In the pursuit of happiness

By Sally Martinelli

Rome, 18 March – A profound shift in attitudes is underway across the world. People are recognizing that 'progress' is about increasing happiness and well-being, and not only economic growth.

March 20 marks International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.

At the first high level meeting on happiness and well-being in 2012 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that “social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”

The happiness movement is growing. Every year, celebrations cut across countries and cultures: meditation in Bhutan, happy flash mobs in London and laughter yoga in Hong Kong.

To join in on the fun, IFAD has compiled a list of #happyfacts and stories guaranteed to brighten up your day.

#Happyfact: Cows have best friends

Cows have best friends and become stressed if they are separated, according to a scientist in the United Kingdom.

The research shows cows are very social animals which often form close bonds with friends in their herd.

Cows are partners — even best friends – in many IFAD-supported projects.

In Burundi, an IFAD-supported project is providing farmers with cows and livestock training to help combat poverty.

The programme gives farmers livestock as well as basic veterinary medicines. After one breeding cycle the farmers pass on some of the offspring to other poor rural families.

This exchange, known as a solidarity chain, is expected to reach 560,000 farmers in seven provinces.

#Happyfact: Eating dark chocolate can reduce the risk of heart disease by one-third

As if we needed another excuse to snack on chocolate!

According to researchers, eating a moderate amount of chocolate a day has been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.

IFAD supports fair trade cocoa producers from areas like Sao Tome and Principe, which not only produce high-quality organic products, but also help families live decent lives and build their communities.

Thanks to IFAD and its partners, nearly 2,200 farmers are now growing cocoa certified as organic or fair -trade for the international chocolate industry.

#Happyfact: The word "coffee" comes from the Arabic word for "wine of the bean."

What would we do without coffee, the third most popular drink in the world?

Most coffee is grown on small, family farms, and 25 million people in over 50 countries depend on the coffee industry for survival.

To ensure that smallholder farmers have a stake in the industry, IFAD works to link producers with consumers so they are creating the type of coffee that is in demand.

#Happyfact: Goats have accents

Goats develop accents from the social group, or ‘creches’ that they hang out with as a way to better identify their friends, according to a study  published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

When they aren't being social, goats and other types of livestock are making a big difference in the lives of small farmers around the world.

Activities related to livestock development – such as the transfer of technology, training, credit for restocking, animal health services delivery, feed and breed improvement – are considered core aspects of many IFAD programmes and projects.

#Happyfact: There are millions of undiscovered species at the bottom of the ocean

Since we have only explored less than five per cent of the ocean floor, scientists believe there is a world of undiscovered marine life. 

A little closer to the surface, artisanal fisheries are catching fish and making waves in Mozambique.

An IFAD-supported project is helping local fishers by sharing new fishing techniques and working with the government to establish protected fishing areas.

#Happyfact: Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people in extreme poverty was reduced by almost 1 billion 

Despite the bleak headlines in the news, the world has made progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty.

Between 1990 and 2010, the number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43 per cent to 21 per cent—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.

Since 1978, IFAD has invested more than US$17.6 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects in developing countries, empowering about 456 million people to break out of poverty.