Ioulia Fenton

From Average to Exceptional: Why Outliers Matter

“If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average”

Psychologist Shawn Achor in a hillarious and wildly inspiring TED talk.

Walking into the shady classroom of the second school we visited last friday, we were disappointed to find only a handful of young, primary school students, one teacher and a parent inside. The two-classroom school in the community of El Terrero, adorned in blue and white colours of the Nicaraguan national flag, as all of the country’s schools are, was recently built as a joint project between Pencils of Promise and Seeds of Learning – two NGOs working to improve education and promote community cohesion in the Matagalpa region of Ciudad Dario. Read More »

INESAD News: Crowd Sourcing Solutions to Poverty—What Do You Think?

Over the last two days I have been involved in a global experiment – a 48 hour brainstorming session between 1,600 people, from 50 countries who identified the barriers to solving poverty and put forward ideas for solutions.

The experiment was set up in a form of a game called Catalysts for Change. The more you contributed by putting down your thoughts, critiques, questions and ideas in less than 140 character soundbites, the more points you collected. In the end, the two short days yielded over 18,600 soundbite playing cards covering a range of topics from improving education to challenging capitalism itself. Read More »

Graphics: Dropping The Burger Water Bomb

March 22nd saw this year’s World Water Day kick off a series of upcoming events organised by the UN and other organisations to highlight global water issues.

Luckily, there is lots of good news, like the fact that half of the internationally agreedMillennium Development Goal on safe drinking water and sanitation has been met ahead of schedule. According to a joint report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF:

“Since 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources.” Read More »

A Cornavore’s Dilemma: Fighting Back C(orn)olonisation

Corn, corn, corn; mountains of corn as far as the eye can see. The images of the piling up Iowa harvests were one of a number of poignant visuals brought forward by the 2007 documentary King Corn (available on Netflix). The fact is, US production of corn has been growing rapidly since the 1970s and this year American farmers will plant an unprecedented harvest – 94 million acres of corn crop. This is the largest since 1944 and will take up roughly a third of the country’s harvested cropland.

This expanse has been largely driven by a change in direction of US farm policy four decades ago. Previously, agricultural production was tightly controlled to ensure overproduction did not drive the prices that farmers could get for their harvests too low and helped ensure that available agricultural land was not overworked and the environment was not unduly harmed. Read More »

What Would You Buy if You Had Much More Information Than Just the Price?

Last week Development Roast asked you what you would pay for a beautiful purple butterfly silk shawl if you received positive information about the social and environmental conditions under which it was produced.

Now how would you view products of lesser credentials if you received more relevant information about them?

Would you buy this gorgeous Thai silk pashmina if its tag said this: Read More »

What Would You Pay if You Didn’t Have a Price?

Imagine yourself in a different world. You wake up on an ordinary sunny weekend morning like any other and go shopping for a birthday gift for your mum. You go to her favourite high street retailer and find the perfect looking present, a beautiful silk shawl. You look for the price, but instead of a normal price tag indicator, you find a fold out label like THIS. What would you pay?

Do you think that changing our shopping environments would encourage more ethics, responsibility and sustainability? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Ioulia Fenton leads the food and agriculture research stream at the Center for Economic and Environmental Modeling and Analysis (CEEMA) at INESAD. 

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Graphics: The Power of Education—An Alternative Evolution of Man

A picture can say a thousand words. An infographic can say them better.

Today, Development Roast brings you visual food for thought by proposing an alternative evolution of man and the role that education can play within it (click on the image to expand).

Please share the infographic with your friends and colleagues. Read More »

Book Roast: “Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know”

In this 2010 book Robert Paarlberg takes a Q & A approach to a broad set of food and agriculture topics, covering aid and trade, obesity and famine, organic farming and genetically engineered (GE) organisms, and the food system’s effects on health and environment, among others. The work is a self-proclaimed attempt at “rebalancing some debates around food and farming” for “an aware audience of non-specialists.” And on the whole, its strength lies in its accessible style and the common myths it dispels: how buying local produce, for example, is not necessarily more environmentally friendly or the fact that global market food prices do not automatically increase local consumer costs.

For all its breadth, however, the book is beset by problems. Read More »

Book Roast: “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human”

Meat made us smarter! At least that is what the mainstream explanation has been for the development of larger brains in humans and our subsequent distancing from other earthly life-forms and eventual domination over our planet.  This is posited to have happened because through eating meat humans were able to consume a lot more calories than the traditional raw plant-based diets of early gathering societies. This, in turn, allowed for our stomachs to shrink as ‘we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor anymore’ (a sort of evolutionary, natural and slow equivalent of today’s stomach stapling) that allowed for more energy to be channelled to building other organs such as the brain. The brain, incidentally, uses an incredible 20 times the amount of energy as typical muscle mass. Real food for thought for those trying to diet, but I digress. Arguably, meat eating also meant that less time could be spent gathering and more time thinking up new and crafty ways to catch pray such as sharpening spears and rock-launching devices. Increasing presence of meat in the human diet from roughly 1.5 million years agois, thus, said to have set in motion the final stage of human evolution to bigger-brained, smarter creatures. Read More »

Coca-Cola, Obesity and Health in Guatemala: Why We Need a More Holistic Approach to Economic Development

There is more to life than money and by now it is well established that gross domestic product (GDP) is an inadequate measure of development. It allows for a crude assessment of economic activity within a country, but does not account for side effects known as externalities. These include environmental destruction and pollution, human lives lost in other countries from the development and sales of weapons technologies or negative effects on health of products and technologies that otherwise make money and therefore contribute to GDP. Furthermore, negative contributions of products developed by tobacco, weapons and other companies all count towards a positive GDP figure, further diminishing the emphasis we should place on it as an indicator of human progress. Read More »


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