The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been officially chosen and released with a target date of 2030. According to Farming First, “agriculture accounts for 37 percent of employment, 34 percent of land use, 70 percent of water use and up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.”

If agriculture can be made more efficient, we may have a shot at feeding everyone in the world, a number that will reach 9 billion in 2050.

Farmers following the SDGs can help end poverty and hunger, consequently reducing negative effects caused by these problems. They can also help fight climate change globally. Farming First talked to farmers to see what they had to say about what they needed most to help them reach goals that were attainable for them.

In Bangladesh, Anwar Hosen had been selling seed, fertilizer and crop protection without any formal kind of training. The Feed the Future initiative taught Anwar about high-quality agricultural inputs and was given more readily available access to these inputs. Anwar now understands the difference that high-quality seeds and fertilizer can make, as his clients have reported a higher crop yield.

In Cambodia, Chieng Sophat is a bean and cucumber farmer in the province of Battambang. Sophat has been farming since the 1980s and has always had trouble making money due to flooding that can often destroy an entire crop yield. Sophat notes that things are getting worse as climate change all over the globe intensifies.

Thanks to the project Cambodia HARVEST, Sophat has been shown ways to better manage the water on his farm. Through methods like raised plant beds and drip irrigation, which help get his crops through the dry season, Sophat has seen notable success.

He now has extra income from his higher crop yield that he is able to use to “pay for his children’s school and household improvements,” according to Impatient Optimists. Most of the world’s farmers live in developing countries, and growing agriculture has been proven to be twice as effective in reducing poverty compared to the growth of any other sector.

In order for us to be able to end global poverty and be able to feed 9 billion people by 2050, we must ensure that farmers have access to the knowledge and training that will allow them to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of their crops while using sustainable methods.

Drusilla Gibbs

Sources: Farming First, Impatient Optimists
Photo: Pixabay

Working with indigenous and small communities to obtain eco-friendly, organic and healthy superfoods for their clients is Essential Living Foods’ goal.

This company works directly with farmers around the world in order to get the quality products it offers to its costumers. At the same time, the company is bringing sustainability to its farmers.

Essential Living Foods’ global trade partnerships support farmers’ sustainability and development. The company donates one percent of its profits to the communities and farmers that supply them with superfood products.

According to the Essential Living Foods website, the company’s mission is to “improve the health of the planet, its people and their communities.”

Dedicated to fair and ethical business practices, Essential Living Foods also works to maintain a healthy work environment for its partners and employees.

Part of its vision of a healthy and sustainable environment is to have eco-friendly packaging that produces zero waste in its products. This packaging goes hand-in-hand with the company’s mission to improve the planet, people’s lives and communities’ health.

Cardboard, glass, tin and plastic are some of the materials that the company uses to package its products. For example, its cardboard boxes are made of 100 percent recycled materials. It also uses recyclable and resealable bags that keep the freshness of its superfoods, as well as reusable tins made from recycled steel that help maintain the company’s powdered products.

As if that were not enough, in order to label its products, the company uses soy, vegetable and water-based inks that help make the packaging recyclable.

As mentioned before, Essential Living Foods donates one percent of its profits to the indigenous communities that provide them with their products. This is done through the “One Percent for the Planet” organization membership, in which each member donates at least one percent of their annual profits to different causes.

A member of One Percent for the Planet since 2008, Essential Living Foods has collaborated with this cause to improve lives and protect the environment, expand and support their philanthropic causes and continue providing its customers with quality superfoods.

Among the products that Essential Living Foods offers are cacao bars, goji berries, smoothie mixes, trail mixes, protein concentrates, peanut butter and almond butter.

Customers can shop Essential Living Foods products by ingredients, by function or by nutrients. Ingredients encompass cacao, berries and fruits, nuts and seeds, oils and butters, salt and olives, among others. For function, the company divides its products into sections such as energy, cleanse/detox, balance, skin, immunity, appetite/metabolism, healing and rejuvenation. Some of the nutrients offered to clients are antioxidants, fiber, protein, magnesium and selenium, among others.

Besides providing healthier and organic superfoods products for their costumers, Essential Living Foods is a company that is also dedicated to creating and improving the health of the planet, the people and communities around the world. It does this through fair and ethical business practices as well as donations that help improve lives and protect the environment.

Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: Essential Living Foods 1, Essential Living Foods 2
Photo: The Appropriate Omnivore

Over the past few years organic products have grown in popularity in mainstream America. It is now hip and cool to go organic. In the United States, the organic food industry is valued at about 27 billion dollars.

With the demand to have organic foods, some entrepreneurs have taken organic farming overseas to poverty stricken areas to provide the U.S. with many of our agricultural products. One such area is Latin America. The most common products imported from there are coffee, bananas and other fruits.

The majority of those who live in poverty in Latin America are the indigenous people. They tend to be the ones who own small farms and work the farms that produce the crops. Culturally and historically, these people have a close connection with their land, crops and the surrounding environment. Going organic is a agricultural practice they are willing to embrace because it maintains traditional methods.

By returning to the natural way to grow agriculture products, farms no longer pollute the environment with harsh chemicals and release excess carbon dioxide. Organic farming utilizes renewable sources of energy rather than fossil fuel dependent resources, for example. There is the hope that organic farming can help mitigate climate change effects that could possibly push people into poverty in the long run.

There is some doubt about how successful shifting to organic growing will be in helping raise people out of poverty. There is approximately a three-year window after switching methods  before prosperous results are seen. Many times small farmers have to take substantial loans to help pay. However, joining in on the organic campaign has proven to be very successful for Latin American organic farmers. One example is Mayorga Organics, which works with harvesting coffee beans.

Mayorga Organics works to develop opportunities for their farmers in this market. They give the resources needed to be successful, such as: education on organic markets, how to grow organic, advocacy for the protection of their farmers, as well as creating an environment of fair trade so that the farmers receive the full amount of money owed to them.

These organic corporations focus on the farmers and the their love of the land. They use sustainable and innovative methods that are increasing the yields of organic farming. With the help of these companies the small Latin American farmers can reach the organic markets. They have a source of income, one that they can live on without fear of slipping back into poverty.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: FAO, Mayorga Organics 1, Mayorga Organics 2, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank,
Photo: Audley Travel

index insuranceThe concept of crop insurance is a well-established practice in developed countries: in anticipation of natural disasters or other impediments to good crop yields, farmers purchase insurance to cover the cost of lost revenue.

Yet traditional agriculture insurance is either unavailable or overly expensive in many developing countries, leaving small-scale farmers, particularly women, vulnerable to natural disasters.

Nevertheless, recent expansions of index insurance programs, in particular the Global Index Insurance Facility, are enabling small-scale women farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean to adequately ensure their crops at affordable prices.

Unlike traditional insurance, index insurance “pays out benefits on the basis of a predetermined index for loss of assets and investments … without requiring the services of insurance claims assessors,” the World Bank reports.

More specifically, “a statistical index is developed before the start of the insurance period to measure deviations from normal for such parameters as rainfall, temperature, seismic activity, wind speed, crop yield or livestock mortality rates.”

Since 2009, GIIF, a program managed by the World Bank Group, has been leading and supporting index-insurance programs across the developing world. In collaboration with partners like MicroEnsure and Kilimo Salama (now ACRE), GIIF often aggregates farmers into groups and enrolls them into insurance programs—an approach both commercially feasible for insurers and empowering for women farmers.

Recent statistics indicate that women farmers in the developing world are at particular risk for agricultural instability. A recent study by the World Bank Group and the ONE Campaign found that although roughly half of the farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa are women, women farmers in Africa produce between 13 and 25 percent less than their male counterparts.

The World Bank Group and the ONE Campaign attributed this difference largely to women farmers’ lack of access to credit and other financial tools.

According to estimates by the Food and Agricultural Organization, if women farmers worldwide had the same access to resources as their male counterparts, “their yields could increase by as much as 30 percent, resulting in 150 million fewer people going hungry.”

GIIF’s index insurance programs are already reaping benefits in many developing countries. In Kenya, a payout initiated by the GIIF program during a drought kept thousands of women farmers in business, allowing them to purchase seeds and fertilizer for the next growing season.

In Haiti, a GIIF partner is offering weather index insurance to 70,000 clients, mostly women farmers who provide essential goods and services to communities.

The World Bank reports that overall, these index insurance programs have helped close the gender gap for farmers in the developing world—a critical step in fighting hunger, tackling malnutrition, and boosting global food security.

Katrina Beedy

Sources: World Bank 1,  World Bank 2
Photo: Siani

It has been fairly well documented that a lack of food leads not only to health issues but also to problems in concentration that can affect daily tasks as well as education. What is not always discussed, however, is how a lack of food security affects IQ, a person’s mental bandwidth.

Eldar Shafir, a psychologist at Princeton University, conducted a study while visiting 464 farmers in 54 villages in Tamil Nadu in southern India before and after harvest. The farmers were given two tests to document their cognitive ability.

Due to the nature of farming in the areas studied, farmers often experience a surge of money flow around harvest time and then experience extreme hardship when it runs out prior to the next year’s harvest. The team led by Shafir found that the farmers had a more difficult time being able to pay back loans and pawned more belongings due to lack of money in the period leading up to the harvest than afterwards.

The farmers scored significantly lower on the tests before the harvest when money was tight, demonstrating that worry and stress were most likely affecting their ability to think clearly. This translated into a 13-point drop in IQ. Recognizing that people in general only have a certain amount of “mental bandwidth,””stress can decrease this bandwidth and leave little room for other cognitive abilities. In addition, it can contribute to poor decision-making among those who do not have food security.

When people are constantly worried about how much food they have or how they will afford to pay for the food they need for their families, the ability to think about other things diminishes. It is not that these people are any less smart; poverty takes up so much mental space that people’s abilities to make good long-term decisions for their families decrease dramatically because more fundamental needs take precedence.

Recognition of this is important for poverty initiatives and government programs around the globe. A person who is struggling with adequate food availability may not be able to fill out an outstanding amount of paper work for assistance or even a job application. In addition, hungry students are generally not able to concentrate in class and therefore may experience poor classroom performance. This could create a situation in which a child becomes disheartened by his or her performance and drops out of school as a result. In the long term, that student may be distrustful of education, a mindset they can pass on to their children.

The study concludes that food security must be a top priority for all aid work because it connects to so many other issues. Recognizing the significant impact of food security on a person’s mental capabilities is a first step in helping development agencies better adjust their programs to be more effective in the long run.

– Andrea Blinkhorn 

Sources: Princeton University, New Scientist
Photo: Ideorg

One of the poorest nations in the world, the Central African Republic (CAR,) sees 90 percent of its citizens survive on just one meal per day. Sectarian and religious violence, primarily targeting the minority Muslim population, only makes matters worse.

Most food trade in the capital city of Bangui is reliant on the imports of wholesale vendors, which are resold by small traders in the marketplace. Muslims, however, own and control these wholesalers, in addition to a large proportion of the agricultural sector as well. And the Muslims are fleeing.

About 40 large wholesalers participated in the market before Muslim leader Michel Djotodia seized power in a coup in March 2013. Less than a year later, only 10 remain. It should not be terribly shocking that Muslims, who live in constant fear for their lives amid ever-increasing violence, are embarking on a massive exodus out of the CAR and into neighboring countries such as Chad and Cameroon.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM,) over 60,000 people have already fled since December 5, 2013, when Christian militias and soldiers exploded into violence.

The Muslim exodus has left farmers without access to seeds, prevented food trucks from crossing the border due to fear of attack and risks an incredible rise in prices as food supplies dry up. If security does not improve soon, the 10 remaining wholesalers claim they will leave as well. Even if they were to stay, profits would be minimal. Over the past two months, sales dropped 90 percent among wholesalers because people can no longer afford to buy the food they need.

Philippe Conraud, Oxfam country director, argues that the combination of people being forced out of the country and the inability for food to come in risks turning the situation into something analogous to a siege. French and African troops, sent to the CAR by the United Nations Security Council, have proven unable to halt the atrocious violence thus far.

In addition to the tumultuous effects fleeing traders have on the country of their origin, neighboring countries must prepare for the economic outcomes of the present circumstances. With at least 30,000 refugees in Chad and 10,000 so far in Cameroon, these neighboring countries have their hands full with the conflict’s humanitarian crisis.

Giovanni Cassani, emergency coordinator for the IOM, touches on the enormity of the problem. 50,000 people can make up a small town. Unless the situation in the CAR improves soon, neighboring countries will have to deal with the long-term economic transformations of a Muslim exodus.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: BBC, Global Post, Washington Post
Photo: Oxfam International

Fair Trade USA is a leading nonprofit organization that certifies Fair Trade Products in the United States. Fair Trade USA authorizes trading between the United States and all other global traders, working toward just and ethical transactions. Its overarching mission is to ensure fair payment to farmers and workers, maintain healthy working conditions and improve quality of life for these communities.

For manufacturers and farmers, Fair Trade USA seeks to empower community development by way of teaching. When fair trade brings in new manufacturers and retailers into the fair trade market, the organization provides them with tools, training and other business resources.The fair trade model encourages manufacturers and farmers to transition toward organic business practices and educates them on its benefits. Fair Trade also requires protection of local resources, while ensuring that farmers receive a harvest price, which allows for sustainable measures.  The goal is to get the most out of their land, and their business.

For consumers, Fair Trade USA hopes to inspire and educate an increasing population. Fair Trade believes in the “Conscious Consumer,” a person who takes a humanitarian view on the world issues, the environment and the social responsibility of companies. Fair Trade teaches consumers that they can “vote with their dollar,” by providing companies with an incentive to change.

According to the organization’s website, “Fair trade doesn’t do charity, but instead teaches it.” When a consumer buys a fair trade product, he or she understands that the farmers and workers who made the product were compensated fairly. Likewise, the farmers and workers are educated as well.

With a sound model and philanthropic principles, Fair Trade USA continues to grow and positively impact the world. Among its effects, the organization has assisted impoverished peoples, empowered communities to take advantage of the free market and provided decent paychecks to families and communities. Through the fair trade model, families are able to eat better, keep children in school, improve health and invest in a bright future.

– Laura Reinacher

Sources: Huffington Post, Fair Trade USA
Photo: Things Anarchists Like

Fair trade is the act of fairly compensating workers and working in developing countries in order to create a sustainable business climate.  Fair Trade USA teaches disadvantaged communities to use their own resources to better their situation.  Instead of buying everyday items from big businesses that have already been established, consumers should try buying fair trade items to help local economies in need.

Some 12,000 fair trade-certified products come from 70 different countries and can be found in 100,000 retail locations across the U.S.  Items like coffee, tea, herbs, sugar, apparel, bedding, and tech products are all available through fair trade.  According to research by George Washington University, “farmers and workers around the world have now earned over $175 million in additional income, including $35 million in fair trade development premiums” due to fair trade products.

In fair trade, proceeds go to the social, economic, and environmental development of the country where the product came from.  A network of community activists decides how the funds are used.  Past projects include schools, wells, agricultural education initiatives, and entrepreneur training.

Another benefit of fair trade is that it sets up non-discriminatory, democratic structures in the businesses of local communities.  This prevents corruption and exploitation.  Workplaces must be safe and up to code and any chemicals used must be disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.  There can be no child labor or discrimination, and workers must have access to collective bargaining.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: George Washington University, Fair Trade, Fair Trade USA

Investopedia defines logistics as “the overall management of the way resources are obtained, stored and moved to the locations where they are required…identifying potential suppliers and distributors; evaluating how accessible and effective they are and establishing relationships…”

Often, firms will contract their logistics management out to specialized companies, but the deciding factor on whether to do that or keep operations in-house is usually based on cost effectiveness. MokshaYug Access (MYA) is a firm that specializes in supply chain logistics in the developing world, starting as an Indian micro-finance group in 2006. Since then, MYA has focused on improving supply chain logistics in emergent economies, making the proverbial roads from the fields to the cities smoother.

A report from NC State University’s Poole College of Management says that proper supply chain management is an effort by multiple organizations to bring the consumer one product. However, most of those groups only pay attention to their end of the business and don’t see the bigger picture of how their contribution benefits the process.

“Supply chain management, then, is the active management of supply chain activities to maximize customer value and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. It represents a conscious effort by the supply chain firms to develop and run supply chains in the most effective & efficient ways possible.” Communication between organizations is a crucial component for success.

A PR Newswire report quoted Harasha Moily, founder and current CEO of MYA as saying, “The fundamental reason for MYA’s existence is to create wealth for the rural farmer.” This is done through their innovative business model that emphasizes what they term as “the first mile.” This facilitates job and asset creation for rural communities by ensuring that essential functions are done at the local level before the product makes its way inland.

MokshaYug Access holds local farmers to high standards, demanding they adhere to “good cattle breeding, cattle feeding, cattle housing and clean milk production standards, which maintains the nutrient levels in the milk, thereby getting the customer to relish all the goodness milk has to offer.” Higher income potential also comes from cutting out the middleman by sending the product from the farm to “world-class dairy processors, who conform to the highest food safety standards.” The brand wants to continue to expand in southern India over the next five years.

The launch of MYA’s Milk Route dairy brand is already changing lives in rural India and demonstrating that proper supply chain logistics can work with local players in mind, keeping costs low, farmer income potential high, and reinforcing the sustainability and wholesomeness of a brand in its infancy.

– David Smith

Sources: Investopedia, MYA, NC State University, PR Newswire

Diminishing access to land and water is making it difficult for Palestinian farmers to cultivate the fertile regions that they call home. In a place where 34 percent of the population lives in poverty, agriculture is essential to the health and well-being of the Palestinian people.

At the time of the Oslo accords in 1993, agriculture accounted for almost 30 percent of Palestine’s gross domestic product—by 2012, it had dropped to 5.8 percent. The expansion of Israeli settlements and destruction of Palestinian farmland are the two most important factors contributing to the decrease in agricultural production.

Palestine is home to the world’s most ancient olive groves, and the fruit has been the backbone of Palestine’s agriculture industry. But decades of Israeli expansion and settler attacks have decimated the once-prolific olive groves. According to agricultural statistics, Israelis have destroyed more than 1 million olive trees since 1980. Despite the destruction, many Palestinians continue to cultivate the crop—for them, the olive is a source of life and dignity.

Another factor contributing to the decline of Palestinian agriculture is the purchasing habits of Western nations. For example, the European Union imports an estimated $300 million of produce from Israeli settlements each year. For Palestinian produce, that figure is less than $20 million. A report compiled by more than 20 European NGO’s explained this statistic: “With more than 4 million Palestinians and over 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied territory, this means the EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian.”

The problem is also aggravated by Israeli appropriation of water resources in the region. According to Human Rights Watch, 9,000 Israeli settlers in the Jordan Valley consume nearly one-quarter of the amount of water used by the entire Palestinian population in the West Bank, approximately 2.5 million people. The extra cost of shipping in water for agricultural purposes means that Palestinian produce can cost up to 25 percent more than the Israeli alternative.

While much of the blame is directed at the Israeli government, Palestinians are also critical of their Palestinian representatives. Unlike the Israeli government, which subsidizes it farmers, the Palestinian Authority taxes agricultural produce, making it more difficult for Palestinian farmers to compete with the Israelis. Government officials admit that they are not doing enough to support their agricultural industry, but also point out that Israeli occupation makes subsidies and revenue generation difficult.

Though Palestine is one of the largest recipients of foreign aid, their agricultural industry continues to suffer because of the Israeli occupation of the region. Destruction of fertile olive groves and appropriation of water resources creates significant obstacles for Palestinian farmers. With little pressure from the international community, it is unlikely that the Israeli government will cease its assault on Palestine’s agriculture industry.

— Daniel Bonasso

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Economist