Information and stories about agriculture.

Poverty Eradication in Angola
Angola has struggled to recover from decades of civil war and economic turmoil, with over 40% of the population, mostly in rural areas, living in extreme poverty. However, recent innovations in poverty eradication in Angola have begun to help the once virulent nation gain stability. New technologies and funding from private companies, financial institutions and organizations have allowed Angola to modernize and combat extreme poverty. Here are three innovations in poverty eradication in Angola.

Open Data Platforms

Open data platforms are a way to gather large amounts of data, statistics and information from diverse and large groups to analyze potential problem areas. Governments and large organizations use this analysis to tackle identifiable issues head-on. For example, an investment group may notice a glaring need for communications upgrades in rural areas, which leads to the creation of jobs and infrastructure.

Open data is a recent innovation in poverty eradication in Angola and examines anything from economic growth to healthcare strategy. Through the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System, Angola set up its own National Summary Data Page at opendataforafrica.org in 2018. The African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offer the NSDP to Angola for free. Using key indicators through the NSDP, the IMF and other organizations utilize this information for transparency, economic investment opportunities and identifying necessary aid in Angola, which are ways the NSDP’s data collection can reduce poverty.

South Atlantic Cable System

Angola lacks a strong telecommunications network. Rural communities suffer the most due to decreased technological abilities in farming and irrigation and emergency medical services. But a revolutionary project may help. One of the most impressive innovations in poverty eradication in Angola is the South Atlantic Cable System. Developed by the telecommunications operator, Angola Cables, this submarine communications cable provides interconnectivity between Luanda, Angola and Angonap Fortaleza, Brazil. The SACS improves the telecommunications and information technology infrastructure in Angola while connecting fast communication services throughout Africa and South America.

Although Angola is still developing its ICT sector and job growth has remained stagnant, the SACS potential is exponential. Angola could use this project to establish the country as a leader in tech in sub-Saharan Africa. This would reduce Angola’s reliance on oil exports and drive IT education to encourage entrepreneurship and competition, leading to increased IT and communications jobs and eventual ICT expansion in rural Angola to reduce poverty and improve healthcare access.

Neighboring nations that lack IT infrastructure can reach out to Angola Cables and the Angolan government, launching international funds to Angola. The SACS also makes Angola a centralized location for data in the entire southern hemisphere. The premium digital connection is unrivaled, leading to even more considerable international interest in Angola as a tech hub.

Commercial Agriculture Development Project (PDAC)

Due to the Angolan Civil War, farming in Angola suffered from a lack of development and slow regrowth due to landmines. Agriculture also suffers due to persistent and unpredictable droughts in Angola. The Commercial Agriculture Development Project received funding from the World Bank in 2018 to improve the economic condition and technology in Angola’s rural areas, providing much-needed support to the most vulnerable people in Angola to improve domestic food security. Primarily directed at improving irrigation systems and infrastructure related to the electric grid, the PDAC receives funding through 2024 and supports developers’ creative solutions to these problems.

So far, the project has granted contracts and requests in 2020 for the following:

  • Creating innovative management systems for irrigated perimeters, which help water efficiency usage during periods of drought
  • Development of financial risk tools, like risk management software and microinsurance for at-risk communities to ensure oversight of food security
  • Geospatial electrification options to create renewable energy that people can use in rural areas
  • IT tools, such as tablets, drones and tech support for better agriculture analysis
  • Multiple feasibility studies

All of these contracts and requests have happened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with the pace slowing to handle the pandemic, the PDAC has led to several innovations in poverty eradication in Angola. Developers have maintained a healthy advancement rate since the beginning of the project, and they will continue through 2024.

Angola’s Future

With all the new technology and projects, Angola will continue to reduce extreme poverty for large portions of its population. As the nation continues to establish a commercial agriculture program and the telecommunications sector, there is a reduced reliance on oil exports. Angola can continue to diversify its economic strategy allocating its vast resources for a bright future and eliminate extreme poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Pixnio

India’s ban on dangerous pesticidesThe Indian Ministry of Agriculture has banned 27 pesticides that are known to be dangerous. A number of studies found that those who work closely with pesticides (such as farmers, pesticide applicators and crop-duster pilots) suffer an increased risk of a variety of diseases/illnesses relating to the neurological, behavioral, reproductive and developmental systems. These illnesses include leukemia, lung cancer and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a direct result, 20,000 people die of pesticide poisoning annually in India. However, that does not account for the diseases that pesticide poisoning can lead to. Even those who are not directly related to the agricultural industry are exposed to dangerous pesticides through run-off that contaminates water sources, including drinking water. India’s ban on dangerous pesticides will lead to a major decrease in unnecessary health problems. Many farmers have admitted that they don’t have a proper understanding of how pesticides work or how to even use them correctly. As one farmer, Balbir Singh reported, “Some people use pesticides without understanding why hoping that their crops won’t die…We know we are killing our land and our people.” India’s ban on dangerous pesticides will eliminate this problem and ensure the safety of agricultural workers, as well as the general public.

Pros and Cons of Pesticides

India’s ban on dangerous pesticides is also expected to benefit the economy. The 27 banned pesticides have been outlawed in Europe and the U.S. That makes it more difficult for these countries to import crops from India in the past. However, now India is following the European Union’s guidelines for exporting crops. Individual farmers will be able to export more crops, promising an economic benefit to India’s ban on dangerous pesticides.

Many are worried about the possible negative effects of India’s ban on dangerous pesticides. Pesticides ensure crops will not be destroyed by insects, therefore allowing a maximum number of crops to be harvested and sold. Three-quarters of the Indian population work in agriculture, so a decrease in crop production would devastate the country.

A Positive Shift

However, in 2003, the small Indian state of Sikkim eliminated the use of all pesticides. The state became healthier overall and introduced price caps on produce to keep prices affordable for consumers. Wildlife flourished and in turn led to better farming land, promising higher crop levels. Compared to the rest of India, farmers using pesticides have destroyed farmland by depleting the soil’s nutrients. Sikkim serves as a model to the rest of India, proving that farmers do not need to worry about the ban of pesticides having a negative impact.

India’s ban on dangerous pesticides promises an improvement of the health, environment and economy of the country. With the organic food market growing by 25% per year, India’s steps towards agricultural improvements bring hope that more countries will be inspired by these positive changes.

Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

locust plaguesDuring the past several years, Eastern Africa has experienced the worst swarms the region has seen in decades. Typically, the arid desert environment kills off locusts but multiple tropical cyclones have hit the region thereby creating wetter soil conditions that are more hospitable for these insects. Due to the weather patterns within the last few years, several overwhelming locust plagues have occurred. Not only are the swarms of locusts unsettling and bothersome, but they threaten food security and the livelihoods of the people within the affected regions.

The Impact of Locust Plagues

One of the most troubling effects of the locust swarms is their consumption of green vegetation, in particular, crops within agricultural regions and pastoral communities. In a single day, a swarm of locusts that covers one square kilometer can consume more food than 35,000 people would in the same time frame. In a region already affected by food insecurity, the locust outbreak only exacerbates the problem and could potentially lead to five million people in Africa facing starvation.

In order to fight locusts, governments often resort to aerial or on-the-ground pesticide spraying. While The Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa exists specifically to take these actions, there are many obstacles in the way.

  • The organization is underfunded and disregarded by many countries in the region.
  • Even with proper funding, finding and spraying all locust infested sites is challenging.
  • The effects of COVID-19 have left many governments under financial stress and unable to contribute to locust-fighting and food security efforts.
  • Political instability and civil unrest make accessing some locust breeding sites very difficult.

How the United States Can Help

Given the lack of resources of many East African countries and the additional impact of COVID-19 on these countries, it is necessary for developed countries like the United States to provide aid. Fortunately, a bipartisan bill aimed at doing just that is currently moving through the House of Representatives.

On June 18, 2020, Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Karen Bass introduced H.R. 7276, the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. This bill seeks to create an interagency working group that would form a thorough plan to eradicate current locust plagues as well as create an infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks. Should the bill pass, the interagency group would consist of members from the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and more. Additionally, the interagency group would work with regional governments and international organizations in order to develop a comprehensive eradication and prevention plan for the entire affected region.

Action in Progress

Currently, regional governments and international nongovernmental organizations have taken a disjointed response to the outbreaks. For example, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working on the ground in the East African region to provide direct support to farmers and help some of the most vulnerable people survive. However, without a comprehensive, multilateral and international plan to address the locust outbreak, the IRC’s measures to support communities will be insufficient.

For this reason, it is essential that Congress pass the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. United States aid as well as aid from other developed countries is required in order to save millions of people from the effects of the worst locust plague the region has seen in decades.

Alanna Jaffee
Photo: Flickr

African Vegetable StaplesAfrica has millions of hectares of viable land for large-scale agricultural operations. Many large regions of Africa are the last locations on the planet with large plots of land rich in soil nutrients and water sufficiency. New government infrastructure, a global investment and advanced technology has allowed sub-Saharan African farmers to raise crop yield. The agriculture industry is the most viable way to feed families on a small scale in villages. African vegetable staples are important as they are the bulk of the famous nutritional African diet.

Approximately 65% of the African labor force involves itself in agriculture, with the agriculture industry accounting for 32% of the region’s GDP. Governments have attempted to increase crop yield by utilizing agriculture marketing boards in order to provide more stable and standardized prices, credit extension services, technology and improved seeds. Additionally, more companies in the private sector have improved rural marketing and supply lines. These advances in extension services improve land and water management, introduce new farming techniques and provide new, efficient technology.

Essential African Vegetable Staples

Essential African vegetable staples include yams, green bananas, plantains and cassava. There are a plethora of different and unique ways of preparing dishes particular to each region and culture. Vegetables such as beans and lentils accompany almost every meal in order to provide a balanced nutritious diet. People in Africa consider meat a side dish rather than the main dish, and vegetables the main dish. Typical African vegetable staples specific to a region are dependent on the location, land viability, soil richness and water availability. Rice is more common where there is more water whereas cash crops such as groundnut are common in every household.

Many African staple foods provide a base diet for African families. African vegetable staples provide the necessary proteins, vitamins and nutrients that combat the alarming, wide-scale malnutrition issues that run rampant in many small villages that are not connected to large cities. With no access to large-scale trade or industrial resources, villagers take care of each other with personal farms. Additionally, many African vegetables also double as medicinal uses as well, allowing improved community health and nutrition.

Many staple meals accompany African’s rich variety of culture and history. The thousands of various African cultures utilize varieties of spices to prepare the same ingredient to uphold their respective traditional values and ideas. Diverse food choices are unique in each region and can range from fermented beans, sweet potato greens, teff and varieties of dumplings, to corn-based porridges, millet, kenkey, fontou and fonio. The diverse sets of languages within each region also have their own unique menus specific to their culture and certain traditions.

Case Study: The Democratic Republic of Congo

Vegetables grown in the DRC include peanuts, yams, beans, peas and maize. The political instability of the DRC has led to problems of malnutrition and lack of food access for millions of people. However, vegetables are used as an efficient solution because of the mass remote lands DRC controls for horticulture. The agriculture industry supports more than half of the DRC population. Although farming provides less than 10% of DRC’s GDP, land use is minimal to only 3.5% of DRC’s land and accounts for over 50 tons of subsistence foodstuffs.

What Next?

African vegetables have been the bulk of the African diet for millennia. Not only is it an efficient and effective way of utilizing rich soil and plentiful land on the continent, but it is also one of the most viable ways to aid the economy while doing so. Vegetables in Africa are the staple food not just for the famous nutritious diets, but also because they are an important characteristic of African identity and culture. Many African recipes eaten today have passed down generation after generation in an effort to maintain and uphold tradition. The African vegetable staples are one of the most unique characteristics of African culture and are a testament to their devotion to their diverse ideas and traditions.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in El Salvador
El Salvador, home to more than 6.4 million people, is a middle-income country located in Central America. Despite El Salvador’s efforts to reduce poverty and food insecurity — hunger remains an issue for its citizens. Fortunately, several organizations, including the World Food Program (WFP) and Feed the Children, are stepping in to fight hunger in El Salvador.

Poverty, Agriculture and Hunger

The poverty rate in El Salvador dropped from 39% in 2007 to 29% in 2017. Throughout those 10 years, extreme poverty decreased by 6.5%. Half of the country’s youth live on just $1.25 or less a day. Reasons for continued poverty in El Salvador include high unemployment, natural disasters and crime. The World Bank predicts an increase in poverty for the year 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left millions worldwide unemployed and food insecure.

Although El Salvador produces coffee, sugar, corn, rice and more — threats to agriculture remain in the nation. These threats include deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. Furthermore, natural disasters such as hurricanes and volcanic eruptions often leave El Salvador with food shortages. In this same vein, decreased agricultural production contributes to hunger and food insecurity in El Salvador.

Between 2008 and 2014, El Salvador made progress in reducing malnutrition and food insecurity. However, 14% of children younger than 5 years old still suffer from chronic malnutrition. Hunger in El Salvador contributes to health issues that range from low birth weights to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, such as malaria and meningitis. Children who are malnourished often also have issues with their mental development — which can impact them for the rest of their lives.

The World Food Program (WFP)

The WFP is a U.S.-based, nonprofit organization that fights global hunger. Its mission includes working with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to help eliminate hunger as an issue in several countries — including El Salvador.

Through advocacy, U.S. government funding and private sector fundraising — the WFP continues to work toward ending world hunger and food insecurity. The money raised goes towards delivering food to people in need, especially women, children and those who have experienced natural disasters. Natural disasters that have impacted El Salvador in 2020 include Tropical Storm Amanda and El Nino. Both contributed to hunger, as they affected crop production.

Feed the Children

Founded in 1979, Feed the Children has had a significant impact on hunger around the globe. The organization has distributed roughly 78 million pounds of food and essential items that have benefited more than 6.3 million people worldwide. Feed the Children began working in El Salvador in 1987 and currently works in 17 communities.

In addition to providing food, Feed the Children focuses on holistic development. This includes food and nutrition, health, water and education. Its funding allows the organization to continue supporting countries like El Salvador and implement livelihood activities. For example, one livelihood activity is tilapia farming — which helps increase food and income for families in need.

Moving Forward

Addressing hunger remains a challenge for El Salvador. Natural disasters and poverty are two of the leading causes of hunger in the country. Moving forward, it is essential that organizations like the WFP and Feed the Children continue to prioritize fighting hunger in El Salvador. With continued support, there is hope for continued, significant progress.

Amanda Cruz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Kiribati
In the central Pacific Ocean there lies several small islands, an independent country, called Kiribati. In all of Oceania, it is the poorest country, however, that does not suggest that it is the weakest one. Poverty in Kiribati is prevalent because copra farmers suffer from low incomes and weak infrastructure due to the country’s remote location away from international waters. As a result, it lacks the necessary resources to thrive. Kiribati’s economy is dependent on the export of phosphate rock as well as seaweed and copra farming, and its location on the Equator makes it the ideal place for spacecraft and satellite facilities. With these intriguing assets, there are possibilities to improve both employment and infrastructure. In spite of creating new infrastructure and more employment, the island nation continues to rely on foreign aid for development funds.

Rising Sea Levels

With much of the population of Kiribati being low-income farmers, and the government providing their travel resources, the nation has been seeking help to fight against sea-level rise. About 28.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Kiribati is due to agriculture. As a result, aid is necessary to protect its land so that agriculture can thrive.

The islands of the archipelago are only six feet above sea level with a width of only a few hundred meters, making them vulnerable to rising sea levels. Poverty in Kiribati will exponentially increase if the sea drowns out the farmlands, neutralizing the country’s main source of income. Natural disasters will strike and with the destruction of structures, the country may have to use up the little resources it has to rebuild.

Solutions

Taneti Maamau, the president of Kiribati, intends to raise the islands out of the water to increase the safety of his people. The country will seek foreign aid from China as well as other allies and will elevate the islands through the process of dredging. This is known as cleaning the bed of an area of water by scooping out mud and trash with devices.

Kiribati is developing long-term coastal security with help from New Zealand and is also planning to create elevated bridge roads with funding from China. With these roads, Kiribati will no longer need to use causeways that create beach erosion with the landfill between the islands. This is not universally agreed on because Kiribati has become the center stage for the U.S.’s and China’s competition for control of the Pacific. The U.S. has expressed implications that China will use this opportunity to build military facilities on its large islands. The Kiribati president has assured everyone that there are no plans for this, but Kiribati is vulnerable due to its reliance on foreign aid for 40% of its budget.

Aid from Fiji

The growing sea levels may consume Kiribati, and a neighboring island nation has offered to help. The president of Fiji has stated that the people of Kiribati are welcome to stay in Fiji if their home becomes uninhabitable. There is only so much that people can do in the case of environmental challenges and with Kiribati’s limited resources, seeking aid from a nearby country is a viable option. Kiribati purchased 6,000 acres of land from one of Fiji’s largest islands so that it would be set for food as the ocean covers its cultivable lands. The Kiribati people will not be the only ones seeking asylum as the Banaban people from one of the islands of Kiribati had no other choice but to relocate to Fiji after it was no longer safe to continue phosphate mining.

Foreign aid is partly dealing with poverty in Kiribati. Neither cobra farming nor the mining of phosphate rock provides a high income so Kiribati has received aid from China to help solve its rising sea-level debacle. Meanwhile, Fiji has offered to give the people of Kiribati a new home in the event that their lands become inarable and mining is no longer possible due to flooding. With foreign aid from China to lift Kiribati out of the water and an offer for a new home, Kiribati is in good hands.

– Shalman Ahmed
Photo: Flickr

Pineapples Against Poverty in Rwanda
Poverty plagues many residents in the East African country of Rwanda. As a result of the deadly 1994 genocide, many female-led households are struggling. To provide for their families, these women are using their small parcels of land for agricultural cultivation. However, it was not until a group of residents in the district of Kirehe founded the Tuzamurane Cooperative in Eastern Rwanda that things changed. Through these efforts, profitable gain could now occur. Tuzamurane has worked to boost incomes by cultivating pineapples, a practice that has supplemented the community and helped combat poverty. By using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda, there is potential for improved quality of life for thousands.

What is the Tuzamurane Cooperative?

Established more than 10 years ago, the Tuzamurane Cooperative emerged to educate women on horticulture and financial literacy. Workers identified pineapples, a locally grown and climate-suitable fruit, as an ideal agricultural crop for local cooperative members to cultivate.

After some members visited a Belgian export convention, inspiration struck to collect community pineapple harvests and market them for both local and foreign sale. After this collection process, the initiative sells these fresh pineapples to locals and exports the dried fruits. Unfortunately, however, local markets pay very little just 6 cents for a single pineapple.

Community Success and Support

Oxfam, an Irish organization focused on mobilizing people against poverty, joined this cooperative’s efforts in 2015 and helped turn its pineapple production into profit. With Oxfam, Tuzamurane could attain proper facilities like processing equipment, a more thorough supplier base and adequate organic certification. Cooperative members now have access to a broader market with a higher profit margin, which can directly fight poverty in Rwanda.

Tuzamurane, meaning “lift up one another,” is a fitting name for the organization’s mission. For instance, the educational opportunities and market accessibility Tuzamurane provides its members are profound on their own. Yet, its support goes beyond these areas. If a co-op member needs monetary assistance to make ends meet, Tuzamurane readily provides financing. Members pay for this financing interest-free by supplying an equivalent amount of produce. Furthermore, Tuzamurane covers the cost of employees’ health insurance. In these ways, the cooperative protects the social well-being of its members and their families.

The positive impacts of Tuzamurane Cooperative within the community and region are profound. The pineapple farming income has provided members, particularly women, with funds to pay for their children’s schooling and household expenses. They can also invest in their futures by purchasing livestock and more land for cultivation. Additionally, they can hire more labor to help during busy times. Notably, members of the cooperative are no longer part of the lowest income groups. Tuzamurane has made incredible progress in using pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

Social and Economic Impact

With Oxfam’s support, Tuzamurane finds great success in providing for Kirehe and Rwanda’s greater community. While pineapples may seem like a simple crop, their ability to grow on small land plots makes them easier for women to manage. In this way, the cooperative’s support empowers male and female heads of households alike. Facilitating their escape from poverty and the ability to adequately provide for their families.

With juicy pineapples in tow, the Tuzamurane Cooperative has addressed several needs of those facing poverty in Rwanda. By educating locals on introductory horticulture, providing essential equipment and offering more business opportunities, more than 300 people and their families have escaped dire poverty in Rwanda. With its lucrative business model, this co-op will undoubtedly continue to inspire thousands throughout the region to use pineapples against poverty in Rwanda.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

Farmer Suicide in India
Punjab, a northern state in India, which produces 20% of the country’s wheat and 11% of its rice, is largely agrarian. That is, its economy depends primarily on the agricultural sector. Despite being revered as India’s Ann-Daatas (Food Providers), the farmers of Punjab oftentimes struggle to put food on their plates. This, at times, tragically leads to farmer suicide in India.

The Situation

Rising farm debts have been a problem in the state for several decades now. However, in recent years, with higher costs of living, policy change, water scarcity and higher costs of a lease of land rentals — there has been a crisis of farmer suicides in India (particularly in Punjab). Making matters worse, the ongoing climate crisis has resulted in increased crop fires and lower annual precipitation — offering greater devastation.

Punjabi University, Patiala, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) and Ludhiana’s joint research indicates that the crisis began in the early ’90s and drastically increased over the last three decades.

The Culprit: High Cost of Land

According to the Government of Punjab’s data, 3,300 farmers in Punjab have committed suicide in the years 2000–2019, with 97% of them being reported only from the Malwa region. Of these 3,300 deaths, 1,500 farmers took their lives since 2016, according to data from the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan). That is almost 50% of the 19-year total, stretched across just four years; a very clear indicator of crisis.

The Farmer suicide crisis in India (Punjab) centers mainly in Malwa due to the drastically risen costs of lease land rentals. This, in turn, disproportionately affected the farmers in this region as the populous is mainly small or marginal farmers (1–5 acres of land). Reports from the Indian Express indicate that the average annual costs of lease land rentals are 50,000–65,000 Rs/acre in Malwa in comparison with only 30,000–45,000 Rs/acre in the Doaba and Majha regions.

Since the farmers only make roughly 32,000-36,000 Rs/acre per crop, 73–95% of the annual crop earnings are spent on renting the land. Further, it is far more difficult for farmers to take on alternative employment occupations in Malwa than it is in other regions.

Possible Solutions Suggested by Experts

  1. “Waiving farm loans at least once;
  2. Providing compensation to the tune of 10 [Rs] lakh to each family that loses a farmer or farm labourer to suicide;
  3. Continuation of free power;
  4. Crop diversification;
  5. Insurance for crops and health of farmers and labourers;
  6. Development of [a] dairy sector;
  7. Profitable employment for one family member of farmers and labourers;
  8. Old-age pension to farmers and labourers;
  9. Streamlining of [a] banking sector; and
  10. Curtailing unscrupulous activities of micro-finance agencies and moneylenders etc.”

Additional Problems Facing Punjab

Currently, Punjab faces a series of very serious crises. For example, a water scarcity crisis, a farmer suicide crisis, a poor water quality crisis, an inflation crisis and a new policy change crisis that could result in lesser government support for farmers. Perhaps needless to say, Punjab can use all the help it can obtain. The current Covid-19 pandemic only made things worse for farmers in Punjab as a nationwide lockdown resulted in little to no earnings. Moreover, with a piling debt, more cases of farmer suicide in India emerged.

An Organization Offering Help

However, the increasing number of organizations working to provide relief is a sign of hope. Organizations like Sahaita offer programs where you can support a family in Punjab for only $500 per year. If more people in the West supported programs like this, we could help these organizations keep Punjab evergreen.

Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Flickr

ColdHubsIn sub-Saharan countries, post-harvest crop loss is so high that nearly 50% of fresh food never reaches consumers. These losses not only diminish the economic potential of the agricultural industry, but they also aggravate food insecurity, malnourishment and stunting in young children. In turn, poor nourishment decreases productivity in individuals, which is reflected by a 2% to 3% loss in GDP. So far, many countries lack a solution to this serious problem. This is where Nigerian company ColdHubs comes in.

Post-Harvest Losses

The main culprit in post-harvest losses is spoilage, the natural process of decay and deterioration characteristic to perishable food items. While reduced temperatures can slow the pace of spoilage, sub-Saharan countries lack ample access to chilled storage spaces for produce. The small-scale farmers of sub-Saharan Africa who lack such storage face both financial and infrastructural barriers. While 62% of farmers cannot afford cooling technology, 36% do not have access to power in the first place.

In Nigeria, agriculture accounts for 22% of GDP and employs 36% of Nigerians. Nearly 90% of these Nigerians are small, family farmers. Yet large quantities of post-harvest losses pose a tremendous hurdle to their economic progress. For instance, Nigeria is home to the largest tomato production belt in West Africa. However, nearly half of the crop of tomatoes spoils each year. As of 2017, post-harvest losses in Nigeria cost up to $9 billion dollars annually. Meanwhile, more than 5 million people in Nigeria are food insecure. Two million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and 45% of all child deaths are due to malnutrition.

Cabbage in Nigeria: A Case Study

One company is working to make a dent in those statistics. In 2013, a radio journalist specializing in agricultural news was following the journey of cabbage from farms to markets in Jos, Nigeria. What the journalist, Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu, hadn’t anticipated addressing was the story of the cabbage post-market. Farmers abandoned the cabbage that didn’t sell, leaving edible food to rot. Ikegwuonu tracked down the farmers, asking why they had left the cabbage and how to avoid such a situation.

In a recent interview with The Borgen Project, Ikegwuonu recounted, “They actually told me that if there was a form of storage inside the market, that it would be very useful to them to actually store their produce and then come back in the next week to pick up their produce [for sale] when there is less cabbage in that market.” It was this moment that inspired Ikegwuonu to develop ColdHubs. The idea: 100% solar-powered, walk-in cold rooms for food storage, installed in Nigerian markets and farms.

How ColdHubs Helps

The ColdHubs business model is simple. Farmers store perishable items in reusable crates provided by ColdHubs, using a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription. The crates then go into a ColdHub refrigerated room powered by solar panels. Each unit features enough solar panels to generate six kilowatts of energy every hour. However, the cold room itself uses up only 1.5 to 2 kilowatts per hour. This surplus allows for refrigeration to continue to run on rainy or cloudy days.

For a daily flat fee per crate stored, the solar-powered system allows farmers access to 24/7 chilled storage that operates entirely off the grid. This storage extends the shelf life of perishable foods from two days to 21 days. Importantly, this leads to an 80% reduction in post-harvest loss and a 25% increase in smallholder farmer income. For the 24 ColdHubs presently in use, some 3,517 smallholder farmers use the service. So far, ColdHubs has saved more than 20,000 tons of food from spoilage. Another 30 ColdHubs are currently under varying stages of construction. By the end of the year, the company hopes to have 50 ColdHubs fully operational throughout Nigeria.

Supporting Women and Farmers

ColdHubs looks not only to serve economic and renewable ends, but social ones as well. ColdHubs aims to employ women for its management and oversight operations. Thus far, the organization has created new jobs for 48 women. Additionally, ColdHubs is careful to maintain an affordable model ultimately aimed to support farmers over increasing profit.

“We designed Cold Hubs from a smallholder farmer from our perspective. I’m a smallholder farmer myself. The design was specifically suited so that the technology and service would be affordable,” Ikegwuonu explained. This manifests in the pay-as-you store model, as opposed to selling cold rooms outright. “We actually take up the risk of building in a cold room, and in three to four years we recover on that capital expenditure. It’s a slow, philanthropic process.”

Why It Matters Now

The proliferation of ColdHubs throughout Nigeria comes at a crucial moment, as farming seasons become more and more volatile. With prolonged heatwaves and an increasingly erratic rainy season, rain-reliant smallholder farmers struggle to raise  crops, predict growing seasons, and sell food before it rots.

“Once you harvest tomatoes, you have approximately 48 hours to sell it. With increased heat, it has actually reduced now to about 32 hours to sell that tomato.” Ikegwuonu added. With climate change in mind, ColdHubs operates with as much attention to its own climate footprint as possible. In addition to being entirely solar-powered, the cold rooms also use natural refrigerants. This reduces their contribution to atmospheric pollution.

Since approximately 54% of the working population in the continent of Africa relies on agriculture for income, ColdHubs could be a lifeline in the fight against hunger. The organization intends to bring its technology into other regions of Africa. As in Nigeria, it hopes to uplift smallholder farmers. “The future for us is to be running close to 10,000 ColdHubs in about five to 10 years, all across Africa,” Ikegwuonu shared. Once ColdHubs spreads throughout Africa, he hopes to bring the technology to developing countries across the globe.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Regenerative Farming in South Africa
Every year, the world loses 0.3% of its fertile soil due to erosion and mismanagement. On the surface, this may not seem like much, but it means that over the past 100 years, the earth has lost 30% of its fertile soil, and this number will continue to grow, leading to more food insecurity globally. This erosion is due to over-farming land and the increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, around the world, farmers and agricultural departments have begun to practice sustainable farming, a practice where farmers rotate crops to let the soil regain its nutrients while also supplementing it with animal manure instead of chemical fertilizer. As a result, the soil should remain in a natural state so that it is able to be useful for years to come. Here is some information about regenerative farming in South Africa.

Sustainable Farming in South Africa

In South Africa, regenerative farming has become essential to the agricultural model because the country has suffered irregularity in its rainy season, as well as a lack of crops that can actually survive in the region. Farmers began the movement amongst their own community, and it gradually grew to receive national attention. Their model concentrates heavily on planting as many native crops as possible and avoiding non-native crops that require large amounts of water. Other regions of the world tend to choose crops that provide the soil with specific benefits. However, South African farmers learned that rotating native crops that did not necessarily have the same benefits was easier because they required less water.

At the end of 2019, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture began two larger studies; one to examine the feasibility of regenerative farming, and the other to monitor its effects. These studies help to bolster regenerative farming in South Africa and have provided insight into how the process specifically works in South Africa since the climate is arid. So far, many of these studies have concluded that in South Africa, the secrets to regenerative farming are increasing biodiversity, using native crops and using manure from local animal farms.

The Importance of Biodiversity

One study by the Sustainable Food Trust specifically highlighted the importance of maintaining natural biodiversity as a way to ensure sustainable farming. Within the natural South African ecosystem, animals like dung beetles and different species of birds are necessary for the fertilization and pollination process. For many years, farming techniques sought to eliminate “pests” from their fields so they could maximize profit, but without these animals, the soil degrades. On this phenomenon, one farmer said, “My greatest satisfaction has come from wildlife returning to the farm en masse, from dung beetles to sparrow hawks. This has only happened by seeing the farm as part of a wider agro-ecosystem.”

Grounded

In addition to government and scientific studies, other farming organizations have also become involved in regenerative farming, specifically by supplementing farmers with the resources they need to practice sustainability. One of these organizations, Grounded, operates out of the Langkloof region. In addition to providing farmers with resources, Grounded has committed itself to the promotion of ethical production and consumption. On its site, it sells the products that the regional farmers produce, with all of the profits returning to the producers. Grounded’s mission is to provide consumers with ethically sourced products with a known origin, all while practicing sustainability and conservation.

Going forward, many ecologists, farmers and agricultural specialists believe that regenerative farming is the only way to ensure the maintenance of the global food supply. On this, Charles Kellong of the United Nations Department of Agriculture (UNDA) said that “There can be no life without soil and no soil without life, they have evolved together.” As farmers implement regenerative farming practices around the world and adapt these methods to specific climates, like in South Africa, the world will see the fertility of the soil come back, and there will be farmland for generations to come.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr