Sustainable Land Management PracticesRoughly 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 PhilippinesLack 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

 

 

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

rice farmer povertyRice is a universal food staple, featured in dishes from across the globe, feeding the rich and poor alike. It has the second-largest cereal market in the world, only second to corn. Over 470 million tons of rice were harvested in 2017, and that number continues to grow, with a harvest of 495.9 million tons predicted for the 2019 season.

Despite the massive rice market, many rice farmers live in poverty. Nine hundred million of the world’s poor depend on rice either as a consumer or producer, with 400 million directly engaged with growing rice. The majority of these farmers are based in Asia, the heart of the global rice market.

Technological Improvements Reduce Rice Farmer Poverty

The rice crop is notoriously demanding on the environment, requiring an immense volume of water, especially when grown at high intensity. Rice farming consumes over half the freshwater in Asia. Much of the focus on improving rice production lies in reducing the amount of water used. Organizations, such as the CGIAR Research Program, have advocated the use of alternate planting systems, such as the Alternate Wetting and Drying system (AWD), which can reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent.

Greater water efficiency means greater productivity for farmers. Production costs are lower, so farmers profit more from their harvest and can afford to sell their crop for less, allowing those in deep poverty to afford rice. AWD has been shown to increase farmer income by 38 percent in Bangladesh, 32 percent in the Philippines, and 17 percent in Vietnam.

Not Just Rice

Even in areas with a booming rice market, rice farmer poverty continues. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) spans six Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, and accounts for 44 percent of global rice exports. The six countries, save China, of these nations are net producers—they produce and export more rice than the nation can consume. Despite this, poverty stands at 19 percent across the GMS, and 15 percent of the population is malnourished.

There has been much improvement. GMS-member Cambodia, for example, has undergone a 35 percent decrease in poverty since 2004. However, much of it is unstable. Past expansions in the GMS rice-production have relied on favorable weather conditions, massive increases in farmland, and far-reaching use of fertilizer. These conditions are not favorable for agricultural or economic growth, with increases in land production outpacing that of productivity, 8.7 percent to 3.4 percent between 2004 and 2012.

The GMS and other rice-producing regions are now changing policy to focus on diversifying crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) encourages farmers to convert rice-rice and rice-wheat plants to rice-maize plants, which will allow farmers to optimize their resources, widen their range of income inputs, and reduce the risk of crop disease. Studies have shown that planting disease-vulnerable rice crop and disease-resistant crop together results in 89 percent greater yield.

This measure may also be needed in the more distant future. Though rice will always be a world staple, Asian consumers may begin to purchase more vegetables and meat as they grow wealthier, decreasing the world demand for rice.

Genetic Modifications

With rice featuring so heavily in the global diet, rice developers have prioritized the quality of rice grown, both in resilience, and health benefits. The Research Program on Rice and IRRI both work to improve the quality of rice seeds provided to rice farmers. In Africa, AfricaRice has lifted 8 million out of poverty with their improved seed quality.

By using a greater variety of improved seeds, farmers of 16 sub-Saharan countries were able to vastly improve their yields. Forty-five percent of farmers saw themselves lifted out of food insecurity following the 2008 food crisis.

Improvements in agriculture and the betterment of rice farmer poverty go hand in hand, and as one improves, the other will, as well. There’s been significant progress already, with the rice market acting as an escape from food insecurity for millions. There is still much work to be done, but organizations like the IRRI make steady progress to a healthier, wealthier world.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Decade of Family FarmingFamily farms are the largest employers of human capital in the world. Unlike factory farms, family farms are extremely sustainable and drastically mitigate hunger and poverty at the local level. However, governments tend to sanction legislation that prioritizes the interests of factory farms and fisheries, effectively excluding local producers from sustaining their communities. For this reason, the U.N. has outlined a decade-long plan lasting from 2019 to 2028 that expands the role and influence of family farmers around the world.

Family Farming Statistics

Despite being overshadowed by transnational food cooperations, family farms control more agricultural output and human capital than all factory farms combined. In fact, family farmers occupy 70-80 percent of global farmland and produce more than 80 percent of total global agricultural output. Furthermore, the U.N. estimates that there are approximately 570 million family farms operating around the world, mostly employing people who live in absolute poverty.

The Sustainability of Family Farming

A typical representation of family farming would be similar to that portrayed in Little House on the Prairie. However, this all-encompassing term defined by the U.N. includes mountain farmers, family foresters, pastoralists, indigenous people, local fisheries, hunters and gatherers. Local producers know how to navigate their land and waterways effectively and do so with great reverence since many trace ancestral and historical significance to the land they farm and the waters they fish. In doing so, they preserve the biodiversity of their communities and amend farming techniques to sustain the productive capacity of their local environments.

Furthermore, rural farming expands local economies by providing jobs in various services that accompany the line of agricultural production; family farming encompasses the help of all members of the community. In this communal effort, family farmers also tend to reject artificial growth products made specifically for mass food production, such as dangerous pesticides that result in fatal consequences for the environment.

The Decade of Family Farming: Elevating the Status of Family Farmers

The Decade of Family Farming sets forth an agenda for countries to develop policy and investment strategies aimed at generating sustainable development and prioritizing the interests of family farmers. Meanwhile, the U.N. hopes that the Decade of Family Farming will also mitigate the projected consequences of environmental deterioration by revitalizing local ecosystems. The action plan consists of seven central pillars that incorporate several dimensions of social, political and economic life to achieve such goals:

  • Pillar 1: Renewing policy and establishing links between the private and public sectors to develop investment strategies.
  • Pillar 2: Educating rural youth about the importance of family farming and encouraging them to maintain their traditional farming practices.
  • Pillar 3: Elevating the status of women in farming communities and providing them with access to the management of land, information and financial resources.
  • Pillar 4: Championing the voices of family farmers and expanding their influence in the political arena via family farming organizations.
  • Pillar 5: Enhancing the welfare of family farmers and establishing social protection systems.
  • Pillar 6: Promoting farming practices that will protect food supply from the uncertainties of an impending climate catastrophe.
  • Pillar 7: Protecting regional ecosystems and expanding the diversity of job opportunities in the farming-based service sector.

The Decade of Family Farming is a multi-faceted program that encompasses the betterment and sustainability of the biosphere through protecting the environment, culture, local economies, social life, politics and food resources. It is up to the cooperation of the government and the private sector to ensure the realization of these proposals.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

Aeroponics Agriculture
In Nigeria, food insecurity is widespread. Although agriculture is the second most important sector in Nigeria after the petroleum industry, farmers make up about 70 percent of the labor force, meaning the base of the Nigerian economy is rain-dependent agriculture. Over the past 20 years, many factors including poor irrigation systems, droughts and a shortage of fertile land, have induced a steep decline in food production that has failed to keep up with the country’s rising population growth. There are currently 30 million hectares of farmland that farmers can cultivate in Nigeria, and much of this land is inarable. Estimates determine that to produce enough to feed Nigeria’s population of 190 million, the country would need 78.5 million hectares of land. This threat to Nigerians’ livelihoods has led to deadly competition between farmers and cattle herders over scarce resources. In the fight for land and water, hundreds in these rival groups kill each other every year. Now, aeroponics agriculture, a new technology that grows crops vertically, could be the answer to both of these struggles in Nigeria.

The Introduction of Aeroponics to Nigeria

Samson Ogbole recently introduced aeroponics to Nigeria. He is a Nigerian farmer with a degree in biochemistry who saw the need for more sustainable options for agriculture in his country. After beginning his work with aeroponics in 2014, Ogbole now co-owns an agri-tech company, PS Nutraceuticals, that works to implement more efficient agriculture techniques. Because of its ability to conserve space, water and soil, Ogole believes aeroponics has the potential to end conflicts over land and monumentally improve food productivity in Nigeria. Another benefit of soilless farming, Ogole has said, is that it prevents the risk of harmful pathogens that naturally exist in soil affecting crops.

The Science of Growing Crops in Air

Aeroponics is a process used for growing crops in a soilless environment by suspending the roots in the air. Aeroponics systems commonly use vertical and tower systems because they allow roots to spread out while saving space. In an aeroponic farming system, plants receive nourishment from low-energy LED lighting and periodic spraying with a solution of water and other nutrients. The nutrient-water mixture is dispensed using pumps or misting devices, which reduces the need for constant supervision and labor. The vertical structure lets gravity distribute the moisture to every part of the plant, from the top down.

Eco-Friendly Farming

Aeroponics is a more sustainable method of farming as well as the key to Nigeria’s land shortage problem. With traditional cultivation measures, evaporation causes the waste of a lot of water. In aeroponics farming, the roots directly absorb almost all the water vapour by the process of osmosis, so the process uses much less water than more traditional methods. Estimates determine that aeroponics saves 90 percent of water compared to traditional farming methods. Aeroponic crops also grow in half the time it would take for them to grow in soil and yields can be approximately 30 percent larger. The main premise of aeroponics is to use the minimum amount of resources to gain the maximum crop yield. Additionally, since it takes place indoors, aeroponics makes it possible for crops to grow at any time of the year, or year-round, irrespective of climate conditions, which could be a significant game-changer for Nigeria and other countries with continuous droughts.

Aeroponics Throughout History

Development of aeroponics first began in the 1920s by botanists who used it to study plant root structure. Despite its many efficient advantages, it has had a very slow start catching on. NASA began working with aeroponics in the 1990s, conducting experiments and concluding impressive results in productivity. NASA’s use of aeroponics brought it much needed attention and shed new light on the fact that this agriculture technology could sustain humanity’s growing population if people implement it where areas need it most. The low operating costs of aeroponics agriculture are one of its biggest appeals, which has made it attractive to innovative farms all over the world. Today, people utilize aeroponics agriculture in many places as a modern technique to increase productivity, eliminate waste, conserve space and energy and adjust to climate change.

Aeroponics Around the World

Newark, New Jersey, in the U.S. is home to the world’s largest aeroponics growing systems, Aerofarms. Since 2004, Aerofarms has led the way in battling the global hunger crisis through sustainable agriculture technology. The largest vertical farm facility in Aerofarms is 70,000 feet and produces two million pounds of food annually using 95 percent less water. Other aeroponics startups in the U.S. have cropped up in California, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

Indoor urban farming has taken off in Asia. In Japan, many consider aeroponics the future of agriculture. The largest Japanese vertical farm, a 3,000-square-meter facility outside of Kyoto, produces more than 20,000 heads of lettuce per day.

In the Middle East, aeroponics is growing increasingly popular as a cost-effective option to reduce dependence on food imports. Jeddah Farm in Saudi Arabia, the first aeroponic system in the Middle East, is a highly profitable, self-sustaining indoor farm that provides produce to urban centers while minimizing carbon emissions.

In Europe, aeroponics on a grand scale is just beginning to catch on. The first vertical farm in Europe, located in Ibiza, includes storm-resistant outdoor aeroponic towers.

Aeroponics agriculture is a revolutionary food-growing technology with the potential to save millions of lives in Nigeria and other developing countries. In Nigeria, vertical farming could solve the devastating issues of infertile soil, drought-caused famine, land shortages, water scarcity and violent skirmishes over resources. As horticulturalists continue to introduce this practice in Africa and other areas with populations that suffer from malnutrition, aeroponics agriculture is bringing the world one step closer to eliminating hunger.

– Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

poverty-fighting advances in agricultureAdvances in agriculture are key to both reducing world poverty and maintaining the health of the planet. A 2016 study by the World Bank Group found that 65 percent of adults living in poverty support themselves through agriculture. Additionally, economic growth in the agriculture sector has two to four times the potential to raise income among the world’s poor than growth in any other sector.

However, for all the benefits of agriculture, the industry can also be harmful to the planet. Agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of freshwater use and 24 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. So, it is important for small farmers to utilize advancements that minimize pollution and waste while cutting costs and increasing yields. These six poverty-fighting advances in agriculture and technology are key ways for poor farmers to achieve both of these goals.

6 Poverty-Fighting Advances in Agriculture

  1. One way for farmers to increase crop yields and decrease costs is through Fertilizer Deep Placement (FDP). FDP involves condensing fertilizer into bricks that are then placed a few inches under ground. The bricks then slowly dissolve, giving important nutrients to crops. Because the fertilizer is under the soil surface, fewer nutrients are lost to runoff. It also saves labor by ensuring that crops receive nutrients continuously, without farmers having to repeatedly apply fertilizer. A study conducted in Bangladesh in 2015 showed that using FDP increased rice crop yields by 15-20 percent over an average of three years.
  2. Reducing pesticide and herbicide use can both benefit the environment and save costs. One way farmers can reduce their use is by treating seeds instead of mature plants. When this method is used, the chemicals become incorporated into the plants themselves. In contrast to traditional methods, this means that there is no risk of the chemicals ending up in nearby rivers and streams, and it saves supplies and reduces pollution.
  3. Multiple mobile apps also help farmers better care for their crops and livestock. For instance, the Farming Instructor app provides agricultural knowledge to farmers via text, audio and animations. The app also allows farmers to share tips and information with each other. Another app called Hello Tractor allows farmers to cheaply rent tractors as needed, instead of having to purchase one. So far, 22,500 farmers have utilized the startup, which says its customers had a 200 percent increase in crop yields.
  4. Refrigeration is an important resource that prevents crop spoilage during transportation and allows families to store food. This means subsistence farmers have enough to eat even during dry periods and can spend less time gathering food. Refrigeration also lengthens the shelf-life of vaccines and medicines. Advancements like solar-powered refrigerators are making refrigeration available to more and more rural farmers.
  5. Precision agriculture uses tools like drones, robots, satellites and large-scale data gathering to determine the optimal levels of water and fertilizer for each individual plant. This holistic method has the potential to greatly increase crop yields and make farming more environmentally friendly by reducing waste. Precision agriculture has already been used with much success in North America and Europe. Spotty internet connection has limited its introduction to developing countries. However, programs in India and Vietnam have seen success. Benefits for rural farmers include increased crop yield, reduced costs, more market opportunities, more free time and a reduced gender income gap.
  6. Often, small scale farmers in remote regions have to travel long distances to buy seeds and fertilizer, much of which can be prohibitively expensive. To address this problem, NGOs such as Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa and Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) support and train local networks of agro-dealers. These agro-dealers sell farming supplies cheaply and in small quantities suitable for small-scale subsistence farmers. They can also provide veterinary support, mechanical fixes and training, and marketing.

Small farms face more and more challenges from problems like desertification, drought and the spread of pests and diseases. With these poverty-fighting advances in agriculture, farmers are better prepared to meet the challenges and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

– Clarissa Cooney
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty
Africa has a long and complicated history. From the Portuguese exploration of the continent in 1460 to the Atlantic slave trade and modern-day ethnic conflicts in Sudan, it is, unfortunately, no surprise that the continent has long-standing issues with poverty. Ethiopia and Ghana are changing this trend. New, innovative farming techniques such as flexible growing practices and government-sponsored programs are reducing poverty, and famine rates have been declining in these countries. Worldwide organizations such as Africa Renewal are hoping that the agricultural reforms taking place in Ghana and Ethiopia can spread throughout the rest of Africa to reduce poverty.

While the mining industry is important for African countries such as South Africa, agriculture is by far the most important economic sector for a majority of African countries. Not only does agriculture provide jobs for residents, but it also acts as the main food source for over 1.2 billion Africans.

Farming in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has relied on ox-driven plows for centuries. Ethiopian farmers are primarily field farmers, which means they grow their crops on typical farmland rather than other alternatives such as in water-soaked rice patties. Ethiopia has dealt with severe famine over the past several decades, and farmers have helped alleviate famine by being flexible. Over the past century, Ethiopian farmers have shifted their main food source from enset to tef-based crops. Another change Ethiopian farmers are adopting is more flexible growing practices, which means rather than growing one crop at a time, farmers are beginning to grow as many as 10 different crops at once. Flexible growing practices add diversity to the food supply and help fight against weeds and pests, leading to increased food supplies, ultimately reducing poverty.

Ethiopia’s government launched the Growth & Transformation Plan II in 2015 that aims to significantly increase economic growth by investing heavily in sustainable and broad-based agricultural practices and manufacturing sectors. The end result of this initiative is for the world stage to recognize Ethiopia on the world stage as a lower middle-income country by 2025. While no one will know the full results of this initiative until 2025, the preliminary data shows that the program has been helping with Ethiopia’s GDP increasing from $64.46 billion in 2015 to $84.36 billion in 2018.

These new farming practices, along with government investment into agricultural practices, increased Ethiopia’s GDP by nearly 10.3 percent over the past decade, which is one of the fastest growth rates in Africa. The new agricultural practices that are stimulating the economy are a significant reason why Ethiopia’s poverty rate has also fallen from nearly 40 percent in 2004 to approximately 27 percent in 2016.

Farming in Ghana

Like Ethiopia, Ghana also has a history of poverty, with 24.2 percent of all residents facing poverty as of 2013. Ghana’s approach to reducing poverty is unique because the country is using economic growth. While Ethiopia is also focusing on economic growth, Ghana is not utilizing new farming practices in order to achieve economic growth. Rather, Ghana is using increased GDP to revitalize its agricultural sector.

Ghana’s unemployment rate is 6.71 percent as of 2018. With many residents unemployed, the agricultural sector provides job opportunities. Approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s available agricultural land is still available for use, which means there are many opportunities for agricultural expansion. Today estimates determine that the agricultural sector employs 33.86 percent of all Ghanian workers, meaning agriculture is the country’s main source of income for a third of its residents. Alarmingly, though, agriculture makes up only 19.7 percent of Ghana’s GDP as of 2017, which is the lowest total since 1983, when agriculture made up approximately 60 percent of the total GDP.

World Vision, a non-governmental organization, has worked in Ghana since 1979. Currently, World Vision implements 29 area programs. One such project is the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage Project that provides instruction to farmers on how to store cowpea without chemicals. Storing cowpea without chemicals helps reduce post-harvest losses and maintain cowpea’s nutritional value.

With vast amounts of land still available and with the GDP increasing by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate will decline significantly as more residents head to the fields and plant crops. Agriculture’s share of the GDP will also rise, reducing the downward trend since 1983, and ultimately, put more money into resident’s pockets.

Reducing Poverty

Ethiopia and Ghana have made gains in their plans to reduce poverty among their citizens. Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen from 71.1 percent in 1995 to 27.3 percent in 2015, and Ghana’s poverty rate has fallen from 52.6 percent in 1991 to 21.4 percent in 2012. While these countries are making improvements, there is still a lot of work remaining before all of Africa’s citizens are free from poverty.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

eating plant-based
Many people (820 million) around the world fall asleep hungry every night. Some have taken significant steps to help feed those who lack the significant food necessary to survive, but those steps have not yet been enough to completely combat hunger and poverty. One easy step that every person could take to make a small difference in helping the hungry, though, would be eating plant-based. Studies show that decreasing one’s meat intake could ultimately help save lives and feed those who cannot afford to feed themselves.

The Effects of Meat-Eating on Poverty

Estimates determine that global meat production will steadily increase due to a rise in the pork and poultry industry in developing countries. According to Livestock Production Science, almost two-thirds of all livestock around the world are in developing countries. Yet many of these farms are industrial animal farms that require the importation of grains, animal units, tractors and other necessary processors necessary to raise livestock. Because of inadequate wages for farmers and the excess of tools needed to produce and sell meat, the rise of poultry and livestock farms is creating more poverty in developing countries.

In addition to insignificant wages for farmers, industrial animal agriculture creates problems such as how it can detrimentally affect the environment and human health, put small family-run farms out of business and use food sources inefficiently. According to a joint report of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. (FAO), cheap food, such as legumes and cereal, could feed hungry people, but instead feeds livestock. The result of eating more plant-based is that one will waste less energy, save more water and gain additional space and money.

Fighting Poverty

Although the rise of meat production is doing more harm than good, the rise of veganism and vegetarianism is uncovering data that highlights the benefits of eating plant-based. According to a report in The Lancet, “almost two-thirds of all soybeans, maize, barley, and about a third of all grains are used as feed for animals.” Another study highlights that eating less beef and more legumes would open up 42 percent more croplands, which could grow plant-based foods to feed more people.

In addition to opening up more croplands, eating more plant-based can allow farmers to grow more food with the land that they have. According to the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, it takes 56 million acres of land to grow feed for animals in the United States alone, while farmers use only 4 million acres to produce plants for humans to actually eat. By using this land for plant-based foods rather than meat, farmers could harvest a much larger quantity of food and feed those who are hungry and in poverty.

Every Step Makes a Difference

Scientific research has found that eating plant-based can make a huge impact on human health, the environment and poverty. Although veganism and vegetarianism may not be an option for everybody, every small step can make a huge difference in feeding the hungry and saving lives.

– Paige Regan
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