Information and stories about agriculture.

SunCulture Expansion For many farmers in Africa, unpredictable weather patterns and growing seasons often lead to insufficient harvests and food insecurity. Yet, nearly 80% of people in Africa rely on agriculture as their main source of food. According to the United Nations, global food production must increase by 60% by the year 2050 in order to sustain the world’s growing population. Despite environmental limitations, more sustainable and efficient farming must occur. SunCulture, a Kenya-based solar-powered generator and irrigation system manufacturer, promotes food production, ensuring that farmers in Africa have the means to produce enough food. With the latest SunCulture expansion, the company hopes to help more farmers in Africa and also add new products to its repertoire.

SunCulture Promotes Food Production

Africa has 65% of the world’s uncultivated, arable land, according to the African Development Bank. However, due to limited resources to sustainably grow and harvest food, food scarcity is prevalent in farming communities in Africa. To combat this scarcity, SunCulture has provided families with sustainable tools to increase food production, such as generators and irrigation systems. Since much of Africa’s freshwater exists as groundwater, irrigation systems help pump water up to the surface to water crops during droughts. At the same time, solar-powered generators provide power in farming villages lacking electricity. With these tools available for purchase, SunCulture promises that families can sustain themselves and their communities without fear of food insecurity or scarcity. The pay-as-you-grow financing option allows farmers to pay in small monthly installments, making products accessible and affordable.

Since SunCulture’s creation in 2013, it has changed the lives of thousands of farmers across East Africa. The company estimates that farmers using its products have seen up to five times increase in crop yields and have gained up to 10 times increased income from selling their crops. By allowing farmers the opportunity to grow enough food to sell the excess, local commerce has bolstered the economies of these communities. This had led to more people being able to purchase SunCulture’s irrigation systems and grow even more crops. Although SunCulture currently promotes food production exclusively in the eastern parts of Africa, new business expansions have allowed them to help farmers across the continent.

SunCulture Expansion

In December 2020, SunCulture announced a US$14 million expansion that would allow farmers across the African continent access to the company’s products. Backed by numerous organizations such as Energy Access Ventures (EAV) and USAID’s Kenya Investment Mechanism (KIM) program, the expansion would also allow SunCulture to provide better support to farmers in Africa such as more efficient irrigation systems and less costly generators. While EAV has been one of SunCulture’s main investors since its inception, KIM offers new opportunities both in helping companies find a market to sell their products and getting the resources necessary to make their products. Through its work with KIM, SunCulture is confident in its ability to bring sustainable irrigation to the millions of farming families in Africa.

While this SunCulture expansion may take time to cover all of Africa, it will immediately impact farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. Farmers in these countries will be able to either purchase their first irrigation system from SunCulture or buy more systems to better sustain their crops and increase yields.

Addressing Food Security and Reducing Poverty

As more people in Africa rely on agriculture both for food and income, SunCulture’s products have been able to increase agricultural outcomes. With the expansion, SunCulture hopes to aid more families and communities in Africa to reduce food insecurity and better their livelihoods, alleviating poverty overall.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

Agroecology in ColombiaPoverty levels in Colombia have decreased by almost 15% between 2008 and 2018, yet significant inequality persists as poverty continues to disproportionately affect rural communities. In 2019, 36.1% of the Colombian rural population lived in poverty and 15% lived in extreme poverty, double the rate of poverty in urban areas. Effects of rural poverty in Colombia are greater among Afro-descendant people, indigenous groups, women and those with disabilities. The transition to agroecology in Colombia will positively impact farmers, especially rural farmers. It has the potential to mitigate environmental risks, protect farmers’ health, strengthen food security and preserve the ecosystem, reducing poverty overall.

Colombia’s Agricultural Industry

Over the past 60 years, the Colombian agricultural industry has greatly contributed to the growth of the economy, providing 16.45% of the country’s jobs. Colombia has the highest use of fertilizer and the second-highest use of pesticides in Latin America. Colombia spends 35% of total food cost production on agrochemicals with pesticide use nearly quadrupling since 1990. Agrochemicals affect the health of people and the health of the land. Integrating sustainable agroecology in Colombia presents an opportunity to protect people’s health and the ecosystem while minimizing environmental risks.

Health Risks of Agrochemicals

Agrochemicals can have adverse effects on the human neurological, immunological, respiratory and reproductive systems. The risks of exposure can result in long-lasting, chronic health outcomes for farmworkers and can especially affect pregnant women, children and older family members. In 2017, reports determined the existence of 8,423 pesticide-associated poisoning cases and 150 pesticide-associated fatalities in Colombia. Ruben Salas, a toxicologist at the University of Cartegena, predicts that chronic diseases in connection to pesticide exposure are frequently undiagnosed and underreported.

Despite the evident adverse health and ecological effects of agrochemicals, not all embrace the adoption of agroecology in Colombia. A study investigating factors that contribute to Colombian Campesinos’ use of pesticides found that pesticide users do not believe pesticides are detrimental to human health nor the environment.

Fighting Environmental Challenges

Reports determined that pesticide use causes damaging environmental events, leading to agricultural depletion and socioeconomic conflicts. According to risk analysis, predictions have determined that changing weather in Colombia will affect food security by 34.6% and human habitat by 26.2%. As the majority of Colombian’s in rural regions are already facing water shortages and land instability, an urgent need exists for sustainable solutions.

Sustainable Development Initiatives

To protect human health and the environment, efforts to implement agroecology in Colombia have proficiently provided alternatives to substitute traditional agricultural methods. The Food and Land Use Coalition, Yara International and Ecoflora are examples of groups that have developed effective strategies to diminish agrochemical use and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) working group prioritizes the development of sustainable and capable agricultural applications. In collaboration with the government, biotechnology companies and research institutions, FOLU is working toward certifying farms in Good Agricultural Practices, developing bio-inputs, bio-protection and agroecology throughout farming communities.

Yara International is a fertilizer company that assists farmers to promote sustainable crop practices. Yara agronomists collaborate with local crop nutrition experts to provide an individualized solution for farmers. Through engagement, market research, trials and meeting, Yara ensures farmers experience sustained success.

Ecoflora is a biocontrol company that creates natural color technologies while focusing on sustainable and ethical practices. In Colombia, Ecoflora has developed alliances with communities of African descent, indigenous people and those in rural regions. Ecoflora encourages the use of natural resources and sustainable practices within these communities to preserve the environment and ensure equitable social benefits.

Going Forward

The marginalized communities of rural Colombia are more vulnerable to the consequences of agrochemical use. An increase in farmer’s understanding of agrochemical impacts, education on effective and sustainable agricultural management and novel technology training would promote the uptake of agroecology in Colombia. The government should continue supporting the integration of agroecological practices to protect the health and well-being of historically neglected communities. Furthermore, agroecology promotes sustainable food security, addressing food shortages, hunger and poverty overall.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Susan Rice's Approach to Foreign Aid
Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has formed by her listening to her colleagues’ advice. Her approach is to negotiate and implement policies to help textile workers, small farmers and other people in need.

Susan Rice’s Background

According to her latest 2019 book, “Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For,” Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C. Her first job in 1979 at age 14 was as a Democratic page in the U.S. House of Representatives. She graduated high school and took home many awards from the National Cathedral School NCS in D.C. After this, she was a fellow at the Brookings Institute and an undergraduate at Stanford University.

She studied at Oxford in the U.K., where she earned her M.Phil. (masters) degree in international relations. Afterward, she went on to earn her Ph.D. During that time, her thesis “The Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979–1980: Implications for International Peacekeeping” won the 1991 Chatham House–British International Studies Association Award for the most distinguished doctoral dissertation in international relations in The U.K. She went on to be the youngest black woman to serve in a presidential administration.

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid has involved her putting her colleague’s advice into practice. When she first started as assistant secretary of state for African affairs, her colleague Ambassador Prudence’s advice was to pay attention to policy outcomes, not the bureaucracy.

African Growth Opportunity Act and Other Programs

During her years in the Clinton Administration, Susan Rice worked hard toward the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA), which passed Congress in 2000. In 2015, Congress updated and extended the program through 2025. The AGOA requires countries to remove obstacles to U.S. trade, implement poverty reduction procedures, fight corruption and bolster human rights.

Poverty is reducing among women through the creation of jobs and through new businesses that women own. The African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), which supports women who own businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, came to be because of the AGOA.

The Department of State also created an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This program sponsors a small group of African women business owners to come to the U.S. for a three-week intensive networking event to meet with leaders in bipartisan policy, industry and nonprofits. The support these women entrepreneurs receive helps create jobs and influence society. It lifts their communities out of poverty one job at a time.

Work as the US Ambassador to the United Nations

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid widened when the Obama Administration made her the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), which began with the George W. Bush Administration, continued in the Obama Administration.

It had the intent of lowering or eliminating tariffs on imports and exports of participating countries, thus making it more affordable for them to produce, import and export. The affordability attracts businessmen and women and lifts people out of poverty by creating jobs in both the import and export country. This symbiotic relationship helps lift people out of poverty by the creation of these jobs. In 2014, according to Susan Rice’s speech, one-third of TPP participants were from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia all benefit from TPP.

How TTP and AGOA Impact People

Susan Rice’s approach to foreign aid is to negotiate and implement policies like TTP and the AGOA. According to The World Bank, TTP will increase the wages of poor under-skilled textile workers in Vietnam by over 14% by 2030. African countries could also benefit from TTP and especially African women.

According to The World Bank, women make up most of the small farmers in Africa. These women carry goods across borders where they sometimes meet with opposition in documents, regulatory requirements and tariffs.

As Brookings reported, Africa is benefiting from the AGOA. In 2014, African countries exported nearly $1 billion worth of textiles to the U.S. creating jobs for poor under-skilled workers, especially women.

– Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LiberiaLiberia is located along the western coast of Africa’s rough and diverse terrain. The country experienced peace and stability until 1989 when a rebellion ensued. The Civil War in Liberia then persisted until 2003. As a result, high poverty rates and unstable living conditions became too common in Liberia.

Living Conditions in Liberia

According to the World Bank, approximately 54% of Liberia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. More than 2.1 million Liberians were unable to obtain basic necessities between January and August 2014. Today, 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The number of those living in extreme poverty within urban and rural areas is the same, which is unusual. According to the report, the primary reason why urban areas have such high levels of poverty is that homeowners are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and electricity.

Furthermore, Liberia faces disheartening statistics common in impoverished countries. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, along with many children at risk of death from preventable illnesses like malaria.  Life expectancy, education and income are ranked extremely low on a worldwide scale. The nation also has the world’s third-highest unemployment rate.

ChildFund

The ChildFund organization is one working to help improve living conditions in Liberia. Through the support of donors, the organization distributed mosquito nets to more than 477,000 people across the nation. Years of war forced children to forfeit education and serve Liberia. However, ChildFund offers these former child soldiers educational opportunities. The Community Education and Investment Project aims to provide children the opportunity to enroll in schools. Thus far, ChildFund has supplied more than 75,000 books to 110 schools across Liberia.

ChildFund works to empower Liberians and provide them with resources to rebuild their lives. The organization has constructed early childhood development centers, community healthcare facilities and centers for women. Though living conditions in Liberia are less than favorable, ChildFund’s efforts are making a substantial difference.

Liberian Agriculture Project

According to the World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye, improving agriculture will help bring Liberia out of poverty. Increased food growth and therefore increased sales will stimulate the rural communities while providing urban areas with much-needed agricultural products. One organization tackling agriculture in Liberia is the Liberian Agriculture Project.

The Liberian Agriculture Project works to support small-scale farmers of fruit crops such as pineapples and bananas in Liberia. The organization is involved in the growing and handling of sales for rural farmers. Currently, the project is working toward getting specialty products into the seven main food markets in the capital of Monrovia, Liberia. Additionally, making the transition from subsistence farming to commercialized agriculture is another goal.

Although the Civil War ended years ago, living conditions in Liberia continue to be affected by ongoing conflict and tensions. The stress of high unemployment rates, food shortages and limited access to healthcare still affect the average Liberian family. However, efforts put forth by nonprofit organizations and charities like ChildFund and the Liberian Agricultural Project are taking the right steps to help bring Liberia out of poverty.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Hemp production in PakistanIn September 2020, the Pakistani Government approved industrial hemp production, legalizing hemp and allowing hemp farming in agricultural sectors. Hemp is a type of cannabis plant, used commonly for medicinal purposes due to its cannabidiol (CBD) concentration. Considering the many benefits of hemp production, this landmark decision brings exciting possibilities for many areas in Pakistan. Since the economy of Pakistan has been long in need of a boost, the new approved hemp production and legalization is said to bring economic benefits to the country.

The Economic Benefits of Hemp Production

Officials in Pakistan’s government encouraged hemp legalization and production in efforts to relieve fiscal deficits and Pakistan’s struggling economy. Considering the industrial hemp market is worth about $25 billion globally, Pakistan’s science and technology minister, Fawad Chaudhry, says Pakistan is aiming for a profit of $1 billion over the next three years by joining the global hemp market. Exports in hemp can target CBD oils and cannabis-based products and can be a sustainable cotton replacement during slowdowns within the cotton industry.

A Sustainable Replacement for Cotton

Hemp production in Pakistan is most exciting to the workforce, especially for farmers participating in hemp markets and those working within the cotton industry. Cultivating hemp will create more jobs for the small-scale farmers responsible, but more importantly, become a sustainable replacement for cotton in Pakistan’s markets. As the fourth biggest cotton producer in the world, Pakistan’s cotton production has been declining due to climate change, water scarcity, locust attacks and industrial imbalances such as declining prices and low-grade seeds. The hemp plant’s stalk has strong properties of cellulose-rich fiber which is an effective ingredient in the making of paper, rope, construction and reinforcement materials, due to its strong fiber components. Hemp, therefore, makes for a worthy sustainable replacement to cotton.

Hemp Research Possibilities

For researchers, hemp production in Pakistan is exciting for many reasons. With the new hemp legalization, hemp research is no longer taboo, according to Muhammed A. Qayyum, an advisor in the Pakistani government and the director of Medics Laboratories. With this new allowance, researchers can delve into more potential applications of hemp in medicine and more.

Medicinal Properties of Hemp

Advocates have listed numerous medicinal properties to hemp, more specifically, the chemical cannabidiol (CBD) within the plant. Cannabis is seen as medically beneficial as the cannabinoid compound is said to relieve pain and regulate appetite, mood, memory inflammation, insulin sensitivity and metabolism. Hemp is also a valuable food supplement, incorporated in gluten-free products to increase nutritional value from hemp’s high levels of fiber and proteins.

The Potential of the Hemp Industry in Pakistan

With this new federal approval, Pakistan can enter global markets as a new exporter of CBD with the ability to generate millions of revenue similar to China, the United States and India. Hemp production in Pakistan opens up a wide range of possibilities but also brings thousands of jobs across multiple fields such as farm work, production, marketing, transportation, research and medicine. As a flexible crop, the hemp market can address several demands, from textiles, clothing, home furnishing and industrial oils to cosmetics, food and medicine.  Holding an overall market value of more than $340 billion and 263 million cannabis consumers worldwide, Pakistan’s economy can shift dramatically with the newly approved hemp production.

Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

the BSCFABelize’s sugar cane production has been a major staple to its economy since the 1800s. Today, it supports the livelihood of around 15% of Belizeans, contributes to 6% of Belize’s foreign exchange income and adds 30% gross value to the country’s agriculture. Due to its overall importance, organizations have taken great steps to help protect sugar farmers and improve their working conditions. A major step toward this goal was when the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) became Fairtrade certified in 2008. Since then, the value of sugar from Belize has grown and better working conditions and human rights have been established.

Sugar Cane Farmers in Belize

Sugar cane farmers and plantation workers often struggle because sugar prices in international markets are low and processing sugar cane is long and expensive. Smaller farms also have trouble getting access to lucrative markets that would buy more sugar. The compensation smallholder farmers receive for cane often fails to cover the costs they incur to produce it, leaving them in a debt trap and with little capital to reinvest in farms. They also cannot pay for newer equipment that would help make the process easier, faster and cheaper. The significant amount of time invested in farming to provide an income often leaves little time to engage in other opportunities that can pull them out of poverty, such as education. Fairtrade aims to alleviate these problems by helping people and organizations get better representation in the market and better prices for their crops.

The Impact of Fairtrade Certification

Since 2008, Belize’s sugar cane exports have increased greatly, particularly in the European market. In the first five years of the BSCFA becoming Fairtrade certified, Belize’s sugar cane gross profit grew significantly. Belize has also been able to increase the amount of sugar cane produced every year due to farmers getting resources to control pests in the early stages of the growing process and access to better farming and processing tools. From 2018 to 2019 alone, Belize went from producing 150,000 tons to more than one million tons of sugar cane.

Impact on Communities in Belize

A huge benefit of being Fairtrade certified is that organizations will receive premiums — extra money that farmers and workers can invest in their businesses or the community. The BSCFA gets around $3.5 million in premiums a year and has used that as grants for education, building and repairs, community spaces such as churches and libraries, funerals for impoverished families, water tank systems and more.

The BSCFA has continued advocacy and empowerment efforts to improve the working conditions of sugar cane farmers. In 2015, the BSCFA took a strong stance against child labor, lobbying the government to make laws against child labor and personally suspending support of farms that violated fairtrade practices.

Due to advocacy efforts such as these, the government of Belize has taken steps to stop child labor, such as working on bills that help others identify child labor situations and updating its Child Labor Policy to add additional protection for children. It also established a Child Labor Secretariat that works on identifying and reporting child labor cases.

Fairtrade and the BSCFA have made significant strides in protecting the rights of sugar cane farmers while expanding the economy. These efforts are lifting people out of poverty and ensuring that fairness prevails.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Samoa
Samoa, a small island country in the Pacific, struggles with economic issues like rising unemployment, an imbalance between rural and urban communities and vulnerability to natural disasters. Here are nine facts about poverty in Samoa.

9 Facts About Poverty in Samoa

  1. Approximately 18% of the population lives in urban areas, with the other 82% living in rural areas. Most Samoans live in the rural and remote areas of the island, resulting in an imbalance of education, opportunities and social benefits. Most of the population finds themselves working in the agricultural business, with tropical agriculture occupying 65% of the labor force. In the urban areas, there are more job opportunities other than agriculture such as technicians, pilots, and doctors.
  2. Nearly 72% of the Samoa population does not have access to the internet. A lack of internet access can exacerbate educational and health disparities. The internet provides many resources for students to improve their education. It also contains information on the locations of hospitals and clinics. With little access to this information due to the inaccessibility of the internet, the split between low-income and higher-income communities is worsened, creating even more poverty.
  3. Natural disasters threaten Samoa’s agriculture. In rural areas, the population works mainly in agriculture. However, natural disasters can damage the industry. Samoa is located in a seismic zone called the “Ring of Fire.” It is exposed to deadly earthquakes, such as the 2009 earthquake, which had a magnitude of 8.3. This earthquake was followed by a tsunami that “took 150 lives, left 2.5% of all Samoans homeless, destroyed transport, water and energy infrastructure across large areas.” This significantly impacted the agricultural industry, damaging the economy and increasing poverty in Samoa.
  4. The unemployment rate in Samoa is only 8.4%. While Samoa’s unemployment rate is less than other countries, it has increased from 5.7 to 8.4%. Age imbalance is one of the main causes. The unemployment rate is 8.7% of all adults 15 and up; however, among youth between the ages of 15 and 29, it is 16.8%. An increasing unemployment rate, particularly for the youth population, can be devastating for a small country.
  5. There are high rates of domestic violence in Samoa. Domestic violence can lead to more poverty for its victims, often women. According to the Guardian, a report found that nine out of 10 respondents said abuse occurred regularly within their home. The frequent harassment that women face in Samoa can take a toll on them and their families. Oftentimes, these women are shunned by society for exposing these issues. This can be especially disadvantageous to lower-income women, who often do not have the support network or the financial resources to proceed with charges against their abuser.
  6. Rural households are more likely to have only one room for sleeping. In contrast, urban households are less likely to live in small homes, highlighting the inequality between these two areas. As rural families are more likely to live in overcrowded houses due to having smaller homes, there is a greater risk of infectious diseases spreading. This, on top of the weak healthcare system in place, can create a health crisis within the rural population.
  7. There is also education inequality between urban and rural areas. While the national literacy rate for the country of Samoa is at a high 97%, there is a disparity in the quality of education between rural areas and urban areas of the island. Village schools only offer four years of primary education, leaving children to attend the district school for further education. District schools, however, tend to take only the most successful students, leaving many others without adequate educational opportunities. This then leads to few economic opportunities for rural students as they become young adults.
  8. COVID-19 is contributing to the increase in poverty rates. A measles outbreak in September 2019 impacted more than 5,700 people. The death rate stood at 1.46%, similar to the COVID-19 rates. While Samoan health authorities have recent experience dealing with the spread of disease, the island is still suffering from the pandemic. Samoa is facing a shortage of testing capacities, medical equipment and personal protective equipment. International travel and public transport restrictions have led to changes in social dynamics, suspended business operations and caused people to lose their jobs, especially common in tourism and in small businesses.
  9. A handful of organizations are addressing poverty in Samoa. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is an organization helping rural people in Samoa. It has helped 7,300 households and has three multimillion projects. The organization created the Samoa Agriculture & Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project in October 2019. This project costs $30 million and will help to increase the incomes of rural families and improve infrastructure.

These nine facts about poverty in Samoa illuminate how poverty has impacted the livelihoods of its citizens. However, through the work of humanitarian organizations in the country, Samoa can address poverty and create a more economically and socially empowered population.

Philip Tang
Photo: Flickr

Vertical FarmingThe new AI-run vertical farming plantation brings new possibilities to agriculture and efficient production, as Plenty, an ag-tech company, co-founded by Nate Storey, proves there is now more benefit than cost to vertical farming. By utilizing robots and artificial intelligence systems to regulate LED sunlight panels, watering systems and pest control, this futuristic method has surpassed its previous form of being too expensive and complex.

Vertical Farming

Through the current transitions made toward maximizing agricultural use of AI, farming today has already begun employing drones and smart robots to remove weeds or spread herbicides efficiently. Greenfield Robotics had already released different functional fleets active in certain farms. Now, Plenty utilizes similar technologies with robots harvesting and organizing plants in the vertical farming stations. Fundamentals such as water, temperature and light are systematically calculated and regulated through smart systems that prioritize a greater, faster and better crop turnout.

Benefits of AI-Run Vertical Farming

Through artificial intelligence, farmers are now able to adopt a more eco-friendly methodology. Robots and machine learning promote certain technologies such as tracking soil composition, moisture content, crop humidity and optimal crop temperatures. Despite the previous vertical farming history and cost-benefit analysis, modern-day AI-run vertical farming allows certain resources to be recycled, controlled and reused. This can be seen in AI-run water filtration systems that catch evaporated water from the farms or indoor energy renewal systems.

Alleviating Agricultural Issues

These innovations alleviate many issues that arise in agriculture and distribution. The most notable feat is the space that vertical farming saves in comparison to traditional farmland regions. Plenty’s vertical farm covers two acres and yields similar, if not better, harvest and product quality to that of a 750-acre flat farm. Plenty’s website expresses its greatest feat yet: “Imagine a 1,500-acre farm. Now imagine that fitting inside your favorite grocery store, growing up to 350 times more.”

Plenty also points out the freedom AI-run vertical farming brings to agriculture today. By being independent and self-sufficient with consistent sunlight, recycled water and a controlled environment, farming is no longer restricted to natural inconsistencies. Climate change and weather patterns do not determine the outcome of the produce, due to this new ability to control the necessary components to production. In light of COVID-19 and wildfires that breakdown supply chains, this factor prevents unprecedented shutdowns of essential services in agriculture.

AI-run vertical farming allows farms to exist within metropolitan sectors instead of weather-dependent regions. By having a closer source, distribution is more efficient leading to less CO2 emissions and dependency on preservatives. This method also allows cost reduction, since transportation, product cost and labor are reduced, which allows impoverished communities access to better produce.

The Future of AI-Run Vertical Farming

All things considered, this new innovative alternative brings a cleaner and more sustainable future for agriculture, whether it be in produce quality or carbon footprint. With Plenty’s ongoing environmental adjustments and technological updates, the organization continues to expand its service, with a $400 million investment capital from Softbank, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt. Plenty has also partnered with Albertsons to supply 430 stores in California.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr