Information and stories about agriculture.

Aquaculture in NicaraguaNicaragua is a popular tourist destination but also the second most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere. The resource-rich country has potential for significant economic growth but a long history of colonization, autocratic governments and neglect of human capital create barriers to economic growth. Agriculture is the main form of industry in Nicaragua as there are large expanses of level, fertile ground in the eastern part of the country. Fishing is also traditional to the area, especially shrimping. In the last few decades, the government began prioritizing the development of infrastructure to support aquaculture in Nicaragua in order to help fisherfolk and reduce poverty.

What is Aquaculture?

Nicaragua is one of the many coastal countries undergoing what is referred to as a “blue revolution.” Nicaragua is testing the capacity of the surrounding waters to bring significant income into the economy. This often means updating a traditional industry such as capture fishing and applying that knowledge with new technology. Furthermore, it means utilizing more environmentally sustainable practices. Aquaculture in Nicaragua was a natural step forward, as its land-based version, agriculture, is already a prolific industry. Learning how to farm the ocean is a relatively new concept but one that is gaining ground quickly in global agricultural circles.

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition released a brief in February 2021 detailing the benefits of aquaculture. These benefits range from increased nutrition and food security to a higher national GDP. The panel asserts that aquaculture is one of the fastest-growing aspects of the greater agricultural industry. Additionally, worldwide fish consumption is growing, creating a demand that traditional capture fisheries cannot support sustainably.

Aquaculture Potential in Nicaragua

Aquaculture programs supported by the Nicaraguan Government gained traction in the 1980s. Since then, shrimp farming has become the major export of the fishing industry. While many shrimp farms are owned by large corporations, small farmers are supported by the government and programs like the Nicaraguan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INPESCA). In 2018, INPESCA helped residents of the Palo Grande community to form fishing cooperatives and provided the necessary training to learn shrimp farming. Along with the municipal government, INPESCA then gave each of the eight fishing cooperatives, including more than 250 cooperative members, licenses to farm shrimp in designated areas in northwestern Nicaragua.

Not only does this opportunity provide people with the means of creating a steady income and access to a nutritional food source, but, many women who previously relied on their husband’s income are now able to be involved in the work. Instead of working for large companies that underpay workers, people can work for themselves earning the full price of the sold shrimp.

Looking Forward

There are serious challenges to the industry that created major setbacks. Hurricane Mitch devastated coastal properties in 1998, causing flooding and almost 4,000 total deaths in Nicaragua. Just one year later, with shrimp farms still struggling to recover, outbreaks of the fatal white spot syndrome in Nicaragua wiped out large quantities of shrimp.

In spite of past challenges, there are many exciting reasons to support aquaculture in Nicaragua. Offering stable income to uneducated citizens, economic growth for the country, affordable sources of nutritious food and a sustainable form of farming, aquaculture has an impressive array of possible benefits. The Government of Nicaragua and various international organizations continue to pursue further development of aquaculture technologies, hoping to facilitate economic growth and decrease overall poverty.

Kari Millstein
Photo: Flickr

Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia
As of 2018, 31.1% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the country’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors. These sectors are essential to the country and employ nearly two-thirds of Ethiopia’s workforce. Smallholder farmers in Ethiopia are vital members of the agri-business since they comprise 95% of its production and greatly contribute to poverty reduction.

However, these farmers still struggle to increase production. Climate, poor markets and lack of knowledge and resources contribute to this struggle. Additionally, Ethiopia’s population is growing, as it is the second most populated country in Africa. This makes it more difficult to own land and has resulted in smaller farm sizes.

The World Bank is aiding smallholder farmers in order to stimulate the economy and decrease poverty rates. The World Bank finances the Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGPII) as a way to help smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. AGPII helps agricultural services in many ways, such as increasing resources and technologies and aiding in marketing. With the help of projects like AGPII, agricultural productivity and commercialization can increase by managing and overcoming the adversities of farming.

Smallholder Farmers

A smallholder farmer is a person who works on a small piece of land growing crops and farming livestock. Usually, families run these farms as their main source of income. There are more than 500 million smallholder farms in the world. About 74% of Ethiopia’s farmers live on small farms, with about 67% living below the national poverty line.

Speaking on agriculture, Vikas Choudhary, team leader of AGPII and agricultural operations for Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan, told The Borgen Project, “smallholder farmers are the backbone of Ethiopia and its economy.”

The Difficulties of Farming

Farming is one of the riskiest and most complicated businesses to be in. As a farmer, you are dependent on many factors that are difficult to control. Here are a few of the complexities of farming in Ethiopia.

  • Climate. Climate is one issue that can largely affect crop production. Unreliable rainfall can cause agricultural production systems to be unachievable. Many smallholders depend solely on the rain to water their horticultural crops. To develop more crops and better the market, conditions must undergo diversification to offer more of a variety of crops. Additionally, focusing on agro-climate and water resources will help offer more agricultural irrigation.
  • Land Management. Land management has become a difficult factor within Ethiopia’s agricultural business. Choudhary stated, “landholding is extremely fragmented. When you are saying half a hectare, it’s not even half a hectare. It’s smaller than that. And even in that, the land parcels are extremely fragmented. One is here, one can be half a kilometer away, a third can be a fourth kilometers away, so management of those land parcels is extremely challenging.” Most farmers cultivate on land smaller than a hectare, and even then the plots can be divided into four plots.
  • Limited Technology and Education. Limited technology and education are perhaps the largest difficulties that smallholder farmers in Ethiopia struggle with. Within the country, there is a lack of improved seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation. Only 2% of smallholder land is irrigated and as little as 3.7% have access to agricultural machinery. Providing more educational services and agricultural technologies can increase agricultural productivity, and thus contribute to poverty reduction.

The Road to Poverty Reduction

AGPII has many components focused on aiding smallholder farmers with market access and productivity. In 2019, the World Bank’s Poverty Assessment for Ethiopia stated that agricultural growth was the main factor in poverty reduction. The project supports smallholder farmers by enhancing commercialization through an increase in market accessibility, promoting irrigation usage and increasing agricultural services. AGPII has helped 1.4 million smallholder farmers retrieve agricultural services, along with supplying more than 254 new agricultural technologies to assist with crop productivity and possible climate impacts.

The agricultural sector of Ethiopia is essential to improving the economy. Roughly 45% of outputs are from agriculture, and the sector employs nearly 80% of the country’s labor force. Thus, focusing on this sector is necessary, since it is the smallholder farmers in Ethiopia that are the poorest in the country. Choudhary estimated that “for every 1% increase in agricultural productivity, poverty declines by .9%.” Additionally, when asked how smallholder farmers can contribute to poverty reduction, Choudhary shared, “there’s a significant multiplier effect of increased agri-productivity and smallholder farmers are the ones who are contributing, and should be contributing, to this increase in commercialization, and thereby creating jobs, increasing income and reducing poverty.”

Moving Forward

A clear link exists between agricultural productivity and poverty reduction within Ethiopia. “Smallholder farmers are in some way synonymous with Ethiopia,” says Choudhury. Rural areas account for about 80% of the country’s population, and therefore much must happen in order to deliver better technology and education to the farming community.

The World Bank, through AGPII, is one example of an organization contributing to the support of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, providing the funds to help improve irrigation usage, increase commercialization and supply more resources. Overall, this project is going to benefit 1.6 million smallholder farmers living in areas that have the best agricultural growth potential.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Olive Trees in PalestineThe former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, once said, “I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” In Palestine, the olive tree is a symbol of freedom and represents a deep connection to the earth it grows on. Olive trees take up to 12 years to become fruitful and live an average of 2,000 years. Tending to these trees is a generational task passed on over a millennium. In essence, olive trees in Palestine are proof of the people’s long-standing connection to the land.

Olive Trees

The olive trees function on a socioeconomic level. It is a source of income for farmers and provides security for future generations to ensure that they will have consistent income as well. However, the Israeli occupation has made things difficult for farmers in Palestine. Olive trees on ancestral lands are bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Furthermore, the disjointed great wall has cut Palestinians off from their orchards. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the Israeli military has destroyed approximately 1,800 acres of olive orchards near the great wall.

As such, Palestinian farmers have lost their lands, depriving them of income, food and freedom. More than one million Palestinians are now experiencing poverty. This is well over half of the total population.

Help for Palestinian Farmers

Grassroots efforts are vital to the future of Palestine. Zatoun, named after the Arabic word for olive, is a volunteer grassroots organization that helps Palestinian farmers affected by Israeli military destruction. It sells olive oil online and takes advantage of the global market to serve Palestinian farmers and tell their stories.

With help from Canaan Fair Trade and Palestine Fair Trade Association, Zatoun’s Trees for Life program allows people around the world to sponsor olive saplings for farmers to raise. Since 2004, its efforts have benefited almost 4,000 farmers in Palestine. The organization’s goal is to partner with 250 farmers to plant 10,000 trees in 2021.

Palestinians must be able to earn a consistent income to end poverty. Thus, olive orchards are a vital part of the Palestinian economy as they help farmers ensure financial security for generations to come. Farmers who are able to tend to olive trees without fear of suppression will help the economy thrive.

– Monica McCown
Photo: Flickr

Digital AgricultureDigital agriculture is a movement to digitize aspects of farming and food distribution. This has the potential to create a more sustainable, cost-effective and socially inclusive agricultural sector. Digital agriculture reduces poverty when smallholder farms use technology to increase efficiency, thereby becoming more competitive on the market. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, more than 100 million people could end up in extreme poverty due to the impact of environmental challenges on the agricultural sector. Although technology is not the only solution to ending global poverty, it is one promising way to improve the livelihoods of small-scale rural farmers. Using digital tools can improve crop monitoring, relationships between buyers and sellers, access to information and help develop more precise farming practices.

Smallholder Farms

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that smallholder farms, farms of two hectares or less, utilize 12% of the world’s agricultural land and family-run farms utilize 75% of global agricultural land. In sub-Saharan Africa, smallholder farms are responsible for 80% of the food produced. These small farms face many challenges. Soil erosion, drought and other environmental issues can completely wipe out crops and leave families with no income. In recent years, environmental catastrophes left 13 million people from Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia with no choice but to rely on humanitarian assistance. In addition to high susceptibility to weather extremes, rural areas have less access to information and affordable internet services. Digital agriculture reduces poverty by alleviating some of these stressors.

E-commerce in Asia

Digital agriculture reduces poverty through already established concepts like e-commerce. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce company, started a project in 2014 called Rural Taobao. The project aims to increase efficiency and lower costs of agricultural distribution, similar to how Airbnb and other service apps optimize supply and demand by digitally matching buyer and seller.

Rural Taobao is an online marketplace where farmers can buy products from manufacturers, have those products delivered, and then, distribute their crop yields using the same transportation that delivered the factory items. Essentially, this online platform ensures that trucks going into rural areas do not go back to the cities empty, but instead, go back full of agricultural products to sell.

Central Asia has 10.7 million farmers and a land per capita endowment that is five times higher than China’s. As a result, Central Asia has the potential to be a major exporter of high-quality agricultural goods. A program like Rural Taobao, and E-commerce in general, are ways that digital agriculture in Central Asia can optimize distribution, fulfill its potential as a competitive agricultural market and bring more financial capital into rural areas.

Access to Information in Niger

NOVATECH, a startup in Niger, developed an Interactive Voice Response Platform (IVR) in 2017 called E-KOKARI. The E-KOKARI platform lets agricultural workers use their cell phones to access information about crops, weather forecasts, market prices and other information relevant to farming or agriculture. It is as simple as dialing a number on a cellphone that will take the individual to a navigatable menu. The platform provides advice and information in all of Niger’s primary languages — French, Hausa and Zarma. The information is also available in voice format. About 70% of the adult population is illiterate so access to spoken information is extremely helpful. The number of people with cell phones has grown over the years. In 2016, more than seven million cellphone users existed in a population of 20 million.

E-KOKARI is still in the prototype phase but has a promising future. Developers of the technology interviewed farmers to find out exactly what problems needed addressing and worked to make the technology sustainable. Moreover, the developers ensured that the technology was reproducible for communities in other countries.

Digital Agriculture Reduces Poverty

Digital agriculture reduces poverty because it makes farmers’ lives easier. Similar to other sectors of society, technology can save time, increase productivity, lower costs and increase access to key information. As digital agriculture evolves and becomes more widespread, it is vital that creators pay attention to who the user is and what the user needs. Historically, marginalized groups such as women, differently-abled people and the elderly have greatly benefited from technology but frequently were not part of the production process. It is imperative that creators and producers of digital agriculture incorporate the voices of all potential users.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Mali and the TNA Project
Mali is a West African country with a population of 20 million people. The country’s high poverty levels have long-term impacts on the physical health of citizens. With a poverty rate of 42.7% in 2019, many citizens suffer from malnutrition. In response, the Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) project’s overall focus on environmental health helps mitigate the long-term effects of poverty within the country. Mali and the TNA project have helped the country utilize agricultural technology to develop programs and projects centered on these impacts of poverty.

What is TNA?

The U.N. Environment Programme and the UNEP DTU partnership (U.N. Environment and the Technical University of Denmark) created the Technology Needs Assistance project in 2001. The Global Environment Facility helps finance this multi-phased project.

TNA has helped people in more than 80 countries, with a primary focus on environmental health. It uses a country-led approach in order to develop accountability. TNA generally helps countries make improvements to many of the programs and projects already in place.

The work of TNA aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs emerged to end poverty and other deprivations through global partnership. TNA recognizes the role technology can have in achieving these goals, especially in the area of environmental health.

Mali and TNA

Mali faces a serious risk of droughts. Droughts can have disastrous economic and environmental effects by damaging agriculture, water supplies and more. In response to this risk, Mali and the TNA project helped develop field contouring. Field contouring prevents soil erosion and water run-off. In one rural part of the country, Koutiala, the water run-off has reduced by at least 20% and the crop yields have increased by 30%. Additionally, Mali and TNA developed micro-hydroelectric stations that benefit the rural and urban areas of the country by providing clean energy.

Although Mali completed its TNA in 2012, the Institute of Rural Economy measures the progress and impacts of the technology that this project introduced. This research agency mainly focuses on agricultural, livestock and food technology. TNA focused on the agriculture, water resources and energy sector of the country to improve overall environmental health. Despite the country’s completion of TNA almost a decade ago, there are still clear benefits from the project. For example, the Institute of Rural Economy continues to hold training sessions and collect data to ensure the country is advancing in technology. Overall, TNA in Mali aligns with five SDGs: clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, climate action and life on land.

CORAF in Mali

Since the TNA project in Mali officially ended, the country has taken steps to continue improving its practices for environmental health. The Conference of the Agricultural Research Leaders in West and Central Africa (CORAF) is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on agricultural production. Currently, Mali has implemented 23 CORAF projects. This organization works with different agricultural programs in Mali to improve and strengthen its agricultural technology. Its main goal is to reduce poverty and malnutrition in the country.

Although Mali has phased out of the TNA project, the nation is still working to improve its agricultural technology. Utilizing technology is one step toward mitigating the impacts of poverty within Mali.

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Flickr

poverty conditions in The GambiaThe Gambia is a West African country on the Atlantic coast. In 2019, the Human Development Index ranked The Gambia as 174 out of 189 countries. Despite the progress displayed in recent years, particularly in primary education, issues such as food shortages, malnutrition and poverty have only worsened. Roughly 48% of the population live in poverty conditions in The Gambia.

The Gambia’s Economy

Peanut farming and processing remain the most significant industries in the country. The peanut crop is sold to The Gambia Groundnut Corporation. This company assigns the prices for the season in advance, pays the farmers and producers and then sells the product overseas. Once the peanuts are deshelled, they are pressed into oil at pressing mills. The leftover residue is used to make cattle cake.

As the tourism industry grows in size, the construction industry has grown in tandem. Other small industries branch off into selling and manufacturing food products, beverages, footwear, woods and textiles. But as one might expect, this dependence on agriculture limits The Gambia’s ability to make significant headway in advancing economic stability and infrastructure. The situation is worsened by the successive shocks of droughts and floods causing widespread damage, suffering and loss of life. These unyielding weather patterns and weak food production systems caused food insecurity to slowly rise over the past few years.

Housing and Employment

In general, most village houses consist of circular mud huts with thatched roofs. On rare occasions, they build several single-story concrete buildings. The location of homes in a particular community plays a large role in high levels of poverty, as well as with economic and social exclusion. The poor are more likely to live in larger polygamous family units, have more dependent children and live without electricity.

Informal jobs abound. The lack of off-farm labor opportunities in rural areas results in underemployment and outmigration, especially among women and youth. Also, The Gambia’s population is increasing at an incredibly fast rate. This speed is far outpacing the housing supply and the rate at which homes can be built. As a consequence, both villages and larger towns experience overcrowding populations. These conditions contribute to the development of slums in larger communities and poverty conditions in The Gambia.

Healthcare

Despite improvements made since The Gambia achieved independence, the overall state of national health is very poor. Inadequate sanitation directly causes most cases of illness. About one-third of people do not have access to safe drinking water. Malaria poses the most significant health threat, while other tuberculosis and various parasitic diseases are also highly prevalent health issues.

Even though The Gambia has a lower number of HIV/AIDS cases than many other African nations, it increased among younger women during the 2000s. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate in The Gambia is one of the highest in all of Africa, only made worse by the nation’s very young population. About two-thirds of all citizens of The Gambia are under 30 years old. A long-standing shortage of healthcare workers in The Gambia adversely affects the staffing of medical facilities, particularly in rural areas. To address this problem, the government established a medical school to train its doctors and implemented a series of healthcare strategies.

A Brighter Future

The Gambia’s environment, extreme reliance on agriculture and general lack of everyday necessities such as medical care places its citizens in poverty levels that are difficult to escape. But thankfully, hope exists in the many organizations that are working tirelessly to spread awareness and donate money and resources to The Gambia. One prime example is ActionAid Gambia, a nonprofit charity that focuses on achieving social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication. Founded in 1972, the organization works to promote sustainable agriculture, improve the quality of public education for all children, advocate for women to receive economic alternatives and have control of their reproductive health rights and provide support towards eradicating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Over time and through many people’s efforts, it is possible to speed up the process of development to help decrease poverty conditions in The Gambia.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Female Farmers In Ghana
Ghana has endured volatile floods and droughts over the last decade. Detrimental weather is especially harmful to countries like Ghana as many of its citizens depend on farming to make a living. Only 10% of the northern half of the country is able to sustain itself without agriculture. Estimates have determined that up to $200 million has disappeared annually from the country’s earning potential. This is due to frequent floods and droughts in the last few years. These unstable swings in weather greatly compromise farmers’ ability to grow crops. This instability often hits female farmers in Ghana the hardest. It is often difficult for them to find other avenues of income during periods of erratic weather.

As a result, an international relief fund called the Adaptation Fund has channeled a portion of its money to teach female farmers in Ghana how to turn crops into finished goods. Finished goods allow the women to have an array of products to sell when floods and droughts occur.

Milling Machines

The milling machine is perhaps the most useful piece of machinery that the Adaptation Fund introduced. Milling machines make popular products like flour, cereal and granulated sugar. In Ghana, many women use milling machines to make shea butter, soy milk and kebabs.

When weather conditions prohibit the harvesting of crops, women can work at milling machines to minimize wasted time and maximize income. Milling machines make it possible for women to earn higher margins on their products. A bottle of shea butter will sell for more than raw shea since it is a finished good. All of the labor and cost of the machinery factor into the final price.  Thus, women actually have the potential to earn a little more when selling finished goods.

The Progress

More than 7,000 women have gained access to milling facilities with the Adaptation Fund’s contribution. Women are able to earn more money and diversify their diets. A lot of the women choose to bring some of the products home so that their families can experience a wider range of food than was available to them before the milling facilities. Moreover, white rice and corn are popular milled goods in Ghana.

The Adaptation Fund has also introduced farmers to other special skills and techniques for when the weather is not ideal. For example, volunteers offer courses on how to process honey and farm fish. By opening up new opportunities, women become more confident that they will be able to provide for their families.

The Importance of These Projects

As weather patterns continue to change, projects like the Adaptation Fund are crucial in ensuring a smooth transition into a new world. Traditional methods of making a living, such as farming, are no longer sufficient for people to earn an adequate wage. As the name suggests, it is critical to teach workers across the globe how to adapt to a constantly changing planet.

The Adaptation Fund has pledged almost $800 million to projects just like this since 2010. Fortunately, more than 100 projects are currently aiding people. Overcoming the challenges ahead will not be easy, but like female farmers in Ghana, every human is capable of adopting and implementing new solutions.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Drones and Precision AgricultureIn Africa, farming provides more than 30% of the continent’s gross domestic product and employs more than 60% of the working class. Unfortunately, Africa’s agriculture sector is hurting because environmental challenges have affected the continent’s weather patterns and temperatures, making farming extremely difficult. Outdated practices also hold Africa back, such as planting based on the moon phases, which further affects productivity. These issues bring new challenges to a struggling market trying to provide for a growing population but drones and precision agriculture may be able to help.

A Growing Population

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in three decades, Africa’s population will rise to about 2 billion people, requiring the farming sector to grow exponentially to sustain Africa. Luckily, a new relationship has formed between technology and agriculture. Drones and precision agriculture are helping farmers increase food production, protect their crops and protect themselves from poverty.

4 Ways Drones and Precision Agriculture Benefit Africa

  1. Drones and UAV’s can speed up the land registration process. Just 10% of Africa’s rural land is mapped and registered, leaving people insecure about land ownership and affecting rural farmers more than others. People involved in trades besides farming would benefit because they could use the land as a backup plan if a period of economic instability occurs instead of falling into poverty.
  2. Drones also provide farmers with an aerial view of their crops, allowing them to manage them better and notice changes. UAV’s with specialized sensors can alert farmers to changes like normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), leaf area index and photochemical reflectance index. This allows farmers to notice developments the human eye would not. Using NDVI, a person receives information about water pressure, infestations, crop diseases and nutrient problems that may affect crop production. Around 7,000 African farmers in Uganda have used these drone techniques to better manage their crops.
  3. Drones and precision agriculture provide data that helps farmers take inventory of their crops and estimate crop yields faster. Drone use also lets a farmer know the location of livestock and helps to monitor fencing. Additionally, if farmers have detailed layouts of their land, including size, crop health and location, it will improve their ability to get credit, which will provide more economic advantages.
  4. Drone technology is also changing the schema of crop insurance. Crop insurance helps small farmers recover when natural disasters destroy their crops but poor reporting delays payouts. The use of UAVs makes it easier to quickly assess disaster damage and compensate farmers that disasters affect. Some larger reinsurers, such as Munich Re, have partnered with UAV service providers to improve response times and reporting accuracy after natural disasters strike. This use of technology to better assess farm damages keeps farmers from falling into poverty and allows them to protect their livelihood.

Drone Regulations

Over the past couple of years, Africa’s food exports have increased. This rise increases farmers’ productivity, especially those who can grow staple crops, allowing them to sell their produce for more money. Drones and precision agriculture help low-income farmers learn new techniques to keep up with the demand.

While multiple countries have proven the benefit of using drones, African farmers still face a problem. About 26% of African countries have laws about drone usage. Regulations restrict drone use in certain areas, which thus restricts farmers’ productivity. In Mozambique and Tanzania, drones undergo deployment at random to assist small farmers but most drones in Africa monitor wildlife. Increasing beneficial regulations for drone and UAV usage is integral to transforming Africa’s agriculture sector.

Drones and precision agriculture have the potential to revolutionize agriculture in Africa, presenting a way to lift Africans out of poverty.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in EgyptImprovement in agriculture is essential to fighting poverty in developing countries. Agricultural growth leads to economic growth which results in employment opportunities and improves food security. Agriculture is a major component of the Egyptian economy. Agriculture in Egypt accounts for 11% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 23% of all jobs. In Upper Egypt, 55% of employment is related to agriculture. In addition, more than half of the population in Upper Egypt is living under the poverty line. Expansion of agriculture through technological innovations can help productivity and alleviate poverty in all areas of Egypt.

Water Conservation

The Nile River provides Egypt with 70% of its water supply. In a 2019 report, measurements determined that agriculture uses more than 85% of the country’s share of the Nile, according to the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies. However, due to drought, Egypt is “water-poor” because it provides 570 cubic meters of water per person per year. A country is water-poor when people do not have access to a sufficient amount of water, which is less than 1,000 cubic meters a year.

In 2020, to combat the water shortages, a government project that the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and Cairo’s MSA University developed, launched a mobile app that receives data from a sensor buried in the soil to detect moisture levels. This technology allows farmers to tell whether or not their crops need water, preventing excessive watering of crops. This modern irrigation method will lead to reduced water consumption, lower production costs and increased crop productivity, which will improve agriculture in Egypt.

Digital Agriculture

In 2019, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Egyptian government launched a program to enhance agricultural productivity through digital technology. Implementation of digital technology helps farmers access information to better manage crops and livestock and thus help them make better agricultural decisions. Digital technology also helps to enhance food security by reducing production costs and waste. It also increases crop productivity with the availability of accurate data to calculate production activities like estimating the daily needs of irrigation and fertilization.

Information Communication Technology (ICT) applications facilitate the flow of information to farmers, provides services to farmers and expands access to markets. With the help of several research institutions of the Agricultural Research Center, the program converted technical content into digital content that one can access via mobile application. With the adoption of mobile applications, agriculture in Egypt will expand as a result of increased access to resources.

Agricultural Innovation Project

The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR)lead the 2020 to 2023 Agricultural Innovation Project (AIP). The initiative aims to promote innovations in technologies to improve several issues in agriculture. These issues include inefficient farming techniques that lower farm output and food production and other inhibitors of processing crops like poor post-harvest facilities and marketing infrastructure. The focus on creating innovative solutions will increase income for small-scale farmers in Upper Egypt.

The project supports digital access as a technological innovation so that farmers can better understand and access information surrounding the market and input supply. In addition, the project works closely to support small-scale farmers by improving market access for smallholders and improving institutional support.

Overall, food insecurity and poverty can reduce over time with the expansion of agriculture in Egypt by means of technological innovations.

Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

Digital Green Empowers Poor Farmers
World hunger is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the journey to eradicate poverty. It is impossible for communities to advance into other sectors without access to food. Roughly 690 million people do not have adequate access to food today. However, if information can be readily available and accessible for rural farmers, they could help reduce this number. Digital Green is a company that began in 2006 and aims to reduce world hunger.

What is Digital Green?

Digital Green is an Indian-based company that aids smallholder farmers in implementing better farming practices. It uses a unique software that more conventional organizations do not utilize. However, company co-founder Rikin Gandhi did not always see himself in Digital Green. He graduated from college with knowledge in science and engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut. Moreover, the way astronauts melded intelligence and courage inspired him.

Gandhi said that he ended up focusing on another group of people who meld intelligence and courage after experiencing rejection from astronaut programs. He focused on the smallholder farmer. Immediately, he knew he wanted to approach things differently. Thus, he teamed up with Microsoft to create Digital Green.

Community Videos

Gandhi believed that the best way for smallholder farmers to improve their practices was by learning tricks from other farmers in the area. However, there was a problem. Many smallholder farmers in India live far apart. As a result, he created a database called community videos. This database is a collection of videos from several farming communities to share their wealth and knowledge.

Community videos are different from YouTube because they specifically target smallholder farmers. Farmers can easily select their desired language and region, and ensure that they are watching content that someone they can identify with produced.

Digital Green has produced more than 6,000 videos relating to farming practices to date. Additionally, the company oversees every video’s production from start to finish, ensuring that the sequence makes sense and that communities find the information relevant. Certain crop yields have soared by as much as 74% after farmers began using community videos.

FarmStack

Digital Green also implemented FarmStack to empower farmers. FarmStack is a platform designed to connect government and non-governmental organizations to smallholder farmers. It allows both groups to upload and download relevant data such as soil conditions and food prices at local markets.

The platform allows for immediate communication and makes sure that farmers receive customized solutions for unusual predicaments. In addition, it ensures that farmers receive relevant data that will help them better manage productivity as well as finances. As a result of the program, farmers’ income has increased and crop failure has decreased.

What is Next for Digital Green?

Digital Green is currently working on projects primarily in India and Ethiopia. COVID-19 has posed new challenges for the organization, but it shows no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Digital Green hopes to one day reach every smallholder farmer in need. Luckily, the organization has partnered with powerful organizations around the globe to accelerate the process. Some organizations currently partnered with Digital Green include Walmart, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKAid and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).

Although smallholder farmers only support a small aspect of their community, Digital Green acknowledges that they hold the key to ending world hunger. If all of these small communities connected, knowledge would spread like a wildfire. Eventually, every smallholder farmer across the globe may see an uptick of even 5% in crop yield. This impact would be tremendous.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr