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

Martinique's Pesticide Poisoning
From 1972 to 1993, Martinique used the pesticide chlordecone in banana plantations to eliminate the weevil, a type of beetle that was infesting the lands. Mainland France banned the use of this extremely toxic pesticide. However, the French government still authorized its use in the French West islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The chemical contaminated over 20,000 hectares of land between both islands. The world finally banned chlordecone production in 2009. However, it was too late to reverse the health damages Martinique’s pesticide poisoning left on the people of Martinique and the environment.

For almost five decades, the people of this island have been dealing with serious public health issues that chlordecone caused. Some of the issues include prostate cancer, nervous system disorders, high rates of premature births and exposure through breast milk. There is no viable decontamination method. In addition, traces of the pesticide will likely remain in the soil for at least 700 years. Martinique’s pesticide poisoning will come under control once the French government provides the funding for research that will allow a deeper understanding of the situation.

The People of Martinique

Ninety-two percent of the citizens on this island have tested positive for chlordecone poisoning. Contamination has reached the water and food supply, livestock and even marine life. This slow poisoning has caused many mothers to have premature babies. As a result, premature births are four times higher than the national average in Martinique. The contamination also affects the island’s men. Martinique has one of the highest prostate cancer rates in the world with 577 new cases reported in 2018.

The pesticide is also affecting the children of Martinique. Nineteen percent of children tested for chlordecone exceeded the toxic dose. Contaminated and breastfeeding mothers are unintentionally poisoning their children through their milk. As the kids grow older, dietary exposure to chlordecone continues. This will increase their chances of developing cancer later on in life.

The Economy of Martinique

Because chlordecone poisoning has reached the waters surrounding Martinique, fishermen are having trouble staying in business. Thirty-three percent of coastal waters surrounding the island has a ban on fishing to prevent more citizens from eating poisoned food. Although this ban has kept the citizens safe, many families who rely on fishing to make a living are now struggling financially. The French government is providing some aid to these families. However, reports indicate that only 50 out of 506 fishermen received any aid. Depression and suicide are common within the fishing communities in Martinique.

Chemical contamination is also hurting the island’s exports. Martinique can no longer export much of the foods grown on the island to mainland France due to its lack of safety. This has not only hurt the economy but has also caused an uproar and a call for justice for the people of Martinique. France has banned the contaminated food. However, many in Martinique only have contaminated food. Many of the island’s citizens find this unfair. People started protests and campaigns in an attempt to get the attention of the French government. In September 2019, the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, made a pledge to increase the budget for food controls of contaminated lands.

The Solutions for Martinique’s Pesticide Poisoning

Despite the lack of action by the French government, the farmers of Martinique have started to search for alternative solutions. Many of them are starting to grow their crops above land by using trees. Chlordecone is unable to travel through tree trunks which means that any crop that grows through trees will be chlordecone free. Lab testing has confirmed the lack of the toxic chemical in their crops. They are able to provide the people of Martinique with safe foods.

Along with growing food above land, farmers have started using alternative substances such as aldicarb, isophenphos, phenamiphos, cadusaphos and terbuphos which has stopped further spread of the toxic pesticide.

Despite these solutions, one of the biggest ways that the French government can help the people of Martinique is by providing the funding for research that will help them better understand chlordecone’s movement through the soil and water. Without this research, providing successful solutions will be impossible, and the people of Martinique will continue to suffer. Along with this, the government should also implement education to the population on how they can minimize their exposure to the toxic pesticide. Because the French government has ignored this issue for so long, the lack of understanding over how the pesticide threatens the environment and human health is unsettling and gaining knowledge should be the first step in solving Martinique’s pesticide poisoning. The French government has the funding and power to give the people of Martinique the quality of life they deserve.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

helping farmers in povertyAbout 78 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and rely heavily on agriculture. They had to turn to farm, livestock, aquaculture and other agricultural methods to place food on their plate. For millions, agriculture is the starting point to get out of poverty. But, out of the 78 percent of people who rely on agriculture, only a mere 4 percent receives official development assistance. And, for those who do manage to get out of poverty, they will face a competing market for organic goods.

Farmers Struggle to Meet the Rising Rates of Consumption

With the rising rates of consumption to an ever-growing world, farmers are struggling. In order to meet the increasing demand and multiply production, farms have to increase the efficiency and productivity of the existing farmland. WWOOF shares in the same philosophy and helps farmers in poverty by providing workers to those existing farms.

Since 1971, WWOOF has been connecting sustainable farmers and growers with visitors through an exchange of education and culture for a hands-on experience to help create food and other agricultural products—a key part of how WWOOF is helping farmers in poverty. The visitor picks the country they would like to be working in and WWOOF connects them to an available farm that will provide them with room and board. The guests can stay in the country while learning about its culture.

Working on the Farms with WWOOF

As for working on the farm, visitors normally stay from two to three weeks but farms are open to shorter or longer stays. Usually, they work from four to six hours a day and have afternoons and evenings free. Currently, WWOOF has farms in 95 countries all around the world. The organization proposes that the search for authenticity and local food, such as items from a farm shop, has the potential to enhance the visitor experience by connecting consumers to the region and its perceived culture and heritage.

Organic Farming

WWOOF focuses on organic farming, an agricultural method that involves not using pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. It helps by reducing the level of pollution and human and animal health hazards by reducing the number of residues in the product. Organic farming keeps agricultural production at a higher level. But, it is more labor intensive. Although organic farmers love the independence and the hard day-to-day work, most find themselves overloaded. Organic systems require 15 percent more labor but the increase of labor may range from seven percent to 75 percent. The WWOOF program offers a satisfying experience to the visitors whilst addressing the additional labor burden on the farming family.

The WWOOF program realized that organic farming has a vital role in helping farmers in poverty. As the years pass, organic farms will earn a higher income than those of the conventional farms due to the increasing awareness of pesticides and the ability to charge higher premiums. Not only that, organic farms have the potential to improve local food and nutritional security because of diversified production and resistance to weather variables. Because of the diversified production, organic farmers live a healthier lifestyle when using their own crops for food. The organization gives a small part that makes a big difference for those organic farms.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Land Management Practices

Roughly 2 billion people across the globe rely on agriculture to make a living. However, due to unprecedented amounts of soil degradation (nearly a quarter of the world’s productive land is degraded), the livelihoods of farmers around the world are being threatened. Out of which, 40 percent of these degraded areas are located in extremely impoverished areas.  The UN-supported project “Sustainable Land Management Practices to Address Land Degradation and Mitigate Effects of Drought” (SLM Project) is attempting to teach farmers around the world sustainable farming practices that will reverse soil degradation and increase productivity.

The Problem

As previously mentioned, many small subsistence farmers are unknowingly contributing to the degradation of their own soil. This not only leads to less productivity for their farms, endangering their livelihoods but also contributes to deforestation which has massive effects on our whole environment. In the Philippines, the past 100 years has seen a near 50 percent drop in their forest cover and a massive spike in degraded lands, affecting around 33 million Filipinos. The farmers who are contributing to soil degradation and poor land health should not be blamed for their practices. Instead, we should follow the lead of the SLM Project and attempt to teach farmers sustainable farming practices that will protect their soil.

The Solution

Partnering with the Philippino Government’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management, the SLM Project has undergone the task of teaching countless Filipino farmers tactics to reverse soil degradation. Rosita Adalim, a Filipino farmer from the Bukidnon Province, is a perfect example of SLM’s preferred solution to the soil degradation problem. According to her, “Seminars on SLM helped improve my farming practices. I learned to adapt contour farming to prevent soil erosion especially in slope lands similar to my farm, which also restores soil fertility.”

After she was taught the science of soil degradation, Rosita became a “farmer-cooperator” or a local farmer taught by the SLM project who spreads the information she learned to the farmers in her community. Farmers like Lorenzo Caca have claimed that implementing the sustainable farming practices taught to him by the SLM project has led to his farm yield doubling.

These success stories make it clear that the SLM project has discovered a successful approach to protecting soil fertility while benefiting local farmers

The Implications

Reports from the United Nations’ Convention to Combat Desertification have concluded that “Land restoration is the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss.”  The World Wildlife Fund claims that increased soil erosion and degradation will likely lead to increased pollution, increased vulnerability to flooding and a myriad of other negative effects. There is considerable evidence that the declining productivity of farms due to soil degradation is also exacerbating poverty for subsistence farmers around the world.

If the global community follows the SLM Project’s lead, it will empower hundreds of millions of farmers by teaching them Sustainable Farming Practices. This will not only curtail soil degradation and increase food production, but these practices will likely lead to millions of impoverished farmers seeing improvements in their living conditions.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

 

Farming Systems in the Philippines

Lack of technological prowess has historically been one of the key issues affecting farming systems in the Philippines. But there are other issues as well:

  • The input of harvests has not been matching up to the output of harvests which is leading to a loss in profits. This problem is due mainly to farm pests that are consuming or contaminating harvests, along with diseases ravaging the plantations. The disease problem, in particular, is further exacerbated by the fact that the main agricultural product that the Philippines produces is rice.
  • Due to a lack of crop diversity, large swaths of rice plantations often suffer from the same disease. Without the proper pesticides and fertilizer, there is not much that can be done for the Philippines to combat the problem. The national government has tried to solve this problem by importing other pesticides and fertilizers from other countries, but this is much more expensive than it would be for the country to make its own.
  • Many farmers lack the necessary education, training and skills to maintain thriving businesses. Inadequate infrastructure is an offshoot of this issue and many farmers do not have access to coveted irrigation systems or milling towers which are essential for creating a sustainable agricultural system in modern society.

Business Modernization

Thankfully, organizations and programs have been created or put in place to solve these specific issues. For instance, the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) has put forward long term plans to educate farmers properly on their vocation. Preserving certain types of endangered plants is also a key agenda item.

DOST-PCIEERD is focused on three core areas: cryopreservation, micropropagation and hydroponics. Of note, the agency’s SPICE program also seeks to improve access to farming tools that would allow farmers to work at a less intensive rate while at the same time boosting profits. This is crucial since most farmers in the Philippines cannot afford their own improved equipment, to assist in farming.

These improvements are much needed, especially since the country experienced a 5.7 percent drop in crop production in the second quarter of 2019 alone. This is significant because out of all of the agricultural products that the Philippines has, the crop production field has seen the sharpest decline, while other areas of agriculture such as livestock and fisheries crops have grown.

Online Learning and Management

The SPICE program won’t have to shoulder the responsibility of reviving the agriculture industry alone, however. The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) is especially focused on the training of farmers and allowing farmers to gain the knowledge to train their peers. ATI even goes so far as to include an e-learning system to give farmers a crash course on the new techniques and technology that they will be used to improve their farming businesses.

The initiative also utilizes an app that can be accessed via a computer or phone to better connect farmers and their potential customers. There is also an app that allows farmers to better manage their rice farms with crop and nutrient management guidelines. This is crucial since rice accounts for 20 percent of agricultural output in the country.

Though farming systems in the Philippines are in need of improvement the government is taking the necessary steps to equip  farmers with the tools and knowledge to remain competitive. This is necessary since more than 40 percent of the economy in the Philippines depends on the agricultural sector.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Development of India

Thirty years ago, India was considered by many to be the poster child for global poverty, with what the CIA World Factbook described as “environmental degradation, extensive poverty and widespread corruption.” However, in the decades since, India has grown tremendously, threatening to eclipse existing global superpowers, in fact, the country is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2025. Here are five reasons for the rapid pace of development in India:

5 Reasons for the Rapid Pace Development of India

  1. Risk Management in Farming – Farmers are the backbone of a thriving society. However, the field of agriculture is full of risks, as bad crops, bad weather and other unexpected circumstances can lead to ruin for a would-be farmer, particularly in a country like India, which experiences ongoing monsoons that can completely ruin a farmer’s crops. This is why India has begun to implement risk management programs that insure farmers’ crops against monsoons and other disasters, a practice common in developed countries. When the Indian government implemented the PMFBY risk management scheme in 2016, the country saw the market premiums for agricultural goods increase by 300 percent.
  2. Quickly Growing Cities – A large part of India’s development has taken place in its cities. Two-thirds of the economic growth of the country comes from its cities, which are projected to have economies the size of small countries by 2030. This is largely due to the large influx of new citizens to the cities, which is projected to add 300 million residents by 2050. This comes at the cost of tremendous overcrowding in the cities, but India is working to develop new methods of urban sustainability that will keep the growth provided by its massive cities going.
  3. Investing in Renewable Energy – When India began to take off as a world power, the country was able to quickly develop its energy systems due to a rapid and early adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. This is because, due to the lack of preexisting infrastructure and the country’s sunny climate, it is cheaper for the Indian energy industry to harness solar energy than to harness energy from coal and gas. Today, solar energy alone makes up 30 percent of the energy produced in India and has the capacity to produce 30 GW of power in 2019. This access to cheap and reliable energy has helped India’s development by allowing the country to power its cities and even export energy to other countries. With that said, many households in India still lack access to electricity, which has caused many in the country to criticize the government’s export policies.
  4. Increased Focus on Breastfeeding – Although this point may seem oddly specific, it is vital to India’s development. The ability of children to breastfeed has been shown to improve their overall nutrition and reduce child mortality. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of babies who are breastfed in India has increased from 46.4 to 54.9 percent. This is partly due to a government program called Mother’s Absolute Affection, which works to make mothers and health care providers more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the nutritional needs of a developing baby.
  5. Thriving Tech Industry – In recent years, India has become almost ubiquitously known for being one of the largest tech powerhouses in the world. Most of this growth has been concentrated in start-up companies, turning India into a gigantic Silicon Valley. Of note, Bangalore, India’s biggest tech city, is considered by experts to be the second-fastest growing startup city in the world (behind Berlin) and the country has been rated the world’s top exporter of IT services.

Overall, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries and it is because of smart government policies, targeted economic development and stronger social services that help ensure that people aren’t left behind.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Proximity Designs in Myanmar
The South Asian country of Myanmar has some of the best farmland in all of Asia. Considered the breadbasket of Asia, Myanmar grows a substantial amount of crops. Unfortunately, despite boasting some of the best growing conditions, Myanmar is not as prosperous as it should be. Fortunately, the company Proximity Designs has been aiding Myanmar’s economy through farmers.

The State of Farming in Myanmar

The potential for Myanmar to boost its economy through farming is there for the taking, but there are some roadblocks to recovery. Here are some facts about farming in Myanmar:

  • Agriculture makes up almost 40 percent of Myanmar’s economy.

  • Agricultural exports make up almost 30 percent of Myanmar’s total export earnings.

  • The farming industry employs 70 percent of the country’s workforce.

  • One day of work in Myanmar produces only 23 kg of crops while neighboring countries may produce 10 times that amount.

  • During monsoon season, a farmer may make around $2 a day and during the dry season around $3 a day.

  • Farmers in neighboring countries, like Thailand, make at least $7 a day in both seasons.

Poverty in Myanmar

Given the resources, both natural and human, the productivity of Myanmar is very low. With farmers making less than $4 a day and far less than farmers in neighboring countries, they have a tough time fighting poverty. One in four people in Myanmar are poor and a large number of them live in rural areas. The number of poor people in rural areas is almost seven times higher than those living in urban areas.

The government has attempted to aid the poor with some success, but a third of the population is still at risk of falling into poverty. The people of Myanmar struggle financially because their farming industry is not productive. The lack of productivity is down to a lack of education and tools in farming.

How Proximity Designs is Helping Farmers in Myanmar

Proximity Designs is a company that aims to increase the productivity of farmers in Myanmar. Its founders are Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din and they created the organization in 2004. Based in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, the company wants to raise the poor out of poverty by helping them increase their profits. To start, the company created high-tech irrigation tools like custom irrigation systems and solar-powered pumps. Despite having such rich farmland, the people of Myanmar still rely on monsoon season to provide water for their crops. If farmers can find a better way to nourish their crops in the dry season, then they can increase productivity, which is exactly what Proximity Designs is trying to do.

Another way the company helps the poor is by providing microloans. People primarily use loans during the dry season when men move to cities to find better work. They use the money to cover the cost of transportation to the city and any living expenses for the rest of the family. Proximity Designs has used its business to reach 80 percent of Myanmar’s farming population. Its work has been aiding Myanmar’s economy for almost 15 years now and the country’s economy has been on a steady rise.

The work Proximity Designs is doing in Myanmar is very important. The government alone has not done enough for the country, but with the help of foreign entities aiding Myanmar’s economy, the agricultural sector could boom. The potential to excel is clear and the workforce is available to support the industry. It is just a matter of giving farmers the right tools and education to make smart choices and increase the number of crops that they are producing. With increased production, the economy of Myanmar should grow and raise the incomes of farmers all over the country.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers in Ethiopia
The days of poor coffee farmers in Ethiopia receiving underpayment for hard work may soon be over as Moyee Coffee is helping farmers in the country. Moyee, a Dutch coffee brand, is transforming supply chains with blockchain. Moyee begins this process by creating unique digital identities for its coffee producers. Next, it sets prices at 20 percent over the market rate. Buyers can view these prices and choose to support the livelihood of farmers in Ethiopia. The coffee company is also creating an app that allows customers to tip farmers. These business decisions are what make Moyee the first multinational coffee company based in Ethiopia.

Why Coffee is Such a Tough Business

People consume billions of cups of coffee every day and the coffee industry is worth almost $100 billion, yet the producers of the coffee bean are among the world’s poor. Approximately 90 million people who help produce coffee live on less than $2 a day. To put that into perspective, most Americans spend more than $2 a day on a cup of coffee.

A lot of the problems associated with coffee farming and poverty have to do with climate change and price fluctuation. Climate change has altered growing seasons making it difficult to produce good quality crops. Species of coffee are dying out because of deforestation and soon farmlands may become unsuitable to grow coffee. Prices fluctuate often because of supply and demand. The problem is that when climate change damages crop yield, prices can be low which means farmers earn less than they should for their product.

How Blockchain Increases Profits for Farmers in Ethiopia

This is when Fairchain comes in. Fairchain is a version of blockchain that Moyee created. It is a digital supply chain that is completely transparent. The supply chain tracks every transaction from the coffee bean to the coffee cup. This allows blockchain to cut out the middleman and help control price fluctuations. When the supply chain is transparent, people and companies can see how much each chain in the line received to keep prices fair. This is what helps farmers when prices fluctuate dramatically because they get a fair price even when demand is low.

How Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers

Moyee gives coffee farmers mobile wallets, tap cards, identification numbers and barcodes that allow them to receive payments directly. Moyee also allows customers who buy its coffee to support farmers by using a QR code. The code allows customers to tip the farmer or fund small programs that aid farmers like microloans or training.

The Moyee Brand has a growing impact in Ethiopia by using blockchain to increase profits for coffee farmers. The use of technology has allowed for supply chains to become more transparent. Transparency is key because customers are often unaware of where their product is coming from and how much the producer receives. The increase in profits can help farmers in a variety of ways. Their product yields could increase and they could live a more sustainable lifestyle. Middlemen used to take advantage of farmers and cut their profits, but Moyee is changing that and hopefully, it will serve as a model for other multinational corporations.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr