Unfold is Combating Hunger With 5 Vertical Farming Techniques
Unfold is a new startup company in Sacramento, California. It has committed itself to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations for 2030. Unfold has a partnership with Temasek, a Singaporean holding company, and Leaps by Bayer (LBB), a company that invests in life sciences breakthroughs that can improve the world. LBB has a vision: Health for All, Hunger for None. In addition, Jürgen Eckhardt, head of LBB, explains how Unfold is combating hunger through its transformative, creative approach in agricultural product development. The company aims to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, “supporting sustainably grown, hyperlocal production and addressing food security challenges faced by growing urban populations.”

Vertical farming is still relatively new but there are advancements to boost its development. Vertical farming has two main components; the framework and the biology. The framework involves components like temperature, humidity and lighting. Meanwhile, the biology aspect comprises of making seeds that produce better and faster in the vertical farming environment. The latter is Unfold’s target area.

5 Facts About How Unfold is Combating Hunger

  1. Seed Genetics: As opposed to framework upgrades, Unfold is committed to vertical farming solutions related to seed genetics. It is most common for vertical farms to use refined seeds to grow vegetables in other types of settings like greenhouses or fields. Additionally, Unfold breeds seeds specifically for the vertical farming environment so that plants can mature faster and have higher crop yields. One way Unfold will accomplish this is with a combination of seed genetics and agricultural technology.
  2. Germplasm: Through Unfold’s partnerships, the company raised $30 million in initial funding. It has an agreement with certain privileges to Bayer’s vegetable portfolio, a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Through these means, Unfold is combating hunger using germplasm. Germplasm refers to living genetic resources, such as seeds, to manage breeding, preservation and research. To start with, the team will begin working on a variety of consumer-pleasing vegetables.
  3. Crop Varieties: Initially, Unfold will focus on lettuce and spinach because leafy greens have less restrictive light requirements and grow quickly. However, Unfold will need to expand into more varieties to really succeed. The next vegetables Unfold will concentrate on are cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, because they do not need much space and grow in similar environments.
  4. Sustainability and Freshness: Unfold is combating hunger through sustainability and freshness by paying attention to the framework elements of vertical gardening. The layout, lighting, materials and sustainability features, such as reducing water and energy use, are all pieces of the overall goal. The goal is to maximize output while minimizing space. As a result, the demand for this practice is high in highly populated areas with limited land use. For example, Singapore has a personal stake in this advancement because the country has less than 1% of arable farmland.
  5. Thinking Long-term: Global food challenges are a dynamic issue. This is due to overpopulation, food deserts, growing environmental concerns and global health issues, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This forces companies, like Unfold, to constantly rethink conventional methods. Unfold will be conscientious of traceability and nutritional value as it navigates these new vertical farming methods that it will implement right in the heart of the benefiting communities to shorten the supply chain.

Unfold is an innovative key player in vertical farming to end hunger. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global vertical farming market is expected to reach $12 billion by 2026. This is because of deficiencies in groundwater, decreases in viable farmland and increased demand for fresh produce. Unfold’s CEO, John Purcell, says that vertical farming is “an important player in the food ecosystem.” It might be the answer to global poverty as farmers could grow more varieties of food and faster. Partnerships with vertical farmers and retailers are also part of the equation to bring local, fresh products directly to community members. In addition, it will build up the economies at the same time.

Heather Babka
Photo: Flickr

Farmers in AfricaEstimates predict there will be over nine billion people on the planet by 2050. Of that increase in population, half will be born in Africa. In order to feed the world, food production must increase by 70% in that time. Farmers in Africa are looking for ways to adapt.

When investigating this problem of the future, it is interesting to note that nearly three-quarters of farm production happens on a small scale. There is roughly a small-scale farmer that produces a bulk of this food, and many of them are in need of assistance. The agrarian way of life is common, but not very prosperous across Africa. There is already an abundance of demand, but many African farmers are struggling to produce. Digital innovations are spreading and now helping farmers become more efficient. Here are three apps helping farmers in Africa boost their potential.

WeFarm

WeFarm is a networking app, comparable to LinkedIn or Facebook, but designed specifically for African farmers. A majority of their customer base is in Kenya and Uganda with over a million members in the two countries.

WeFarm helps to disseminate information among farmers. It gives a platform for farmers to connect and crowdsource solutions form their peers. By creating an ecosystem for these farmers to communicate and share best practices, farms will grow to be more efficient.

Many people living in more remote regions of Africa do not have adequate internet access. WeFarm can be used to communicate without internet access. The app facilitates communication across SMS which is much more prevalent than internet access in rural areas for some African countries, so more farmers can get plugged into the conversation.

CowTribe

CowTribe is an award-winning app and a boon for livestock farmers in Africa, particularly in Botswana where cattle account for 85% of agriculture.

This app helps owners take care of their animals’ health very effectively. The app monitors health record, reminds about due vaccinations, connect farmers with vaccinations, and can connect farmers with veterinary assistance. With CowTribe, every $1 spent on vaccination leads to $29 of revenue per year.

As of now, the app keeps track of 240,000 cows belonging to 29,000 different farmers. There are millions of farmers who can benefit from this app, and the membership rate is anticipated to grow 40% year over year.

Modisar

Modisar is another prize-winning app that has brought a new level of sophistication to its farmers in Botswana. The app requires a computer or laptop but can run without an internet connection, which is again very useful for remote, rural regions. Modisar is a platform that helps a farmer understand and better manage their farm. It maintains farm records, keeps track of inventory and livestock, and sends reminders for tasks that need completion. One of the greatest features Modisar offers is an expense and profit tracker. This allows farmers to see their financial history and can educate them on how to increase profits in the future.

Modisar also maintains a library of articles relating to best farming practices, so that farmers have other resources to troubleshoot and further educate themselves. The database also has a photo gallery of different diseases, that a farmer may consult when an unknown infection springs up in the crop. Modisar won the Orange Social Venture Prize in 2014 and has continued helping farmers since.

There is a menagerie of apps helping farmers in Africa with new ones releasing every year. There are seemingly many identical apps in the growing library of farm assistants, but many operate in different regions and have their own unique following. Agriculture, one of the oldest human endeavors, coupled with digital technology growing many small farmers in African countries.

– Brett Muni
Photo: Pxhere

Permaculture Farming
Permaculture farming is a design system for farming that applies ecological principles from nature to human agriculture. It attempts to banish pollution, water waste and energy waste. In the same vein, it focuses on improving productivity, efficiency and upcycling production to improve farmers’ conditions and their land. The heart of permaculture is caring for the planet, caring for people and promoting equitable distribution.

Permaculture Farming Integrates Production

This concept grew out of a sustainable agriculture movement initially developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia in the 70’s. The principles of permaculture are many. For instance — observing and interacting, catching and storing energy, obtaining a yield, applying self-regulation and feedback. Additional principles include using and valuing renewables, producing no waste, designing from patterns to details, integrating production (instead of segregating it), using small solutions, valuing diversity, valuing the marginal and creatively responding to change.

Enabling Self-Subsistence

NGOs and charity organizations often provide direct aid that is helpful in the short term but does not offer long-term solutions. A permaculture advocate named Josephine Awino explained, as an example, that in Kenya cash crops are primarily grown. However, when a community transitions from growing cash crops and moves towards growing plants that their community can eat — it allows the community to depend less on imports and exports. With less dependence on external subsidies, which are transitory and sometimes withdrawn, the community can create a long-standing, institutional baseline for financial success.

The Reuse of Land

Permaculture typically uses cyclical farming techniques to reduce waste and sewage problems. Permaculture farming primarily focuses on practical ways one can enrich the soil, to maximize garden output. It is also possible to implement the cycling of produce types during this process so that the land can consistently retain the same nutrients during each growing season. Any community can improve the soil quickly through using compost-making, water catchment systems and improving the landscape for water retention. Instead of focusing on what one can get from the land, permaculture focuses on how one can continue to reuse land exponentially. In communities where there is minimal space for gardening and farming, the reuse of land is particularly helpful. The consistent ability to reuse the soil can help protect low-income communities from famines due to blockades or sanctions from other countries.

Generating Income

Many communities often function with small economies. In this same vein, even small economies utilize mutual trade and aid — made possible through permaculture. Additionally, permaculture reorients the economic goals of a community. Instead of working to gain more money to buy imported food, the community can save money by consuming the food that they have created, themselves. Permaculture farming creates less dependence on outside income and promotes the circulation of the local economy in conjunction with surrounding economies and the instrumentation of direct, mutual aid. Also, permaculture farms can utilize the space they have created to offer other community services, which can, in turn, be used to generate income. Once the farm is successful, it can also serve as a teaching site for other communities within the region. In this way, communities can learn permaculture practices and this service (of teaching) itself can serve as yet another direct source of income.

Promotion of Community Reliance

When communities implement various kinds of food production, it does not necessarily require that individuals own land or have money. For example, a community can band together to petition their government to provide ground for a shared, community garden. Frequently, permaculture can function successfully in limited, private spaces — like rooftops or walls, to optimize the area and encourage growth. Individuals are inspired to rely on their community members to identify which places will work best for creating garden zones. Additionally, permaculture farming can unite a small community in the shared goal of making food to be used for and sold by the community, exclusively.

– Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

Food Security and Innovation ProgramAs the world encounters one issue after another, food insecurity increases in countries with inadequate resources or less-than sufficient agriculture systems. With the pandemic at the helm and climate change an ongoing phenomenon, to survive these stressful times, innovative strategies are necessary. In this advanced society, new ways are necessary to process, distribute and reshape food production. Connections between food security and innovation seem far-fetched, but the United Arab Emirates/UAE’s food security and innovation program has found state-of-the-art techniques that relieve their people of this struggle.

Key Constraints Facing Food Security

The UAE aims to rank in the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021, and number one by 2051. In this arid region, however, traditional farming is next to impossible from limited water for irrigation and an unequal ratio between people and the UAE’s production. Due to these hardships, the country is reliant on its imports. For a food-dependent country, when disaster hits, food systems are unstable.

While there are several reasons for poor food production in the UAE, the scarcity of water contributes heavily. Most of the water in the country is recycle and reused, but this process can only occur for a given amount of time. Given that traditional agriculture utilizes a significant amount of water, UAE’s food security and innovation program is the answer. . To combat the issue of their unstable food system, the UAE has set up the FoodTech Challenge. This global competition seeks out innovative solutions for the country to address food production and distribution.

Vertical Farming: An Innovative Farming Technique

In response to the FoodTech Challenge, the company Smart Acres has provided a technique that utilizes vertical farming to support the UAE’s food security and innovation program. Vertical farming consists of vertically stacked plants, providing more produce per square area, resembling green walls as displayed in shopping centers. Smart Acres used South Korean vertical farming technology to decrease water usage and monitor temperature and nutrients. Regarding the UAE’s water issue, vertical farms save over 90% of the water in comparison to conventional farming methods. The constant flow of water across the plants provides the necessary nutrients for all the plants to grow. This high-tech design allows the company to produce clean crops without any chemicals and negligible interference.

Although the farm has not been implemented yet, this form of food production is expected to produce 12 cycles of crops annually; the farm will expand from Abu Dhabi to the rest of the country gradually. By using vertical farming, this technique expects to produce approximately 8,000 kilograms of lettuce and other leafy greens per cycle. In addition to the increased number of crops, the variety is also expected to increase and include items, such as strawberries, arugula, potatoes, etc.

Aquaculture Farming: Decreasing the Dependence of Imports

On average, the UAE consumes 220,000 tons of fish annually. However, imported food is 90% of the UAE’s diet, suggesting that advancements in the country’s aquaculture would be beneficial. To aid the seafood industry in the UAE, the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research Center has taken the responsibility to use advanced technology to harvest marine organisms. The center utilizes photo-bioreactors to generate food for juvenile fish.

In addition to manufacturing primary live food for marine organisms, UAE’s food security and innovation program also include water recycling technologies, where water is cycled through fish tanks to reduce water consumption. To make aquaculture a more efficient and sustainable system in the country, the center is establishing a disease diagnostic laboratory, which will reduce the number of disease-related deaths associated with marine life.

While many countries face tumultuous times currently, UAE’s food security and innovation program seems to be a ticket out of poverty. Through the FoodTech Challenge, the country has found multiple viable options to strengthen its food system. With water scarcity, a large problem regarding food production, both vertical and aquaculture farming, has found a way to recycle the limited water and attend to other problems the UAE faces, such as dependence on imports from other countries. The challenge is open to the entire country, increasing the country’s opportunity in establishing a sustainable system. Through these systems, the UAE’s food security and innovation program is well on its way to stabilizing its food security and achieving its goal as a titleholder in the Global Food Security Index.

Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr

sustainable farming practices
Nubia Cardenas and her two sons, Jeimer and Arley, live in the countryside of Chipaqué, Colombia, a municipality close to Bogotá, the country’s capital. They have recently become YouTube stars with their channel “Nubia e hijos,” or “Nubia and children.” Many farmers in Colombia grow large fields of onions, potatoes and aromatic herbs for the residents of metropolitan areas. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, food supplies are more difficult to access and food prices are steadily increasing. This makes it more difficult for low-income communities and farmers to get the resources they need to survive. In this context, Cardenas’s YouTube channel, which focuses on sustainable farming practices, is crucial for farmers in Colombia.

Peasant Farming in Colombia

Recent corruption within the Colombian government is putting an even bigger strain on peasant communities throughout Columbia. The former minister of agriculture, Andrés Felipe Arias, created the Agro Ingreso Seguro program to assist poor farmers in the economic downturn. While the program was supposed to be a low-interest line of credit from the government to impoverished farmers, it only benefited wealthy farmers, giving them subsidies greater than 26,000 pesos.

The Agro Ingreso Seguro program might have resulted in a $300 billion diversion of funds, but it enabled the top 1% of the largest farms in Columbia to dominate 81% of the country’s farms, while millions of poor farmers live on tiny plots of land. Although Arias received a 17-year prison sentence over this scandal, his actions greatly impacted impoverished Colombian communities’ access to resources and opportunities they desperately need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Columbia’s economic state and the current state of the world were two major reasons for the creation of the “Nubia e hijos” YouTube channel. The purpose of the channel is to share tips for sustainable farming practices, like how to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs. In doing so, the Cardenas family hopes to ensure that no one will have to go to bed hungry in Colombia.

5 Interesting Facts About the “Nubia e hijos” Channel

  1. The First Video: The family posted its first video without electricity and with little technical knowledge. Neither Cardenas nor her two sons had any knowledge about technology or social media before deciding to create a channel. The family did not even have a laptop to edit the video, but they were still dedicated to sharing their knowledge and helping others. Once the videos went viral, the trio reached out to their neighbor and friend, Sigifredo Moreno, and the social enterprise Huertos de la Sabana to collaborate on the channel’s audiovisual production.
  2. Planting Kits: Along with sharing their extensive cultivation knowledge, the family uses its YouTube platform to sell homemade planting kits to low-income farmers and families. For $5, subscribers can purchase kits that include soil, bags and seeds for planting. For $7, subscribers can purchase kits that include soil, seeds and three potted plants. The Cardenas family hopes that by providing viewers with both the knowledge and resources to enact sustainable farming practices, more individuals will have a constant, affordable and sustainable food supply.
  3. Beyond Food: The Cardenas family uses its platform to discuss other social issues in Columbia besides sustainable farming practices. In the family’s third video, Cardenas, her sister and her two sons discuss the difficulties of living in the countryside and taking virtual classes. Many impoverished families who live in the countryside of Columbia do not have access to the resources necessary to complete virtual classes, such as laptops and the internet. Therefore, the Cardenas family uses its channel to advocate for better tools and instructions for peasant children during COVID-19.
  4. Going Viral: “Nubia e hijos” now has 424,000 subscribers. In 11 days, Cardenas and her two sons posted four videos, which caused the YouTube channel to go viral. Their tips and instructions on how to plant food at home have become very popular and a large audience from all over the world is now viewing the Cardenas family’s videos. The family also has over 170,000 followers on Instagram due to its newfound fame.
  5. Improved Lifestyle: The Cardenas family was able to purchase a laptop due to support from their fans, both subscribers and buyers of their kits. In a recent video, Cardenas’s sons smiled as they show off their new laptop to the camera. The family can now use the laptop to produce more videos to help others like them through sustainable farming practices.

The coronavirus pandemic has limited interaction and communication to strictly online forms. However, the Cardenas family was dedicated to sharing their potentially life-saving knowledge with others. Through the “Nubia e hijos” YouTube channel, the Cardenas family has established an innovative way to improve their own economic situation and help fight hunger and poverty in many parts of the world through sustainable farming practices.

– Ashley Bond
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa in Bolivia
Consumers worldwide recently discovered quinoa’s high nutritional value, earning this food its title of a superfood; in fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) dubbed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. The grain is also an excellent choice for sustainable growth in food-insecure regions, particularly experiencing environmental challenges. There is a relatively positive outlook on the future of quinoa in Bolivia and the Andean region of South America. However, the explosion in demand for quinoa in Bolivia has created several negative consequences.

The Rise of Quinoa in Bolivia

For centuries, quinoa has been a dietary staple for those living in the Andean region of South America. Quinoa is a crop indigenous to this area; people have comfortably relied on the grain for nourishment for nearly 7,000 years. Given its historical link to subsistence, urban Bolivians considered quinoa to be a food reserved only for poor people. In 2000, quinoa was only worth approximately $0.25 per pound. The quick explosion in quinoa’s popularity, however, led to rapid growth in the number of farmers cultivating the crop. By 2014, the price of quinoa increased to as much as $4 per pound a staggering 1,500% increase from its original price. With this boost in price and subsequent strengthening of the national economy, many farmers were able to begin sending their children to university, purchase motorized vehicles, build new homes and invest in technology to improve their crop yields.

Economic and Environmental Costs

Despite its spike in global popularity, the rise in quinoa costs reduced local consumption in Bolivia by nearly one-third. What was originally fundamental to the Bolivian diet became too expensive for many locals, helping cause the price of quinoa to decline nearly as rapidly as it rose. As recently as 2018, the price of quinoa in Bolivia has dropped to $0.60 per pound. This rapid decline in quinoa prices in countries like Bolivia is also attributable to the increase in quinoa production worldwide: with the product’s increasing popularity came increasing competition from growers in other countries, leading to a forced reduction in prices. Although today’s low cost of quinoa attracts many health-minded consumers, this decline jeopardizes the economic well-being of Bolivian farmers.

In an attempt to remain competitive in the global quinoa market, Bolivian farmers expanded their areas of production. Previously unoccupied land transformed into spaces constantly cultivating quinoa, leading to land overuse. Soil consequently began to suffer erosion and nutrient loss, which created an overall reduction in soil quality. Furthermore, farmers who once raised large llama herds removed llamas from their land to open space for quinoa production. With this lack of animals, though, came a lack of manure to help nurture and protect the soil.

Promise for the Future of Quinoa Production

Fortunately, numerous efforts have emerged to help mitigate the effects of quinoa’s price fluctuations and account for long-term sustainability. The World Food Programme implemented a pilot project in Bolivia to connect local smallholder farmers with municipal food programs. In this system, local food programs provide farmers with a secure and stable market to sell their goods, eliminating the pressure of competing on a global scale.

Bolivian quinoa farmers have also taken matters into their own hands by placing a geographical indication on quinoa grown in Bolivia. This is helping to create a market in which Bolivian quinoa will receive the designation of “Quinoa Real,” a tastier and larger grain that can only grow in Bolivia. Such a designation helps to protect Bolivian quinoa farmers from another steep drop in prices and crop profitability.

As quinoa’s popularity continues to skyrocket worldwide, it will become increasingly important for farmers and their local economies to remain efficient and competitive. With involvement from global nonprofit organizations and local cultivators, there is hope that quinoa in Bolivia will become a superfood for consumers and producers alike.

– Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Senegalese Female Farmers
In a remote village in Senegal, female farmers are banding together to save their village from drought, famine and environmental difficulties. Local Senegalese farmers are struggling with food insecurity, and available land has dwindled. As a result, men are leaving the village to search for opportunities elsewhere. However, one of the biggest problems is the recent decrease in water supply due to rain shortages. Thanks to innovative efforts by these Senegalese female farmers, however, conditions are improving.

Food Insecurity and Environmental Changes in Senegal

Increasing changes to the environment are affecting farmland at an unprecedented rate, with Senegal being one of its main targets. Predictions determine that environmental factors will displace almost 1 billion people by 2050. Rural communities in Senegal and other parts of Africa feel these effects the most. In response to these challenges, Senegalese female farmers have made it their priority to create more sustainable lives. This has proved especially challenging given the little farmland and resources available to them.

While female Senegalese farmers make up a majority of the workforce, they have relatively little access to farmland and other resources. The dwindling supply of farmland does nothing to help this issue. Two and a half million people in Senegal might fall into food insecurity within the next year. Thus, there are a number of initiatives developing to help empower female farmers.

The Solutions

Some of these initiatives include providing women with access to farming equipment and machinery that allows them to tend to their crops more efficiently. Furthermore, educating women on nutrition and self-sufficient farming methods also helps them to become better contributors to their local economy. Many of these women share their knowledge with women in other villages, spreading the impact of their farming efforts. The wide-reaching impact of word of mouth combined with guidance from various nonprofits has helped struggling populations in Senegal by giving them the tools they need to improve their farming techniques.

Since most men in these villages leave for better opportunities, women are left behind to take care of children and provide for themselves. It places an almost unbearable burden on women to be left behind by men in a society in which it is nearly impossible to succeed without them. However, Senegalese women have still managed to come together in order to challenge pre-existing gender norms.

Remaining Barriers and Steps Forward

In spite of numerous obstacles, these women have managed to succeed in cultivating new farmland and revitalizing the local economy. There are still many barriers that prevent women from reaching their full potential. For instance, women produce 80% of the food in the country but have virtually no rights or political power. Nonetheless, recent developments seek to ensure the continued presence and support of women in the agriculture sector in Senegal. These include providing women with plots of land and enabling them to travel to other areas for business. After seeing the positive changes taking place in their communities, men have started to return to their wives. The success of these Senegalese female farmers illustrates how, with the right tools and guidance, women in developing countries can create better lives for themselves and their families.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Bangladeshi Fish FarmingShrimp farming plays an essential role in Bangladeshi livelihoods, food security and foreign exchange. Prior to the 1970s, Bangladeshi shrimpers typically farmed in inland ponds that trapped tidal waters. These ponds required minimal to no feed, fertilizer or other inputs, relying instead on the natural ecosystem for shrimp production. However, they produced limited output. This article explores the environmental and economic consequences of Bangladeshi shrimp farms, as well as the potential for an alternative method for sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming with IMTA shrimp farms.

Expansion of Shrimp Farming

In the 1970s, international market demand for shrimp grew as part of the “Blue Revolution,” wherein cheap and vacuum-sealed fish appeared in the freezer aisles of grocery stores around the world. The potential for high profits led to the rapid expansion of commercial shrimp farming in Bangladesh. Today, shrimp production contributes dominantly to Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture, which comprise about 3.65% of the nation’s GDP. Approximately 14.7 million people depend on Bangladeshi fisheries and aquaculture for full- or part-time employment. Fish products also provide about 60% of all animal protein in the average Bangladeshi’s diet.

Shrimp farming has the potential to combat poverty, malnutrition, hunger and job insecurity among the growing population in Bangladesh, but poor shrimp farm management comes with consequences. In its current state, shrimp farming may pose more problems in Bangladesh than it can resolve.

Consequences

The rapid expansion of shrimp farming has had adverse environmental, economic and social effects in Bangladesh. Poor placement of farming systems can lead to saltwater intrusion in groundwater, deforestation and loss of mangrove forests. All of these consequences overall result in changes to local water systems and the deterioration of soil and water quality. This in turn threatens biodiversity, crop production and both supplies of potable water and critical cooking fuel.

The environmental effects of high-intensity shrimp farming in Bangladesh thus endanger human health and survival tools, particularly among people living in rural coastal areas. These individuals have limited access to alternative livelihoods. This dynamic leads to social imbalance and contributes to criminal activity in the Bangladeshi coastal regions.

The long-term environmental and social ramifications of Bangladeshi shrimp farming pose economic costs as well, including unemployment and loss of natural resources. These may outweigh the economic benefits of Bangladeshi shrimp production.

Solution for a Sustainable Future

To combat the environmental, social and economic consequences of high-intensity shrimp farming, some Bangladeshi shrimp farmers are turning to integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) systems. IMTA relies on natural processes to cultivate aquatic organisms at multiple trophic levels within the same farming system. Organisms within the system, including finfish, shellfish and seaweeds, interact to recycle and reuse nutrients. IMTA requires minimal external inputs and simulates natural ecosystem processes, much like shrimp farming systems prior to the 1970s Blue Revolution.

When properly executed, IMTA shrimp farms in Bangladesh can produce multiple marketable organisms, raise organism survival rates, increase biomass yield and reduce harmful nutrient concentrations in water. IMTA systems promote biodiversity by supporting production at multiple trophic levels. They relocate shrimp farms from threatened mangrove forests to open-water environments like coastal rivers and estuaries. This discourages intensive, environmentally degrading shrimp farming practices. Further, the regrowth of mangrove forests contributes to carbon capture. All of these processes increase ecosystem resiliency and bolster the long-term efficacy of sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming practices.

In 1998, Bangladesh adopted a National Fisheries Policy. The policy recognizes the detrimental effects that shrimp farming has on the nation. It seeks to optimize fishery resource use in order to encourage economic growth, feed the population, alleviate poverty and protect human and environmental health in Bangladesh. Widespread adoption of IMTA shrimp farms could facilitate sustainable Bangladeshi fish farming practices and, overall, be a step in the right direction.

Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

Kava Cultivation in Fiji
In the Pacific island nation of Fiji, 44.3% of its approximate 900,000 residents live in rural areas, where access to opportunity is struggling to keep up with economic growth. According to government metrics, every third Fijian is poor. However, recent developments in kava cultivation are helping villagers escape poverty. Kava, locally known as yaqona, is an indigenous crop that people have customarily used to make a ceremonial beverage for traditional gatherings and celebrations. It contains chemicals called kavalactones, which create feelings of calmness and euphoria in those drinking it. In recent years, these qualities have encouraged the drink’s recreational consumption both in Fiji and abroad. Given the drink’s recent boost in demand, kava cultivation in Fiji has come to provide financial stability for thousands of workers within the industry.

Historical Background

Currently, more than 21,000 Fijian farmers produce at least 4,000 tons of kava per year. For some rural communities, kava cultivation is an indispensable source of income. On the island of Kadavu, for example, four out of five households harvest or farm kava. In that area alone, as many as 8,000 inhabitants rely on kava production to feed their families. Their trust has been paying off thus far: in 2016, Cyclone Winston ravaged much of the country’s infrastructure and destroyed multiple kava plantations, radically decreasing its market supply. However, in the cataclysm’s aftermath, kava prices registered steep growth, convincing many farmers that kava cultivation was more profitable than Fiji’s other major agricultural export – sugar.

Economic Successes

The kava industry generated an equivalent of $151 million in 2017, and domestic sales were responsible for the overwhelming majority of kava consumption. Besides serving kava beverages in bars, the private sector is pioneering kava anti-anxiety medicines and kava nurseries, where farmers can buy seeds to start their own plantations. These initiatives are directly involving rural populations in their business operations. For instance, South Pacific Elixirs, a company maintaining kava quality, has contracted 70 farmers on the island of Ovalau. In fact, 80% of the kava found in Fiji’s urban areas where bars, pharmaceutical firms and exporters naturally operate originates on such remote islands as the aforementioned Kadavu and Ovalau. Such connections between rural communities and domestic distributors are helpful since they enable farmers to access the market.

Although export only represented 8% of the kava revenue, its volume increased by 126% and its value saw an upsurge of 98% between 2013 and 2017. Fiji exports to Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States, marketing the crop as much to the Fijian diaspora as to foreign consumers. One may find kava in American pharmacies, department stores and cafes. Its consumption is widespread in San Diego, Austin, Texas and particularly in Southeast FloridaSt. Petersburg, Florida alone boasts eight kava bars. The drink from this plant appeals to local consumers as an alternative to alcohol allowing them to relax without the harmful effects of hangovers.

As kava farming does not presuppose extensive education, it attracts not only the established farmers but also the unemployed rural youths. In 2019, the national youth unemployment rate stood at almost 15%, and eradicating rural poverty cannot occur without addressing this high rate of joblessness. Stories of farmers investing their earnings in housing and critical infrastructures, like solar lights and water tanks, have underscored kava’s role in combating rural poverty in Fiji. Income from kava has also empowered some to operate local grocery stores and send their children to school. Statistically, one hectare of kava generates a gross income of more than $94,000 within a five-year cultivation period.

Is Kava Cultivation Sustainable?

Despite its economic benefits, kava cultivation in Fiji has encountered skepticism. Farmers will have to respond to the rising demand, which has the potential to pose serious challenges. Given that kava takes between two and three years to mature, early harvesting can lead to crop failure and wasted resources. Furthermore, extensive production risks exhausting fertile volcanic lands to the long-term detriment of Fiji’s rural communities. The crop’s production is also vulnerable to natural catastrophes that may hamper commercial links between suppliers and distributors.

However, Fijian authorities are working to ensure that kava cultivation is sustainable. The Yaqona Taskforce hosts training events for village farmers, in which government officials not only teach superior farming and storage techniques but also discuss marketing opportunities. The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA+) Program, supported by New Zealand and Australia, is complementing these initiatives by conducting surveys across Fiji to monitor genetic variation within kava crops as well as the production methods used in different villages. In addition to verifying that the plants are healthy, PHAMA+ ensures that farmers are maximizing yields and selling value-added goods from processed kava rather than its roots. By helping farmers meet high standards, PHAMA+ contributes to the expansion of the industry’s export which has the potential to generate an extra $2.5 million for Fiji’s kava sector this year alone.

Kava cultivation in Fiji is eradicating rural poverty by integrating rural farmers into the economy and establishing ties between villages, pharmaceutical companies and recreational industries throughout the nation. With state and external backing, the kava industry has the power to precipitate poverty reduction in rural Fiji.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the NetherlandsAs one of the most substantial influencers in agricultural viability, as well as one of the foremost exporters of agricultural products throughout the globe, the Netherlands is not a country that the world would easily associate with hunger. Even with a lower rate of poverty and malnourishment than many other countries, the Netherlands must overcome the remaining barriers for those lingering in destitution. Fortunately, the country thinks big.

Poverty Within The Country

Since 2015, poverty has decreased in the Netherlands, while the country has experienced a growth period in its economy. Yet, those who still remain in poverty find themselves at a decrease in the ability to meet their basic needs over these recent years of prosperity. As of 2019, there were 169 food banks providing for the poor across the country. The ongoing issue is the access and awareness of this kind of assistance for families who find themselves in need of it most. Solving hunger in the Netherlands is only a portion of the country’s goals.

Eliminating Hunger On A Global Scale

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands has dedicated itself to resolving hunger following its driven Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The country’s aims are to improve food intake, efficiency and international trade, as well as enhance resilience to the imbalance in the environment and economy and provide better care for renewable resources.

Planning For Change

Eleanor Roosevelt famously voiced, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” The Netherlands has chosen to put its energy into planning. The country’s SDGs have inspired certain procedures that are already seeing success in Burundi. The Dutch embassy has supported a project empowering almost 40,000 farmers with a plan of action for the present and a vision of how their investments will pay off in the future. The project Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB) uses this Integrated Farm Planning (PIP) method to help farmers understand the fulfillment in their work with the hopes of engaging the community in improved practices. These farmers have significant increases in earnings, production and security with each plan, as well as major reductions in environmental impacts.

How 8,000 Students Will Feed The Hungry

Wageningen University & Research (WUR) located in Wageningen, Netherlands comprises food scientists capable of eradicating hunger in the Netherlands as well as the rest of the world. Professor Louise O. Fresco, the university president, is motivated by a unique history that encourages her to end global hunger. Fresco was born amongst the aftermath of the Dutch Hunger Winter.

This famine took place in the 1940s as Nazi troops obstructed the food supply to the Netherlands. Studies have proven that those born around the time of this famine are at a higher risk of adverse health and psychological conditions due to the stressful environment at the time. However, Fresco sees an enabling connection between her birth and her current work which has inspired her to lead an institution where people share her passions.

Many students at the university agree that the real barricade in solving world hunger is the overproduction of food that many deem necessary in Europe, yet a large percentage of that supply becomes wasted and its production ultimately hurts the environment. The real goals are to solve these problems with minimal impact on the environment in order to achieve sustainability and reach those who are malnourished.

Students are developing innovations to meet these overall necessities. The vertical farming method, for example, allows for the growth of additional food while avoiding the use of additional land. Another project that students at the university are working on is a method called forest farming revealing the eco-friendly benefits of small-scale farming over large-scale farming.

As the country leads with innovative and inspiring techniques, approaching hunger in the Netherlands has lead to fantastic possibilities for the rest of the world.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay