Information and stories about agriculture.

Global Food Problems
The globalization of agricultural markets has played an important role in virtually every country’s economy. Even though the farming sector has been declining, it still makes up 27% of worldwide employment and about 75% of the world’s poorest people. With how important the agricultural sector is to many of the world’s impoverished, many of these people find their economic prosperity and success stymied by a lack of food security and access to agricultural technologies. Thankfully, there are several technologies and programs working to solve many of these global food problems.

The Importance of Food Security

Global food security today is shaky at best. About 30% of the global population is susceptible to food insecurity due to issues such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and pre-existing economic security in many of the world’s poorest countries. These problems contributed to between 720 and 811 million people around the world suffering from chronic hunger in 2020. The numbers are not much better today, with more than 2 billion people still suffering from general malnutrition.

A significant factor causing these global food dilemmas is poverty that exists in the agricultural sector. Estimates suggest 60% more food production is necessary by 2050 to keep pace with the increasing global population, but that is a tall order considering that 700 million agricultural workers live in poverty. This makes it difficult for them to have access to technologies and resources to help them effectively connect with the ever-growing (and ever-digitizing) global agricultural markets. Thankfully, even with these steep hurdles, several technologies and programs are working today to help raise the world’s poorest agricultural workers and solve global food problems.

myAgro

Founded in 2011, myAgro knows that a vital component of boosting the productivity of poor farmers is connecting them to financial resources and platforms that allow them to afford the tools and technologies needed to farm. By developing a mobile layaway platform allowing poor farmers to pay for agricultural items like seeds and fertilizers in advance (and in smaller increments), myAgro has helped over 115,000 farmers grow 78% more food. This has translated into more than a million additional people being fed in 2021. myAgro continues to work in raising the world’s poorest farmers through its innovative financial technology.

TechnoServe

A nonprofit organization based out of Virginia, TechnoServe has been active for more than 50 years in the fight against global poverty. TechnoServe understands that a lack of access to many technologies we take for granted has stunted the economic growth of the world’s poorest farmers. TechnoServe has built digital training courses that help farmers otherwise locked out of global data and agricultural knowledge learn the skills needed to successfully run a farm. For example, it created the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) program which uses digital technologies to teach cacao farmers in Central America how to farm efficiently and sustainably. The provision of these digital avenues of agricultural learning has made a positive impact in reducing many global food problems.

Aerobotics

One technology that has made an impact is the drone. One company helping make this technology more accessible to poor farmers is Aerobotics, a South African company that Cape Town native James Patterson created. By developing drones that help farmers gain invaluable data on crop health, Aerobotics has helped boost their farming clients’ yields by as much as 10%. As drone prices continue to drop, they are becoming an ever-more-important tool for poor farmers to boost their agricultural efficiency.

Making Progress

Thanks to innovative programs and technologies from organizations like myAgro, TechnoServe and Aerobotics, great progress has occurred in raising the world’s poorest farmers. As these technologies develop and become more efficient and accessible, progress in solving global food problems will only continue.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

Smart Farming
In many parts of the world, communities hugely rely on the success and yield of various crops to feed and financially support their inhabitants. As both weather patterns and air temperatures continue to fluctuate, smart farming could offer opportunities to adapt to those who these situational changes affect the most.

What is Smart Farming?

Smart farming is the use of various new technologies to allow farmers to improve both the quality and quantity of crops. This includes the use of AI, Wi-Fi-enabled machinery and drones. The use of such technologies could help improve productivity and lead to more sustainable farming practices.

Why Do Farms Need To Become Smart?

The Paris Agreement states that countries worldwide should reduce global emissions by the year 2030 to minimize the changing weather patterns. As environmental conditions change so too will farming. A number of these changes could impact farming including soil degradation, temperature differences and changes in rainfall and weather patterns, negatively affecting the productivity and yield of crops. In the face of this feedback loop of unsustainable farming leading to unsustainable environments, research suggests that technological advancements are necessary to break the cycle.

In the current global system, those principally responsible for environmentally damaging practices are not necessarily the ones that weather patterns affect the most. It largely falls on already disenfranchised communities, such as those living in the Global South, to bear the brunt of others’ pollution.

Smart Technologies 

Smart farming is just one example of the kinds of smart technologies which are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. From watches to fridges, more of the things that surround us are using Wi-Fi. This growing digitization is known as the Internet of Things.

In the context of smart farming, digitization could allow farming technologies to effectively communicate with one another using sensors and automation to adapt to light and moisture levels in real-time, according to IoT For all. This leads to a huge increase in the efficiency of the farming practice and a much higher yield for farmers.

Agricultural Drones Offering Opportunities

Agricultural drones are a growing example of the kinds of technologies people will use on farms in the coming years. Drones are currently able to conduct imaging and monitoring of crops, however, Global Data explains that by 2030 drones will also be able to conduct advanced crop spraying and terrain monitoring.

According to the U.N. smart farming offers huge opportunities for communities that are struggling with the adverse effects of fluctuations in weather and climate. The donation of and investment in smart farming technologies provides communities with a long-lasting solution. Unlike food donation, an approach used in traditional foreign aid strategies, investment in these technologies would grant communities greater autonomy and provide them with a future-focused solution.

The Use of Agricultural Drones in Nigeria and Malawi

One strong example of the use of smart farming to improve access to food is in the West African nation of Nigeria where people use drones to plan design and construct rice irrigation systems. Using the drones on a farm near New Busa, situated 700 km from the nation’s capital Abuja, enabled farmers to adopt irrigation and drainage systems to the natural landscape. The resulting rice paddies were much more efficient leading to greater crop success and more food for both sale and the local community.

Malawi is a Southeastern African nation that has been facing big consequences of the recent droughts. High-precision drones and weather station data have been used to accurately predict crop yields. These images were then used by researchers to help devise solutions for the 80% of Malawi’s population who make their living as small-hold farmers.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Flickr

Rural Development in Rwanda
Rwanda’s agricultural sector is the main driving force behind its economic growth and development. About 70% of its population is directly involved in agriculture. With few natural resources and a small mining industry, the landlocked country relies heavily on agriculture. Despite the large involvement and employment of people in agriculture, Rwanda’s agricultural sector accounts for only 33% of its GDP. Smallholder farmers are responsible for producing 75% of Rwanda’s total agricultural production. Most of them are in rural areas, which constitute nearly 98% of the total land area. Although 61% of Rwanda’s soil is ideal for agriculture, several challenges have affected its agricultural sector. Here is some information about how a company called OX Delivers is aiding rural development in Rwanda and improving life for those in rural communities.

Challenges in the Agriculture Sector

Land degradation and soil erosion are existing challenges to Rwanda’s agricultural sector. Land degradation is largely due to human activity as farmers use land multiple times to cultivate different agricultural products. On the other hand, steep slopes partly create soil erosion. It is particularly challenging for Rwanda because 90% of the country’s territory comprises slopes, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Erosion displaces soil due to the heavy rain that carries away soil particles from one area to another. Large involvement and dependency on agriculture result in forests becoming farm fields. According to World Wildlife Fund (WFF), agricultural crops like coffee, soybeans and wheat that replace trees cannot hold onto the soil which increases soil erosion. Rwanda’s principal crops include coffee and wheat among many others. Most smallholder farmers also struggle to find and access markets for their goods. Rural areas often have poor infrastructure. Roads of poor quality present challenges in making markets more accessible to smallholder farmers. Changing its agrifood market structure is an important task for Rwanda as the country aims to transform its agricultural sector into a value-creating and market-oriented food sector.

Terrace Fields and Market Access

Rwanda has been able to solve its own challenges in the agricultural sector. An innovative solution to land degradation and soil erosion is changing the structure of fields. Instead of working on the steep hills and farmlands, farmers in Rwanda have adapted reverse slope bench terracing. It is a soil and water conservation measure that moves soil to build a reverse slope with bench-like structures. Stable soils characterize the terraces which reduce the risk of landslides. Smallholder farmers also use grass and small trees to stabilize the bench-like structures. Farmers have benefited from higher yields as a result of farming crops on steep slopes.

Delivery companies like OX Delivers are also transforming Rwanda’s agricultural sector. OX Delivers was established in 2020 to improve farmers’ access to rural markets in Rwanda. It uses fully-electric trucks to transport goods in rural areas where transportation is challenging due to rough terrain. OX trucks are reliable for their clean and affordable transport. The company has identified the high transportation costs associated with rural areas and thus, charges customers for only what they need.

Customers, most of whom are smallholder farmers, pay on a per kg per km basis. Customers book space on a truck with the drivers and make payments face-to-face. According to the founder, Simon Davis, OX Delivers is able to charge affordable prices as running on electricity costs 50% less per day compared to diesel engines. What makes OX Delivers unique is that it is solely focused on rural development in Rwanda. The company serves rural smallholder farmers and small-scale traders looking to access markets in Rwanda.

An Improved Agricultural Sector

Innovative solutions like the reverse slope bench terracing method and the electric truck services are transforming Rwanda into a nation with a rich market-oriented food sector. These solutions help to counter problems like soil erosion, land degradation and lack of access to markets in Rwanda. Rural smallholder farmers are able to contribute to rural development in Rwanda by not only farming for their own consumption but also by supplying to markets. Small-scale traders are able to increase their profits as electric trucks improve their access to markets. Farmers are also able to grow their production by successfully farming on steep slopes. With more participation in markets, they can increase production, profit from commercial activities and improve their household incomes.

– Hans Harelimana Hirwa
Photo: Flickr

China’s Agricultural Sci-techThe Chinese government has seen significant success in reducing poverty across China and is using this expertise to help reduce poverty in other areas of the world. Through China’s agricultural sci-tech poverty reduction strategy, developing countries may see lower rates of poverty in the following years. Since 2012, China has sent close to 300,000 sci-tech experts to rural areas across China in order to advance agricultural productivity through agriculture sci-tech, thereby reducing poverty.

Over the past four decades, the Chinese government’s poverty reduction efforts in China have reduced the number of Chinese citizens living in extreme poverty by 800 million. This equates to a contribution of “close to three-quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty,” the World Bank says. The country reached this poverty reduction goal through a two-pillar system.

The first pillar included “broad-based economic transformation to open new economic opportunities and raise average incomes,” while the second pillar aimed to provide targeted support to the most disadvantaged households. China’s significant poverty reduction rates are also a result of the country’s efficient government.

Shrimp Farming in Inner Mongolia

Aquaculturist and farmer Wang Changgui told Global Times in November 2022 that Ordos City in North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region had recorded a “successful yield” of shrimp this year.

One can attribute the increased shrimp yield to the knowledge and skills of one of the many experts sent by the Chinese government to rural areas to counteract poverty. The Ordos agriculture and animal husbandry bureau directed Wu Tao to research the soil in Inner Mongolia. Wu found that soil in the area had levels of “high salinity,” making it an ideal environment to farm shrimp.

Fellow researcher Zhu Changbo noted that the farmers in the area usually need to use water to manually remove the salt brought to the ground surface. However, the process of shrimp harvesting removes a lot of the salt from the water, which is beneficial for the soil and plants.

With the help of its researchers, China aims to “popularize agricultural science and technology, foster the spirit of sci-tech innovation and entrepreneurship, bolster poverty eradication efforts and promote rural vitalization.” The implementation of China’s agricultural sci-tech poverty reduction strategy is also seeing success in other countries.

Agricultural Assistance in Other Countries

Because the Chinese government has seen poverty reduction success within China, it is also working to decrease poverty rates in other countries through agricultural sci-tech. China’s agricultural success stories include:

  • Global Juncao technology. China is involved in more than 106 nations’ efforts to decrease poverty, namely by using Juncao technology. Juncao technology, which involves “breeding fungi with herbaceous plants,” has provided households with a sustainable way to grow mushrooms without the use of expensive fertilizers. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has already implemented the method and Juncao technology creator Lin Zhanxi was able to use the technology to help PNG produce rice for the first time in 1997.
  • Sudan’s cotton yield. The China Aid Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center’s creation of lab-developed cotton seeds (referred to as “China 1” and “China 2,” respectively) has led to agricultural success in Sudan. The specific planting area has made up 90% of the country’s cotton yield for multiple years. Furthermore, the seeds’ quality had improved the marketability of cotton in Sudan over the last 10 years.
  • Burundi’s hybrid rice villages. China is responsible for planting hybrid rice varieties across 22 villages in Burundi to boost poverty reduction. Chinese experts developed “the first demonstration village of rice cultivation for poverty alleviation in Ninga village” where hybrid rice varieties were farmed for five seasons in a row. Since the planting of the hybrid rice, “the village has increased its rice production by 1,661 metric tons, resulting in improved income for local households.”

Through China’s agricultural sci-tech poverty reduction strategy, China’s rural regions and other developing countries are seeing greater agricultural success, which reduces poverty by raising incomes and strengthening food security.

– Aspen Oblewski
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in India
In the past decade, India has seen mass economic growth and success. India reduced rates of multidimensional poverty by almost 50% and 8 million new jobs emerged for frontline workers. The World Bank found that India’s GDP increased to 8.9% in 2021 after a significant dip in 2020.

Agriculture in India

Today, agriculture in India accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP and is responsible for the employment of 58% of Indians. Yet, the increased presence of wolves in unprotected areas and predation mirror past events that once swept the nation into a frenzy resurfaced old fears and brought about new solutions.

Challenges with Indian Wolves

The Indian Wolf hails from the Trans-Himalayan and Peninsular regions of Southwest Asia. At 3.5 feet, it is much smaller than its closest relatives, carrying all of its weight on its lean hind legs which often have black streaks. Due to their concerning population decrease in 1972, they were listed as endangered under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

Indian wolves frequent areas high in temperature that present little to no competition for food. Because of the scarcity of native prey, the wolf’s diet is compromised. As a result, they turn to livestock— a temporary solution to their hunger and an essential part of agriculture in India.

The Importance of Livestock in India

Livestock consists of 26% of India’s agricultural GDP, making up 14% of a rural family’s income and 16% of the income of families who work as small marginal farmers. It also helps measure wealth and social status.
By 2021, farmers lost 64% of all livestock to wolf depredation in Rajasthan state. Additionally, estimates have stated that there will be a 20% increase in all livestock depredations in the upcoming years. On average, livestock depredation will result in a loss of $125 to $180 per home. An Indian farmer will typically bring in Rs 15079 or $185.92 during a year’s spring harvest.

Wolves in India

Though the government designated select regions of India’s semi-arid grasslands to act as protected wolf conservation sites, their traveling habits are hard to measure as management is limited to specific areas. Wolves commonly venture out of their protected areas, with some of them traveling extensive miles in search of food.

A 2019 study on wolf habitats found that only 4.37% of India’s land mass was highly compatible with the wolf population. Meanwhile, it found that another 76.03% was the least compatible.

The rest represent a gray area where land suitability fell in between the two spectrums. Military bases are a part of those areas that are suitable for wolves. However, the constant clash of wolves and military officials has brought about concern for the well-being of both parties.

Solutions

Predictions have stated that there are anywhere from 4,400 to 7,100 wolves alive in India today. Since 2014, the U.K. Wolf Conservation Trust has raised $9,325.80 to fund researchers tracking the evolution, genealogy and movement of India’s wolf population.

More and more farmers are adopting a strategy called ‘bio fencing’ which creates a natural border around and demarcates land areas. Bio-fences comprise trees, hedges, bushes or plants that grow in close range of each other until a thick forest-like fence is formed. This type of fence is cost-effective and many consider it to be more useful in keeping unwanted creatures away from farmland.

Indian wolves originating from Peninsular regions are less likely to approach an area high in forestry. These wolves prefer steppe climates that allow them to roam and graze without incidence or challenge.

India’s government launched the Sub Mission on Agriculture Mechanization (SMAM) as a series of 11 schemes under the Green Revolution venture in 2014. The SMAM, whose goal is to provide modern agricultural machinery to small-time farmers with limited access to farm power, emerged in 2016. Some agro-pastoral regions have hired night vigils to keep watch over their land and livestock. It is among India’s recent attempts to support the advancement of agriculture in India.

– Dorothy Quanteh
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Investments in Vietnam
Agriculture, forestry and fishery have been at the root of the Vietnamese economy for thousands of years. Recently, a trend of borrowing from banks like LienVietPostBank, AgriBank and BIDV by struggling farmers has allowed them to escape the poverty caused by the scars of war and colonial oppression.

These loans enable farmers to purchase reliable equipment and materials to grow their crops and yield a wider profit margin, hire more workers and cycle more capital to create stable income and community. The World Bank reported a drop in poverty from 16.8% to just 5% from 2010 to 2020.

Now the force of this agriculture boom is proving to be a vital element in the propulsion of the economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, a whopping 1,640 new agriculture businesses emerged. This is largely due to the agricultural investments in Vietnam.

Why the Buzz? 

As a country with a long history of food shortage due to war, Vietnam is especially wary of movements in the food supply. As the COVID-19 pandemic hurt business and now the threat of the Russian-Ukraine war shocks economies globally, agriculture is emerging as the key economic pillar of society. In 2020, the country ranked among the top five exporters of aquatic products, rice, coffee, tea, cashews and cassava.

When the pandemic started to affect other sectors such as service, construction and industry, many in the southern provinces returned to work in agriculture and that industry flourished. The pandemic stunted poverty reduction but did not set it back. Most of the growth has come from the establishment of small-scale farms that maintain themselves by becoming food secure and self-sufficient. Most of the new farms are less than 1 hectare and provide ample sustenance for the families who work them.

According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development, economic growth in small-scale agriculture is two to three times more effective at reducing poverty than in other sectors. Agro-focused banks keep close contact with their loan recipients, monitoring income and circumstances that might affect the crop, as well as consumer trends. This has created a community atmosphere where people are working alongside agricultural investors in Vietnam, effectively lifting many out of poverty.

The Effects of Agricultural Investments in Vietnam

Vietnam News reported that Vietnam’s agriculture industry comprises more than 14,000 businesses, 78 unions, 19,100 cooperatives, more than 30,000 production groups and 19,600 farms. The success of poverty reduction and business growth in agriculture is due to many factors such as increased governance capacity, capital investment, socio-economic planning policies and other public services. The recent investment and the government’s sustained efforts to keep the agriculture business in good standing have played great roles in this reduction. Moreover, the multi-industrial approach has provided basic health care and early education through new government policies. There has been a remarkable decline in those living on less than $1.25 per day from 63.7% in 1993 to 16.9% in 2008.

This massive shrinking of the poor is a great stride. While there is still a rocky road ahead for the growing country, the uptick in food security due to agricultural investments in Vietnam is a promising guidepost for increasing the quality of life in the country.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Technology in Africa
According to the World Bank, investment in agriculture is one of the most vital steps toward lifting entire populations out of poverty. Not only is the industry a hugely significant employer in many developing countries in Africa, but it also produces the vast quantities of food needed to combat food insecurity.

Adapting to climate-related environmental changes often requires finding innovative solutions, and the rapid expansion of agriculture technology in Africa offers some exciting prospects. Here are three countries that are using promising new tech to achieve this goal.

Seed-Bulking in Zambia

Zambia is a landlocked, largely rural country in southern Africa, and its agricultural sector makes up roughly 20% of its GDP. As in many African countries, Zambian farmers are large producers of cassava, a woody shrub whose root is an excellent source of carbohydrates. However, they were struggling to produce strong crop yields due to a lack of access to high-quality planting materials. The African Development Bank’s program, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), had an idea to help solve this problem: seed-bulking.

Seed-bulking is a method whereby farmers keep some seeds from their target crop to grow in a controlled environment. This helps to increase seed production, which means that farmers can then grow more crops and increase their yield.

Fifty-eight seed-bulking farms opened across Zambia in 2020 as part of TAAT’s initiative. It projected that this would allow farmers to produce 43,500 tons of cassava root, which, once processed, would be capable of feeding more than 3.6 million people.

More recently in 2022, the African Development Fund approved a loan of $14.4 million, some of which will be used to provide seeds and fertilizer to Zambian farmers. Alongside the innovative practice of seed-bulking, this could see Zambia vastly improve its yields across all crops, including cassava, and help avoid food shortages resulting from high demand for exports from neighboring countries.

NIR Spectroscopy in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, where agricultural products make up a whopping 80% of exports, rain is a crucial component of agricultural practices. Unfortunately, droughts have ravaged the country for several years in a row, depleting the soil of its nutrient content and making it harder to successfully grow crops.

Figuring out how nutrient-rich soil is can occur through trial and error, but in such pressing conditions, time and resources cannot afford to go to waste using this method. This is where near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy (or NIRS) comes in.

NIRS works by analyzing the amount of light that a material absorbs, which can indicate how much of a certain substance is within that material. This method can help judge the quality of soil based on what nutrients it contains, without requiring the use of environmentally hazardous chemicals.

Understanding the technology behind NIRS devices can be daunting for a layman, but using one is surprisingly easy, even for someone with no background in the sciences. According to AZoM, many models are portable, inexpensive and can provide reasonably accurate results in under a minute.

Despite all the positives, the use of NIRS devices has remained somewhat low as of 2021 – a paper published in the Agronomy Journal suggested that this is partly due to a lack of education about how important the nutrient content of crops truly is.

The use of NIRS devices has the potential to result in better-quality crops, for both people and livestock. Coupled with a public awareness campaign and investment in more NIRS devices, Ethiopian farmers could see more successful crop yields, enhancing their ability to feed their animals and themselves.

Smart Irrigation Systems in Nigeria

In the west African country of Nigeria, 36% of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector. However, in 2020, a PwC report cited “outdated methods of agriculture” as a critical issue in the Nigerian agricultural industry.

There is definitely room for improvement – investment in modern agriculture technology in Africa as a whole would vastly improve efficiency and allow agricultural workers to produce larger yields. One such technique is irrigation, which is the process of supplying water to crops through channels in the ground; this way, farmers do not have to rely on rainfall to keep their crops growing. As of 2014, only 1% of Nigeria’s farmland was irrigated, according to the Malabo Montpellier Panel.

More recently, though, thanks to an initiative from the International Water Management Institute in partnership with the African Development Bank (ADB), 4,000 wheat farmers in Nigeria received training in effective irrigation technologies, as well as receiving “modern pressurized water conveyance-distribution system[s],” which ensure that less water is wasted during the irrigation process. Smart irrigation is not just environmentally sustainable – it reduces the number of time farmers need to be out in the field and provides improved water distribution to increase crop yields.

According to Further Africa, in August 2022, the Nigerian government approved an investment worth $24 billion for smart irrigation infrastructure. It should significantly reduce water consumption on farms and improve the ability of Nigerian farmers to produce large quantities of crops, a crucial factor in combatting hunger and lessening Nigeria’s reliance on food imports.

Looking Ahead

When it comes to agriculture technology in Africa, the sector is always evolving. Investment in new and efficient techniques and technologies is crucial, not only for adapting to the rapidly changing climates on the African continent but also for combatting the famine that occurs with these changes. 

– Abbi Powell
Photo: Flickr

SkyMet Weather
Farming is a major livelihood for many in rural India and agriculture is the biggest contributor to India’s GDP. Despite modern agriculture taking hold in India, the developing country still struggles with poverty, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had even shown a staggering 7 million jobs lost in 2021, with rural India suffering many job losses in the agriculture sector. Strengthening farming techniques and the way farmers deal with insurance is one way a private agency is helping. Through data that Skymet Weather collects and its app, the agency is helping Indian farmers with weather forecasting.

The Project

The agency has actually put together a project called the “Climate Services for Resilient Agriculture in India,” by using its expertise along with a partnership with USAID.

The main objectives start with bringing quality weather data to nine states and 31 districts in India. This includes location-specific crop advisory, resources for weather-based crop insurance and climate-based services and practices that lead to benefits for the agricultural community. Skymet Weather notes that farmers can expect to see the following benefits: “accurate and timely availability of weather information, increase in capacity to handle climate risk in agriculture, better resource utilization based on real-time crop advisories and securing farm incomes from adverse climate conditions.”

About Skymet Weather

Skymet measures, predicts and collects information that has to do with the specific location of weather or climate that may affect a farmer’s work or crops. Access to this among other risk mitigation services allows the farmers to prepare or adapt their farming plans, according to its website.

The agency also sells and provides the data it collects to insurers. After an agent has added the farmer and their land into the group, when a weather event happens, Skymet also sends data along to the insurers. This could help strengthen claims by the farmers and have all the appropriate information about the climate during the event and its effects on the farmland to help the farmers. Deutsche Welle (DW) has put together an informative video on how the data helps the farmers.

What the Tools Provide

The agency uses mobile technology and a phone app for the benefit of collecting data and for the farmers. “Skygreen” is a mobile application for farmers to join that offers geo-tagging for their farms. The app monitors and records coordinates for data collecting among other uses, according to Skymet’s website.

Another app “Skymitra” is specifically designed for farmers. Not only does it provide weather forecasting for early planning and preparations for the Indian farmers but it provides data quickly and updates it every seven to 15 days.

According to Skymet, 80,423 farmers registered for the project from October 2015 to June 2019. Skymet also received the Best Agricultural and Farming Initiative-Private Sector award from the Digital India Program at the fifth Digital India Summit Awards. Digital India highlighted the project for helping make it easier to mitigate weather-related risks in farming and providing the weather data through the mobile for farmers to easily access and use to empower their knowledge and plans for their work.

Future of Indian Farming

The world is still dealing with the issues and the aftermath of the pandemic, and India is no exception. Even so, many agencies and government programs are being implemented and set into place to try to combat these hits. Skymet shows how in simple terms it is helping Indian farmers with weather forecasting. The use of collected data, insurance claim resources and digital tools used by the company and farmers are a good model for the future of Indian farming.

– Marynette Holmes
Photo: Flickr

Yemen uses rainwater harvestingThe ongoing water scarcity crisis in Yemen continues to grow. Currently, the country stands as one of the most water-scarce regions in the world. With conflict and climate change making it increasingly harder to obtain fresh water sources, access to safe drinking water is a major concern for people living in Yemen. The World Bank and its partners started a promising project where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting techniques to provide accessible and clean drinking water to local people.

Yemen’s Water Crisis

Yemen is a water-stressed region, and the ongoing conflict has significantly exacerbated the crisis. A rapidly depleting store of groundwater resources in Yemen is negatively impacting the country’s economy, which mainly relies on irrigated agriculture. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that Yemen’s groundwater overdraft is twice the recharge rate, resulting in declining and unsustainable water reserves. Moreover, the Yemeni Civil War has significantly disrupted crucial infrastructure. The displacement of 4.2 million people in Yemen and extreme water mismanagement have worsened the water crisis.

The United States Agency for International Development states that about 20.7 million people in Yemen lack clean water and essential health services, leading to several dangerous diseases such as cholera. Outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea have been major health problems in Yemeni communities since the outbreaks began in October 2016. According to the Red Cross, approximately 2.5 million cases have been reported, with more than 4,000 deaths in the Yemen cholera outbreak.

Rainwater Harvesting Solution

With 60% of Yemenis living in rural areas, the country’s biggest infrastructural challenge is providing water access to remote communities. According to the World Bank, people in Yemen undergo hardship in gathering water for daily use by traveling to far-off wells.  The World Bank and its partners collaborated with Yemeni communities to build rainwater harvesting systems.

Rainwater harvesting is not a complex process. Cisterns are built, usually from stones or other materials easily accessible in Yemeni villages, and placed on roofs to collect rainwater. The collaborative effort constructed numerous cisterns in three towns: Al-Adn, Al-Anin and Hawf. The project resulted in the villages being able to store large quantities of water that was free of contaminants.

Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting cisterns have provided safe drinking water and resulted in employment opportunities for locals. The World Bank offered cash-for-work programs in villages, allowing locals to build cisterns and gain valuable work experience. Cisterns have also eased the burden on the women and children in the villages. Haliya Al-Jahal, one of the women the World Bank interviewed, said, “We no longer have to go through the struggle of fetching water from remote areas.” The cisterns, as Al-Jahal states, have “put an end to [their] misery.”

The Future of the Program

The Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) has supported the construction of about 1,279 public and 30,686 household harvesting cisterns across Yemen. This has resulted in providing 900,000 cubic meters of clean water to communities. YECRP has shown more promising results where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting to improve areas such as public health, agricultural production and economic gains.

– Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a project that aims to address food insecurity in countries around the world. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) coordinates the program between local actors in chosen countries and various agencies within the federal government of the United States. One of the main goals of Feed the Future is to foster the development of regional agricultural markets in the countries in which it works, thus promoting long-term sustainability. Other goals of Feed the Future include the expansion of technologies shared between agricultural communities and positive changes in nutrition, particularly for mothers and children. Notably, Feed the Future works with universities to fund agricultural research as well as national governments and private employers to improve agricultural policy and the economy. One of the recipients of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative is Cambodia, where 45% of the population experience food insecurity and 77% of people in rural areas rely on agriculture as their livelihood.

Improvements in Agriculture Yields Lower Poverty Rates

During 2004 and 2012, improvements to agriculture in Cambodia helped reduce poverty from 53% to 18%. This decrease occurred in part due to increased use of land for farming and expansion of technologies such as fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization. However, the growth of the agriculture industry in Cambodia began to slow the following year, necessitating a renewal of policy changes and programs to boost long-term output.

Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II

With assistance from USAID, the Feed the Future initiative in Cambodia created a program called Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest II began in 2017 and lasted through 2022. The program successfully generated more than 2,500 jobs and boosted agricultural policy. The direct economic impact of the program resulted in “$28 million of new private sector investments” and “$75 million of incremental sales” for businesses.

Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest III

Due to the recent success of Harvest II, United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken unveiled the continuation of the program with Feed the Future Cambodia Harvest III, or simply Harvest III, on August 4, 2022. This program is a further $25 million investment in agriculture in Cambodia over five years. USAID will continue to coordinate the program and will work with local technological and economic institutions and agricultural actors to improve both the job and product markets. The government expects that the program will create “$38 million in new private sector investments” and “ $100 million in sales,” which represents a significant improvement from the previous success of Harvest II.

The following week, on August 9, 2022, the United States Ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, affirmed the start of Harvest III with the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, H.E. Veng Sakhon in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. After an almost $100 million investment in agriculture in Cambodia, Ambassador Murphy expresses hope that the continuation of Harvest III will maintain progress in improving agriculture and nutrition, especially among women and children in Cambodia.

– Kaylee Messick
Photo: Flickr