almost all her animals. Afterwards, she moved back to Wamba and she’s happy to be around her own people. She’s happy because she now has water nearby. “I can stay here, for the time being,” she says.

Elisabeth’s face hides many worries. She’s troubled because very little food is produced. Since the drought, the earth has been so bad, that it can take a while before it can be harvested. Elisabeth is also worried about the Red Vally Fever, a virus that mainly hits cattle. Luckily, her goats have not been infected. Elisabeth does not have donkey anymore either. She hopes that local partner organization CODES can help her with that. If she gets a donkey, she will have the opportunity to walk further and search for water, when Wamba is out of water.  

 

This is Tirinti Letonginei. She’s a Samburu, a Maasai people from the North of Kenya. Tirinti does not know her own exact age, but our local partner organization has determined that she must have been born around 1968, because of an event that she has described.

So Tirinti is in her late 40s. She’s married and mother of nine children. Her oldest daughter is married now and lives with her in-laws. Only one of Tirinti’s children goes to school – Tirinti is very proud of that one. She doesn’t have enough money to send all her children to school.

During the big drought of 2005, seven of Tirinti’s donkeys died. They were severely weakened by the drought. Donkeys are the most valuable animals for Tirinti and her people. They are beasts of burden; they carry the water and belongings when the people move to new, water-rich areas.

Tirinti doesn’t have any more beasts of burden now and every day, she has to carry the heavy load herself, bringing the water from a remote lake home.

 

 

The strength of the campaign lies in the fact that it depicts almost ridicules wealth inequality, a serious issue that’s still with us today. Artistic, beautiful, provocative, bold and in-your-face, the images produced during that three-day photo shoot are as powerful now as they were then. To give them the necessary “glamorous” feel, Swedish high-end fashion and advertising photographer Calle Stoltz was asked to take the photos. He did so voluntarily.

The campaign won Saatchi & Saatchi a Cannes Silver Lion award, a prestigious international accolade for creativity. Much to their credit, Saatchi & Saatchi auctioned off the award and donated the proceeds to Cordaid People in Need. Moreover, art and advertising colleges still use this campaign for educational purposes.

What does it take to brighten a day?

What will it take to brighten your day today? A smile, a hug, a friend, a random act of kindness?

The good thing about most of these are that you cannot give one without getting one.

When I hug my friends, I get a hug in return.

When I smile and tease my friends, I get laughter in return.

When I love without calculating whether the love will be returned and how much, I get loved in return.

There’s a bunch of street kids near my university who seems to have figured out something quite well. They pick up trash and trade in garbage. In their line of work, where they exist in the fringe of society, in the space where most people are trying to avoid looking them in the eye or if they do, they don’t know how to react. I have seen them being treated with disdain, pity and a plethora of emotions which we would never consciously expose our children to. These are kids in the age range of 5 to 10 years old.

Not my group of kids but similar :) Photo credit goes to my wonderful colleague, Carel de Groot. He sees beauty in the mundane and does a wonderful job of capturing the human spirit :)

What they seem to have figured out is that kindness among themselves work to keep them boosted above their drudgery. Last year, I refused to hand out money to this kid who came around begging. Instead I offered to buy him what I was eating – a chicken roll and a soda. He gleefully accepted but then went around to tell his other friends that the crazy lady at the shop was buying kids food. So next thing I know, I am swamped in this mêlée of kids, 3 deep, smiling at me and talking all over each other.

This kid could’ve taken his food, stayed right where he was and relished it. Instead he went and called his friends. If I had refused, he would’ve shared it with his buddies. But he wasn’t going to eat it alone. For them it was a treat they didn’t often get. The requests ranged from beef roll, chicken roll to egg roll. Most of the kids chose juice over soda, which was really amazing.

What struck me was that they were willing to share, even though they didn’t have much to begin with. They called on each other to share this good fortune (crazy lady doesn’t come by too often apparently). They knew what they wanted and they really enjoyed the moment, the food and each other’s generosity.

 

The love that buoys over everything else :) Photo credit: Carel de Groot

 

In case you are wondering – the food for the entire team costs me less than what it would’ve cost to take my son out to KFC. And they enjoyed it far more than my son would’ve. The contrast was so stark, it was humbling. My son takes it as his right to eat out in places like Pizza Hut, Pizza Inn, KFC, etc on a regular basis, at his whim. He never thinks of the food, cost or the experience, because its no less than what he expects.

That’s the difference between what we think we can do and what we can actually do.

It still doesn’t cost me much to feed these kids who line up whenever they see me on a break outside the university. They wait patiently to see if I would offer to feed them whatever I was eating, not clamouring, not demanding, just waiting. Yesterday I shared my ‘chotpoti’ (a popular street food) with a five-year old. He was so quiet from the rebuffs of life that he didn’t say anything when I asked him if he would like some. He nodded his head and stood waiting with his sack over his shoulder. As I pushed a tool towards him for him to sit down, I couldn’t help noticing his eyes  – they were sad, quiet, muted. When his plate was served, he picked gingerly at the shaved eggs dusted on top and savoured every bite of it. We sat side by side, eating in silence.

For me this was the moment that brightened my day. A random act of kindness, accepted by a child, who consented in silence to share that moment.

 

 

The spirit of the kids :) Photo Credit: Carel de Groot

 

Measuring goodness of countries?

So how would we go about doing it?

When we say a person is good, are we talking about their level of education? wealth? or the good things that they do which has an impact on the people around them? Is a good person good, because they are genuinely good? or because they lack the chance to be bad? or are too afraid of the consequences to being bad?

What if we took this a step further and measured the goodness of countries?

So what does a good country look like? It’s concern for it’s own citizen? or it’s impact on the global citizen? Are these two factors mutually exclusive? How can a country be good for it’s people, if it’s policies and impact are bad for others? In the age of globalization, no one and no country can operate like an independent island. We exist in collaboration or we destroy each other in exclusion.

The result of looking into data provided by the UN, NGO’s and other organizations will probably surprise you… and maybe at the end.. in the 15 second before you fall asleep you will think “Damn, who would’ve thought that Ireland is the goodest?” :)

Make one person laugh each day

Why should we reduce wastage of food?

Between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2bn tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it on to a plate. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian Murdo MacLeod

Yesterday, June 5th was the World Environment Day. Did you know???

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
  • Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
  • In developing countries food waste and losses occur mainly at early stages of the food value chain and can be traced back to financial, managerial and technical constraints in harvesting techniques as well as storage –and cooling facilities. Thus, a strengthening of the supply chain through the support farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food –and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.
  • In medium- and high-income countries food is wasted and lost mainly at later stages in the supply chain. Differing from the situation in developing countries, the behavior of consumers plays a huge part in industrialized countries. Moreover, the study identified a lacking coordination between actors in the supply chain as a contributing factor. Farmer-buyer agreements can be helpful to increase the level of coordination. Additionally, raising awareness among industries, retailers and consumers as well as finding beneficial use for save food that is presently thrown away are useful measures to decrease the amount of losses and waste.
  • In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water. (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008)
  • United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88%) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed (WRAP, 2008; Knight and Davis, 2007).
  • In the USA, organic waste is the second highest component of landfills, which are the largest source of methane emissions. Methane is 23 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The vast amount of food going to landfills makes a significant contribution to global warming.

While we worry about feeding 9 billion people by 2050, perhaps our greatest concern and investment right now should be on ways to reduce wastage. Increasing investment in better transportation, storage and improving awareness & incentive’s for better buying behavior by both wholesalers and retail consumers could have significant impact on improving our environment now and for the one we leave for our future generation.

You can learn more about food waste and interesting statistics in the links below:

http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/196402/icode/

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste

http://www.unep.org/wed/2013/quickfacts/

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