Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CAUSES Hosts D.C.'s First Urban Agriculture Symposium

CAUSES is pleased to have hosted a successful Urban Agriculture Symposium on Oct. 24-25. This is a first for the District, but surely not the last given the momentum of the urban ag movement. As a landgrant, the University of the District of Columbia like its fellow landgrant institutions, is charged by the USDA to research solutions for agricultural concerns. And what greater concern is there today than addressing how to feed the world's growing population, estimated to exceed nine billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations. A worthwhile goal, but there are people right here in D.C. who are food insecure, struggling to provide daily meals for their families. Oftentimes, those meals are unhealthy, lacking the nutrients to fight rising urban health concerns like obesity, diabetes and hypertension. 

As a landgrant, UDC must provide research-based education both on campus and in the community. Being an urban landgrant institution makes UDC different from other landgrant colleges, because unlike them, the residents we serve live in cities and do not have large amounts of arable land upon which to farm. D.C.'s landgrant programs are housed under CAUSES. Popular offerings include farming and gardening programs for urban residents, many of which are taught at the Muirkirk Research Farm in Beltsville, Maryland. Our nutrition programs are taught in every Ward of the city, in schools, community centers, and places of worship among them.

UDC and Aruba Collaborate to Promote Food and Water Security

CAUSES and the Island Nation of Aruba have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, entering an agreement to collaborate on capacity-building skills and knowledge in support of food and water security. The MOU, which was signed Friday, Oct. 3, marks the latest international collaboration for the University.

“This agreement signifies our joint commitment to a sustainable future; to a future of food security, of water security and of innovative ways to enhance economic productivity by utilizing the tremendous capacity of nature,” stated Dr. James E. Lyons, Sr., Interim President of UDC.

Dr. O’Hara and Prime Minister Eman 

The Prime Minister of Aruba, The Honorable Michiel Godfried Eman, joined President Lyons and CAUSES Dean Dr. Sabine O’Hara for the MOU signing which took place at UDC’s Van Ness campus. Prime Minister Eman also holds the title of Minister of Science, Innovation and Sustainable Development.

“Science, Innovation, and Sustainable Development are precisely what we teach, research and offer through our five landgrant centers to the residents of the District of Columbia,” explained Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of CAUSES and Director of Landgrant Programs at UDC. “We also seek to collaborate with likeminded partners around the world who share our vision of a sustainable future.”  

CAUSES TV: Prime Minister Michiel G. Eman of Aruba

This episode of CAUSES TV explores the University’s latest international collaboration. We were honored to be joined by the Honorable Michiel Godfried Eman, the Prime Minister of the Nation of Aruba and also the leader of the Christian Democratic party of Aruba.  Mr. Eman is not only the Prime Minister, but he also holds the title of Minister of Science, Innovation and Sustainable Development. Dean Sabine O'Hara spoke with the Prime Minister following the signing of an MOA on food and water security. 

"As a member of the world community, we also collaborate with nations and institutions throughout the globe," explains Dean O'Hara. 

Architecture Prof. Kathy Dixon Discusses Historic Home of Madam C.J. Walker

UDC Assistant Professor of Architecture and Community Planning, Kathy Dixon, recently spoke with PreservationNation Blog from the National Trust for Historical Preservation about the historic residence of Madam C.J. Walker. Born in Louisiana in 1867, Walker was a pioneer known for her hair care and cosmetics products developed especially for African American women, training 23,000 employees in the process. She is America's first self-made female millionaire, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Located in Irvington, New York, Villa Lewaro, "embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit," according to PreservationNation. The home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance. Kathy Dixon, a licensed architect and also the president of the National Organization of Minority Architects, discusses Villa Lewaro with PreservationNation:

PN: Madam Walker said that “Villa Lewaro was not merely her home, but a Negro institution that only Negro money bought.” She had built the house, she said, to “convince members of [my] race of the wealth of business possibilities within the race, to point to young Negroes what a lone woman accomplished and to inspire them to do big things.” 
What does this quote -- and her vision -- mean to you in a modern context? What about Madam Walker’s original intent still stands, and what perhaps has changed?

KD: Madam Walker’s quote about building a home for the Negro culture is a profound statement which is still relevant today. It reflects what must have been a strong conscious effort on her part to make a positive impact in the lives of “Negros” around the country.

Water Resources Research Institute Request for Proposals by Nov. 15

The Water Resources Research Institute at the University of the District of Columbia (DCWRRI) is accepting proposals under the Water Resources Research Act, Section 104(b), for research or information transfer that explores new ideas to address water problems in the District of Columbia, and expands understanding of innovative ways of managing urban waterways. Partly funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, the mission of the DCWRRI is to provide the District of Columbia with interdisciplinary research support to identify DC water resource problems and contribute to their solutions. The deadline is 5:00 p.m., Friday, November 14, 2014.

Submission Eligibility: Eligible proposals must have a Principal Investigator who is a faculty member or researcher affiliated with any DC area university, including any of the schools within the DC University Consortium, including American, Catholic, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, and UDC. Principal Investigators from any other universities should contact DCWRRI regarding eligibility.


Here's what's been happening around CAUSES!
  • Muirkirk Farm Produce Donated Toward Church Compassion Fund
  • Water Symposium Abstracts due Dec. 6
  • 2015 Architecture Trip to Barcelona, Southern France & Italy
  • Linnean Stream Restoration

Muirkirk Farm Ethnic Produce Donated Donated Toward Church Compassion Fund
Ms. Edith Affi Aleke is a frequent Muirkirk Farm volunteer who recently donated a selection of ethnic and specialty crops to the International Chapel in Maryland. The donation was then auctioned off for $100, which according to Pastor Kamasse Sidibe, went toward the church's compassion ministry in support of orphans and those in need in Africa and around the world. Pastor Kamasse is a native of Togo and was pleased to learn about the farm's Ethnic and Specialty Crops Program, spearheaded by Mr. Yao Afantchao of the CAUSES Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. "On behalf of the International Chapel, I would like to thank you very much and please, be assured that we will pray for such initiative to be a blessing to many. I will one day come and visit your farm. Once again thank you very much," the Pastor wrote to Afantchao. You're most welcome Pastor Kamasse, and thanks to Ms. Aleke for her efforts! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

4-H Update

Bully Prevention Summit

The CAUSES Center for 4-H and Youth Development hosted the 2014 4-H Bully Prevention Summit on Oct. 17, to engage nearly 200 D.C. students in finding better ways to communicate and support each other. Taking place on the flagship campus' Dennard Plaza, the Summit featured a program full of youth-oriented events, activities, musical performances and a fashion show that was sponsored by Sports Zone Elite. Students were also given the opportunity to share their stories and discuss mitigation techniques addressing bullying behavior, enjoy health and wellness activities, and to watch commercials created by their peers in the DC 4-H program. 

"The youth participants had a positive experience and a great time. More importantly we will keep building on the success of the day for the purpose of changing the bullying behavior that they can become involved in without these kinds of program interventions," stated Rebecca Bankhead, director, Center for 4-H and Youth Development.

UDC/NC State Stormwater BMP Inspection & Maintenance Workshop Certifies 34

By Andrea Herrera

CAUSES recently held a “Stormwater and BMP (Best Management Practices) Inspection and Maintenance Certification” program on Oct. 22-23. The pilot course offered a comprehensive program for stormwater-related professionals. In collaboration with UDC, a total of 34 registrants with vocational expertise spanning the spectrum of engineering, landscape architecture, stormwater management, public works, commercial landscaping, and the greater “Green Industry,”
attended and received a certification awarded by NC State University Cooperative Extension, housed in NC State's the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department.

The main goal of the course was to train professionals in methods and strategies for conducting routine and thorough inspections of stormwater management practices. In order to achieve this, technical elements of stormwater management practice function and performance were described and specific maintenance tasks that are required to ensure the functionality of these installed practices were instructed. The various Stormwater BMPs that were covered thought the workshop included: (1) Water Sheds and Water Quality Problems, (2) Stormwater Regulations, (3) wetlands and wetponds, (4) Elements of BMP maintenance, (5) Retention pond maintenance, (6) Wetland maintenance, (7) Bioretention maintenance, (8) parking lot BMPs, and (9) Other Green BMPs.

Monday, October 27, 2014

D.C. Students Enjoy Agroecology Day at the UDC Farm

The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) hosted “Agroecology Day” at Muirkirk Research Farm on Thursday, October 16, 2014.  The event was offered to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors attending schools in Washington, D.C.  A total of 50 students from Woodson High School, McKinley Technology High School and IDEA Public Charter School attended the event, focusing on the link between sustainable food systems and environmental systems. In the tradition of agricultural fairs with an emphasis on experiential learning, students visited education stations on: nutrition, soil and composting, hydroponics and aquaponics, and water quality at four locations around the farm.

“Some of my students were looking for ideas for an environmental engineering project. I thought this event would be good exposure because this is not the kind of thing they normaally see,” explained Kenneth Lesley, Director, NAF Academy of Engineering at McKinley. “For them, this is eye opening.”

“I learned about how we can make our own compost without spending money,” explained one student, while another enjoyed learning about aquaponics and the process of cleaning the tanks. 

Several students voiced their surprise when comparing popular bottled drinks and learning how much sugar some of the “healthy” drinks actually contain.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

CAUSES: Where the Community is our Classroom

By Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of CAUSES and Director of Landgrant Programs 

CAUSES has grown with tremendous speed over the past three years. Key to our success has been our mission: to offer research based academic and community outreach programs that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of D.C. residents. This worthwhile mission calls for the integration of our academic and landgrant programs. Landgrant universities have always sought to be relevant to the needs of their communities by focusing on research that makes a difference in the lives of local people and by offering education both on their campuses and in local neighborhoods. We receive direction for our work through the USDA that sets broad goals for the nation's Landgrant Universities, while fostering creativity, teamwork and innovation. 

Our current goals address challenging issues like improving food security, food and water safety, mitigating climate change, alternative energy, and combating childhood obesity and other food related health problems. Finding solutions to these big challenges requires collaboration across academic disciplines, hands on work, and perseverance. For us here at UDC it also requires a very unique focus, namely on urban food security, urban food and water safety, urban food related health problems etc. After all, our own community is exclusively urban. The District of Columbia does not have any wide expanses of farm land, and our forests extend to Rock Creek Park. This urban focus sets us apart from all the other landgrant universities in the United States. And what a great focus it is! It links people and the environment, and creates unusual alliances like urban agriculture, and urban sustainability.   

But why would urban agriculture and urban sustainability be such a great focus for our work? Are they really relevant to the District of Columbia? The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines Food Security as "Access by all people at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life.” Low food security refers to a diet of reduced quality, variety or desirability for some populations. To achieve food security, food must be (1) readily available at all times to all people, and (2) be high in nutritional value so that it can sustain health, wellness and energy. Our food system is vulnerable on both scores.

UDC Pilots “Flicking CO2” Wall Sticker Campaign

That's not just a cool design, it's a wall sticker that will be installed above UDC light switches. The sticker will serve as a reminder to turn off the lights before leaving an empty room.

In partnership with the CAUSES Center for Sustainable Development, the “Flicking CO2” Wall Sticker Campaign is a campus initiative created by Green Impact Campaign and Hu2 Design, focused on encouraging UDC students and faculty to turn the lights off through a highly-viral and visual behavior change program. During the course of the pilot, 250-350 light switch wall stickers will be placed in pre-approved buildings and locations determined by UDC staff. Expected to be included are residence halls, academic buildings, administrative offices and other campus facilities.

"This campaign is in line with our pledge to Sustainable DC Plan," explained Dr. Kamran Zendehdel, assistant director of CAUSES Center for Sustainable Development. "It will not only help UDC reduce our energy consumption and CO2 emissions, we hope it leads people to also changing their behavior at home."