Information and stories about agriculture.

Agriculture in NepalThe Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has an estimated population of more than 26 million and is known for its mountain peaks that include the legendary Mount Everest. Agriculture in Nepal is a major aspect of the economy, employing more than 66 percent of the workforce. Because so many of Nepal’s citizens rely on agriculture for their income, many economic development initiatives in Nepal are focused on efficient, sustainable agricultural practices. Here are four organizations supporting agriculture in Nepal:

4 Organizations Supporting Agriculture in Nepal

  1. Educate the Children – Founded by Pamela Carson in 1989, Educate the Children Nepal (ETC) focuses on three main goals: children’s education, women’s empowerment and agricultural development. ETC’s agricultural programs assist rural Nepali women in furthering their knowledge of sustainable practices. Women learn methods for composting and for making pesticides. ETC also provides tools and seeds so that women can expand their crops. Importantly, the organization tailors its methods to different regions, emphasizing locally viable crops. In the first half of 2019, ETC reports that 31 rural women were able to increase their household income by 10 to 25 percent by growing and selling mushrooms.
  2. FORWARD Nepal – The Forum for Rural Welfare and Agricultural Reform for Development (FORWARD) has been working to aid Nepalis living in poverty since 1997. Committed to promoting economic equality, FORWARD provides vocational training for workers in several industries, including forestry, fishing and agriculture. Its website emphasizes an intent to “utilize and promote local knowledge and skills” and to develop community organizations and resource centers. Some of FORWARD’s agricultural programs have included distributing seeds to earthquake victims, training people to cultivate dry riverbeds and promoting climate-smart rice-lentil cropping systems. In the fiscal year 2017-2018, FORWARD Nepal’s riverbed farming program reached 200 households and its rice-fallow crop program benefited 459. The same year, the organization ran a project focused on dairy production techniques, which reached an estimated 5,000 households.
  3. U.N. Women – The Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment (RWEE) Joint Programme is a collaboration between U.N. Women, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme.  The RWEE program is focused on supporting rural women in seven countries, including Nepal. According to U.N. Women, the program supports 3,400 women. One RWEE project involved water access in the village of Paltuwa where water scarcity had resulted in women farmers devoting large portions of their day to carrying water to their farms from the river. As a consequence, crop yields were low and farmers struggled economically. A 2016 RWEE project resulted in the building of an irrigation system in Paltuwa, which has improved agricultural production. The RWEE program also employs women to work on construction projects related to agriculture. During the building of the Community Agriculture Extension Service Centre in Ranichuri, 130 women were employed.
  4. SADP-Nepal – Established in 2004, Sustainable Agriculture Development Program, Nepal (SADP-Nepal) is headquartered in Pokhara, Nepal. SADP-Nepal promotes sustainable agricultural practices, lobbies for organic agriculture and supports collaboration among farmers. The organization’s motto, “Happy Soil, Happy Life,” shows an emphasis on sustainable practices. Some of the SADP-Nepal’s projects include community farms, awareness-raising campaigns and disaster-relief programs. In the wake of the April 2015 earthquake, SADP-Nepal provided rice, lentils, noodles and tents to thirteen families affected by the earthquake. SADP-Nepal also promotes eco-tourism as a way to generate income for local farmers by providing organic food for visitors.

Final Thoughts

While many Nepalis struggle economically, the poverty rate has been decreasing in recent years, dropping from 25 percent in 2010 to 21 percent in 2018. With continued support for agricultural workers, hopefully, the economic situation in Nepal will continue to improve.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Wikimedia

Empowering Women Through Local Libraries
Digital literacy, career training and access to the internet are all becoming more commonplace throughout the developing world. While the majority of the population reaps the benefits of these programs, however, some certain groups, particularly women, are staggering behind. In order to combat this, various organizations have taken a unique and innovative approach in sharing these essential resources and empowering women through local libraries.

READ Centers in Nepal

In countries like Nepal, the men in women’s lives often control their level of education, knowledge of finance and mobility. These men expect women to ask permission to leave their own homes and women must always have male accompaniment when they do. This lack of personal freedom makes it hard for these women to know how to go about making their own decisions. Luckily, organizations like READ Global aim to circumvent such barriers with innovative programs with the hope of empowering women through local libraries.

READ Global, a nonprofit organization in South Asia, achieves this by creating safe centers for women through local libraries in Nepal. Known as READ Centers, these places not only provide free educational and financial programs, but they also provide a safe, public spot for women to gather and learn.

Livelihood skills training and other offered lessons enable women to pursue careers like beekeeping, sewing and vegetable farming. When women have the opportunity to earn and save for themselves, they become empowered to distribute their money in ways they see fit. A 2010 study indicated that the ability to earn their own income positively affects women’s autonomy and READ Centers programs have supported this finding.

Eighty-six percent of women who participated in the center’s skills-training programs reported that they were able to increase their income after taking the training classes. In the same survey, 73 percent of participants reported being able to buy their own food, 68 percent reported easier access to health care and an amazing 63 percent of all participants could afford to send their children off to school after completing one of the training programs. READ Centers are a striking model of empowering women through local libraries with innovative and affordable programs.

The National Library of Uganda (ICT) Project

A case study indicated that 83 percent of Ugandan women work in the farming and agricultural industry. This means that women alone contribute 70 to 75 percent of farm produce in the country. Since women are responsible for such a large chunk of the farming industry, it is quite alarming that most of these women have extremely limited access to modern farming resources. One library in Uganda saw the need for these resources and made empowering women through local libraries a top priority.

Kyangatto, a rural village in Uganda, serves as a hub for the farming community of the Nakaseke district. In this particular village, women carry the majority of the farming workload and must depend on traditional farming techniques. The women’s reliance on less effective farming methods stems from limited access to information about modern farming, plant and animal disease, and knowledge of market prices.

To combat this deficit in information, The NLU (National Library of Uganda) collaborated with the Nakaseke district’s multi-purpose community telecenter on a project that could provide proper resources and offer solutions for these challenges. In 2012, the partnering organizations launched The Electronic Information Empowering Women Farmers Service (EIFL). Through this service, women could participate in an information and communication course, which included computer/internet researching skills training, and a feature that sends farmers educational messages to mobile devices via SMS in various languages, including Luganda, a native language to a majority of participants.

The partner organizations also benefited greatly from a generous grant of $15,000 from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme. Through the grant, they were able to purchase four new computers and 15 mobile phones for trainees. Among other accomplishments, the program developed the first-ever women’s ICT training course in the Nakaseke district and trained 64 female farmers in digital literacy for the first time. The service has also expanded to Bulkalabi Primary School in Kyangatto, has successfully organized follow-up courses for 60 previous participants and recently registered 15 men in the program due to community demand.

While there is a lot of work necessary to improve life for women in the developing world, local libraries and the innovative programs they are launching have made a huge impact already. In fact, empowering women through local libraries has become a global trend that continues to grow.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Four Tech Investments
Technology advances at a blinding rate with new innovations popping up every day. People can use these new technologies to make life easier, save lives, entertain the masses in new, creative ways and serve countless other purposes. In this age of technology and instant access to information, a consumer will find dozens of different companies vying for their money with thousands of different advertisements, promising new features and faster internet. If a consumer investigates further, they will find people around the world using the bleeding edge of technology to reduce poverty by increasing access to medical facilities, providing more energy to those in need, aiding struggling farmers and innovating on the use of technology in the classroom. Here are four tech investments to lower poverty.

4 Tech Investments to Lower Poverty

  1. TEAMFund: The organization Transforming Equity and Access for MedTech (TEAMFund) invests in companies that can increase medical access in impoverished areas. TEAMFund usually invests in companies that specialize in digital health or artificial intelligence in hopes that these innovations will help with the shortages of doctors and other health care specialists. Some investments that TEAMFund has previously selected include Forus Health, an Indian organization dedicated to using technology to lower cases of preventable blindness, and digital ophthalmology, the use of technology to prevent diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. On September 18, 2019, TEAMFund closed a budget of $30 million to invest in low-income areas. As TEAMFund invests this money, many of those in impoverished areas will feel the benefits of easy medical access.
  2. The Rockefeller Foundation: Energy poverty is also a major problem around the world. Many developing nations do not have electricity with almost a billion people worldwide lacking the ability to live in comfortable temperatures or store food for long periods. On September 12, 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This commission will explore the many sources of electricity, including microgrids to provide total energy access by 2030. One method it will use to achieve this goal is setting up solar microgrids in developing countries around sub-Saharan Africa, as suggested by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
  3. BICSA: Agriculture is a necessary gamble in any community. Long droughts could cause the loss of fields of crops, and without them, people could starve. Currently, no risk is greater than planting crops in India. Many farmers in India rely on monsoon rains to feed their crops, but the rains have been patchy and unpredictable recently, raining 35 percent below the predicted amount. Luckily, organizations like the International Water Management Institute and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have combined their strength and formed the Bundled Solutions of Index Insurance with Climate Information and Seed Systems to Manage Agricultural Risks (BICSA). This organization will work with the farmers of India and try many different strategies to avoid massive crop loss and protect farmers from bankruptcy. BICSA claims that they will provide services like drought or flood insurance, more seed varieties, new methods to forecast the weather and different farming practices that suit the climate better.
  4. Education Technology: Education is arguably the most important factor in a developing country. Nevertheless, over 260 million children worldwide do not receive an education. Education Technology (EdTech) companies dedicate their resources to providing more access to quality education. They achieve this goal by teaching programming to young students, providing online college courses to those who cannot afford them, teaching foreign languages and much more in places like Nigeria and Kenya. These EdTech companies, like Andela, Coursera and Kramer have been receiving record-breaking investments in recent years. In 2018, EdTech companies received over $16.3 billion in funding from countries like the United States and China. As these companies grow and reach more people, the world should crawl closer to the total education of the entire world.

The use of technology to reduce poverty brings an age-old problem into the modern world. These four tech investments will not eradicate poverty overnight, but they show that the superpowers of the world are willing to give more for the benefit of the world’s poor. With easier access to medical facilities, energy, agriculture and education through technology, countries with a large poverty rate could move forward on the path to a developed, flourishing society, strengthening the global economy with their commerce and aiding other countries that require assistance.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Google's Investment in Africa
In 2018, Google reached the milestone of having trained over two million people in Africa. This training is digital skills training which enables the trainees to pursue careers in technology. Google currently has many active projects that have been active in Africa since 2016, ranging from training to providing access to faster and more accessible internet. These projects aim to help propel more people into the workforce and market. This article will explain how Google’s investment in Africa benefits both the people of Africa and Google’s business model as a whole.

Google’s Initiatives in Africa

Google has focused on three main areas to achieve its objectives. The first area is the training of individuals in digital skills. This comes through Grow with Google which is a global initiative helping prepare people for the changing demands of the job market by providing education on the production of software and hardware materials. The second initiative is for Google to support innovators and startups through its launchpad accelerator program. This program gives startups the push they need in the form of investment and training to become a successful company. The third method is through GV, formerly Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google. It has provided businesses such as Andela, a tech company that helps to train people in Nigeria and Kenya for software development with valuable capital to gain access to markets.

Achievements

So far Google’s investment in Africa has achieved a great deal in improving the lives of the people there. Not only has it trained over two million people in digital skills, but it has helped the bright young minds create successful businesses. Beyond this, Google has provided artificial intelligence through a new AI research center in Ghana that helps farmers more easily identify disease in their crops, and AI to help bridge communication gaps on the continent. In Nigeria, Google has opened public wifi stations that give people free access to wifi. Google is helping improve the lives of Africans through education and practical applications of technology.

Why Africa?

Google has a good reason for trying to develop both technology providers and consumers in Africa. Africa is a massive market for technology and Google intends to tap into that. Both Nigeria and Ghana have developing tech industries and their cities show great potential for growth. Their populations are young and modernizing quickly meaning more potential customers for Google’s services. The more Google can help to develop the tech industry in Africa, the more people that will be using their products. In 2017 alone, Google saw a 13 percent increase in revenue from Africa, and this was only early on in its investing process. As time goes on, Google hopes to get more people online and continue to see huge return on its investment in Africa.

Why it Matters

An important conclusion to take from this information is why people outside of Africa should care about Google’s investment in Africa, and in particular, countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. The answer is that Google is taking important steps towards opening potential future markets that could be future trade partners with U.S. companies and contributors to the U.S. economy. Nigeria and Ghana currently have a massive potential to contribute to the international economic scene and Google is providing essential education and capital to help them get there.

– Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

Decade of Family FarmingFamily farms are the largest employers of human capital in the world. Unlike factory farms, family farms are extremely sustainable and drastically mitigate hunger and poverty at the local level. However, governments tend to sanction legislation that prioritizes the interests of factory farms and fisheries, effectively excluding local producers from sustaining their communities. For this reason, the U.N. has outlined a decade-long plan lasting from 2019 to 2028 that expands the role and influence of family farmers around the world.

Family Farming Statistics

Despite being overshadowed by transnational food cooperations, family farms control more agricultural output and human capital than all factory farms combined. In fact, family farmers occupy 70-80 percent of global farmland and produce more than 80 percent of total global agricultural output. Furthermore, the U.N. estimates that there are approximately 570 million family farms operating around the world, mostly employing people who live in absolute poverty.

The Sustainability of Family Farming

A typical representation of family farming would be similar to that portrayed in Little House on the Prairie. However, this all-encompassing term defined by the U.N. includes mountain farmers, family foresters, pastoralists, indigenous people, local fisheries, hunters and gatherers. Local producers know how to navigate their land and waterways effectively and do so with great reverence since many trace ancestral and historical significance to the land they farm and the waters they fish. In doing so, they preserve the biodiversity of their communities and amend farming techniques to sustain the productive capacity of their local environments.

Furthermore, rural farming expands local economies by providing jobs in various services that accompany the line of agricultural production; family farming encompasses the help of all members of the community. In this communal effort, family farmers also tend to reject artificial growth products made specifically for mass food production, such as dangerous pesticides that result in fatal consequences for the environment.

The Decade of Family Farming: Elevating the Status of Family Farmers

The Decade of Family Farming sets forth an agenda for countries to develop policy and investment strategies aimed at generating sustainable development and prioritizing the interests of family farmers. Meanwhile, the U.N. hopes that the Decade of Family Farming will also mitigate the projected consequences of environmental deterioration by revitalizing local ecosystems. The action plan consists of seven central pillars that incorporate several dimensions of social, political and economic life to achieve such goals:

  • Pillar 1: Renewing policy and establishing links between the private and public sectors to develop investment strategies.
  • Pillar 2: Educating rural youth about the importance of family farming and encouraging them to maintain their traditional farming practices.
  • Pillar 3: Elevating the status of women in farming communities and providing them with access to the management of land, information and financial resources.
  • Pillar 4: Championing the voices of family farmers and expanding their influence in the political arena via family farming organizations.
  • Pillar 5: Enhancing the welfare of family farmers and establishing social protection systems.
  • Pillar 6: Promoting farming practices that will protect food supply from the uncertainties of an impending climate catastrophe.
  • Pillar 7: Protecting regional ecosystems and expanding the diversity of job opportunities in the farming-based service sector.

The Decade of Family Farming is a multi-faceted program that encompasses the betterment and sustainability of the biosphere through protecting the environment, culture, local economies, social life, politics and food resources. It is up to the cooperation of the government and the private sector to ensure the realization of these proposals.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

Aeroponics Agriculture
In Nigeria, food insecurity is widespread. Although agriculture is the second most important sector in Nigeria after the petroleum industry, farmers make up about 70 percent of the labor force, meaning the base of the Nigerian economy is rain-dependent agriculture. Over the past 20 years, many factors including poor irrigation systems, droughts and a shortage of fertile land, have induced a steep decline in food production that has failed to keep up with the country’s rising population growth. There are currently 30 million hectares of farmland that farmers can cultivate in Nigeria, and much of this land is inarable. Estimates determine that to produce enough to feed Nigeria’s population of 190 million, the country would need 78.5 million hectares of land. This threat to Nigerians’ livelihoods has led to deadly competition between farmers and cattle herders over scarce resources. In the fight for land and water, hundreds in these rival groups kill each other every year. Now, aeroponics agriculture, a new technology that grows crops vertically, could be the answer to both of these struggles in Nigeria.

The Introduction of Aeroponics to Nigeria

Samson Ogbole recently introduced aeroponics to Nigeria. He is a Nigerian farmer with a degree in biochemistry who saw the need for more sustainable options for agriculture in his country. After beginning his work with aeroponics in 2014, Ogbole now co-owns an agri-tech company, PS Nutraceuticals, that works to implement more efficient agriculture techniques. Because of its ability to conserve space, water and soil, Ogole believes aeroponics has the potential to end conflicts over land and monumentally improve food productivity in Nigeria. Another benefit of soilless farming, Ogole has said, is that it prevents the risk of harmful pathogens that naturally exist in soil affecting crops.

The Science of Growing Crops in Air

Aeroponics is a process used for growing crops in a soilless environment by suspending the roots in the air. Aeroponics systems commonly use vertical and tower systems because they allow roots to spread out while saving space. In an aeroponic farming system, plants receive nourishment from low-energy LED lighting and periodic spraying with a solution of water and other nutrients. The nutrient-water mixture dispenses using pumps or misting devices, which reduces the need for constant supervision and labor. The vertical structure lets gravity distribute the moisture to every part of the plant, from the top down.

Eco-Friendly Farming

Aeroponics is a more sustainable method of farming as well as the key to Nigeria’s land shortage problem. With traditional cultivation measures, evaporation causes the waste of a lot of waste. In aeroponics farming, the roots directly absorb almost all the water vapour by the process of osmosis, so the process uses much less water than more traditional methods. Estimates determine that aeroponics saves 90 percent of water compared to traditional farming methods. Aeroponic crops also grow in half the time it would take for them to grow in soil and yields can be approximately 30 percent larger. The main premise of aeroponics is to use the minimum amount of resources to gain the maximum crop yield. Additionally, since it takes place indoors, aeroponics makes it possible for crops to grow at any time of the year, or year-round, irrespective of climate conditions, which could be a significant game-changer for Nigeria and other countries with continuous droughts.

Aeroponics Throughout History

Development of aeroponics first began in the 1920s by botanists who used it to study plant root structure. Despite its many efficient advantages, it has had a very slow start catching on. NASA began working with aeroponics in the 1990s, conducting experiments and concluding impressive results in productivity. NASA’s use of aeroponics brought it much needed attention and shed new light on the fact that this agriculture technology could sustain humanity’s growing population if people implement it where areas need it most. The low operating costs of aeroponics agriculture are one of its biggest appeals, which has made it attractive to innovative farms all over the world. Today, people utilize aeroponics agriculture in many places as a modern technique to increase productivity, eliminate waste, conserve space and energy and adjust to climate change.

Aeroponics Around the World

Newark in New Jersey is home to the world’s largest aeroponics growing systems, Aerofarms. Since 2004, Aerofarms has led the way in battling the global hunger crisis through sustainable agriculture technology. The largest vertical farm facility in Aerofarms is 70,000 feet and produces two million pounds of food annually using 95 percent less water. Other aeroponics startups in the U.S. have cropped up in California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Indoor urban farming has taken off in Asia. In Japan, many consider aeroponics the future of agriculture. The largest Japanese vertical farm, a 3,000-square-meter facility outside of Kyoto, produces more than 20,000 heads of lettuce per day.

In the Middle East, aeroponics is growing increasingly popular as a cost-effective option to reduce dependence on food imports. Jeddah Farm in Saudi Arabia, the first aeroponic system in the Middle East, is a highly profitable, self-sustaining indoor farm that provides produce to urban centers while minimizing carbon emissions.

In Europe, aeroponics on a grand scale is just beginning to catch on. The first vertical farm in Europe, located in Ibiza, includes storm-resistant outdoor aeroponic towers.

Aeroponics agriculture is a revolutionary food-growing technology with the potential to save millions of lives in Nigeria and other developing countries. In Nigeria, vertical farming could solve the devastating issues of infertile soil, drought-caused famine, land shortages, water scarcity and violent skirmishes over resources. As horticulturalists continue to introduce this practice in Africa and other areas with populations that suffer from malnutrition, aeroponics agriculture is bringing the world one step closer to eliminating hunger.

– Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is a small country that was formerly a part of the Soviet Republic. Some call it the Land of Fire due to a continuous, naturally burning mountain fire in its Caucasus mountains, and the country consists of both urban and large agricultural areas. Over the past 19 years, Azerbaijan has been steadily addressing its hunger issues and making important improvements. The proportion of undernourished citizens has decreased from 22 percent to less than 1 percent since 2000. Along with this advancement, here are 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Azerbaijan

  1. Azerbaijan has a global hunger index of 9.5, which is a low level of hunger. The global hunger index is a scale ranging from zero to 100, with zero being zero hunger and 100 being the most severe hunger. Numbers below 9.9 indicate low levels of hunger and numbers between 10-19.9 represent moderate hunger levels. On the other hand, numbers between 20-34.9 represent serious hunger levels, 35.0-49.9 reflect alarming hunger levels and anything above 50.0 refers to extremely alarming hunger levels. The global hunger index is based on four factors – child stunting, child mortality, undernourishment and child wasting.

  2. As of 2018, Azerbaijan ranks 40 out of 119 countries on the global hunger index scale. In 2000, the country’s global hunger index was 27.0, placing Azerbaijan in serious hunger levels. As the years have passed, Azerbaijan’s partnerships with UNICEF and the United Nations have developed programs addressing its hunger issues. As a result, the country has made significant progress, allowing its hunger index to decrease to 9.5.

  3. Child stunting refers to the proportion of children under the age of 5 who experience low height as a result of undernutrition. The percentage of child stunting in Azerbaijan has decreased by almost 5 percent since 2000. This improvement is partially because of one of UNICEF’s health programs that creates more educational resources and services for new mothers. Through the memorandum that UNICEF signed in 2019, mothers should receive more breastfeeding counseling in a baby-friendly hospital environment. Breastfeeding children for the first six months is the most effective method of ensuring a child’s healthy development and preventing child stunting.

  4. Child wasting is the number of children who are underweight for their age, reflecting undernourishment. Similar to child stunting, the percentage of children who undergo child wasting has dropped by nearly 5 percent in Azerbaijan since 2000. Although this is positive, 4.9 percent of children still experience child wasting. UNICEF has found that iron-deficiency anemia is a major cause of this problem.

  5. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which a person does not have enough red blood cells. A leading cause of iron-deficiency anemia is the lack of iron in one’s diet. This can often lead to headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness and cold hands or feet. Iron-deficiency anemia in Azerbaijan affects 38.2 percent of women of reproductive age and 39.5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11. A solution to combat this problem is flour fortification, which is the addition of nutrients such as folic acid and iron to flour. UNICEF is currently working with Azerbaijan’s government to pass legislation that will mandate flour fortification in hopes of reducing child wasting and improving overall health.

  6. The United Nations created a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 to end poverty and achieve peace around the world by 2030. The second SDG is to achieve zero hunger by ending malnutrition and providing nutritious food. In October 2018, Azerbaijan hosted the first forum to discuss methods and solutions towards meeting these goals, especially targeting hunger in Azerbaijan. This forum covered issues mentioned in these 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan. Its government will focus on renewable energy sources to reduce oil use. The country will also aim to increase business and individual participation within a circular economy viewpoint, encouraging continuous resource reuse and waste elimination.

  7. An important aspect of a circular economy is creating sustainable farming methods that will allow a country’s lands to stay healthy, resulting in more food production in the long run. Azerbaijan recognizes that one of its struggles is the sustainability of its natural land ecosystems. The government claims there is not a high awareness among the general population about protecting the environment, which poses a barrier in progressing with the SDGs. Fortunately, there has been a recent push to engage the population with the first national innovative contest in which young citizens submitted over 220 proposals with economic and sustainability solutions. With initiatives and positive mindsets like these, Azerbaijan is getting closer to its zero hunger goal.

  1. Azerbaijan has historically been an agricultural country with a high percentage of genetic diversity in its local seeds and plants. However, the country produces only 15-20 percent locally, while the rest come from imported plants. This poses a risk to food security, so the U.N. created a three-part program in November 2016 to protect biodiversity and increase food production. This is a five-year plan that should end by December 2021. The U.N. hopes that the construction of bigger agricultural institutions and the improvement of the skills of local farmers will allow for the planting of crops from native species.

  1. So far in the first year of the agrobiodiversity program, two field gene banks have emerged for cereal plants and forage crops, and there has been an increase in wheat varieties (1.5 percent), vegetable crops (0.7 percent) and forage crops (0.3 percent). The Agrarian Science and Informational Consulting Services buildings received vital repair works that will enable the institution to host farming seminars. Most importantly, two vegetable farmer-farmer networks constructed in the Goranboy region. The next steps will be to maintain the established field gene banks and the specified, conserved farm areas. While Azerbaijan is meeting these goals, the country will continue to grow the farmer networks it developed to teach them sustainable farming techniques with native crop species. The program will release more information regarding the number of farmers involved and the areas it reaches once the U.N.’s baseline study finishes.

  2. In Azerbaijan’s Shaki region, over half the population works in agriculture, contributing to 14 percent of the country’s wheat harvest. Since this region plays a vital role in Azerbaijan’s food production, the country intends to implement another agricultural program the UNDP Agro-Biodiversity funded to introduce new technology to traditional practices. In 2019, farmers are receiving new irrigation methods, small grants and training in the Shaki region. UNDP predicts that after receiving these resources, farmers can efficiently harvest more produce using less water. There will be economic benefits that enable farmers to buy more food themselves while providing more food for citizens. So far, four farming families have changed their irrigation methods to the drop-by-drop system and are using fewer pesticides.

With the rise of innovative programs and worldwide discussions, Azerbaijan has improved the state of its population’s hunger levels. By working with the United Nations and UNICEF, the country has been able to incorporate important research regarding child nutrition and farming techniques into achievable goals and programs. These 10 facts about hunger in Azerbaijan show the government’s dedication to further reducing hunger levels through educational resources and economic changes.

– Jane Burgan
Photo: Flickr

 

poverty-fighting advances in agricultureAdvances in agriculture are key to both reducing world poverty and maintaining the health of the planet. A 2016 study by the World Bank Group found that 65 percent of adults living in poverty support themselves through agriculture. Additionally, economic growth in the agriculture sector has two to four times the potential to raise income among the world’s poor than growth in any other sector.

However, for all the benefits of agriculture, the industry can also be harmful to the planet. Agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of freshwater use and 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So, it is important for small farmers to utilize advancements that minimize pollution and waste while cutting costs and increasing yields. These six poverty-fighting advances in agriculture and technology are key ways for poor farmers to achieve both of these goals.

6 Poverty-Fighting Advances in Agriculture

  1. One way for farmers to increase crop yields and decrease costs is through Fertilizer Deep Placement (FDP). FDP involves condensing fertilizer into bricks that are then placed a few inches under ground. The bricks then slowly dissolve, giving important nutrients to crops. Because the fertilizer is under the soil surface, fewer nutrients are lost to runoff. It also saves labor by ensuring that crops receive nutrients continuously, without farmers having to repeatedly apply fertilizer. A study conducted in Bangladesh in 2015 showed that using FDP increased rice crop yields by 15-20 percent over an average of three years.
  2. Reducing pesticide and herbicide use can both benefit the environment and save costs. One way farmers can reduce their use is by treating seeds instead of mature plants. When this method is used, the chemicals become incorporated into the plants themselves. In contrast to traditional methods, this means that there is no risk of the chemicals ending up in nearby rivers and streams, and it saves supplies and reduces pollution.
  3. Multiple mobile apps also help farmers better care for their crops and livestock. For instance, the Farming Instructor app provides agricultural knowledge to farmers via text, audio and animations. The app also allows farmers to share tips and information with each other. Another app called Hello Tractor allows farmers to cheaply rent tractors as needed, instead of having to purchase one. So far, 22,500 farmers have utilized the startup, which says its customers had a 200 percent increase in crop yields.
  4. Refrigeration is an important resource that prevents crop spoilage during transportation and allows families to store food. This means subsistence farmers have enough to eat even during dry periods and can spend less time gathering food. Refrigeration also lengthens the shelf-life of vaccines and medicines. Advancements like solar-powered refrigerators are making refrigeration available to more and more rural farmers.
  5. Precision agriculture uses tools like drones, robots, satellites and large-scale data gathering to determine the optimal levels of water and fertilizer for each individual plant. This holistic method has the potential to greatly increase crop yields and make farming more environmentally friendly by reducing waste. Precision agriculture has already been used with much success in North America and Europe. Spotty internet connection has limited its introduction to developing countries. However, programs in India and Vietnam have seen success. Benefits for rural farmers include increased crop yield, reduced costs, more market opportunities, more free time and a reduced gender income gap.
  6. Often, small scale farmers in remote regions have to travel long distances to buy seeds and fertilizer, much of which can be prohibitively expensive. To address this problem, NGOs such as Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) support and train local networks of agro-dealers. These agro-dealers sell farming supplies cheaply and in small quantities suitable for small-scale subsistence farmers. They can also provide veterinary support, mechanical fixes and training, and marketing.

Small farms face more and more challenges from problems like desertification, drought and the spread of pests and diseases. With these poverty-fighting advances in agriculture, farmers are better prepared to meet the challenges and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

Top Seven Blockchain Projects
Traditional perceptions of blockchain technology involve uses in financial technology and under the table transactions. Blockchain, however, has possibilities far beyond finance and digital currency. By its nature, blockchain provides unparalleled security and transparency. By creating a decentralized network of highly-encrypted blocks, a blockchain system creates a secure, unchangeable ledger. No one person can make changes and the encryption means that it is extremely difficult to hack, thus making blockchain one of the most secure and transparent technologies in the world. This technology has the power to revolutionize poverty reduction. Below are the top seven blockchain projects that represent the most successful blockchain for poverty projects that address real, pressing global issues.

Top 7 Blockchain Projects for Poverty

  1. Agri-Wallet: Agri-Wallet is a mobile app that allows farmers to remotely and securely receive payment for their produce and save money on business expenses. The majority of smallholder farmers do not have enough funding, both due to delayed payments for goods and a lack of access to credit. This is because banks are hesitant to lend to poor farmers that do not have a strong credit history or collateral. Through the blockchain financial ecosystem, Agri-Wallet allows farmers access to small loans and guarantees payment the first week of every month, which has been a major boon to Kenyan farmers. Agri-Wallet has already seen extensive success in Kenya, with approximately 4,000 farmers, 14 suppliers and 25 buyers using the app only one year after its large-scale release.
  2. Mojaloop: In developed countries, some may take access to banking for granted, but 1.7 million adults around the world do not have access to a secure banking system. The Gates Foundation sought to change this by releasing Mojaloop, an open-source solution that allows anyone to build financial services software, providing financial security through blockchain-based encryption. The key to Mojaloop’s importance is its egalitarian nature – a developer does not have to be connected to a major company or bank to develop technology using Mojaloop, and the code bridges all financial products and applications in any given market, providing unprecedented access to financial services for poor populations. The app has already gained the confidence of two of Africa’s largest mobile operators and the Gates Foundation estimates that it will reach 338 million existing mobile money accounts through the entire continent of Africa. In other words, this blockchain for poverty app could provide a flexible, universal banking system to 338 million people in Africa.
  3. Diwala: As of June 2019, there are more than 70 million displaced people worldwide fleeing war, persecution and conflict. The ability to join the workforce of refugee’s new home is critical for their integration into their new community and to rebuild their lives. However, when fleeing a war-torn country, it is difficult for refugees to retain certifications or diplomas. Diwala provides a secure, unchangeable digital resume that verifies a person’s skills, education and certifications that employers can rely on to provide an accurate record. The organization currently works with multiple organizations and universities to help issue credentials via Diwala to further verify education and certifications. Diwala is already bringing digital employment verification to Kenya and Uganda.
  4. BitGive: BitGive’s goal is to provide better transparency and accountability between donors and charitable organizations. The company’s blockchain for poverty product, GiveTrack™, allows donors to trace their donations in real-time to see exactly where their money goes. BitGive’s use of blockchain technology provides high-level security while also providing an unalterable ledger that donors can refer to at any time to ensure their money goes to the cause they want and see the real impact they are having on a community. The use of cryptocurrency also means that BitGive can quickly and efficiently transfer funds across the globe. The organization has seen amazing success, including partnerships with Save the Children and The Water Project.
  5. Goodr: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans waste approximately 30-40 percent of the U.S. food supply, while 820 million people around the world suffer from hunger. Goodr provides blockchain-based supply chain management tools that allow companies, such as airlines, convention centers and other food operations, to redirect surplus foods to food-insecure communities. As an added incentive, Goodr provides companies with blockchain-based ledgers that allow them to track their food and identify areas of waste. During the 2019 Superbowl alone, Goodr rescued over 100,000 pounds of food.
  6. OneSmart: The World Bank considers government corruption a significant challenge in reducing global poverty, particularly because corruption disproportionately affects poor populations. In 2018, UNICEF funded OneSmart’s OS City project to combat corruption and bring more transparency to local and national governments. OneSmart created a blockchain platform that is flexible enough to be integrated with existing city management platforms, allowing for the implementation of blockchain and artificial intelligence throughout government to avoid waste and increase transparency.
  7. SOLshare: SOLshare seeks to help the 1.1 million people worldwide without consistent access to electricity. It is the first-ever peer-to-peer electricity trading network, allowing villages to create mini-power grids by connecting houses with solar panels to other homes in the neighborhood. The blockchain-based platform allows for the fast, efficient and safe transfer of funds between neighbors, allowing for local, independent electricity grids. SOLshare has already brought electricity to 65 million people in Bangladesh and is helping helps poor villages shape a greener future.

People limit the use of blockchain technology by relegating it to banking or shady online transactions alone. The above top seven blockchain projects show that blockchain has value as a tool to develop solutions for multiple global issues. A blockchain is a useful tool that can address multifaceted issues in fighting poverty. Though it is still an emerging technology, blockchain deserves widespread research and support.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in MaliA land-locked country in West Africa, Mali has an economy that is primarily based on agriculture. The main crops produced are millet, rice and corn. However, this country-wide reliance on agriculture depends on the weather, which often includes unpredictable rainfall patterns. Inconsistent agricultural production, high population growth and increasing desertification are some of the causal factors that have resulted in the country’s ranking 182nd out of 189 countries in the world on the Human Development Index. Malnutrition also happens to be one of the leading causes of death in Mali. Because of this, many NGOs and governments around the world have funded programs in Mali to help improve living conditions and decrease malnutrition.

Political Instability

Aside from agricultural issues, political instability has also led to severe malnutrition in Mali. Recently, USAID predicted that an additional 868,000 people will require urgent food assistance in 2019. Of these 868,000, 160,000 will be children. Children who are malnourished are at high risk of growth deficiencies; as such, many children in Mali are severely underdeveloped with regards to their height and weight.

Current and Past Progress

However, some progress has been made. From 2006 to 2013, thinness among women of reproductive age and adolescent women decreased by 2 and 4 percent, respectively. Additionally, the prevalence of underweight children (under the age of 5), decreased from 14 percent to 13 percent. Although this may not seem like a significant statistical improvement, 1 percent of the population of children under 5 years old (3.33 million) represents 33,300 children, indicating that progress has been made towards reducing malnutrition in Mali.

In 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama started the Feed the Future initiative, a U.S. funded foreign assistance program that targets specific countries to alleviate global poverty and improve food security. As one of 12 countries selected to receive aid, Mali continues to benefit from the implementation of environmental and nutritional plans. The country has begun to invest in fertilizers in farms across the nation to improve the quality of crop production, and an additional 4.3 million trees have been planted around the country to help make farms more resilient. Additionally, the initiative has encouraged farmers to plant oilseeds, which they can sell for people to use as biofuel and soap. As a result of all of this, the Feed the Future initiative has provided nutritional and humanitarian assistance to millions of individuals in Mali.

Other USAID programs have proven to be of great help in Mali as well, such as the Food for Peace program which has provided $28.5 million of emergency food assistance in the Mopti, Koulikoro and Segou Regions. The program aims to increase the diversity of foods consumed in these regions to decrease malnutrition and make the population healthier.

Today, the Office of Food for Peace (FFP), an organization within USAID, partners with the U.N. World Food Programme, U.N. Children’s Fund and CARE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending world poverty, to provide food assistance in the poorest regions of Mali. As of July 2019, FFP assists 300,000 people with food distributions, supplemental nutrition assistance and asset-building activities. 33,000 severely malnourished children have received ready-to-use food and 124,000 people in the Mopti Region have been provided with programs to improve food security, promote hygiene and provide conflict support.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr