Mark Sultan Gersava grew up in poverty, one of 12 children of a slash-and-burn subsistence farmer in the Philippines province of Sultan Kudarat.
Today he is the “chief executive farmer” of a company aimed at tackling that same poverty, and combating climate change at the same time.
His firm Bambuhay helps farmers shift from slash-and-burn agriculture – which accounts for about a third of deforestation in the Philippines – to growing bamboo, now in demand as an alternative material to throw-away plastic.
The company, now in its second year of operation, makes popular bamboo straws, toothbrushes, tumblers, and bamboo-based charcoal briquettes, to replace those made from wood.
So far Bambuhay has sold nearly 400,000 reuseable bamboo straws, Gersava said.
In late October, wearing a bamboo salakót, a traditional farmers hat, he told delegates to the One Young World conference of youth leaders in London what drove him to launch his company.
“In the span of one year, I experienced two super typhoons (and) the hottest measured temperature in Philippines history,” Gersava said.
“This was the first time I had faced the direct consequences of climate change,” he said.
Less Poverty, Fewer Emissions
Gersava settled on bamboo – a fast-growing plant that absorbs large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide and can help prevent soil erosion – as a way of taking action on both climate change and poverty.
The Philippines climate, he said, is perfect for growing the giant grass and has helped poor farmers “become agri-preneurs.”
The effort has helped cut extreme poverty for thousands of farmers so far, he says.
“Bamboo is a symbol of poverty in the Philippines. If you live in a bamboo house, you’re very poor – that’s basically how it was before,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“But bamboo now has gained a lot of good attention since I started the company,” he said.
Bambuhay has partnered with the Philippines government and farmers to replant 540 hectares (1,340 acres) of deforested land through the company’s Bamboo AgroForestry Program, Gersava said.
Just how versatile bamboo fibre can be was evident in the entrepreneur’s own attire at the conference, including a sleek bamboo wallet and his cone-shaped hat, a golden salakót.
Such hats are usually made from reeds, but his was produced by farmers from bamboo – a gift in gratitude for his help in pulling them out of poverty, he said.
“When I wear this hat, I feel connected to the farmers. They are the one who are left behind,” Gersava said.
“They are the most important people that we that we need to protect. … We need to value these people more.”
Last year, Gersava sold his condominium, quit his job and with no formal business training and just $2,000 in start-up funds launched Bambuhay, his social enterprise.
“It’s very hard to start a business in the Philippines,” he said.
“There’s no support from the government, you have very limited funding. … I started with only one person.”
Now Gersava employs 17 full-time staff. He says as CEO his aim is not to become rich but to ensure much of what the company earns passes to its farmers.
Still, in addition to helping farmers, he’s been able to help pay college fees for his two nieces and support his siblings and parents, he said.
He says his work is far from done. By 2030, he aims for his company to have helped establish 1 billion bamboo plants and to have lifted 100,000 farmers out of poverty, especially in extremely poor areas such as his hometown and the province of Sulu.
Growing up in an impoverished family in Sultan Kudarat, he said, has given him a deep understanding of who pays the highest price as climate change impacts, from floods and droughts to heatwaves and storms, intensify.
“The wealthy CEOs and politicians are not the ones suffering the most from the consequences of climate change. It is the rural villager,” he said.
“It is the struggling farmers who are suffering from severe water shortages and droughts that will be the worst hit by food insecurity,” he predicted.
Hollywood star Angelina Jolie feels discrimination and impunity cannot be justified in any way, and says she hopes people in the US can come together to “address the deep structural wrongs in our society”, according to entertainment news.
The Oscar-winning star, who turned 45 on Thursday, also donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, reports a website named People.
“Rights don’t belong to any one group to give to another. Discrimination and impunity cannot be tolerated, explained away or justified. I hope we can come together as Americans to address the deep structural wrongs in our society,” Jolie said.
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“I stand with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in their fight for racial equality, social justice, and their call for urgent legislative reform,” she added.
Meanwhile, the actress celebrated her birthday amid lockdown with her six children — Maddox, 18, Pax, 16, Zahara, 15, Shiloh, 14, and 11-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.
The actress and activist has been active since the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world and has donated to different organisations.
Jolie previously donated $1 million to No Kid Hungry, the organisation working to feed children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew that there were problems in America, that there was poverty, but I could not believe when I realised how many school children in America were dependent on a meal to not go hungry. I was so disgusted that we have gotten to this point as a country and that we would let the most vulnerable be in such a state. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those parents,” she said while opening up about her reason to get associated with the organisation. (IANS)
In an initiative to serve local communities and support small businesses, social networking app Bumble is giving out grants worth a lakh rupees each to 13 entrepreneurs in India. Part of a larger cohort of 150+ businesses that it is monetarily supporting across 11 countries, the timely move comes at a time when companies find themselves at the brink due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Bumble Community Grant program, launched in the light of the global pandemic, aims to support local businesses and their workers around the globe, and keep them afloat while money is scarce. The program has been offered in the US, UK, Russia, Germany, Australia, India, France, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, and New Zealand.
“When we first realised things were getting serious in March, we pulled together leaders across the company to figure out how we can support both our employees and our Bumble community of nearly over 90 million users in 150 countries during this unprecedented time. We were all watching the news daily and reading updates hourly. Unfortunately, the overall situation was changing rapidly and there were varying degrees of severity in each market that we operate in. Some areas were going under complete lockdown immediately, while others were a few days or weeks behind.
“As all of this was unfolding, we started seeing early reports that a pandemic of this size and with this level of potential impact could trigger loneliness, isolationism, and economic devastation – and we knew that Bumble could help. From using Bumble as a way to stay connected to real people during this time or to provide monetary support for small business owners, we knew we had to act quickly to support our community,” Priti Joshi, Vice President of Strategy at Bumble told IANSlife in an email.
Beginning March 26, in India, applications were available via an online registration form accessible in all three modes of the app (Date, BFF, and Bizz). Users had the opportunity to submit an entry for themselves as a small business owner or nominate a small business in their community. As the deadline closed in on April 9, the team saw a tremendous response.
“Within two weeks, we received over 2,000 entries in India from small businesses that have been impacted by the crisis,” Joshi said.
The 13 cross-industry MSMEs that received the grant include Culture Aangan, a company that is developing villages as tourist destinations; The Wishing Chair, a home-grown women-led design brand creating artisanal products as perfect gifting options; and The Curator Collective which aims to publish works of independent or upcoming visual artists and musicians.
From the fashion segment, recipients include Alankaara India, a small craft-based studio working with small sectors of women SHGs; and Bunavat Retail Private Limited who promote sustainable, ethical and timeless fashion.
In the health, CSR, and business sector they have chosen Bloodport Healthtech Solutions, who save lives using their digital platform for blood banks and blood donation drives; Suicide Prevention India Foundation, a non-profit that offers free counseling services to the Covid-19 affected; Mitti Social Initiatives Foundation, a non-profit working for sustainable livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities; Thinkerbell Labs that have built a tech ecosystem to enable self-learning and classroom teaching of Braille and will go regional; and Happy Turtle OPC Pvt Ltd, a bootstrapped company that works towards minimising plastic consumption.
In F&B and Hospitality, the grants will be given to The Little Farm Co., who produce fruit, vegetables and spices using organic fertilizers in MP; Happyjars.in, a health and food brand from Haryana that offers natural peanuts, almonds and cashew nut butter; and Poshinda Restaurant, who source ingredients from rural farmers and serve food to the farmers and students who come from rural areas to Ambajogai for work.
Suicide Prevention India Foundation told IANSlife: “We use the WHO-recommended strategy called Gatekeeper Training to prevent suicides. We aim to help individuals using evidence-based interventions by creating awareness through talks and workshops on suicide prevention. COVID-19 has pushed us to aggressively train everybody in our growing circle to counsel those who are emotionally distressed/ suicidal due to the uncertainty/loneliness the pandemic has brought along.
“Unfortunately, to continue training the mental health professionals we were lacking funds as COVID-19 has impacted our funding pipeline and eliminated our face-to-face business to host training with laymen, students or/and corporate professionals. The current situation has led to an increase in demand but a lesser willingness to pay. There has never been a drastic spike in the incidents of self-harm, suicide ideation or suicide attempts in the recent past. With the grant from Bumble, we will again continue to train the common people and mental health professionals who are our front liners to support emotionally distressed individuals.” The grants will be given to the winners this week, as per Bumble. (IANS)
To deal with the attack of locusts in the national capital, the Delhi government has issued an advisory for spraying pesticides, Cabinet Minister Gopal Rai said on Thursday.
Rai said in view of the increasing threat of locusts in north India, the Agriculture Department of the Delhi government will run awareness programmes to make the people and farmers of Delhi aware of this new threat.
“Also, the Delhi Government has issued advisory on spraying pesticides and its quantity,” Rai tweeted.
The circular was issued in order to prevent a probable attack in Delhi by a swarm of locusts, which are reportedly present in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“All concerned authorities are hereby advised to take preventive measures to control and eradicate the locusts to avoid devastating effect on standing agricultural and horticultural crops, vegetation, plants, gardens, orchard etc. in Delhi,” the circular said.
It directed that awareness programmes be organised for the public and farmers to prevent and control any such invasion by locusts in Delhi.