GPS Tracking of Livestock in AfricaAround 85% of global citizens living in extreme poverty inhabit the sub-Saharan portion of Africa. Civilians rely heavily on agriculture, specifically livestock production, to support their livelihoods and the economy at large. However, these animals can transmit diseases harmful to humans, such as foot-and-mouth disease, ringworm, listeriosis and MRSA. Scientists and farmers in Tanzania have partnered up to create satellite GPS tracking devices to track livestock herds and gain a better understanding of how diseases spread between herds. GPS tracking of livestock in Africa can also prevent further infection.

Livestock Agriculture in Africa

About 70% of African civilians rely on agriculture to make a decent living. This sector contributes to improved food security, industrialization and domestic and global trade throughout Africa. Livestock is an essential part of agriculture. Farmers raise domesticated animals to provide resources such as dairy products, fibers and feathers. In fact, 60%-80% of rural homes in Africa keep livestock to support their economic and food necessities. The East Africa region is the nation’s largest exporter of live animals, “home to 107.2 million head of cattle, 178.8 million goats and sheep, 1.3 million camels and 4.4 million pigs” in 2019.

East Africa derives more than $1 billion worth of annual income from the export of livestock to the Middle East and Northern Africa. In addition, livestock agriculture contributes between 30% and 80% of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) across African nations.

Disease Risks of Livestock Agriculture

Due to the heavy reliance on livestock agriculture in Africa, one must consider diseases that could potentially transmit to other herds and humans. The avian flu, Ebola and COVID-19 are only a few of the many illnesses spread through animals. About 75% of emerging infectious diseases are “zoonotic,” meaning that the diseases originate from pathogens of infected live animals and then pass on to humans. With increased interaction between livestock and civilians in Africa, there is a higher risk for disease transmission. This could negatively impact livestock productivity and could worsen poverty and food insecurity across Africa.

GPS Tracking of Livestock

Livestock health authorities in Africa have little knowledge of which areas have the highest prevalence of disease transmission among cattle. GPS tracking of livestock in Africa could be the solution. In 2021, scientists and researchers from the University of Glasgow teamed up with farmers from rural villages of Tanzania to study how diseases spread among livestock to prevent future disease spread. Together, they developed satellite GPS tracking devices that could monitor the transportation of livestock.

Through this method, researchers discovered that disease transmission was most likely to occur in areas where the animals congregated for long periods, “such as at water holes and cattle plunge dips.” GPS tracking of livestock in Africa also reveals the far distances cattle often travel daily. Cattle would cover roughly five miles per day and reach maximum speeds of seven miles per hour, allowing room for intermingling between herds.

Looking Ahead

GPS tracking of livestock in Africa is paving the way for disease control and prevention. This research could potentially save lives and economies in continents like Africa where disease prevalence and agricultural demand are high. A better understanding of disease transmission between livestock and humans can also improve the animals’ health, contributing significantly to the strengthening of African livelihoods.

Megan Quinn
Photo: Flickr

Sheep Farming in the Sahel RegionThe Sahel region of Africa, a semi-arid region of western and north-central Africa, farms sheep, often prizing them as a rich source of income. Sheep livestock farming generates significant income because the sheep thrive in all environments, and the demand in Africa is high. The benefits of sheep farming in the Sahel region re-present themselves annually and allow more income than typical farming. Sheep farming in the Sahel region allows more income in a region where farms struggle in the arid environment, and the average income is less than $2 a day.

Farming Difficulties and Solutions in the Sahel Region

The Sahel region’s farming difficulties are numerous. The soil for farming lacks nutrients and makes it challenging to maintain crops. New technologies, such as the Delfino Plough, are currently working to combat this. The plough moves up and down acres of land and punches seeds and nutrients into the ground. Another challenge the Sahel region faces is a lack of water. Rainfall is less than 200 millimeters (mm) annually along its northern edges and often never more than 600 mm along the southern border. Despite the extra rain from the 2020 and 2021 rainy seasons, the soil is typically too dry to support long-term farming. However, if the excess rain continues, it will help the ground remain richer for longer.

Funding and financial backing for the Sahel region’s farms have been minimal, impacting the farms’ ability to grow more produce and generate more income. Meager income affects the number of proper farming tools farmers can acquire and does not help farmers when they try to create and sustain their farms. Useful and new farming tools are expensive. Banks have begun operations in the region. The banks must connect with local farms and help them create plans for saving money. Traditionally, some of the most profitable farms in the Sahel region have been the sheep farms.

Importance of Sheep Farming in the Sahel Region

The Sahel region’s sheep farms are essential because they provide vital income, quickly tradable goods and food security. In such an arid environment, the Sahel region’s farmers are experts at their crafts and know which crops will thrive as sheep farming offers alternative farming options. Sheep livestock farming guarantees at least one, if not multiple, sources of income from the animals, i.e., dairy products, wool/fibers for clothes and bedding and offspring to further the economic income. Additionally, sheep manure benefits the soils and feeds nutrients to the ground to help other farms grow their produce.

Demand for sheep’s wool reaches almost 2 million tons annually. Depending on which type of market one is selling wool in and which type of wool it is, the wool can earn the seller $15 to $20 per pound. The amount of wool produced depends on various factors, such as diet, gender, age, size, climate and more. Considering those factors, a sheep can make anywhere between two and 30 pounds a year. The shearing and raising of sheep allow for a quick return on profits because sheep fur grows fast and brings a profit. Later, the breeding of the sheep earns the livestock farmers extra income.

The profit from sheep farming in the Sahel region varies depending on the purpose of the sheep farms. If a farm is raising sheep solely for its wool, its income comes from what it makes by selling the wool. However, sheep farmers can also sell the animal’s meat or offspring should the farms begin breeding the sheep. Every dollar counts for the sheep farmers, especially in regard to how the costs of the farm balances with their income.

Sheep Farming’s Future in the Sahel Region

Sheep farming in the Sahel region is a continually expanding business. As desertification has affected more and more land in the Sahel region, farmers need to look for ways to preserve their land and maintain income. Sheep farming is an ideal way to achieve their goals. Sheep farming in the Sahel region allows farmers to revitalize land and the economy as demand for wool and sheep meat remains high locally and internationally.

As almost 90% of the Sahel region relies on farming of some type, countless non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work to find solutions to the challenges Sahel farmers face. Sheep farming in the Sahel region is likely to be a practice that many other farms in the Sahel region take up because of its sustainability. With the help of the Sahel Alliance, farming practices are likely going to continue and remain a dominant source of income in the region.

The Sahel Alliance organizes efforts for projects across the Sahel region to preserve the region’s ways of life and raises money to fund projects aimed at local support. The projects are in fields like “education and youth employment” as well as “agriculture, rural development, food security” and “energy and climate” along with “governance,” “decentralization and basic services” and “internal security.” Helping farmers in the Sahel region is a primary goal of the Alliance and sheep farmers are a significant number of those farmers. With all the benefits sheep farming in the Sahel region brings, it is no wonder that it is vital to the region and likely to grow with the assistance of the Alliance.

Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Farming Initiatives Empower Women
In developing nations, females make up only 10%-20% of landholders, which leads to gender disparities in the farming industry. When female farmers lack power over land, they have less agency to occupy leadership positions and earn higher incomes. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched a program in April 2020 in Ouallam, Niger, to help women adopt sustainable farming practices and support themselves financially through agriculture. The program supports local women from Ouallam, women who faced displacement due to conflict in other parts of Niger and refugees from the neighboring country of Mali. Sustainable farming initiatives empower women in developing countries by helping women to establish their own businesses, fight hunger and boost local economies.

Women in the Farming Industry

According to the World Bank, in 2020, almost 43% of Niger’s people endured extreme poverty, which equates to more than 10 million people. Many global organizations recognize that women account for the majority of the world’s impoverished due to barriers arising through gender equality.

Gender roles make it difficult for many female farmers in developing countries to manage their own crops and handle their own finances. In some cases, even when a woman runs the land and makes important farming decisions, male farmers only ask to do business with a female farmer’s husband.

Female farmers also face obstacles with funding. Female-operated farms yield up to 30% less than male-operated farms because women tend to lack access to credit for funding. Without adequate capital, women farmers are less inclined to purchase and utilize “fertilizer, drought-resistant seeds, sustainable agricultural practices and other advanced farming tools and techniques that increase crop yields.”

Public and private organizations recognize the extent of gender disparities in agriculture and many have launched initiatives to address these issues. UNHCR’s work in Niger is one of many programs that show how sustainable farming initiatives empower women and help close the gender gap in agriculture.

UNHCR and Desert Farming in Niger

Farmers in Ouallam, Niger, must use tactical farming and irrigation practices to sustain crops in the desert. Around 450 female farmers work the land in Ouallam and many of them are refugees only recently entering the world of agriculture. The women grow crops like potatoes, watermelons, cabbage and onions to support themselves and their families. UNHCR’s initiative in 2020 helped the women adopt drip irrigation, which helps preserve water in the desert instead of letting it evaporate or go to waste. Female farmers in Ouallam benefit from UNHCR initiative by adopting efficient irrigation methods that maximize water use and crop yields.

Hunger and Poverty Reduction

Sustainable farming initiatives empower women, reduce hunger and combat poverty in communities around the world. If female farmers had the funding and resources to produce as many crops as male farmers, world hunger could decrease by roughly 17%, according to Oxfam International. Educational initiatives can also teach women highly efficient farming methods that they may not learn otherwise. As productivity and yields increase among female farmers, the incomes of women will increase along with their economic independence. Female farmers increase access to food and contribute to local markets, so they can benefit their communities at large by reducing hunger and poverty.

Public and private initiatives to uplift female farmers can lead to monumental changes in developing countries. Funding and education help women succeed in agriculture, gain financial independence and improve the quality of life in local communities overall.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Soil Quality in Mexico
Mexico is an important producer of various crops like maize. The country is first globally in the production of avocados, lemons and limes. However, 45% to 63% of soil in Mexico has some level of degradation diminishing its capability of supporting agriculture. Because of soil degradation’s effects on production, small-scale farms, which are usually food insecure, are struggling to compete with modern farms with highly developed technology and access to resources. Therefore, the relation between soil quality in Mexico and poverty is evident.

Agriculture and Cattle Raising

According to a 2015 publication, Mexico is in the top 25% of countries with the most unequal distribution of income. Because of this inequality, many rural and impoverished farming areas do not feel the benefits of efforts to improve agricultural productivity. Inferior soil quality in Mexico, especially in farms located in rural areas, “diminish the value of many rural plots.”

According to a study in 2019, “63.5% of Mexico’s cattle are raised in tropical areas,” like forests, yet productivity is still low. Cattle “provide only 17% of the nation’s milk produced and approximately 28% of its meat.” Raising cattle in tropical areas can become an issue when heavy amounts of cattle grazing occur in these low-income forest communities because it may reduce the amount of plant cover, which allows for quicker soil erosion.

Deforestation

According to a 2017 USAID publication, forests cover 34% of Mexico’s land, and between the years 2010 and 2015, the country lost approximately 458,000 hectares of forests due to deforestation. These “forests are home to more than 12 million people,” most of whom live in poverty and rely on local resources to survive. These forest dwellers often acquire these resources through agricultural means, which strongly depends on the quality of the area’s soil. The loss of trees from deforestation in these communities leaves soil with no grounding roots, allowing for the elements to remove necessary topsoil. When this happens, farmers move to new areas with sufficient soil to raise healthy and plentiful crops, only continuing this unsustainable cycle.

Via Orgánica

Via Orgánica is a nonprofit organization based in Mexico promoting regenerative agriculture to allow for sustainability and encourage healthy lifestyles. The nonprofit is a working ranch that hosts camps to teach individuals how to transform degenerated land into a productive area where they can grow healthy crops. The organization teaches skills like bio-intensive gardening and compost-making to improve soil quality.

Co-founder Rosana Alvarez told Traverse Journeys that Via Orgánica has helped locals open restaurants and small shops that provide clean and healthy foods. She also said that since the nonprofit began in 2009, the organization has helped to create 75 jobs for rural and marginalized Mexicans in the area.

Inferior soil quality in Mexico and land degradation have major effects on citizens living in poverty. Forest agriculture often negatively impacts local soil and initiatives often overlook rural areas when addressing soil issues in the country. Deforestation also increases soil erosion and reduces agricultural productivity. However, efforts to enhance soil quality and improve farming productivity among rural Mexican communities provide hope for the future.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Helps Farmers
The Awareness Company develops information technology by using satellites, sensors, trackers, fusion engines and camera traps to improve and structure businesses globally. This technology can also help farmers be successful, subsequently improving food security and reducing food shortages globally.

What is Agritech?

Agritech is the use of technology while farming, most commonly to ensure proper growth and efficient profit for the farmers involved. People mostly use the umbrella term Agritech to refer to agriculture ranging from weather forecasting, photography by satellite, irrigation and heat and light control.

What is The Awareness Company?

The Awareness Company started in 2018 with co-founders Praiaash Ramadeen, Estelle Lubbe and Shazia Vawda in Johannesburg, South Africa. Upon its start, the Awareness Company produces HYDRA Intelligent Places, Smart Mining, Agriculture and Conservation for global use. Ecological employees and businesses can use the programs about local security, safety awareness, maintenance and conservation to inform and educate community members.

The Awareness Company has four projects they are working on with the help of technology to improve agriculture globally including FarmSecurity, FarmAwareness, AgriOne and AgriInsights. The programs give real-time data management about livestock location, water and soil analysis and insights for selling products that are otherwise unavailable for farmers working without Agritech. The technology can ensure a proper harvest and indicate if plants need more attention or focus.

How Agriculture and Technology Can Reduce Global Poverty

Technology can help improve food security and help farmers protect their land, animals and communities. The assistance of satellites, drones and automatic equipment can drastically change the crop yield and sustainability of a farm. The global use of this equipment will provide more food for low-income countries whose communities would benefit from the additional food without the hassle of possible future mistakes that could lead to the destruction of a farm. Reduced prices, higher crop productivity and worker safety are all important parts of building a safe and healthy environment that ensures the growth of a country regarding its food supply for citizens.

Food security is essential for stopping global poverty. With the help of technology, agriculture receives more jobs and a boost in the economy. As a result, fewer people will starve and food shortages both locally and globally will decrease. According to the USDA, positive impacts include poverty reduction, trade and export opportunities, global security and improved citizen health and health care. The help of technology can strengthen and prevent any future disasters that may arise. By alerting the farmer with the knowledge of the new technologies and introducing the machinery/software, the farmer will be able to accomplish more knowing what was unavailable before is now available for the enrichment of their work.

The Future of Agritech with The Awareness Company

The Awareness Company won Microsoft’s AgriChallenge, where Microsoft announced and invited different technology companies to show what the companies could do in August 2020. After the investment from Microsoft in December 2021, The Awareness Company’s Co-Founder and CEO Praiaash Ramadeen said “That’s why Microsoft’s support and investment in helping us as a local, homegrown business to grow and develop solutions that focus on solving real-world problems is so meaningful… we have already done in the agricultural space to promote sustainable agriculture and food security through intelligent data.”

The Awareness Company can help farmers find reliable solutions to arising problems globally through the use of technology. With 2 to 4 million small farmers in South Africa, the use of artificial intelligence can provide a helpful boost in the daily lives of both farmers and consumers.

Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Oxfam Addresses Poverty in ZimbabweThe country of Zimbabwe has a population of 14.86 million people as of 2020. Zimbabwe’s poverty rate stood at 38.3% in 2019, increasing at a yearly percentage of 10.32%. Due to a high prevalence of poverty in the nation, Oxfam addresses poverty in Zimbabwe to improve the lives of citizens. Across the world, Oxfam is lowering poverty rates in developing nations through initiatives that combat hunger, strengthen livelihoods and supply water and sanitation services, among other efforts. With Oxfam’s help, Zimbabwe may be able to target and reduce poverty across the nation.

Combating Hunger and Improving Farming

In June 2020, Oxfam reported that more than 17 million individuals “across Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa” faced food insecurity as a consequence of the impacts of the severe 2019 drought on agriculture. In the same month, Oxfam warned that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic could intensify circumstances of food insecurity for more than 40 million individuals in Southern Africa. The food insecurity situation is so extreme that Zimbabweans are crossing the Kafwambila border into Zambia “to exchange their goats and cows for a small bag of maize flour.”

Oxfam is able to help people in need of dependable sources of food. Oxfam addresses poverty in Zimbabwe by working with local leaders to deliver clean water and food to citizens in need. In emergency situations, Oxfam provides cash transfers so that people can purchase food according to their needs and preferences.

The Benefits of Agricultural Productivity

A 2011 OECD study analyzed poverty reduction successes between 1980-2005 across 25 nations. The study’s specific in-depth analysis of poverty reduction in Ghana, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ethiopia found that more than 50% of poverty reduction relates to “growth in agricultural incomes.” This shows that agriculture plays a crucial role in global poverty reduction.

Increased agricultural productivity can increase farmers’ incomes and food production in a country and reduce the costs of food overall while providing job opportunities. According to a 2014 Africa Renewal article, Zimbabwe requires 1.8 million tons of maize annually to adequately provide for the country’s people and livestock. However, during the 2012/2013 agricultural year, Zimbabwe produced less than 800,000 tons of maize.

The agricultural sector in the country depends on factors such as optimal weather conditions and adequate rain to grow quality crops. Due to the significance of agriculture in poverty reduction, Oxfam helps nations like Zimbabwe to improve agricultural productivity by introducing new farming techniques to farmers and by providing supplies such as seeds and tools so that people can cultivate their own food.

How Oxfam Addresses Poverty in Zimbabwe Through Hygiene and Health Care

In Zimbabwe, outbreaks of diseases such as cholera stem from poor water, hygiene and sanitation facilities. In 2018, one of the most severe outbreaks of the disease in Zimbabwe stemmed from sewage pipes that burst and contaminated drinking water supplies. Oxfam provides countries with clean water, soap and toilet facilities to avoid water contamination and promote proper hygiene.

Oxfam also recognizes pressing issues that come during sudden disasters. When Cyclone Idai struck Africa in 2019, nations faced water contamination due to “extensive damage to water supplies and sanitation infrastructure.” Oxfam initially worked to provide up to 500,000 individuals in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe with water treatment kits, hygiene kits and clean water.

Looking Ahead

Oxfam is taking many steps to address poverty in Zimbabwe by assisting in the areas of food security, agricultural development and water, sanitation and hygiene. The organization’s efforts have and will continue to positively impact the lives of those facing poverty across the globe.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Flickr

Drones Could Lift Farmers Out of Poverty
With drone operation prices dropping significantly in the past few years, agricultural drone technology is becoming more attainable to small-scale farmers in developing countries. While farmers can use satellites to monitor crops, this technology is more suitable for large-scale farms and expansive areas of land. Satellites also come with disadvantages. For instance, these systems cannot operate optimally under unfavorable weather conditions. However, the upsides to drone usage have many industry experts expressing optimism. In particular, there are several ways drones could lift farmers out of poverty.

5 Ways Drones Could Lift Farmers Out of Poverty

  1. Drones Revolutionize Crop Health Maintenance. In the agricultural arena, farmers face many challenges when tending to crops, including infestations of fungi, bacteria and other pests. Drones equipped with imaging devices let farmers track the spread of such threats and can provide precise analysis on just how much pesticide is necessary to address the problem. This stops infections from ruining a whole crop and also helps farmers minimize pesticide-induced damage to surrounding areas. Furthermore, farmers can use the detailed datasets that drones collect as proof of crop illness to insurance companies or governments. This ensures that even in an event of significant crop loss, farmers and their families are not destitute. Drones with normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) abilities utilize “detailed color information” to analyze the health conditions of plants.
  2. Drones Allow for Early Detection of Crop Issues and Prompt Intervention. Small-scale farmers in developing countries have two options when weeds or other pests threaten their crops: they can spend significant time dealing with it themselves or spend a share of their precious income on hired help. Drones can fly below cloud cover and collect imagery that could warn farmers of impending problems, allowing for speedy intervention before the issues threaten the whole crop. In this way, drones could lift farmers out of poverty by preventing crop losses and saving farmers both time and money.
  3. In Drought-Prone Regions, Drones Could Improve Crop Stability. Drones equipped with thermal sensors can detect which areas of a field require more moisture. Farmers experiencing drought could use this technology to specifically target the parts of their fields that require water, reducing water wastage. This information could also be helpful in curbing drought-induced crop loss, preventing debilitating impacts on farmers and their families.
  4. Even Before Planting, Drones Help to Optimize Farming. Soil and field analysis before crop plantation is key to a successful harvest. Drones, in particular, are more adept at providing such information in comparison to satellite imagery due to the small scope that drones operate under, which allows for an increased level of detail. Making this technology widely available could result in higher crop yields for farmers in developing countries, which would help lift farmers out of poverty.
  5. Drones Could Improve Outcomes for Livestock Farmers. Farmers can rely on drones to supervise grazing, freeing up time for other agricultural activities. Thermal sensing technology could “find lost cattle,” help track down injured or ill animals and calculate exact herd totals. These tasks can be very time-consuming for livestock farmers and drones could play a vital role in streamlining these tasks.

Looking Ahead

Drones could lift farmers out of poverty by providing invaluable data to make informed and prompt decisions while saving both time and money. This wide range of data allows small-scale farmers to increase their productivity and yields, enabling them to compete with larger farms. These advantages bring economic benefits that positively impact farming households and the economy overall.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Pixabay

Small Livestock Producers
Livestock production has an important role in preventing global undernourishment and starvation. Food derived from livestock contributes more than 30% of mankind’s protein intake and 40% of agricultural gross domestic product. In addition, livestock production creates jobs for more than a billion destitute persons. Nonetheless, small livestock producers are often very impoverished and 70% of the world depends on the health of their animals for survival. The Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) is an organization that helps small livestock producers to rise out of poverty and earn a living by raising healthy animals.

A Vision to Assist Impoverished Farmers

Although livestock production supports more people than any other activity, providing food, clothing and income, producers in developing countries tend to own just a few animals and are in danger of falling below the poverty line. For example, in Nigeria, on average, a small farmer in a family of six owns a one-half acre of land with around seven Tropical Livestock Units (TLU) composed of chickens, cattle, goats or pigs. A TLU is a unit of measurement for an animal feeding operation that assigns a number to each type of animal. Furthermore, in Tanzania, a small livestock producer typically owns up to four cattle, five goats and 11 chickens. Nearly half of these farmers subsist on less than $1.25 daily. GALVmed helps small producers in Africa and South Asia maintain their livestock’s health to prevent the loss of animals to disease.

Founded in the United Kingdom in 2004 by the Animal Health Programme, GALVmed received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department of International Development based in London. GALVmed’s goals are to develop and provide vaccines as well as other health tools and medical diagnostics for diseases that harm impoverished farmers’ livestock. Since 2008, GALVmed has received $215 million in donor funding for programs that provide economically sustainable aid for livestock health.

Providing Affordable Vaccines

Typically, livestock vaccines are very affordable and extremely effective. One example is the vaccine for East Coast Fever. At around $7 per dose, one shot of the vaccine protects a cow for its entire life. Moreover, Newcastle Disease is a global poultry illness that can rapidly decimate more than three-quarters of a farmer’s flock, yet just one dose of the vaccine, which costs two cents, protects a chicken whose eggs will help feed a family and contribute to a farmer’s earnings. In addition, another GALVmed program works to fight diseases, such as African swine fever and tick-borne illnesses that can eradicate an entire herd of animals, leaving the producer’s family without food.

Preventing Diseases Zoonotic Diseases

An additional benefit of vaccinating livestock is the prevention of zoonotic diseases, illnesses that can transfer from animals to humans. Scientists now believe that three out of every four new human infectious diseases derive from animals. GALVmed addresses several previously ignored zoonotic diseases that affect small livestock producers in South Asia and Africa. One example is brucellosis, a disease that attacks people who have exposure to infected goats, cattle and pigs or who consume “contaminated dairy products. “More than half a million new human cases occur each year, and often, farmers must euthanize the infected animals to stop the spread of disease.

Unfortunately, every year, small livestock producers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa lose around $500 million due to brucellosis infections. To reduce the harsh impact of the disease, the organization provides testing and vaccination kits. Moreover, another disease GALVmed combats is a global poultry virus called fowlpox that results in reduced growth rate and egg production. Again, a timely vaccine can prevent this devastating illness.

With support from donors, GALVmed continues its lifesaving work in eliminating livestock diseases and ensuring that small livestock producers can support their families, resulting in reduced poverty around the world.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Farming in the Sahel
Desertification is a problem that those living in the Sahel Region have faced for many years. Desertification is when areas of viable land for farming dry up and are absorbed or transformed into a more desert-like climate. The Sahel Region spans 10 African countries including Burkina Faso, Chad and Cameroon. The Sahel Region has lost millions of hectares of easily accessible farming land to the desert, thus creating food insecurity and loss of income for thousands, if not millions, in the region.

The Impact of Desertification

Desertification is the official term for the process when fertile land, typically in an arid, semi-arid or sub-humid area, loses enough moisture to receive classification as desertland or drylands. The drylands are 40% of the earth’s land surface. According to the United Nations, the rate of degradation in areas susceptible to desertification has sped up 30 more times than in previous years. Increased human activity and the lack of rainfall for extended periods are the leading causes of dryland desertification. Desertified lands officially are 10% of the Earth’s land surface. Many families in areas at risk of desertification rely on farming for their income. But, as the land dries, farming becomes impossible.

Desertification hits some of the most vulnerable populations as it takes away income sources. Desertified land can neither grow crops nor provide the food or land necessary for livestock. The land that some once coveted for farming now cannot retain water. The income that agriculture and livestock farming on desertified land formerly bought no longer exists.

Farming in the Sahel Region

The Sahel Region is officially a semi-arid climate, making farming difficult. Large companies do not typically organize farming in the Sahel Region. Instead, farming is family or community-run and provides food immediately for the owners and operators of the farms. There is little food or livestock traded elsewhere to earn income. Additionally, there is little to no developed infrastructure for communities to develop commercial farming.

Farming in the Sahel Region does not provide a lot of income, nor is it located in an area with highly-ranked or flourishing economies. It has, however, in many past years, contributed at least 45% of each region’s gross domestic product. Many countries in the Sahel Region employ the majority of their workforce in the agriculture sector. In half of the countries of the Sahel Region, poverty rates are as high as 40%. Therefore, the income of the Sahel Region farmers is vital.

In Chad, farmers earn an average of $253 a month. Mali farmers earn less than Chad farmers, with an average monthly income of $169. Senegal farmers earn around $173 a month. These farmers earn enough to sustain themselves, but there is rarely extra money to circulate into the local economy.

How to Improve Farming in the Sahel Region

Farming in the Sahel Region is a race against the clock as the region faces desertification. Organizations such as Context Global (CGD) invest in small farms to bring about economic growth and improvements to the Sahel Region farming communities. CGD does this by creating international links between the farms. CGD builds commercial links without requiring membership in an overarching organization so the farms can maintain independence and gain more experience to advance their operations and incomes.

In the desertified lands, though, farming is incredibly difficult. To combat desertification, there is a new farming tool called the Delfino Plough. The plough brings the ground back to life. This plow, in particular, can cover a minimum of 10 hectares a day to revitalize the land. As the plow moves along along the farmland, it injects seeds deep into the ground that are rich in vitamins to allow the soil to sustain life. As nutrients seep into the ground, it can revert back to its original state and sustain more and more crops.

Creating Opportunity

The more crops that farms are capable of producing, the more they can earn and provide for their landowners and communities. The land brought back to life saves the farmers money as well. If they can grow hay instead of buying it, farmers save money that they can then spend on other farming necessities. With the efforts of organizations such as CGD and tools such as the Delfino Plough, the farmers will have the opportunity to expand their farming operations and increase their immediate incomes while saving for the future.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Agricultural Practices
Agriculture involves land, plant and livestock cultivation. Through agriculture, people are able to use available natural resources for sustenance and income. In fact, agriculture takes up about 50% “of the world’s habitable land, “an established statistic despite 821 million people experiencing food insecurity, according to 2020 data. The link between agriculture and poverty is as direct as it comes, whether in correlation to the people who do not have access to food or the people who are economically dependent on farming as their primary source of income. The more impoverished a country is, the higher the percentage of people working in the agricultural sector. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) notes that 73% of the people in East Africa and 47% of the people in South Asia work in the agriculture sector. Yet, interestingly enough, experts consider agriculture as one of the most effective occupations in bringing people out of poverty. By incorporating Indigenous agricultural practices into modern-day agriculture, impoverished farmers can increase yields and productivity.

The Problems of Modern Agricultural Practices

A significant portion of the challenges modern agriculture faces stem from how people utilize the land. One of the main issues is monoculture, which involves crop specialization or growing a single crop on a large portion of land. While this practice reduces costs and caters to large-scale demand, it also, unfortunately, brings with it a high risk of crop failure because there are no other crops or wildlife to properly maintain the ecosystem. Additionally, pests are more common in the soil where one crop is grown and this, in turn, calls for higher pesticide use, which disrupts the natural balance of the soil.

While monoculture as an agricultural practice is more prolific in the developed world, developing countries still have remnants of this practice. In Indonesia, in 2020, about 14.6 million hectares of land were dedicated solely to palm oil plantations. Crop specialization often appeals to agricultural sectors because of high efficiency, reduced costs and more profits. However, these increased profits do not always translate to higher incomes for the farmers performing the work. Cocoa farming in Côte d’Ivoire provides an example, where “the household incomes of cocoa farmers” average about $2,707 annually despite the nation producing 2 million tonnes of cocoa crops per year.

Advantages of Indigenous Agricultural Practices

Considering the challenges of modern agriculture, two particular Indigenous agricultural practices may offer benefits to improve agricultural productivity and output in developing countries, improving food insecurity and the incomes of farmers with more produce to sell.

  1. Crop Rotation: Expertly practiced by the Mayan farmers of Mesoamerica, crop rotation involves “growing different crops on the same land so that no bed or plot sees the same crop in successive seasons.” Crop rotation provides a host of benefits such as “[preserving] the productive capacity of the soil,” eliminating risks of both pests and crop diseases, reducing the need for pesticides and maintaining nutritional requirements for the crops and soil to thrive. This practice enables farmers to maximize their yields. The Center for Integral Small Farmer Development in the Mixteca (CEDICAM) operates mainly “in the Mixteca region of Mexico, a region categorized by its high level of environmental degradation and desertification.” CEDICAM teaches farmers agricultural practices such as crop rotation and polyculture to increase agricultural success and simultaneously address food insecurity.
  2. Agroforestry: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic and social benefits.” Dating back to centuries ago, Indigenous Americans utilized agroforestry for its vast range of benefits. Practicing agroforestry ensures the rejuvenation of the soil, protects crops from severe temperatures and creates a system that provides diverse resources for medicines, firewood and food.

Drawing Wisdom From Indigenous Agriculture

All over the world, Indigenous agricultural practices involve an acute knowledge of the land, working to ensure that the sustenance of human needs and the rejuvenation of land occur simultaneously. These practices can teach people how to live in harmony with the land and use natural resources in a sustainable way, safeguarding resources for generations to come.

– Owen Mutiganda
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