Farmers in BusinessBrazil’s government has recently been attempting to tackle its economic recession by offering Brazilian farmers and ranchers $8 billion in financing. The country is slowly transforming into a crop-exporter. Not only is the government investing more money in the agricultural sector, but it is also paying Brazilian farmers to produce food for children enrolled in government schools.

As many as 45 million students are being fed by what is the world’s largest universal school feeding program. The program was originally developed in the 1950s, in response to Brazil’s “zero hunger” initiative. A quarter of the country is currently receiving free meals through this program, and the Brazilian farmers are benefiting directly from the government, as well.

For the past three years, farmers have been able to cut out the middlemen and form an agreement directly with the government. Before, farmers had to make unfulfilling deals with the middlemen on whom they depended to sell their produce.

Brazilian farmers who have a school feeding contract with the government have seen their fortunes increase thanks to a dependable local market and formalized land rights nationwide. The contracts outline the required amount of food that the farmers need to produce and how much money the farmers will get in return. This gives farmers the certainty to plan for investment in new essentials and technology. Overall, incomes have increased significantly due to the resourceful and thoughtfully formulated plans made by the government.

The other small farmers with no formal land title deeds still benefit from the program because of their direct relationship with the state through the school feeding program. These small farmers, with the income they receive from the government, are able to take steps towards gaining title deeds.

In 2009, Brazil introduced a new law that requires schools to spend at least 30 percent of their meal budgets on produce from small farms. Many schools are now giving priority to small, local farms, and 70 percent of food consumed in Brazil comes from small farms. Before these changes were made to help small, local farms in Brazil, the market for school meals was primarily dominated by big food companies, and by middlemen who would exploit small farmers’ business.

Brazil is better known for its large industrial farms which produce the country’s top export commodities such as sugarcane, oranges and soy. However, most food consumed by Brazilians is grown by small family farms. These family farmers are often poor and cannot compete with industrial farms. Thus, they are inevitably forced to give up their farms and move to cities in search of better job opportunities.

The new school feeding program has not only helped keep children well fed, but has also cut government spending on school meals by cutting out the middlemen, and has increased the income for Brazilian farmers. Brazil is making great progress in trying to fix its economy by investing in agriculture and, more specifically, small family farms that feed the country.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

Gardening in the Philippines
Container gardening is using recycled materials such as bottles or cartons to grow all manner of fruits, herbs and vegetables at home. In the Philippines, it is a critical survival tool for many families, enabling them to sustainably produce their own basil, squash, string beans, thyme, tomatoes and more.

Despite national poverty levels steadily decreasing since 2006, armed conflict and national disasters have kept food deficits regular. The 2015 Global Hunger Index rated hunger in the Philippines as “serious,” and the World Food Programme provides meals for 65,000 school children each year.

Newspapers like  The Manila Times have published guides on container gardening and materials. In fact, this new trend of nutritional empowerment has spread to 21 million households, giving many families the ability to feed themselves regardless of income. In an interview with The Manila Times, John Marchese of Seminis Home Garden Seed said container gardeners today had access to a huge variety of effective seeds that could be matched to their climate, soil and other circumstances.

Container gardening allows growers like Jojo Rom to save space and still produce an abundance of food, while also passing on knowledge to those around him. This way, Rom encourages others to start their own gardens, avoid the cost of ever-inflating food prices and help the planet. Some families are selling their extra crops to food markets and neighbors to generate income, having been able to produce more seeds for others while still growing enough food for themselves.

Container gardening fights hunger at home and climate change for the world, all the while reconnecting people with nature and teaching valuable skills. The next generation of the Filipino working class may never experience hunger in the same way if these practices are passed on and used to the fullest extent by those needing a path out of hunger and toward prosperity.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

what is desertification
What is desertification? Though an unfamiliar term, it is rather intuitive. Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semiarid, or dry subhumid regions due to climate variations and human activities such as over-cropping, overgrazing, improper irrigation practices and deforestation. Desertification occurs all across the world, but Sub-Saharan and Central Asian drylands are particularly vulnerable. Presently, somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the world’s land surface area is affected, jeopardizing the livelihoods of around 1.2 billion people.

Desertification’s devastating effects on the availability of food, water, fuel and building materials renders landscapes inhospitable to human life. In these sort of resourceless, fragile states, local conflicts over water or land can escalate into civil wars, sexual violence or genocide, as for instance, in the cases of Darfur, Mali, Chad and Afghanistan. Depleted and destabilized communities quickly become humanitarian crises, as those affected flee to become refugees and forced migrants, or stay and fall into radical resource-driven wars. Environmental disasters inevitably become human calamities. Therefore, in order to address issues of poverty, it is necessary to address environmental issues, and vice versa.

While desertification is perhaps not a global priority, it ought to be; many are working to combat its effects on land and people. The European Union (EU) is funding a four-year project called Wadis-Mar to counter desertification in North Africa where water scarcity and overexploitation of groundwater have diminished the region. While Wadis-Mar will utilize new technologies to combat this water crisis, a focus on education in responsible water sustainability and agricultural techniques is crucial to the continued success of the project. Likewise, the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) applies curative measures to communities across the world ravaged by desertification, from reforestation projects in South Africa’s Baviaanskloof Hartland to Chinese public education events that teach sustainability, land restoration and conservation.

Landscapes don’t have to decay and displace people. Understanding the reciprocity of humans’ relationship to the earth and modifying practices can help defeat the poverty cycle and restore people to their homes.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Agriculture
As Tanzania’s farming sector begins to shift to producing various other goods, the innovations in agriculture that enhance the productivity of the farming process are quick to follow.

Recently, the country has witnessed a transformation in its agriculture sector, especially among its smallholder farmers, after realizing the extraordinary benefits of sesame seeds.

Being both drought-resistant and considerably more resilient to climate change effects than other products, sesame has become Tanzania’s new popular food output. However, with these benefits also comes a drawback.

Though farming is essential and necessary for the well-being of the country’s citizens, the activity can sometimes be tedious and tiresome.

Sesame farming in Tanzania is labor-intensive and prolonged work, traditionally done completely by hand. Bending down, creating centimeter deep holes, dropping seeds and walking a great distance can lead to, among other things, back pain and fatigue.

That is where the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” rang true.

In response to complaints from fellow farmers, Constantine Martin from the Babati District created an innovation in agriculture that has since been welcomed and implemented by all.

Named the “Coasta Planter,” it is simply a hand-pushed machine designed to plant sesame seeds by digging a small hole and dropping seeds in, without the need of a person constantly bending down to do so.

Additionally, the Coasta Planter is also more efficient than humans, planting the seeds at a higher rate of speed. This significant upscale in food production and potential output could lead to the strengthening of Tanzania’s food security.

Agriculture is an essential part of Tanzania’s economy, especially in terms of food production and employment generation. As of 2015, agriculture accounts for 30.5 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 75 percent of the total labor force.

To further improve and promote the importance and longevity of the agriculture sector in Tanzania, initiatives such as Feed the Future have invested in the people and the country, specifically focusing on products including rice and maize.

With this new invention in hand, farmers all across the country should expect an easier workload in the future as further clever innovations in agriculture continue to be thought of and created, enhancing Tanzania’s food security one seed at a time.

Jordan J. Phelan

Popularity of Quinoa

Prior to quinoa’s surge in popularity, few Americans had heard of this South American grain. U.S. imports alone quadrupled between 2006 and 2010 as quinoa’s virtues of versatility and high protein content spread.

Negative Speculations

Unbeknownst to the public, quinoa production had a direct impact on the levels of poverty in Peru. So, soon after quinoa “took off,” a slew of inflammatory articles in 2013 reprimanded quinoa consumers for raising the demand and price of the nutritious food, which restricted access for poor Andean people.

Poverty in Peru and Bolivia affects over 50 percent of people in the Andean region. Many suffer from lack of education, food insecurity, poor health care and a life expectancy 20 years lower than people in Lima.

Due to conditions in this region, “foreign quinoa consumption is keeping locals from a staple grain” is a serious accusation. However, the popularity of this protein-rich food has provided many economic benefits for the area. A NPR study showed how living conditions drastically improved for people in the Andes during the boom in quinoa sales.

In 2013, the Guardian published an inflammatory article called, “Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?” claiming that fame has driven the prices so high that locals can no longer afford it. The argument seemed sound as poverty in Peru is a major issue. It seemed though, that the Guardian brought up a touchy subject–droves of articles then began cropping up both defending and debunking this argument.

Positive Effects

The good news is that quinoa prices are still within reach for Peruvians. A recent article from NPR explains two different studies focusing on the super grain: one found that the people in quinoa-growing regions, farmer or otherwise, experienced an economic flourishing that favored farmers and generally overcame any additional quinoa costs; the second study focused on quinoa consumption in the Puno region where 80 percent of Peruvian quinoa is grown.

The author of the second study, a Berkeley graduate student, discovered that people in the Puno region consumed a similar amount of the grain without cutting any valuable nutrients from their diets.

While quinoa is culturally important, it is not a staple crop like rice or maize. On average, only between 0.5 and 4 percent of an average Peruvian family’s budget is spent on quinoa–thus the extra cost is not debilitating. In fact, quite the opposite of debilitation occurred: domestic quinoa consumption tripled in 2013.

While the positive economic effects continue to boost the region, there are reasonable concerns about the sustainability or longevity of quinoa production. Demand has caused farmers to decrease the amount of quinoa varieties grown, as well as reduce llama farming which used to provide fertilizer.

Degradation of soil and biodiversity are also risks of extensive quinoa production. Unfortunately, quinoa’s popularity also attracts competitors, and as other countries began to grow the super grain and supply increases, Peruvian demand falls. Prices are sinking, which is great for frugal, health conscious shoppers but very concerning for Bolivian quinoa farmers.

Sustaining Success

While unclear how long benefits will last, quinoa’s popularity proves extremely beneficial towards alleviating rural poverty in Peru and Bolivia. In order to extend the grain’s benefits, some organizations are trying to encourage the sale of more varieties of quinoa to conserve biodiversity and renew interest in South American grown grains.

On the positive side, quinoa has provided some temporary relief for those facing poverty in Peru.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Pixabay

Climate smart cropsPlant breeders continually develop new crop varieties to help farmers adapt to extreme conditions brought on by climate change. These climate smart crops are playing a significant role in alleviating hunger and poverty in Asia and Africa.

Addressing Submergence in South Asia

In South Asia — where the majority of the wold’s rice is grown — submergence stress causes $1 billion in annual losses. However, breeders have developed a new form of rice, known as Sub-1 or “scuba rice” which is capable of surviving underwater. This innovative breed of rice aids smallholding farmers in their fight against flooding.

“Scuba rice” possesses the ability to lay dormant in floods. Normal rice will wear out or develop root rot, which significantly lowers crop yields.

In addition, the Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, coordinated by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), has distributed “scuba rice” to 5 million farmers in South Asia within five years.

Overcoming Drought in Southern Africa

Conversely, Southern Africa is undergoing one of its worst droughts in nearly three decades.

Farmers have implemented climate smart crops, including drought resistant maize and beans, across sub-Saharan Africa.

Plant breeders have designed these new varieties deliberately depending on the climate change and growing conditions of the area. Farmers using climate smart crops produce crop yields of equal or greater value in comparison to commercial crop varieties.

The Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project has released nearly 200 unique drought resistant maize varieties since 2007. Similarly, the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance has released more than 450 new bean varieties within the past two decades.

Farmers in Rwanda who are using the improved bean varieties have seen their yields increase by more than 50 percent.

Edward Mabaya is an agricultural economist and the Associate Director of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture & Development. Mabaya grew up on a small rural farm in Zimbabwe and understands the impact that agricultural development can have on developing nations.

In his article for Al Jazeera, Mabaya said, “I owe my education, and my consequent escape from poverty, to improved seed varieties.”

Climate Smart Crops and Poverty Alleviation

Agricultural research and development allow for the creation of products like climate crops. Countries in need of innovative solutions to poverty and hunger benefit greatly from their distribution.

“When the Gates Foundation started focusing on poverty alleviation in the developing world, the co-chairs realized that agricultural productivity was going to be a very important part of the process of getting people out of absolute poverty,” stated Gary Atlin, Senior Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in an article for Devex International Development.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with other non-profit organizations, have invested in STRASA and other projects helping to make agricultural innovation a priority in the fight against poverty and hunger.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Ethiopia
Like many of the African nations that have gained their independence from a European power, poverty in Ethiopia has been exacerbated by regional conflict that caused widespread poverty to infect communities across the country.

Ethiopia was one of the first countries to claim their independence in 1896 after the Italians were rejected from the nation. Unfortunately, geopolitical conflict continued to plague the nation as the neighboring Eritrea staked a claim to its own independence in the late 20th century. The tension culminated in a border war at the turn of the century.

The social malady that most affects Ethiopia is malnourishment. In 1984, famine struck the nation which required a huge foreign aid response from the Western world. Ever since then, the Ethiopian government has had trouble feeding its large population of over 86 million. The nation remains reliant on Western nutritional support as their developing economy starts to emerge from its fledgling status.

Ethiopia’s GDP per capita began an early improvement in the 1990s, as the country began its recovery from conflict and famine in the 1980s. The Eritrean dispute forced GDP per capita down once again until the mid-2000s. Since then, Ethiopia’s growth has exploded to $541.87 up about 400 percent. The progress in the economy has helped reduce poverty rates significantly.

According to data from the World Bank, poverty in Ethiopia fell from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011. Fertility rate, which is highest in the poorest countries, fell from 7.0 in 1995 to 4.6 in 2011. Undernourishment, one of the biggest issues in Ethiopia, dropped from 75 percent in 1990-1992 to 35 percent in 2012-2014. These are just a few of the signs of an improving society.

Even so, there is still a long way to go. Based on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, Ethiopia ranks 174th out of 187 countries. In order to improve that statistic and further fight hunger, the East African country needs to improve its use of its valuable arable land. The Rural Poverty Portal estimates that “only about 25 percent of its arable land is cultivated.”

Expanding Ethiopia’s agricultural base is, perhaps, the most efficient way of reaching the population spread out over the country. In 2014, it was estimated that over 78 million people live in rural areas, while the remaining are concentrated in urban hubs. Providing better technology for food production and better infrastructure for distribution could be an ideal way to attack malnutrition.

The International Development Research Center conducted a case study called “Ethiopia: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Ethiopia.” The author, Mike Crawley, investigated deeper into the “simple problem” that plagues the population, “not enough food.” His research found that individual farmers are limited in their production abilities by “too small landholdings, poor agricultural practices, and lack of potable water.”

The solution? Change the way these individual farmers operate so that they can help themselves and their community. The organization’s team sought to convince “farmers to think about whether they could begin to make some positive changes on their own rather than wait for assistance from outside.” The mentality that helping the community is not outside the purview of helping oneself is one that will be essential in the fight against poverty in Ethiopia.

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

Female_FarmersMore women are involved in farming than with any other occupation. In developing countries, female farmers perform almost half of all agricultural labor and account for an estimated two-thirds of the world’s 600 million impoverished livestock keepers. However, women in many of the poorest regions of the world are denied equal rights to access, use, inheritance and control of the land they rely on to survive.

With unequal access to tools, training and land, female-run farms produce between 14 to 30 percent lower yields, according to a 2014 study by the World Bank.

The same report determined that if female farmers were treated equally in agriculture across Africa farm yields would increase by up to 30 percent.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a percentage increase of that magnitude could feed an additional 150 million people every day, thereby reducing the number of undernourished people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.

Landesa is a rural development institute aimed at reforming laws and policy tools to help alleviate poverty, reduce hunger and ease land conflict. Their research illustrates the effects created when women are economically and socially empowered through secure legal rights to land.

According to Landesa, when women are given land rights they:

  • grow more on their land and their children are 33 percent less likely to be malnourished
  • are 8 times less likely to be victims of domestic violence
  • earn up to 4 times as much in income
  • are more likely to direct their wealth towards their children’s needs than men

U.N. Women, a United Nations entity for gender equality and female empowerment, describes gender equality and women’s rights as cross-cutting throughout the 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are fundamentally linked to the lives of women and girls globally, especially those of rural women. This is particularly true for the goal to universally end poverty in all its forms, the goal to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture as well as the goal to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

U.N. Women describe rural women as key agents for achieving the economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. Limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges faced by women.

Land ownership and other means of women’s empowerment are crucial not only to the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities but also economic productivity, given women’s presence in the agricultural field.

Kara Buckley

Sources: FAO, Landesa, Rockefeller Foundation, Take Part, UN Women
Photo: Google Images

Keeping the Little Guy Safe: Small Farmers’ Insurance in Zimbabwe
Less than 10 years ago there was little to no financial safety for African farmers. Planters, ranchers, herders and nomads were all subject to changing weather cycles and droughts, which could be detrimental to harvests.

If and when disaster struck, farmers and their families often had no access to bank accounts or emergency loans, and insurance was unfathomably expensive — if available at all. Then came the cell phone, and all of that changed.

Africa has seen one of the largest cell phone booms in the world. As soon as mobile devices became affordable, usage across the continent skyrocketed. Rather than trying to work within the poorly developed and expensive banking system, many Africans turned to mobile financial markets to apply for loans and open accounts.

Millions, (12 percent of mobile users) now conduct financial operations using mobile money accounts. This has spurred a huge increase in economic access, thus reducing poverty slowly but surely.

Though they now had bank accounts for emergency funds and access to loans for seeds and equipment, farmers still faced uncertain futures at the hands of Mother Nature. The increased effects of climate change did not settle any anxieties, either.

In Zimbabwe, however, small farmers have finally caught a break with the help of EcoFarmer, a mobile service that provides instant, low-cost crop insurance against droughts and floods.

Seventy percent of Zimbabwe’s economy is still agrarian-based, and the country has only recently begun to recover from a devastating recession. The need for economic stability and protection is crucial.

Users of the service pay the equivalent of 8 cents per day for 125 days and are then guaranteed protection for a harvest. The guarantee is about $100 for every 10 kilograms of seed planted.

The service makes it affordable to even some of the poorest in the world to be insured. Insurance will give these farmers and their families a safety net so that, at the very least, they will not sink into even further poverty.

EcoFarmer also serves as an educational tool to farmers who, until recently, have relied on out-of-date practices and information. Users receive weather updates and forecasts in addition to farming tips, and perhaps most importantly, current market prices for common crops.

With this information, farmers can increase their yields and thus, their incomes. Mobile money services are changing the way the world does business, and in Africa, they are spurring huge amounts of economic growth. With increased mobile money access and services like EcoFarmer, the goal of eliminating poverty once and for all is becoming an ever more feasible reality.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Wired, Econet
Photo: Flickr

With a history of agriculture and farming, the Korean Rural Community Corp. (KRC) has decided to spread its knowledge by building an agricultural training center.

The corporation plans to begin construction for the estimated $43 million dollar Rural Community-International Education Exchange Center (RC-IEEC) in 2016 and will start running the facility in 2017, training government officials from developing countries to learn more about Korea’s knowledge of agriculture.

“Many developing countries are seeking to learn from Korea about how it developed its agricultural industry,” said KRC CEO Lee Sang-mu.

According to the CEO, “To meet this growing demand, we decided to build the RC-IEEC to more effectively share our knowledge about farming, agricultural infrastructure and experience with the developing world. The planned facilities will enable us to share our knowledge in a more systematic manner.”

In the 1970s, farming and agriculture accounted for half of South Korea’s economy. Known for their long, hot humid summers that are favorable for the development of varied vegetation, South Korea’s most popular crops include rice, pork, beef, and milk.

Due to the rapid growth of technology, currently agriculture only accounts for 6.2 percent of the economy.

After joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1994, the government was forced to cut tariffs and eliminate quotas, resulting in today’s 20 percent grain production compared to its 70 percent grain production in 1970.

Today, South Korea is the Asian leader in organic agriculture production, making this announcement a timely decision to build the RC-IEEC and share their agricultural knowledge with developing countries.

“The RC-IEEC will play a crucial role in spreading Korea’s experience and knowledge in agriculture by inviting public-and private-sector government officials from 50 developing nations to come and learn,” Lee said. “The center will contribute significantly to improving the livelihoods of farming villages across the globe.”

The four-story building will have classrooms, conference rooms, and other teaching facilities that will create an environment to learn and conduct business. The center plans to provide at least 50 academic training programs in the areas of rural development, rural welfare, and individual empowerment.

With the announcement of the training center, many developing countries are already on board for training with hopes to solve their countries’ personal food crisis.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, The Korea Times, The Nation
Photo: Prospect Farm