Praise for project to tackle poverty

The University of Wolverhampton has been the co-ordinating institution for the three-year BORASSUS sustainable agriculture project, under the EU’s International Co-operation with Developing Countries Scheme.

Professor Mike Fullen and his team secured £1.4m of EU money to fund the BORASSUS geotextiles scheme, promoting reforestation and agroforestry, providing financially-deprived farmers with supplementary income.

The project involved around 60 scientists from Belgium, Brazil, China, The Gambia, Hungary, Lithuania, South Africa, Thailand, The United Kingdom and Vietnam.

They took forward the work of Wolverhampton mother-of-three and former bus driver Kathy Davies. She developed the idea for her PhD studies at the University, but died of cancer before her work was completed.

The scheme involves making special waffle-like mats from the tough and plentiful Borassus aethiopum palm tree leaves that are then pinned to the ground to protect crops, prevent soil erosion and stop water pollution.

The assigned EU Scientific Officer in Brussels, Dr Michele Genovese, praised the project in his formal evaluation.

He said: “The project scientific and social objectives have been successfully met, the whole team has been working in an admirable way, with high scientific skill, competence, enthusiasm and cohesion. I had the privilege to check all this personally during some of the project periodic meetings.

“The reports and deliverables give an impressive vision of the work achieved, the dissemination activities, the publications and the association to the project of numerous young scientists and researchers who dedicated their theses and dissertations to the Project. All these elements contributed to the success of this initiative.”

Professor Fullen said: “The BORASSUS Project has and is making positive contributions to improve the environment and living conditions of many people in the developing world.

“There are many examples, including the development of cottage industries making mats in Brazil, The Gambia, South Africa and Vietnam. Environmental education and awareness programmes are in progress in rural communities in Brazil, China and The Gambia. Using the technology, some unstable slopes on the edge of urban slums (favelas) in Brazil have been stabilised. In the past, severe storm events led to loss of lives and houses on these slopes.”

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