Food InsecurityPeru is a country in South America home to some of the world’s natural wonders, such as the Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountains. Thanks to stable economic growth, social initiatives, and investments in health, education and infrastructure, poverty and hunger have significantly decreased in Peru over the last decade. However, according to World Food Program USA (WFP-USA), one in five Peruvians live in a district with high vulnerability to food insecurity. Rural Indigenous populations, representing 52% of Peruvians in poverty, face particular concerns over hunger. Inequalities in lack of access to water and education lead to chronic hunger and malnourishment in these populations. However, Indigenous populations are learning to adapt to food insecurity in the Andes.

Melting Glaciers and Food Insecurity in the Andes

The Andes hold 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers. However, as climate change progresses, many of Peru’s glaciers are melting. This is disastrous for many of the people living in the foothills. These citizens are losing access to clean water, which is essential for drinking and irrigating staple crops and pastures. As the glaciers melt, water cannot run through the cracks of the mountain downhill into the springs for the people to collect. This causes a decline in crop yields and crop diversification, which can lead to food insecurity in the Andes.

“If the snow disappears, the people will disappear too,” says Rev. Antonio Sánchez-Guardamino, a priest in the country’s southern Ocongate District. He continues, “if the snow disappears, we will be left without water. The pastures and the animals will disappear. Everything is interconnected. The problem of the melting of the glaciers is that the source of life is drying up.”

Food insecurity in the Andes is therefore a persistent and serious problem. Many smallholder farmers produce staple crops at a subsistence level, enough to feed themselves and their families. However, with less water, it has been difficult for them to uphold this, leading to the danger of food insecurity.

Adapting to these Changes

As water in the lower regions of the mountains grows scarce, farmers are adapting to keep up with these geographical changes. One way they have adapted is by moving uphill, where water is more abundant but land is more scarce. Moving crops uphill also prevents diseases such as late blight from killing off entire harvests. This helps farmers maintain a sufficient potato yield for their families.

Another way Peruvian farmers have adapted to water scarcity is by revamping ancient agricultural technologies and practices. The use of amunas, for example, is extremely resourceful. These stone-lined canals turn rainwater into drinking water by channeling the rainwater to springs downslope for use. Today, most of these once-widespread canals lie abandoned, but 11 of them still function. They feed 65 active springs and 14 small ponds.

Terracing is another ancient agricultural practice that makes farming on the highlands fruitful. It involves flattening out the rocky terrain into level terraces for plant roots to better grip. In the Andes, this is an increasingly common agricultural practice. Terracing has shown to create sustainable water-drainage systems and successfully produce high yields of crops.

Taking Further Action

From 2007 to 2011, The New Zealand Aid Programme along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiated the FORSANDINO (Strengthening of High-Andean Indigenous Organizations and Recovery of their Traditional Products) project in Huancavelica, Peru. The project aimed to improve food management and development in Indigenous communities. In doing so, it hoped to alleviate food insecurity in the Andes.

Thanks to this initiative, the production of staple crops significantly increased. Indigenous communities produced 329% more quinoa and 100% more potatoes, oca and mashua. Consumption also dramatically increased by 73% for quinoa, 43% for mashua and 64% for oca. In addition, the net annual income per capita increased by 54% for families participating in the project. As a result, the proportion of families living below the poverty line decreased.

As climate change wreaks havoc on the livelihoods of Peruvians, especially farmers in the Andes, they are cultivating a culture of resistance. People are looking to their roots, resources, communities and innate abilities for answers. This restoration work is renewing old technologies that can still help today. Hopefully, the government will also focus more on on meeting the needs of farmers to support their fight against food insecurity in the Andes.

Sarah Uddin
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

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

Plant-based Diets
Around 820 million people face hunger today due to droughts, high food prices, wars and insufficient access to healthy foods. Many vulnerable communities around the globe do not have access to healthy or affordable meats. For some communities, meat is not a cultural staple and is otherwise unattainable. In these cases, some impoverished individuals can focus on plant-based diets as a sustainable agriculture alternative.

7 Quick Global Hunger Facts

  1. According to the World Health Organization, over 820 million people worldwide are currently hungry.
  2. Hunger is defined as having “short-term physical discomfort as a result of chronic food shortage, or in severe cases, a life-threatening lack of food,” according to the National Research Council.
  3. Food insecurity leads to hunger when an individual faces inadequate access to appropriate quantities and qualities of food in the long-term. About 18% of the total global population is food insecure, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
  4. The most food insecure populations are in Africa and Asia, while the least food insecure populations are in North America and Europe, suggesting the most vulnerable communities to food insecurity reside in the poorest countries.
  5. Consistent food insecurity often leads to health conditions like micronutrient deficiency and malnutrition because of unbalanced diets.
  6. Despite huge progress since the announcement of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals in 2000, hunger has started rising again. This results largely from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, as rising hunger numbers have paralleled economic turndowns in countries across the globe.
  7. There are three staple micronutrients that are key for a healthy diet in all bodies, according to the World Health Education Service: iron, vitamin A and iodine. Fifty-four countries have iodine deficiency problems; approximately 250 million children have a vitamin A deficiency around the world; and Anemia (which is caused by iron deficiency) leads to about 20% of all maternal deaths.

Nutritional Facts of Meat and Plant-Based Diets

“Food insecurity is not just about insufficient food production, availability, and intake, it is also about the poor quality or nutritional value of the food,” Former Assistant Director-General of UNESCO Paris, Albert Sasson, said in his 2012 research publication, “Food security for Africa: an urgent global challenge.”

There is no scientific evidence of whether incorporating meats into one’s diet is overall more or less beneficial to one’s nutritional health than consuming only plant-based diets. Many cultures cut out some or all meats, such as Jewish and Muslim communities, while others encourage mainly meat consumption, like the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic. Professor of Nutrition at Texas A&M University and Associate Department Head of Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service Jenna Anding, Ph.D., said in an interview with The Borgen Project that both types of diets have benefits. However, for communities where healthy and affordable meat is unattainable, there are sustainable and healthy alternatives found in plant-based foods. These foods help increase food security.

“Both plant- and animal-derived foods are important to the diets of vulnerable populations,” Anding said. “Plants can provide a source of energy (calories), fiber, and essential nutrients. Foods derived from animals also provide energy, but also protein as well as essential nutrients … such as vitamin B12, selenium and iron needed for growth and development.”

Sustainable Agricultural Practices for Vulnerable Communities

The Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture Office of International Training is a leading U.S.-based agricultural training program that works with developing and middle-income countries. The program provides education and resources on sustainable agriculture to scientists and researchers. Those individuals are then able to share these practices with their home countries and communities.

In 2015, the Borlaug Institute successfully completed the Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets II project, which helped share sustainable agricultural practices with 36 payams in South Sudan. Borlaug scientists focused on growing maize, cassava, groundnuts and beans. These crops are the most sustainable, affordable, accessible and culturally accepted foods available for those communities. Thus, a plant-based diet is the most food-secure option in that particularly vulnerable community.

The African Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) is a global nonprofit corporation that seeks to empower African farmers to choose sustainable agriculture. ASAP works directly with farmers across the continent to educate them on best practices that will increase their profit yields. The best practices will also provide safe and affordable food for the communities.

Through their Zamura Farms Quality Protein project, ASAP has reached approximately 4,000 preschool-aged children in Rwanda by providing one egg per day. They also employ 20 Rwandan women in their Musanze hen farm. This provides them with a steady income in the formal economic sector.

Meats are not always available in vulnerable communities. However, plant-based diets can provide an alternative source of necessary nutrients for food-insecure populations. Some communities will increase food security by focusing on growing only foods for plant-based diets. However, others may find the best option is to raise animals for consumption. It is important for scientists and researchers to continue expanding sustainable agricultural practices across the world. The practices should be tailored to each specific physical and socioeconomic climate in order to achieve zero hunger by 2030.

Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Farming in Developing Countries
About 10,000 years ago, humans were primarily nomadic, wandering the land in search of game and other wild food sources. Gradually, these hunter-gatherer societies settled into sedentary communities. In addition, hunter-gatherer societies cultivated land and domesticated animals. The history of agriculture is in a sense the history of human civilization as the food surplus that farming large quantities of staple grains allowed for steady population growth and the beginnings of urbanization. Through the centuries, humans have continued to innovate agricultural methods, developing new tools and technologies to more efficiently raise crops. Today, sustainable farming is the new workshop of the agricultural invention. Sustainable farming in developing countries is in its early stages but may prove a solution to food scarcity in those nations.

What is Sustainable Farming?

Sustainable farming is not a buzzword, it is a practice. Sustainable agriculture is a science-minded approach to farming, predicated on an awareness of agriculture’s place in the local ecosystem. Moreover, sustainable farmers take a mindful approach to their work, attempting to encourage biodiversity, maintain soil fertility, protect water sources and prevent erosion.

Sustainable Farming in the Developing World

The most obvious benefit that sustainable farming initiatives offer developing nations is the potential to dramatically increase crop yields. A study that the American Chemical Society conducted determined that sustainable farming methods could improve harvests by about 80 percent within four years. As a result, sustainable agriculture incorporates water preservation techniques. It also contributes to water security. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program plans to revamp irrigation and drainage networks across 44,415 hectares of farmland in 12 developing nations.

To be sure, while sustainable farming in developing countries has a lot of advantages, it is not without limitations. Given that most farmers in developing nations operate at a subsistence level, the possibility of long-term gains provided by a shift to sustainable farming might not be enough incentive to change. Additionally, the farmers might not even be aware that sustainable methods exist or have access to guidance in implementing those methods.

Agriculture and Poverty Reduction

Sustainable farming in developing countries provides tangible macroeconomic benefits, including poverty reduction. Research from the World Development Journal found agricultural growth to have two to three times more impact on poverty reduction than equivalent growth in other industries. Moreover, the poorest segment of society reaps the lion’s share of wealth gains from agricultural development.

The OECD organized a research study designed to reveal why certain countries made faster progress than others at poverty reduction. In addition, the study reported to what extent agriculture played a role in this disparity. The results indicate that agriculture may be the key to alleviating poverty. Agriculture revenues contributed an average of 52 percent to poverty reduction in developing countries. Once again, the extremely impoverished benefitted the most. It seems clear that sustainable farming is more than an efficient and environmentally friendly set of agricultural procedures. It is also a path out of poverty.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

World Cocoa FoundationSmall plots of land, unsustainable farming practices, forced child labor, a changing climate and chronic farmer poverty are among the many issues that the cocoa industry faces today. “In Côte d’Ivoire – the world’s largest producer of cocoa – a farmer should earn four times his current income in order to reach the global poverty line of $2 a day,” according to Make Chocolate Fair, an international campaign focused on the fair treatment of cocoa farmers. The World Cocoa Foundation is hoping to make the industry sustainable.

Reasons Behind Issues in the Cocoa Industry

Partly to blame is the common practice of sharecropping. In regions where cocoa is most heavily produced, sharecropping restricts farmers’ ability to significantly alter their land for sustainable use. It disincentivizes farmers to make rehabilitation investments. Moreover, monoculture crops – singular crops produced over a large area of land – inhibit crop diversity and make crops more susceptible to pests and diseases.

According to NPR, high rainfall, lower demand for chocolate and price-fixing have also contributed to a decrease in cocoa prices. This has led to an increase in low wages and high debts for cocoa farmers, resulting in chronic poverty. Charlotte Grant, the Communications and Marketing Manager for the World Cocoa Foundation believes that poverty leads to issues such as child labor and deforestation.

“We fear that the well-being of farmers will not improve unless the cocoa supply chain becomes more sustainable,” said Grant. Without any intervention, the global cocoa industry faces an uncertain and unstable future. Fortunately, the World Cocoa Foundation has given cocoa farmers a sense of renewed hope.

A Rich History

The U.S. chocolate industry created the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) in 1923 to serve cocoa producers by funding research, promoting chocolate consumption and lobbying Congress and government agencies. When the CMA determined a new model for cocoa sustainability was necessary, it formed the International Cocoa Research and Education Foundation in 1995. In 2000, the foundation was renamed the World Cocoa Foundation. Its main focus is on cocoa research and educational programs.

In the late 2000s, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development, WCF began administering large-scale projects that emphasized productivity, higher-wages for farmers, the reduction of child labor, scientific research and community strength. Today, with more than 100 members, the vision of WCF is clear: “A sustainable and thriving cocoa sector – where farmers prosper, cocoa-growing communities are empowered, human rights are respected, and the environment is conserved.”

The Work of WCF

WCF maintains a diverse range of programs across several regions, including program partnerships with other NGOs. Initiatives like CocoaAction, Cocoa and Forests Initiative, Climate Smart Cocoa, Cocoa Livelihoods Program and African Cocoa Initiative II are addressing the specific needs of cocoa-producing communities.

WCF launched the Cocoa Livelihoods Program in 2009. This program works to increase cocoa farmer productivity. Through training and education, CLP advances four primary objectives. It works to advance industry initiatives, provide a “full-package” of services to farmers, promote food crops and empower women.  With more than 15 company partners, CLP serves impacted communities in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.

With the goal of increased stakeholder collaboration, WCF established the CocoaAction initiative in 2014. CocoaAction offers a Monitoring & Evaluation Guide that provides data collection in communities as well as a Community Development Manual. It provides company partners with an outline for the design and implementation necessary for sustainable Cocoa production.

Making Chocolate Sustainable

In 2019, as part of the Cocoa and Forest Initiatives, 34 chocolate companies, along with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, released official action plans detailing the new steps they are taking to address climate change and cocoa sustainability. The initiative aims to end deforestation and replace vegetation in impacted forest areas. The Climate Smart Cocoa initiative acknowledges the impact of climate change on cocoa crops. It seeks to examine better risk and investment strategies to strengthen the global cocoa market.

Partnering with USAID and several private sector partners, the African Cocoa Initiative II emphasizes the importance of economically sustainable and economically viable cocoa production. According to the ACI II annual report, more than “two million smallholder farmers” rely on cocoa farming for income. Therefore, “a healthy and sustainable cocoa industry means opportunity for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the region.”

A Sweet and Sustainable Future

In the past two decades, the World Cocoa Foundation has benefited countless farmers and their communities. Through training, education and community partnerships, WCF continues to strengthen the cocoa industry. By becoming more informed about the issues in the cocoa industry and what is currently being done to resolve them, people can make a difference, according to Grant. It is important to research preferred chocolate manufactures and make sure they are using sustainable, fair trade practices. By getting involved and sharing important information about the cocoa industry, consumers can make a difference in cocoa farmers’ lives.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Technology
Agriculture is a cornerstone of human development and one of the most easily accessible methods of generating food. However, agriculture is also one of the riskiest ways to feed a community due to the unpredictability of the weather and pests that could spontaneously destroy an entire year’s worth of crops. Many countries, like India, struggle to maintain farms due to a lack of water, infrastructure and storage facilities. It is no surprise, then, that experts across the world argue that advancements in agriculture technology could prove invaluable in the fight against poverty due to larger crop yields and more success during harvests. Although no one has found a definitive solution to effectively grow enough food to feed those in poverty, numerous organizations have developed potential solutions to the problems that plague agricultural communities.

5 World Leaders in Agriculture Technology

  1. Farmmi: One organization making efforts in agriculture technology is Farmmi, an agricultural product supplier responsible for most of China’s supply of Shiitake mushrooms and other fungi. Recently, Yefang Zhang, Farmmi’s CEO, announced a partnership with the China Democratic League on Poverty Alleviation Initiative. During this partnership, Farmmi plans to provide new job opportunities for those living in impoverished village communities, give agriculture technology advice to farmers free of charge and sell local agricultural products in Farmmi Stores. Representatives of Farmmi will also meet with the China Democratic League continuously to discuss optimal ways to help poor villages in China with their farming, and ways to implement new action plans for agriculture effectively.
  2. Yunshang Agricultural School: In the Gui’an area of Beijing, China, citizens have a large selection of programs in which they can improve both the dependability of their crops and the amount of food they produce during harvest. One example lies in the Yunshang Agricultural School, an institution to help educate the farmers of the area on scientific planting. In these classes, farmers learn the most optimal ways to grow their crops by planting seeds in different formations or at optimal times. Citizens of the Gui’an area have also been utilizing smartphone technology to monitor their agriculture, like installing cameras to check the growth of greenhouse crops instead of examining them one by one. This education on agriculture and utilization of technology in farming sparked the construction of the Gui’an Agricultural and Tourism Industry Demonstration Park in 2015. This park contains several greenhouses and many different agricultural activities for tourists, including tropical fruit picking halls and a demonstration on smart agriculture, but the biggest impact lies in the park’s efforts to fight poverty. Currently, the Gui’an park is collaborating with 11 villages in the area through the Big Data Agricultural Precision Poverty Alleviation Agreement. With this agreement, the Gui’an Park aims to help poor villages grow high-value crops through the teachings of the Yunshang Agricultural School. As long as the people of the Gui’an area continue to focus on agricultural technology and education, more and more farmers will have the resources necessary to feed the people in their communities.
  3. Internet of Things: As the agriculture technology market grows, so does general interest from corporations. One example is Internet of Things, a tech company that has developed sensors to monitor the soil moisture of crops. These monitors can connect to a smartphone or personal computer, allowing farmers to save time that they would usually spend testing the soil. Internet of Things also plans to provide irrigation sensors and actuators, which will maximize water efficiency with crops. This should ensure that crops never receive too much or too little water, and minimizes water waste. The International Business Machines Corporation predicts that these tools from Internet of Things will improve crop yield by 70 percent by 2050. With these innovations Internet of Things has made a massive advancement in agriculture technology and its application in impoverished areas could prove invaluable in the fight against world hunger.
  4. H2Grow: Established in 2017 as part of the World Food Programme, H2Grow is an agriculture technology organization dedicated to helping poor communities build their own hydroponic systems so that they can grow food in previously barren areas. In areas with little to no soil, like a desert, traditional farming is nearly impossible. Hydroponic farming, however, involves no soil because the farming occurs either entirely in water or with some soil substitute like moss or peat. The removal of soil in the farming process allows the plants to receive their nutrients directly from the water while they grow and generally results in larger, healthier plants. With this practice, H2Grow has helped many communities grow their own food since its inception, sourcing 714 applications for hydroponic farming systems in 2019. As H2Grow installs more and more hydroponic farming systems, the world may see a day when every country has the ability to grow its own food.
  5. GrainMate: Launched in December 2017 by Sesi Technologies, GrainMate is an electronic meter invented to help impoverished farmers and businesses test the moisture levels in their grains. Monitoring the moisture level of grains helps a farm prevent detrimental losses during storage. If a farmer uses GrainMate and finds that his wheat is drying out, he can take the necessary steps to restore the grains to a safe moisture level, preserving them for as long as possible and maximizing the effectiveness of his crop yield. Sesi Technologies has received many orders for GrainMate, like one from Vinmak Farms in Ghana, that stated that its device is a good quality product to use on farms. With GrainMate in its arsenal, the farms of Africa have an advantage in the unpredictable nature of agriculture.

The use of agriculture technology is the most effective way to minimize world hunger. Whether it is a device that monitors the moisture level of crops or an initiative to educate citizens on optimal farming techniques, programs and innovations like these will continue to grow and develop to provide the quickest, cheapest access to food for disadvantaged communities.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Solutions for Indigenous Communities Indigenous communities are pre-colonial societies that are considered ethnically native to a specific region. Recently, such communities have been developing locally sustainable solutions to their regional issues such as poverty, land erosion, unemployment rates, food insecurity, etc. These solutions tend to be nature-based and promote biodiversity and sustainability. Here are five examples of sustainable solutions for indigenous communities.

5 Examples of Sustainable Solutions for Indigenous Communities

  1. Association de Gestion Intégrée des RessourcesAl Hoceima, Morocco
    A group of indigenous people noticed the need for sustainable reform in the fishing methods in their community. The method of dynamite fishing threatened the fish stock and the poaching of osprey nests caused a decrease in the local population. Since then, the community decided to practice legal fishing techniques that do not harm the environment. This switch to sustainable fishing techniques led to a 20 to 30 percent increase in marine resource abundance. It also led to the employment of some 3,000 artisanal fishermen and the complete removal of copper sulfate and dynamite fishing. It also reduced poverty for around 30 percent of the fishermen employed.
  2. TRY Oyster Women’s Association – Banjul, Gambia
    This association achieved many sustainable goals including women’s empowerment, environmental preservation and green trade practices. Around 500 women from 15 different villages practice the trade of oyster harvesting, which they started after learning about environmentally responsible resource management. These women were also educated on microfinance possibilities and received training in small-scale enterprise development. The association also worked with the government to implement policies that positively impact the oyster trade.
  3. The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands in the Heart of Borneo – Malaysia-Indonesia
    This alliance is a trans-border cultural bond that brings together three indigenous communities to preserve culture and biodiversity. The alliance attempts to reap benefits for the local communities who live on the island of Borneo by preserving the environment. The alliance employs a native manner of producing rice by the traditional wet-rice farming system, which was developed over centuries. It also works towards sustainable development through community-based ecotourism, agroforestry and organic farming, communication and information technology.
  4. FITEMA, Association of Manambolo Natives – Manambolo Valley, Madagascar
    This association successfully improved the conditions of food security within the local Betsileo community by reintroducing an indigenous land-use system in the 7,500-hectare Manambolo Valley. The purpose of the reintroduction is to help protect the environment, including the forests and the wetlands surrounding this region. This would improve food security conditions for 200,000 locals of five neighboring districts.
  5. Reserva y EcolodgeKapawi, Ecuadorian Amazon
    Founded in 1995, this organization was initiated by the Achuar community to create an ecotourism business that benefits the local communities and the local businesses as well. It produces sustainable energy, employs sustainable forestry and contributes to biodiversity conservation. The organization makes use of traditional and modern governance systems to make sure that the enterprise remains for the benefit of the surrounding locals.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Food Policy
The U.S. produces around 38.7 percent of all corn grown globally and around 35 percent of all soybeans. With such a large stake in global markets, it is not surprising that when U.S. food policy changes occur, many and often poorer places feel their effects throughout the globe.

Over 1 billion people work in world agriculture, and in poorer regions, a majority of the workforce population works in agriculture. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, over 60 percent of the workforce is involved in agriculture. With such a dependence on agriculture, changes in global markets and farming policies can severely affect these poorer populations. U.S. food policy may impact foreign farmers negatively in four principal ways: restricting imports in which developing countries have a comparative advantage; stimulating an overproduction of commodities in the U.S., that when the U.S. exports lowers the international price of goods from which low-income country farmers derive their income; distorting food markets in developing countries by the provision of in-kind food aid; and reducing official development assistance for agricultural and rural development.

Subsidies

Subsidies are a long-standing agricultural policy in the United States. Originating during the Great Depression, farming subsidies are payments and other support that the U.S. federal government gives to certain farmers. Today, the U.S. distributes around $20 billion to farming businesses annually. In 1930, when the stock market crashed, around 25 percent of Americans lived on farms and ranches and the government intended subsidies to help support these smaller family-run farms. Today, the largest 15 percent of farm businesses receive 85 percent of government subsidies that protect them from price fluctuations and unexpected decreased crop production.

Because of the U.S. subsidy system, it is cheaper for U.S. farmers to produce certain crops and thus it is cheaper for many poor nations to import crops such as wheat, barley and corn, instead of buying and growing locally. As one of the world’s largest cotton producers, subsidies can cause severe global price depression. In 2004, Brazil challenged the U.S. cotton subsidies with the support of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO found that U.S. cotton subsidies were responsible for distorted international markets. In winning the dispute, Brazil could impose $830 million in product sanctions and the U.S. paid $300 million to the Brazil Cotton Institute as reparations.

Subsidies are also the main cause of more market distortion for corn, one of the U.S.’s most lucrative crops. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. exports highly subsidized crops that compete with Mexican products. The exported corn contributed to a 413 percent increase in U.S. exports and a 66 percent decline in Mexican producer prices from the 1990s to 2005.

Cargo Preference

Cargo preference is another policy interfering in international relations between the U.S. and its beneficiaries. The Cargo Preference Act of 1954 ensures that ships operated by U.S.-based companies must transport at least 50 percent of overseas-bound food aid. Because of this regulation, 35-40 cents of each dollar spent on food aid goes toward transportation rather than the food itself.

The United States established Cargo Preference to protect U.S.-flag maritime companies and unions from competing for foreign cargo ships. These companies may increase or decrease the cost of transportation. The disparity between foreign-flag and U.S.-flag ships is very costly to the food aid effort. U.S.-flag ships can cost around $100-135 per metric ton while foreign-flag ships cost around $65 per metric ton. By matching foreign pricing, the country could use the $23.8 million that the country that it would have spent on shipping towards feeding the poor.

If the U.S. were to eradicate cargo preference, there would be an additional $300 million to feed another 9.5 million people each year.

Biofuel Mandates

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) emerged with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This federal policy requires transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel, namely ethanol from corn or soybeans. This policy was to help American farmers and decrease dependency on foreign oil.

The policy has, however, had a negative effect on global food prices. According to the Resources for the Future, estimates determine that the RFS in the U.S. and the E.U.’s own biofuel mandate will increase global food prices by 15 percent by 2022. Because the RFS demands more corn for ethanol production and because the U.S. produces 40 percent of the world’s corn crops, the policy has had a critical impact on global corn markets. An Iowa State University study estimates that the RFS has diverted a third of U.S. corn crops (10.8 percent of the global corn market) towards production of ethanol and biofuel and has caused an increase in global corn prices from 8-34 percent.

Proactive Policy

The U.S. government has taken major steps toward improving the food security of poor nations. While many food policies focus on farmers and exporting goods, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act (GSRA) targets farmers in developing countries. Signed into law in 2018, the GSRA ensures funding and support for the Feed the Future initiative. Feed the Future works with local agriculture sectors in developing countries to help build up strong farming techniques and give them the tools to ensure their food security. Thanks to Feed the Future, estimates state that 23.4 million people now live above the poverty line and that farmers have generated $12 billion in new agricultural sales from 2011 to 2017.

Due to the size and volume of exported crops and resources, the U.S. food policy has a strong pull on global markets. Developing and poor nations can feel the effects of rising and falling global food prices most keenly. Therefore, it is important for U.S. policymakers to assess the impact of these policies and others like them. Luckily, initiatives like Feed the Future are working hard to help build stable agricultural communities in developing countries. With such size and resources, the U.S. has the power to create positive change in global markets.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr