Information and stories about agriculture.

Progress in Benin
Despite a low unemployment rate of one percent and a GDP growth rate that increased from two percent to over five percent from 2015 to 2017, progress in Benin has been slow and it is still a poor country in West Africa. With more than a third of the over 11 million population living below the poverty line, it is difficult for Beninese to live without a feeling of unease. Three major reasons Benin has a rising poverty rate is because of over-reliance in Niger’s economy, the largest exporter, reluctance for Benin to modernize its own economy and climatic shocks, particularly massive floods.

Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project

The agriculture sector employs over 70 percent of Beninese. In an effort to boost the economy, the Republic of Benin is investing in improvements in the agriculture sector. The Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project began on March 22, 2011, with a budget of $61 million and ends on February 28, 2021. Its purpose is to repair major damage caused during Benin’s 2010 flood and improve productivity in certain export-oriented value chains, such as aquaculture, maize, rice, cashew and pineapple.

One component of this project is improving technology and restoration of productivity. The devastating flood in 2010 destroyed over 316,000 acres of cropland and 50,000 homes. The project began after the major flood and takes into account the need for drainage systems to stifle rising waters during floods. Small-scale irrigation infrastructure repair and improvement are issues that the project faces and hopes to correct in the timeframe. Climate-smart production systems are another investment that the country is developing to prevent widespread destruction to cropland when a natural disaster threatens to destroy homes and crops. The project is also set to create new jobs by investing in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially for youth and women.

Improving the Business Environment

Although flooding caused several Beninese people to lose their homes and cropland, there is one impediment that halts economic development: corruption. President Talon became the President of Benin in 2016 and stated in his inaugural address that he would “make the fight against corruption an ongoing and everyday struggle.” A 29 percent electricity access is another issue that prevents developmental progress in Benin, but since 2016 blackouts have reduced and electricity generation has improved significantly.

Economic Diversification

The last major impasse that prevents development in Benin is over-reliance in Nigeria, Benin’s major exporter. Current IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, announced a call for economic diversification in Benin. Lagarde believes diversifying is one way to reduce the high poverty level of 36 percent. Due to the country’s economic reliance on the agricultural sector and economic conditions in Nigeria, it is difficult to grow if a recession, such as the 2017 recession in Nigeria, occurs. In her speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Cotonou, Benin, Lagarde discussed how Benin could strengthen land tenure, increase food security in rural areas and invest more in education and health, and improve transparency in the government so that outside investors would find investing in Benin appealing.

Rate of Progress in Benin

There is room for growth, though the poverty-stricken nation has had success in certain areas, such as the average life expectancy that rose from 50 years in 2000 to 62 in 2018. With the creation of the Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project, improvements in agriculture and infrastructure are already underway. The estimated rate of urbanization is fairly high at 3.89 percent from 2015 to 2020. At this rate of progress in Benin and under the leadership of President Talon, the country will continue its headway in development so that the percentage of Beninese in poverty will gradually drop in the coming years.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Bangladesh The agricultural sector in Bangladesh has been performing extremely well, despite its vulnerability to climate shocks. The rural economy has been a remarkable source of economic growth. This further proves the strong role of agriculture in Bangladesh poverty reduction. However, this notable transformation mostly remains underappreciated and unexplored.

Additional statistics about the agricultural sector of Bangladesh:

This growth trend has become less volatile. This is partially due to fewer natural disasters hitting the country since 2000, compared to the past decades. In addition, increased resilience in the sector through irrigation and other technology also played a role in that growth.

Role of Agriculture in Bangladesh Poverty Reduction

According to a 2017 study by BRAC’s research and evaluation division, a 1 percent rise in agricultural income has the potential to reduce poverty by 0.39 percent when keeping other factors constant. This is compared to the 0.11 percent reduction contributed by non-agricultural income.

Bangladesh is facing a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector. This is due to the growth in the industrial and service sectors in the economy over the years. Between 1971 and 2014, value added to GDP from the service sector increased from 34.2 percent to 56.1 percent. Comparatively, value added to GDP from the industrial sector was almost double, from 13.2 percent to 27.2 percent. The share of agriculture in GDP decreased from 62 percent to 16.3 percent from 1975 to 2014.

However, it should be noted that the agriculture of Bangladesh mainly consists of crops. This has not declined much with the share of crops, only decreasing from 73 to 68 (out of 100) from 1971-80 to 2011-14.

Most of the growth in the service sector stems from the marketing and processing of agricultural goods. This is primarily due to increased commercialization and diversification of the agricultural sector. As a result, an estimated 10 percent increase in agricultural income leads to a 6 percent rise in non-agricultural income. This reveals agriculture to be a catalyst in Bangladesh’s economic growth.

Factors such as extensive irrigation, developing technology using high-yielding rice varieties, efficient markets, mechanization, proper policy reforms, investment in agricultural research, human capital and necessary infrastructure have led to the growth of this sector.

Future Investments to Enhance the Role of Agriculture in Bangladesh Poverty Reduction

Developing new technology and reducing the yield gaps for non-rice crops are necessary for Bangladesh to diversify its crop yields. Active participation of the private sector in developing new technology is also important, to leave room for more innovation.

Investments in livestock, fishery and necessary infrastructure are needed so the country can shift toward high-value agriculture. According to Madhur Gautam, Team Leader for the study “Dynamics of Rural Growth in Bangladesh: Sustaining Poverty Reduction” by the World Bank:

“The market operates smoothly in Bangladesh. The country now needs upgraded market facilities, increased investments in roads to connect secondary cities, improved rural logistics and access to finance to move to the next level, with more modern and efficient supply chains.”

Another way that agriculture in Bangladesh can play a role in poverty reduction is by developing water reservoirs. This leads to increased surface water for irrigation. Reducing the use of groundwater and adopting water-saving technology is essential.

Comprehensive facilities for marketing, storage and information are also needed. This is because Bangladesh has the potential to earn more than 1.8 billion in 18 years from exports of fresh and processed food items.

Finally, given the right opportunities, women can make great contributions to the agricultural sector. Therefore, access to agricultural knowledge can help open a new window for women. Furthermore, this access has the potential to increase the productivity of this sector, enhancing the role of agriculture in Bangladesh poverty reduction.

Agriculture is an important engine of growth for the Bangladesh economy. This is why changes in some of the conventional agricultural practices are essential for this sector to contribute more to alleviating poverty in the country and improving the lives of its people.

– Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Food systems in AfricaIn sub-Saharan Africa, most employment is in the food sector, with 60 percent being farmers. Food sector jobs are projected to be even more prevalent in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. However, the agricultural yield is low, and Africa’s staple crop is in a decline. Maize production will reduce 40 percent by 2050, and the population is expected to double to 2.5 billion. Digital technology can influence agriculture and help strengthen food systems in Africa.

Hello Tractor

Hello Tractor is a digital tractor sharing solution that has created a platform for smallholder farmers to afford agricultural technology. For every 100,000 square kilometers worldwide, there are 200 tractors available. There are only 13 tractors per 100,000 square kilometers in Africa. Hello Tractor has successfully reached five markets in Africa and influenced 75 percent of private commercial tractor profit in Nigeria.

Hello Tractor offers sub-Saharan African farmers more than just a tractor. The ag-tech solution includes a monitoring device installed in each machine that collects important data. Collected data is transmitted to a Hello Tractor Cloud and makes its way to the manufacturing industry. This shared information helps manufacturers to design personalized equipment for their select clientele.

Digital Green

Digital technology is also improving the documentation, which is good for African food systems. The World Bank has partnered with Digital Green to improve agricultural practices through the exchange of information. Researchers are educating farmers in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi and Niger and sharing knowledge through video content. The material highlights post-harvest and nutrition-related improvements.

Before implementing technological transformations, Digital Green assesses currently active systems in communities. Poor and struggling communities are persistent in their efforts to beat poverty. Companies like Digital Green facilitate this advancement and mobilizes farmers through video production training. This is a self-sustaining opportunity for developing communities. Feedback from local farmers makes the process more effective, but limited access to the internet and electricity calls for offline screening in addition to online sharing. Digital Greens is working with Connection Online Connection Offline to make that happen.

Connection Online Connection Offline

Connection Online Connection Offline (CoCo) is a data collection system that does not require software installation and is compatible with any device. CoCo’s database includes an analytics dashboard with instant statistics about operations, targets and metrics. This is how video programs are monitored and evaluated to improve food systems in Africa.

Another social platform within the agriculture community is 2KUZE. This Mastercard subsidiary connects farmers to buyers and agents in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania via mobile commerce. Direct buyer access is advantageous for smallholder farmers seeking a larger percentage of the wholesale value of their goods. Moreover, mobile transactions save farmers valuable time that would be spent traveling hours to distant markets. The platform especially appeals to female farmers who may find themselves held back by family obligations.

Digital technology allows farmers better access to resources of higher capital. The exchange of data in farming communities can facilitate the restoration of agricultural production in Africa. E-commerce platforms enhance market price transparency and give farmers leverage to compete against larger producers, thus reducing poverty by improving food systems in Africa.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Flickr

EUs Progress in ChadThe European Union (EU) is one of the major donors to Chad, a country where 46 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The reasons for the high amount of people living in poverty include the fact that the country finds it difficult to accommodate the more than 300,000 refugees it houses, occasional droughts destroy food security and there is poor healthcare and inefficient farming techniques. In 2018, the EU’s progress in Chad stems from providing more than $74 million in humanitarian aid to Chad.

Influx of Refugees

With more than 46 percent of Chad’s population living in poverty, it’s difficult for the government to even provide aid to the native population. The EU is helping Chad by providing basic needs, such as healthcare, food, shelter, water and sanitation. It also provides care for refugees, host communities and internally displaced people. The refugees arrive from neighboring countries Sudan and the Central African Republic, amounting to more than 300,000 refugees fleeing to seek protection and job opportunities in Chad. Though Chad doesn’t have the capacity to take care of these refugees, outsiders like the EU, are providing aid to those in poverty.

Agricultural Practices

Another way to show the EU’s progress in Chad through its focus on agricultural self-sufficiency and self-reliance. More than 80 percent of Chad’s labor force involves agriculture. Agriculture also accounts for half of Chad’s GDP. One major way EU is helping Chad prosper is by providing efficient and sustainable farming techniques. A lack of capital has created a major strain on the government helping its citizens, so the EU is also helping by providing financial assistance.

The country of Chad is divided in half by the Sahara Desert in the north, the Savanna in the south and the Sahelian belt in the center where the transition from desert to Savanna takes place. The environment makes it difficult to farm, and poor farming practices contribute to poverty conditions. The government of Chad believes the future lies in the mobilization of the private sector, including improving the business environment concerning agriculture and mining. The EU’s involvement is helping to improve the lives of millions of people in Chad who struggle to find clean water and produce an adequate amount of crops.

Seeds for Solutions is a project aimed at helping host camps and villages. This project is located in the eastern portion of Chad where Sudanese refugees and Chadians work together to cultivate crops. The region is arid, but the fields are provided daily water thanks to an irrigation system maintained through solar energy. The advanced farming technique helps yield a greater output of crops. About 70 percent of harvested crops are sold, and the farmer’s family then consumes the rest.

Training Programs

In partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Lutheran World Federation, the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations helped to create a vocational training center where people are taught masonry, carpentry, mechanics and sewing. Estelle, a young Chadian woman, is one of the hundreds of Chadians taking part in the program. “In our country, women are in the field or in the kitchen; I want to participate in the construction of my village and my country,” stated Estelle during her nine-month training at one of the four vocational training centers in the country.

The UNHCR and its partners are involved in hosting income-generation activities for refugees and citizens. The IT centers are involved in teaching sewing, masonry and carpentry, and have more than 300 students. The income and products from these activities enable the people to accomplish the EU’s goal of improving self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

The EU’s progress in Chad is visible through the many programs implemented to help alleviate poverty. Although conditions in Chad are still far from perfect, the EU is providing some important resources to help improve the lives of the people in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Rwanda is Growing Its Knowledge-Based EconomyRwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. The country has produced substantial developmental gains since the genocide and civil war in 1994. It has reduced its poverty by about 12 percent, achieved food security and produced more results towards its goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. Rwanda’s Government focus has been on developing the economy and reform in the financial and business sectors. Foreign aid focus, from groups such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, has been in improving trade, productivity and investments in their agriculture sector.

The World Bank Programs

Currently, there is a lot of on-the-ground investment in irrigation in Rwanda. Agriculture accounts for 33 percent for Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), represents almost 80 percent its labor force and generates almost half of its export revenues. However, according to the World Bank, the population density, hilly terrain and soil erosion have inhibited progress in this pillar of its economy. The Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) and the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH) have allowed the World Bank to increase the productivity and commercialization of hillside agriculture.

The RSSP project will consist of a 14-year period that will unfold in three phases. The phases mainly consist of strengthening Rwanda’s institutional, technical, local, agricultural research and infrastructure capacities. The LWH uses a reformed watershed approach that works to improve soil health. Rwanda’s uneven rainfall puts limitations on its agricultural productivity, so the project will also develop new water-harvesting infrastructure, such as valley dams and reservoirs among other benefits for more effective crop production.

The World Bank has also been the leading financier for initiatives to expand Rwanda’s electricity and energy sectors. The World Bank has been actively supporting the government with these initiatives through the Rwanda Energy Sector Development Project (ESDP). It has provided Rwanda with $125 million and $95 million for the Rwanda Electricity Sector Strengthening Project (RESSP). A few overarching goals of these projects are containing fiscal impact within the electricity sector and the overall improvement of electricity service.

USAID Programs

USAID works closely with the Government of Rwanda to increase and promote its trade through several programs. Through the East Africa Trade Investment Hub (EATIH) programs, Rwanda has been building its trade capacity, improving the private sector and creating better market access and opportunities for trade facilitation.

In 2016, USAID was able to create the Rwanda African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA has emphasized regional and bilateral efforts to strengthen Africa’s economic competitiveness and aid countries to leverage trade opportunities.

All of these benefits support the ways that Rwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. These program strategies, initiatives and results represent the “small steps” of turning a country around from poverty. The interdependency between Rwanda’s government and foreign aid shows the relentless efforts being made to downsize global poverty. It has also formed a strategic collaboration that is breeding progressive results.

Niya Monè
Photo: Flickr

Child laborChild labor affects 150 million children worldwide. Child labor can take many forms, but the most common is defined as strenuous and dangerous work that is carried out by a child and does not abide by national and international child labor legislation. Many of these children are deprived of education, proper nutrition and a childhood without sports or playtime. Keep reading to learn more about the top 15 child labor facts everyone needs to know.

15 Child Labor Facts Everyone Needs to Know

  1. The agricultural industry makes up 71 percent of child labor in the world. Agricultural labor can include but is not limited to forestry, subsistence and commercial farming, fishing and livestock herding. Children may have to work on farms in long, unbearable heat.
  2. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 73 million of the 152 million children being forced into child labor are experiencing hazardous labor. Ages between 15 and 17 years old make up 24 percent of child labor and experience more hazardous forms of labor than other age groups.
  3. More than half of child labor around the world is found in Africa. One in five African children is subject to child labor. Between 2012 and 2016, there was no reduction in child labor in Africa although there was some improvement in other areas of the world. Areas with more conflicts and disaster are more likely to experience child labor.
  4. In Africa, 85 percent of child labor is in the agricultural sector. The service sector is responsible for eight million children working, and about two million are working in the industry sectors.
  5. The ages of child laborers range from five to 17 years old. However, the majority of child labor comes from the ages of five to 11 years old. Children ages 12 to 14 years old make up about 28 percent.
  6. There is a large gender gap between girls and boys regarding child labor. Eighty-eight million boys are affected by child labor worldwide, but about 20 million fewer girls are affected by child labor.
  7. Two-thirds of all children in child labor go unpaid.
  8. Research has found that housework and chores are often neglected when children are involved in child labor. However, girls between the ages of five and 14 years old account for more than 21 hours of chore labor every week.
  9. Alliance 8.7 and UNICEF are backing the goal of Target 8.7 in regards to 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Target 8.7 concentrates on measures to reduce all child labor, child slavery and human trafficking worldwide. The organization hopes to end child labor by 2025.
  10. Child labor greatly affects education and children staying in school. Thirty-six million children are not getting an education because of child labor. For those children who do go to school and work, their work still affects their performance and ability to succeed in school.
  11. Although African countries lead with the highest rates of child labor, Asia and the Pacific have 62 million child laborers. The ILO reported that other countries, such as the Americas, have about 10 million child laborers, and the Arab states have the lowest with 1.2 million children.
  12. Two-thirds of children are employed by their families and their companies. But, only 4 percent of those children are paid. The remaining one-third of children working is left to work for third parties.
  13. Children in the age range between 15 and 17 years-old are above the minimum age to work. Even though these children are not young children, they are often actively engaging with work that can affect their health.
  14. Child labor has many circumstances surrounding and affecting it, such as poverty, migration, emergencies and social norms.
  15. Since 2000, child labor for girls has dropped 40 percent and for boys has dropped 25 percent. In addition, there are 136 million children fewer children being affected by child labor around the world.

The 15 child labor facts presented show that children are still being affected by child labor around the world. While organizations such as UNICEF, International Labor Organization, the Human Rights Watch and Alliance 8.7 are working towards eradicating child labor, it still is an issue that is affecting our world.

– Logan Derbes

Photo: Pixabay

Livestock Health in AfricaThe most vital aspect of creating a sustainable environment for the future of African people is supporting and maintaining one of its most powerful industries: agriculture. The agriculture industry comprises fisheries, wildlife, livestock and farm production, accounting for 35 percent of the continent’s entire GDP. Livestock alone makes up 30 percent of the agricultural GDP, making it a crucial component of Africa’s economy.

Ensuring good livestock health in Africa is not easy. Herds often face extreme weather conditions, zoonotic diseases and malnourishment making it difficult to maintain successful farms. Some of these diseases, such as the African swine fever, Brucellosis, Fowl Pox and Rift Valley fever can wipe out entire herds and livestock if left untreated. Many of these zoonotic diseases can be linked to human epidemics as well, contributing to millions of human deaths. A decrease in livestock production due to disease, weather and malnourishment means food shortages and increasing poverty and disease across Africa.

5 Ways Veterinary Care Improves Livestock Health in Africa

With the African economy relying so heavily on livestock and agricultural production, the need for access to veterinary care has become a top priority. The number of trained veterinarians increased in African countries over the past few years for several reasons. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a number of nonprofits and government organizations are working together to provide African countries with veterinary assistance. Together, they hope to improve livestock health for a sustainable agriculture industry. Here are just a few initiatives to promote veterinary services:

  1. USAID provides fundings for veterinary training
    Through the USAID supported program Feed the Future Livestock for Growth (L4G) farmers in rural Mali can receive free training to become auxiliary veterinarians. This program provides farmers the opportunity to acquire medical training, professional development, superior animal care techniques, vaccines and medical equipment. The veterinarians can then provide quality livestock care to their entire community. Since 2015, L4G has successfully trained 79 auxiliary veterinarians in Mali, improving conditions in 76,000 households in over 800 communities. L4G has also increased vaccine security from 10 percent to 22 percent, saving half a million animals from disease. The Feed the Future initiative alone estimates that over 5 million people are no longer living in hunger and $10 billion has been generated by the agricultural industry since 2011.
  2. FAO and the European Union strengthen veterinary support
    The Strengthening of Livestock Services in Angola (SANGA) project is an FAO and EU initiative. It accelerates medical services for livestock and increases veterinary training for animal health auxiliaries in Angola. This project combines efforts of both public veterinary services and private animal auxiliary programs. SANGA develops a sustainable practice throughout the country to improve livestock health and eliminate food insecurity. SANGA hopes to use its resources to train 120 animal health auxiliaries and 20 veterinary technicians.
  3. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports livestock production
    In 2017, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a 14.4 million dollar grant to the animal health company Zoetis. Over three years, these funds will support animal health technology and veterinary services through the African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (ALPHA) initiative in Eastern Africa. This initiative will provide access to quality animal care and veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda. Funds will go directly to technical training and disease prevention as well as the development of animal infrastructure.
  4. World Vets International Aid for Animal
    This program brings universal veterinary care training to rural communities in Tanzania. World Vets deploys trained professionals to respond to the most critical needs of the agricultural industry throughout the country by providing locals with quality training and equipment. This program also donates $1 million a year to local veterinary assistance establishments to purchase medical supplies and prepare for emergency animal health needs.
  5. GALVmed distributes vaccines to millions of farmers throughout Africa
    This organization partners with the FAO, EU, World Organization for Animal Health and local governments to provide livestock vaccines and medicines that are easily accessible to the poorest and most isolated farmers in Africa. By developing sustainable agricultural practices to promote animal health, treatment for livestock diseases is better managed. Containing livestock diseases and eliminating malpractice in treatment will increase livestock production rate and improve livestock health in Africa.

Healthier Animals Can Reduce Poverty

Without the help of nonprofit and government programs, these initiatives to provide veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa would have little to no success. Vet training gives local farmers the opportunity to utilize their own experience and technical training to give livestock the best care possible. Healthier animals mean more food, production revenue and booming agricultural industry for the entire continent, reducing the number of people living in poverty.

Becca Cetta
Photo: Creative Commons

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in KazakhstanKazakhstan is a fledgling nation striving for prosperity and stability throughout its vast territory. The country established itself as a sovereign nation after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, Kazakhstan’s economy has been on the upswing, but that growth is overwhelmingly based on its vast oil reserves.

As Kazakhstan grows into its own identity, it has been trying to promote prosperity across its many regions. The following top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan illustrate the ways it is developing as a nation.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest nation. Kazakhstan is vast and at 1,052,090 sq. miles, it is the world’s largest landlocked country. Kazakhstan is also one of only two landlocked countries that reach across two continents, Asia and Europe. Most of the land (77.4 percent) is agricultural. The standard of living in Kazakhstan depends largely on the region. The level of poverty varies widely between states or oblasts. Access to quality housing, education and medical services also vary by oblast.
  2. Kazakhstan’s government is actively working toward reducing inequality and increasing economic opportunities through programs like the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy.
  3. Kazakhstan’s leadership is changing. Since gaining independence in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan’s president. Nazarbayev announced his resignation on March 19, 2019, on national television. Kassym-Jormat Tokayev, the chairman of the Kazakh Senate, will serve as interim president until the election in 2020. Nazarbayev, an autocrat, will continue to wield a high level of influence over the government. Nazarbayev’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, will become the new speaker of the Senate.
  4. Most of the population live in urban areas. The rest of the population lives throughout a vast territory. A majority of Kazakhstan’s population (57.4 percent) live in urban centers in the far northern and southern regions of the country, especially in the cities of Almaty and Astana (the capital). Astana has unique and opulent architecture, a memorial to the heavy concentration of oil money in urban centers. The center of the country has a very low population density. The rural areas of Kazakhstan are more likely to have more poverty and less benefit from economic growth.
  5. Kazakhstan’s economy is based heavily on oil production and its economy is over-reliant on oil production. The primary producers are the Tengiz field and the colossal Kashagan field, which just started producing in 2016. The vast reserves of oil in Kazakhstan have helped the country enjoy relatively consistent economic growth since claiming independence.
  6. Kazakhstan is trying to diversify its economy with railroad manufacturing. Kazakhstan is attempting to spend its oil wealth on new industries to offset its heavy dependence on oil. The premier industry is railroad manufacturing. The state-owned railroad empire, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), is aggressively expanding with $3.1 billion invested in 2013. Kazakhstan hopes to become a global leader in railroad production. The industry employed one in every 54 people in 2013.
  7. Kazakhstan is Central Asia’s breadbasket. Agriculture in Kazakhstan is less than 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) but employs almost one-fifth of its population. As the world’s seventh largest wheat exporter, Kazakhstan is crucial to food security throughout the region. Droughts in Kazakhstan can be devastating, reducing harvests sixfold.
  8. The state owns and controls most of the broadcast media companies in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government owns almost all of the radio and TV networks. Cellular telephone and internet usage are on the rise, including a vast 4G network.
  9. Overall, Kazakhstan has a low number of people below the poverty line. Only 2.6 percent of the entire population is below the internationally standardized poverty line. However, poverty is still a problem, especially in certain regions. Poor housing conditions affected 28 percent of the population, low education rates affected 11 percent and low consumption affected 15 percent.
  10. Kazakhstan has relied on Russia as a trade partner but is trying to diversify. Kazakhstan exports 78 percent of its oil production. Historically, Kazakhstan has relied on Russia to distribute its oil throughout Europe. More recently it has been trying to grow new trade partnerships, especially with China to counteract over-reliance on Russia.

The above top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan depict both the struggles and the successes of a young nation. With the help of international partners like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kazakhstan can continue to manage its economic growth and address regional disparities.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Apps Help FarmersAccording to the Thinus Enslin, founder and owner of AgriPrecise, one of the biggest issues facing farmers is the high cost of over-fertilizing, leading to negative effects on the environment. The company’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers. With the help of the app, farmers can now use more efficacious methods to grow crops. The app aids farmers in using the right amount of fertilizer for crops to grow well. Because of the app, farmers can decrease the cost of growing crops and boost crop production.

AgriPrecise

The company AgriPrecise is located in Potchefstroom in South Africa. The primary purpose of the company is to gather and make sense of fertilizer and soil data. For 20 years, AgriPrecise has worked in agriculture, having worked in Zimbabwe and Zambia for 7 years. AgriPrecise has also worked in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

The company provides services in areas such as agronomy and consulting, data analysis, grid soil sampling, soil classifications, NDUI imagery and monitoring and data processing. Over the past 8 years, AgriPrecise has changed much of its work to IT. IT is helping in another part of its mission, which is to promote sustainable farming methods and practices.

AgriPrecise’s software development partner is the Centurion-based technology solutions company Moyo Business Advisory. To assist farmers, AgriPrecise utilizes satellite imagery and conducts accurate soil sampling. The farmer will have access to a location-based visual display of his or her farm, fields and the conditions and will also be able to gather data on crops and pests. Then, data scientists carry out analytics and send the findings to the farmers.

AgriPrecise’s AgIQ App

Out of 1.166 billion people, more than 60 percent of people in Africa live in rural areas. Much of the economy in Africa is dependent on agriculture. In fact, 32 percent of its GDP is from agriculture. AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app meets a large part of Africa’s economy. The app aids the productivity of African Farmers through a number of steps. First, the app makes an assessment of the data and then finds the integral parts,  showing a farm, field and soil analysis. Lastly, it gathers information on all the kinds of crops ranging from vegetables to sugarcane.

The AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers through a sensor attached to a tractor that measures the amount of nitrogen needed to grow crops, so it can spread the right amount of fertilizer. The sensors on the tractor face down on each side of the bar on the roof of the tractor. The sensors measure the greenness of and the density of the crops below it. Facing up are the light intensity sensors that check the level of ambient light. The greenness measures plant health through analysis of the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves. This way the correct amount of nitrogen can be used to help grow crops.

One of the areas that the app helps gain information on is crop yields. The goal of AgriPrecise is to pick up patterns in growing crops to increase production, boost the quality of the crops and lower cost of growing them. The app has helped farmers increase their crop production by 2 percent, which has led to a 10 percent increase in profits.

One of the issues facing farmers that AgriPrecise’s AgIQ app aids the productivity of African farmers by helping farmers with is the cost of production and amount of crops grown. The app helps decrease the cost of growing crops and increase crop production. The app also diminishes negative effects on the environment by reducing over-fertilization. With the creation of the app AgIQ, farmers can take positive steps towards carrying out sustainable agricultural practices.

Daniel McAndrew-Greiner

Photo: Unsplash

sustainable irrigationIrrigation is as important to farming as seeds are. Irrigation, especially sustainable irrigation, is an oftentimes taken for granted by the general population in the United States where the average shower last over 8 minutes, using roughly 17 gallons of water at an estimated 2 gallons a minute. Being clean is important for many reasons but so is sustainability. In farming, especially in countries where water is not abundant, there are a few sustainable irrigation methods to choose from where less water is wasted.

Water Sources for Farmers

Many rural farmers around the world get their water from surface water. Surface water is water that has yet to reach the water-table underground. It can be found in naturally occurring pounds, streams and rivers or collected in basins, reservoirs or man-made ponds for later use. This is for those lucky enough to be near a body of freshwater or who have learned to collect water during their rainy seasons.

Groundwater is another important source for farmers to get their water. This water is underground and, therefore, can more difficult to use. A well must be dug down to the water table or a pump installed to get the water back to the surface for use. Digging a well uses a lot of energy, time and money. Finding ways to do this more efficiently is one way the United Nations is supporting sustainable irrigation methods.

Sustainable Irrigation Methods

Each of these sustainable irrigation methods has its upsides and downsides. The main drawback of using a more efficient method is often the time or money needed. For example, it is cheap to redirect a stream or direct groundwater already collected into a field where furrows are dug. The water runs along these furrows flooding the field for a short time without damaging the seeds or crops. This method is known as flood or furrow irrigation. However, this uses a lot more water than might be necessary.

Installing a sprinkler system to collected groundwater or pumping it up from underground is a better sustainable irrigation technique than flood irrigation. The water can be directed and controlled, which cuts back on water usage. However, these pumps cost money upfront, plus there are funds needed for upkeep. Fuel and parts must be taken into consideration when purchasing any farming equipment. Luckily the United Nations is working with groups around the world to supply solar and mechanical pumps to rural farming villages. The mechanical pumps look like bikes or “Stairmasters.”

The best sustainable irrigation technique by far is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a system of pumps and tubes. The tubes are either suspended above the soil or planted alongside the roots of the plant. A predetermined amount of water is then pumped through the tubes and released through tiny holes poked in the tubes. These systems come in a variety of complex options. This is also a technique promoted by the United Nations, specifically solar-powered drip systems.

A Sustainable Future

Sustainable irrigation methods are essential to farmers all over the world. There are several methods to choose from depending on the resources available to the farmers in any given region. What is important is ensuring a water supply so that farmer is arid regions can continue to grow and profit off of their crops.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco

Photo: Flickr