Information and stories about agriculture.

Farming in Nigeria
Farming in Nigeria makes up a significant part of the Nigerian economy with agriculture accounting for more than 20% of the country’s gross domestic product. However, even with the large number of people who make a living by farming, around 20 million people are facing unemployment in the country. With this in mind, Kola Masha set out to create an enterprise that would promote farming in Nigeria while also reducing the rate of unemployment. This goal led to the founding of Babban Gona, an enterprise Masha hoped would change the world of Nigerian farming for the better.

Poverty in Nigeria

As of 2018, approximately 82 million Nigerians were living in poverty, which is defined as living on $1.90 a day or less. The population of Nigeria is approximately 200 million, meaning about 40% of Nigerians are living in poverty. There are many reasons for the high poverty rate in Nigeria. The social unrest in the country as well as the regional inequality between Northern and Southern Nigeria both contribute to the poverty rate. However, one of the most critical reasons for the large number of people living in poverty is the lack of job opportunities.

Babban Gona

Faced with the growing unemployment rate of Nigeria, Kola Masha decided to found Babban Gona in 2012. The goal of the enterprise is to create more jobs by expanding crop production in rural areas of Nigeria. It focuses mostly on maize production and farming in Nigeria. The organization is currently working towards the goal of creating 10 million jobs by 2030. Though no easy feat, Babban Gona has gotten a good head start, as it already has over 100,000 members in six different Nigerian states. Masha believes that agriculture is the industry best fit for job expansion in Nigeria and is extremely hopeful that the industry will help create many more jobs.

The ‘Great Farm’ and What it Does

Babban Gona, which translates to “great farm” in Hausa language, works by providing its members with different farming-related aides that will help enhance their crop production. The company focuses on financial services, agricultural input services, training and development and marketing services. Once a farmer becomes a member of Babban Gona, they automatically have access to training that will ensure they are using the best techniques possible.

Agents of Babban Gona often teach members about water retention, seed planting and sustainable farming, among other essential farming methods. Babban Gona also provides members with storage facilities during the harvest season, which keeps crops from wasting and teaches their members about marketing. The enterprise also provides its members with access to much-need credit services. With funding by many different agencies and governments, including the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the German government, Babban Gona is able to stay alive and continue to help its current members, as well as take in new ones.

Babban Gona is a revolutionary enterprise that is working hard to reduce unemployment and encourage agriculture in Nigeria. Through services like training, food storage and financial help, the organization is dedicated to helping its members excel. Babban Gona is changing farming in Nigeria by providing its members with invaluable skills that will no doubt benefit them for a lifetime, while also proving that ambitious ideas can become reality with some hard work and the right mindset.

– Paige MusgravePhoto: Pixabay

In Tajikistan, irrigation of agriculture is not only vital for food security, but also for economic development. With agriculture contributing to almost 20% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and the livelihood of half of the workforce, water resource management is important in maintaining food security, employment and economic development. However, more than half the country lives on $3.10 per day, and the value of output produced per cubic meter of irrigation remains very low, leading to stressed water resources and food insecurity. Assitance for agriculture projects in Tajikistan is critical to strengthen the economy and livelihoods of its citizens.

The World Bank PAMP II Project

The World Bank has implemented agriculture projects in Tajikistan, such as the Second Public Employment for Sustainable Agriculture and Water Resources Management Project (PAMP II), working closely with the Tajikistan government to support water resource management and increase crop yields.

The objectives of PAMP II are the following:

  • Give people experiencing food insecurity employment through the building of drainage and irrigation infrastructure.
  • Scale up the production of crops as a result of improved drainage and irrigation systems.
  • Provide support for the creation of better institutions and policies for water resource management.
  • Improve the availability of food and accessibility for people in rural areas with low incomes.

The project’s components include public works and rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage infrastructure, assistance in water resource management and project management.

Daler Abdurazoqzoda with the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources stated that “The World Bank’s support allowed us to advance all aspects of water sector reform – infrastructure, institutions and legislation.”

Additionally, in 2020, the Tajikistan government implemented a new law for Water Users Associations, establishing community-based organizations as part of irrigation governance and empowering them to provide better service to farmers. With this, more than 130 Water Users Associations strengthened to improve the management of on-farm irrigation and drainage infrastructure.

USAID Support

Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also recently implemented agriculture projects in Tajikistan. In Khatlon, nearly 83% of the population works in agriculture. However, households remain poor, food-insecure and malnourished. Over the last four years, the USAID’s Feed the Future Tajikistan Agriculture and Water Activity has provided support to more than 140,000 households. According to the USAID, the program has provided “short-term agricultural sector productivity and food security training, support with improved technologies and management practices for 127,250 women across the Khatlon Province.”

Other benefits of this support include the introduction of new crops, installation of irrigation water measuring devices and enhanced livestock genetics. For smallholder farmers, gross margins increased by 194% and sales reached $3 million. By implementing projects in Tajikistan, the USAID largely contributed to poverty reduction and increased education and nutrition in the country.

Other Support Projects in Tajikistan

In addition, the World Bank continues to provide support for other projects in Tajikistan as well, such as the CASA1000 Project, Social Safety Net Strengthening Project and 14 other projects with commitments of $625 million. These projects provide other services and infrastructure that are also critical to the country. The CASA1000 project in Tajikistan, for example, will invest in improving local infrastructure and public services by financing the rehabilitation and upgrade of village-level electricity infrastructure and equipment to increase the reliability and quality of electricity services.

As projects like these continue throughout Tajikistan, they will contribute to the livelihood of citizens across the entire country, reducing poverty levels and providing necessary knowledge and support for long-term infrastructure.

– Tiffany Hill
Photo: Flickr

Apps Improving Agriculture in Africa
As Africa moves towards a knowledge-based economy, the development of new smartphone apps is paving the way for agricultural improvements. Apps have the potential to create lower prices for consumers. They also help farmers utilize production to maximize the amount they produce. Conventional models often lead farmers down the wrong path due to false information. As a result, fake and unrecommended seeds increase in growth. Luckily, there are several smartphone apps improving agriculture in Africa.

Benefits of Apps over Conventional Models

Apps have the ability to improve data and provide feedback from each harvest. This data improves democratization and informs policies to improve the livelihood of small farmers. Mobile apps also have the ability to allow children of farmers to take over the business from elderly parents. An emerging trend shows young people beginning to view agriculture as uninteresting and inefficient. They often also hold the view that a career in agriculture has no chance of upward social mobility. As a result, the average age of African farmers is 60. In contrast, the median age on the continent is 19. The digitization of agriculture is securing the future of Africa as a whole, making sure that the growing young population is not only willing to take over the business, but also has security in doing so. Apps also help improve the value chain. Farmers often have no connection to buyers. Furthermore, they are frequently unaware of pricing and conditions that exist on the market outside their own crop. This results in price insufficiency and insecurity. Utilizing apps geared towards improving agriculture, however, creates a more organized and interconnected value chain. This, in turn, moves Africa away from a fragmented supply and demand system.


One such app revolutionizing farming is GeoFarmer. Using internet communication technology (ICT), farmers can manage their farm and crop by communicating their overall experiences with other farmers and experts. This free-flowing communication allows farmers to learn from the positive and negative experiences of others, better improve their yield and reduce risk. Many ICT programs are still out of reach to a large portion of farmers due to usability issues and cost. GeoFarmer, however, is a cost-effective alternative to this. Farmers can use the app offline or in rural areas with poor service. By using near real-time, two-way data services, farmers are able to co-innovate and improve their performance.

Pix Fruit

Pix Fruit is an app that CIRAD and the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research developed jointly. The app cuts down the length of the supply chain, resulting in the ability to lower the cost for consumers. When farming fruit such as mangoes, farmers estimate their crop by guessing the amount of fruit on a plantation by counting a single tree and applying it to the entire farm. Pix Fruit’s research team noted that the margin for error for this method could be as much as a factor of 10. This means that farmers lose out on a large portion of their profit by not having an efficient counting method. Pix Fruit’s solution is simple. Farmers first take a photo of the fruit on a selection of trees using their smartphone. The app then uses fruit-recognition technology–in collaboration with data from drones that have information on climate, sale constraints and soil–to calculate the probable overall harvest. This technology helps farmers know the true value of their crop. This results in an increase in farmers’ ability to bargain for a fair price.


TruTrade is another of the apps improving agriculture in Africa. This app seeks to help provide fair prices to farmers. With focuses on Uganda and Kenya, TruTrade is a resource for farmers to learn about the true value of their crops and market pricing points. The app also provides information on new consumer markets. Furthermore, it works as a payment transaction system. Because of the mobile payment system, women have said that the app helps them feel more empowered because they are no longer afraid of someone robbing them while carrying cash to the market. TruTrade’s mission is to create viable village agent sourcing networks that can broker deals on behalf of small-scale farmers. Farmers bring their crop to a collection point, where someone weighs the crop and checks it for quality. TruTrade then pays the farmer directly to their mobile device. After the farmer receives payment, TruTrade delivers the final product to the buyer.

The Road Ahead

GeoFarmer, Pix Fruit and TruTrade are just a few of the many apps improving agriculture in Africa. While developers are still figuring out ways to make ICT products available to all farmers across Africa, many have taken great strides to create a more interconnected system, which in the end benefits both the buyer and the seller.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Milpa farms
For more than 4,000 years, the Mayan practice of milpa farming has thrived in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Now, researchers believe that studying milpa farms could offer new solutions to many of the lingering problems plaguing modern agriculture.

An Ancient Practice

The milpa system’s origins lie in the ancient domestication of maize. Maize, also known as corn, is a particularly nutritious grain that rapidly became the staple crop of the Americas. From tortillas to popcorn, maize offers a wealth of different uses even today, making it widely appreciated for its versatility.

A key difference that sets maize apart from other grains like wheat and rice is that maize is open-pollinated, meaning that it relies on the wind for its dissemination. In practical terms, this means that maize can spread its seeds around a wider, less restricted area. Thus, maize often grows in mixed fields alongside other plants like beans and squash, practicing a kind of mutualism.

Maize benefits from the presence of the beans, for example, whose roots process the nitrogen in the soil that maize requires, while the beans themselves gain the opportunity to climb the tall maize stalks and soak-in the sun. Observing this natural pattern, Mesoamericans extended the concept to their own fields of maize, creating the first milpa farms.

How Milpa Works

So, what is it that makes milpa farms so sustainable? In a word: diversity. Modern agricultural techniques typically rely on rotating fields of single-crop yields, which, while productive, place enormous stress on the soil. Over time, as repeated cultivation leads to intensifying erosion, the fields become less capable of absorbing the nutrients necessary to sustain healthy crops. Milpa farms avoid this problem by hosting an assortment of different crops within the same field. This mimics the real-life diversity that exists in nature.

In a traditional milpa farm, farmers plant around a dozen crop varieties simultaneously (most commonly maize, beans and squash). Because each plant provides the nutrients that another requires, the soil never fully depletes. As a result, there exist fields in Central America which have seen continuous cultivation for 4,000 years without a loss of productivity, something unheard of in other parts of the world

Benefits of Milpa Farms

The milpa’s enduring success has led researchers in recent years to turn to it as a potential model for tackling some of the biggest problems facing modern agriculture. Indeed, while it is unlikely that the milpa’s exact circumstances can function on an industrial scale, researchers believe that further study could potentially lead to major improvements in the way farms operate.

For one, the genetic diversity of the crops the milpa produces brings with it comparative advantages. Crop varieties that have seen traditional use in milpa farms are known for their tolerance and highly resilient nature. This helps them overcome pests, competition and resource limitation in a way that less-diverse modern varieties struggle with. Additionally, as this is process done without need of fertilizer or pesticides, it also prevents pollution of nearby groundwater. This makes it easier for local populations to maintain access to clean drinking water.

Tackling Food Insecurity in Mexico

While a full shift from modern agricultural techniques remains infeasible at the moment, researchers believe that strategic adoption of the milpa system could offer a potential solution to some of the food security issues that plague modern Mexico, where more than 10 percent of the population lacks access to adequate food supply.

For one, small farmers who operate traditional milpa farms are typically far more self-sufficient than those who use the alternative. Furthermore, a lack of need for expensive modern fertilizers and machinery makes milpa more cost-effective for those in Mexico’s impoverished rural regions.

Most crucially, however, milpa farms also require significantly less land than the large-scale industrial efforts that dominate Mexican agriculture. In a country increasingly pressed to make efficient use of its land resources, strategic adoption of the milpa system could benefit millions of Mexicans.

James Roark
Photo: Wikimedia

Benefits of FecovitaFecovita stands for the Federation of Argentine Viticulture Cooperatives; this group comprises 5,000 winegrowers that makeup 29 cooperatives. This group’s control of the wine market totals at 22 percent, with it owning roughly 30,000 hectares of land as of 2015 and producing over 260 million liters of wine in 2014. There are many benefits of Fecovita throughout Argentina. 

Fairtrade Advantages

The wineries that benefit from Fecovita operate as officially recognized Fairtrade producers. In this case, Fairtrade is an accredited certification company that works to provide a more equitable trade system for farmers and workers across the globe. Only four countries out of the 50 wine-producing countries in the world adopt Fairtrade labeling for their wine products including South Africa, Lebanon, Chile and Argentina.

Fairtrade labeling in Argentina has led to a floor price for grapes, which allows farmers to receive proper wages as well as improvements in farming practices, education and health care. As a result of Fairtrade labeling, workers have also been able to receive eye and dental care, help with nutrition and even community support for schools and health centers. 

Additional Benefits of Fecovita

The wine industry in Argentina has grown to thrive off of the foreign market. The Federation has provided small cooperatives with a seat at the negotiating table with much larger foreign and domestic wineries. As of 2015, Mendoza, a province to the west of Buenos Aires, supplied 70 percent of the world’s Malbec, becoming a massive wine influencer. Although reliance on exporting wine creates a sensitive reaction to the global economy, cooperatives and the contratista (contractor) system have helped to shield workers from this instability.

The contratista system entitles workers to a percentage of total grape sales every year, providing a voice when the meetings occur. Viñasol, an association of small wine companies, has used the extra profits that Fairtrade obtained for computer education for the children of the contract workers and also gave some money to a worker who was constructing a home for his family.  

Additionally, to ensure the production of quality products, Fecovita offers education and technical assistance. Some examples include the purchase of equipment, fertilizers and pesticides for individual members. The Federation also offers to local cooperatives for other necessary equipment, such as netting to prevent hail damage. Further, the cooperatives are able to transport the wine to the bottling facility just outside of Mendoza without cost.

All of these services come at a high cost that the cooperatives would not be able to afford without the support from key investors. Due to these investments, there are profound benefits to Fecovita. 

Altogether, the benefits of Fecovita have provided smaller vineyards and wineries the leverage needed to greatly impact markets and the support required to maintain stability for the businesses and the workers.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in the DesertThe desert is an ecosystem that does not have adequate moisture and nutrients to grow food. People living in these areas often rely heavily on food imports because of this lack of fertile soil. Approximately 5 percent of land in the Middle East and North Africa regions has sufficient amounts of water. That small amount of viable land has suffered mismanagement, resulting in shortages and limitations in agricultural regrowth after natural disasters and war. Fortunately, scientists and organizations around the world are developing ways to boost food security in the desert. Luckily, there are two programs in Syria and the United Arab Emirates that are attempting to feed people in arid regions.

Hydroponics in Syria

The prolonged war in Syria has destroyed the once-booming agricultural industry, diminishing food security in the desert. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated the loss of the agricultural exports sector to be around $16 billion. This number does not include the destruction of fertile land and crops that fed the people of Syria.

British scientists brought green technologies to Syrian refugee camps to promote food security in the desert. Through these programs, refugees learn how to grow crops where fertilized soil is not available. This process uses recycled materials like mattresses; another process uses an indoor planting technique called hydroponics. Hydroponics is a growing technique that uses nutrient-rich water mixtures instead of soil to grow fruits and vegetables.

These projects allow people in refugee camps to become self-sufficient in terms of agriculture. Individuals can use these skills for future gardening and farming once resettled. The project has taught almost 1,000 people sustainable agriculture practices such as growing tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in refugee camps. Using technologies to grow vegetables in places with infertile land will help individuals and countries develop sustainability.

Pure Harvest in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The United Arab Emirates has a climate of severe heat. The high temperatures and harsh conditions present serious issues for conventional farming methods. Due to this extreme climate, the country imports roughly 80 percent of the total amount of food consumed. The emergence of sustainable and innovative agriculture occurred from the need for alternative farming methods.

Pure Harvest began the pursuit of climate-controlled hydroponic greenhouses in 2016. This company aims to help the UAE become more self-sufficient in the government’s efforts to improve food security in the desert. In 2018, the company’s soccer field-sized facility in the Abu Dhabi desert produced its first tomato plants. Since then, it has produced approximately two tons of tomatoes per day.

The success of the first greenhouse has gained positive attention around the world. More desert communities are interested in building greenhouses to increase food security in the desert. Not only do these greenhouses allow crops to grow in arid parts of the world, but they are also producing enough of a surplus to create an agricultural market economy to the desert.

The war-torn areas and severe climates pose threats to food security in the desert, and technology is a crucial tool for mitigating these threats. Innovative methods such as hydroponics in refugee camps and building greenhouses on infertile land are just the start of a transformation that will provide more self-sufficiency and food security in the desert.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty in Nepal
Nepal is a beautiful country and mountains make up most of its terrain. Though the topography of the country adds to its magnificence as it sits atop the Himalayas, it also complicates travel, communication and distribution of resources. Nepal is mostly rural, as more than 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture for survival. Social evils like caste discrimination, youth delinquencies, socially excluded indigenous people and sex and human trafficking also plague the country. Consequently, measures to alleviate poverty in Nepal are increasingly challenging to implement. One heartening fact is that technology is slowly creeping into this vastly rural country and gradually aiding the mitigation of poverty in Nepal. Here are the top four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal.

The Top 4 Technological Developments to Alleviate Poverty in Nepal

  1. Medical Cargo Drones: Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death due to infectious diseases in Nepal, and it affects 70 percent of the country’s population. Most of the health care facilities are remote and inaccessible by road, and the testing labs are only in the major cities. Hence WeRobotics teamed up with Nepal Flying Labs and various other funding organizations to develop medical cargo drones. These cargo drones collect sputum samples from the affected people in remote areas and send them to distant health care facilities for rapid testing. These drones delivered the samples in 25 minutes, whereas it took two to three days before. By October 9, 2019, 150 drones had carried more than 1,000 samples from health posts in remote villages to two central health care facilities. These drones have helped diagnose and treat the disease quickly. The government is seeking to develop this technology to control TB in other remote areas of the country soon.
  2. Baby Warmers: In the initial days after birth, babies need to keep warm to avoid contracting pneumonia or hypothermia. Between 63 and 85 percent of newborn deaths are due to hypothermia. Hence a group of biomedical engineers has put together a baby warmer using a ceramic heater connected to a parabolic reflector to reflect the heat towards the bassinet. The assembly parts and the developers are local to the region, and hence these baby warmers are affordable and easy to manufacture to maintain the neonatal health of newborn babies even in rural areas of the country. The Kirtipur hospital in Kathmandu has implemented this technology since January 4, 2020. The National Innovation Center of Nepal is working with the government on manufacturing and distributing more baby warmers soon.
  3. Krishi Gyan Kendra: Krishi Gyan Kendra is a research center located in the Agricultural Development Offices of various districts to connect the researchers with the local farmers. It follows the Krishi Vigyan Kendra of India as a model. Teams of researchers do onsite research on locally cultivated crops and soil to find new ways to improve cropping, processing and marketing practices. These centers act as knowledge resource bases for the local farmers so they can learn how to use modern technology. These also serve as open laboratories for the farmers themselves. Additionally, they also act as information centers providing pieces of information such as what crop might offer a better yield at a particular season and location and what the amount of rainfall will be at different times. This has helped the farmers make informed decisions and adopt better farming practices and pieces of equipment. This idea is still in the starting stages in Nepal, but many expect that it will be as successful as it was in India.
  4. Interactive Digital Soil Maps: Initiatives in Nepal have collected extensive data regarding the soil nature of the country and digitized it into interactive maps using satellite imagery. Certain types of soil are more suited for certain kinds of crops, and the land usage pattern and groundwater table levels can also determine the fertility of a region. Using these digital maps, a person standing in any area within the data range can instantly know about the soil properties of the soil he is standing on, such as its nature, its fertility, the ideal crops that might give the maximum yield in that soil and the soil management techniques ideal for that soil. Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, along with the National Agricultural Research Council (NARC), developed this mobile-friendly technology. They are actively gathering soil data for more regions of the country in order to update it.

These four technological developments to alleviate poverty in Nepal show incredible promise for the country. Irrespective of the drawbacks that might hold Nepal back, its people’s untamed spirits are always on the path to catch up with the scientific and technological innovations and developments of the modern world to better their country and themselves.

– Nirkkuna Nagaraj
Photo: Unsplash

Locust Swarms in China
The beginning of 2020 has definitely been challenging for East Africa and South Asia because sweeping locust swarms struck agricultural production and threatened food security in those areas. China has been suffering from a similar situation, as it loses over 10 million hectares of crops annually from locust swarms. Locust swarms in China have led to it having some expertise in dealing with them, though. In fact, in the nearest decade, China has efficiently lowered the frequency of locust swarms and freed vast acres of land from them. Updated technologies have aided the fight against the locust swarms. Here are some of the hallmarks that make China stand out in the fight against locust swarms.

China’s National Campaign and Societal Engagement

One can trace the modern engagement of prevention and control of the locust swarms in China to land reform in 1950. Before China enacted its government-led afforestation, the local government effectively mobilized farmers to fight the locust swarms with the use of man-powered tools, minimal technology and scientific methods. However, this process clearly expressed that China would not succeed in its fight against locust swarms without massive societal involvement.

Societal engagement seems subtle compared with actual scientific studies about reducing locust swarms. Continuous alerts to the public regarding the seriousness of the locust invasion is the primary form of engagement. The database of the People’s Daily, a Chinese official newspaper, gives at least 270 news headlines mentioning damage or potential risk of the locust swarms in China each year from 1946 to 2019. Public awareness has yet to ease in regards to outbreaks of the locust swarms in China.

Besides the publicity, environmental education opens another gate for nationwide and generationwide involvement. At the state level, the progress of environmental education directly promotes the cultivation of a new generation of professionals who will work in the prevention and control of the locust swarms in the country. At the college level, over 200 universities and 44,000 students prepared to provide support with expertise contributions in 2012.

This nationwide campaign has evolved in the new era. For example, Ant Forest, launched by Ant Financial Service Group, has planted 122 million trees through societal environmental involvement. Ant Forest achieved the massive tree plantation through a 200 million user base and ease of access from users’ smartphones. People who would not touch environmental issues before can involve themselves more easily.

Inter-Agencies Arrangement

In addition to societal involvement, China has also demonstrated a rigid systematic intervention, which should ensure the enforcement and delivery of policies in any local area. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MoA) is not only in charge of the prevention and control of the locust swarms in China but also has to coordinate with agencies such as the General Administration of Customs. One short answer to such a setup of complex agencies is the need to implement continuously improved strategies against the locust swarms. 

Some researchers have suggested that gaining knowledge about locusts in addition to the implementation of more efficient control techniques would decrease the destruction of locust swarms in China. Another research group found that human activities, such as deforestation and desertification, highly synchronize with the outbreak of the locust swarms in China. Overexploitation of the arable lands and grasslands in Northwest China used to cause the degradation of the land and therefore make them habitable for locusts. Due to such a phenomenon, working with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) is one of MoA’s immediate priorities.

One of the successful examples is the Three-North Shelter Forest Program. Despite the program not specifically aiming to reduce locust swarm damage, the program contributed to the total coverage of forest from less than 17 percent to nearly 23 percent. This increase tightened the space for the reproduction of the locust swarms and blocked the invading path. Other projects in flood control or grazing management also support the prevention of the locust swarms in China.


In short, massive social involvement makes the prevention and control of locust swarms a different game in China. Successful publicity mobilized a vast number of the people and the form of the national campaign injected enough attention to resolving the issue with maximized resources. The younger generation has a better understanding of the issue via intensive environmental education. Also, the environmental concept has deeply penetrated ordinary people’s perception because of the broad coverage of easy access, such as smartphones and online services. 

The benefit of these methods to decrease locust swarms in China is clear. On one hand, individuals have taken on the task of protecting and restoring the environment. On the other hand, this allows China to push new policies in environmental protection more easily, especially when the policy is in conflict with the fundamental way of living for people like farmers and nomads. 

A strong institutional arrangement also backs up the enforcement of the policy. It provides China with alternative tools in disaster management and has ultimately reduced the vulnerability of a sole emergency management strategy. By consolidating the collaboration of multiple systems, China is capable of stepping far beyond the boundary of passive defense to engage issues in advance. Therefore, for the African and other locust suffering countries, the key to the reduction of locust swarms may be in a different direction than relying on technology alone.

– Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in Mali
Mali is a subsistence farming-based economy in West Africa. Approximately 80 percent of the population works in the agriculture industry, yet low productivity, natural disasters and poor crop yields prevent many Malians from rising out of poverty. The 40 percent poverty rate includes farmers that rely on outdated farming techniques for their livelihoods while also depending on favorable crop prices that fluctuate based on Mali’s fragile economy. Since agriculture is the main industry, USAID and the World Bank are working towards agricultural development in Mali.

Importance of Crops

The main crops in Mali are cotton, corn, cereal, peanuts and tobacco. It exports cotton to neighboring countries like Senegal on the Ivory Coast, and various types of cereal remain important due to their ability to withstand droughts. Since the Sahara Desert covers the northern portion of Mali, it is difficult to find suitable land for farming and livestock. Most farmers rely on the Niger River and its surrounding area for fertile land, as about 65 percent of the country is desert or semi-desert.

Mali cultivates less than 5 percent of its land, yet almost half of its GDP is from agriculture. Most of the cultivated land involves various types of cereals, such as sorghum and millet. One issue that affects the agriculture sector in Mali is desertification, which overgrazing livestock, droughts and deforestation can cause. Farmers rely on rainfall, yet rainfall in Mali is rare and droughts are common. Since the agriculture sector in Mali remains the most important industry for the majority of Malians with more than 40 percent of its GDP comprising of the agriculture sector, further agricultural development in Mali could benefit its people and economy by increasing income and reducing poverty.

USAID Projects

As part of its strategy to end world hunger, the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative in Mali focuses on cereal for food security and poverty reduction, as well as rice production to improve income and livestock for food security and another source of income. To date, the Feed the Future initiative has benefitted approximately 500,000 Malians. In 2019, USAID used two methods as part of its Fertilizer Deep-Placement Micro-Dosing. This project aims to improve crop production through fertilizer deep placement and micro-dosing technology. More than 453 jobs emerged in rural areas due to the success of the two productivity methods.

Another project in the Mopti region helped increase farming productivity by 60 percent. The goal of the Large Scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems project was to increase sorghum and millet income. Seed treatment, hybrids of sorghum and millet and soil fertility improvement were among the reasons for the high productivity. Sorghum and millet were the focus crops due to their climate resilience and drought tolerance.

Nah Drame benefitted from the project in the Mopti region after receiving training on fertilizer, irrigation, sowing, land preparation and harvesting. She replicated what she learned on her own five-acre farm. Production and income increased so much that she expanded her farm to 12 acres and hired three employees to help with her expansion. Drame used some of the money she earned to buy clothes and school kits for her grandchildren. She also used the money to help her daughter start a business of her own, and it was all thanks to USAID’s involvement in the agriculture sector in Mali.

The World Bank’s Involvement

The World Bank’s $150 million Fostering Agricultural Productivity Project for Mali began in 2010 with the goal of improving productivity and crop yields. The project proved successful as crop yields increased from 27 million pounds in 2016 to 34 million pounds in 2018. The project also benefitted 668 farms and 4,300 producers in Sabalibougou, and it developed more than 6,600 acres of land for agriculture in M’Bewani and Sabalibougou.

USAID, the World Bank and various other organizations are continually working towards agricultural development in Mali. Economic development is slow, yet improving income for millions of farmers in Mali could help reduce poverty and develop the economy. If more Malians like Nah Drame obtained training on improved farming techniques, an even greater impact could take place, as increased income would help millions afford better education, health care, necessities and many other things that those in developed countries often take for granted.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia

agricultural developmentThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s most recognized foundations. It has a penchant for global awareness unlike any other. Started in 1999, the Gates Foundation has developed into an international organization across five continents and 138 countries. Additionally, the Gates Foundation has amassed an endowment of $46.8 billion. In the past two years alone, the foundation has provided close to $10 billion in direct grantee support. One of the Gates Foundation’s areas of focus is agricultural development in impoverished countries.

Agricultural Development

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded billions in research and grants in support of agricultural development. The vast majority of funds have gone towards making staple crops more resilient, farmers’ education on irrigation and techniques on pest or disease control.

The foundation stands by the idea that livestock offers the chance to improve both income and nutrition for those in poverty or extreme poverty. It also increases the livelihood of women in particular who stand to be the largest group overwhelmed by extreme poverty. Africa, in particular, is the continent with the highest probability in the agricultural sector. In Eastern Africa, more than 70 percent of individuals rely on small farms for both income and sustainment.

Poultry Donation

In a partnership with Heifer International, Bill and Melinda Gates donated 100,000 chickens to sub-Saharan African families, which helped to create a sustainable poultry market in the region. The science behind the donation is evident in the $300 yearly income increase that families who received a chicken saw. This furthers the effort to provide vaccinated chickens suitable to the area and its conditions. The goal is to provide 30 percent of families in the region with vaccinated poultry.

Heifer International and the Gates Foundation have been collaborating for nearly a decade now. Together, they made their first joint investment of $42.8 million an effort to double the income of East African farmers through dairy farming within the span of a decade. The history of both organizations in the region has seen actionable agricultural development from previous successes.

A Chicken’s Impact

When someone in poverty makes just $700 a year, $300 can make a remarkable difference and continue to improve their lives through targeted investments. With the donation of 100,000 chickens, around 2,500 families will be getting groups of 40 vaccinated poultry. By keeping chickens for over a year, many will benefit from eating eggs, which provide much-needed nutrients and protein. Furthermore, farmers can sell their chickens after only six weeks of breeding.

Once again, the Gates Foundation is providing the capital necessary to give projects that may never get off the ground the chance to see their impact on individuals living on less than $2 a day. Within the next year, we will see the Gates Foundation’s impact on 2,500 farmers’ lives as well as the marker of 30 percent of the poultry market being appropriately vaccinated for the region. Projects like these show the impact agricultural development can have on poverty.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay