November 10, 2005

Pell Delineates CIIFAD's Goals

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Prof. Alice Pell, animal science, director of Cornell International Institute for Food Agriculture and Development (CIIFAD) reviewed the Institute’s past and discussed its future goals at the CIIFAD Seminar Series titled “Agroecological Perspectives for Sustainable Development” yesterday.

CIIFAD seeks to eliminate rural poverty. Pell put forth the fact that 900 million people of the 1.2 billion people who are extremely poor (surviving on less than one dollar a day) live in rural areas.

She added that a study on the change in the poor population over a given time period of the people in Madzuu, in Western Kenya, and Fianarantsoa, a city in Madagascar, proves that there is still much work to be done. These statements drive the research projects and interactive work initiatives of CIIFAD.

Pell went on to explain the links between poverty and environmental degradation, adding that continuous tillage ruins soil by decreasing its percentages of carbon and nitrogen.

The Philippines, which have had a three-fold population increase since 1961, problems with erosion, and pollution from heavy metals, are one location in which CIIFAD has worked extensively, Pell said. The approaches CIIFAD took to sustainability issues there overlapped with their work in other countries, she added. Pell also reinforced the need to think about keeping alive partnerships formed during CIIFAD’s decade of extensive work there, between 1992 and 2002.

In light of a recent trip to Afghanistan, Pell acknowledged the need to direct increased attention to the war-torn country.

“I do not believe you can do good development work in war zones, but some parts of Afghanistan want to leave the war behind,” Pell said. She added that the country has been cut off from the world for 25 years and went through a five-year drought.

The Institute, while centered in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, draws resources from all colleges and functions at the University level. This interdisciplinary approach aims to ameliorate rural poverty.

Pell presented the idea of the Rainbow Revolution as a follow-up to the Green Revolution.

According to Pell, the Rainbow Revolution has seven components that work in concert to develop sustainable communities, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of CIIFAD. The Rainbow Revolution differs from the Green one in that it takes account of all the factors that foster sustainability, while the Green Revolution focused mainly on environmental and ecological issues. According to the CIIFAD website, the institution subsists on a $1.5 million budget.

“CIIFAD coffers are not overflowing,” Pell said.

“She’s being honest by saying that useful answers to relevant problems are hard to come by,” said George Fox grad, who is also Pell’s advisee. Fox said the holistic nature of the Rainbow revolution – how it takes into consideration the entire picture – appealed to him.

“I thought it was interesting how a model contributes to many developing countries because many developmental planners have difficulties in identifying factors that determine rural poverty,” said Kenji Hayashi grad.

Archived article by Jessica DiNapoli
Sun Staff Writer