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

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

Living Conditions

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Crop Yields

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

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

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

How Rising Fuel Prices in Zimbabwe
A 150 percent rise in fuel prices in Zimbabwe has had dramatic consequences on the lives of the country’s citizens. The rise in Zimbabwe’s cost of living initially started because of confusion behind its currency, but it has leaked into every aspect of living. For example, after the price increase, the price of bread almost doubled within a week. Organizations like USAID and the World Food Program are trying to help alleviete the true cost of the rise in fuel prices in Zimbabwe.

The Currency Crisis and Fuel Prices

After rampant inflation, Zimbabwe got rid of its own currency and adopted others, such as sterling or the South African Rand. Now, however, there is not enough hard currency to back up $10 million in digital funds. This shortage of imports is affecting local stores and supermarkets by making it more difficult to stock their shelves. Thus, the supermarkets that do have stock have been raising their prices. Fuel has also become a big problem.

Zimbabwe now has the highest priced petrol in the world at more than $3 a liter. The second highest prices are in China at around $2 a liter. The government has stated that the significant rise in fuel prices was put in place to prevent fuel shortages and counteract illegal fuel trading. The country mostly imports its fuel, but without hard currency, imported products are difficult to obtain. In addition to this, the government has been accusing people of hoarding fuel and selling it on the black market, which is said to be much cheaper than buying it up front because of the country’s currency crisis.

Food Insecurity

Without fuel, many farmers cannot operate the basic machines that they need to cultivate and harvest crops. Many rural households rely on agriculture as a main source of food, and the prediction of bad harvests by USAID only makes the situation seem worse. In addition, the current drought has left farms without rainfall to water crops, and without fuel, farms cannot power their irrigation systems to counteract poor rainfall.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has stated that “2.4 million people in rural Zimbabwe will be food insecure by March 2019.” This is in part due to the droughts and in part due to the overwhelming increase in fuel prices.  With crop failure and the cost of imports being so high, the government is finding it difficult to import basic necessities such as food and medication.

Plans for Aid

Some citizens believe that effective aid should not come from the local government due to previous allegations that the dominant party prioritizes aid to its own supporters. Organizations like USAID and WFP are partnering to provide emergency food assistance to 665,000 hungry people in Zimbabwe. USAID also supports developmental programs in Zimbabwe such as Amalima.

The Amalima program has families come together to learn productive tasks such as raising livestock and cultivating farmland. The program aims to use these learning tasks to be able to improve child nutrition and help the people in rural communities to better prepare for a food crisis.

The country is certainly in a crisis stage when it comes to food security. Due in part to both the rise of fuel prices in Zimbabwe, the economic crisis and poor harvests due to drought. As aid ramps up to keep up with the needs of the region, many can be saved from starvation and malnutrition. Emergency aid and ongoing developmental programs are doing their part to make sure the people of Zimbabwe lead healthy and fruitful lives.

Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Pixabay

New Industries UgandaThe Ugandan government recently announced the decision to draft a new national policy that will aid the country’s economic growth and assist in the creation of new industries in Uganda. Such development could draw more investment into the country and bolster the nation as a whole, and the silk industry might be the best way to achieve economic prosperity.

A New National Industrial Policy

In 2008, Uganda’s parliament passed the National Industrial Policy to combat the country’s slow economic growth. The policy was highly anticipated as it aimed to transform the structure of the country as a whole rather than just one specific industry. The National Industrial Policy was not only meant to lead to the creation of new industries in Uganda but it also to lead to the cooperation of the state by providing a plan of action.

Fast forward 10 years and many Ugandan citizens are disappointed with the policy’s impact. By 2018, only 30 percent of the policy has been realized. The main reason for this underachievement is the fact that the policy was not properly implemented. The plan and prediction were that GDP in Uganda would grow to 30 percent, but between 2008 and 2017, it only grew by 18.5 percent. The new policy seeks to rectify this situation by making investment easier, increasing funding to the industrial sector and strengthening existing laws that help industrial development.

Focus on Industrialization

Many economists and politicians believe that industrialization is a key component in lifting countries out of poverty and into a modern, industrial economy. The far-reaching goal of industrialization is to change the system, and such widespread aims can help lead to nationwide development.

One aim of the new industrial policy is the silk industry. Due to the high demand for silk, Uganda is looking to farm silkworms in a process called sericulture to produce more silk. Many hope to expand the silk industry through this new policy. China and India are the ultimate silk producers at this moment, but both are currently experiencing declines. Estimates state that Uganda could make almost $94 million and create up to 50,000 jobs every year in the silk industry; time will tell if such potential can be realized.

The Ugandan government is set to put in about $102 million into this endeavor over the course of five years with the hopes of making about $340 million. While the new national policy seeks the creation of new industries in Uganda, the silk industry has existed in the country before and had been implemented in the 2008 National Industrial Policy. Uganda has grown and produced silk since the 1920s and had had silkworm farms up until the late 1990s. Now, the nation seeks to revitalize the product and its process.

What’s Next?

While this new national policy has yet to be implemented in the Ugandan government, there is still the hope that this policy will create more domestic growth within the nation. It is necessary to wait and see the effects of the policy since the same problems that the 2008 policy faced could still exist. The effects are unknown, but now there is hope that the creation of new industries in Uganda is the start that the country needs.

Isabella Niemeyer
Photo: Flickr

sustainable irrigationIrrigation is as important to farming as seeds are. Irrigation, especially sustainable irrigation, is an oftentimes taken for granted by the general population in the United States where the average shower last over 8 minutes, using roughly 17 gallons of water at an estimated 2 gallons a minute. Being clean is important for many reasons but so is sustainability. In farming, especially in countries where water is not abundant, there are a few sustainable irrigation methods to choose from where less water is wasted.

Water Sources for Farmers

Many rural farmers around the world get their water from surface water. Surface water is water that has yet to reach the water-table underground. It can be found in naturally occurring pounds, streams and rivers or collected in basins, reservoirs or man-made ponds for later use. This is for those lucky enough to be near a body of freshwater or who have learned to collect water during their rainy seasons.

Groundwater is another important source for farmers to get their water. This water is underground and, therefore, can more difficult to use. A well must be dug down to the water table or a pump installed to get the water back to the surface for use. Digging a well uses a lot of energy, time and money. Finding ways to do this more efficiently is one way the United Nations is supporting sustainable irrigation methods.

Sustainable Irrigation Methods

Each of these sustainable irrigation methods has its upsides and downsides. The main drawback of using a more efficient method is often the time or money needed. For example, it is cheap to redirect a stream or direct groundwater already collected into a field where furrows are dug. The water runs along these furrows flooding the field for a short time without damaging the seeds or crops. This method is known as flood or furrow irrigation. However, this uses a lot more water than might be necessary.

Installing a sprinkler system to collected groundwater or pumping it up from underground is a better sustainable irrigation technique than flood irrigation. The water can be directed and controlled, which cuts back on water usage. However, these pumps cost money upfront, plus there are funds needed for upkeep. Fuel and parts must be taken into consideration when purchasing any farming equipment. Luckily the United Nations is working with groups around the world to supply solar and mechanical pumps to rural farming villages. The mechanical pumps look like bikes or “Stairmasters.”

The best sustainable irrigation technique by far is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation is a system of pumps and tubes. The tubes are either suspended above the soil or planted alongside the roots of the plant. A predetermined amount of water is then pumped through the tubes and released through tiny holes poked in the tubes. These systems come in a variety of complex options. This is also a technique promoted by the United Nations, specifically solar-powered drip systems.

A Sustainable Future

Sustainable irrigation methods are essential to farmers all over the world. There are several methods to choose from depending on the resources available to the farmers in any given region. What is important is ensuring a water supply so that farmer is arid regions can continue to grow and profit off of their crops.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in SlovakiaSlovakia is a country located in Central Europe. It shares its borders with Poland to the north, Hungary to the south, Austria and the Czech Republic to the west and Ukraine to the east. In July 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent states: Slovakia and the Czech Republic. From the beginning of its time as an independent state, Slovakia has taken steps to eliminate hunger even though the country suffers from high rates of poverty. In the article below, the top 10 facts about hunger in Slovakia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Slovakia

  1. In 2018, Slovakia ranked 16 out of 119 countries on the Global Hunger Index scale. It has a score of 5.0 which means that its hunger level is very low. In fact, hunger levels in Slovakia are better than in Russia, which has a score of 6.1.
  2. Less than 10 percent of the population in Slovakia are considered malnourished. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI), about 5 percent of Slovakians are lacking adequate food. The graph shows that hunger levels have been consistently dropping since the year 2000.
  3. The number of people who are considered undernourished in Slovakia is at 2.7 percent. Undernourishment has been declining since 2001 when it hit its peak at 6.7 percent. Even though Slovakia does not suffer from a hunger crisis, they still have to deal with other issues relating to food security and malnutrition. Changes in economic life have led to increased food prices, less spending money for the general population and groups of nutritionally-vulnerable people. Furthermore, changes in the economy have led to difficulties in food distribution. This is a very unique problem regarding the Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Slovakia.
  4. In Slovakia in 2011,  61.8 percent of adults were overweight. Men have higher rates of being overweight in Slovakia in comparison to women. Just under 69.6 percent of males are overweight in Slovakia while 56 percent of women are overweight. By the year 2030, it is estimated that the obesity rate for men will be around 28 percent and, for women,  18 percent.
  5. Agriculture is dominated by large scale corporations in Slovakia, so small, local farms are rare. One major problem is that the youth of Slovakia are uninterested in the farming industry. The Slovak Agency of Environment holds out-of-school environmental programs to increase education and training in agrobiodiversity.
  6. In 2005, there were about 81,500 people working agricultural jobs and more than 59,000 people working in the food industry. A decade later the numbers dropped to 51,000 and 50,200.  In 2016, only one-fifth of companies in the agriculture industry expected growth in their market share. Most of the agricultural companies revenue declined that same year.
  7. Between 2007-2014, milk production in Slovakia fell by 10.7 percent; although milk consumption increased by 17.5 percent. Meat production also fell, beef by 25.4 percent and poultry by 12.1 percent, as the result of a decrease in livestock. However, the consumption of beef, poultry and pork fell as well. The inconsistencies are due to constant changes in EU subsidy programs. “Sanctions against Russia leading to an excess of pork, record-breaking grain harvests, and unresolved problem of milk prices are all factors,” said Jiri Vacek director of CEEC research. This may directly affect some of the most important details about understanding the 10 Ten Facts About Hunger in Slovakia.
  8. In 2016, dairy producers experienced a crisis due to overproduction and low retail prices of milk. As an answer to the problem, the Agricultural Ministry stabilized the industry by supporting employment in dairy farming regions and focusing on a long-term solution. This plan included $33 million of support for milk products. Later that year, 1,760 dairy farmers had joined the project, giving financial support to farmers and providing important information.
  9.  In 2013-2014, subsistence farmers made up slightly less than 50 percent of the total number of vegetables produced. The biggest share of subsistence farmers per vegetable was cabbage at around 24 percent, tomatoes were just below 14 percent and carrots at just below 12 percent. Some of the other vegetables include peppers, onions and cucumbers.
  10. Slovakians do not eat enough fruits and vegetables per capita on a daily basis. The WHO/FAO recommends an intake of 600 grams of fruits and vegetables every day. Slovakians fall short of this number by more than 100 grams per day. Slovakians eat an average of 493 grams of fruits and vegetables per capita per day. This may be a factor in why Slovakians life expectancy falls shorter than the EU average.

Slovakia is considered one of Europe’s biggest success stories. When Slovakia originally separated from Czechoslovakia in 1993, the newly independent nation had an uphill battle to climb. However, a decade later Slovakia has taken major strides in becoming a successful, independent democracy. The country is not perfect, however, as Slovakia’s Romany population still suffers from high levels of poverty and social isolation. These top 10 facts about hunger in Slovakia show that hunger is not seen as a major problem.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Cotton in HaitiAt the beginning of February, smallholder farmers in Gonaives, Haiti, along with three representatives of the outdoor apparel company Timberland, worked together to bring about the first cotton harvest the country had seen in nearly 30 years. Before the 1980s, cotton was the fourth largest crop in Haiti; however, due to politics and sinking cotton prices, cotton harvests were gradually decreasing for years before finally stopping altogether in 1987. Now, thanks to the work of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the support of Timberland, it seems that the Haitian cotton industry may be making a comeback.

Timberland and the SFA

This first harvest was a test run for Timberland. Several different varieties of cotton were planted and harvested in order to see which will be the most lucrative. After analysis, a larger quantity of the most productive strain of cotton will be planted this coming August. Timberland has already pledged to source one-third of the cotton it uses in its products from farmers in Haiti if all goes well.

In addition, the company has begun working with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to involve other potential buyers in the apparel industry, including other companies under Timberland’s parent company, the VF Corporation. The footwear company Vans, another brand under the VF Corporation, also participated in funding the project to bring the cotton industry back to Haiti.

The cotton harvest is only the newest development in a long line of agricultural and humanitarian feats performed by the partnership of Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance. In 2010, the American clothing company began working with the SFA to create a business model for sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. At the same time, Timberland began investing in one of the SFA’s most ambitious projects: the reforestation of Haiti.

The SFA and Reforestation in Haiti

For Haiti, the promise provided by the SFA’s reforestation project could not be more necessary. With an estimated 1.5 percent tree cover, Haiti is one of the most severely deforested countries in the world. The environmental effects of deforestation have been devastating. A survey done in 2018 suggests that anywhere from dozens to hundreds of species native to Haiti may lose their habitats if deforestation continues.

In addition, deforested areas are at a greater risk for landslides and flooding, and the country has already become increasingly susceptible to flooding in recent years. In a country that is already vulnerable to tropical storms and floods every year, deforestation only exacerbates the potential damage to its population and its infrastructure. Hundreds of Haitians are killed or displaced every year by flooding.

Today, the main culprit for deforestation in Haiti is the economy of most rural areas. For decades, rural families made room for their farms by clearing away Haiti’s natural forests. In addition, the trees that were cut fueled the lucrative charcoal trade, as many rural families make a living by burning charcoal and selling it in urban areas. Millions of Haitians rely on charcoal for energy. The charcoal industry counts for 20 percent of the rural economy and at least 70 percent of the entire country’s energy supply. Between the country’s history of deforestation and the modern need for land and charcoal, not much is left of Haiti’s forests.

Tree Currency and Reforestation

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that smallholder farmers in Haiti are the ones responsible for the project of reforestation. Within the tree currency model, which was created by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and sponsored by Timberland, smallholder farmers plant and tend to tree nurseries in order to earn tree credits. These credits can be exchanged for a variety of goods and services, ranging from seeds to training to new equipment and livestock. In addition, taking part in tree planting and tending makes farmers eligible to receive microloans, participate in local seed banks and get help with planting and harvest from work crews comprised of local volunteers.

Since the beginning of Timberland and the SFA’s partnership in 2010, more than 6.5 million trees have been planted by some 6,000 smallholder farmers in Haiti. In turn, those farmers have reaped the benefits of the tree currency model. Crop yields among farmers who participate in the reforestation project increased by an average of 40 percent while household income has gone up by 50 to 100 percent.

Through the tree currency model, Timberland and the SFA are healing Haiti’s forests and revitalizing agriculture at the same time. And now, with the return of the cotton crop in Haiti, they may have brought back the crop that used to be the cornerstone of Haiti’s economy while also creating a new source of organic and sustainable cotton for Timberland and other companies in the textile industry.

New Hope in Hait

During the harvest in Gonaives, many of the people present commented on the new hope brought by the cotton crop. Some older farmers remembered a time when their parents had produced their own successful cotton harvests and expressed gratitude that they and their children would be able to do the same. However, the implications of this harvest, which was funded by an attempt to reforest the country, go beyond cotton and even beyond Haiti.

The partnership between Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance goes to show that economic and ecological concerns don’t always have to be in conflict with one another and that big business can be successful on a basis of cooperation and reciprocity of the those who support it and not through exploitation. Who knows what could happen if more companies began following Timberland and gave back more?

Keira Charles

Photo: Timberland

India's organic revolution In northeastern India, nestled between Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and West Bengal, lies Sikkim. Sikkim is an Indian state that has been making news since 2016 when it became the world’s first fully organic state. Sikkim won the prestigious U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Future Policy Gold Award, known as the “Oscar for best policies,” which honors achievements made towards ending world hunger. “An organic world is definitely achievable,” explained Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar at the awards. Could India’s Second Green Revolution be organic?

The First Green Revolution

Along with many other developing countries, India overhauled its agricultural systems in the 1960s and replaced them with a western industrial model that relied on expensive technology, GMOs and agri-chemicals. By narrowing the crop variety to mainly corn, wheat and rice, Asian countries doubled their grain yield and cut poverty in half. As time has passed, however, the Green Revolution proved to be problematic for many developing countries. Though it has spurred incredible grain production and increased income in rural communities, it has also polluted the environment, depleted the water table and created economic disparity.

Because genetically modified wheat and rice require more water than their organic counterparts, Indian farmers have been draining the groundwater supply, causing the water table to drop approximately three feet each year. Intensive farming has also exhausted the soil, depleting it of nitrogen, phosphorous and iron. Farmers now use three times the amount of fertilizer that they used to for the same crop yield. Many farmers find themselves in debt because they cannot keep up with the costs of new water pumps, patented seeds and fertilizer. This is why states like Sikkim are calling for an organic Second Green Revolution.

The Sikkim Revolution

Sikkim has reversed the industrial farming policies of the Green Revolution at a time when governments and philanthropists are calling for a Second Green Revolution. Chief Minister Kumars believes that countries should not “carry out any kind of development work and business at the cost of the environment.” Still, there has been much debate about what a Second Green Revolution should look like. Should countries increase reliance on genetically engineered crops and pesticides or move towards more sustainable but lower-yield organic practices?

The transition to organic farming in Sikkim has helped 66,000 families and increased rural development and sustainable tourism. A movement to invest in sustainable farming practices is growing around the world, leading institutions like the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to invest in organic farming. IFAD President Gilbert F. Houngbo has stated that reversing conventional farming practices can fight food insecurity while improving nutrition and alleviating poverty. Though organic farming systems produce 10 to 20 percent less than conventional systems, they regenerate the soil and create fewer environmental costs.

An Unconventional Compromise

With the world poised to reach a population of more than nine billion by 2050, there is debate as to whether organic agriculture can feed the whole world. Industrial technologies and pest-resistant strains of rice and wheat have undoubtedly helped feed a rising population and reduce global poverty over the last 50 years. A recent meta-analysis of 66 studies comparing conventional and organic agriculture found that a Second Green Revolution needs the best of both systems. Though organic farming greatly increases the productivity of soil, making it more resilient to climate change, genetically modified crops could also play an important role in certain areas since they are designed to endure droughts and saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels.

At the end of the day, conventional or organic, there is actually plenty of food to go around. Global agriculture produces 22 trillion calories every year. If food were distributed equally and not wasted, every person on the planet could consume 3,000 calories a day. Though this may never be the case, organic states like Sikkim are choosing to make their calories count, by making them pesticide free and environmentally friendly. Whether India’s Second Green Revolution will be organic is still unsure, but Sikkim is setting a powerful precedent, and other states and countries are following suit.

Kate McIntosh

Photo: Flickr

How Farm Africa is Helping in the Fight Against Poverty
Farm Africa is a nonprofit organization that is reducing poverty in Eastern Africa by helping farmers “grow more, sell more, and sell for more”. The organization focuses on three aspects: agriculture, environment and business.

Agriculture

Agriculture in Eastern Africa accounts for 70 percent of the population’s income. Farm Africa is enabling farmers to maximize the use of their land by sharing its expertise in growing the most appropriate crops for the region in regards to climate and soil composition, as well as the most profitable crops. They also help to provide the necessary tools in order to achieve a successful harvest year after year.

Environment

In an interview with Aid For Africa, Bridget Carle, a graduate student working in South Africa, said, “Agricultural researchers have found that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can affect crop production…But now we are learning that higher levels of CO2 are likely to reduce levels of essential nutrients like zinc, iron and Vitamin A, as well as the protein content of crops.” Farm Africa is aware of the changing environment and uses its knowledge to encourage African farmers to use sustainable farming practices. The organization also helps farmers develop holistic approaches to their farming, taking special care to not overuse resources.

In Ethiopia, Farm Africa is currently working with citizens to employ sustainable practices to preserve their forests and increase their economy. One such example is teaching community members to produce honey, weave baskets and make bamboo furniture in order to generate income rather than chopping down trees so they can sell timber.

Business

Forbes Africa wrote an article showing how investing in irrigation has seen positive outcomes for Ethiopia’s economy. This article includes a section about how Farm Africa, the Ethiopian Bureau of Agriculture and local extension officers have come together in a joint effort to “help women and young people adopt small-scale irrigation…[as]part of an initiative to increase their incomes and improve their nutrition.” This project came close to reaching 6,400 women and landless people.

There are three parts to Farm Africa’s approach to business; business development, finance and trade. The organization helps Africa’s rural entrepreneurs expand their businesses and give them the tools to be successful over the long term. Farm Africa encourages the growth of co-operatives so that farmers may sell their products in bulk.

Farm Africa has 170 employees across four countries in Eastern Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The organization works on the ground with farmers, helping them develop sustainable farming practices and yield higher quality crops year after year. They are teaching community members to be environmentally conscious as they give them different business tools to help them grow their businesses and thrive in larger markets. By focusing on agriculture, the environment and business, Farm Africa is helping to reduce poverty in Eastern Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Africa
Africa is expected to double its population by 2050, raising some alarms of the possibility of increasing already high poverty, unemployment and food insecurity rates. In response to these worrisome predictions, and capitalizing on Africa’s burgeoning industrial and technological industries, one company, Gambia’s Tropingo Foods, has established a business plan that sets out to tackle these issues and modernize agriculture in Africa

The Current State of Africa

Africa is no stranger to poverty. In fact, more than 40 percent of Africans still live below the poverty line. Part of the high rates of poverty can be explained by the unemployment rate since six of the top ten countries with the highest unemployment rates are in Africa. Poverty and unemployment have led to a huge problem with food insecurity. More than a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s population over the age of 15 suffer from food insecurity. Though farming accounts for 60 percent of jobs in Africa, production must increase dramatically to match population grown in the coming years.

While the continent has made and continues to make technological strides across a variety of markets, production processes for agriculture in Africa have remained, for the most part, as they have been for years. As African farmers face population growth, changes in climate that may reduce rainfall, which accounts for 90 percent of agricultural irrigation, and the high cost of essential fertilizer, they will need to adapt and utilize technology for their industry to sustain these changes.

Tropingo Foods and Agriculture in Africa

Despite a large amount of farming in Africa, the continent only accounts for two percent of the world’s agricultural exports. Aware of this gap, Mommar Mass Taal, a young Gambian entrepreneur, created Tropingo Foods in order to pragmatically and sustainably address these problems. With a background in economics and market development, Taal has created a business that makes use of modern technologies vital to success. In just a few years, Taal has turned Tropingo Foods into Gambia’s largest processor and exporter of groundnuts, producing dried mangoes in the offseason.

As his business grows, he acknowledges that he will need to increase the number of employees, with 120 of the current 140 employees being women, as well as increase partnerships with local farmers. While Taal has had success in the industry, he is pushing the Gambian government to fund vocational training to better prepare citizens for the workforce. In order to support the growing population, agriculture in Africa must increase by 60 percent over the next 15 years and the industry must begin to utilize modern technologies.

Looking Forward

As African agricultural companies such as Tropingo Foods grow, they will increase the demand for employment and local farm production. However, investment from both within Africa and abroad will be necessary for this growth to be beneficial and sustainable. The World Bank has detailed a plan calling for $16 billion to fund agriculture in Africa in the face of climate change. While there will undoubtedly be challenges as the agriculture industry in Africa adapts to internal and external changes, if companies such as Tropingo Foods continue to seek pragmatic solutions, Africa may find itself playing a vital role in the world food export market.

– Rob Lee
Photo: Flickr

Using ‘evil’ technology in the fight against poverty
Technology is neither inherently good or bad; it is, rather, humanity’s use of technology that can be considered as evil or virtuous. Certain modern tools have the reputation for being capable of carrying out despicable deeds and are, therefore, surrounded by controversy. Artificial intelligence and drones are two of the most widely commentated on and feared applications of modern science. Despite this prevailing negative perception, combatting poverty is happens to be one of the good uses of AI and drones.

Drones Revealing Inequalities

Drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, but they, along with their human operators, are also doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cities and show the line dividing the rich and the poor.

He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. You can see giant mansions with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings squished into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality, which would be impossible without drone photography.

Drones Mapping Land

Another way that drones are helping alleviate poverty is through land mapping. More than half the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove they own their land. This is especially problematic in Kosovo where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars in the late 90s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and their communities. One enormous roadblock is their inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically.

These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business, but she was repeatedly turned down because she lacked “property documents to put down as a guarantee.” These communities do not have the means to hire the land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation for their land.

However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatch drones to map out land plots for a fraction of the cost of traditional land surveyors, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

AI for Safety and Health

Artificial intelligence (AI), also referred to as “machine learning,” is the “capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” It’s often associated with movies about robots destroying humanity that are based on the real fear that one day these machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity. “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this destructive potential of AI, in the real world, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing businesses in Africa.

One article argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is the Moroccan company Casky that uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This has been improving riding habits and providing more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders.

One Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The AI creates models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save many lives of those who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

AI Helping Businesses

Another instance showing the advantages of AI is the reduction of consumer costs from companies like Niotek in Egypt. This company used AI to improve service quality and reduce the likelihood of human error. AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India where RFID tags are being used in dairy cows to provide important information about the cows’ diets and overall health. The information is then stored in a “cow cloud” where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues or if a cow requires their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just a few of the many examples of good uses of AI and drones.  They have been especially useful in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses of AI and drones. While some individuals may want to use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of people looking to use the same tools to improve the world.

Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr