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Agriculture in MadagascarMadagascar is one of the most bio-diverse nations on the planet and grows a variety of valuable crops. Yet, too often, farmers struggle from poverty and food insecurity. Holly Tapani serves as a Peace Corps agricultural extension agent on Madagascar’s eastern coast, Tapani trains women with young children to cultivate permaculture gardens and promote sustainable agricultural practices. “There is a major gap in the type of knowledge available to farmers,” Tapani told The Borgen Project. “However, Malagasy farmers are eager for solutions and willing to go out of their way to accommodate learning.” These 10 facts about agriculture in Madagascar highlight a predominant way of life and discuss common challenges and emerging solutions.

10 Facts About Agriculture in Madagascar

  1.  Agriculture is vital to life. Agriculture is the leading source of employment for both men and women in Madagascar. Indeed, roughly 64% of the country’s population works on either individually or family-owned farms. In more rural regions, this largely takes the form of subsistence farming.
  2. There is not much land to go around. Because Madagascar’s terrain is mountainous, farmers can only cultivate up to 5% of the country’s total land area. As a result, smallholders make up the majority of farm owners, and the “average farm size is 1.3 hectares.”
  3.  Frequent natural disasters threaten agricultural productivity. Over the past four decades, Madagascar has experienced more than 50 natural disasters, including “cyclones, droughts and locust infestations.” As a consequence, this has eroded land and damaged soil quality. With the prospect of a good harvest now even more difficult to achieve, Madagascar now faces rampant food insecurity.
  4.  Rice has a special place in Malagasy culture. Rice is cultivated on roughly half of all agricultural land in Madagascar. Farmers grow it largely for subsistence, and it is a staple of the Malagasy diet. “Most people eat roughly three packed cups of rice per meal with a small side,” Tapani said. “This is a major part of the culture, and nutrition initiatives from the government have been trying to combat the lack of diversity in a standard Malagasy diet.”
  5. Madagascar is the world’s largest producer of vanilla. Despite being just under one third the size of Mexico, the island nation accounts for 60% of the vanilla supply globally. Thus, to prevent theft and provide protection for vanilla farmers, the Malagasy government has enacted strict regulations on those handling the crop. This means that vanilla pods can now only be transported during the daytime, and “there are harsh penalties for stealing.” In certain cases, some farmers even go the extra mile, tattooing their vanilla beans with distinct features to make it easier to trace their origins.
  6. Nearly 60% of rural families rely on livestock for income. Cattle are especially important in this regard. One subspecies known as the zebu can be found on farms all throughout the island. “Zebu represent wealth to the Malagasy, so many farmers raise them for both work and meat,” Tapani said. Other livestock, including pigs, sheep, goats and turkeys, are also kept by smallholders.
  7. Farmers often supplement their farm produce with fishing. In many cases, families in Madagascar will raise different fish in fish ponds they build on their land. Others catch fish in local freshwater rivers and lakes. As with the cultivation of rice, the majority of this fishing is done for subsistence because of the steep cost of transportation to the capital. This makes the market price of fish much too costly for most local consumers.
  8.  Slash-and-burn agriculture threatens Madagascar’s forests. Known as ‘tavy’ in Malagasy, slash-and-burn agriculture is a traditional farming technique that remains widely practiced in Madagascar. Farmers clear mountainous regions and set fire to the land in order to turn forests into fertile ground. However, this ultimately leads to depletion of the nitrogen in the soil and the loss of fertility. This forces farmers to move on to new land, reinforcing the cycle of land destruction and poverty.
  9. The Food and Agriculture Organization is working to strengthen farmers’ resilience. FAO is helping farmers by collecting data on agro-weather conditions and food security. It is also working with Madagascar’s government to integrate nutritional awareness into school systems and strengthen the sustainability of the country’s natural resources. Ultimately, the goal of these efforts is to pave the way for measures that mitigate the impact of natural disasters on crop production and economic security.
  10.  Peace Corps Madagascar’s Food Security Project is promoting sustainable agriculture and healthy nutrition. Although Madagascar’s economy is largely agricultural, rural communities too often face food shortages and insecurity. Thus, to tackle this dire issue, Peace Corps volunteers work with farmers, schools and nonprofits to train communities on new methods to make sure their basic food needs are met. This includes training on how to grow bio-intensive gardens and holding cooking demonstrations that focus on nutritional education. “As an agriculture volunteer, one of my primary responsibilities involved promoting personal permaculture gardens for mothers with children under the age of five,” Tapani said. Tapani hopes this work will help prevent nutrient deficiencies among the Malagasy population.

These 10 facts about agriculture in Madagascar underscore the importance of farming to economic prosperity and personal wellbeing. Therefore, improvements within the industry remain a major path to reducing poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

Credit Access in Cameroon

Cameroon is a country in Central Africa located right below the Sahara Desert. With a population close to 24 million, estimates show that 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The majority of those who live in poverty reside in northern, rural regions. Although Cameroon has experienced growth in GDP since 2018, it is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a region that has suffered in Africa due to the fall of oil prices. Cameroon aims to become an emerging country by 2035, which means the real GDP will have to grow by 8 percent. In order to reach this goal, credit access is an advancement that must be focused on. Seeking a solution for credit access in Cameroon is a crucial task for its government.

Unfortunately, in 2017, only 10 percent of Cameroon’s population reported that they have a bank account.

Agriculture and the Economy

It’s clear that financial services and education are not reaching a large portion of Cameroon’s population. Often described as a miniature Africa, Cameroon exhibits all the climates of the continent, with a large chain of mountains separating the arid and green regions. This terrain presents a challenge in acclimating the population to new advancements such as mobile banking and loan access.

Cameroon’s economy is rooted in agriculture, something found mostly in rural regions where access to credit is poor. Because of the country’s rich landscape and natural resources, 70 percent of the population’s labor force is in Cameroon farms. However, 23 percent of farmer households rely on subsistence farming, which means they are working to feed themselves and their family. This is an alternative to both consuming and selling the produce.

While subsistence farming can provide a family with a self-sufficient method towards survival, its success is dependent on a non-hazardous climate and funding. Specifically, this is access to expensive chemical fertilizers. Subsistence farming also doesn’t help improve the economy’s investment sector when many people are farming to live instead of making money to save. Most farmers sell their products at the marketplace, where physical cash is exchanged for goods. Out of the 90 percent who do not own a bank account, the majority reported that they had no money to save or made no regular income.

A Need to Expand Credit Access in Cameroon

There are currently around 840 or so accredited microfinance institutions in Cameroon. The country’s loan performance has worsened due to the number of uninformed loans given to consumers. In 2018, the Risk Prevention Bureau for Microfinance (CREMF) was established as a system that helps these institutions track and disseminate the correct data on all their customers. This makes it somewhat easier for them to recover borrowed money. However, the challenge is still present: the majority of these microfinance institutions are in rural areas with low internet connectivity. This makes it difficult to continue giving out loans to those who need them.

In order to make credit access in Cameroon more financially inclusive, mobile services must be extended to rural areas. Additionally, services should also cover financial education and funding for farmers. In 2008, Express Union introduced mobile money. Mobile money offers a quick method for payments and access to finances.

While there are 6.8 million subscribers, there are only 1.5 million active users of mobile money services. The biggest challenge is implementing a cashless culture in a country that is reliant on a cash-based agricultural market.

Improvement Efforts

In order to establish an equal financial climate, the government of Cameroon and the World Bank Group renewed its strategy. This 2017-2021 project focuses on three main areas:

  1. poverty traps in rural areas
  2. access to better transportation
  3. improving weak governance.

The main objectives of this framework are increased market productivity in the agricultural sectors, improved health and improved access to credit in Cameroon.

Another solution to help foster jobs in Cameroon is the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project (AIMD). Participants of this project are working to pave a bridge between agriculture and agribusiness. For example, this includes:

  • educating farmers on new techniques
  • providing them with the means to create quality produce
  • connecting them with agro-industrial companies like Guinness through mobile applications.

These advancements have helped to boost the financial sector and improve credit access in Cameroon. As a result, the livelihood of the country’s poor has improved. With consistent improvement, it’s possible that Cameroon’s economy can emerge into one that is economically stable, with more equally-distributed prosperity among regions.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

reducing poverty through agricultureA growing population and the increased demand for food are burning problems in the present day. Many scientists, organizations, individuals and political bodies are coming forward to find solutions to this problem. Feeding so many mouths is not a simple task, but research and hard work are making the impossible at least feasible.

These are some methodical and sustainable ways of reducing poverty through agriculture and farming, especially in places with unfavorable climates, degraded soil and poor socioeconomic conditions.

 

Reforestation Through Cash Crops in Guatemala

Although Guatemala’s name means “a land of endless trees,” 80 percent of them were destroyed within a decade due to cattle breeding, corn farming, illegal settlements and destructive logging practices.

In order to restore the land to its previous condition, an organization named Livelihoods Funds, along with the government of Guatemala, took the initiative in reforestation by planting four million trees of various species over an area of 4,000 hectares.

The trees are mostly cash crops like rubber, coffee, patchouli, cocoa, mahogany, laurel, cedar and citrus plants. This helps the local community with reducing poverty through agriculture, boosting economic development and prevents climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Reducing Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa

Hunger, malnutrition and stunting prove detrimental to the economic advancement of any country. The Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) came up with the initiative of helping individual farm families of Africa through nutrition-sensitive agricultural development.

Their aim is to provide technical assistance and a knowledge base for increasing food security with improved nutrition. Currently, their work is concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

 

Alternative Food Production in Kenya

Kenya suffers from inadequate rainfall, which affects the production of maize, the primary staple crop of most smallholder farmers. The result is that a vast population suffers from hunger and starvation.

One Acre Fund is helping the Kenyan government with reducing poverty through agriculture by planting drought-resistant crops like millet and sorghum, which act as a source of food and income during times of inadequate rainfall. The organization also trains farmers in sustainable planting techniques and fertilizer usage.

 

Integrated Pest Management Techniques in Honduras

CropLife International, along with the United States Agency for International Development, is helping the people of Honduras with integrated pest management techniques. With the help of field officials, they train the farmers in good agricultural practices.

The pest management helps protect the crops and increases their quality and productivity, fetching better incomes for the farmers while improving their livelihoods. It is a powerful example of fighting extreme poverty.

 

Bio-fortification in Rwanda

In Rwanda, an organization named HarvestPlus has introduced a nutritious variety of beans through bio-fortification, a process of increasing vitamins and minerals in plants through biotechnology. The beans are rich in iron and also have the capacity to resist viruses. They are suitable for extreme climates, producing a higher yield and thus increasing the incomes of farmers.

 

Fish Farming in Cambodia

The Feed the Future project in Cambodia is helping hatcheries raise good quality young fish known as fingerlings. The project provides cost-effective and simple technology to manage the clarity, nutrients and water quality of ponds. As a result of this technology, the growth rate and average weight of fingerlings have increased. helping individual hatcheries thrive.

The above methodologies are mainly applied in sub-Saharan and Latin American countries where there are extreme temperatures, drought and unsuitable soil. But these models can also be implemented in other parts of the world to increase the productivity of crops and meet the growing demand for food and simultaneously reducing the poverty of farmers.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Pixabay