Food Security in HondurasHonduras is the second-poorest country in Central America, and although its economy relies heavily on agriculture, about 1.5 million Hondurans are still food insecure. Barriers like natural disasters and unpredictable weather continue to threaten the country’s food production, but recently, advancements in agroforestry are restoring the faith in farming nationwide. Alley cropping, a new method of agroforestry, is steadily showing how it is improving food security in Honduras.

Alley Cropping

For years, agroforestry has been transforming the lives of farming families by increasing food security in Honduras. However, before the introduction of alley cropping to farms in the country, crop failure continued to devastate farmers. While other agroforestry techniques have minimized the damage resulting from flooding, erosion and drought, alley cropping has proven to be a more successful method of crop farming. Alley cropping involves planting rows of crops between trees. This methodology creates an integrated ecosystem that improves and nourishes soil that supports both crop quality and quantity, thus increasing the amount the farmers are paid so that they can afford to support their families.

The Inga Foundation was the first to introduce and teach alley cropping techniques to Honduran farmers through demonstrational farming. These farmers also had the opportunity to obtain seeds from the demonstration and start their own alley cropping systems. According to the Inga Foundation, more than 300 farming families have been able to achieve food security through the new alley cropping method, and this number is only increasing as alley cropping starts to catch on.

Benefits of Alley Cropping

  1. Alley cropping regenerates degraded land, which helps crops grow.

  2. Alley cropping increases the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.

  3. Unpredictable weather can be withstood, meaning crops are more resilient.

  4. Alley cropping is sustainable and benefits the natural environment.

  5. Families can stay on one plot of land without having to migrate to others due to soil degradation.

Inga Trees in Alley Cropping

In Honduras, Inga trees are among one of the most popular and successful trees used in alley cropping systems. The Inga Foundation’s demonstration farm showcased hedgerows of Inga trees, which are known to revitalize the soil and support crop growth. Here are a few reasons why the Inga tree was chosen as the model for alley cropping.

  1. Inga trees grow fast. This allows farmers to quick-start their alley cropping without much of a waiting period.

  2. Not only do Inga trees tolerate poor soil, but they nourish it.

  3. Inga trees reduce weeds.

  4. Seasonal pruning of Inga trees generates firewood and fuelwood for families.

  5. Inga trees produce edible fruit.

Because the Inga tree is both incredibly resilient and easy to grow, more and more farmers are seeking out their seeds in order to better provide for their families. This tree, when paired with agroforestry, is playing a huge role in improving food security in Honduras.

The benefits that come from agroforestry methods like alley cropping can mean the difference between life and death for some families in Honduras. Thankfully, the Inga Foundation has allowed for the breakthrough of improved farming which has saved hundreds of Hondurans from the burden of food insecurity.

– Hadley West

Photo: Flickr

Smallholder Farmers
MyAgro is an organization working from the ground up to address poverty and it is doing so through an innovative technique. With the latest research proving that user-friendly mobile systems accessible in low internet areas are some of the best ways to reach people in poverty, myAgro built a cellphone-based savings program called Mobile Layaway. It helps smallholder farmers in Mali and around the world pay for supplies. Smallholder farmers no longer have to struggle to save lump sums in order to purchase seeds and fertilizer for their farms.

Who Are Smallholder Farmers?

Smallholder farmers are people who work on up to 10 hectares of farmland. Smallholders have family-focused motives behind their work and generally rely on family labor for production. Not only is farming their job, but they often depend on it to feed their family. They also provide up to 80 percent of the food supply on an equal percentage of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa.

How Does MyAgro’s Mobile Layaway Work?

Smallholders often have difficulty saving enough money to purchase bulk farm goods. The majority of rural farmers live too far from banks and do not have the money to access them and make deposits. Furthermore, bank fees would deplete their savings quickly.

However, many of these farmers already go to the store to purchase cards for minutes on their phones, so they are familiar with Mobile Layaway’s system. With Mobile Layaway, farmers go to their local village store where they purchase a prepaid scratch card, which can range from 50 cents to $50. After texting the scratch-off code, the value of the purchased card goes into a “savings account,” which can accumulate to pay for fertilizer, seeds and training packages. Mobile Layaway is similar to having a savings account at a bank, however, it is on the smallholder’s phone, which makes it easy to save money while buying supplies for their homesteads.

MyAgro takes this program one step further as well; its field agents train the smallholder farmers in modern farming techniques and methods that work specifically in the West African landscape.

The Situation in Mali

Mali ranks number 21 on the list of the poorest countries by population. In 2009, the poverty rate in Mali stood at 49.7 percent, meaning that almost half of the population lived on less than $1.90 per day. Though 2019 numbers are not officially out, the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate has reduced from the 2017 rate of 43.4 to 41.3 percent. The World Bank attributes this recent decrease to “exceptional agricultural production.

Mali’s economy greatly relies on its agricultural sector. It makes up 80 percent of the populations’ daily activities and income. The country ranks number 44 for countries with the most arable hectares for agricultural production, at a whopping 4.8 million hectares. What is more shocking is that Mali is using only 7 percent of this land.

Because of Mali’s substantial possibility of growth, many organizations have stepped in to build a more sustainable agriculture system. Building a sustainable agriculture system required aiding the farmers in developing a farming capacity, reducing food insecurity and increasing livelihoods. A byproduct of work in Mali has been an increase in people’s awareness of the necessity for better techniques. In recent years, organizations have had to alter their strategies to adapt to climate change effects such as floods and droughts.

MyAgro’s Benefits

Mali’s government went through a military coup when myAgro was just a pilot savings-based payment model in its first year. International NGOs and foreign governments all left as the government shut down, and the country was in political chaos. MyAgro stayed, and during that time, it learned that smallholder farmers in Mali still saved money through their mobile phones. MyAgro allowed for this possibility as most banks closed during that period. With loan-based payment models, many farmers would have defaulted on their payments during a time of conflict like in Mali.

MyAgro’s Impact

Originally, the organization’s reach was slow-moving. In fact, its users changed from a few thousand in 2011 to 30,000 in 2017. Since then, it took only two years for the number of users to double; the company hit 60,000 farmers in 2019. MyAgro estimates that it will be able to increase these numbers even further and reach 120,000 farmers in 2020.

Reaching farmers is one thing, but the personal impact on each individual is also phenomenal. If a smallholder farmer implements the techniques that MyAgro offers, they can expect to see a 50 percent increase in their harvest yield per hectare, at minimum. Some farmers have even seen a 100 percent increase per hectare. This equates to about $150 to $300 in additional income for the smallholder farmers each year. MyAgro is not stopping there and is “working to increase the direct economic impact of the program to over $550 per farmer in the next few years to move each farmer above the poverty line.”

MyAgro’s Longterm Goals

Because myAgro’s mission is to move smallholder farmers in Mali and the world out of poverty, it is no surprise that its ultimate goal is to reach 1 million farmers and their 10 million family members. By 2025, myAgro aims to work with these smallholder farmers to increase their income by $550 a year. This additional income would push the farmers and their families out of poverty.

MyAgro started an enormously challenging pilot model that led to a successful organization. It not only aids smallholder farmers in their rise out of poverty but changes people’s perceptions of farmers’ abilities to handle their money. Through all of this, myAgro has built a resilience with Malian citizens that the country has never seen before.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash

 

Mexican Farm Laborers
Developed countries often see grocery stores overflowing with fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Unfortunately, not every shopper questions the origins of their products and more importantly, the stories of those who cultivated the crops. Mexico is a significant figure in international agriculture trade totaling $31.5 billion in 2018 with the United States accounting for 78 percent of its sales. It has had success in exchange for the poor quality of life for the Mexican farm laborers who provide the resources, and this fact highlights a significant wealth disparity throughout the world.

The Cycle of Poverty

Today, Mexican farm laborers face poverty levels so extreme that they often must become perpetual migrants, traveling from state to state in order to maintain a steady wage. According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), a Mexican governmental data collection agency, 78 percent of 5.2 million farmers are in a condition of multidimensional poverty. Families move across Mexico to seek work, which affects the dynamic population fluctuations based on the harvest in that town. The average worker makes around 11 pesos an hour, which is equivalent to around $0.59 USD. Even more alarming is that it is not uncommon to see children working in the scorching sun due to poor regulations and pay.

One of the main flaws of Mexico’s policies is that authorities do not regulate them as diligently for smaller farms. Workers rarely receive proper safety equipment and are often in poor living conditions. In addition to their low wages, farmers are, at times, under pressure from cartels in their areas that extort agricultural business. The cartels have established taxes that farm owners must pay in a few states such as Michoacán. While the United States ensures that the U.S. Department of Agriculture examines all of Mexico’s produce, it is incapable of inspecting the working conditions of the neighboring country. This dilemma spans across generations, as the next wave of children might become stuck in a similar position as their parents and face a related situation of wealth disparity. Many of the children grow up working on the same farms and will likely never have the opportunity to experience life outside of them.

Potential Resolutions

It has been nearly two generations since revolutionary civil rights activist César Chávez originally formed his United Farm Workers labor union. One of the key aspects of the success of his campaigns was their ability to increase awareness peacefully. His organization remains intact and continues to advocate for laborers’ rights in California. A similar social movement is necessary for Mexico and the change must come internally for others to hear the voices of the forgotten laborers.

Chavez proved that reform was achievable two generations ago, but his methods are still applicable today. Several organizations, such as the Center for Farmworker Families, give a platform for the difficult lives of Mexican farm laborers and are currently working on projects to increase pay and improve legislation. It is essential for people to be conscious that these conditions not only occur throughout Mexico but the entire world, as people experience exploitation in exchange for lower prices amongst all goods and services as the wealth disparity continues to grow. People must challenge one another to think beyond a product and about the stories of those who helped produce it. It is a reality that those who have a significant role in putting food on the tables of others often have little to none for their own families. It is necessary for people to value human life over materialism and remain conscious of consumption. If humanity can change as individuals and develop compassion for one another, then it can build a better future.

– Nicolas Montuffar
Photo: Flickr

Farming Methods in Central America
Many Central American countries suffer from droughts and forest fires due to hot temperatures and inconsistent rainfall. Without adequate water, agricultural workers are unable to consistently produce adequate goods each year. They are often forced to rely on crops that don’t need as much water but are less nutrient-rich, such as corn.

Planting crops during the dry season, between December and April, is extremely difficult and even the rainy season between May and July presents a challenge, given inconsistent rainfall patterns. In addition, staple crops like corn do not yield the profits of higher-value crops such as squash, beans, zucchini and watermelon, which not only increase income and quality of life in the region but also improve the diets of farmers, families and locals. Fortunately, a number of local and international organizations are implementing programs aimed at improving farming methods in Central America.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been combating unreliable, inconsistent weather patterns via a Honduras-based rainwater harvest program, aptly named Harvest. This consists of a reservoir that gathers rainfall in the winter, providing farmers with a backup water supply during dry months. Crops are watered through a low-pressure drip irrigation system, enabling farmers to plant and harvest three times a year instead of only once.

As a result, farmers have been able to grow and expand their repertoire of crops. Many other organizations have been involved in this initiative, including Development Innovation Ventures, Global Communities, SAG (Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería) and local governments.

AGRI

AGRI is a similar Honduras-based project under development that utilizes small drip irrigation systems spanning roughly 10 hectares. It works by locating surface-water sources that can be used for rainwater harvesting and uses water pipes to share water sources between various groups of farmers.

AGRI is also generating deforestation analyses using its terrain Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and other spatial analysis frameworks that analyze drainage basins and upstream areas. Its remote sensors can collect and predict weather patterns while enabling digital soil mapping and hydrologic analysis to estimate water runoff and water balance.

While AGRI hasn’t been formally introduced to Honduras, invest-H (Investment in Honduras) managers and the government are working to expedite its implementation. AGRI is supported by the U.S. initiative Feed the Future as well as Zamorano University, a Honduran university that is currently researching and refining the field validation of AGRI in preparation for its official launch.

MásRiego

MásRiego, meaning “more irrigation” in Spanish, is a Guatemala-based initiative that works to increase water supplies through drip irrigation, rainwater harvesting, reduced tillage, mulch use and diverse crop rotation. The project team provides training and partnerships to Guatemalan farmers to improve farming methods while offering access to microcredit financing and irrigation equipment. As rainfall patterns become more unpredictable, new methods of farming such as conservation and rainwater harvesting must be introduced. Conservation improves moisture retention, soil structure and soil health, while also reducing weeds, manual watering and preparation time.

MásRiego’s goal is to connect 9,000 rural Guatemalan households through these smarter farming methods. They also plan to use local schools to teach students about these new methods as well as inform them about agricultural job opportunities. As a result of unpredictable rainfall patterns and increased competition, farmers entering the field must be educated on the tools needed for success. MásRiego also focuses on helping women and youth grow high-value crops on smaller plots of land to increase the incomes of Guatemalan farmers and the nation as a whole. The program is supported by the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative.

Moving Forward

Using the latest farming methods, these organizations are helping to support Central American farmers’ incomes and improve quality of life. The diets of both the farmers and local communities are already being enriched as improved farming and irrigation methods allow for a broader variety of crops to be planted. The Harvest program has also found that more young people are choosing to remain in their countries as new and improved methods make farming a viable lifestyle.

With the technology that AGRI plans to introduce and the conservation methods that MásRiego is implementing, farming will become less of a financial and physical burden. These organizations and others like them will continue to improve farming methods in Central America, with an eye toward expanding into other arid regions in the future.

Nyssa Jordan

Photo: Flickr

Equal Food Distribution
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is the lack of equal food distribution. According to the World Economic Forum, Americans spend 6.4 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, households in impoverished countries can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. These numbers show a clear uneven trend in distributing food to people in need. Equal food distribution is also at risk from another influencer on poverty: population growth. Even in developed countries, the current rate of food distribution will eventually be unable to keep up with population growth. Distributing food to people in need will soon become an issue for not just underdeveloped countries, but for developed countries as well. 

One way of solving the growing issue of food distribution is through the utilization of new technologies. A combination of developing technologies, new economic models and support from global leaders could lead to curbing the problems behind food distribution for both the developing and underdeveloped world.

Text Message-based Farmer Assistance

In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, farmers have access to a service that functions through text messages. Provided by CGIAR, an organization focused on water, land and ecosystems, farmers can send a message through SMS (short message service) to request updates on the best way to grow their crops. People know this service as ICT, or Information and Communication Technology. According to CGIAR, farmers send one message code when they want to see an update on their crop growth and water-use efficiency compared to other farmers using the service. Based on this data, experts monitoring the farming data can identify irregularities and alert the farmer. One issue that CGIAR sees going forward is funding. Maintaining its database would require more funding than what farmers or smallholders have already offered. However, this service would be able to help farmers, in areas of need, increase the amount their farms produce.

Using ICTs to help feed people in need has shown promising results. An ICT service will help improve irrigation and water drainage in Egypt. This service has seen a 25 percent increase in crop yields during its first phase of implementation. Magrabi Farms has also implemented ICT to allow the proper irrigation of over 8,000 acres of land.

Farming and Machine Learning

Increasing farm production is a common method of tackling the issue of distributing food to people in need. Sciforce says that almost every step of farm production uses machine learning. Machine learning, according to Sciforce, is “the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed.” Farmers can use machine learning to:

  • Find which genes would help a crop survive in adverse weather conditions.

  • Manage the soil and help farmers understand the ecosystem they are growing in.

  • Manage water and allow farmers to be more efficient with their irrigation systems.

  • Improve the prediction of crop yield.

  • Fight disease and weeds by using a calculated distribution of agrochemicals that only target specific plants.

Machine learning accomplishes all of this by analyzing decades of farming records. It uses a combination of algorithms and scientific models to best apply the trends from decades of farming data.

NBC News reported that Carnegie Mellon University roboticist George Kantor claimed that machine learning could increase the variety of grain sorghum from 100 different variants to 1,000. Machine learning could do this by examining the crop’s genetic code.

Weather Forecasts

Another way to ensure that countries are able to distribute food to people in need is by improving distribution itself. The Weather Company’s Agricultural Head, Carrie Gillespie, stated that “A lot of food waste happens during distribution…” Suppliers often use weather forecasts when distributing food to people in need. Due to distribution including the harvesting process, these weather reports can help farmers know when the soil is at its best for harvesting.

3D Printing

While this may seem like an idea from a sci-fi movie, 3D printing is a technology that may soon allow food printing. Jordan French, CEO at a 3D food printing startup called BeeHex, explains that 3D food printing could allow for customization of food products based on the certain wants and needs of the consumer. This could include developing food with certain nutrients that an impoverished community may be lacking, much like the recently FDA-approved golden rice, which emerged to treat a global vitamin A deficiency.

Jordan French also theorizes that 3D printing food could eliminate the need for distribution altogether, as it would create a bridge between the producer and the consumer.

The market for 3D-printed food is rising in profits by 46 percent each year until 2023. Mark Crawford of ASME.org alludes that this is due to how the technology could provide a solution to distributing food to people in need.

These technologies aim to tackle the challenges of distributing food to the impoverished for the sake of equal food distribution. Improving farming quality through databases and machine learning, watching the weather to allow for better distribution and even bypassing the need for food production are just some developing technologies that have the potential to assist the world’s hungry.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: United Nations

Helping Latin American Coffee Farmers
The Arbor Day Foundation is an organization that plants trees in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. Its aim is to plant 100 million trees around the world by the year 2022. However, it does not limit its goals to stopping climate change. In fact, by planting coffee trees in South America, the Arbor Day Foundation devotes its time to helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage.

About the Arbor Day Foundation

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main mission is to stop climate change by planting as many trees as possible around the world. Much of its focus is on encouraging people in the United States to purchase trees to plant in their backyards. However, it also partners with international corporations, such as Rain Forest Rescue, to replant and restore forests around the world. The Arbor Day Foundation’s ultimate goal is to plant 100 million trees by 2022.

While the Arbor Day Foundation’s main focus is on preventing climate change from getting worse, it also acknowledges that trees are important to communities. Part of this acknowledgment involves teaching people in impoverished countries more sustainable ways to use trees to make money. In addition, Arbor Day offers income to any locals who are willing to plant trees. For example, impoverished families in China can distribute and plant wolfberry trees to make a little extra money.

The Arbor Day Foundation Coffee

One of the Arbor Day Foundation’s many causes is helping Latin American coffee farmers grow sustainable coffee. The Foundation does this by helping the farmers plant trees in the Amazon Rainforest. The coffee beans from these trees grow in the shade of the surrounding trees, which helps them get more moisture and ultimately enriches the soil and produces better-tasting coffee. It also allows local farmers to make more money. The farmers have to learn more sustainable growing methods in order to avoid losing the land to soil degradation. By growing their coffee in the shade, they can keep their land and sell more, better quality coffee beans than they could otherwise.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s method of growing coffee also motivates local farmers to reforest areas that had previously been deforested for various reasons. Peruvian farmer Amaro Chasquero Jaramillo is currently growing both young coffee plants and young trees. His ultimate goal is to reforest the area with the coffee trees in the shade of the other trees. He hopes that, in addition to increasing his income, his efforts will also protect local wildlife from further man-made harm.

The Arbor Day Foundation sells three types of coffee on its website, all of which originate in impoverished countries. The medium-roast Arbor Day Blend and the darker Italian Blend both originate from the Cajamarca Region in Peru. The La Sombra Blend, another medium blend, originates in La Chiapas, Mexico. All three blends cost $11.99 for a one-pound bag and members of the Arbor Day Foundation receive a 20 percent discount and a free mug.

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Goal

The Arbor Day Foundation’s main goal is the reforestation of the world and the mitigating of global warming. In the process, it helps the poor in impoverished countries learn to grow crops more sustainably and earn more money. In particular, the Arbor Day Foundation is helping Latin American coffee farmers earn a fair wage. Coffee farmers in Latin America learn to grow their beans in the shade of surrounding trees, thus producing better quality coffee and ultimately letting them turn more of a profit.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Uzbekistan’s Economic TransformationAlthough the poverty rate in Uzbekistan is only 14 percent, the standard of living and GDP per capita are low. The government of Uzbekistan has partnered with the World Bank to undertake a massive economic transformation. It hopes to develop its economy, spur investment and improve livelihoods. The government is improving infrastructure efficiency and social services to achieve high-middle-income status for its residents by 2030. This is a part of the development strategy called Uzbekistan Vision 2030. The World Bank, International Finance Corporation, Asian Development Bank and the European Union have worked cooperatively to facilitate Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Massive World Bank Loan

The World Bank has worked with Uzbekistan since 1992 and funded more than 20 projects, totaling $3.6 billion. The bank recently approved a $500 million loan to stimulate private sector growth and job creation. Uzbekistan’s transformation into a successful market economy will ultimately result in a higher quality of life for its citizens. Currently, Uzbekistan’s GDP per capita stands at $6,900, almost one order of magnitude lower than the United States’ GDP per capita of $54,541. Uzbekistan believes that poverty levels will shrink as a direct result of developing its private sector economy and boosting GDP per capita.

Cyril Muller, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, said that the loan will “boost growth, promote transparency and accountability and improve services for citizens.” In 2018 and 2019, Uzbekistan reduced trade and investment barriers, decreased strict business regulations, loosened its currency and opened markets to spur investment and boost imports and exports. These recent changes to its economic policy show Uzbekistan’s commitment to loosening its controls on prices, production and foreign investment.

Livestock Sector Receives Support

The European Union and the World Bank jointly funded a five-year project in 2019 aimed at developing Uzbekistan’s livestock sector. More than $150 million will go towards addressing supply chain problems such as low productivity, substandard animal health services, financial constraints on research institutions and poor access to markets for smallholder farmers. The Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Jamshid Khodjayev, said that this project aims to increase the efficiency of the livestock sector by increasing the number of small farmers participating in commercial value chains, improving productivity and ensuring the sustainability of incomes.

The project will also support credit lines for farmers and other workers in the livestock industry. The agriculture industry employs about a quarter of the population. Livestock is an important agricultural product in Uzbekistan. About 90 percent of “livestock production relies on small farm holdings” and about 4.7 million smallholders depend on livestock for a living.

Energy Sector Boosts Agribusiness

“More than 126,000 MWh of electricity and 50 million cubic meters in natural gas” are available for use every year thanks to $50 million of project financing to improve energy sector performance and competitiveness. Since 2012, more than 560 farms and agribusinesses received credit lines made available through six financial institutions. Investment portfolio assets include agricultural machinery, greenhouses, livestock, orchards, vineyards and vegetable farming.

The poverty rate in Uzbekistan declined from 27.5 percent in 2001 to 14 percent in 2016 as a result of strong economic growth. GDP growth was a robust 8 percent for 2015 and 2016. The business environment has improved significantly due to a more open economic policy. Uzbekistan’s economy will continue to see improvement from internal changes to business-related statutes, like reducing the number of days to register businesses and property. Support from multilateral banks like the World Bank will further promote Uzbekistan’s economic transformation.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Technology
Agriculture is a cornerstone of human development and one of the most easily accessible methods of generating food. However, agriculture is also one of the riskiest ways to feed a community due to the unpredictability of the weather and pests that could spontaneously destroy an entire year’s worth of crops. Many countries, like India, struggle to maintain farms due to a lack of water, infrastructure and storage facilities. It is no surprise, then, that experts across the world argue that advancements in agriculture technology could prove invaluable in the fight against poverty due to larger crop yields and more success during harvests. Although no one has found a definitive solution to effectively grow enough food to feed those in poverty, numerous organizations have developed potential solutions to the problems that plague agricultural communities.

5 World Leaders in Agriculture Technology

  1. Farmmi: One organization making efforts in agriculture technology is Farmmi, an agricultural product supplier responsible for most of China’s supply of Shiitake mushrooms and other fungi. Recently, Yefang Zhang, Farmmi’s CEO, announced a partnership with the China Democratic League on Poverty Alleviation Initiative. During this partnership, Farmmi plans to provide new job opportunities for those living in impoverished village communities, give agriculture technology advice to farmers free of charge and sell local agricultural products in Farmmi Stores. Representatives of Farmmi will also meet with the China Democratic League continuously to discuss optimal ways to help poor villages in China with their farming, and ways to implement new action plans for agriculture effectively.
  2. Yunshang Agricultural School: In the Gui’an area of Beijing, China, citizens have a large selection of programs in which they can improve both the dependability of their crops and the amount of food they produce during harvest. One example lies in the Yunshang Agricultural School, an institution to help educate the farmers of the area on scientific planting. In these classes, farmers learn the most optimal ways to grow their crops by planting seeds in different formations or at optimal times. Citizens of the Gui’an area have also been utilizing smartphone technology to monitor their agriculture, like installing cameras to check the growth of greenhouse crops instead of examining them one by one. This education on agriculture and utilization of technology in farming sparked the construction of the Gui’an Agricultural and Tourism Industry Demonstration Park in 2015. This park contains several greenhouses and many different agricultural activities for tourists, including tropical fruit picking halls and a demonstration on smart agriculture, but the biggest impact lies in the park’s efforts to fight poverty. Currently, the Gui’an park is collaborating with 11 villages in the area through the Big Data Agricultural Precision Poverty Alleviation Agreement. With this agreement, the Gui’an Park aims to help poor villages grow high-value crops through the teachings of the Yunshang Agricultural School. As long as the people of the Gui’an area continue to focus on agricultural technology and education, more and more farmers will have the resources necessary to feed the people in their communities.
  3. Internet of Things: As the agriculture technology market grows, so does general interest from corporations. One example is Internet of Things, a tech company that has developed sensors to monitor the soil moisture of crops. These monitors can connect to a smartphone or personal computer, allowing farmers to save time that they would usually spend testing the soil. Internet of Things also plans to provide irrigation sensors and actuators, which will maximize water efficiency with crops. This should ensure that crops never receive too much or too little water, and minimizes water waste. The International Business Machines Corporation predicts that these tools from Internet of Things will improve crop yield by 70 percent by 2050. With these innovations Internet of Things has made a massive advancement in agriculture technology and its application in impoverished areas could prove invaluable in the fight against world hunger.
  4. H2Grow: Established in 2017 as part of the World Food Programme, H2Grow is an agriculture technology organization dedicated to helping poor communities build their own hydroponic systems so that they can grow food in previously barren areas. In areas with little to no soil, like a desert, traditional farming is nearly impossible. Hydroponic farming, however, involves no soil because the farming occurs either entirely in water or with some soil substitute like moss or peat. The removal of soil in the farming process allows the plants to receive their nutrients directly from the water while they grow and generally results in larger, healthier plants. With this practice, H2Grow has helped many communities grow their own food since its inception, sourcing 714 applications for hydroponic farming systems in 2019. As H2Grow installs more and more hydroponic farming systems, the world may see a day when every country has the ability to grow its own food.
  5. GrainMate: Launched in December 2017 by Sesi Technologies, GrainMate is an electronic meter invented to help impoverished farmers and businesses test the moisture levels in their grains. Monitoring the moisture level of grains helps a farm prevent detrimental losses during storage. If a farmer uses GrainMate and finds that his wheat is drying out, he can take the necessary steps to restore the grains to a safe moisture level, preserving them for as long as possible and maximizing the effectiveness of his crop yield. Sesi Technologies has received many orders for GrainMate, like one from Vinmak Farms in Ghana, that stated that its device is a good quality product to use on farms. With GrainMate in its arsenal, the farms of Africa have an advantage in the unpredictable nature of agriculture.

The use of agriculture technology is the most effective way to minimize world hunger. Whether it is a device that monitors the moisture level of crops or an initiative to educate citizens on optimal farming techniques, programs and innovations like these will continue to grow and develop to provide the quickest, cheapest access to food for disadvantaged communities.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Innovations Addressing Food ScarcityFood scarcity is a major problem in the world today. Roughly 795 million people (this equates to one in 9 people) do not have enough food to survive. Specifically, developing countries face the highest levels of food scarcity These statistics, paired with the fact that 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste annually, necessitates reformation. Around the world, people have been working to help resolve this crisis and ensure that the hungry do not starve. These are five modern innovations addressing food scarcity.

5 Modern Innovations Addressing Food Scarcity

  1. SAP Digital Farming: SAP is a company that is working to combat global food shortages through revolutionary technology. After implementing state of the art sensors in crop fields, farmers would download SAP’s digital farm app. Then, the app would relay necessary information to the farmer. This information includes the supply of fertilizer, water needs, soil moisture and crop growth. Importantly, this information makes the agricultural process more efficient by helping the farmer realize optimal harvesting and planting times. Further, these additional benefits will maximize yield while minimizing costs.
  2. M-Farm: M-Farm serves as a tool to help farmers in Kenya. Often, in the case of farmers in developing countries, intermediaries between the producer and consumer will reap the rewards for a task they had very minimal involvement in. Further, the farmers will have a vast amount of their earnings usurped and will be charged ridiculous prices for necessities, carrying on the cycle of poverty. M-Farm enables Kenyan farmers to SMS the number 3555 to get relevant information. This information includes the price of their products and the ability to purchase the necessary equipment for affordable prices. Additionally, M-Farm also relays crucial trends in the local market for farmers to enhance their judgment. The app collects this information independently through location services and analysis.
  3. Share the Meal App: Developed by the World Food Program, the Share the Meal application on iOS and Android phones works to combat starvation across the world. In 2015, four years after the start of the Syrian Civil War, the organization sought to mobilize technology to feed starving children in refugee camps in Jordan. Additionally, the app enables people to donate 50 cents that will go toward securing meals for these children. Currently, the app has enabled over 48 million meals to be distributed to those in need.
  4. Plantwise: Launched in 2011 by the global nonprofit, CABI, Plantwise is a program that helps farmers understand tactics to increase efficiency and yield. CABI established a global plant clinic network that provides farmers with information about plant health. Qualified plant doctors advise farmers on techniques that will reduce the number of pests and diseases that afflict their crops. Plantwise works to disseminate information to farmers in rural areas that have little access to useful information regarding their agriculture. The goal is to emphasize healthy plant habits so farmers lose less yield and are effectively able to produce more food.
  5. Digital Green: The last of these five modern innovations addressing food scarcity, Digital Green uses modern technological advancements to uplift impoverished farmers. The project began in 2008 in India, where workers trained credible officials in villages to use video technology to convey crucial information, including agriculture techniques and market conditions. This effort was widely successful, as Digital Green reached a total of 1.8 million farmers in over 15,000 villages. In addition, this prompted the organization to expand into Ethiopia. There, almost 375,000 farmers were reached, which led to the commencement of initiatives to help farmers in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Niger and Tanzania.

Finally, it is undeniable that technology plays a very prominent role in society today. Technological innovations have revolutionized the lives of people across the world. Further, these innovations addressing food scarcity are prime examples of this rapid paradigm shift. Progress necessitates change and change is only possible through people working together to absolve adversity in the most effective way possible.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Land Grabbing and PovertyLand grabbing is not a new concept and it is not an isolated event. However, land grabbing and poverty have recently been linked together. While companies around the globe participate in this harmful process that drives farmers off their lands, farmers in industrial countries are especially susceptible to losing their lands, and therefore, their source of income. The act of industrial companies land grabbing not only costs a person their home but also their food and money. In countries such as Africa and South America, many people have fallen below the poverty line and suffer from displacement.

The Actions of Large Companies

The link between land grabbing and poverty is growing and has become a big issue. Major companies, such as the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association of America College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF or TIAA), are buying multiple acres of land at exceedingly high prices. This, in turn, raises the prices of rent above what nearby family farmers can afford to pay. In Brazil, the TIAA has ownership of over 600,000 acres of land. The company also has a stake of over $400 million in Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, which has displaced established communities of indigenous people in addition to several endangered species.

Who Owns the Land?

Land grabbing hugely contributes to the loss of property which advances poverty levels. Indigenous people claim and manage about 50 percent of the world’s land. However, of that 50 percent, people who depend on it only legally own 10 percent. Big companies can easily buy out the remaining 40 percent of the land and repurpose it to maximize industrial gains. Most of this land goes towards fossil-fuels projects, tourism and even conservation. Because of this, many families become displaced and left without a source of income and experience a lack of food security. Companies, such as TIAA, have led directly to malnutrition in industrial countries where they held land.

Initiating Change

There have been many demonstrations to try and combat the act of land grabbing. Grassroots International has started a petition to end land grabbing. There are also The Tenure Guidelines that have the intention of ending global poverty through tenure rights and land access. Policies within these guidelines would give land rights to the person who has owned the land the longest, ensuring that those who depend on the land for their livelihoods can continue to use it. In Africa, 29 women farmers climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the country’s tallest mountain, to raise awareness about the issue. The climbers met 400 fellow women farmers at the base of the mountain to help raise awareness about secure land rights and guarantee the farmers access to local and global markets.

Land grabbing and poverty reduction will give the people of the land a place to live as well as a food source and a dependable income. Crop sales will increase and farmers will have a more reliable income if others do not drive them from their land. The decrease of land grabbing will also increase access to both local and global markets, providing farmers with more ways to sell their food. Overall, restricting land grabbing, honoring tenure and giving land access to those who need it will lead to a decline in global poverty.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr