The power of doing things differently – 3 stories of hope

There are days when I look at the headlines and feel despair more than hope. Maybe you have been feeling the same way, so today, I wanted to look at three stories that just landed in my inbox.

What links them all, for me, is remembering that famous saying of Albert Einstein’s that the definition of insanity is doing what you have always done and expecting different results. All three of these stories involve people who looked at problems and thought differently, and – as a result – came up with new ideas for solutions.

NHS and Lambeth GP Food Co-op on YouTube

Story number one: You have probably seen pictures of the horrendous locust swarms that have been destroying crops and thus increasing food insecurity in many parts of Africa for the past two years.

The Bug Picture looked at those pictures and stories and saw – instead of a problem – a potential resource that could strengthen agricultural supply chains, create local jobs and improve peoples’ nutritional self-sufficiency. They are bringing an African approach to a global problem, paying Kenyan farmers to collect locusts which are then ground up into protein-rich fodder for livestock. They are taking similarly innovative approaches with other insect pests.

“We are a regenerative agriculture company, that is revolutionizing the way people view insect based protein to create a locally produced, competitively priced protein source that is environmentally sustainable to farm,” they say. “By 2050 the population of East Africa will double. In this same period, the demand for meat will more than double …. We want to be part of the solution of food and feed for the future, using fewer natural resources without destroying our planet in the process.”

Story number two: Black rhinos are a highy endangered species, hunted almost to extinction, and forcing conservationists to take drastic measures to protect them, such as removing the horns craved by poachers. The poachers sell the horns for huge amounts of money to those who would grind them up for potions.

Now the World Bank is about to issue the world’s first wildlife conservation bond, aimed at growing the population of endangered black rhinos in South Africa. “The five-year, 670 million rand ($45 million) security will be the world’s first wildlife conservation bond and the aim is to sell it in the middle of the year,” Bloomberg reported today.

“The Rhino Impact Investment (RII) Project is developing the world’s first pay-for-results financial instrument for species conservation,” says project leader ZSL. “The achievement of pre-defined conservation performance indicators is linked to financial performance for those funding the black rhino conservation activities. The aim is therefore to mobilise new capital for conservation and to shift funding to focus on delivering outcomes. Ultimately, the Project Partners will look to build the blueprints to replicate this model to other rhino populations, similar species under threat and even Protected Areas.”

The project grew from an unprecedented partnership between seven of the world’s leading wildlife charities, known as United for Wildlife (UfW). It is all about partnership and working together over many years – a story beautifully told by UNDP in 2018.

Story number three: One of our challenges in solving problems is that, too often, we look at them only in a very narrowly defined way, so we don’t see connections between various challenges. For many years now, health officials in Europe have been looking at the food patients are served in hospitals as a part of their cure, and that multi-faceted approach has had wonderful results, as a recent report shows.

Health Care Without Harm profiles six health care facilities that are gardening as an integral part of delivering their health care mission – one in France, one in Belgium, one in Germany, one in Norway, and two in the UK, including an innovative project in London that involves patients, doctors and nurses in transforming unused land in GP surgeries into food-growing spaces.

“Green spaces and, in particular, food growing spaces in healthcare undoubtedly have the potential to yield many benefits for our health and the environment, as well as for local communities and economies,” the report concludes. “They offer an opportunity to engage and educate staff, patients, and the local community in the benefits of local, seasonal, and organic food production, whilst creating therapeutic, health-promoting environments. In many cases these initiatives also generate additional revenues, helping to build the business case for investment and upscaling. With more research, evidence, and success stories similar to those outlined in this publication,we hope that healthcare providers feel more encouraged to create food growing spaces within their own facilities.”