Sustainable Farming Techniques
AmazonPasto, an app that the Instituto Ouro Verde built, will bring sustainable farming techniques to rural farmers in the Amazon. The organization expects AmazonPasto to help Brazilian rural farmers increase their agricultural yield. The app also provides rural farmers access to economic development services. Importantly, AmazonPasta offers a concept for future innovations in global poverty reduction strategies.

What is the IOV?

The Instituto Ouro Verde (IOV), or Insitute of Green Gold, is a Brazilian non-governmental organization (NGO) fighting rural poverty with innovative solutions. Launched in 1999, the IOV operates within eight different municipalities across Brazil. Working to build a more resilient Brazilian economy, the NGO connects small farmers to sustainable land restoration practices. Already, the IOV works with 1,200 small-scale farmers and has restored 2,700 hectares of pastoral land. Also, this land now produces $35,000 in agricultural products a year. By building stronger food production systems, the IOV hopes to promote social participation and fight poverty head-on.

Why Focus on Small Farmers?

Brazil is currently the fourth largest agricultural production economy in the world. Small-scale farming operations are the chief economic drivers. In fact, small-scale farms are responsible for 85% of all agricultural production and employ 75% of the total farm labor pool.

Operating in rural regions, the small-scale agricultural sector also has the highest wealth inequality within Brazil. This makes it a focal point of poverty reduction strategies. Poverty in Brazil has dramatically improved over the last three decades, dropping from 17.4% in 1990 to 4.2% in 2020. However, of the estimated 20 million people remaining in poverty, rural farming supports nearly half. For this reason, targeting rural farmers for economic development has become a key aspect of ending poverty in Brazil.

How is an App Going to Help?

The Brazilian NGO launched AmazonPasto as a way to expand rural reach. Researchers at the organization found that most farmers had access to a smartphone. Using this to their advantage, the Instituto Ouro Verde built AmazonPasto as a central hub for land restoration practices.

Within the app, farmers can build sustainable farming techniques by deciding what native trees they should plant and how to improve soil quality. They can also access troubleshooting practices. Farmers can also upload their ideas and share them with each other. The AmazonPasto has already created over 60 hectares of silvopastoral systems. These are areas where animals graze among the trees.  In turn, the silvopastoral systems produce both milk and crops. The Brazilian government can buy the milk and crops at a fixed price for use in schools and other institutions. The 60 hectares house 20,000 trees, and IOV hopes to increase the project by 150 hectares each year for the next six years.

By providing a source for both reliable income and food, the AmazonPasto app and the project have made a dramatic difference for the small-scale farmers. This is especially true for a number of farmers who were previously homeless.

Moving Forward

While the app currently only undergoes use for sustainable farming techniques, the IOV hopes to expand the utility of AmazonPasto to other development services. The organization has begun extending microcredit lines to rural farmers and small communities. As of 2021, the IOV has identified 21,000 properties that may benefit from their work. The institute predicts their combination of economic and ecological development strategies will reforest 3,000 hectares of protected land. Further, if all goes according to plan, the AmazonPasto app expects to help produce $7.9 million of agricultural yield.

Rural poverty deep in the Amazon may sound like a foreign affair, but an app successfully increasing accessibility for those in poverty has broad implications for the future of global poverty reduction.

– Aiden Marina Smith
Photo: Flickr

Juice Companies in Sierra LeoneIn the African country of Sierra Leone, the annual “wet season from May through September” is commonly titled “the hunger months” because farming and harvesting conditions are not ideal. Many impoverished farmers in Sierra Leone survive on less than $1 per day, only able to afford the costs of one daily meal. Fruit juice companies in Sierra Leone aim to improve the lives of impoverished farmers and ignite economic growth.

Poverty in Sierra Leone

Out of the nation’s population of 7 million, 53% endure conditions of poverty. According to a June 2020 report, more than 700,000 people in Sierra Leone suffer from severe food insecurity. In addition, “Only one-fifth of the estimated 5.4 million hectares of arable land is used for agriculture.” This leaves much room for agricultural expansion in the nation. The agricultural sector is underdeveloped, “dominated by smallholder farmers practicing subsistence farming with traditional methods and limited use of improved seeds and fertilizers.” As such, Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector has much potential to contribute to economic growth.

Sierra Juice

In 2013, Hamza Hashim, a cacao trader living in Sierra Leone, created the Sierra Juice company as a way to reduce food “waste and give farmers better livelihoods.” While transporting fruits to sell to markets, Hashim realized that due to a lack of cold storage facilities in Sierra Leone and the high cost and unreliable nature of electricity, fruits would start rotting before even reaching the market. Hashim came up with the idea of turning the fruits into “juice as a way to process and preserve the fruit.”

Today, the Sierra Juice company provides more than 5,000 farmers with steady livelihoods by supplying fresh fruit to the company to produce juices. The company’s goal is to provide affordable, natural juices to the community while providing farmers with an outlet to sell their produce.

The company takes it upon itself to train farmers and key equipment operators in order to keep costs low. The company is also responsible for its “own water filtration” and “electricity generation,” making Sierra Juice a “360-degree company.”

Juice Worth the Squeeze

Juice Worth the Squeeze is a 2019 project that came to a close at the end of 2020. A collaboration between Sierra Agra Inc. (Sierra Leone’s “only juice processing company”), Woord en Daad, FairMatch Support (FMS) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative, the project aided “mango and coconut farmers in Sierra Leone.” Sierra Agra itself was responsible for providing incomes to more than “3,500 smallholder farmers” who provided fruits to Sierra Agra, which the company then exported “to the global market.”

Women account for about 70% of the farmers providing fruits to Sierra Agra. In 2018, Sierra Agra bought more than 2,000 metric tons of fruit from these smallholder farmers.  Many of these smallholder farms “have undergone organic audits by Control Union” in order to achieve organic certification that will assist these farmers in accessing “higher market prices” in order to raise their incomes further.

The Juice Worth the Squeeze project provided training and assistance to these farmers to increase agricultural productivity, raise profits and strengthen livelihoods, targeting roughly 7,000 farmers.

Juice companies in Sierra Leone support the people of Sierra Leone by strengthening their livelihoods and providing job opportunities to communities. With support and training to increase productivity and profits, these companies empower impoverished citizens to rise out of poverty.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Unsplash

Olive Trees
Olive trees hold symbolic, agricultural and economic meanings for Palestinian farmers. In a nation where almost one-third or 1.6 million people face food insecurity and do not have access to “nutritious food,” essential crops, like olives, are vital for many communities’ survival. Here is some information about the importance of olive trees in Palestine.

Harvesting Crops Despite Denial of Access

The rise of Israeli forces and conflict on Palestinian lands in May 2021 forced Palestinian farmers from their olive tree harvesting grounds. However, after the olive harvest season started earlier in 2021, a cohort of Palestinian olive farmers decided to take the risk of returning to their farmlands despite the armed Israeli guards in their path.

Residents and landowners from the small Palestinian town in the Northern West Bank of Palestine returned to Jabal Sabih, Mount Sabih, to handpick olives from their trees. Israeli guards are still present at the site. However, the Palestinian farmers successfully harvested their trees despite the Israeli presence.

Impact of Growing Tensions

Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian communities have remained high throughout history, but escalated tensions between the two occurred in May 2021. Israeli settlers attempted to take over Palestinian lands, and 50 Israeli families set up camp on the Palestinian olive farming grounds in May. Israeli families then evacuated in July. Palestinian farmers said these farming lands have passed through generations of family members and the trees are “part of their souls and more.”

The farmers emphasized that olive trees are one of only a few arbors that can grow in their mountainous farming areas. The trees do not need water, which means they can grow in drought conditions. Farmers said that transporting water into the region would be extremely difficult due to the terrain.

The Many Uses of Olives

The production of olives is a main source of income for more than 80,000 families in Palestine, showing the importance of olive trees to the country. More than 90% of the oil that farmers harvest from olive trees goes toward making olive oil, with them allocating the remainder to making olive soap, table olives and pickles. In the West Bank, farmers have planted more than 12 million olive trees. The nation exports some of the olives to Jordan but the rest are for local consumption.

Following the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the Israeli army began destroying or uprooting olive trees in farmlands. The army stated that it needed to use the grounds for military operations and to provide pathways between villages. However, later reports suggested that the military specifically targeted the farmers to make it difficult for them to earn a living.

Foundations Wanting to Help

Some local organizations are helping olive tree farmers. The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature started a campaign after the severe removal of the olive trees. In 2011, AP Nature replaced 1 million olive and fruit trees. To date, the campaign has planted more than 2.5 million trees.

The Near East Foundation, an organization with a focus on building more sustainable communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, community organizing and economic development, directly supports Palestinian communities through three programs. These include early childhood education and school feeding, support for the olive oil groups and support for women’s economics.

The Near East Foundation renovated and upgraded 18 olive oil mills in Palestine and Israel due to the importance of olive trees and olive oil production to the Palestinian economy. The organization also facilitated training for oil producers to increase their production and quality of olive oils.

The ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine has extreme effects on Palestinians’ ability to access their crops to provide food for themselves and earn a living. Though permits for Palestinian farmers are available to access the lands that the Israeli army now dominates, these permits are hard to obtain and there is still no guarantee Palestinian farmers can access their land even with a permit. A group of Palestinian olive farmers had the bravery to enter into Israeli military grounds to harvest their olives, but tensions between the two nations must subside before Palestinian farmers can have full access to their own lands once again.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

AgTech Programs
In certain developing countries, such as India, more than half of the population depends on agriculture, giving farmers living in poverty very few options for other means of income. Those in poverty live on less than $2 per day, resulting in them being less likely to be able to eat. Additionally, many of these people are farmers. In fact, according to the World Bank, two-thirds of all working people living in poverty globally have employment in the agricultural sector. Agtech programs are emerging to help raise farmers out of poverty.

The Plan

With 2030 approaching fast, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are implementing action across the globe. The U.N. created 17 SDGs for countries to reach by 2030. The U.N. adopted these goals with multilateral cooperation during the Sustainable Development Summit in New York in 2015.

The second SDG’s focus is to end hunger, create food security, better nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. A huge focus of this goal is sustainable agriculture and rural development. Many international agencies, including the U.N., USAID, IFC and the World Bank believe that improving agricultural prosperity through agricultural innovations which provide better means to clean water and electricity is one of the most effective ways to reduce global poverty and hunger. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted both issues, the SDGs that the U.N. has set is still achievable by 2030.

The Path Forward

Programs such as Powering Agriculture, an international initiative that USAID, the government of Sweden, Germany and private sectors founded, focused on creating, funding and implementing Agtech programs to help farmers out of poverty. Started in 2012 and completed in 2019, the Powering Agriculture project worked with specifically selected agricultural technology (Agtech) solutions companies including Claro Energy in India, Evakuula in Uganda and Futurepump in Kenya providing sustainable solutions to farmers in rural areas where access to clean water and electricity affected their agricultural production, both harvest and post-harvest.

Claro Energy and Futurepump both produce solar-powered water pumps that help make irrigating more efficient, increasing crop yields and reducing labor. Claro Energy is taking it one step further and also produces mobile solar power grids in the form of small, operable trolly and portal roll-out solar panel packs that anyone can carry. These create mobile energy grids in remote rural areas where access to electricity was virtually impossible, allowing farmers in India to use other ag-tech solutions such as pumps, monitoring systems and data services to further increase their crop yields. The grids and pumps implemented in the initiative currently produce over 2,500 kilowatts of energy a day in India.

After the Powering Agriculture initiative, another joint international program emerged with the cooperation of the governments of Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the European Union and USAID. The Water and Energy for food (WE4F) initiative is a direct relation of the Powering Agriculture program, following where it left off in 2019 with goals of creating sustainable agriculture innovations focused on improving the access of water and energy to farmers in developing rural countries.

The initiative aims to fund innovators and create action through grants and subsidies so that Agtech programs can help farmers out of poverty by increasing crop yield, post-crop management, crop sales and more. There are currently 40 innovators with Agtech-based solutions partnered with the WE4F program, all aiming to help poor struggling farmers in rural developing countries. Here is a list of the first five.

5 Innovators Partnering with the WE4F Program

  1. AbuErdan: Originating in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, AbuErdan provides tech solutions for efficient and sustainable poultry farming.
  2. Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies: This company began in India, the United States, Argentina and Australia. It provides bioensure fungal seed and plant treatment for water-stress resilience.
  3. Agrosolar: Beginning in Myanmar, Agrosolar provides integrated solar-powered irrigation technology and services to smallholder farmers.
  4. Alva Tech Limited: Alva Tech Limited functions in several countries including Botswana, India, Jordan, Kenya and more. It offers solar-powered treatment for water-scarce and saline areas.
  5. aQysta Nepal Pvt. Ltd.: This innovator functions in India, Indonesia, Nepal, Colombia and Malawi. It enables farmers to access sustainable irrigation with a pay-per-harvest model.

Other Agtech Programs

Not only do Agtech programs help farmers out of poverty but they are helping open the doors to sustainable business and larger economic growth by opening business markets in artificial intelligence (AI), mainly in the form of apps. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank Group, reported in May 2020 that AI in Agriculture can “help meet rising global demand for food and support a more inclusive and sustainable food system.”

In India, the app CropIn makes it easy for farmers to upload pictures of their crops, allowing AI to create suggestions on “risk management, sales, warehousing, and sustainable farm practices.” Another AI-based app is based in Cameroon. The company Agrix Tech has created an app that farmers with minimal education can use easily. It does not require an internet connection and uses the same idea as CropIn but focuses on plant disease and pest control.

Thirdly, Hello Tractor is an app that works in Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh and Pakistan which is essentially Uber for tractors. It allows farmers who own tractors to rent out their equipment to other farmers in need of it. This allows both farmers to either earn extra income off assets or save money in crop production.

With so many international programs and initiatives underway, the world could soon win the fight against global hunger. Additionally, the war against global poverty could result in its most significant class of members, farmers, growing closer to economic stability.

– Ali Benzerara
Photo: Flickr

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers in China and IndiaSocial media app TikTok has turned some rural farmers in China and India into content-creating celebrities. The platform also provides many people with considerable income, giving some farmers an escape from poverty. However, it is uncertain whether this form of agricultural entrepreneurship will become widespread.

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers

TikTok is an app that allows users to watch, create and share short videos on their phones. Its parent company is ByteDance, based in Bejing. TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most used social media platforms. CNBC reports that by July 2020, TikTok had more than 680 million global users. TikTok’s popularity has spread even to rural areas, notably in China and India. In the past few years, many rural Chinese and Indian farmers have made profits, sometimes in the millions, from ad sponsorships and selling crops through the app.

Improved internet and smartphone access in rural China and India partially account for TikTok’s success among these farmers. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), 70.4% of China’s population had access to the internet in 2020. In just four years, between 2016 and 2020, internet access in rural areas went up nearly 23%. Of Chinese internet users, almost 100% use their phones to access the internet. While the number of internet users is smaller in India, there have been large increases in internet access. In 2020, India’s rural internet users increased 13% according to the ICUBE 2020 report. Now about 43% of India’s population has internet access and all active internet users use phones.

Visual Appeal and Good Timing

TikTok utilizes primarily audio and visuals, rather than text, allowing those with less education to easily navigate the platform. In China and India, there are education gaps in low-income agricultural areas. Thus, influencers in rural areas with low education have been able to create popular content. COVID-19 travel restrictions also necessitated that farmers find new ways to sell their goods. Many turned to video creation. Quarantine meant that more consumers were not only watching farmers’ TikTok videos but also desiring fresh produce for homecooked meals.

TikTok Stardom and Urbanization

TikTok provided several benefits to low-income rural farmers in China and India. TikTok allows growers to sell directly to consumers. This has been especially popular in China, where e-commerce is widely used. In addition to increased income, the possibility of TikTok stardom offers respect often denied to low-income rural people. The LA Times quotes rural Indian TikTok sensation Gaikwad, who states, “But I got respect, legitimacy and confidence. We are poor people. We have never received any attention in life. All we have gotten is disdain and scorn. TikTok turned it around.”

Agricultural TikTok videos enticed consumers too. The number of rural TikTokers boasting 10k+ followers was six times higher in 2019-2020 than it was in 2018-2019, Bloomberg reports. Videos of open spaces and abundant fields provide a quaint image of country living — a mental escape from bustling cities. This comes at a time in which people in China and India are continually moving into urban areas. Between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of China’s population living in urban areas increased about 26%, according to the World Bank. In India, the percentage of people in cities increased about 7% during that period.

TikTok Bans

While TikTok continues to benefit many Chinese farmers, India banned the use of TikTok on June 29, 2020, allegedly for national security reasons. This ban followed a 2019 ban, which the government claimed was due to TikTok’s lack of regulation regarding pornographic content. India lifted the 2019 ban after TikTok took down videos of concern. The 2020 ban however appears to be permanent. Indians cannot access their terminated accounts.

Other countries worldwide have also banned or are considering banning TikTok due to concerns about personal data security and possible inappropriate content. Because of this, it seems the platform may have a limited reach in rural areas outside China for now. China also has technological advantages that other developing nations do not yet have, including 56% internet accessibility in rural areas and a strong e-commerce system. Both contributed to Chinese farmers’ TikTok success.

Utilizing Creativity for Prosperity

Relying on TikTok as a means of income in low-income agricultural areas has its drawbacks. Yet, this phenomenon demonstrates how rural farmers in China and India can harness creativity, adapting to a changing world. Farmers found ways to share agricultural knowledge and convey humor, crossing class divides. After India banned TikTok, rural influencers quickly switched to other platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Indian-based apps. While it may not be exclusively through TikTok, as internet and smartphone access increase, perhaps more gregarious growers will soon find abundance through social media.

– Annie Prafcke
Photo: Unsplash

Irrigation Systems in AfghanistanIrrigation has been an integral component of agriculture since the Mesopotamian era with farmers around the world relying on irrigation methods to water vegetation. For economies that depend on agriculture to foster growth, having sufficient irrigation systems is very important. Accordingly, the improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan have boosted the economic standing of Afghan citizens.

Advancements in Bamyan Province

A decade ago, the Bamyan Province located in Central Afghanistan determined a need for irrigation upgrades after canals flooded villages and crops. To combat this problem, the Irrigation Restoration Development Project (IRDP) oversaw the renovations of canals in two Bamyan Province communities in 2009. Some of the rehabilitations included “lining the Balkhi canal bed and sides with concrete, installing metal gate valves at weak points prone to flooding” and building small footbridges at strategic points of the canal. According to IRDP Bamyan provincial manager, Amin Zaki, improving water management will “help rural farmers improve their livelihoods and raise their standard of living as a result.” Given that 90% of Bamyan’s citizens rely on agriculture, the benefits of the advancements rippled through the communities. The advancements help create economic and living improvements for “more than 600 households in the four villages —Foladi, Nawrozi, Qhazan and Sia Khar Bloq—served by [the] Balkhi canal.”

Dokani village farmers close to the Balkhi canal were even able to switch their dominant crops because of the irrigation upgrades. Instead of growing baghali beans, the farmers currently grow potatoes and wheat, which are higher-earning crops. Overall, more than 425,000 households profited from the IRDP renovations, and in future years, the organization is looking to tackle two additional water management projects in Bamyan.

Crop Improvements in Kabul Province

The Kabul Province also possessed poor irrigation systems, which caused disputes over water distribution. To make improvements, in 2017, the On-Farm Water Management Project renovated the 8-kilometer long Pazhak canal and the 3.5-kilometer long Qara Qhochi canal. The projects benefit hundreds of households by increasing the speed at which water reaches the farms, improving the maintenance process of the canals and enhancing crop diversity. Thus, farmers are using the benefits to farm more land and grow crops they previously did not have enough water to provide support. As this demonstrates, improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan are extremely important.

Recent Turmoil

After the United States withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban significantly expanded its power. According to CNN, the Taliban now controls “17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, all of which have been captured” in one week as of August 13, 2021. Some of the ramifications of the Taliban’s growing control include the removal of girls from school, forced marriages of women to Taliban fighters and horrific bloodshed in battle areas. Despite the economic progress made through improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s recent seizure of provincial capitals threatens the advancements.

Looking Forward

As food and fuel prices increase following the Taliban’s blockage of import routes and hundreds of families face displacement from their homes, Afghanistan’s economic and governmental stability is in question. While the past decade has demonstrated the positive impact a rehabilitation project can have on the Afghan people, continued aid from global leaders could help ensure that the country’s progress does not dissipate in the coming months.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr

Fishmeal Factories in The Gambia
Aquaculture is a unique practice comprising the farming of aquatic animals and plants to produce food and assist endangered species. Aquaculture is currently the fastest-growing tool of global food production. It creates job opportunities for Asian women and releases fewer carbon emissions than beef and pork agriculture. Aquaculture is viewed as a sustainable solution to the overexploitation of fish species such as tuna, which are overfished for human consumption. However, in an effort to meet the rapidly growing demand for seafood around the world, the current system of aquaculture is actually decreasing The Gambia’s food security. Since feeding farmed fish leads to overexploitation of different, smaller fish species, the solution to fixing fishmeal factories in The Gambia is underway.

Fishmeal Factories in The Gambia

Fish farmed for human consumption, such as tuna, tilapia and salmon are fed a protein-rich powder supplement called fishmeal. About 25% of all wild fish caught globally end up as fishmeal. Bonga and sardinella fish, herbaceous species that Africans depend on for 50%-70% of their protein, are the primary constituents of fishmeal. Foreign-owned fishmeal factories in The Gambia capture large quantities of bonga and sardinella fish to cook and grind into the coarse golden powder known as fishmeal.

China is currently the world’s largest producer of farmed fish, supplying the U.S. with the majority of its seafood. More than 50 foreign-owned fishmeal factories currently exist along Africa’s coast in The Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. China owns the vast majority of these factories. One factory alone can produce an average of 600,000 kg of fishmeal per day, requiring 7,500 tons of fish per year.

The United States, Asia, China and Europe all import fishmeal from The Gambia. This high reliance on trade hurts the locals, who depend on this fish as a source of food and income. As a result, some have called the industry’s fish-in, fish-out ratio (FIFO) – the total weight of forage fish compared to the total produced mass of farmed fish – unsustainable.

Effect on Food Security and Livelihoods

Fishmeal factories in The Gambia are developing a monopoly on bonga and sardinella fish. Local fishermen are unable to compete with commercial fishing vessels and therefore return to shore with fewer and fewer catches. The women who buy fish to dry and sell are likewise receiving less supply. Younger fishermen have also refused to sell women their products as fishmeal factories can pay in advance and buy fish in bulk.

Fishmeal factories in The Gambia are taking away the food security of African fish traders. Moreover, herbaceous fish support incredible biodiversity. With over-fishing, extinction can destabilize the entire marine ecosystem. Populations of larger fish species, on which Gambians also depend for sustenance, may then begin to collapse as well. As aquaculture businesses in developed nations are destabilizing The Gambia’s food security, they simultaneously profit from overexploitation.

Impact on Tourism

The Gambia’s tourism industry accounts for the majority of its employment opportunities and foreign exchange profit. Water pollution, smoke emissions and the acrid stench of rotting meat which the fishmeal factories in The Gambia emit are already affecting the industry. Coastal areas in The Gambia tend to attract tourists with recreational activities and ecotourism. Overfishing can decrease the biodiversity of Africa’s marine environment, specifically regarding bird and plant life. Golden Lead, a Chinese fish-processing plant, has already caused the extinction of a Gambian wildlife reserve.

Yet, fishmeal factories in The Gambia continue to install waste pipes that pollute African waters. Aquaculture’s goal was to offer a more sustainable alternative to marine fishing in the hopes that this practice would meet the growing demand for fish while allowing overexploited fish populations to replenish themselves. However, these effects are currently happening at the expense of Africa’s marine ecosystem, food security and the locals’ livelihood.

A Developing Solution

Researchers have identified multiple alternatives to fishmeal factories in The Gambia. Their goal is to make aquaculture truly sustainable. Fish-free feeds such as seaweed, cassava waste, soldier-fly larvae, viruses and bacteria proteins and even human sewage could become the norm if their cost-effectiveness is increased.

Algae-based aquafeeds in particular are very promising alternatives. With a high feed conversion ratio and the feeding of algae to tilapia and salmon, this solution can have promising results. Multiple companies have made breakthroughs in algae-based aquafeeds in recent years and the cost comparison to fishmeal is improving. Aquaculture can become a sustainable method of seafood production if it adopts algae-based feeds.

– Serah-Marie Maharaj
Photo: Flickr

Local dairy farming in NigeriaNigeria’s dairy industry has many problems. Inefficiency, “lack of technical knowledge” and outdated practices plague local dairy farming in Nigeria. Thus, Nigeria does not meet its potential for establishing a thriving dairy industry. Even though Nigeria has enough cows, in 2020, it still spent $2.5 billion importing milk from multiple countries. Farmers in Nigeria lack access to infrastructure, veterinarians and technologies to improve milk collection. Fortunately, NGOs have begun operations to help local dairy farming in Nigeria meet its potential. Sahel Consulting, an agricultural consultancy firm in Nigeria, has launched the Advancing Local Dairy Development in Nigeria (ALDDN) program to try to reshape dairy farming in Northern Nigeria. With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this program focuses on local dairy farming in Nigeria.

An Overview of Nigerian Dairy Farming

Most dairy farmers in Nigeria work on small, pastoral farms. Many of these farms focus on meat, with milk as a byproduct rather than the main focus. Additionally, cows in Nigeria underperform in comparison with cows worldwide. While Nigerian cows produce “less than one liter of milk” per day, cows worldwide produce dozens, with some countries reaching 100 liters of milk per day. While this situation currently hurts local dairy farming in Nigeria, it also provides an opportunity. As a pastoral sector, the economic benefits of increased efficiency can bring these individual farmers out of poverty, lifting their communities up with them.

The Goals of ALDDN

ALDDN is taking a six-pronged approach to improving local dairy farming in Nigeria. The program focuses on farmers’ organizations, rural infrastructure, productivity, promotion of financial inclusion, education and public advocacy. By focusing on productivity improvements, ALDDN looks to increase milk volumes to international levels, increasing farmers’ revenues tenfold. The program also looks to build rural infrastructure to allow these farmers to sell their milk on the market. Much of the program focuses specifically on female dairy farmers who face financial exclusion. ALDDN aims to reach 210,000 beneficiaries, with 120,000 trained in modern dairy farming practices. The program also looks to train 50 veterinarians to help ensure the health of milk cows.

The Impact of ALDDN

ALDDN has already made an impact on Nigerian dairy farming. Arla Foods, a Danish dairy company with operations worldwide, has started constructing a dairy farm in rural Northern Nigeria in partnership with the ALDDN program. The facility aims to help 1,000 local dairy farmers, with space for 400 cows and 25 live-in workers.

Since the project began, much attention has fallen on the Nigerian dairy industry. Government-sponsored studies have recently shown the extent of inefficiencies in local dairy farming in Nigeria. Now, solutions championed by ALDDN have appeared in local magazines, with efforts across the dairy industry to modernize. Some focus on using technology to more efficiently milk cows while others focus on selectively-bred cows to produce more milk.

Efforts From Others

Other NGOs and governments have pitched in to help the Nigerian dairy industry. The United States recently donated pregnant Jersey cows to help boost milk production, hoping that in a few generations, these cows can help provide increased milk production. Additionally, FrieslandCampina WAMCO is working with communities to increase milk production. By introducing cross-breeding, the company saw a hundredfold increase in production in its Oyo milk facility, which is open to smallscale artisan farmers.

With all of the improvements and focus on local dairy farming in Nigeria, the future looks bright for this industry. More efficient cows, better rural infrastructure and better agricultural practices can help lift farming communities out of poverty, giving opportunities to those in rural communities who are commonly left behind.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Jaguza FarmSub-Saharan Africa is home to 19 of the world’s 25 most impoverished countries. Out of the 626 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, 61% have been “classified as agricultural” by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Agriculture made up 13% of the region’s GDP in 1997 and is the main source of income for many impoverished families. Hence, the growth of agriculture could significantly support poverty reduction and economic development in the region. However, despite thousands of families’ dependence on livestock, many people in sub-Saharan Africa face specific challenges. This includes a lack of information on how to treat common livestock diseases, insufficient inventory tools and inadequate access to veterinary services and medicines to enhance productivity.

What is Jaguza Farm?

Jaguza Farm is an agriculture-tech company bridging the gap in multiple countries. It aims to deliver services and solutions to small farmers who lack the information needed to improve their productivity. With help, these farmers can enhance their agricultural processes and techniques to rise out of poverty. Hoping to help local farmers allocate their resources more efficiently and become more productive, Ronald Katamba and Christine Kihunde Kiiza co-founded Jaguza Tech Uganda Ltd. and created the Jaguza Livestock App. The Jaguza Farm monitoring system provides data-driven solutions by allowing farmers to track and monitor their livestock. At the same time, farmers receive animal health data, possible outbreak alerts and educational content on agricultural techniques.

How Does Jaguza Innovate?

By combining data science, expert agricultural knowledge and machine learning, Jaguza helps customers manage their herds and finances and keeps track of their inventory on one accessible and easy-to-use app. Aware that many farmers and users are located in rural areas and do not have access to the internet, Jaguza allows users to use “USSD Code and SMS” platforms to access Jaguza services. Hence, services can be accessed and used offline or online to remove barriers of accessibility that commonly plague rural farmers.

The Jaguza app meets its goals in various ways. After tagging a cow’s ear with a smart monitoring device that is noninvasive and solar-powered, the system gives recommendations on how to increase milk yields, improve reproduction rates and detect illnesses. Developing more strategies, Jaguza also points to drone technology as a way to work in conjunction with data-tracking and herd-managing strategies. In addition to tracking livestock and preventing livestock diseases, Jaguaza Farm allows users to buy livestock and equipment through its app, learn about the local livestock market and access affordable vets.

Utilizing Farm Software

Jaguza Farm allows more than 18,000 users to download its free software onto any smartphone or device. Then, users can import and manage livestock excel spreadsheets and project birth and production rates. Moreover, possibilities include the ability to set up and monitor alerts and access satellite maps to view weather forecasts.

The Jaguza Farm Software allows African farmers to track animal databases through ear tag and sensor numbers. This technology allows farmers to keep health records to plan for long-term and short-term decisions instantly on the navigatable Jaguza cloud server. Ultimately, Jaguza software allows thousands of farmers the chance to better allocate their resources and increase their revenues.

Recognizing Impact and Potential

Currently impacting farmers in 13 different countries, Jaguza has helped its clients see an increase of 35% in their livestock production. Helping accelerate e-agriculture entrepreneurship for growth and job creation in Africa, Jaguza won the 2019 Pitch AgriHack competition, which recognizes young entrepreneurs who work to create a more sustainable economy in the region. The United Nations in Uganda also selected Jaguza Farm as the most innovative startup in 2014. The organization’s efforts were also recognized by IST Africa, the Ashoka Organization and Ikea Social Entrepreneurship.

Providing farmers with innovative and accessible tools improves conditions for countless people. As Jaguza Farm continues to work on behalf of African farmers, a measurable impact in the region becomes more recognizable as farmers are able to rise out of poverty.

Carolina Cadena
Photo: Flickr

How Affordable Irrigation Technology Helps FarmersSupPlant, an Israeli firm that installs sophisticated irrigation systems for villages facing water scarcity and low yields, wants to improve its system and spread its work to even more people in need. As such, the organization is pioneering affordable irrigation technology by cutting down on the amount of infrastructure its systems need to function.

The Old Ways

Reliable data is crucial to getting the most out of an irrigation system. While practical experience can help some of the world’s most impoverished farmers improve their yields, there is considerable room to improve from the uncertainty of relying on intuition. SupPlant was built on recognizing the potential of making these improvements with the accuracy that only sophisticated data retrieval equipment can provide.

Efforts to improve agricultural income with innovative new techniques have been successful under the startup model of installing small sensors to relay data like climate conditions or plant health. SupPlant’s customers are mainly from farms in South Africa and Venezuela, with additional demand from Australia and Mexico.

Farmers Review Africa reports a successful curve on implementing this system, with a 1,200% increase in demand for SupPlant’s solutions in 2020. However, when it comes to accessing the 450 million farmers that subsist on two hectares or less of productive soil, SupPlant encountered a problem.

Financial Barriers

Until recently, SupPlant has struggled with the cost of serving rural communities. Installing hardware is very expensive for farmers, so wealth is necessary to benefit from this system. Low-income farmers with small parcels of land have “no ability to afford knowledge and technology that is super expensive and very high-end,” says SupPlant CEO Ori Ben Ner in an interview with The Media Line.

If the data from these physical sensors is a fundamental aspect of SupPlant’s agricultural assistance, then providing affordable irrigation technology must preserve this data while eliminating the very hardware that provides it. After $19 million in fundraising from an array of venture capitalists, SupPlant is providing exactly that.

How Does it Work?

Rolling out affordable irrigation technology is a balancing act that requires finding ways to increase efficiency without compromising the benefits of full implementation. The new system adapts its older iteration as the foundation for its improvements. The steps to accomplishing this are as follows:

  1. Cloud computing forms the backbone of this endeavor. Thousands of small farms can grow the same crops under similar conditions. Thus, the data gathered from sensors in a single farm can benefit other farmers after it is uploaded to an easily accessible database.
  2. Collecting this data is only part of the process. Vast amounts of data have limited utility if farmers lack the training to interpret it well enough to make informed decisions. SupPlant employs algorithms based on artificial intelligence to read a constantly updating sensor feed to provide legible recommendations on how to manage irrigation for specific crops and environments.
  3. Once the data is ready, it is up to farmers to do what the algorithm suggests. Many of these directives may be as simple as adjusting water levels based on how much one of the 32 crops in the database requires to stay healthy and resilient. Climatic data may also factor in, reducing water use if there is a high probability of rain.

The net result is not entirely accurate because the data cannot reasonably account for minor variations between different farms. Broad utility at an affordable price nonetheless offsets these considerations in light of what affordable irrigation technology can still accomplish.

Results on the Ground

Even though prohibitive cost leaves only 2% of the world’s farmers able to install sensors on their land, these sensors accumulate enough data to meet the needs of affordable irrigation technology for the other 98%. “We increase yields starting at day one by 20-30% while saving 30-40% water use,” says Ben Ner on the impact of widespread implementation.

Earlier cases of SupPlant’s success in 2020 provide a definitive outline for the potential of making its agricultural assistance available to low-income brackets. South African farmers who could afford these services leveraged superior knowledge to squeeze an extra 41% out of their lemon harvest, while Mexican farmers transformed a 15% reduction in water usage to a 20% increase in their mango yield.

What is Next for SupPlant?

With affordable irrigation technology now a reality through sensorless data, SupPlant aims to breach the poverty line that stopped so many farmers from reaping its benefits. Short-term goals for 2021 deal with expanding services to Kenya, and the company expects 500,000 new farmers by September 2021. More ambitious goals for 2022 anticipate two million new users of sensorless irrigation, counting many African countries and India as the next beneficiaries.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr