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

Timberland and the SFA

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

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

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

The SFA and Reforestation in Haiti

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

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

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

Tree Currency and Reforestation

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

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

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

New Hope in Hait

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

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

Keira Charles

Photo: Timberland

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Cocoa Farming
The Hershey Company is committed to achieving its goal of 100 percent sustainable cocoa farming by 2020, investing in two programs targeting small farmers and poverty in West Africa.

Learn To Grow Cocoa

The focus of this program — launched in 2012 — is to help farmers in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire increase their productivity and improve their livelihoods. Currently, poverty rates in Nigeria are rising while Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are not on target to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

In West Africa, where about 70 percent of cocoa is grown, most cocoa farms are only about two to four hectares in size. The Learn To Grow program empowers farmers by teaching them environmental, social and sustainable agricultural practices. Through Learn To Grow, Hershey offers a three-year training program that “can lead to UTZ certification as producers of sustainable cocoa.”

Farmers who meet the certification requirements will receive premium payments for their cocoa yields, providing a considerable boost in income. The program also provides greater opportunities for their communities to thrive as it, “encourages women and young cocoa farmers to take leadership roles in farmer organizations by leveraging training and knowledge sharing.”

One of the key features of the Learn To Grow Program is called CocoaLink. This is a mobile phone service that connects even the most rural farmers in West Africa. It shares practical information with these farmers, including things such as farm safety, information on good fertilization practices, pest and disease prevention, post-harvest marketing and more.

Learn To Grow also has plans to distribute 1 million higher yielding, drought and disease resistant cocoa trees to West African farmers.

Cocoa For Good

In April of 2018, The Hershey Company launched Cocoa For Good, pledging $500 million by 2030 to support farming communities. This initiative aims to help all cocoa-growing communities, with a focus on West Africa. The initiative targets four key areas:

  • Nourishing Families. People are most productive when they are healthy, and the Hershey Company provides increased access to good nutrition, enabling children to be more successful in school and adults to be more successful in their jobs. Of note, every day, 50,000 children in Ghana receive ViVi, a nut-based healthy snack, provided through the Hershey Energize Learning program.
  • Elevating Youth. Child labor is a side effect of poverty in West Africa, and children aged 14-17 are at the most risk. Hershey currently targets child labor by increasing access to educational opportunities for the most vulnerable children. So far, the company has built five schools and supported 31 education institutions.
  • Prospering Communities. The Hershey Company is investing in programs that support women farmers who make up 45 percent of the cocoa farming industry in West Africa.
  • Preserving Ecosystems. The Hershey Company encourages the use of sustainable agricultural techniques such as shade-grown cocoa farming in order to preserve the environment for future generations.

The Hershey Company recognizes its important role in the cocoa value chain and has repeatedly shown its commitment to improving sustainable cocoa farming practices, especially in West Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

mangroves
Yelibuya, an island in Sierra Leone, provides a case study of mangroves and their importance to life in marine areas. The coastline sinks further into the ocean year by year as a direct result of the high proportion of the diminishing mangroves that buoy Yelibuya. Many community elders and members are aware of the necessity to maintain the trees. In efforts to find a way to save the mangroves, new ideas on sustainable farming are being implemented throughout the country.

The Dangers of Losing the Mangroves

The ocean is starting to swallow Yelibuya like a fish swallows a lure. As the essential mangrove trees disappear from deforestation, the island seems to be sinking into the ocean, causing further erosion. Fresh food and water are imported, but because of its location near Sierra Leone’s capital, its main profit for Yelibuya comes from fish, salt and rice farming.

Over-harvested or dying trees means the soil, which was once reinforced by mangrove roots, is beginning to crumble away, leading to landslides and the destruction of homes and the shoreline. Elders in the central town of Yelibuya estimate that they have lost 300 meters of coastline over the last 30 years. Many of the inhabitants would leave if they could, but they cannot abandon their families or businesses.

As the island sinks, the tides rise and erode groves of trees, making it difficult for more trees to grow. A disaster in 2017, the Freetown landslide, wiped out many homes and killed more than 1,000 people. The primary protection against rising ocean is Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves, which also double as the main source for heat and fuel since Yelibuya possesses no alternative fuel.

Solutions to preserve Sierra Leone’s dying Mangroves

Over the last 30 years, the size of global mangrove forests in hectares had decreased from 167,700 to 100,000 as of 2005. As more renewable energy and alternative farming options become available, however, this number can turn around. In fact, the rate of deforestation had already decreased from the 1990s compared to the 1980s.

Recent projects introduced by a branch of USAID in West Africa partnered with rice farmers to integrate mangroves into their fields (agro-silviculture) instead of cutting down trees to build fences. Though the plan was met with apprehension by some community members, many were excited by the idea of not harvesting trees each year. In 2017, 55 percent of farmer pledged to use agro-silviculture in their rice farms. As of June 2018, the selected areas for the rice agro-silviculture case study in Sierra Leone are reaping the benefits of healthier lands from preventing soil erosion.

Increasing Sustainability

The Ramsar Convention on Biological Diversity is an inter-governmental treaty studying ways to improve the coastline biodiversity and poverty reduction in Sierra Leone. Ramsar is looking into work on water policies and other strategies in the country, such as sustainable development, energy, poverty reduction and food security. It is working to develop and integrate programs such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Sierra Leone’s Vision 2025 and the Food Security Framework that directly link poverty and its effect on the environment.

In 2000, when Sierra Leone officially contracted with Ramsar, it was believed that “traditional fishing and agro-forestry for fuelwood can be sustainably managed in collaboration with an existing EU-funded Artisanal Fishing Community Development Program.” The goals of the convention are to promote sustainability in coastline development, poverty reduction and the introduction of alternative fuels. All of these goals would contribute to the preservation of Sierra Leone’s dying mangroves.

Maintaining Sustainability

A report released in 2016 shows that 1 percent of the mangroves in Sierra Leone Coastal landscape disappear each year. It is essential to find alternative fuels so that Yelibuya’s inhabitants can support the growth of the mangroves rather than depend on them for firewood too. Many other communities found ways to introduce new methods of fueling and construction, and the availability of these new methods for Yelibuya will determine its adaption to using mangroves as environmental protection rather than fuel.

Overall, Sierra Leone recognizes the wetland and mangrove crisis, and many inhabitants show eagerness to adopt new mangrove-friendly fuel options. The magnitude of Yelibuya’s sinking problem illustrates a connection between poverty and the inaccessibility of alternative fuels and how these two problems impact the land and marine life. Hopefully, as awareness spreads and new methods are adopted, the roots of mangroves will grow to sustain the buoyant communities that depend on these trees.

Hannah Peterson

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Nigeria
The country of Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea on the western side of Africa. Two major rivers run through the country. The Benue River is located on the east and it flows into the western river, the Niger River. With two large rivers flowing through their sub-Sharan climate, one might presume that agriculture would be a major source of income for the country. However, this is yet not the case.

Agriculture in Nigeria

Agriculture and, more recently, sustainable agriculture in Nigeria is an industry that employs most of the country’s population. The number of people employed in this sector is around 70 percent. However, it only makes up 22 percent of the nation’s GDP. This is indicated mostly through Nigeria’s unemployment rate that sits at 70 percent. Things may change soon. Various initiatives, speeches, articles and organizations in Nigeria all point to a bright future for sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and especially the future for the younger generations working for it.

Ade Adefeko’s Speech

In 2018, Ade Adefeko gave a speech to the Franco-Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an economic body set-up to aid business relations between ex-French colonies and France. Adefeko, who is currently Head of Corporate and Government Relations at OLAM Nigeria, outlined many important factors that hinder the growth of sustainable agriculture in Nigeria. He pointed especially to a lack of government funding. The funding has lowered down to just 1 percent of the total budget in 2018 from previously recorded 5 percent in 2008.

He also blames the lack of mechanization and techniques. Techniques are especially important for sustainable agriculture. Access to irrigation system is very hard for small farmers in Nigeria. This is rather odd having in mind that there is plenty of water from Nigeria’s rivers. To simplify his solution for the problem in two parts, Ade Adefeko would like to see a streamlined approach of land and water distribution from the government.

OLAM’s Role in Sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria

He would also like to see his employer OLAM, an international agricultural organization that supports sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and all around the globe, take even more active role in aiding Nigeria’s government and people. He would like to see OLAM continue to help the government store any excess crop yield. The other part of his suggestion is educating farmers so that they are more productive and can sell their crops more efficiently. Ade Adefeko and OLAM are not the only ones who see education of the population as the best way to understand the importance of sustainable agriculture in Nigeria and to provide solutions for this issue.

YISA and its Mission

The Youth Initiative for Sustainable Agriculture (YISA) Nigeria is taking a very active role in helping men, women, children and senior citizens to become better acquainted with sustainable agriculture. YISA’s mission is to take sustainable agriculture to the next step and to make it profitable. The organization’s goal is to make students of agriculture in Nigeria business savvy. They also want to rebrand agriculture and make it a popular and productive vocation. YISA runs five major programs that push this agenda in Nigeria. These programmes are designed to educate, corrects, encourage, inspire and motivate young people.

The push for sustainable Agriculture in Nigeria may eventually find itself at the precipice of an important decision. Should the people use the new found power for the country, keeping it home and small, or do they give it completely to large agriculture firms? Both of these choices have positives and negatives. The important thing is that sustainable agriculture in Nigeria can become so successful that it can make that choice for itself one day.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

agriculture in Senegal
The story of sustainable agriculture in Senegal is one of success that should be used as a guide for other countries. Between 1960 and the early 1980s, Senegal used monocropping, a dangerous practice where only one crop is grown year after year, leaching more and more nutrients from the ground. This eventually left the soil void of essential nutrients. When the area was hit by drought in the early 1980s, the land was unable to cope, and the country suffered from food shortages. However, over the last 20 years, Senegal has been using sustainable agriculture to bring back fertility to the soil.

In 1989, the United States government began working with Rodale International to come up with a plan to restore the soil. The plan was to use crop rotation. Every three years, one of four different plants would be sown in the soil. Each plant would only take certain nutrients from the ground and replace others. One of these plants was peanuts, the plant that caused the problem in the first place, and the second was millet. Both are now the main agricultural exports of Senegal. The other two crops in rotation are cowpeas and cassava.

The International Production and Pest Management Program

The United States and international companies are not the only organizations helping improve sustainable agriculture in Senegal. Senegal has been part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) IPPM program since 2001. The IPPM (Integrated Production and Pest Management Program) is dedicated to responsible pest control practices. The program touches on many points to control pests; however, its most important lesson is the responsible use of pesticides.

Pesticides remain a continuous problem in Senegal and most of the world due to their overuse. Pesticides stay in the water table, contaminating drinking water. They also hurt the soil since the chemicals build up over time and stay on the crops. When consumed pesticides are harmful to humans and animals. This is not to say that they are not sometimes necessary, but the IPPM suggests a less-is-more approach.

Syngenta

Private foundations are also doing their part. Syngenta, a Swiss-based based agricultural firm, has a foundation called the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The foundation works with public and private sector partners in order to finance innovations in sustainable agriculture. They also work with the World Bank, USAID and both the Swiss and Australian governments.

Since 2014, Syngenta has been promoting sustainable agriculture in Senegal’s rice production. In 2015, the organization began helping farmers gain access to better-mechanized equipment to facilitate rice cultivation in the Senegal River Valley. The overall approach of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is to work with the entire system. The work with NGO’s and governments to help small farmers become more productive has helped to increase the economic benefit of sustainable farming practices. It also helps the farmers better feed themselves and their families.

Improving the Economy Through Sustainable Agriculture

The soil is becoming productive again, and farmers are gaining access to better techniques and equipment. However, the fight is not over. Senegal suffers from an unemployment rate of 47 percent. In 2017, the agricultural industry employed 77 percent of the population in Senegal, an estimated 6.9 million people. However, the agriculture industry only makes up only about 17 percent of the of the country’s GDP. The next step to better economic stability will be to tackle these issues. Hopefully, like its soil, the Senegalese economy will now rejuvenate and grow for all.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Seed Banks Can Help Impoverished Areas
The way that humans have evolved and adapted to changing climates have all been surrounding our food. Today, although it may seem that there is an abundance of food, in reality, it is scarce. In our world, 812 million people face hunger and malnutrition every day for countless reasons.

Working to fight world hunger and continue to adapt to a changing environment are top priorities to ensure that the human species continue to thrive. Through agricultural education, environmental conservation and the efforts of seed banks we can alleviate the issue of world hunger.

Definition of Seed Banks

Before getting into how seed banks can help impoverished areas, their definition needs to be established. A seed bank is essentially a gene bank for seeds. They are created in order to prepare for natural disaster and climate changes. By taking seeds from all different plant variations these banks aim to preserve the biodiversity that the world currently has. There are currently more than 1,000 seed banks worldwide established, ranging from the Doomsday Vault that is capable of withstanding being bombed to the small craft container.

The Importance of Seed Banks

Seed banks are mainly a preventative measure in the case that something goes horribly wrong. They are created for the chance of natural disasters, nuclear fallouts and outbreaks of disease. The industrialization of agriculture has made our crops less genetically diverse, and therefore less able to adapt to their surroundings. Seed banks preserve the genetic diversity of the plants in the world. This means that plants designed for different climates will not go extinct as the world’s ecosystem changes.

Location of Seed Banks

Seed banks are located everywhere. In the United States, there are 20 registered seed banks alone. These seed banks are also essentially ensured since there are backup collections of all seeds at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Colorado. Worldwide, there are more than 1,000 seed banks in place. The largest seed bank is Svalbard International Seed Vault. It is nicknamed the Doomsday Vault. It’s located on the side of a mountain in Norway. It is able to survive bombings, earthquakes and other disasters. It holds 825,000 seed varieties currently, and, even if the power goes out, the vault has the ability to store them for up to 25 years. Seed banks come in all shapes and sizes though. There are many large seed banks on each continent, but individual states and communities also have created smaller seed banks.

Everyone Can Participate

Everybody can create its own seed bank. It is as simple as taking the seeds from the produce and freezing them in a little container for later use. People can also take seeds and donate them to help fight world hunger and feed families across the globe. Organizations like Seeds to the World, Seeds of Peace and Seed Global Health all accept donations of seeds from the produce people eat every day as well as prepackaged seeds. There are also many nongovernmental organizations that support the production of community seed banks worldwide, including the Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development (LI-BIRD). This organization supports the efforts of local farmers in impoverished areas to overcome the lack of agricultural diversity.

With the rise of genetically modified plants and climate changes people all across the globe face issues related to agriculture and food production. Seed banks can aid areas that are most affected by hunger by ensuring the conservation of local crops that are already adapted to the region and reviving the use of specific plants to provide agricultural stability.

– Emily Triolet

Photo: Flickr

Rural Development in Guatemala
According to the CIA, 79 percent of Guatemala’s indigenous population lives under the poverty line. Guatemala suffers high rates of malnutrition that are disproportionately experienced among indigenous, Mayan communities. One organization, Qachuu Aloom, is working to improve conditions for Mayan communities by empowering Mayan women to spearhead rural development in Guatemala.

A History of Farming in Guatemala

Ending in 1996, Guatemala’s civil war lasted for 36 years. A report by the United Nations-backed truth commission found that Guatemalan security officials committed multiple acts of genocide against the Mayan population. More than 200,000 people died during the civil war, 83 percent of which were Mayan citizens. Mayan villages and families were torn apart, and Mayan corn plots and gardens were destroyed by the Guatemalan military.

In the years following the end of the civil war, agricultural development projects carpeted the area, distributing a development model that disseminated American and European hybrid seeds. The foreign development projects introduced high-input agriculture, requiring chemicals, fertilizers and expensive hybrid seeds. These projects were rarely successful in rural villages because the farmers could not save seeds from the hybrids and were instead forced to buy new seeds after every harvest, which were they could not afford.

The introduction of modern agriculture to Guatemala brought the accelerated loss of native seeds. Farmers were no longer applying organic fertilizer but using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This practice not only damaged good soil but also translated to a loss of identity, knowledge and heritage for the Mayan people. It has also been the antagonist that has kept Mayan communities in poverty.

In 2013, stunting due to malnutrition was rampant in rural areas, with some Mayan communities experiencing rates as high as 75 percent. The life expectancy in indigenous Mayan communities is shorter than in other communities in the country by 13 years, with an infant mortality rate is more than doubled. Poverty affects indigenous Mayan women even greater. Mayan women have limited access to health facilities and proper healthcare, which explains the high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The maternal mortality rate among Mayan women is estimated to be five times the national average at 190 women out of 100,000 live births.

Qachuu Aloom in Guatemala

For the last 15 years, the organization Qachuu Aloom (The Garden’s Edge) has been working with farmers from 25 Maya Achí communities in Guatemala. Out of Qachuu Aloom’s 500 associated members, 80 percent are women. Qachuu Aloom positions women in leadership roles, making Mayan women the spearhead for rural development in Guatemala. Qachuu Aloom was established to help families rebuild their lives after decades of civil war.

More than 60 percent of the people living in the Qachuu Aloom partnered communities are rural workers and producers. Qachuu Aloom has set up networks to improve the commercialization of organic products and medicinal plants so that its members can increase their economic health. In the gardens, members produce amaranth flour, pigeon pea flour and salted squash. The products give members an alternative income stream so they can reinvest in their communities, farms and families. Qachuu Aloom also couples its development measures with the preservation of native seeds. The organization built a seed bank in the municipality of Rabinal that ensures food sovereignty, promotes ancient ancestral knowledge and contributes to food security for its members.

Mil Milagros in Guatemala

Mil Milagros, another community-led development organization, has been empowering Mayan women to be the spearheads for rural development in Guatemala. Since its inception in 2007, Mil Milagros has been equipping mothers and teachers with skills and resources to improve the lives of children and families in rural Guatemala. In regions of Guatemala where primary school completion was as low as 40 percent, Mil Milagros partner schools have raised this percentage up to 97 percent. The organization has also helped combat malnutrition. Through Early Childhood Development workshops and by providing nutritional supplements and vitamins to Mil Milagros mothers, malnutrition has decreased by half.

Development projects that enlist women as the agent of change and power are successful in rural regions because when women are given opportunities to extend their economic margins, that money gets reinvested in their children, their household, and their community. Organizations like Qachuu Aloom and Mil Milagros recognize women’s potential and work to empower Mayan women to be the spearheads for rural development in Guatemala.

Sasha Kramer
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in ghana
Ghana is a small country located in West Africa along the Guinea Bay. The country is rich in natural resources, especially oil and gold, but nearly 45 percent of the country’s population is employed in the agricultural sector and agriculture makes up 18 percent of Ghana’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Coca, rice, cassava, peanuts, and bananas are some of the top agricultural products grown in Ghana. Coca is one of the country’s popular exports, alongside oil, gold and timber. Despite being resource-rich, Ghana’s economy has been contracting. Its current growth is around negative 6 percent. Countries and organizations around the world, alongside Ghana’s government and people, have recognized this problem and are currently promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana so that they can carve a brighter future for this recovering African nation.

Feed the Future Program

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has chosen Ghana, specifically Northern Ghana, as one of its focus nations for its Feed the Future Program. USAID reports that the majority of farmers in this part of the country own small farms that are often less than five acres. Much of this land is covered in pour soil. Due to climate change and the inherent climate of the region, rain is unpredictable.

These challenges mean that malnutrition is high amongst the population. USAID’s Feed the Future Program aims to increase the productivity of these farms that mainly produce corn, rice and soybeans and promote sustainable agriculture in Ghana. Since 2012, Feed the Future has helped supply 156 thousand producers with better farming equipment and educate them on sustainable farming techniques. These techniques have led to the alleviation of some of the malnutrition and poverty issues. They also earned the farmers a total of $40 million and $16 million in private investment.

Governments Role in Sustainable Agriculture in Ghana

This private investment is important to the government’s idea for the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana. The Ghanaian Times reports that the government of Ghana recognizes the United Nation’s latest report about the future of food security. The government wants to do its part on the world stage and at home by promoting sustainable agriculture in Ghana.

Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda mention a few ways in which the country plans to do this. The government works with organizations such as the USAID and many programs based in Africa, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. Sustainable agriculture in Ghana is seen as a way to strengthen food security, alleviate poverty in the country and promote private sector growth.

Trax Ghana

Trax Ghana is a small nongovernmental organization that promotes sustainable agriculture in Ghana for all of the reasons mentioned above. Like the USAID Feed the Future Program, Trax Ghana operates mainly in Northern Ghana. It promotes the nitty-gritty of sustainable agriculture. It teaches farmers about the importance of soil management and how to construct proper animal pens. The organization also promote gender equality, teach business skills and farming skills to both women and men for over 25 years, since the organization was founded.

Attacking the issue of poverty from multiple fronts and with multiple allies, the future of sustainable agriculture in Ghana looks bright. Ghana’s government is in collaboration with USAID to set up the Ghana Comprehensive Agriculture Project to increase private sector investment into the agriculture sector. It will take time and there will probably be some setbacks, but with so many people dedicated the practicing and promoting the practice of sustainable agriculture, the country has a good chance of succeeding.

– Nicholas DeMarco

Photo: Flickr


For decades, the Chilean government has worked hard to promote sustainable agricultural practices. These practices began through joint programs with United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the 1980s, when both the government and farmers realized that growing organic crops will yield both better food products and higher profits as well.

The government also worked with the Government of the United States in buying more efficient and organic fertilizers and pesticides. Modern programs promoted by the Chilean government through their agricultural bureau have helped to grow the agriculture sector by about 3 percent in 2017, which was twice the growth of the nation’s GDP. By 2020, the Chilean government aims to be in the world’s top 10 list of food producers. Sustainable wine production in Chile will help them get there.

Wine Production in Chile

The agriculture sector in Chile employs about 800,000 people or just over 4 percent of the population. Out of the total agro-forestry exports, wine makes 2.9 percent. The majority of the wine production in Chile comes from small and medium-sized farms that are spread up and down the country. In 2009, Chile was ranked 5th in the world in wine exportation and 7th in wine production. This ranking has stayed relatively stable for the past decade.

Chilean wine is world renown for its quality. Because of this fact, it has also brought in much foreign investment and tourism. Modern-day investors see a stable and ever-growing market to invest in, while tourists see a beautiful country made better by great wine.

Wines of Chile

The secret of the wine production in Chile is two-fold. One is certainly the Chilean climate that helps to reduce the need for harmful pesticides since it is difficult for certain bacteria and molds to grow. The second is the government support of the sustainability code of the Chilean wine. The code that promotes sustainable wine production in Chile is given to the wine producers by a voluntary organization called Wines of Chile, that now has over 100,000 members. The organization provides uniform quality standards that wineries must meet to receive their stamps of approval.

Wine Standard

The organization Wines of Chile helps wineries organize sustainable wine production in Chile by providing resources to help them earn the standard. A winery can receive three stamps that form a circle when combined. The first stamp is green for the vineyard. To earn this stamp a winery must prove that it is using sustainable methods to both grow and harvest its grapes. The second is orange that accounts for social dimension. A company must show social equality at all levels. The third is red for the process of the winemaking itself. The process includes all facilities and processes for getting the wine to market, such as bottling.

There are a few powerful benefits for receiving three stamps of approval. The first one is that it increases the marketability of the wine. Organic and sustainable labels make the wine more attractive, especially abroad. The second is that the resources available to the wineries allow them to grow and become stable. The third one is that it is great for the environment, that, in the end, allows for better harvests and longer use of the land.

In 2017, Chilean wine exports to China were worth over $250 million and to the United States, total exports were at $246 million. In 2016, Chilean exports totaled $1.8 billion. As sustainable wine production in Chile continues to grow and becomes even more successful, it will surely help Chile reach the much-desired place in the top 10 list of world’s food producers.

– Nick DeMarco


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