Technology Transforms Agriculture in Developing Countries
Smallholder farmers and their families make up to almost 75 percent of the world’s poor population. Struggling with access to health care, clean drinking water and education are just some of the daily challenges these people face. A digital technology company called Ricult is striving to improve the productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in developing countries by solving agricultural problems with technology-based solutions. Ricult has already helped 10,000 farmers across Thailand and Pakistan and continues to prove that technology transforms agriculture in developing countries every day.

Technology Transforms Agriculture

Ricult requires farmers to enter in their geo-coordinates through their app. It then uses geospatial data streams that monitor the environment through weather, satellite, and soil analytics. This provides the farmer with valuable data such as soil conditions to ensure optimal growth.

Some of the basic problems that poor farmers face include inadequate access to weather data, no pest attack forecast, storage issues, low-profit margins and credit access. According to Usman Javaid, the CEO of Ricult, the biggest reason why microfinance institutions haven’t been able to alleviate poverty in developing markets is that they only focus on one part of the problem by providing credit.

The Work of Government of Pakistan

Providing credit is the main way the Government of Pakistan seeks to transform agriculture. The government has adopted a long-term development strategy that aims to remodel the country into an upper middle-income country by 2025. The government developed the Five Year Plan that aims to ensure national food security and reduce rural poverty by increasing productivity, competitiveness and environmental safety. Through this program, the government provides $3 billion in subsidies, grants and loans. They are also providing credit to farmers who own up to 12.5 acres of land and are facing massive irrigation costs.

Ricult as Example how Technology Transforms Agriculture

Javaid says that one of the biggest problems in developing countries is that when farmers receive cash, they will use it for anything and everything but not for agriculture. The country gives an in-kind loan of inputs delivered to the doorstep of the farmers and accompanies this with insightful and actionable agronomic data from optimal sowing times to yield forecasts. This is just one of the examples of how exactly technology transforms agriculture.

Another great component about Ricult is that it allows farmers to get paid within 48 hours. Farmers generally use a middleman who delivers produce from the farm to the markets. Middlemen often stagger payments and cost additional input. Ricult offers five times lower interest rates than middlemen. Ricult has received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation and continues to transform agriculture in developing countries by making a positive impact in the lives of farmers.

A Pakistani farmer named Faraz Shah has said that the current system of informal credit was not working for the farmers. They were very upset, but Ricult has greatly improved their lives by offering credit at much cheaper prices and improving them with high-quality products. Thailand farmer BubpaWorawat said that Ricult dashboard with its color coding system lets him know in which part of his land growth is stunted so he can take immediate action unlike before when he could not personally scout the areas and he would not know about the problem until it was too late.

Ricult is only one example of how does technology transforms agriculture. Since agriculture is a prevalent way of life in less developed countries, in which most of the poor people of the world live, it is very important to develop the new ways and to use technology to help these people to be more effective in their line of work. By doing so, technology can help poor people get out of the cycle of poverty.

– Grace Klein

Photo: Flickr

As China continues its efforts to lift its citizens out of poverty, initiatives have been established to help those living in rural communities. The government has created the twelfth Five Year Plan that aims to alleviate poverty and focuses on people in rural China, who are more susceptible to poverty than those who live in metropolitan parts of the country.

The plan states that China plans to “lift all of its poor out of poverty by 2020,” by mainly focusing on people living in the nation’s 128,000 poor villages and 832 counties. The plan further encourages the development of competitive industries in areas that include agriculture and tourism to help pursue the goal of alleviating poverty by 2020.

Beyond the government’s efforts to support citizens in rural communities, migrants from these communities, who previously moved to metropolitan cities for better opportunities, are moving back to their hometowns and villages to set up businesses to help progress these areas.

A cause for this shift is attributed to favorable policies implemented to help progress the lives of people in rural China. The Chinese government has created policies that focus on improving rural infrastructure, providing subsidies, streamlining registration procedures, improving financial services and setting up entrepreneurial parks.

In recent years, approximately seven million returnee migrants have established agriculture-based enterprises in their hometowns and villages. Estimates state that the number of returnee migrants is increasing by 10 percent each year. As a result, The Ministry of Agriculture states that at least eight new jobs on average have been created for people in rural China when businesses are set up by returnee migrants.

What is Agritourism?

One industry that has been proven effective in alleviating poverty in rural China is the agritourism industry, which has seen increased interest by both developing and developed countries with large agriculture industries. Agritourism can be defined as the act of tourists visiting a farm or ranch for leisure, recreation or educational purposes.

The increased interest in agritourism can be attributed to tourists’ increased understanding of environmental protection and a heightened interest in improving the quality of life for those who live in rural China. The urban economy in China has also contributed to this popularity with its growing economy and raised awareness of healthy living, which has increased the demand for organic products and rural tourism.

The Results of Agritourism

The past six years have brought success to the agritourism industry and have helped bridge the economic gap between the urban economy and rural economy in China.

In 2012, there were roughly 1.7 million leisure farming and agritourism businesses that were created and helped create employment for 6.9 percent of the total rural labor force. These enterprises brought in an annual revenue of over 240 billion yuan from the 800 million tourists who visited rural China.

In 2016, the number of tourists increased to 2.1 billion people, who brought in and estimated 570 billion yuan that helped 6.72 million households in rural China.

Needed Improvements to the Agritourism Business Model

Even though agritourism has proven successful for millions of citizens, there are still sectors in the agritourism industry that need improvement.

There have been numerous issues that have arisen concerning agritourism and how to sustain the industry, so it can become a more reliable avenue to help alleviate poverty in China. These issues include problems with sanitation practices, lack of program planning and lack of reliable research and monitoring systems.

Also, with rural residents offering tourists “rural-style themed” food and accommodations, these practices have hindered further development of the agritourism industry. Solutions proposed have been to encourage the government to “help logistically and practically by integrating education resources in vocational institutions and by providing tailored training services for the new farmers.”

With efforts underway to improve the livelihoods of China’s rural residents, and with agritourism having already been proven as a successful industry, only time will tell whether this industry can be enough to lift people in rural China out of poverty for good by 2020.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

Zero Hunger in Bhutan
Bhutan, a small agricultural country in the eastern Himalayas between India and China, has come a long way in its war on poverty as the country has halved its poverty rates — from 23.4 percent to 12.04 percent in five years.

The launching of a five-year program in 1961 and the establishment of a national airline in 1983 spurred economic development, ensured equitability and environmental sustainability for the country; however, research on the health and nutritional status of Bhutanese children is lacking.

A substantial amount of work needs to be done to target malnutrition and hunger in Bhutan, especially among young and school-aged children.

UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador and Bollywood actor Aamir Khan notes, “While Bhutan has made amazing progress in areas of health and nutrition, there’s still work to be done and every child is yet to be reached.”

Moreover, according to a report by BMC Pediatrics, 47.7 percent of young children at the age of six to 59 months are stunted, 34.9 percent of preschool children are facing malnutrition and 10.4 percent are underweight.

These rates of stunting require significant attention in Bhutan’s efforts in alleviating poverty, as malnutrition at an early age can lead to many functional consequences including poor cognition and educational performance, low adult wages and loss of productivity. These consequences also affect and slow down the development of the nation’s economic infrastructure in the future.

As a member of the U.N., Bhutan has agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals in which Goal Two strives to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” By 2030, there are hopes that there will be zero malnutrition and hunger in Bhutan.

Moreover, the World Food Program (WFP) is working to combat child malnutrition by encouraging school enrollment and attendance through a development project called “Improving Rural Children’s Access to Basic Education with a Focus on Primary Education.”

The WFP provides school meals to children to combat child malnutrition and encourage school enrollment and attendance, supporting the country’s development plan to reduce poverty. This initiative will also help relieve the financial burden on poor rural parents.

WFP Bhutan encourages teaching various methods to students to break the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition. This is accomplished by training teachers at the College of Natural Resources (CNR) for agriculture and nutrition coupled with the School Agriculture Program (SAP).

Piet Vochten, the head of WFP in Bhutan explained, “We want to educate every child on agriculture and nutrition so that they are able to grow into healthy adults who will have healthy and well-nourished children to break the inter-generational cycle of hunger and poverty.”

Although Bhutan has made drastic improvements in its poverty rates over the last few decades, malnutrition and hunger in Bhutan must be addressed in order to secure the progression and growth of the economy.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication PlanAt a meeting held late last year in central Beijing, President Xi Jinping and his associates in the Communist Party of China (CPC) made an important decision about confronting poverty in the country.

Though China, which contains one-fifth of the world’s population, successfully met the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), lifting 470 million people out of extreme poverty, there are still 70 million individuals living in extreme adversity and whom a new poverty eradication plan would greatly benefit.

China’s ruling party has asserted that it will take all necessary measures to eliminate extreme poverty within the country. “No single poor region nor an individual living in poverty will be left behind” when the country accomplishes the goal of “building a moderately prosperous society” by 2020, said President Xi Jinping at the meeting, according to an article in the Business Standard.

Rachel Middleton noted in the International Business Times that economic reform in the last 35 years has amplified the gap between the country’s rich and poor. Hence, the government realizes its collective responsibility to implement a poverty eradication plan that will lift the remaining 70 million individuals out of poverty by 2020.

Fu Ying, Chairperson of the National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, who attended the meeting, said Xi appealed to all levels of government to undertake measures to ensure the poor in rural areas, who make up the majority of individuals living below the poverty line, have access to food, clothing, housing, health care and education. Xi specifically underscored the urgency of local level involvement in poverty reduction and development.

Sub-group discussions during the meeting focused on goal achieving initiatives that would transform the poverty dynamic in China within five years. In one discussion group attended by Fu Ying, there was a suggestion that detailed surveys would allow for individual plans equipped to meet diverse local conditions.

According to Fu, information disseminated via localized surveys would, in turn, help working-age individuals find income enhancing employment, give a safety net to aid those unable to work, relocate individuals living in extremely harsh environments and provide adequate health care and education.

Stamping out extreme poverty in China will be challenging but to meet that goal in five years, 22 heads of provinces and cities located in western China have signed letters of responsibility with the central government and they will be held accountable for falling short of the target.

China’s economic achievements over the last several decades are extraordinary; however, they do have obstacles to overcome: IMF data states the per capita GDP of China is only one-seventh of the U.S. and it will take over 50 years for that gap to close between the two. China makes up 22 percent of the world’s population but only has a 2 percent share of global spending on healthcare. The U.S. percentage of global healthcare spending, by comparison, is 13.6 percent.

China’s task will be challenging but the government understands the enormous risk of failing to implement a poverty eradication plan to address extreme poverty.

Heidi Grossman

Sources: Business-Standard, Huffington Post, IB Times
Photo: Flickr