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Elevating Farmers in KenyaAfrican agricultural technology (agri-tech) services bring in $2.6 billion every year. Kenyan agri-tech is a large piece of Africa’s agri-tech industry, accounting for 25% of all startups. Agri-tech companies in Kenya create websites and mobile applications with the hope of elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty by allowing them to showcase their products and access information databases. Mobile applications and virtual marketplace platforms also boost market accessibility for farmers in Kenya.

Agriculture in Kenya

More than 25% of the global workforce works in the agriculture sector. In Kenya, agricultural employment accounts for more than 40% of the population. Additionally, agriculture comprises 33% of Kenya’s GDP. Although agriculture is a major economic sector, in Kenya the industry traditionally consists of older and smallholder farmers. Socially, Kenyans see farming as lackluster and dirty. Many young people prefer to turn to education rather than farming but digitalization in the agriculture industry is drawing in younger people.

It is important for younger Kenyans to enter the agricultural industry because their experience with technology will advance the market. What Kenyans saw as an industry for the older generation is transforming into a technologically advanced industry with the help of young adults. Engaging young people through social media and other mobile applications will rejuvenate and modernize agriculture in Kenya. Additionally, because many farmers in Kenya are smallholders, people who own small-scale farming operations, the creation of mobile applications allows farmers to feasibly access new markets via smartphone or computer without relying on brokerages or a middle-man, elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty.

4 Agri-Tech Applications Transforming Agriculture in Kenya

  1. Mkulima Young: Created by Joseph Macharia, a Kenyan farmer, Mkulima Young’s website connects farmers and potential buyers throughout East Africa. The platform is enhancing trade throughout the region. Using the application, Kenyans can feasibly buy and sell agricultural products. On the platform’s website’s homepage, Mkulima Young features young farmers’ selfies with their products, the latest products its members uploaded to the site and requests from buyers. Another page on the site includes a virtual market that allows farmers in Kenya to showcase and sell their cash crops, flowers, livestock and other agriculture products. Mkulima Young’s virtual marketplace gives users access to data to help understand trend projections and market insights.
  2. Twiga Foods Ltd: Beginning in 2014, Twiga sources products from Kenyan farmers and food manufacturers for registered vendors to sell, in turn providing adequate market security for farmers and vendors. After sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenyan farmers, Twiga Foods brings produce to Kenya’s urban centers. Currently, more than 4,000 suppliers and more than 35,000 vendors utilize Twiga’s marketplace platform. Twiga prides itself on transparency and efficient delivery of quality products. The platform offers smallholder farmers reassurance that their products will be profitable. Twiga Foods makes selling and buying Kenyan produce easier for average Kenyan farmers and vendors through its transparency and a guaranteed market.
  3. DigiCow: Founded by tech start-up Farmingtech Solutions, which specializes in agricultural data management, DigiCow provides smallholder farmers with farming management services. With DigiCow’s services, farmers in Kenya can reach data-based conclusions rather than guessing and estimating results, which was common practice before applications like DigiCow. The application enables its users to make data-driven decisions. Specific tools the application offers are, but are not limited to, virtual training, message boards for farmers to connect with each other, digital tracking of feeding, insemination and milking, notifications for vital dates and analyzed reports. April 2019 marked a notable milestone for DigiCow. The World Bank recognized the Farmingtech Solutions team as Kenya’s most inventive Agri-tech by awarding DigiCow the winner of the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies challenge. With the DigiCow application, farmers can now keep data sets and make educated decisions.
  4. DigiFarm: Founded by Safaricom, a telecommunication firm in Kenya, DigiFarm allows farmers to connect directly with bulk produce buyers, credit providers and cheaper agronomic materials. DigiFarm arranges deals with buyers for small farmers. These deals are more beneficial than the deals farmers use to make with traditional brokers. More than 40,000 farmers utilize the application. The app allows smallholder farmers to analyze the market of their produce. Additional services DigiFarm provides its users are insurance for weather-related incidents, loss management and recommendations on how to increase yields. Projections estimate that if success continues, DigiFarm will represent 10% of annual ag-business affairs in Kenya. Before DigiFarm’s assistance many farmers could not afford supplies but with DigiFarm’s help, many small farmers can now run successful operations.

How Agri-Tech Alleviates Poverty in Kenya

The World Bank states that an increase in agriculture technology will assist Kenya in meeting its rising food demand, whilst elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty. As smaller farmers utilize more agri-tech, their production will increase leading to a rise in income for themselves and also a rise in food production for the country. Increasing agriculture productivity through agricultural technology will not only increase food supply but will also increase the number of jobs available in both the agriculture and technology sectors.

These agricultural technology applications are a game-changer for smallholder Kenyan farmers. They have the potential to create economic growth in the agriculture and technology industry. The creation of virtual marketplaces and agri-tech platforms will ultimately lead to prosperity in Kenya.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Olive Trees in PalestineThe former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat, once said, “I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” In Palestine, the olive tree is a symbol of freedom and represents a deep connection to the earth it grows on. Olive trees take up to 12 years to become fruitful and live an average of 2,000 years. Tending to these trees is a generational task passed on over a millennium. In essence, olive trees in Palestine are proof of the people’s long-standing connection to the land.

Olive Trees

The olive trees function on a socioeconomic level. It is a source of income for farmers and provides security for future generations to ensure that they will have consistent income as well. However, the Israeli occupation has made things difficult for farmers in Palestine. Olive trees on ancestral lands are bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Furthermore, the disjointed great wall has cut Palestinians off from their orchards. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that the Israeli military has destroyed approximately 1,800 acres of olive orchards near the great wall.

As such, Palestinian farmers have lost their lands, depriving them of income, food and freedom. More than one million Palestinians are now experiencing poverty. This is well over half of the total population.

Help for Palestinian Farmers

Grassroots efforts are vital to the future of Palestine. Zatoun, named after the Arabic word for olive, is a volunteer grassroots organization that helps Palestinian farmers affected by Israeli military destruction. It sells olive oil online and takes advantage of the global market to serve Palestinian farmers and tell their stories.

With help from Canaan Fair Trade and Palestine Fair Trade Association, Zatoun’s Trees for Life program allows people around the world to sponsor olive saplings for farmers to raise. Since 2004, its efforts have benefited almost 4,000 farmers in Palestine. The organization’s goal is to partner with 250 farmers to plant 10,000 trees in 2021.

Palestinians must be able to earn a consistent income to end poverty. Thus, olive orchards are a vital part of the Palestinian economy as they help farmers ensure financial security for generations to come. Farmers who are able to tend to olive trees without fear of suppression will help the economy thrive.

– Monica McCown
Photo: Flickr

SunCulture Expansion For many farmers in Africa, unpredictable weather patterns and growing seasons often lead to insufficient harvests and food insecurity. Yet, nearly 80% of people in Africa rely on agriculture as their main source of food. According to the United Nations, global food production must increase by 60% by the year 2050 in order to sustain the world’s growing population. Despite environmental limitations, more sustainable and efficient farming must occur. SunCulture, a Kenya-based solar-powered generator and irrigation system manufacturer, promotes food production, ensuring that farmers in Africa have the means to produce enough food. With the latest SunCulture expansion, the company hopes to help more farmers in Africa and also add new products to its repertoire.

SunCulture Promotes Food Production

Africa has 65% of the world’s uncultivated, arable land, according to the African Development Bank. However, due to limited resources to sustainably grow and harvest food, food scarcity is prevalent in farming communities in Africa. To combat this scarcity, SunCulture has provided families with sustainable tools to increase food production, such as generators and irrigation systems. Since much of Africa’s freshwater exists as groundwater, irrigation systems help pump water up to the surface to water crops during droughts. At the same time, solar-powered generators provide power in farming villages lacking electricity. With these tools available for purchase, SunCulture promises that families can sustain themselves and their communities without fear of food insecurity or scarcity. The pay-as-you-grow financing option allows farmers to pay in small monthly installments, making products accessible and affordable.

Since SunCulture’s creation in 2013, it has changed the lives of thousands of farmers across East Africa. The company estimates that farmers using its products have seen up to five times increase in crop yields and have gained up to 10 times increased income from selling their crops. By allowing farmers the opportunity to grow enough food to sell the excess, local commerce has bolstered the economies of these communities. This had led to more people being able to purchase SunCulture’s irrigation systems and grow even more crops. Although SunCulture currently promotes food production exclusively in the eastern parts of Africa, new business expansions have allowed them to help farmers across the continent.

SunCulture Expansion

In December 2020, SunCulture announced a US$14 million expansion that would allow farmers across the African continent access to the company’s products. Backed by numerous organizations such as Energy Access Ventures (EAV) and USAID’s Kenya Investment Mechanism (KIM) program, the expansion would also allow SunCulture to provide better support to farmers in Africa such as more efficient irrigation systems and less costly generators. While EAV has been one of SunCulture’s main investors since its inception, KIM offers new opportunities both in helping companies find a market to sell their products and getting the resources necessary to make their products. Through its work with KIM, SunCulture is confident in its ability to bring sustainable irrigation to the millions of farming families in Africa.

While this SunCulture expansion may take time to cover all of Africa, it will immediately impact farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Senegal, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire. Farmers in these countries will be able to either purchase their first irrigation system from SunCulture or buy more systems to better sustain their crops and increase yields.

Addressing Food Security and Reducing Poverty

As more people in Africa rely on agriculture both for food and income, SunCulture’s products have been able to increase agricultural outcomes. With the expansion, SunCulture hopes to aid more families and communities in Africa to reduce food insecurity and better their livelihoods, alleviating poverty overall.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Farming Reform in IndiaToward the end of November 2020, more than 250 million people around the Indian subcontinent protested for farming reform in India. Protestors are pushing back against the three-piece legislation passed by the Indian Parliament which attempts to liberalize the agricultural sector by increasing Indian farmers’ access to bigger markets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, argues that the recently passed agricultural bills intend to grant farmers autonomy and increase their income. However, Indian farmers fear these laws will threaten their livelihoods by leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by powerful agricultural corporations.

The Indian Agricultural Sector

The agricultural sector is an essential part of the Indian economy, as it generates livelihood for nearly 60% of the Indian population. Despite the vital role of Indian farmers, the agricultural sector only makes up 15-16% of the subcontinent’s GDP, leaving farmers grappling for livelihood. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, almost three million farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995. Having one of the highest suicide rates in the agricultural sector, Indian farmers have long suffered despair from tyrannical policies, debt, low income and climate change inducing production risks. On September 28, 2020, the Parliament attempted farming reform in India by passing three bills that the government and Modi claim will benefit farmers’ livelihoods by decreasing financial burdens and increasing profit.

The 3 Farming Acts Passed

Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act

  • Allows for intra-state trading, inner-state trading, electronic trading and e-commerce of produce.

  • Abolishes the imposition of government-determined financial burdens.

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act

  • Withdraws the previously determined list of essential commodities.

  • Removes stockholding restriction on essential commodities.

  • Demands that levying of stockholding limit on produce emanates from increased price.

The Reason Behind Protests

With support for farming reform in India from all over the world, hundreds of thousands of farmers and those in solidarity have taken to the streets with a common goal: to have the acts repealed. The laws spark deep worry that transitioning to a free market will enable powerful agricultural businesses to take advantage of the farmers, potentially leading to loss of land, income and autonomy. Indian farmers, who sell their produce at a set rate, are certain that a market-aligned system will solely increase private equities welfare while continuing to forbade domestic benefits. Farmers are also concerned that differences in business objectives could leave farmers at risk of financial consequences from market unpredictability. Finally, farmers are fearful that the abolition of stockholding limits will empower corporations to distort prices for personal monetary reward.

Global Support for Indian Farmers

There is a consensus among Indian farmers that their agricultural sector requires reform. Although the new laws of farming reform in India promise to improve farmers’ livelihoods and freedom, the lack of trust in a market-friendly reform and the government’s incentive has prompted a collective demand for change. As the protestors persist with force, the demand for alternative farming reform in India is being heard by Prime Minister Modi who is beginning to listen to farmers’ concerns. The exploitation of farmers continues to spark global support for farming reform in India from organizations, advocates, politicians and humanitarians until fairness and justice is achieved.

– Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Livestock WealthPoverty in South Africa has historically been linked with the institution of the racial apartheid regime. The national government began to pass segregationist policies in 1948, with racial discrimination policies only officially dismantling in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela stepped into power. Livestock Wealth is a company that introduced South Africa to “crowdfarming” as a means of supporting farmers and alleviating poverty in the country.

Apartheid and Poverty

Under the apartheid regime, the minority-white government passed policies aimed at keeping black South Africans, who made up a majority of the population, from having any meaningful participation in the economy. This left millions trapped in cycles of poverty and the residual effects of such discriminatory policies are still being contended with, in the effort to reduce poverty today.

Apartheid laws confined poor South Africans to rural regions and made the migration to urban areas difficult. The lack of opportunities and social mobility in rural areas made overcoming poverty a challenging task. The legacy of this limited mobility is still present today. South African provinces in rural areas have more households in chronic poverty compared to urban provinces. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the upper-bound poverty line (UPBL), whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. In order to reduce poverty, it is most important that rural communities receive support and investment.

Livestock Wealth

Livestock Wealth is a startup founded in 2015 by Ntuthuko Shezi which aims to provide investment for farmers in South Africa’s rural areas. Livestock Wealth allows investors from anywhere in the world to effectively purchase from South African farmers four different livestock and crop options: a free-range ox, a pregnant cow, a connected garden or a macadamia-nut tree. When the cows or the crops are sold, both the farmer and the investor receive a share of the profit.

The investment provides liquidity to farmers for whom there is limited availability of short-term funds. Livestock Wealth is currently a credit provider with South Africa’s National Credit Regulator and is registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council.

Livestock Wealth currently has 58 partner farmers all across the country and all cows are hormone-free and grass-fed. In recent years, its business has expanded to also provide meat for investors who join the “Farmers Club.” There are currently more than 2,800 investors with Livestock Wealth and more than $4 million has been invested.

Alleviating Poverty in South Africa

Livestock Wealth is a representation of an initiative that has great potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa. South Africa’s rural populations have a long history of exclusion from the economy and have struggled to reduce poverty for decades. Livestock Wealth provides cash investments for farmers and creates a market in which they can reliably trade. By doing so, the firm exemplifies an innovation within the South African economy, one which is helping to alleviate poverty and can inspire others to do the same.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

TechnoServe is Alleviating PovertyNearly two-thirds of developing countries rely heavily on the economic profit of agriculture to support local financial infrastructure. The industry holds high profitability but farmers rarely have the means to create a profitable business. TechnoServe works closely in agricultural advancements, creating capitalizing markets for countries to grow upon. Technoserve is alleviating poverty through its initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Training Skills for Farmers

Kenya, Haiti and Zambia are some of the many developing countries rich in natural resources that are in high consumer demand, such as mangos and cashews. The support and training skills implemented by TechnoServe work to profit on the supply and demand. These natural resources could provide significant economic growth if farmers are given the skills to create a profitable business. Technoserve has partnered with nearly 4,000 businesses and upwards of 300,000 farmers each year.

TechnoServe’s mission is to implement training methods that these regions lack, such as skills in management training, finance and secure markets that are needed to create profitable enterprises. The implementation of training skills and knowledge allows individuals and communities to continue to carry the skills for a lifetime.

TechnoServe has made a lasting impact for millions of individuals and in 2019 it was rated the number one nonprofit fighting poverty by ImpactMatters.

Focusing on Women’s Empowerment

The annual report from 2019 reveals an increase in entrepreneurship for farmers and women, highlighting specific countries, and more specifically, women’s impact. In 2019, 38% of beneficiaries were women or women-owned businesses. Overall, 317,493 individuals and companies, as a result of Technoserve’s help, display increased profitability and financial benefits of $200,579.

In developing countries, women face gender barriers that are disproportionally more likely to affect them. Women’s economic empowerment is vital for alleviating poverty and creating employment opportunities. Investing specifically in women’s economic opportunities, such as access to training, knowledge and resources, could impact farm production up to 30%, allowing for increased employment opportunities. Studies estimate that this change could impact the global GPD by 26%, or $28 trillion.

Women in Business (WIN)

Working closely with businesses and organizations, Technoserve is alleviating poverty by proactively working to create social equity within communities. Breaking the barrier of gender inequality to empower women-run institutions through funding and support, improves the quality of life and financial status. For instance, Technoserves five year program designed for women, called Women in Business (WIN), focuses on female entrepreneurs in Mozambique. Similar training is also provided for men through Technoserve, to create complete gender balance.

More than three-quarters of economically active Mozambicans are involved in small and informal businesses, 60% of whom are women.” Despite most business owners being women, their businesses are less likely to employ as many people and are relatively smaller than their male counterparts. Highlighting gender barriers, women face higher demands at home due to families and are not likely to receive the same networks, information and opportunity. The WIN program utilizes a market systems approach to produce partnerships with private sector companies, associates and service providers, to create an inclusive market for women. WIN is able to provide these women resources through the partnership established with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Sida assists TechnoServe’s initiative through funding, providing resources such as creating employment opportunities, equipment, financial services and products needed.

Overall, TechnoServe is alleviating poverty with initiatives in the agricultural industry and acknowledges the important role of women in this endeavor.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

African AgribusinessesOn November 30, 2020, USAID announced a joint operation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute $30 million to Aceli Africa to help bridge the financing gap experienced by many African agribusinesses. The grant is estimated to have a tremendous impact and will unlock $700 million in financing for up to 750 African agribusinesses in Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Agri-SMEs Lack Financing

Much of Aceli Africa’s work focuses on a data-driven approach to incentivizing financial institutions to provide loans for small and medium-sized African agribusinesses or “agri-SMEs”, as Aceli Africa calls them.

According to Aceli Africa’s research, agri-SMEs represent a golden opportunity to solve hunger and poverty throughout Africa and help fulfill key U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as gender equality and climate action.

This is because smallholder farmers consist of both men and women and provide direct access to food sources that are responsibly raised in accordance with the needs of the local environment. Furthermore, the expansion of the agricultural sector in Africa is two to three times more effective in eliminating poverty than growth in any other sector.

Despite the great potential of African smallholder farms, banks are largely unwilling to loan them much-needed financing to power additional growth. Banks do not have the risk appetite for small farms in Africa due to price volatility, the seasonality of farming, pest invasions and a weak regulatory environment.

The result of this is an investment shortfall of $65 billion per year for agri-SMEs in Africa. Initiatives focused on microfinancing do not provide enough financial injection for agri-SMEs, which are larger than the microenterprises that are the usual recipients of microloans. Agri-SMEs are thus left out of financing. However, the work of Aceli Africa aims to change these circumstances.

Aceli Africa Incentivizes Banks to Loan to Agri-SMEs

To bridge this gap in financing, Aceli Africa partners with numerous organizations such as USAID, the IKEA Foundation, Feed the Future and the International Growth Center to incentivize banks to loan and provide technical assistance to agri-SMEs.

This is where the aforementioned $30 million contribution has the potential to positively impact agriculture and African agribusinesses. One of the incentive programs that Aceli Africa employs is to cover the losses of the first loan that a financial institution gives to an African agri-SME.

This works by depositing 2-8% of the loan’s value in a reserve account that the lender can access when losses are experienced. This boosts risk appetite among lenders and makes banks and other institutions more willing to invest in agri-SMEs in Africa.

Aceli Africa also provides technical assistance for financial management for African agri-SMEs through online tools and other in-person approaches to help smallholder farmers optimize growth using the loans they receive. These approaches have the potential to put U.S. taxpayer dollars to effective use by addressing poverty and hunger abroad.

United States Outreach is Key in Combatting Poverty

USAID’s decision to partner with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the IKEA Foundation to contribute to the work of Aceli Africa symbolizes the value and power of international partnership in the fight against global poverty. When the United States decides to lead on an issue, the rest of the world follows. Key international partnerships are essential for the United States to take the lead and garner international support to address key global issues.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr