Millennium Village Project
There are many ways to go about reducing and eventually ending world poverty. The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) has implemented several strategies that have proven to be effective at boosting economic independence in African villages. This is the “one village at a time” method. The pith of this method is agriculture reform.

The MVP works with African farmers to improve various aspects of agriculture techniques like what season to plant certain seeds and how to correctly use small scale irrigation, specifically a “gravity drip irrigation system” that is highly cost effective. Soil is also an important topic that farmers are educated about. They learn how to farm without stripping soil of vital nutrients, thus vastly increasing crop yields. Other aspects of soil health include organic farming, fertilizing, and soil conservation.

Education is a huge aspect of the Millennium Project. People working for the MVP train African farmers, and then these farmers can later educate other farmers about efficient agriculture methods. These farming organizations ensure that future generations will continue to produce higher crop yields. When farmers are successful, that means the entire village will flourish. The MVP encourages schools to provide locally grown, healthy foods for their students, especially young children.

Other key strategies being used around the world include: providing vaccines and building schools, shelters, wells, and medical clinics. These are some of the many approaches to help people lift themselves out of poverty. There is no one correct method; rather, it is often the combination of multiple techniques that proves to be the most effective. The Millennium Development Goals’ main objective is to end extreme global poverty by 2030 and with these many strategies will play a huge role in achieving this goal.

– Mary Penn

Source: Borgen Project
Photo: NY Times

New Website Will Boost Ghana's AgricultureThe internet has become a great way to bring people and news together. With the click of a button, people can easily find old friends on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, simultaneously read up on local and world news, and put their views and opinions on internet platforms for other people to view. And, as people in Ghana have discovered, the internet can help boost the agriculture industry.

The United States Agency for International Development and Ghana’s Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services at the University of Ghana in Accra have recently developed an online platform that creates easy access to important information and data, such as locations of small farm holders, tractor service providers, weather stations, and warehouses. Increasing accessibility to this type of information is expected to increase the efficiency of farmers.

Currently, agriculture makes up about 25 percent of Ghana’s GDP, while approximately 50 percent of Ghanaians are employed in some aspect of the agricultural realm. Increasing efficiency will increase the product and success of crops, leading to an increase in GDP and the income of individual workers. The website will provide tools that allow for the sharing of information on agriculture and other relevant topics, leading to quicker dissemination of information and, in essence, helping to boost Ghana’s agriculture.

– Angela Hooks

Source: The Africa Report
Photo: Guardian

Largest Global Anti-Poverty Organization

BRAC assists “138 million of the poorest people in nine countries in Asia and Africa,” yet few people have ever heard of the global anti-poverty organization. BRAC began as the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee but has expanded to multiple countries.  Though BRAC is no longer an acronym, it has become a synonym for progress.

The organization works to alleviate poverty through empowerment. It is the largest global anti-poverty organization. BRAC provides opportunities for self-improvement, such as self-employment and financial aid. Its economic programs created 8.5 million self-employment opportunities, and BRAC has issued over $5 billion in micro-loans.

Education is key to mitigating poverty in future generations. The organization created over 66,000 schools to meet the needs of primary and pre-primary children. To date, the schools have graduated over 6.1 million students.

Furthermore, the organization itself employs over 125,000 people in Asia and Africa. Many of the employees are first time job holders, and BRAC teaches them necessary skills.  “As a job-creator and employer of scale and diversity, we teach people the basics of customer service, and how to be productive employees,” said Susan Davis, President and CEO, BRAC USA.

BRAC engages diasporas for economic and social development. The organization realizes the value of local people.  Instead of Americans instructing people on how to improve their communities, the organization starts by training people from the country in need.  After successfully completing the program, trainers return home with new skill sets.  These individuals communicate their success stories and encourage others to strive for better lives.

One of BRAC’s unique strengths involves creating new markets.  The organization trains 100,000 health and other promoters to achieve self-employment.  Promoters work with “legal services (property rights), poultry and livestock services, and energy services.”  The jobs vary based on the specific needs of the communities.  Each position interacts with people to teach vital subjects, such as agriculture, family planning, and disease prevention.

The organization “has remained relatively unknown in the West…because it developed on the local level in the poorest, most remote communities of Bangladesh.”  It originated in communities and developed gradually.  Fazle Hasan Abed created BRAC “when he was overwhelmed by the sight of death and extreme poverty among refugees returning to Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.” He fled the corporate life and employed all of his resources to launch BRAC.  Today, his vision has improved the lives of millions of people.  Talk about a visionary.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Fast Company

US AID and Nepal Partner to Educate on Agriculture
Nepal Economic, Agriculture, and Trade Activity (NEAT), a 32-month program funded by USAID, aims to “promote economic growth, reduce poverty, increase food security, and improve lives” throughout Nepal. As part of the program, USAID and Nepal have partnered up through the Nepal Ministry of Agriculture Development to distribute educational materials on agricultural practices in the hopes of improving the production of agriculture in the country.

Through the funding provided by USAID, more than 263,000 pamphlets were handed out detailing specific agricultural instructions, both written in Nepali and as visuals in order to aid those citizens who are illiterate. The pamphlets detail “critical agriculture practice” on 13 types of crops and 3 species of livestock.

The NEAT program has improved the agricultural education of 67,510 households throughout 20 districts of Nepal with a regular lack of access to proper food sources. Thus far, the project has already allowed area farmers to see an increased income of $8.5 million collectively. These farmers and households have had increased access to markets and are better educated on agricultural practices such as pest and disease control, use of fertilizer, improved seed, and “post-harvest handling.”

The Director of USAID’s Social, Environmental, and Economic Development Office, John Stamm, maintained that USAID is dedicated to creating sustainable development solutions, including the NEAT program – which will allow Nepalese citizens greater resources for continuing to improve their lives long after the program ends in August of 2013.

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

imageFAO Allocates Funding to Combat Locust Crop Destruction in Sudan
As though part of some biblical plague of the ancient world, the recent swarms of invading locusts have wreaked havoc on the crops of many North African countries. In an effort to both stem the flow of the relentless Lucusta migratoria and prevent future flare-ups, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has donated 1 million dollars to help fight the locust crop destruction in Sudan.

The funds, which resulted from joint cooperation of donors that included $400,000 from Saudi Arabia, $75,000 from the CRC’s emergency trust, and $500,000 from the FAO, will serve as a much needed shot in the arm in the ongoing war against the locust crop destruction in Sudan. The locusts, which began their migration back in February, initially did little damage to the Sudanese agricultural industry. However, the previous swarms laid eggs across much of the county, and like a ticking time bomb are expected to hatch risking further locust crop destruction in Sudan, which could decimate their spring and summer harvests.

The recent allocation of funds from the FAO is great news in the continuing effort of preventing further locust crop destruction in Sudan. Furthermore, through the combined funding of several generous donors, along with the agricultural expertise of the FAO, countries such as Sudan that have been dealing with the ravages of the locust swarms can now look forward to some much-needed relief.

– Brian Turner
Source African Brains
PhotoThe Desert Review

Scientific Breakthrough in Stress: Free CropsThe ability to grow crops in acidic soil environments has, up until recently, been feasible with only a few species of maize. However, current scientific research into the genes responsible for plant tolerance may enable the cultivation of stressed free crops in soils once considered impossible, opening up exciting new frontiers in the field of sustainable farming.

Researchers from Cornell University in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research have been conducting fascinating studies into the high aluminum tolerance of Ethiopian Maize and Brazilian Sorghum. Why aluminum? Well to start, the aluminum present in the clay of soils with a highly acidic pH dissolves, which is toxic when absorbed by nearby root systems. Amazingly, researchers were able to break down the genome of the aluminum tolerant species of maize and identify key gene copies known as MATE1 that were linked to the unusual trait. Moreover, by isolating and identifying the genes that enable crops to thrive in lands regarded as non-arable, stress-free crops can be grown in all types of climates and soil compositions.

In regards to stressed free crops, USDA Director of the Agricultural Research Service Leon Kochian remarked that “Aluminum tolerance in Maize is associated with higher MATE1 gene copy number. This could be a key factor for other traits of agricultural importance.”

The prospect of farmers being able to grow stress-free crops in areas that were once written off as unusable gives pause for optimism in nations that have been plagued with chronic food shortages and low soil efficacy. By unlocking the amazing potential of stressed free crops, remote areas that were once dependent on foreign aid can now reach the goal of sustainable development through aluminum tolerant maize.

– Brian Turner
Source: Science Daily
Photo:Nation Sydication

2Seeds Network pairs recent university graduates with African village communities in order to develop and implement small, sustainable, and efficient agricultural projects designed to meet the needs of each village. The projects aim to support and enhance food and income security by training rural farmers in effective agricultural practices. 2Seeds trains its young project coordinators in leadership, accountability, and cooperation for the betterment of local African communities.

2Seeds Network seeks a partnership between Africa and America for the improvement of both continents. It fosters globally engaged and empathetic leadership on the American side, while improving basic living conditions for those on the African side. African community leaders and farmers benefit from the energy, passion, and creativity of young Americans, who in turn will engage others in global, humanitarian action.

The ultimate goals of the 2Seeds Network are to:

  • promote self-directed initiative and ownership in African agricultural production and trade
  • initiate sustainable change in local and national African economies
  • develop critically-needed transformative leaders in America

2Seeds Network uses the metrics of food security and income security to measure its programs’ effectiveness  Though each project is tailored to the needs of its partner community, Project Coordinators work to achieve two primary goals: that every family grows enough food to eat throughout the year, and that each family increases its income to more than $1 per day.

Stay tuned for an interview with a 2Seeds Network Project Coordinator working on the Lutindi Project in Tanzania. For more information about the organization, visit the 2Seeds Network website.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: 2Seeds Nework
Photo:Agra Soils Research Group

African Agriculture and Agribusiness Will Grow to $1 Trillion by 2030A World Bank report states that agriculture and agribusiness in Africa have the opportunity to grow to a trillion-dollar market by 2030.The report titled “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness” calls for the need to increase access to capital, electricity, technology, and irrigated land to allow for better and increased farming. World Bank Director for Financial and Private Sector Development in Africa Gaiv Tata comments that “a strong agribusiness sector is vital for Africa’s economic future.”

Currently, the size of Africa’s food and beverage market is at $313 billion. This number is projected to increase more than three-fold to $1 trillion by 2030. This growth in the agriculture industry in Africa could lead to an increase in jobs and growth, a reduction of hunger and poverty, and the ability for African farmers to compete better globally by exporting surplus crops.

The report stated that as of now African agriculture and agribusinesses are underperforming with many other developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Thailand exporting more than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined. The import of food products is still rising as exports are falling, a trend, the report says, that can be reversed through good policies, and public-private investment and partnerships.

Much of Africa’s land and water is left underutilized. More than half of the fertile yet uncultivated land in the world is in Africa. And only two percent of Africa’s abundant water resources are made use of compared to the global average of five percent. Africa is the leading importer and consumer of rice in the world with $3.5 billion spent on importing rice from other countries. Though much of Africa is suitable for dairy production, Kenya is the only country to have established a competitive dairy industry.

The report emphasizes that agriculture and agribusiness should be the main prerogative in the development and business agenda in Africa. African agriculture and agribusiness is now being recognized as a powerful and imperative driver in the continent’s growth, accounting for nearly half the continent’s economic activity. More investment through irrigation expansion and increased research into crop varieties would further strengthen the agro-economy. Additionally, when governments effectively work with farms to link them to consumers, they create a more sustainable and dynamic food market rather than only maintaining a reliance on food imports. A strong agriculture and agribusiness market in Africa is key to greater prosperity and a better future for Africa.

“The time has come for making African agriculture and agribusiness a catalyst for ending poverty,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for African Region.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source:  Flickr

USDA Invests Heavily in Global Food SecurityIn an effort to both invest in America’s rapidly advancing growing technologies as well as solidify the nation’s status as an agricultural superpower, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that they will be allocating 75 million dollars for grants and educational funding towards global food security.

This amazing opportunity towards bolstering global food security is also, in part, thanks to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as well as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security program. Recently, much interest has been shown in developing the United States’ wonderfully rich topsoil and varied growing climates in order to maximize yields while maintaining the soil’s nutritional efficacy. Considering that many countries around the globe are continuing to experience severe shortages and food insecurity, the US has adopted a mutually-beneficial policy that will attempt to ameliorate any and all future global food security challenges.

Agricultural Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was on hand to present the good news to Biological Sciences faculty members at South Dakota State University’s Brookings campus. After announcing the exciting news, Deputy Secretary Merrigan remarked that “The grants announced today will help policymakers and others better recognize the food and nutrition needs of low-income communities in our country, while improving the productivity of our nation’s agriculture to meet those needs.”
Thanks to the $75 million pledged towards finding realistic solutions for the continuing battle against world hunger, global food security might actually be attainable in the present generation.
– Brian Turner

Source Agri-Pulse
Photo University of California

US AID Fighting Terrorism With WoolQuinoa seems to be on everyone’s mind lately, but for the district of Mastung – a district located on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan– sheep and shepherding account for more than 40% of the economy. Unfortunately, many farmers in Mastung use outdated techniques which limit their production even though demand for wool is high.

To help with this dilemma, USAID has funded an agricultural project in which Australian shepherds, who are among the world’s finest, instruct a best-practices workshop which teaches Mastung farmers current techniques and educate the farmers on how to use current technologies. These new techniques have been combined with direct marketing practices and, with the two disciplines combined, the result is an 80% growth of income for farmers in the communities where these practices have been implemented.

While this type of growth does help border communities in Pakistan, the strengthening of these communities has an unforeseen effect on U.S. national security and global security as a whole. It is no secret that extremist groups target poor communities by offering financial assistance and other forms of aid. In a region that has been plagued with extremist groups such as the Taliban, contributing to the economic growth of communities and helping them remain stable prevents the spread of terrorism and extremist ideology. For the Mastung, fighting terrorism with wool production is a win-win situation.

Not only do these contributions help create a better life for those in the border communities of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they also help these communities as a means to furthering global security as a whole.

– Pete Grapentien

Photo: Pakistan Today