blockchain technology for rice farmers

In 2018, Oxfam, a global organization that works to end the injustice of poverty, introduced a Blockchain technology for rice farmers in Cambodia called Blockchain for Livelihood from Organic Cambodian Rice or, more simply, BlocRice. This blockchain technology will connect rice farmers in the Cambodian village of Reaksmei, in the Preah Vihear province, with other people in the supply chain to ensure that poor farmers get a fair deal.

Rice in Cambodia

Rice is Cambodia’s major crop with roughly 80 percent of Cambodian farmers cultivating rice. Many small-scale rice farmers lack the necessary information to negotiate prices and conditions with middlemen and others in the supply chain. Oxfam is hopeful that this pilot project, which will include 50 organic rice farmers, will expand to other provinces and varieties of farming.

While rice farming accounts for 25 percent of Cambodia’s economy, the average monthly income for these farmers is only $108. It is particularly tough when farmers do not have return customers or vehicles to take the product to a market. With these small-scale farmers struggling, the application of BlocRice will hopefully enhance their bargaining powers and selling prices.

Implementing Blockchain

Bitcoin is digital money that is stored in the digital wallet app on any smart device. Blockchain, a public list, records each transaction to make it traceable. No government issues blockchain, nor are banks required to manage accounts. This makes BlocRice a cheaper payment system with a transparent recording of transactions.

This project will focus on introducing the blockchain technology to rice farmers. In doing so, it will register all participants in the rice chain with a unique identification code. These include agricultural cooperatives, export and import companies, retailers and consumers. A contract between these actors will ensure proper payment and transparency. This connection between actors allows for a better chance for farmers to alleviate themselves from poverty.

The farmer will sell their rice through the cooperative called Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor who then forward the rice to AmruRice, the exporter. AmruRice will then sell and ship the rice to SanoRice, the importer in the Netherlands. SanoRice will then make rice crackers out of the rice and sell it to retailers. The BlocRice application will allow farmers to ensure they get correct payments, are paid on time and that the conditions of the contracts are kept. Consumers are also able to see this data through the same app. The app provides transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed decisions regarding fair production standards and conditions. As a result, the app helps contribute to fighting global poverty.

The Need for Smartphones

While the BlocRice project has helped Cambodian farmers, there is a downside. Access to smartphones presents one obstacle in bringing blockchain technology to rice farmers. Most farmers do not own smartphones, which are needed to access the BlocRice application. However, agricultural cooperatives, such as Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor, do own smartphones that can be used to assist farmers to access the application.

While this pilot project was implemented from April 2018 to March 2019, the success could allow BlocRice to be expanded to other provinces and used with other crops as well. Regardless of any minor setbacks, BlocRice could be an important step in helping rice farmers in Cambodia out of poverty.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Pixabay

AI Improves FarmingOnce a far-fetched, abstract idea, artificial intelligence is now proving to be a valuable asset in solving world hunger. Although AI is still in its earlier stage of development, progress is being made by corporations and university programs such as Google and Stanford University’s Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Lab. No longer merely science fiction, now AI improves farming, helps identify disease, predicts crop yields and locates areas prone to scarcity.

FarmView Increases Sorghum Yields

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University created FarmView to help solve the issue of a rapidly increasing population. By 2050, over 9.8 billion people will live on the planet, making food scarcity a topic of increasing importance. Additionally, CMU wants to help current farmers grow more food using the same amount of crops. And as AI improves farming methods, CMU believes it’s a possibility.

CMU is working with plant scientists and agricultural leaders to develop and deploy a system of AI, sensing and robotics technologies to improve plant breeding and crop management. One aim is to increase yields of drought and heat resistant sorghum–a crop that can thrive in famine-stricken countries. Researchers first collect data with drones, robots and stationary sensors. Then, machine learning technologies analyze the data to determine what factors yield more sorghum.

Agricultural Improvement with Google’s TensorFlow

Another AI technology created to help the agriculture industry is PlantMD. Created by high school students Shaza Mehdi and Nile Ravanell, PlantMD is an app that allows a farmer to detect plant diseases.  Mehdi and Ravanell built the app using Google’s TensorFlow, an open-source machine learning library.

Inspiration for PlantMD came from Nuru, an app built by a research team at Penn State University called PlantVillage in tandem with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.

Nuru was created as a solution to disease and pest susceptibility in cassava, a crop that feeds half a billion Africans daily. Because it is difficult for farmers to inspect and manage every crop, machine learning is being used to increase efficiency. First, a machine learning model was trained using thousands of classified cassava images. The model was then turned into an app where farmers can send images of their crop and receive information not only identifying diseases but also giving options to manage them. With this information, vital African agriculture can be better sustained to feed people.

Stanford University’s Research

Similar to PlantVillage and the IITA, Stanford University is utilizing machine learning in order to understand and predict crop yields in soybeans. But these models may be expanded to help underdeveloped countries.

Marshall Burke, an assistant professor of earth system science at Stanford, said: “If we have a model that works for U.S. soybeans, maybe we can train that model for areas with less data.”

Machine learning can also identify areas in underdeveloped countries suffering from food scarcity. Because these countries often lack reliable agricultural data, machine learning technology is extracting information from satellite images to discover areas where agriculture is suffering.

Solving the World’s Problems with AI

Google’s open-source TensorFlow allows machine learning technologies to be applied to agriculture. Moustapha Cisse, lead of the new Google AI center in Accra, Ghana, mentioned how farmers use TensorFlow-based apps like PlantMD and Nuru to diagnose plant diseases. Cisse said: “This wasn’t done by us but by people who use the tools we built.” Although not everyone owns a phone, it’s an excellent step in demonstrating the possibilities of AI in reducing poverty. And as AI improves farming, it brings us another step closer to reducing world hunger.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Among Workers in the Cashew IndustryWithin the past few decades, diet culture has no doubt become a fad in the United States. From weight loss pills and body slimmers to obsessive calorie counting, diet fads are everywhere. For many, dieting means consuming foods that are high in protein and low in cholesterol and saturated fats. A popular type of food that fits this category is cashews. Convenient when it comes to on-the-go snacks, these moon-shaped nuts are full of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats that make them an ideal snack for dieters.

The top importer of cashews for the past decade, the U.S. imported over 147,000 tons of cashews in 2016, a 32 percent increase from the past four years. Of these imports, 92 percent came from Brazil, India and Vietnam. While the high demand for cashews makes them easily accessible to first-world consumers, these tasty treats come with a price: the poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Problem: Hazardous & Unethical Working Conditions

Tamil Nadu, a state in India, is home to a vast amount of cashew farms. Around 500,000 Indian citizens work on these farms, the majority of whom are women, some as young as 13. Because these employees are hired without contracts, their employers have no obligation to provide steady incomes, pensions or holiday pay. On top of that, cashew harvesting is physically dangerous.

When harvesting cashews, one must break through two layers of shells to get to the nut. In between those two layers of shells are two chemicals, known as cardol and anacardic acid. Upon coming into contact with the skin, these chemicals leave painful burns. While a simple pair of gloves could protect the hands and flesh of cashew harvesters, employers refuse to permit or provide gloves because they slow down the harvesting process.

The average cashew harvester in India earns around 160 rupees per 10-hour day. This equates to $1.90 per 10-hour day. This amount is not just below the poverty line but below the extreme poverty line. In 2015, around 70,000 cashew harvesters in India went on strike, demanding an increase of 70 cents per day. However, with or without this raise, this wage remains below the poverty line.

Multiple supermarkets that import cashews from Tamil Nadu have voluntarily signed up to be members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). However, they have not taken action to prevent the unethical conditions of the cashew plantations contributing to the overall poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Solution: Combating Unethicality

In 2013, upon acknowledging the poverty among workers in the cashew industry, a company in India called Acceso Cashew Enterprise Private Limited (ACE) was formed. Partnering with U.S. nonprofit Technoserve, ACE works to address inefficiencies in farming practices and conditions of the cashew industry. ACE created an agriculture program to increase the number of cashew crops grown in India utilizing the least amount of resources. This program also improves farmers’ incomes by teaching them sustainability techniques and strengthening their market linkages. In 2014, over 1,000 farmers participated in the program.

Aatmaram Yashvant Agre, a farmer who participated in ACE’s agricultural program, successfully implemented the sustainability techniques to improve his farming. As a result, Agre’s overall cashew production grew by 30 percent. ACE, which works to end global poverty through business solutions, encourages advocacy on the issue of poverty and always accepts donations. By ensuring cashew harvesters are utilizing more efficient farming practices, their profits increase. Thus, poverty among workers in the cashew industry decreases. More efficient farming practices also ensure cashew harvesters avoid practices that cause them physical harm. And ultimately, this enables cashew harvesters to live humanely and lead healthier lives.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

Speed Breeding Technology
While the earth’s rapidly changing climate and growing global population have caused concern about the future of the agriculture industry, there now appears to be a reason for optimism. Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia have recently developed a new speed breeding technology that allows for quicker harvesting of plants. Researchers have been developing the technology for almost a decade and NASA’s past experiments with growing food in space are an inspiration. This technology has massive implications for the agriculture industry; with it, food production should significantly increase, which will be a necessity since the global population might grow to 9.8 billion by 2050.

How it Works

To speed up the harvesting process, special red and blue LED lights are shone on the crops (which are kept in greenhouses) for up to 22 hours a day at temperatures between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This near-constant lighting and precise temperature help speed up the photosynthesis process, allowing for crops such as wheat, barley and chickpeas to grow up to three times faster than with traditional practices.

Crops produced with speed breeding technology also show to be of higher quality than those harvested with more conventional methods. In addition to increases in speed and quality, crops bred in this new way can be more resistant to extreme heat and droughts. To do this, speed breeding is combined with the usage of tools like CRISPR, a family of DNA sequences that allows for the removal of unwanted portions of a crop’s DNA. Such unwanted portions are often ones that cause decreased yield for a given crop; for example, CRISPR could remove a gene that causes a crop to prematurely germinate after rainfall.

Implementation and Implications for the Global Poor

Currently, the researchers from Queensland are traveling to locations such as Mali and Zimbabwe, as well as India, to train farmers on how to use these new techniques. The researchers receive funding from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. This funding is likely to have a massive impact on individuals in developing countries, as speed breeding has enormous potential to help the world’s poor. Part of the reason for this is that people can use this technology anywhere. For example, people can power LEDs using solar power instead of electricity in countries where electricity is lacking. This makes the technology one that people can easily implement throughout the developing world.

Global Impact

Speed breeding will help produce crops at a quicker rate so that more people around the world can receive food. In addition to this, speed breeding technology is a sustainable technique that, if growers implement in conjunction with other practices (such as the usage of tools like CRISPR) could make crops more resistant to heat and disease. All in all, speed breeding technology is, without question, an integral part of the future of the agriculture industry.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

5 Organizations That Empower Women
Women’s empowerment in the developing world is a major tool that countries can use to alleviate socioeconomic issues like poverty and corruption. Here are the top five organizations that empower women.

5 Organizations That Empower Women

  1. Women’s Global Empowerment Fund
    The Women’s Global Empowerment Fund (WGEF) is an organization committed to creating opportunities and addressing inequality, strengthening communities and families and using political, social and economic programs to support women. WGEF’s programs provide frameworks for women to create opportunities for themselves at the grassroots level. As of January 2017, WGEF’s Credit Plus Program provided more than 10,000 microcredit loans, which help women create and expand sustainable, viable businesses in developing countries. That same year, many of the WGEF’s clients applied for their fourth or fifth loans to further grow their businesses. Since its inception, WGEF’s literacy program reached more than 1,500 women in rural or poor communities, and 416 women were reached in 2016 alone. The literacy program takes place twice a week over the course of six months and costs $80 per person annually. Ten of WGEF’s clients, many of whom benefitted from the literacy program, ran for local and regional offices during national elections in 2016.
  2. Panzi Hospital
    Panzi Hospital is located in Bukavu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since its founding in 1999, it has served as a general hospital for local residents. Still, the hospital has become a well-known organization that empowers women because of its efforts to help victims of sexual violence and women suffering from complicated gynecological issues. Panzi Hospital is now comprised of four departments: obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics. In 2012, the team at Panzi Hospital implemented a project to provide cervical cancer screenings to patients, the first of its kind in the region. Patients at Panzi Hospital also have access to psychological care, socioeconomic assistance and legal assistance. From 1999 to 2015, Panzi Hospital served 85,864 women. As of the end of 2015, 48,482 of the hospital’s patients were victims of some form of sexual violence. Forty to 60 percent of the women treated at Panzi Hospital cannot return to their home communities because of conflict and the stigma surrounding sexual violence and reproductive injuries. These women are housed at the hospital’s aftercare center, Maison Dorcas.
  3. Her Farm
    Her Farm is located in Nepal and supports women in the rural areas at the base of the Himalayas. The organization’s mission is to provide women with the tools they need to be self-sufficient, including access to healthcare, economic opportunities and education. Her Farm is owned and operated by women and for women; the women freely farm the land and make all the decisions regarding Her Farm themselves. Currently, Her Farm provides employment and safe living conditions for 30 women and children, and they educate 12 children daily. As a result of Her Farm’s efforts, 300 people have access to an emergency center. Annually, Her Farm has 150 visitors.
  4. Orchid Project
    Orchid Project is an organization battling female genital cutting (FGC). FGC refers to a practice that involves removing parts or all of a girl’s external genitalia, or any injuries associated with the practice. Usually, girls go through FGC before the age of five, but it can occur at any time between birth and adolescence. The practice of FGC is largely cultural; there are no religious obligations associated with FGC. Globally, the practice of FGC impacts over 200 million women and girls, with 3.9 million girls at risk annually. Today, FGC occurs in at least 45 countries worldwide. The practice is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights. Orchid Project, like other organizations that empower women, focuses on education and advocacy to eliminate FGC. The organization partners with other nonprofits like Sahiyo and Tostan on the ground in countries where FGC is still practiced to host knowledge-sharing workshops within impacted communities. This approach recognizes that FGC is a cultural phenomenon and allows the members of the community to come together and choose to abandon the practice. From 2015, Orchid Project has held 12 workshops across Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Somaliland.
  5. Equality Now
    Equality Now is committed to changing laws to promote socioeconomic change for women and girls around the world. The organization’s network of lawyers and activists are currently fighting to end female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual violence, human trafficking, child marriage and gender inequality. In 2017, 11 laws that Equality Now had been fighting for were changed or strengthened. The organization also provided training to 50 lawyers and judges and its supporters sent more than 21,300 advocacy letters.

Without empowering its women, no country can hope to eliminate issues like poverty. These 5 organizations that empower women are committed to ending inequality in the developing world.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

India water crisisIndia’s dry season has been notably harsh in 2019, and the country is suffering its lowest rainfall before a monsoon season in six decades. Just under half the population is facing a drought and dozens have died from the combination of a heat wave and a lack of water. The India water crisis is also causing evacuations as the drought is forcing families to leave their homes in search of water.

Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, is facing extreme water scarcity. The reservoir water supply shrank between 2018 and 2019 and is almost entirely drained of water.

Effect of the Drought

Experts blame the severe drought on mismanaged resources along with industrial and human waste, bad policy decisions and climate change. Thirty-two states have organized a State Action Plan on Climate Change in order to achieve national as well as regional priorities. But many farmers claim the government plan has not been carried out. “There is a lack of interest among politicians and the bureaucracy, which is keen to look for temporary solutions to drought and climate change impacts,” stated agricultural and climate change researcher Atul Deulgaonkar.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the drought has not only affected the monsoon and winter crops but also destroyed supplementary crops. Because agriculture is the most important sector of its economy, India is heavily reliant on monsoon rains. The drought is particularly dangerous for marginalized farmers in rural areas. Approximately 80 percent of districts in Karnataka and 72 percent in Maharashtra are faced with crop failure, which has put the livelihood of eight million farmers in jeopardy.

Solutions to the Crisis

However, there are solutions to the crisis such as reducing the need for the enormous amounts of water used for crops. Because agriculture accounts for nearly 90 percent of India’s water consumption, reducing the dependence on water-intensive crops and agricultural methods would substantially increase water for drinking and make farmers less vulnerable to water shortages. Environmental scientist Kyle Davis stated, “Diversifying the crops that a country grows can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of climate change.” In addition, the use of alternative grains can improve nutrition and reduce greenhouse emissions from agriculture.

Other steps are currently underway for alleviating the water crisis. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an $87 billion plan to reduce flooding and improve irrigation by linking 60 rivers across India. So far only 16 rivers have been linked and the effect of this plan is yet to be determined. Some Indian states such as Maharashtra have followed the example of Israel and implemented a drip irrigation method, which involves dripping water onto individual plants through tubes or pipes rather than flooding whole fields.

Whatever the means, the India water crisis must come to an end. One-hundred million children in India lack water and one out of every two are underfed. Water security must be guaranteed in India amidst rising temperatures and falling water tables so families can raise their children with dignity and health in the upcoming century. A slew of solutions indicate hope for the future, though.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pixabay

Smart Agriculture Farming
In 2050, the population of the earth is expected to have exploded to 9.6 billion. Additionally, with the rise of extreme weather events under climate change and the decrease of arable land due to erosion, it has become increasingly crucial for farmers to become as efficient as possible. Smart agriculture farming is one solution to this problem. Through the utilization of modern technology, this can soon become a reality for many farmers residing in third world countries.

Smart Agriculture Farming

Smart Agriculture, also known as precision farming, is defined as the utilization of modern technologies, including:

  1. The IoT (internet of things)
  2. Soil scanning
  3. GPS
  4. Data management

All these innovations improve both the quality and quantity of agricultural goods. By having access to real-time data about the state of their crops, farmers can easily monitor the health of their fields. They can also maximize the effectiveness of resources such as water, pesticide and fertilizers. For example, in a smart agriculture regulated field, pesticide usage can be made custom to each corner of the plot, as opposed to the entire field or even farm.

Current Usage Status

Currently, precision farming occurs primarily in the developed world. North America, with 37.34 percent, has the lion’s share of the global smart agriculture farming market. Progress has been slower in developing countries, largely because of nonprofits funding pilot projects, such as the World Bank, rather than business venture capitalists. Presently, the largest smart agriculture provider in third world countries is PAD (Precision Agriculture for Development). The provider operates labs and partnerships in:

  1. India
  2. Kenya
  3. Pakistan
  4. Rwanda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Uganda
  7. Bangladesh

PAD has ambitions to improve the livelihoods of the 100 million smallholder farmers across the developing world by providing them with customized information about the local geography, climate and more.

Positive Impacts

By increasing the efficiency of the application of fertilizers and pesticides onto crops, the positive impacts of smart agriculture can easily be measured. For instance, an Iran case study revealed that the application of smart agriculture farming reduced input costs. Positive environmental impacts were also recorded. For example, 90.7 percent of the time when precision agriculture was utilized, energy sources were conserved. Furthermore, an impressive 99.2 percent of the time, underground and surface water consumption decreased. The case study also saw an increase in terms of economic prosperity, with 99.1 percent of smart agriculture ventures increasing profitability.

Future Directions

Smart agriculture is moving today at an increasingly rapid speed. It is a part of the movement that is ushering in what many are beginning to call the Third Green Revolution. Currently, the most exciting aspect of precision farming that is in the works is perhaps the usage of agricultural drones.

Through a combination of aerial imaging and near-infrared viewing, farmers can now easily survey the conditions of their crops. Some of these drones, such as the DGI AGRAS MG-1, are even capable of the custom SMALL-SCALE application of fertilizers and pesticides.

In recent years, a similar industry, precision livestock farming, has also sprung up. Similar to the systems found in precision agriculture, precision livestock farming is generally defined as the continuous management of the health, production/reproduction, the welfare of farm animals and their environmental impact through automation.

Smart agriculture farming has helped greatly increase efficiency and profitability for many farmers in both the developed and developing world. Today, it is taking on exciting new directions and there is no telling what the future holds for it.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Wikimedia

Better Coffee Farms Can Help World PovertyCoffee is the world’s second favorite drink, the first being water. In the United States, Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. More than three million cups are consumed worldwide. To support the world’s coffee addiction, many developing countries rely on the coffee-growing industry. Most of these coffee growers are small farmers, and the majority live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of the coffee market, better coffee farms reduce world poverty.

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as, “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than ten percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, fertilizer, pesticides, workers, etc., this creates an unprofitable business.

Without profit, many coffee farmers have left the industry because they are unable to sustain themselves. Additionally, the past few years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases such as “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low this year.

Not only are coffee farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but a number of other challenges have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. Coffee grows best at a high altitude, usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds to the cost of transportation and labor. A lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

Despite the current situation of coffee production, demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is a predicted shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. However, fair-trade can create problems around business costs and artificially raised sale prices. Fair-trade targets production but does not always reduce poverty.

Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmer operations and management have shown more success. The National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while maintaining their ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farms reduce world poverty, as farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Small coffee farmers have been exploited for their work for too long. Coffee is a popular product, and with better management tools and ownership over their product, small farmers can influence the market to benefit themselves. No longer will the industry be unprofitable with increased management and training. When farmers are able to gain the tools they need for a profitable business, coffee farms reduce world poverty.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Farming in AfricaAfrica is home to 54 countries, with 36 percent of people living on less than one dollar a day. Farming is how a large majority of Africans feed their family and generate revenue. Although the sweeping plains of East and South Africa are abundant in natural resources, there are still high levels of poverty among farmers. These 10 facts about farming in Africa will explain why farmers in Africa fall below the international poverty level.

10 Facts About Farming in Africa

  1. The Sahara Desert is growing. A future threat to farmers is the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert. While most deserts’ boundaries expand and contract seasonally, data collected over the past 100 years shows that the Sahara grew by at least 11 percent and now takes up 3.6 million square miles of Northern Africa. As the places where people farm grow drier, famine and drought become more of a risk.
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa contains 19 of the 25 poorest countries in the world. This includes the Central African Republic, which is nearly self-sufficient in crops but ranks as the poorest country in Africa (681 GDP) due to poor livestock quality. Overall, this “horn” of the African continent contains a population of 626 million people, and 384 million—or 61 percent—of them are farmers.
  3. Roughly 65 percent of Africa’s population relies on subsistence farming. Subsistence farming, or smallholder agriculture, is when one family grows only enough to feed themselves. Without much left for trade, the surplus is usually stored to last the family until the following harvest. While subsistence farming is appealing to rural farmers because it allows families to be self-sufficient, it is heavily susceptible to climate change and works best when there is no drought or flood, which usually isn’t the case.
  4. Farmers suffer from Africa’s loss of share in world trade. Unfortunately, there are higher trade taxes placed on the continent compared to other regions. This is due to roads that lead toward ports rather than other countries, as well as rigorous tariffs and inspection laws between borders. Working to boost intra-African trade, regional economic communities (RECs) face immense challenges and policymakers are focusing on RECs in order to increase regional integration.
  5. Africa’s common cash crops are cocoa, cotton and coffee. Initially, cocoa was as a smallholder crop but has grown in popularity due to global demand. Robusta is a typical coffee bean grown in Africa, commonly used for instant coffee. It faces competition with the higher quality Arabica beans exported from Asia and South America. Overall, the exposure of cash crops to the world market has expanded growth in Africa but also slowly eroded farmer incomes. Cash crop farmers receive very small proportions of the final traded price.
  6. Women make up the largest share of the agricultural labor force in Africa. Although they produce 80 percent of the continent’s food, they are excluded from determining agricultural policies and certain laws deprive them of their land and livelihood. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that if women were given the same access to productive resources as men, crop yield could be increased 20 to 30 percent—in turn, reducing the number of world hunger up to 17 percent. https://www.farmafrica.org/what-we-do-1/women-in-the-field
  7. Africa has the largest number of child labor, and the agriculture sector accounts for most of it. In sub-Saharan Africa, child labor increased over the 2012 to 2016 period, in contrast to continued progress in the rest of the world. Most child labor is unpaid, going on in family farms and not between employment with a third-party.
  8. Countries with high child labor rates, like Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, also report high school attendance rates at 90 percent. Families that do subsistence farming anecdotally report high career aspirations for their children. The high child labor rates are not necessarily an alternative to school, but an act performed for the necessary family income that leads to subsistence and high attendance rates. In a sense, child work often contributes to improving the family farm that they may eventually inherit.
  9. Focus on agribusiness can help improve the lives of farmers. The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) promotes a focus on the chain of process: land tenure, farming technology, markets and pricing. Agribusiness also involves technology, such as mobile apps used as a means to reach farmers and track data on land conditions. By turning farming into an entrepreneurial endeavor, agribusiness could create the mass number of jobs needed for Africa’s youth.
  10. By increasing local production of chemical fertilizers, the lives of African farmers could improve. Globally, Africa consumes only one percent of fertilizer and produces even less. With high costs and short supply, African farmers pay up to six times the average price for fertilizer. If a farmer is living on one dollar a day, imported fertilizer is unaffordable. Increasing local production of fertilizer would reduce costs and shorten the supply chain to farmers.

Improving the lives of African farmers is possible through education and outside funding. USAID can focus on improving transportation networks for rural areas, as well as expanding the infrastructure of suppliers and markets. Through gender-equalizing laws and lowering tariffs, African farmers can also increase their benefits from their work. These 10 facts about farming in Africa show that African farmers make up a large majority of the world’s poor, and there is much to be done when it comes to improving their future.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire produces 35 percent of all cocoa, making it the largest cocoa producer in the world. A majority of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, however, live below the poverty line. Within the past couple of years, a financial crisis within the cocoa sector has worsened conditions for cocoa farmers. Improving financial inclusion and increasing yields could become ways to bring cocoa farmers out of poverty.

In 2017, the cocoa crisis left many farmers without pay for their work. George Koffi Kouame, a 50-year-old cocoa farmer, told the BBC that he had delivered 1.8 tons of cocoa and had not been paid. This is the result of plummeting cocoa prices, which led up to 80 percent of cocoa buyers to terminate their contracts with farmers.

Living Conditions

However, even without this crisis, most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are struggling. As a condition of their poverty, many lack adequate access to education, healthcare and drinking water.

Only 43 percent of farming communities observed in a study by Barry-Callebaut, a major chocolate manufacturer, had a health facility in their village. For 54 percent of the communities, the nearest health facility was, on average, 12 kilometers away, a little over seven miles.

Additionally, 25 percent of villages did not have a primary school, with 22 percent of villages having no school at all. While 87.4 percent of villages had a primary school located within five kilometers, having a school in each village ensures that education is accessible even to the most impoverished, as they may not have the means to travel for schooling.

Finally, access to safe drinking water is also a concern for some cocoa farmers. While 32 percent obtain some of their drinking water from the national water supply and 63 percent have access to pumped water, 5 percent of farming communities do not have access to either source. This suggests that they mainly drink surface water, which is more likely to be unsanitary.

Rural Côte d’Ivoire is in desperate need of better and more abundant schools and healthcare facilities, as well as access to drinkable water in certain villages. These changes would help improve the standard of living of cocoa farmers and their families more generally, potentially aiding in efforts to raise them out of poverty.

Financial Inclusion

Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are generally excluded from formal financial services. Rates for all residents of Côte d’Ivoire are high, with 53 percent of men and 64 percent of women lacking access to financial services.

Because of this, the crop cycle generally determines the financial lives of cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers harvest from October to January and make their money for the year during this period. Then, from February to September, farmers must make the money they earned from this harvest last, as cocoa farming is the main source of income for most farmers.

If their money begins to run out during these months, many are forced to take informal loans with high-interest rates in order to make ends meet. Then, when the next harvest begins generating income, paying back these loans reduces their profit and makes it difficult to save money for the following year.

To improve the financial health of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and help them rise out of poverty, more financial products need to be available. Access to formal loans is incredibly important, as loans through the banking sector will have lower interest rates and be easier to repay. Many farmers would benefit from being able to get formal loans for school fees, as these are due before the harvest season has begun.

Additionally, education programs to teach farmers how to best manage their money in combination with access to savings accounts can help farmers become financially sustainable over time. Advans, an international microfinance group, has been working in Côte d’Ivoire since 2015, helping farmers set aside money for the future.

Crop Yields

Another solution, proposed by Barry-Callebaut, is to help farmers increase their crop yields, thereby increasing their income. Farmers sometimes do not use pesticides and fertilizers, decreasing their cocoa yields, partly due to low access to financial services. Improving access to financial services, as well as implementing educational programs for farmers to help them learn better agricultural practices, has the potential to significantly increase farmers’ yields over time.

Overall, improving financial inclusion and crop yields has the potential to help cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire rise out of poverty. Additionally, improving education, healthcare and drinking water access will improve their quality of life. As information about cocoa farming continues to be collected, this knowledge will hopefully be used to benefit impoverished farmers.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr