It wasn't until my partner, Danielle Nierenberg, received a grant through the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet (www.nourishingtheplanet.com) to travel across the continent visiting innovations that offered sustainable ways of reducing hunger and poverty, that everything I thought I knew about the continent began to change. The grant culminates next year with the release of State of the World 2011, Worldwatch's flagship publication, which will serve as a road map for the funding and donor community on projects working on the ground. I decided to take a leave of absence from my job to travel with her and learn as much as I could.
We started in Ethiopia in October 2009, and after six months visiting 120 projects, I quickly began to realize how much these individuals and organizations were doing with minimal resources. And that the news media seem to miss the real story: underneath the very real problems they were covering were hundreds of exciting innovations that were protecting the environment and improving people's lives.
So let me share some examples of "good news" taking place across the continent - people and places that Danielle and I saw firsthand that gave us hope.
In Ethiopia, we met Kes Malede Abreha, a farmer-priest living near Aksum who, as part of a farmers' group supported by the non-government organization Prolinnova is now a leading agricultural innovator in his neighbourhood.
In Kenya, we visited Kibera - one of the largest slums in sub-Saharan Africa, home to almost a million people. There, travelling with Urban Harvest, we met members of a women's co-operative who are raising vegetables on "vertical farms" by poking holes in sacks, filling them with soil, and planting seeds.