Information and stories about agriculture.

rwanda cooperation ituze us uadf agriculture cassava development

In 1980, the U.S. Congress established the  U.S. African Development Foundation or UADF to provide grants to support solutions to economic problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. The solutions are made and led by Africans. Till date, UADF has provided $3.5 million in grants to Rwanda that have provided increased economic independence and increased food security for more than 200 cassava farmers in southern Rwanda by giving them better access to markets and higher incomes.

A crop purchase fund was set up under Cooperation Ituze so that it can grow and buy more cassava (or manioc) to process into high-quality flour in its milling factory. Cooperation Ituze has become self-sufficient and profitable by purchasing disease-resistant plants, expanding its drying facilities, and setting up rainwater harvesting systems. The rainwater harvesting systems establish a reliable water supply which enables Ituze to process cassavas year round. The Rwandan government constructed additional drying facilities because of Ituze’s success. Additional progress was made with agricultural training in cassava multiplication, modern agronomic practices, and soil maintenance.

Ituze’s sales revenues increased from $8,300 to 2012’s total of $115,000 in less than three years. This is an increase of 2,700% since its inception in 2010. Land cultivation has doubled to 175 hectares which allows farmers to grow cassavas for both their families’ consumption and processing into flour. The flour is packaged in Kigali, the nation’s capital, and sold in local supermarkets.

This breakthrough with Cooperation Ituze has far-reaching effects: more people are able to afford a nutritious meal and more children are free to go to school.

– Essee Oruma

Source: IIP Digital

Despite the obvious concerns that genetically modified crops (GMOs) generate in regards to water usage and biodiversity, GMOs are – at present – the only viable option for feeding a worldwide population of 9 billion people by 2050. Why embark upon a policy of greater investment in GMOs as opposed to organic farming? Considering both the land and climate constraints of many developing nations, the strengths of GMOs lie primarily in their ability to adapt to challenges that would otherwise be prohibitive to organically grown crops. The following are 3 ways that GMOs encourage global food security.

1. GMO’s production yields are higher – As the global population increases, greater pressure will be placed on the agricultural industry to produce yields large enough to meet both local and international demands. GMOs encourage global food security by maximizing the potential of long established independent farmers and agribusinesses, a tool considered invaluable for maintaining adequate food supplies in developing countries still lacking the requisite knowledge and infrastructure for conventional farming.

2. GMOs use less land – As land starved countries of the global south continue to experience the high birth rates and greater population density of economic development, the low land usage of GMOs encourage global food security by increasing the productivity of their farmers without stifling growth. GMOs offer emerging economies the distinct advantage of developing previously underutilized areas without the accompanying sacrifices of farmland.

3. GMOs are more affordable – The inevitable cost increases that occur when demand outpaces supply will be an significant issue as the worldwide population increases; however, GMOs encourage global food security by keeping the price of food low enough to feed those with even the most meager of financial resources. GMOs are able to better withstand the climatic, pest, and blight challenges that would otherwise devastate organically grown crops, leading to the supply shortfalls and price increases that cripple poverty stricken communities.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo Chuck Haney Photography

Cassava Beer_opt
When people think about Africa, breathtaking savannas teaming with migratory wildlife is generally the first thought that comes to mind. What doesn’t come to mind, however, is a robust micro-brewing industry that utilizes the fermentation properties of the locally sourced cassava plant. In an attempt to challenge previously held notions regarding beer brewing in Africa, production of Impala brand cassava beer is helping to usher in new economic opportunities for Ghanaian farmers.

Thanks to the investment of brewer SABMiller, Impala beer – brewed from the cassava plant – was recently launched in Ghana. How does cassava beer help economic development in Africa? Until recently, cassava farming had been dismissed as an economic failure due to the high costs associated with transferring and processing the root-like product.

Enter innovative DATCO engineers and their ingenious development of a mobile cassava processing unit that enables cassava harvesting to be economically feasible. So for those rural cassava farmers previously hampered by transportation constraints, the new processing units and subsequent production of cassava beer will help to bolster demand for their crops, leading to greater economic gains.

In regards to SABMiller’s investment in cassava beer and the economic benefits to local farmers, Accra Brewery Director Adjoba Kyiamah noted that though more than 70% of Ghanaian farms, most of which grow cassava, are 3 hectares or smaller, there is a current annual surplus of around 40%.

The economic possibilities that stem from both the production and sales of Impala brand cassava beer are nothing less that astonishing, and underpins the business sustainability currently lacking from many developing countries. Remarked SABMiller Director Mark Bowman, “The idea here then is to try and create a win-win proposition, where we have a strong group of farmers contracted to producing grains for us of whatever form.”

Brian Turner

Source: How we Made it in Africa
Photo: Hanna Clark Steinman

Are US farmers hurt by food aid reform? The short answer: No.

President Obama’s proposal to allow the food aid supplied by the United States to be purchased more locally has obvious benefits: less travel time and expense to feed those in the greatest danger, bolstering local economies, investing in local agriculture to create a sustainable supply, and the potential of feeding 2-4 million more people.

These are obvious benefits unless you are an American farmer, packer or shipper, the three main interested parties (other than the millions of hungry around the world). These minders are not without questions of their own.

For example, one might wonder how purchasing a larger percentage of the food aid from non-US farmers is reconciled with USAID’s mission of expanding external markets for US goods?

The food crises require immediate response. According to the World Food Program, hunger kills more people than AIDs, Malaria, and TB combined. Preventable deaths per year due to malnutrition are measured in the millions. A shipment from the United States can take many weeks — time the vulnerable simply do not have. Purchasing local produce reduces the time from farm to mouth by 11-14 weeks and feeds an extra 2-4 million people.

Preventing deaths by malnutrition and all the suffering, humiliation, and diseases that go along with it allows for medium and long-term development. Medium to long-term development expands peace and US markets of goods, services, travel and tourism.

How, one may also wonder, do American farmers benefit when their jobs are outsourced and market share displaced?

US farm exports are worth around $145 billion. The US government spends $1 billion on food aid programs—a “drop in the market” compared to the enormous figure of US farm exports. Even an economist from the American Farm Bureau Federation admits, “Our concern is less about decreasing an important revenue stream for U.S. agriculture. It’s more about the loss of a sense of pride.” Despite the minimal impact, the reform proposal includes $25 million to ease the transition of US farmers affected.

Are US farmers hurt by food aid reform? With no significant job losses and no significant market share loss, US farmers’ pride cannot justify denying food to 4 million hungry people deserving of the same dignity and opportunities as them.

Katherine Zobre

Sources: USAID, The Economist, World Food Program, Reuters

agriculture u.s. data-sharing g8 crop

U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced a new U.S. data sharing network for food, agriculture and rural issues.  This announcement is in accordance with the agreement among G8 members, USA, Japan, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Russia, Italy, and the European Union, to share agriculture data at the G8 Summit at Camp David in 2012. Vilsack stated that “Greater access to data also can increase individuals’ access to food and provide ladders of opportunity for improved incomes.” The public will be able to easily find, download, and use data sets generated by the U.S. government free of charge.

“This new, virtual community will enable entrepreneurship, empowerment and better participation in solving our global challenges,” Vilsack said. Information such as weather conditions, nutritional content of crops, and crop growth can be shared through the network. The network is here and is formatted so that any machine can read it. However, the data sharing network is only available in the English language.

According to Vilsack, the U.S., the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank are working together to develop a model that uses open data from satellites to monitor vegetation growth which could help pinpoint where disease-carrying insects are and prevent crop damage. This data sharing will thus spread critical research and information.

President Obama noted that, “Creating a platform to effectively share key data and the tools to analyze it is a critical next step in confronting the fight against hunger and fulfilling the promise of the New Alliance.”

– Essee Oruma

Source: IIP Digital

Flood Resistant Grass Hybrid Can Create Food Security
The effects of flooding are catastrophic to agricultural production and soil efficacy due to the resulting root suffocation – via decreased oxygen availability in the soil – and accompanying topsoil erosion. Furthermore, as global weather patterns change and previously arid areas are exposed to unseasonably high annual rainfall, an increased emphasis is being focused into developing grasses that help to attenuate the impact of flooding. In a breakthrough that’s hypothesized to help bolster global food security in the face of unpredictable weather, a newly discovered flood resistant grass hybrid may shift the advantage towards local farmers.

The newly hybridized Festulolium species of grass, grown by a collaboration between UK researchers from Aberystwyth University, Lancaster University, and University of Nottingham, combines the impressive growth rate of ryegrass with the deep root systems of the meadow fescue grass.

How exactly does the flood resistant grass hybrid help to protect crops? By deploying the Festulolium grass in and around agricultural areas, the quick turnover and absorptive qualities of the hybrid grass help to decrease water run off by more than 51 %. Thus, the sensitive roots of the crops are protected from drowning as the Festulolium grass retains much of the water and serves as a barrier to flooding.

In regards to the newly developed food resistant grass hybrid, James Hutton Institute scientist Kit Macleod noted that, “Hybrid grasses of this type show potential for reducing the likelihood of flood generation, whilst providing pasture for food production under conditions of changing climate.”

Through the development of a flood resistant grass hybrid, a much needed ally in the fight against global climate change as been identified. And thanks to the continued research towards finding innovative methods of flood reduction and water retention, adequate levels of food security will be maintained despite the unpredictable effects of climate change.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo NPR

EU GMOs_opt
Despite understandable concerns in regards to genetically modified (GMOs) foods and the possible long term effects they have on consumers, the ability of GMOs to withstand the catastrophic consequences of pest infestation is unmatched by conventionally farmed crops. Furthermore, as the world population rises and global food demands continue to swell, scientists are becoming more concerned that current EU agriculture production will be inadequate for meeting the demands of the developing world. In an effort to both bolster current crop production and change the narrative concerning GMOs, researchers are claiming that the EU needs genetically modified crops in order to stay competitive in the technologically driven international agricultural industry.

Brought to the forefront of discourse surrounding current EU agricultural policy, scientists from Trends in Plant Science Magazine cited the considerable amount of data showing that although the cultivation of GMOs is banned – or severely limited – in the EU, the region still imports genetically modified crops from countries that have embraced the technology. EU farmers stymied by current laws regarding GMOs are unable to compete with overseas producers, thus requiring the region to import an ever-increasing percentage of their crops. In light of this, researchers are claiming that the EU needs genetically modified crops in order to maintain their own agricultural sustainability and that of their considerable humanitarian obligations abroad.

In regards to the claim that the EU needs genetically modified crops, University of Lleida Agrotecnio Center researcher Paul Christou comments that the EU is being surpassed by other nations because it hasn’t adopted technology which is deemed unpopular. “Ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress,” said Christou.

The issue of identifying realistic solutions to future food security problems is garnering greater and greater attention from academics, agricultural officials, and farmers looking to mitigate the problem while simultaneously bolstering their own market competitiveness and sustainability. Although stating that the EU needs genetically modified crops might upset those uncomfortable with anything but conventionally sourced food, policy changes must be enacted today in order to combat the food security problems of tomorrow. “Realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,” said Christou.

Brian Turner
Source: Science Daily
Photo: Novinite


When it comes to research in the field of international development, Canada takes the top spot.  Their contributions of foreign aid to international development research go towards finding solutions to hunger, addressing climate change, augmenting the food supply, alleviating poverty, and increasing health and well-being in developing countries.   The 2012 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Daniel Hillel, attributes the decades of Canadian support to his ability to develop drip irrigation.  This breakthrough innovation allows food production in the world’s driest climates.

Many Canadian organizations contribute to the nation’s state in research and development. The International Development Research Centre is a leader in partnering for research and Canada seeks to collaborate with other governments and aid organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Over the last year, over $100 million additional research dollars from partner organizations went towards life-saving projects.

The best part is that Canada and the world are seeing the results.

Advancements made in women’s health have led to a dramatic change in the survival rates of mothers over the last decade.  More recently, a program was launched in Nigeria to address the tragedy of women dying in childbirth. In 2012, close to 40,000 women died giving birth.  A program funded by the Canadian International Development Agency in partnership with the government of Nigeria has already shown very promising results and a reduction in deaths.

Foreign aid is changing.  No longer are countries content with handouts that increase dependency, but are seeking projects that increase self-reliance.  Canada is seeking to ensure their research dollars go to fund innovative projects such as the African Institutes for Mathematical Sciences Next Einstein Initiative. This clever program trains young African graduates to use mathematical thinking when addressing complex challenges. Over $20 million in support has been committed to expand the initiative.

Another focus of Canadian research is food security.  It is projected that by 2030 food supply will have to double to reach current demands. Projects are set in motion to figure out ways to make sure land is usable, people have food, and farmers can make a living, In the Middle East, a project is working on using water from household sinks and baths to drip irrigate crops in dry lands and improve crop production.

Canada is setting an example for nations to follow with their emphasis on research, innovative development, and self-sustaining projects.  Their story is one of foreign aid making a positive and noticeable difference.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Huffington Post Canada
University of Edinburgh

Giant Leek_opt
Hydrogen sulphide, a gas known for its toxicity to both plants and humans, has rarely even been studied in small quantities. Recently, a scientist researching the effects of hydrogen sulphide on plants made a simple dilution mistake-accidentally exposing the plants to low as opposed to high levels of the gas-that yielded completely unexpected results. In a discovery that has huge implications in regards to global food security, a surprising link was discovered between hydrogen sulphide and enhanced plant growth.

Researchers at the University of Washington were researching the toxicity effects of hydrogen sulphide and mistakenly exposed the plants to a much lower concentration of the compound then they originally intended. Unbelievably, instead of dying the plants responded with an accelerated rate of growth, with seeds germinating in half the time and crop yields nearly doubling. Just to make sure, researchers replicated the experiment several times in order to verify the relationship between hydrogen sulphide and enhanced plant growth, and the plants responded with the same accelerated growth patterns.

This recent development has exciting implications with respect to global food security, as the ability to grow plants at a larger and faster rate will help meet the demands of a rapidly increasing world population.

In regards to the link between hydrogen sulphide and enhanced plant growth, University of Washington Doctoral student Frederick Dooley remarked that, “They germinate faster and they produce roots and leaves faster. Basically what we’ve done is accelerate the entire plant process.”

The ability to both expedite and enhance the germination of plants from seeds to readily available crops carries with it great implications for the future of food security. Moreover, by unexpectedly finding the previously unknown link between hydrogen sulphide and enhanced plant growth, agricultural researchers are helping to solve the world hunger problem.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo Kazak

Afghanistan Farming_opt
For the past 12 years, the US Army has primarily been assigned to the role of peacekeeper in support of the NATO led military operations in Afghanistan. Subsequently, as the security operations draw to a close and military personnel began a phased withdrawal, coalition forces have a renewed focus on the long-term economic benefits of sustainable farming in Afghanistan. Sadly, many of the invaluable skill sets necessary for high yield farming have been lost, a consequence of the frequent military incursions that have occurred over the last half-century. In an effort to both ameliorate local poverty levels and build agricultural capacity, NATO is calling for the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan.

Soldiers of the 5-19 Agribusiness Development Team of the Indian National Guard have spent the last year instructing Afghan farmers of the Khowst Provice in the basics of farming. What tasks are being covered in the course curriculum? Army instructors are focusing on row planting, pest control, livestock care, and green house management; all important techniques that will enable farmers to increase crop yields and pass along the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities of sustainable farming to future generations. Thus far, the program assigning the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan has reaped substantial dividends, with local farmers taking pride in their yearly harvests and neighboring villages working towards the purchase of farm equipment in the near future.

In regards to the policy calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Major Gregory Motz noted that, “This is the best job I have had in the Army. To be able to see the progress the Afghans have made in a year and know that it isn’t because we did it for them, but with them…The agricultural community in Khost has made leaps and bounds in the last five years. It is really exciting to be part of that.”

A program calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan is a much needed reason to be optimistic about the future of the war torn nation, as the economic opportunities afforded by a newly invigorated agricultural industry will serve as positive legacy that will outlast the violence of the last decade. Furthermore, by laying the necessary groundwork required for a rich food security program to take hold, the citizens of Afghanistan can look forward to a future high in agricultural sustainability and economic development.

Brian Turner

Source: ClarksVilleonline
Photo: National Guard News