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TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers in China and IndiaSocial media app TikTok has turned some rural farmers in China and India into content-creating celebrities. The platform also provides many people with considerable income, giving some farmers an escape from poverty. However, it is uncertain whether this form of agricultural entrepreneurship will become widespread.

TikTok Brings Prosperity for Rural Farmers

TikTok is an app that allows users to watch, create and share short videos on their phones. Its parent company is ByteDance, based in Bejing. TikTok is quickly becoming one of the most used social media platforms. CNBC reports that by July 2020, TikTok had more than 680 million global users. TikTok’s popularity has spread even to rural areas, notably in China and India. In the past few years, many rural Chinese and Indian farmers have made profits, sometimes in the millions, from ad sponsorships and selling crops through the app.

Improved internet and smartphone access in rural China and India partially account for TikTok’s success among these farmers. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), 70.4% of China’s population had access to the internet in 2020. In just four years, between 2016 and 2020, internet access in rural areas went up nearly 23%. Of Chinese internet users, almost 100% use their phones to access the internet. While the number of internet users is smaller in India, there have been large increases in internet access. In 2020, India’s rural internet users increased 13% according to the ICUBE 2020 report. Now about 43% of India’s population has internet access and all active internet users use phones.

Visual Appeal and Good Timing

TikTok utilizes primarily audio and visuals, rather than text, allowing those with less education to easily navigate the platform. In China and India, there are education gaps in low-income agricultural areas. Thus, influencers in rural areas with low education have been able to create popular content. COVID-19 travel restrictions also necessitated that farmers find new ways to sell their goods. Many turned to video creation. Quarantine meant that more consumers were not only watching farmers’ TikTok videos but also desiring fresh produce for homecooked meals.

TikTok Stardom and Urbanization

TikTok provided several benefits to low-income rural farmers in China and India. TikTok allows growers to sell directly to consumers. This has been especially popular in China, where e-commerce is widely used. In addition to increased income, the possibility of TikTok stardom offers respect often denied to low-income rural people. The LA Times quotes rural Indian TikTok sensation Gaikwad, who states, “But I got respect, legitimacy and confidence. We are poor people. We have never received any attention in life. All we have gotten is disdain and scorn. TikTok turned it around.”

Agricultural TikTok videos enticed consumers too. The number of rural TikTokers boasting 10k+ followers was six times higher in 2019-2020 than it was in 2018-2019, Bloomberg reports. Videos of open spaces and abundant fields provide a quaint image of country living — a mental escape from bustling cities. This comes at a time in which people in China and India are continually moving into urban areas. Between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of China’s population living in urban areas increased about 26%, according to the World Bank. In India, the percentage of people in cities increased about 7% during that period.

TikTok Bans

While TikTok continues to benefit many Chinese farmers, India banned the use of TikTok on June 29, 2020, allegedly for national security reasons. This ban followed a 2019 ban, which the government claimed was due to TikTok’s lack of regulation regarding pornographic content. India lifted the 2019 ban after TikTok took down videos of concern. The 2020 ban however appears to be permanent. Indians cannot access their terminated accounts.

Other countries worldwide have also banned or are considering banning TikTok due to concerns about personal data security and possible inappropriate content. Because of this, it seems the platform may have a limited reach in rural areas outside China for now. China also has technological advantages that other developing nations do not yet have, including 56% internet accessibility in rural areas and a strong e-commerce system. Both contributed to Chinese farmers’ TikTok success.

Utilizing Creativity for Prosperity

Relying on TikTok as a means of income in low-income agricultural areas has its drawbacks. Yet, this phenomenon demonstrates how rural farmers in China and India can harness creativity, adapting to a changing world. Farmers found ways to share agricultural knowledge and convey humor, crossing class divides. After India banned TikTok, rural influencers quickly switched to other platforms, including YouTube, Instagram and Indian-based apps. While it may not be exclusively through TikTok, as internet and smartphone access increase, perhaps more gregarious growers will soon find abundance through social media.

– Annie Prafcke
Photo: Unsplash

Flood-Tolerant Rice BenefitsRice farming and production impacts the lives of millions throughout the world. Rice is the staple food of three billion people globally and a source of income for many. The farming of rice also contributes significantly to the economic growth of many countries. Especially within developing countries, the success of rice production is crucial for feeding individuals and creating economic stability. Flood-tolerant rice benefits developing countries reliant upon rice for livelihoods, food security, and the economy’s stability.

Environmental Challenges Affect Rice Production in India

Recent changes in the climate have caused rice production volatility due to flooding and drought. As many as 4.8 million people in India are exposed to river flood risks each year. In India, environmental challenges have had an especially negative effect on rice crops as floods have overtaken many viable planting areas. This flooding has disproportionately affected low-income farmers. These farmers often work with less reliable plots of land that are more prone to flooding. Without the development of techniques to help combat extreme weather, both the livelihoods of low-income people within India and the general Indian economy will experience a significant socio-economic impact.

Swarna Sub-1 Rice

A strain of flood-tolerant rice called Swarna Sub-1 has been a major development that addresses crop damage due to flooding in India. As a mixture of two different rice varieties, this scientifically developed plant is able to withstand intense flooding. This type of rice has been on the market for use since around 2009; however, many farmers have not had access to the rice strain until recently. This is largely due to the lack of information about the existence of Swarna Sub-1 and a lack of accessibility to it.

Flood-Tolerant Rice Benefits

The introduction of flood-tolerant rice has allowed for an increase in rice production, as J-PAL studies have shown. J-PAL is an organization that researches innovative solutions to global poverty. The increased rice production throughout India has had an incredibly positive effect, both economically and socially, as there is a larger supply of rice boosting local economies. As impoverished farmers have seen more successful rice harvests, they have been keener to cultivate a greater amount of farmland and make riskier agricultural decisions. Farmers have also invested in fertilizers to further increase crop health as they are more sure of their ability to create a solid income through rice farming. Additionally, precautionary rice savings decreased, suggesting farmers have perceived lower risk of crop losses with the flood-tolerant rice.

Swarna Sub-1 seeds increased rice yields by about 10% over the course of two years, as seen in the study. Researchers stated that the productive behavior changes among farmers who planted Swarna Sub-1 accounted for 41% of the long-term increase in rice yields. The higher yields also increased the income of farmers by roughly $47 per hectare.

The Potential of Flood-Tolerant Rice

These flood-tolerant rice benefits have improved the livelihoods of impoverished farmers in India while also contributing to food security and local economies. Increased access to flood-tolerant rice varieties in developing countries has the potential to improve lives and lift people out of poverty.

– Olivia Bay 
Photo: Flickr

the BSCFABelize’s sugar cane production has been a major staple to its economy since the 1800s. Today, it supports the livelihood of around 15% of Belizeans, contributes to 6% of Belize’s foreign exchange income and adds 30% gross value to the country’s agriculture. Due to its overall importance, organizations have taken great steps to help protect sugar farmers and improve their working conditions. A major step toward this goal was when the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) became Fairtrade certified in 2008. Since then, the value of sugar from Belize has grown and better working conditions and human rights have been established.

Sugar Cane Farmers in Belize

Sugar cane farmers and plantation workers often struggle because sugar prices in international markets are low and processing sugar cane is long and expensive. Smaller farms also have trouble getting access to lucrative markets that would buy more sugar. The compensation smallholder farmers receive for cane often fails to cover the costs they incur to produce it, leaving them in a debt trap and with little capital to reinvest in farms. They also cannot pay for newer equipment that would help make the process easier, faster and cheaper. The significant amount of time invested in farming to provide an income often leaves little time to engage in other opportunities that can pull them out of poverty, such as education. Fairtrade aims to alleviate these problems by helping people and organizations get better representation in the market and better prices for their crops.

The Impact of Fairtrade Certification

Since 2008, Belize’s sugar cane exports have increased greatly, particularly in the European market. In the first five years of the BSCFA becoming Fairtrade certified, Belize’s sugar cane gross profit grew significantly. Belize has also been able to increase the amount of sugar cane produced every year due to farmers getting resources to control pests in the early stages of the growing process and access to better farming and processing tools. From 2018 to 2019 alone, Belize went from producing 150,000 tons to more than one million tons of sugar cane.

Impact on Communities in Belize

A huge benefit of being Fairtrade certified is that organizations will receive premiums — extra money that farmers and workers can invest in their businesses or the community. The BSCFA gets around $3.5 million in premiums a year and has used that as grants for education, building and repairs, community spaces such as churches and libraries, funerals for impoverished families, water tank systems and more.

The BSCFA has continued advocacy and empowerment efforts to improve the working conditions of sugar cane farmers. In 2015, the BSCFA took a strong stance against child labor, lobbying the government to make laws against child labor and personally suspending support of farms that violated fairtrade practices.

Due to advocacy efforts such as these, the government of Belize has taken steps to stop child labor, such as working on bills that help others identify child labor situations and updating its Child Labor Policy to add additional protection for children. It also established a Child Labor Secretariat that works on identifying and reporting child labor cases.

Fairtrade and the BSCFA have made significant strides in protecting the rights of sugar cane farmers while expanding the economy. These efforts are lifting people out of poverty and ensuring that fairness prevails.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

livestock can alleviateThroughout the world, 689 million people are estimated to be living in conditions of poverty and surviving on $1.90 a day or less. Of these numbers, around 70% of those impoverished depend on livestock for employment, income and food security. The ability for families to stay afloat, send their kids to school, put food on the table and sustain themselves, depends on the health of their herds. Livestock can alleviate poverty by providing several benefits.

Oxfam: Livestock for Poverty Reduction

Oxfam, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, donates money, food and livestock to struggling communities for long-term success. Oxfam works with local organizations and coalitions in 70 countries both before and after crises occur to treat both the symptoms of systemic inequality as well as the systems themselves. Oxfam advocates for the rights of the impoverished and those facing oppression by challenging government leaders to do more for their constituency.

Feed the Future Campaign

Oxfam has worked with the U.S. food security initiative, Feed the Future, to help farmers in countries like Ghana, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti, Senegal and Tanzania. Through intense research and direct communication with local communities, Oxfam has strengthened strategies for the success of female farmers, growth in the agriculture sector and maternal and child nutrition. Oxfam stresses the importance of aiding small scale farmers to end the cyclical nature of poverty and food insecurity. This initiative includes providing access to opportunities and resources that some families do not have, holding accountable the governments and businesses for the harmful policies that affect farmers and ensuring a positive relationship with local groups.

The Impact of Livestock

Part of Oxfam’s mission is to set communities up for success in the long-term by providing them with resources and tools to maintain these resources. Oxfam does not just provide livestock such as goats and sheep, but it provides farmers with resources and training for herds to be healthy and successful. Growth in agriculture directly leads to economic security and growth. It profits the entire community as it lowers the costs of food, creates wealth for producers and creates opportunities for other economic areas to flourish as more consumables become accessible. The work Oxfam does in bringing livestock to impoverished communities alleviates poverty and produces greater economic growth and opportunity. Livestock can alleviate poverty as it takes on laborious duties that lessen the strain on families. Livestock also produces and becomes a source of food and increases the flow of income and ability to work on other aspects of life.

Nyalit, a woman in South Sudan, was given two goats from Oxfam and has seen her life improve tremendously since the contribution. The goats provide a source of food and income, producing milk. The goats have also reproduced, allowing the farm to grow.

Livestock Programs Reduce Poverty

Oxfam has made considerable contributions to lessen the impact of poverty throughout the world and continues to do so with its programs. Its work is evidence that livestock can alleviate poverty and expand the socio-economic opportunities of the farmers. The organization has empowered female farmers, provided food security for mothers and children in developing areas and encouraged growth in the agricultural sector.

– Lizzy Herestofa
Photo: Flickr

AI Increases Food SecurityArtificial Intelligence seems like a far-off concept reserved for science fiction. In truth, AI is present in modern life and the advancements in this technology are being used to combat global poverty. Most prominently, computer scientists and engineers are improving the ways that AI increases food security globally. The need for utilizing technology in food security is essential to protect more than 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Predicting Threats to Food Security

A vital step to protect food security is looking ahead and responding proactively to potential problems. The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) works by gathering massive amounts of data from vast sources to forecast developing situations affecting food supply. NEWS is a perfect example of how AI increases food security with constant improvements in its system to enhance response times to price changes, poor weather conditions for food development and other global crop issues.

The effectiveness of machine learning far surpasses human data collection and these types of technology have already seen success. Through the algorithms created by AI technology, a forecasted drought prevented many Colombian farmers from planting crops that would not have been fruitful. This prediction saved the farmers millions of dollars by avoiding crop loss during the dry spell. Preserving large amounts of money to spend during opportune times is another way AI increases food security and stabilizes supply.

AI Optimizes Agricultural Procedures and Production

People living in rural areas that work in farming communities are usually the most susceptible to extreme poverty. AI can improve working conditions and modernize agriculture to protect vulnerable populations and provide them with upward economic mobility through technology education and increased crop production.

AI robotics is revolutionizing agriculture and crop harvesting robots as well as AI-enhanced drones are increasing production and keeping workers safe. Robotic weed control allows for the proper and safe distribution of herbicides that can be harmful to humans. This also prevents herbicide resistance. In Argentina, drones inspect wheat crops for harmful infections and pests. AI increases food security by diagnosing soil conditions as well. This technology allows workers to implement the necessary strategies for correcting nutrient deficiencies.

The most important aspect of these technologies is that they provide benefits but will not reduce the need for actual workers. Though education in these fields can be expensive, the skills learned will add value and mobilize people out of extreme poverty.

The FAO AI Systems Used for Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has implemented two programs in which AI increases food security and improves agriculture sustainability; the FAO’s WaPOR portal and the Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS). Both systems monitor water usage in agriculture in different ways.

  • The FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water in the Near East and African regions. It does this through open-source technology that gathers massive amounts of data. Simultaneously, the AI analyzes the data to determine the best water use for different crops and regions and uploads the information in real-time.
  • ASIS works similarly to NEWS. It is a satellite system that works as an early detection system for droughts or other water shortages. ASIS breaks down the information from a global standpoint to each country and region. Doing this allows people to be proactive in their preparation for impending droughts by improving water usage and shoring up logistics of moving aid to an area troubled by food shortages, thereby preventing hunger.

The Future of Food Security

As time progresses, AI will improve and become more common, eventually becoming cheaper and more accessible worldwide. With the rapid advancement in this technology and what is already in place to sustain food security using AI, a hunger-free world is a closer reality.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and income diversification The World Bank estimates that 78% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Most individuals who reside in these areas depend on farming and agriculture not only for sustenance, but also for household income. There is consequently a correlation between poverty and having one, dominating occupation. Yet according to researchers, there seems to be a solution to this relationship through increased income diversification.

Farming

There is an issue of volatility that is inherent in farming. Variability in conditions can adversely affect crop yield, which ultimately impacts the income received by farmers. According to Farm Europe, competition can also be problematic. If all the poor in a given region take up farming as a means of earning income, then at some point, the supply outweighs the demand. When that happens, either crop prices will either decrease or crops will waste away in storage. This effect is further amplified when governments are unable or unwilling to offer adequate compensation for farmers’ excess crops.

Even in the United States, abundant in resources and well-developed in agricultural techniques, farming is a constantly changing industry. The USDA reports a wide fluctuation in income earned by a typical commercial farmer between 2000 and 2014. As a result, there is a need for income diversity worldwide, and this is particularly illustrated by some of the success stories in impoverished countries.

Vietnam

Since the 1990s, Vietnam has experienced high rates of economic growth. Researchers with the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) assert this is due in large part to income diversification.

Vietnam’s highest concentration of poverty is located in the Northern Hills. An analysis of the region suggested that those able to earn income by way of agricultural production, as well as non-farming activities, experienced the highest spike in their earnings over time. However, where does that leave those solely reliant on farming?

Residents limited to farming only managed to earn a living by applying the principle of diversification to their crops. They deviated from the typical crop grown, rice, and added cash crops, like coffee and tea, to their output. The cash crops yielded a much higher profit per unit of sale and required less land, labor and resources to grow and maintain. Even so, their spike in income did not match that of those who participated in both farming and non-farming activities. Nonetheless, the practice of diversification provided a much more stable source of income overall.

Niger

Niger currently ranks as the fifth most impoverished country in the world, and it is actively striving to end its poverty issue. People are seeing positive results attributed to the dynamic between poverty and income diversification.

A study conducted on over 600 smallholder rice farming families in Niger revealed that those who also participated in non-farming wage employment were better off than those who strictly farmed or were self-employed in some capacity related to farming. An important effect of a second stream of income was the ability to maintain the size of a given farm. The ancillary job could generate enough profit during a poor season to cover overhead costs for the following season.

Conclusion

The relationship between poverty and income diversification has become a central focus for policymakers across the globe. It is an effective way for individuals to mitigate the impacts of poverty. Empowering impoverished families to earn steady income can solve many issues embedded in poverty. If a family can individually afford food and water, they can pay to keep their lights on or go for a visit to a doctor. Moreover, the idea of attaining an education or further developing their current form of income becomes a realistic possibility. Diversifying income creates a pathway to not only sustaining livelihoods, but lays the groundwork for prosperity.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Development of India

Thirty years ago, India was considered by many to be the poster child for global poverty, with what the CIA World Factbook described as “environmental degradation, extensive poverty and widespread corruption.” However, in the decades since, India has grown tremendously, threatening to eclipse existing global superpowers, in fact, the country is projected to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2025. Here are five reasons for the rapid pace of development in India:

5 Reasons for the Rapid Pace Development of India

  1. Risk Management in Farming – Farmers are the backbone of a thriving society. However, the field of agriculture is full of risks, as bad crops, bad weather and other unexpected circumstances can lead to ruin for a would-be farmer, particularly in a country like India, which experiences ongoing monsoons that can completely ruin a farmer’s crops. This is why India has begun to implement risk management programs that insure farmers’ crops against monsoons and other disasters, a practice common in developed countries. When the Indian government implemented the PMFBY risk management scheme in 2016, the country saw the market premiums for agricultural goods increase by 300 percent.
  2. Quickly Growing Cities – A large part of India’s development has taken place in its cities. Two-thirds of the economic growth of the country comes from its cities, which are projected to have economies the size of small countries by 2030. This is largely due to the large influx of new citizens to the cities, which is projected to add 300 million residents by 2050. This comes at the cost of tremendous overcrowding in the cities, but India is working to develop new methods of urban sustainability that will keep the growth provided by its massive cities going.
  3. Investing in Renewable Energy – When India began to take off as a world power, the country was able to quickly develop its energy systems due to a rapid and early adoption of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy. This is because, due to the lack of preexisting infrastructure and the country’s sunny climate, it is cheaper for the Indian energy industry to harness solar energy than to harness energy from coal and gas. Today, solar energy alone makes up 30 percent of the energy produced in India and has the capacity to produce 30 GW of power in 2019. This access to cheap and reliable energy has helped India’s development by allowing the country to power its cities and even export energy to other countries. With that said, many households in India still lack access to electricity, which has caused many in the country to criticize the government’s export policies.
  4. Increased Focus on Breastfeeding – Although this point may seem oddly specific, it is vital to India’s development. The ability of children to breastfeed has been shown to improve their overall nutrition and reduce child mortality. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of babies who are breastfed in India has increased from 46.4 to 54.9 percent. This is partly due to a government program called Mother’s Absolute Affection, which works to make mothers and health care providers more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the nutritional needs of a developing baby.
  5. Thriving Tech Industry – In recent years, India has become almost ubiquitously known for being one of the largest tech powerhouses in the world. Most of this growth has been concentrated in start-up companies, turning India into a gigantic Silicon Valley. Of note, Bangalore, India’s biggest tech city, is considered by experts to be the second-fastest growing startup city in the world (behind Berlin) and the country has been rated the world’s top exporter of IT services.

Overall, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing countries and it is because of smart government policies, targeted economic development and stronger social services that help ensure that people aren’t left behind.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

sustainable farmingHunger and food insecurity are major issues in India; the nation is home to 15 percent of the world’s undernourished people. The United Nations’ FAO estimates that every single day, more than 195 million people in India suffer from hunger.

The nation seriously lags behind other major nations like Brazil and China when it comes to crop yield for cereal and rice, which are India’s two key crops. India’s slow and inefficient agricultural sector is the result of limited access to modern technology, inefficient systems for transporting goods and urbanization. And on top of that, 63 percent of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall, so years with low rain devastate crop production. Despite all of this, farmers in India have started movements to utilize more sustainable farming methods and practices that work to make the agricultural system more efficient in order to increase outputs and improves people’s lives.

Sustainable Farming Methods

Sustainable farming practices are used to improve agricultural output and efficiency, which means that more food is produced, less resources are used and more profits are made by farmers. Examples of sustainable farming methods include using a biodegradable mulch film instead of one made from Polyethylene. While Polyethylene films require intense labor to remove, and can affect soil quality and crop growth if done improperly, biodegradable films are naturally absorbed by microorganisms in the soil, and help maintain the quality of soil while reducing costs of labor. Farmers will also use fungicides and insecticides on their seeds in order to improve the health of their crops and enhance their productivity. In addition, due to the fact that agriculture relies so heavily on rainfall, effective sustainable water management is crucial for a successful harvest.

Along with how crops are grown, how they are stored and distributed is a crucial aspect of agriculture. An estimated up to 67 million tons of food are wasted every year in India. Perishable goods end up often rotting as a result of a lack of modern technology, pests, or weather. Sustainable initiatives like using more efficient insulation and special tarpaulins that keep fruits and vegetables at proper temperatures during transportation work to reduce the number of perishables that rot. Reducing the amount of food that rots means that there is more food available to eat, which combats food insecurity and ensure that more food items are available without even increasing crop yield. And of course, combining these efforts with initiatives to produce food more sustainably and efficiently does even more to fight food insecurity.

The Natural Farming Movement

India’s Natural Farming movement plays a massive role in promoting sustainable farming practices that improve health, create jobs, cut labor costs and improve peoples’ overall quality of life. The use of pesticides has devastated farmers across India which has led to the loss of crops, debt, illness and even death. In 2000, villagers from the village of Punukula, Andrha Pradesh, launched a grassroots movement against the use of pesticides, focusing on non-pesticide management techniques that employ natural alternatives like chili pepper and planting trap crops like castor.

Within a year of the start of the movement, farmers saw pesticide-related health issues vanish, expenses drop, and profits increase. In addition, new jobs were created as a result of the need to create repellents from natural products. Villagers reported that the movement improved their quality of life — improving their financial situations, their health and their overall happiness. More villagers began to reject the use of pesticides, and the village declared itself as pesticide-free in 2004.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

A similar natural farming movement is Zero Budget Natural Farming, which began as a grassroots effort led by people in the state of Karnataka. Zero Budget entails that farmers do not spend money on inputs for their crops and that they would rather use resources from nature to grow and tend to their crops instead of chemicals, thus Zero Budget Natural Farming. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, which improves their financial stability and allows them to focus more on tending to their crops.

A key aspect of Zero Budget Natural Farming is the use of the fermented microbial culture Jeevamrutha (a mixture of water, cow urine, cow dung, flour, soil, and brown sugar) on soil. Jeevanmrutha acts as a catalyst in promoting earthworm and microorganism activity within the soil, while also providing the soil with additional nutrients. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, providing them with more financial stability and thus improving their quality of life.

The Zero Budget Natural Farming movement actually runs training camps that receive support by the state government. These camps last five days, with eight hours of classes per day. Attendance ranges from 300 to 5000 farmers, and topics covered include philosophy, ecology, successful farming practices, and of course, Zero Budget Natural Farming methods.

A Promising Future

The people of India suffer enormously from hunger and food insecurity. India’s weak and inefficient agricultural and food storage and distribution systems, coupled with devastating years of low rain often leads Indian farmers into bad health, hunger, and poverty. However, farmers in India have started a movement towards a more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly farming techniques that fight against poverty and hunger. Using these sustainable techniques means that farmers have fewer costs upfront, ensuring that they are able to make higher profits and worry less about having to take loans or to pay off debts. Sustainable farming in India reduces poverty, fights hunger, and changes lives.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

 

Feed the Future in Kenya
As of 2018, the Republic of Kenya had a total population of around 51 million people with a growth rate of 2.6 percent. About 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in urban areas and major cities while the majority of Kenyans live in rural and sub-urban areas. Because of this, one would assume agriculture would provide a steady income for most families, but the agricultural sector in Kenya hosts a variety of challenges.

Kenya’s Employment Challenges

While agriculture does contribute one-third of the nation’s GDP, many issues prevent farmers from turning a decent profit. Aside from the fact that only 9.5 percent of Kenya’s total land area is arable, many Kenyans simply lack the monetary resources to expand their businesses. In fact, Oxford University’s poverty index finds that around 50 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line.

Rural Kenyans, like citizens of many other African countries, rely on subsistence farming—meaning they farm just to feed themselves and their families. In times of crop failure, even simply feeding one’s household can be a challenge, much less producing viable crops to sell. In spite of this, Kenya’s entrepreneurial middle-class keeps growing, and many nonprofits and aid assistance programs are jumping at the chance to see that that growth continues.

Feed the Future in Kenya

One such organization is USAID’s Feed the Future program; the Feed the Future initiative, as described on their website, “brings together partners from across various sectors and the U.S. Government to use each of our unique skills and insights in a targeted, coordinated way to help countries that are ripe for transformation change the way in the way their food systems work.”

Nkamathi Farm Products

An example of how Feed the Future in Kenya has positively impacted the nation’s population can be found in the success of Nkamanthi Farm Products. The founder of the company, Lydia Kanyika, saw how poverty and low education limited opportunities for young people in her community to find meaningful work. Hoping to create positive change in her world, she applied to and won a Feed the Future business development grant. The grant is awarded to select businesses based on four key elements: their marketing plans, ability to create markets, ability to generate employment opportunities and their ability to increase productivity along the livestock value chain in Northern Kenya.

Kanyika used her grant to expand her small business by upgrading her wooden chicken house to a modernized coop. This simple change has not only allowed her to increase the number of chickens she kept from 300 to 2,500 but also grow her farm’s production by 243 percent. Perhaps most amazing of all is how contagious her success was on her community.

The Ripple Effects

Through the expansion of her company, Kanyika has mentored more than 50 young Kenyans and provided them with employment opportunities that help them support their families. One of her employees, Martin Mwenda, gladly shared his business success with representatives from Feed the Future in Kenya. When he first began earning income from distributing eggs from Kanyika’s chickens, he told the project that he only sold five cartons of eggs each day. As Nkamanthi Farm Products grew, so did his clientele; he now sells 25 cartons daily, which provides him with a steady and consistent revenue.

“I want to expand the egg business,” he told Feed the Future. “I will then use the business to create employment opportunities for fellow youth, especially those who have migrated from rural areas to Isiolo town to make ends meet, like I did.”

The Future of Agriculture

While Kenya’s middle class continues to struggle for more open markets and trade, investment and financial freedoms, aid programs like Feed the Future are slowly but surely helping Kenyans expand their personal businesses, which in turn spreads more employment opportunities across the country.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr