Information and stories about agriculture.

How Agriculture is Ending Poverty in IndonesiaIndonesia has struggled with poverty since the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. However, the rate of poverty has been steadily decreasing over the years. In 1999, Indonesia’s poverty rate was a staggering 24%. In 2013, it had dropped to 11.4% and in 2019, it stood at 9.4%. Below are the ways agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia.

Palm Oil Production in Indonesia: Providing Jobs and Alleviating Poverty

Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils around the world and is found in half of grocery store items. Its popularity has skyrocketed globally since 1990, with global consumption growing from 14 million tons in 1990 to 63 million tons in 2015, 80% of which is supplied by Indonesia. After the Asian Financial Crisis, millions of Indonesians relied on the palm oil industry to relieve poverty. Between the years 2001 and 2010, 10 million Indonesians saw relief from poverty directly from working in the palm oil industry.

In 2017, 3.8 million Indonesians were working in the palm oil industry. Today,  17 million Indonesians rely on the palm oil industry for work, and 7% of Indonesia’s land is used for its production. Palm oil agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia because it directly helps farmers in rural areas. Indonesia’s rural areas are most affected by poverty. However, by maintaining and increasing funding for palm oil production, families living in these rural regions can lift themselves out of poverty.

Indonesia’s COVID-19 Farmer Support

Farmers in Indonesia play a significant role in stabilizing the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Agriculture saw the necessity of supporting the many farmers of Indonesia—who make up 30% of the population—by providing necessities such as seeds and fertilizer.

The government is also providing 34 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs, or $2,284,494,000, in loan subsidies. The 2.7 million farmers also received 300,000 Indonesian Rupiahs, or $20, which is typically one week of wages, for three months.

USAID: Partnering with Local Farmers

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partners with farmers in Indonesia to help build a better livelihood, reduce poverty and help the economy. USAID ensures that farmers have a consistent supply of necessary resources needed to produce food at a high quality. This food security ensures that people see long-term benefits and avoid issues of malnutrition, weakened immune systems and cognitive health issues. At the same time, USAID is committed to achieving these goals in an environmentally-friendly way.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USAID clarified how its assistance with agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia. USAID gained 2.9 hectares of farmland, which supports the livelihood of 11,400 people. Rubber farmers also received training on environmental sustainability and reducing the risk of forest fires, which have reduced by 74%. Additionally, 30% of farmers are now producing government-certified rubber products at a higher quality, which have increased in price from $0.50/kg to $0.80/kg. In addition, productivity has increased by 2.5%. USAID is focused on long-term goals and is expected to acquire 100 million hectares of forest land by 2030.

Agriculture is ending poverty in Indonesia at such a high rate because the agriculture industry is most effective at raising incomes compared to other industries. In a 2016 study by the World Bank, 65% of impoverished workers were able to make a living by working in agriculture The agriculture industry has made great efforts to eradicate poverty in Indonesia. Improvements in the practices of agriculture have correlated in better incomes and lifestyles for farmers, and are projected to steadily increase.

—Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

African AgribusinessesOn November 30, 2020, USAID announced a joint operation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute $30 million to Aceli Africa to help bridge the financing gap experienced by many African agribusinesses. The grant is estimated to have a tremendous impact and will unlock $700 million in financing for up to 750 African agribusinesses in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Agri-SMEs Lack Financing

Much of Aceli Africa’s work focuses on a data-driven approach to incentivizing financial institutions to provide loans for small and medium-sized African agribusinesses or “agri-SMEs”, as Aceli Africa calls them.

According to Aceli Africa’s research, agri-SMEs represent a golden opportunity to solve hunger and poverty throughout Africa and help fulfill key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as gender equality and climate action.

This is because smallholder farmers consist of both men and women and provide direct access to food sources that are responsibly raised in accordance with the needs of the local environment. Furthermore, the expansion of the agricultural sector in Africa is two to three times more effective in eliminating poverty than growth in any other sector.

Despite the great potential of African smallholder farms, banks are largely unwilling to loan them much-needed financing to power additional growth. Banks do not have the risk appetite for small farms in Africa due to price volatility, the seasonality of farming, pest invasions and a weak regulatory environment.

The result of this is an investment shortfall of $65 billion per year for agri-SMEs in Africa. Initiatives focused on microfinancing do not provide enough financial injection for agri-SMEs, which are larger than the microenterprises that are the usual recipients of microloans. Agri-SMEs are thus left out of financing. However, the work of Aceli Africa aims to change these circumstances.

Aceli Africa Incentivizes Banks to Loan to Agri-SMEs

To bridge this gap in financing, Aceli Africa partners with numerous organizations such as USAID, the IKEA Foundation, Feed the Future and the International Growth Center to incentivize banks to loan and provide technical assistance to agri-SMEs.

This is where the aforementioned $30 million contribution has the potential to positively impact agriculture and African agribusinesses. One of the incentive programs that Aceli Africa employs is to cover the losses of the first loan that a financial institution gives to an African agri-SME.

This works by depositing 2-8% of the loan’s value in a reserve account that the lender can access when losses are experienced. This boosts risk appetite among lenders and makes banks and other institutions more willing to invest in agri-SMEs in Africa.

Aceli Africa also provides technical assistance for financial management for African agri-SMEs through online tools and other in-person approaches to help smallholder farmers optimize growth using the loans they receive. These approaches have the potential to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to effective use by addressing poverty and hunger abroad.

United States Outreach is Key in Combatting Poverty

USAID’s decision to partner with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute to the work of Aceli Africa symbolizes the value and power of international partnership in the fight against global poverty. When the United States decides to lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. Key international partnerships are essential for the United States to take the lead and garner international support to address key global issues.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

The Belt and Road Initiative
Approximately 26.5 million out of 221.8 million Pakistani citizens live below the national poverty line, determined based on one’s ability to afford to consume 2,350 calories a day. Indigence is particularly widespread in rural areas, which houses almost two-thirds of the national population. Due to persistent fiscal deficits, Pakistan has failed to implement appropriate anti-poverty and welfare measures. Currently, Pakistan lacks an umbrella social protection institution, while state loan schemes exclude many rural inhabitants, whose economic activity is largely informal and temporary. However, the Belt and Road Initiative may provide support to Pakistan’s poor.

The Situation

Farming and animal husbandry remains indispensable to the country’s agrarian regions. However, while almost 40% of Pakistan’s labor force relies on other sources of income, rural development may not occur without industrialization and infrastructural advancements, which is essential to connect the locals with the neighboring urban areas. Luckily, the Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 by the Chinese and the Pakistani authorities, has endeavored to facilitate these positive changes. The BRI or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the collective name for a plethora of Sino-Pakistani projects that primarily concentrate on infrastructure and energy, with an estimated budget of more than $62 billion.

Although the BRI is not the only major investment scheme operating in Pakistan, with the Asian Development Bank similarly funding road construction and having spent circa $14 billion on developing the country’s energy sector and rural communities, the former’s scale is unprecedented. Whether one could say the same about its impact on the Pakistani poor is equally important to establish, and now that the Belt and Road Initiative’s initial projects have come to fruition, it is possible to discern that.

Energy Sector Benefits

Within the first seven years of its existence, the Belt and Road Initiative resulted in the completion of 24 energy projects, which are worth $25.5 billion altogether. These include the erection of non-renewable power plants, namely coal stations in the Pakistani towns of Port Qasim and Sahiwal, as well as of solar and wind facilities. Thanks to this, where Pakistan’s annual GDP growth has been traditionally undermined by at least 2% owing to energy shortages, and where only half of the rural population had permanent access to electricity in 2018, the projects successfully replenished its national grid with 3,240 MW.

This was an 11% increase in its overall power capacity, and it helped stabilize the electricity supply to the indefeasible benefit of rural communities due to its diversification of the national energy resources. Furthermore, rural communities are expected to benefit from the construction of natural gas pipelines from Iran to the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh, whose rural poverty rates remain the highest in the country.

Infrastructure Benefits

Besides helping Pakistan attain energy self-sufficiency, the Belt and Road Initiative has invested $12 billion in constructing new roads and modernizing the local railway system. For example, Pakistan is currently building a 680-mile-long motorway linking its two major economic powerhouses, Karachi and Lahore. Moreover, the equally ambitious Karakorum Highway is connecting those cities to other Pakistani towns.

With faster, higher-quality roads accelerating cargo movement across Pakistan, the government determines farmers will face fewer hardships when transporting their produce to urban markets and city-based purveyors of important amenities will be able to improve their presence in rural areas. Additionally, the former will increase earnings, whereas the latter might encourage competition and bring down prices for basic goods, thereby making them more accessible to the rural public.

Other Economic Benefits

In 2019, China gave Pakistan $1 billion to cover the costs of 27 projects in education, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Most of these projects are concentrated in Southern Punjab and Baluchistan, which scored few points on the Human Development Index and correspondingly have many impoverished villages.

Analyzing the Belt and Road Initiative

Although Sino-Pakistani cooperation under the BRI has created more than 70,000 jobs in Pakistan and the World Bank believes that it could lift as many as 1.1 million Pakistanis out of poverty, it constitutes no silver bullet to the problem of domestic rural poverty.

On many occasions, the dire state of the country’s economy stifled project implementation, which suffered yet another balance of payments crisis in 2018, as well as by government bureaucracy. Thus, the construction of a power plant in Gwadar, a Pakistani port located in the province of Baluchistan and leased to Chinese companies, experienced a three-year delay, awaiting local government authorization.

Some have also questioned the Belt and Road Initiative’s socioeconomic inclusivity. According to the Sino-Pakistani agreement concerning the lease of Gwadar, the Pakistani economy will only receive 9% of the port’s revenues. An even smaller proportion of these funds will go to poverty alleviation programs. Moreover, the nation’s skilled wages have not registered significant growth, which suggests that many professionals still receive meager pay and struggle to cover their daily expenses.

The Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan is hardly a finished enterprise. Although the majority of the so-called “early harvest” projects have reached fruition, many more are undergoing planning and construction. For this reason, we cannot conclude our evaluation of the BRI’s contribution to fighting rural poverty in Pakistan. Yet, since impoverished populations have benefited from the energy sector and job creation initiatives, this project may indeed prove helpful in alleviating poverty in Pakistan.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

reducing Rural Poverty In ChinaChina has made significant strides in poverty reduction in the previous three decades due to a combination of economic reforms and national poverty reduction programs. Experiencing a significant growth in the nation’s GDP that resulted in the rise from a low-income country to an upper-middle-income country, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line has decreased from 88% in 1981 to 1.7% in 2018. However, in 2016, 43% of the rural population lived below the national poverty line, many of them smallholder farmers. Recognizing the importance of agricultural development opportunities among rural populations, the Chinese government approved IPRAD-SN, (Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: Specialised Agribusiness Development) in Sichuan and Ningxia in 2018, as part of its initiative to eliminate rural poverty. The action plan delineates development strategies for increasing agricultural capacity, thus reducing rural poverty in China.

Constraints for Rural Chinese Farmers

Living in the Sichuan or Ningxia province provides pristine mountain views and unparalleled landscapes but it also presents constraints. Approximately 6.5 million individuals in Sichuan and 840,000 in Ningxia live below the national poverty line. Infrastructure problems concerning irrigation, drainage, cattle sheds and roads, inhibit farmers from increasing their production capacity and quality. For instance, in the Ningxia village of Naihe, livestock buildings or cattle sheds offer limited space for farmers to raise their animals. This prohibits any increase in livestock quantity, which in turn constrains profit growth and renders farmers unable to generate sufficient funds to build improved infrastructure. Lack of access to market, value chain and financial resources also threaten ambitions for economic expansion in these rural, remote regions. Each of these variables contributes to the difficulties in reducing rural poverty in China.

Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: (IPRAD-SN)

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs joined with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development in order to formulate the six-year IPRAD-SN program that strives to directly improve the lives of 198,847 individuals in Sichuan and Ningxia. The program prioritizes local empowerment with the following two focuses that assist in reducing rural poverty in China: infrastructure and sustainability and value chain inclusion.

  • Infrastructure and Sustainability: Adequate supply systems are an essential component of spurring economic growth in these communities. Providing electricity, potable water, irrigation for crops and durable roads are important aspects of the plan’s infrastructure component. In addition, the program incorporates land restoration and climate-conscious agricultural techniques in order to ensure sustainability.
  • Value Chain Inclusion: By increasing market capacity, asset availability and access to financial services, the plan strives to incorporate smallholder farmers, cooperatives and agro-enterprises into “pro-poor” value chains. Strategies include enhancing the technological and organizational skills of cooperatives, funding business plans that target poverty reduction and helping local financial institutions cater their services to the needs of the community.

Tracking Success

IPRAD-SN aspires to lift 50% of the provinces’ impoverished out of poverty upon its completion. In order to ascertain progress, the plan delineates key factors to account for during monitoring intervals. These factors include gross per capita income levels, beneficiary totals, women-led cooperatives, breadth and quality of road networks, production levels, sustainable farming practitioners and individuals with access to post-production amenities.

In the Ningxia province, the implementation of this plan has already modernized irrigation systems and improved water access for livestock. Additionally, silos have been constructed in order to ensure weather-resistant protection for crops and animal feed and livestock provisions such as cattle sheds have been refurbished. In improving the care of livestock, farmers are better equipped to breed and sell their animals. Each of these developments places farmers in a position to improve agricultural quality and quantity and thus increase profit generation.

Agriculture is a vital component of China’s economy, accounting for 9% of the nation’s GDP and 33% of employment. Providing tools at the local level enables farmers to cater the plan’s strategies to their needs and create effective projects. By investing in these individuals, IPRAD-SN is making advancements in reducing rural poverty in China.

– Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

AI Usage in Agriculture
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require humans, including visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and language translation. AI development has exploded within the last several years, and industries are beginning to adopt such systems to increase productivity and address challenges to growth.

The agricultural sector is one industry that is benefitting from the implementation of AI technology, and people are discussing and enforcing new applications for this technology every day. Several companies, such as IBM, FAO and Microsoft, are developing forms of AI that promote sustainable ways to achieve food and nutrition security. Currently, there are three main applications of AI usage in agriculture. 

Present Applications of AI in Agriculture

  1. Agricultural Robots – Some are using robots to perform essential and time-consuming agricultural tasks at a faster pace. For example, robots can harvest produce at a faster rate than human laborers with significantly reduced physical toil. One company that creates such robots is Harvest CROO Robotics. The company’s most recent development is a robot that picks and packs strawberries; it can harvest eight acres of berries a day and replace 30 human laborers per machine. By utilizing these robots, companies can improve productivity and increase yield.
  2. Crop and Soil Monitoring – Using image recognition, AI can use cameras to analyze soil quality and identify possible defects and nutrient deficiencies. Tech startup PEAT has made strides in soil monitoring AI in its development of Plantix, a deep-learning application that correlates foliage patterns with soil defects, diseases or plant pests. This application allows farmers to identify issues with soil quality quickly, allowing them to address any issues before the crop experiences damage.
  3. Predictive Analytics – These AI systems analyze data to make predictions about future outcomes. In agriculture, predictive analytics can improve market recommendations, pest modeling and crop yield predictions. This valuable information provides farmers with more certainty in their product outcomes while also cutting back on resources that they lose due to unforeseen circumstances. Precision Farming is one company that uses data from satellites and drones, such as temperature, precipitation and solar radiation, to predict weather conditions and plant nutrition.

Working Towards Sustainable Development

AI use in agriculture is allowing farmers to be more precise in their crop cultivation, producing a higher crop yield and quality. Agricultural robots optimize human activity and improve working conditions for farmers, while crop and soil monitoring and predictive analytics systems allow farmers to use resources more efficiently. This promotes sustainability in agriculture, as more successful produce outcomes cause farmers to waste fewer resources. 

 These AI systems contribute greatly to soil and water conservation. The Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS), an indicator developed by FAO, is a computer that uses satellite technology to monitor areas that are highly susceptible to drought and water stress. Drought is the most damaging natural disaster to livelihoods, especially in developing countries. Therefore, predicting and addressing conditions of drought before they cause large-scale damage not only conserves water in times of need but protects human livelihoods. The implication of this is that more farmers, especially in developing countries, will have the means to support themselves and their families.

Fighting Food Insecurity

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, 135 million people were battling food insecurity. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated this problem affecting agricultural yields and livelihoods. The pandemic has impacted regions that normally depend on imports to support their populations the most, including Africa and island states.

Therefore, AI usage in agriculture in these regions can make a significant difference for populations that may already be struggling. FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water usage through remotely sensed derived data over Africa, allowing for water and land productivity assessments. Saving valuable resources makes a crucial difference for countries that must rely more on domestic materials due to the present circumstances.

In addition, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) is implementing a tracking unit that is collecting data to expand remote food security monitoring to 40 countries. The map quickly identifies food security emergencies and allows for quick response, helping humanitarians make evidence-based decisions on how and where to address food insecurity that could be damaging a population. By decreasing the time it takes for people to address these issues, the WFP is able to amend food insecurity for more regions in a shorter period of time and prevent them from deteriorating into situations of malnourishment. 

With all the strides that have already occurred in AI and its applications, it is easy to forget that the technology is new and has vast untapped potential. As the industry continues to develop, farming will expand as AI usage in agriculture overcomes more issues challenging greater yield, sustainability and food security.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Burkina Faso
The culturally vibrant Western African country of Burkina Faso sits landlocked, with a population of around 20 million people. According to the human capital index, the nation ranks 144 out of 157 countries firmly placing it in the lowest category of human development. Furthermore, 40.1% of the population is living below the poverty line. Despite facing many developmental challenges, a remarkable agricultural renaissance has been quietly taking place leading to a re-greening effect and encouraging innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso.

Innovative Farming Methods in Burkina Faso

Over the past three decades, farmers in Burkina Faso have introduced new and innovative methods to traditional farming techniques which have achieved stunning results. The practices have reclaimed 200,000-300,000 hectares of land and enable the annual production of “an additional 80,000 tons of food,” helping 500,000 people become food secure. One should not understate this as agriculture sits at the heart of the nation’s economy accounting for 35% of GDP and employing 85% of the population.

For decades, farmers faced challenges with poor soil, lack of water, population growth and soil degradation. However, poverty eradication in Burkina Faso occurred by individual farmers and NGOs, such as the AVAPAS project, ingeniously mixing traditional farming methods with new techniques.

Yacouba Sawadogo’s Influence

As an early proponent and pioneer of these innovative farming practices known locally as zaï, people dubbed the humble farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo, “the man who stopped the desert.” Over the past three decades, Yacouba and a network of farmers alike transformed massive amounts of arid, non-arable land into thriving productive farmland suitable for productive agriculture.

Zaï is the name for a farming technique in which farmers dig planting for the purpose of placing crops and plants. Historically, farmers did this a small scale and faced productivity issues due to a lack of rainwater. Innovations such as the application of organic fertilizers and the introduction of “mechanized” zaï, in which farmers use small machines or draft animals to reduce labor, helped these productivity issues. Additionally, farmers constructed Contour bunds, or semi-permeable barriers, slowing down water run-off and increasing absorption and soil moisture retention. Lastly, the application and construction of a certain type of ditch called Demi-lunes helped collect and provide precious rainwater and retain run-off.

The results of Yacouba’s agricultural revolution have not gone unnoticed. An Oxfam International Library case study concluded that what farmers have achieved in Burkina Faso is “the greatest agroecological success story in Africa, and perhaps anywhere.”

The Results

Through these innovative farming efforts, farmland productivity and yield increased. While yields remained stagnant from the 1960s through the 1980s, the widespread use of agroecological farming techniques improved Burkina Faso’s agricultural productivity and led to higher yields since the 1990s.

Average yields in sorghum and millet in the Yatenga province of Burkina Faso, that utilized these farming techniques, increased their average yield from 694 kg/hectare and 473 kg/hectare in 1984–1988 to 733 kg/hectare and 688 kg/hectare, respectively from 1995–2001 after applying improved farming techniques. Furthermore, the hunger gap reduced by as much as 50% since the 1980s by reducing food shortages and increasing food security.

The use of improved farming techniques has also shown the ability to increase household incomes by an average of 18-24%, and investments in mechanized zaï can yield a return of 150,000 CFA/hectare per year.

Looking Forward

Many additional innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso are necessary outside of the agricultural sector and Burkina Faso, unfortunately, remains one of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world. However, one can learn a lot from the innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso, especially as the effects of the environment will continue to put stress on countries who face similar agricultural challenges. Several studies from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, point to the need for an increase in sustainable agriculture to reduce land degradation, hunger and poverty.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Angola
Angola has struggled to recover from decades of civil war and economic turmoil, with over 40% of the population, mostly in rural areas, living in extreme poverty. However, recent innovations in poverty eradication in Angola have begun to help the once virulent nation gain stability. New technologies and funding from private companies, financial institutions and organizations have allowed Angola to modernize and combat extreme poverty. Here are three innovations in poverty eradication in Angola.

Open Data Platforms

Open data platforms are a way to gather large amounts of data, statistics and information from diverse and large groups to analyze potential problem areas. Governments and large organizations use this analysis to tackle identifiable issues head-on. For example, an investment group may notice a glaring need for communications upgrades in rural areas, which leads to the creation of jobs and infrastructure.

Open data is a recent innovation in poverty eradication in Angola and examines anything from economic growth to healthcare strategy. Through the International Monetary Fund’s Enhanced General Data Dissemination System, Angola set up its own National Summary Data Page at opendataforafrica.org in 2018. The African Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offer the NSDP to Angola for free. Using key indicators through the NSDP, the IMF and other organizations utilize this information for transparency, economic investment opportunities and identifying necessary aid in Angola, which are ways the NSDP’s data collection can reduce poverty.

South Atlantic Cable System

Angola lacks a strong telecommunications network. Rural communities suffer the most due to decreased technological abilities in farming and irrigation and emergency medical services. But a revolutionary project may help. One of the most impressive innovations in poverty eradication in Angola is the South Atlantic Cable System. Developed by the telecommunications operator, Angola Cables, this submarine communications cable provides interconnectivity between Luanda, Angola and Angonap Fortaleza, Brazil. The SACS improves the telecommunications and information technology infrastructure in Angola while connecting fast communication services throughout Africa and South America.

Although Angola is still developing its ICT sector and job growth has remained stagnant, the SACS potential is exponential. Angola could use this project to establish the country as a leader in tech in sub-Saharan Africa. This would reduce Angola’s reliance on oil exports and drive IT education to encourage entrepreneurship and competition, leading to increased IT and communications jobs and eventual ICT expansion in rural Angola to reduce poverty and improve healthcare access.

Neighboring nations that lack IT infrastructure can reach out to Angola Cables and the Angolan government, launching international funds to Angola. The SACS also makes Angola a centralized location for data in the entire southern hemisphere. The premium digital connection is unrivaled, leading to even more considerable international interest in Angola as a tech hub.

Commercial Agriculture Development Project (PDAC)

Due to the Angolan Civil War, farming in Angola suffered from a lack of development and slow regrowth due to landmines. Agriculture also suffers due to persistent and unpredictable droughts in Angola. The Commercial Agriculture Development Project received funding from the World Bank in 2018 to improve the economic condition and technology in Angola’s rural areas, providing much-needed support to the most vulnerable people in Angola to improve domestic food security. Primarily directed at improving irrigation systems and infrastructure related to the electric grid, the PDAC receives funding through 2024 and supports developers’ creative solutions to these problems.

So far, the project has granted contracts and requests in 2020 for the following:

  • Creating innovative management systems for irrigated perimeters, which help water efficiency usage during periods of drought
  • Development of financial risk tools, like risk management software and microinsurance for at-risk communities to ensure oversight of food security
  • Geospatial electrification options to create renewable energy that people can use in rural areas
  • IT tools, such as tablets, drones and tech support for better agriculture analysis
  • Multiple feasibility studies

All of these contracts and requests have happened in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with the pace slowing to handle the pandemic, the PDAC has led to several innovations in poverty eradication in Angola. Developers have maintained a healthy advancement rate since the beginning of the project, and they will continue through 2024.

Angola’s Future

With all the new technology and projects, Angola will continue to reduce extreme poverty for large portions of its population. As the nation continues to establish a commercial agriculture program and the telecommunications sector, there is a reduced reliance on oil exports. Angola can continue to diversify its economic strategy allocating its vast resources for a bright future and eliminate extreme poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Pixnio

India’s ban on dangerous pesticidesThe Indian Ministry of Agriculture has banned 27 pesticides that are known to be dangerous. A number of studies found that those who work closely with pesticides (such as farmers, pesticide applicators and crop-duster pilots) suffer an increased risk of a variety of diseases/illnesses relating to the neurological, behavioral, reproductive and developmental systems. These illnesses include leukemia, lung cancer and non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a direct result, 20,000 people die of pesticide poisoning annually in India. However, that does not account for the diseases that pesticide poisoning can lead to. Even those who are not directly related to the agricultural industry are exposed to dangerous pesticides through run-off that contaminates water sources, including drinking water. India’s ban on dangerous pesticides will lead to a major decrease in unnecessary health problems. Many farmers have admitted that they don’t have a proper understanding of how pesticides work or how to even use them correctly. As one farmer, Balbir Singh reported, “Some people use pesticides without understanding why hoping that their crops won’t die…We know we are killing our land and our people.” India’s ban on dangerous pesticides will eliminate this problem and ensure the safety of agricultural workers, as well as the general public.

Pros and Cons of Pesticides

India’s ban on dangerous pesticides is also expected to benefit the economy. The 27 banned pesticides have been outlawed in Europe and the U.S. That makes it more difficult for these countries to import crops from India in the past. However, now India is following the European Union’s guidelines for exporting crops. Individual farmers will be able to export more crops, promising an economic benefit to India’s ban on dangerous pesticides.

Many are worried about the possible negative effects of India’s ban on dangerous pesticides. Pesticides ensure crops will not be destroyed by insects, therefore allowing a maximum number of crops to be harvested and sold. Three-quarters of the Indian population work in agriculture, so a decrease in crop production would devastate the country.

A Positive Shift

However, in 2003, the small Indian state of Sikkim eliminated the use of all pesticides. The state became healthier overall and introduced price caps on produce to keep prices affordable for consumers. Wildlife flourished and in turn led to better farming land, promising higher crop levels. Compared to the rest of India, farmers using pesticides have destroyed farmland by depleting the soil’s nutrients. Sikkim serves as a model to the rest of India, proving that farmers do not need to worry about the ban of pesticides having a negative impact.

India’s ban on dangerous pesticides promises an improvement of the health, environment and economy of the country. With the organic food market growing by 25% per year, India’s steps towards agricultural improvements bring hope that more countries will be inspired by these positive changes.

Karena Korbin
Photo: Flickr

locust plaguesDuring the past several years, Eastern Africa has experienced the worst swarms the region has seen in decades. Typically, the arid desert environment kills off locusts but multiple tropical cyclones have hit the region thereby creating wetter soil conditions that are more hospitable for these insects. Due to the weather patterns within the last few years, several overwhelming locust plagues have occurred. Not only are the swarms of locusts unsettling and bothersome, but they threaten food security and the livelihoods of the people within the affected regions.

The Impact of Locust Plagues

One of the most troubling effects of the locust swarms is their consumption of green vegetation, in particular, crops within agricultural regions and pastoral communities. In a single day, a swarm of locusts that covers one square kilometer can consume more food than 35,000 people would in the same time frame. In a region already affected by food insecurity, the locust outbreak only exacerbates the problem and could potentially lead to five million people in Africa facing starvation.

In order to fight locusts, governments often resort to aerial or on-the-ground pesticide spraying. While The Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa exists specifically to take these actions, there are many obstacles in the way.

  • The organization is underfunded and disregarded by many countries in the region.
  • Even with proper funding, finding and spraying all locust infested sites is challenging.
  • The effects of COVID-19 have left many governments under financial stress and unable to contribute to locust-fighting and food security efforts.
  • Political instability and civil unrest make accessing some locust breeding sites very difficult.

How the United States Can Help

Given the lack of resources of many East African countries and the additional impact of COVID-19 on these countries, it is necessary for developed countries like the United States to provide aid. Fortunately, a bipartisan bill aimed at doing just that is currently moving through the House of Representatives.

On June 18, 2020, Rep. Christopher Smith and Rep. Karen Bass introduced H.R. 7276, the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. This bill seeks to create an interagency working group that would form a thorough plan to eradicate current locust plagues as well as create an infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks. Should the bill pass, the interagency group would consist of members from the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and more. Additionally, the interagency group would work with regional governments and international organizations in order to develop a comprehensive eradication and prevention plan for the entire affected region.

Action in Progress

Currently, regional governments and international nongovernmental organizations have taken a disjointed response to the outbreaks. For example, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working on the ground in the East African region to provide direct support to farmers and help some of the most vulnerable people survive. However, without a comprehensive, multilateral and international plan to address the locust outbreak, the IRC’s measures to support communities will be insufficient.

For this reason, it is essential that Congress pass the East Africa Locust Eradication Act. United States aid as well as aid from other developed countries is required in order to save millions of people from the effects of the worst locust plague the region has seen in decades.

Alanna Jaffee
Photo: Flickr

African Vegetable StaplesAfrica has millions of hectares of viable land for large-scale agricultural operations. Many large regions of Africa are the last locations on the planet with large plots of land rich in soil nutrients and water sufficiency. New government infrastructure, a global investment and advanced technology has allowed sub-Saharan African farmers to raise crop yield. The agriculture industry is the most viable way to feed families on a small scale in villages. African vegetable staples are important as they are the bulk of the famous nutritional African diet.

Approximately 65% of the African labor force involves itself in agriculture, with the agriculture industry accounting for 32% of the region’s GDP. Governments have attempted to increase crop yield by utilizing agriculture marketing boards in order to provide more stable and standardized prices, credit extension services, technology and improved seeds. Additionally, more companies in the private sector have improved rural marketing and supply lines. These advances in extension services improve land and water management, introduce new farming techniques and provide new, efficient technology.

Essential African Vegetable Staples

Essential African vegetable staples include yams, green bananas, plantains and cassava. There are a plethora of different and unique ways of preparing dishes particular to each region and culture. Vegetables such as beans and lentils accompany almost every meal in order to provide a balanced nutritious diet. People in Africa consider meat a side dish rather than the main dish, and vegetables the main dish. Typical African vegetable staples specific to a region are dependent on the location, land viability, soil richness and water availability. Rice is more common where there is more water whereas cash crops such as groundnut are common in every household.

Many African staple foods provide a base diet for African families. African vegetable staples provide the necessary proteins, vitamins and nutrients that combat the alarming, wide-scale malnutrition issues that run rampant in many small villages that are not connected to large cities. With no access to large-scale trade or industrial resources, villagers take care of each other with personal farms. Additionally, many African vegetables also double as medicinal uses as well, allowing improved community health and nutrition.

Many staple meals accompany African’s rich variety of culture and history. The thousands of various African cultures utilize varieties of spices to prepare the same ingredient to uphold their respective traditional values and ideas. Diverse food choices are unique in each region and can range from fermented beans, sweet potato greens, teff and varieties of dumplings, to corn-based porridges, millet, kenkey, fontou and fonio. The diverse sets of languages within each region also have their own unique menus specific to their culture and certain traditions.

Case Study: The Democratic Republic of Congo

Vegetables grown in the DRC include peanuts, yams, beans, peas and maize. The political instability of the DRC has led to problems of malnutrition and lack of food access for millions of people. However, vegetables are used as an efficient solution because of the mass remote lands DRC controls for horticulture. The agriculture industry supports more than half of the DRC population. Although farming provides less than 10% of DRC’s GDP, land use is minimal to only 3.5% of DRC’s land and accounts for over 50 tons of subsistence foodstuffs.

What Next?

African vegetables have been the bulk of the African diet for millennia. Not only is it an efficient and effective way of utilizing rich soil and plentiful land on the continent, but it is also one of the most viable ways to aid the economy while doing so. Vegetables in Africa are the staple food not just for the famous nutritious diets, but also because they are an important characteristic of African identity and culture. Many African recipes eaten today have passed down generation after generation in an effort to maintain and uphold tradition. The African vegetable staples are one of the most unique characteristics of African culture and are a testament to their devotion to their diverse ideas and traditions.

Aria Ma
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