Agricultural Technology in AfricaThe COVID-19 pandemic has stopped progress on a major factor of the economy in Africa: agriculture. Farmers can only use 6% of Africa’s land to plant and grow crops. However, the agriculture industry in Africa employs 67% of the continent’s citizens. Each country in Africa contributes 30% to 60% of its GDP and about 30% of the value of exports to agriculture each year. Thanks to the pandemic, this crucial piece of the puzzle has started to disappear. New ideas, like pursuing agricultural technology in Africa, have helped keep production going to provide food to the continent.

Africa’s Supply Chains

Issues like food contamination, falsified medications and the loss of stock on certain products have heavily affected supply chains in Africa. According to KDHI-Agriculture, the pandemic only emphasized these issues. National lockdowns stopped the operations of many organizations, which held up supply chains. No new problems came from the pandemic stalling operations, so new solutions can help recover Africa’s agriculture industry.

Agricultural Technology in Africa

Agricultural technology in Africa is not just limited to one area. There are plenty of different technologies that are helping solve the slowing of production. Traceability technology is helping increase transparency within supply chains, tracking items from start to finish. As a result, higher-ups can track a product from its start as a raw material to the final product that ships from a factory or farm.

This increase in information about the product not only helps decision-making but also speeds up the supply-and-demand process. Many different technological processes go into this, like blockchain, artificial intelligence and collaborative platforms. As a result, it is clear that Africa is serious about rebuilding its economy.

In 2020, 295 of the 437 active digital agriculture services in Africa had a devotion to finances and advising. Only 16 of the services went toward smart farming. Items like traceability technology only account for 4% of these agricultural services. The Leibniz University of Hanover in Germany saw that agricultural technology in Africa is effective in helping the agriculture industry, so the university created a project to help to further develop this technology.

Leibniz University‘s UPSCALE Project

The UPSCALE project began in November 2020 and helps expand push-pull technology across whole fields and regions so that problems like food security resolve. The project also helps the environment. In the end, projects like these will help develop solutions and tools for increasing farm incomes in sustainable farming systems.

Looking past the pandemic, Africa is still dealing with high rates of poverty, with 36% of the population living in extreme poverty and 20% of the population dealing with hunger. Agricultural technology in Africa will help feed many people more efficiently. Hopefully, the UPSCALE project will attract more international attention and will help Africa’s agriculture industry in the long term. 

– Matt Orth
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Agricultural Tech Startups in IndiaFarmers make up more than 40% of the working population in India. These farmers work tirelessly to provide crops for the nation and other countries worldwide. To make their lives easier, agricultural tech startups in India have been developing new systems to make farming more efficient. CropIn, DeHaat, Fasal and Intello Labs are four startups making a difference in agriculture.

CropIn by SmartFarm

First, in 2010, CropIn’s founders developed a phone application called SmartFarm to produce profit reports and weather analyses. CropIn also optimizes crop production and digitizes farm ecosystems. Moreover, the company uses artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) to provide precise and accurate data for farmers using the app. The startup also utilizes other software and applications. SmartRisk, SmartWare and RootTrace are examples that target different facets of the agricultural industry, including food safety and sustainability. The company has had a tremendous impact on India so far. The company has implemented the services of the app on 13 million acres of land and helped four million farmers. Thus, the future of CropIn is hopeful.

DeHaat’s Online Community

In 2012, DeHaat came about. One of its main goals is to provide an online community for farmers in India. DeHaat presents forecast reports, daily crop reminders, inputs on profit maximization, “advice on crops, pests, soil and seeds” and several other agricultural services. By focusing on the needs of farmers, DeHaat aims to increase profitability and productivity to reduce poverty. Furthermore, the company makes accessibility a priority. It offers an application in which global users can communicate and a daily helpline for farmers without smartphones. This startup has helped more than 210,000 farmers in India and expectations determine that it will reach and serve more farmers within the coming years.

Agricultural Tech Startup Fasal

Fasal is a 2018 startup that improves accuracy within farming to increase profitability and eliminate guessing. The company developed an app to continuously monitor farm data, improving accessibility for farmers. Moreover, it created an IoT device called Fasal Sense that monitors the farm and collects data. Through AI, Fasal can deliver “farm-specific, crop-specific, crop-stage specific, actionable advisory.”

The village of Chhattisgarh is a prime example of Fasal’s success, where vegetable farmer Prasant Maroo started using the startup’s technology in 2018. Maroo noticed a 20% increase in production of two of his main crops, chilli and brinjal. By using the AI technology that Fasal provided, he was able to use less water. Water scarcity and over-irrigation are prevalent issues in Indian villages, so this factor is very promising for eliminating resource wastage. Maroo is not the only farmer who has benefited from Fasal. Fasal also allows for irrigation schedule monitoring, forecast alerts and disease management.

Digital Tech Through Intello Labs

Intello Labs began in Gurugram, India. In 2016, the company made a goal to minimize food loss in farming through digital technology. It uses “AI, ML and computer vision” to evaluate food quality in fruits and vegetables, improving the quality of goods that farmers grow, package and sell. Intello Labs developed an app that allows users to take pictures of multiple food items at a time and give feedback on the quality of the items. Users can also selectively pick the individual items desired from a batch of produce, helping to eliminate waste. Overall, the startup is increasing food quality in a cost-efficient manner within the agricultural and food industry.

The Future of India’s Agriculture

In India, farmers and their families’ livelihoods depend on agricultural success. Overall, agricultural tech startups in India, like CropIn, DeHaat, Fasal, Intello Labs and other companies, are allocating resources to yield quality food to the consumer and provide the advantages of technology to farmers in India. With these four new innovative agricultural tech startups in India changing the way the country farms, AI and IoT can supply detailed data to reduce poverty and improve farming.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr

Plenitud teaches sustainable farming in Puerto Rico
The small Puerto Rican town of Las Marias lies deep in the island’s interior mountains. At least 43% of its population lives below the poverty levels and another 21.8% are aged over 65 years. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation. On the island, 40% of families reported food insecurities, up from roughly 33% prior to the pandemic. Luckily, one organization is busy addressing this. Here is how Plenitud teaches sustainable farming to impoverished Puerto Rican families.

What is Plenitud?

A group of graduates from the University of Florida created Plenitud in 2008 in order to research, learn and educate about sustainable farming techniques. With a strong conviction and purpose, these friends quickly began cultivating permaculture and teaching initiatives in Puerto Rico’s central mountains. Within a few years, Plenitud grew and swiftly established relationships with several major universities across the island. These universities host groups of students for academic and service trips in impoverished areas. In 2011, Plenitud settled on a 15-acre Las Marias farm equipped with a greenhouse, food forests, eco-buildings, campsites, rainwater collection and a Teaching Center. Here, Plenitud teaches sustainable farming and operates as a hub of sustainability.

Building Community Resilience

Plenitud has a strong belief that communities deserve access to safe shelter, clean water, food and health. Because of this, the organization supports community resiliency among the most vulnerable populations. To do this, Plenitud installs rainwater harvesting systems and regularly tests and monitors the water quality. Additionally, Plenitud establishes food security among communities by training a new generation of farmers, installing community gardens and growing fresh and healthy food. These efforts improve food security by ensuring local food sovereignty.

Further work has gone into building “SuperAbobe” shelters. These are a form of earthbag construction that can provide quick and secure housing for vulnerable individuals. These SuperAbode homes, like other bio-construction buildings, aim to minimize the impact on the environment by sourcing local, raw materials. Additionally, SuperAdobe shelters offer a form of alternative housing that easily withstand the earthquakes and hurricanes that frequently devastate the area.

Inspiring the Future Generations

Plenitud believes that teaching the value of cultivating food from an early age is crucial to resolve many of the problems faced by Puerto Rican children and their families. Plenitud teaches sustainable farming not only to promote economic stability in impoverished Puerto Rican regions but also to inspire the youth into choosing organic farming as a profession. To do so, Plenitud developed partnerships with four public schools in addition to universities. Its Partner Schools Program offers over 1,000 students experiential education in food preparation and sustainable farming. In this way, Plenitud is preparing the future generation of sustainable farmers.

With these applied techniques, Plenitud is successfully positioning itself at the forefront of the sustainability movement in Puerto Rico. This movement’s core is about giving impoverished and malnourished communities the right tools to become resilient and self-sustainable. Through community resilience projects and sustainable farming practices, these communities will have the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, contributing to the economic development of the entire region.

– Jesus Quinones
Photo: Flickr

Agroecology in ColombiaPoverty levels in Colombia have decreased by almost 15% between 2008 and 2018, yet significant inequality persists as poverty continues to disproportionately affect rural communities. In 2019, 36.1% of the Colombian rural population lived in poverty and 15% lived in extreme poverty, double the rate of poverty in urban areas. Effects of rural poverty in Colombia are greater among Afro-descendant people, indigenous groups, women and those with disabilities. The transition to agroecology in Colombia will positively impact farmers, especially rural farmers. It has the potential to mitigate environmental risks, protect farmers’ health, strengthen food security and preserve the ecosystem, reducing poverty overall.

Colombia’s Agricultural Industry

Over the past 60 years, the Colombian agricultural industry has greatly contributed to the growth of the economy, providing 16.45% of the country’s jobs. Colombia has the highest use of fertilizer and the second-highest use of pesticides in Latin America. Colombia spends 35% of total food cost production on agrochemicals with pesticide use nearly quadrupling since 1990. Agrochemicals affect the health of people and the health of the land. Integrating sustainable agroecology in Colombia presents an opportunity to protect people’s health and the ecosystem while minimizing environmental risks.

Health Risks of Agrochemicals

Agrochemicals can have adverse effects on the human neurological, immunological, respiratory and reproductive systems. The risks of exposure can result in long-lasting, chronic health outcomes for farmworkers and can especially affect pregnant women, children and older family members. In 2017, reports determined the existence of 8,423 pesticide-associated poisoning cases and 150 pesticide-associated fatalities in Colombia. Ruben Salas, a toxicologist at the University of Cartegena, predicts that chronic diseases in connection to pesticide exposure are frequently undiagnosed and underreported.

Despite the evident adverse health and ecological effects of agrochemicals, not all embrace the adoption of agroecology in Colombia. A study investigating factors that contribute to Colombian Campesinos’ use of pesticides found that pesticide users do not believe pesticides are detrimental to human health nor the environment.

Fighting Environmental Challenges

Reports determined that pesticide use causes damaging environmental events, leading to agricultural depletion and socioeconomic conflicts. According to risk analysis, predictions have determined that changing weather in Colombia will affect food security by 34.6% and human habitat by 26.2%. As the majority of Colombian’s in rural regions are already facing water shortages and land instability, an urgent need exists for sustainable solutions.

Sustainable Development Initiatives

To protect human health and the environment, efforts to implement agroecology in Colombia have proficiently provided alternatives to substitute traditional agricultural methods. The Food and Land Use Coalition, Yara International and Ecoflora are examples of groups that have developed effective strategies to diminish agrochemical use and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) working group prioritizes the development of sustainable and capable agricultural applications. In collaboration with the government, biotechnology companies and research institutions, FOLU is working toward certifying farms in Good Agricultural Practices, developing bio-inputs, bio-protection and agroecology throughout farming communities.

Yara International is a fertilizer company that assists farmers to promote sustainable crop practices. Yara agronomists collaborate with local crop nutrition experts to provide an individualized solution for farmers. Through engagement, market research, trials and meeting, Yara ensures farmers experience sustained success.

Ecoflora is a biocontrol company that creates natural color technologies while focusing on sustainable and ethical practices. In Colombia, Ecoflora has developed alliances with communities of African descent, indigenous people and those in rural regions. Ecoflora encourages the use of natural resources and sustainable practices within these communities to preserve the environment and ensure equitable social benefits.

Going Forward

The marginalized communities of rural Colombia are more vulnerable to the consequences of agrochemical use. An increase in farmer’s understanding of agrochemical impacts, education on effective and sustainable agricultural management and novel technology training would promote the uptake of agroecology in Colombia. The government should continue supporting the integration of agroecological practices to protect the health and well-being of historically neglected communities. Furthermore, agroecology promotes sustainable food security, addressing food shortages, hunger and poverty overall.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Sustainability in the DRCDespite the Democratic Republic of the Congo harboring the second-largest cultivable land in the world at 80 million hectares, food insecurity and malnutrition are pressing issues in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) characterizes almost 22 million of the 89.5 million residents as severely food insecure, despite 70% of the employed population working in the agricultural industry. Lack of infrastructure combined with prolonged national armed conflict has led to only 10 million hectares currently under cultivation, leaving enormous potential for agricultural and economic growth. Agricultural sustainability in the DRC is crucial to address food insecurity and poverty.

The Joint WFP-FAO Resilience Program in DRC

A combined effort from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) focuses on the optimization of agriculture production as well as market revisions and improvements to reduce food insecurity and bolster a declining national economy. Improving agricultural sustainability in the DRC could prove effective in stabilizing a region with enormous agricultural potential.

The Need for Agricultural Sustainability

Providing direct financial relief to the DRC has proven both necessary and effective, especially in the wake of nationwide flooding in 2019 and 2020 on top of widespread armed conflict and displacement. Since 2018, USAID reports that the DRC has received roughly $570 million worth of direct food relief. However, direct relief does not equal sustainability and is a relatively short-term solution. The joint program from the WFP and FAO implements successful strategies to provide much-needed agricultural sustainability in the DRC and creates an important foundation for further improvements.

The Benefits of Cooperation

Promoting organizational cooperation and improving managerial structure has allowed for combined agricultural improvements nationwide. Since 2017, this project has reached 30,000 small farm households and stimulated cooperation that has improved organizational structure and operational capacities. This cooperation has allowed for the distribution of newer agricultural technologies and concepts such as improved seeds and more advanced tools to optimize production.

Increased cooperation has also helped eliminate local conflicts between farmers and has increased the total area of land being cultivated. The program has also provided 7,000 local women with functional literacy education, allowing for more female community engagement as well as involvement in managerial duties in farming communities.

Addressing Nutrition in the DRC

At a local level, the joint program has implemented enhanced nutritional programs to utilize the increasing resources. Increased cooperation and education have allowed for the growth of crops with enhanced nutritional value. To promote long-term sustainability, in 2020, the project utilized direct aid to establish 300 vegetable gardens, reaching 13,510 residents. The program also held 150 culinary demonstrations regarding optimal cooking techniques that are both affordable and nutritious.

Developing the DRC’s Infrastructure

Large agricultural areas such as the DRC rely heavily on infrastructure for transportation and storage of goods. The joint program has fixed 193 kilometers of agricultural roads since implementation in 2017, with 65% of the road rehabilitators being women.

Not only has the program enhanced transportation capabilities but it has also constructed 20 different storage buildings as well as 75 community granaries, allowing for the long-term storage of agricultural products. This enhanced storage capacity reduces waste from spoilage and allows product to be sold during favorable selling seasons, allowing for advanced agricultural sustainability in the DRC.

The Joint WFP-FAO resilience program in the DRC has made significant accomplishments in the country. With further efforts, agricultural sustainability in the DRC can be further developed to improve poverty in the region.

Jackson Thennis
Photo: Flickr

Vertical FarmingThe new AI-run vertical farming plantation brings new possibilities to agriculture and efficient production, as Plenty, an ag-tech company, co-founded by Nate Storey, proves there is now more benefit than cost to vertical farming. By utilizing robots and artificial intelligence systems to regulate LED sunlight panels, watering systems and pest control, this futuristic method has surpassed its previous form of being too expensive and complex.

Vertical Farming

Through the current transitions made toward maximizing agricultural use of AI, farming today has already begun employing drones and smart robots to remove weeds or spread herbicides efficiently. Greenfield Robotics had already released different functional fleets active in certain farms. Now, Plenty utilizes similar technologies with robots harvesting and organizing plants in the vertical farming stations. Fundamentals such as water, temperature and light are systematically calculated and regulated through smart systems that prioritize a greater, faster and better crop turnout.

Benefits of AI-Run Vertical Farming

Through artificial intelligence, farmers are now able to adopt a more eco-friendly methodology. Robots and machine learning promote certain technologies such as tracking soil composition, moisture content, crop humidity and optimal crop temperatures. Despite the previous vertical farming history and cost-benefit analysis, modern-day AI-run vertical farming allows certain resources to be recycled, controlled and reused. This can be seen in AI-run water filtration systems that catch evaporated water from the farms or indoor energy renewal systems.

Alleviating Agricultural Issues

These innovations alleviate many issues that arise in agriculture and distribution. The most notable feat is the space that vertical farming saves in comparison to traditional farmland regions. Plenty’s vertical farm covers two acres and yields similar, if not better, harvest and product quality to that of a 750-acre flat farm. Plenty’s website expresses its greatest feat yet: “Imagine a 1,500-acre farm. Now imagine that fitting inside your favorite grocery store, growing up to 350 times more.”

Plenty also points out the freedom AI-run vertical farming brings to agriculture today. By being independent and self-sufficient with consistent sunlight, recycled water and a controlled environment, farming is no longer restricted to natural inconsistencies. Climate change and weather patterns do not determine the outcome of the produce, due to this new ability to control the necessary components to production. In light of COVID-19 and wildfires that breakdown supply chains, this factor prevents unprecedented shutdowns of essential services in agriculture.

AI-run vertical farming allows farms to exist within metropolitan sectors instead of weather-dependent regions. By having a closer source, distribution is more efficient leading to less CO2 emissions and dependency on preservatives. This method also allows cost reduction, since transportation, product cost and labor are reduced, which allows impoverished communities access to better produce.

The Future of AI-Run Vertical Farming

All things considered, this new innovative alternative brings a cleaner and more sustainable future for agriculture, whether it be in produce quality or carbon footprint. With Plenty’s ongoing environmental adjustments and technological updates, the organization continues to expand its service, with a $400 million investment capital from Softbank, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt. Plenty has also partnered with Albertsons to supply 430 stores in California.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Harmless HarvestHarmless Harvest is an organic coconut brand that guarantees nonpesticide, chemical or GMO supplements in its young Nam Hom coconuts, harvested from Thailand. Known to be the first brand to introduce non-thermally pasteurized coconut water in the United States, its mission is to “create remarkable coconut products through sustainable farming practices while having a positive community impact,” says Harmless Harvest CEO, Ben Mand. Utilizing organic-certified Nam Hom coconut farms, Harmless Harvest ensures growing coconuts without “persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge.”

Fair Wages for Workers

In addition to its commitment to clean practices and natural coconut products, Harmless Harvest guarantees social accountability through its Fair for Life certification. Fair for Life certification demonstrates the organization’s efforts to provide fair wages for its workers in Thailand. Fair for Life advocates for financial resiliency for all its workers and reallocates funds to support communities of farmers to found mobile health clinics and provide dental checks and water filtration systems. The certification promises social responsibility and fair trade to all the people involved in the production, which starts with farmers that harvest in the very beginning to the consumers that take home the products. 

Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP)

In December 2020, Harmless Harvest announced its partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to introduce a new agricultural project called the Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP). This project aims to ensure a sustainable farming model with innovative coconut harvesting and the training of farmers to maximize their overall productivity. With plans to implement new regenerative farming methodology and agricultural management training for Thailand farmers, ReCAP considers many aspects of the harvesting process other than just the coconut’s quality.

Sustainable Farming and Education for Farmers

The main aspect of the project is to reinvent coconut farming and produce more eco-friendly efficiency. Harmless Harvest aims to implement new sustainable coconut harvesting practices by utilizing cover crops, which then increases the soil’s water absorption and reduces soil erosion during heavy rainfall. Other methods such as intercropping, bee-keeping and organic inputs were included in the coconut farm regeneration in efforts to promote clean farming.

The project also seeks to provide farmers with education in farm management and innovative agricultural practices that target longevity and resistance against climate change. By teaching farmers new strategies to increase biodiversity and resilience, sustainable coconut harvesting becomes a stepping stone to transitioning modern farming to regenerative agriculture. The brand’s overall goal is to rediscover a more environmentally sustainable and resistant farming methodology while also promoting farmers’ wages by the end of 2023.

Addressing Poverty Through Coconut Farming

Harmless Harvest’s project ReCAP shifts the coconut industry and other farm-dependent brands away from chemical-laden monoculture crop farming, which is susceptible to climate change and is inefficient environmentally. The project alleviates ecological stress and utilizes a more efficient system of production, which corresponds with Harmless Harvest’s overall mission of ethical practices. ReCAP seeks to encourage new methods of sustainable coconut harvesting and aims to increase the income of farmers by 10% or more by the end of 2023. From celebrating zero coconut waste in September 2020 to up-cycling and utilizing all parts of the coconut up to the husk, the brand continues to introduce techniques to better the planet and help farmers lift themselves out of poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Snack Against Hunger and PovertyPeople can often feel hopeless nowadays when addressing global poverty and hunger on a personal level. One can only donate so many times before it feels pointless. For decades there was a decrease in poverty and hunger all around the world. However, with the pandemic in full force, the numbers are once again increasing.

So what should can each individual consumer do to help those in need and bring these statistics down? They must change daily patterns, so nearly all of their “normal” actions start benefitting someone else. One way is to switch up the food consumers eat. Many brands in a variety of food categories use their profits to fight global poverty and hunger. Switching to one of these brands allows people to effectively snack against hunger and poverty. Below are just a few of the brands aiding in poverty and hunger-reduction.

1. Bobo’s

Bobo’s donates their profits from selling oat-based products to eight organizations. Two of the organizations focus on food security in the U.S. (Community Food Share and Conscious Alliance), and one nonprofit provides housing for low-income families (Habitat for Humanity). Get in a dose of nutritious oats to snack against hunger and poverty.

2. This Saves Lives

This Saves Lives has something for everyone. They have 10 different flavor options, a variety of kid’s options and five types of crispy treats. For each purchase, This Saves Lives provides a calorie-dense packet of paste filled with nutrients to a child in need. So far, over 24 million packets have been sent out!

3. Barnana

Barnana is a company that produces plantain-based chips in normal chip form, tortilla style and flavor bites. All consumers can find a chip that will satisfy whether that’s salty or sweet. The plantains used for the chips are upcycled from those that were deemed not perfect enough for mainstream market standards. By upcycling the produce, Barnana fights food waste and secures extra income for small scale farmers that depend on every sale.

4. Project 7

Project 7 is a healthy candy brand that makes gummies, lollipops and everything in between. They partner with nonprofits to help the seven areas of need: healing, saving, housing, food, drink, teaching and hope. Make chewing a life-giving activity and snack against hunger and poverty.

5. Beanfields

Beanfields is another company that creates chips both sweet and salty, similar to Barnana. The company — centered in a kitchen and not a boardroom — cooks up a variety of bean-based tortilla chips and cracklings. They get creative by producing an environment-conscious snack while also supporting people in need. Beanfields partners with Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps ex-gang members find peace and stability in their new lives. Homeboy Industries partners with many nonprofits fighting hunger and poverty that provide ex-offenders jobs and a sense of community.

Buying snacks and snacking are often mindless activities. Helping people should have that same ease and it does. Yet, it often falls on the back burner and gets forgotten. Buying from companies donating to those in need is one easy solution. People can enjoy their favorite foods in a more effective way. Why just snack when one can snack against hunger and poverty?

Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

DouglaPrieta Works
In many cases of migration, dangers from gangs and community violence force people to leave their homes. Migrants also tend to flee because of economic challenges and persecution. A few women in Mexico who were part of these forced removals did not want to move to a new country. It was important for these women to stay where their families, cultures and traditions existed despite difficulties like finding sustainable jobs in Mexico. As a result, they decided to move to Agua Prieta, Mexico and become a part of the family at DouglaPrieta Works.

The Beginning

DouglaPrieta Work is a self-help organization that women founded to help the poor. Specifically, the founders had the dream of procuring the means to stay in their home country through the creation of a self-sufficiency co-op. To fund this, the women sell handmade goods such as reusable bags, earrings, winter accessories, dolls and more. They sell these beautiful crafts throughout Agua Prieta, neighboring cities and even in the United States. Their efforts all center back to the main goal of promoting “a mutual-aid ethic among community members, with the goal of economic self-sufficiency.”

How it Works

The first step in economic security is education. The women at DouglaPrieta Works understand this and all self-teach. They work together to learn how to sew, knit, craft, cook and read. The women utilize these skills to then sustain themselves, their families and the co-op. To further support themselves, the group incorporated a farm next to their co-op. They use the fruits and vegetables they grow for cooking. The women encourage sustainable food security through culturally-appropriate foods based on the needs of the people in their community. The group also built a woodshop to craft furniture for the community to maximize the benefits of their surrounding resources. The co-op does not exclude the children in all of this work either. Oftentimes, their children learn the skills along with them and work with each other in school.

Actions

In 2019, they led an initiative where people in their town could donate canned goods and receive a handmade reusable bag in return. This program allowed the women of DouglaPrieta Works able to donate hundreds of canned goods to those in need. Additionally, they were able to provide reusable bags to the community in order to encourage limited plastic bag use to better the environment.

DouglaPrieta Works often provides migrants working at its co-op with funds to help them and their families survive the journey of migration. There is a nearby migrant shelter in Agua Prieta, C.A.M.E, to house the travelers. While at the co-op, many migrants work in the woodshop at AguaPrieta Works in exchange for meals, funds and friendship.

Students and groups interested in learning about the U.S./Mexico border are welcome to join the women at DouglaPrieta Works for a meal, as the women provide stories and information about the border. The power of education and inclusivity is a core value at DouglaPrieta Works.

Helping Out

Overall, incredible work is occurring in the town of Agua Prieta, Mexico. These women are sustaining themselves to stay in the country they call home and they are providing food, resources and work for migrants. Their children are able to learn and grow together, as well as eat healthy, organic meals from the garden. To learn more about the co-op, visit its website.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Burkina Faso
The culturally vibrant Western African country of Burkina Faso sits landlocked, with a population of around 20 million people. According to the human capital index, the nation ranks 144 out of 157 countries firmly placing it in the lowest category of human development. Furthermore, 40.1% of the population is living below the poverty line. Despite facing many developmental challenges, a remarkable agricultural renaissance has been quietly taking place leading to a re-greening effect and encouraging innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso.

Innovative Farming Methods in Burkina Faso

Over the past three decades, farmers in Burkina Faso have introduced new and innovative methods to traditional farming techniques which have achieved stunning results. The practices have reclaimed 200,000-300,000 hectares of land and enable the annual production of “an additional 80,000 tons of food,” helping 500,000 people become food secure. One should not understate this as agriculture sits at the heart of the nation’s economy accounting for 35% of GDP and employing 85% of the population.

For decades, farmers faced challenges with poor soil, lack of water, population growth and soil degradation. However, poverty eradication in Burkina Faso occurred by individual farmers and NGOs, such as the AVAPAS project, ingeniously mixing traditional farming methods with new techniques.

Yacouba Sawadogo’s Influence

As an early proponent and pioneer of these innovative farming practices known locally as zaï, people dubbed the humble farmer named Yacouba Sawadogo, “the man who stopped the desert.” Over the past three decades, Yacouba and a network of farmers alike transformed massive amounts of arid, non-arable land into thriving productive farmland suitable for productive agriculture.

Zaï is the name for a farming technique in which farmers dig planting for the purpose of placing crops and plants. Historically, farmers did this a small scale and faced productivity issues due to a lack of rainwater. Innovations such as the application of organic fertilizers and the introduction of “mechanized” zaï, in which farmers use small machines or draft animals to reduce labor, helped these productivity issues. Additionally, farmers constructed Contour bunds, or semi-permeable barriers, slowing down water run-off and increasing absorption and soil moisture retention. Lastly, the application and construction of a certain type of ditch called Demi-lunes helped collect and provide precious rainwater and retain run-off.

The results of Yacouba’s agricultural revolution have not gone unnoticed. An Oxfam International Library case study concluded that what farmers have achieved in Burkina Faso is “the greatest agroecological success story in Africa, and perhaps anywhere.”

The Results

Through these innovative farming efforts, farmland productivity and yield increased. While yields remained stagnant from the 1960s through the 1980s, the widespread use of agroecological farming techniques improved Burkina Faso’s agricultural productivity and led to higher yields since the 1990s.

Average yields in sorghum and millet in the Yatenga province of Burkina Faso, that utilized these farming techniques, increased their average yield from 694 kg/hectare and 473 kg/hectare in 1984–1988 to 733 kg/hectare and 688 kg/hectare, respectively from 1995–2001 after applying improved farming techniques. Furthermore, the hunger gap reduced by as much as 50% since the 1980s by reducing food shortages and increasing food security.

The use of improved farming techniques has also shown the ability to increase household incomes by an average of 18-24%, and investments in mechanized zaï can yield a return of 150,000 CFA/hectare per year.

Looking Forward

Many additional innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso are necessary outside of the agricultural sector and Burkina Faso, unfortunately, remains one of the most poverty-stricken nations in the world. However, one can learn a lot from the innovations in poverty eradication in Burkina Faso, especially as the effects of the environment will continue to put stress on countries who face similar agricultural challenges. Several studies from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment to the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, point to the need for an increase in sustainable agriculture to reduce land degradation, hunger and poverty.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr