Rice is one of the world’s most popular foods. It is a culturally significant staple in cuisines across the world, from Asia to Africa to the Americas. In fact, rice comprises at least 20% of daily calorie intake for more than 3.5 billion people. Rice is also enticing, especially for the impoverished, for its versatility, nutritional value and affordability to produce and buy. To continue supplying this necessary meal staple for millions of people worldwide, it is imperative that rice farming is efficient and high-yielding. Here are several efforts demonstrating how technology improves rice production.

Crop Manager

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is a global research organization that discovers and implements solutions for rice farming and production to help end world hunger. One such initiative is the development of a useful rice production product called Crop Manager. Crop Manager is a computer program designed to assist rice farmers in tasks like nutrient management and fertilizer selection.

Crop Manager is especially useful for impoverished farmers due to its simple information delivery method. The program conveys information to farmers quickly and concisely via computer printouts and SMS text messages. Thus, even farmers with only basic technologies like cell phones or computers can access this advanced data and improve their crop yields. Crop Manager is currently active in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and the Philippines.


The IRRI has also committed to improving rice itself. To do this, the organization has begun researching and implementing biofortification: genetic modification of a crop to improve its nutritional value. With this method, grains have been genetically modified to provide greater amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron. This innovation is incredibly helpful for those consuming rice as a major component of their diet. More nutrient-dense rice can help poor families prevent diet-induced diseases like iron deficiency anemia, an illness that causing extreme weakness due to low red blood cell counts.

Hybrid Gains

Another organization demonstrating how technology improves rice production is RiceTec. RiceTec is an American company committed to modernizing rice production worldwide. One specific effort RiceTec has organized is modified disease-resistant rice grains. These hybrid grains are more formidable against diseases that typically kill rice crops, ensuring crop yields remain high.

Other hybrid grains developed by RiceTec allow farmers to increase the quantity of rice in their fields, as well as provide grains with stronger straws and improved grain retention. The implications of these innovations are massive; by introducing these hybrid grains into rice fields worldwide, people relying on rice as a primary component of their diets will become more able to feed themselves and their families. For farmers, selling more of the crop will provide greater income and improve their quality of life.

Furthermore, some hybrid rice grains have the added benefit of using less arable land to provide comparableif not morecrop yield. In 2009, for example, China reduced its rice-growing land use by 14% while increasing production by 44.1%. With the increased use of hybrid grains worldwide, the sustainability of rice production will continue to improve. Additionally, reducing arable land use will feed more with minimal strain on the environment.

Moving Forward

Modern farming and wealthy countries have long used technology to improve their crops. Developments ranging from crop management software to higher nutrition in crops themselves to hybrid grains have forever changed the practice of farming. By delivering this technology to the world’s poor, people relying on rice as a staple will have the opportunity to succeed both in terms of crop viability and overall quality of life. As technology continues improving rice production, the world comes one step closer to eradicating food insecurity.

– Domenic Scalora
Photo: Flickr

Rural Farmers in East AfricaHuman-wildlife conflict can be devastating to individuals and communities living in rural areas. Elephant encroachment has destroyed the livelihoods of many rural farmers in East Africa, forcing them further into poverty and often creating tension with governments and conservation groups. One man living next to the Tsavo West National Park in Eastern Kenya, a popular tourist destination, had his goats snatched by lions and his farm pillaged by elephants, eliminating his ability to earn an income. As he was already impoverished, he could not afford protection other than what proved to be an effective row of thorny acacia trees to deter wildlife. As animals continue to encroach upon people’s land around Tsavo, many feel forced to resort to crime and poaching to earn a living.

That said, more individuals and organizations have become more committed to halting human-wildlife conflict and poaching. Governments wanting to maintain the wildlife tourism industry, conservation groups aiming to protect animals from extinction and poor farmers seeking a reliable and legal wage all share a common goal of eliminating the prevalence of poaching in Africa. In recent years, a potential solution has emerged for rural farmers in East Africa: beehive fences.

An Emerging Solution: Beehive Fences

After consulting with farmers in Kenya who noticed elephants tended to avoid trees that contained beehives, Dr. Lucy King of Save the Elephants conducted a study to determine whether fences lined with beehives could effectively deter elephants. These fences consist of wooden posts equipped with a beehive, as well as a thatched roof to protect the hive from the elements and metal wires running between each post. Dr. King used Langstroth beehives which, though not the most modern beehives, are easy to construct and operate.

The general process by which the fences function is that an elephant will attempt to walk between the two posts, causing it to hit the wires. The subsequent movement of the posts and hives upsets the bees, who will in turn bother the elephant and force it to turn around.

Dr. King found that 80% percent of elephants in her study were deterred from entering farms equipped with beehive fences, representing a clear validation of her theory. However, it should be noted that the fences do not work equally worldwide: the fences appear to work better in East Africa than in Asian countries where the fences were also tested. This discrepancy is likely due to regional variations in elephant and bee species. Studies indicate that African bees are more aggressive than their Asian counterparts, resulting in differing reactions from elephants. Even if the effectiveness of beehive fences is localized, this solution maintains the potential to transform living standards for rural farmers in East Africa.

Taking the Lead: Implementing Beehive Fences

One organization helping to build beehive fences is the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This nonprofit organization aspires “to protect Africa’s wildlife and to preserve habitats for the future of all wild species,” and has a vested interest in improving the lives of rural Kenyans. To date, the Trust has built more than two kilometers of fence line including 131 beehives bordering the Tsavo Conservation Area. Farmers receive lessons from a professional beekeeper on how to properly maintain and harvest their hives, enabling them to profit from honey sales. Clearly, in addition to increasing outputs by reducing damages from elephants, the beehive fences themselves provide an income boost because the bees pollinate farmers’ crops.

The Future of Farmer Protection

Beehive fences are not a perfect solution to human-elephant conflict: they require training to maintain, can be evaded by some elephants and are less effective depending on the geographic area. Many believe electric fences would surely be a better elephant deterrent; however, these systems are too expensive and difficult to maintain, especially in rural regions. As such, beehive fences are the best solution currently available to mitigate human-elephant conflict in East Africa. More investment is necessary to establish beehive fence lines across all human-wildlife borders in East Africa in order to guarantee that all farms are protected. By giving farmers greater confidence in their abilities to sell crops at market, beehive fences increase yields and enable rural farmers in East Africa to ultimately escape poverty.

– Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in India
For decades, agriculture has played a key role in India’s socioeconomic growth. India is the second largest contributor of agriculture in the world with around 50 percent of people in India making their living from farming. But recently, farming has started to become less attractive, and more people are moving to big cities for different job opportunities. A decrease in water levels and poor crop yields have made it difficult to promote the growth of agriculture in India. Several organizations are stepping up to help turn things around and create new advancements in agriculture in India.

Advancements in Agriculture in India

  1. In 2017, India’s Prime Minister Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu signed seven agreements to enhance cooperation in space, agriculture and water management. The two countries hope that one outcome of this program will bring new technology that will help fight water shortages and bring agriculture back to India.
  2. The Prime Minister has also approved the Three-Year Action Plan through the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) that is aimed at the educational aspects surrounding agriculture in India, with more support being provided to the faculty and students in higher agricultural education. The hope is to bring more confident people into the agricultural field, including women.
  3. DuPont India is one of the largest agricultural companies in the country. They work with the farmers in India to find solutions to the ever-changing environment. Along with providing agricultural products, the company also empowers farmers to make their ideas a reality. They work to find sustainable ways of farming and to protect the growth of crops for generations to come. This means finding solutions for insect and disease control, which are two of the problems that are preventing further growth in the agricultural community.
  4. As the largest supplier of hybrid seeds in the country, farmers are dependent on Nuziveedu Seeds Limited (NSL) to provide high yielding seeds for their ever-growing population. The company is doing its part to contribute to the growth of agriculture in India by providing high-quality hybrid seeds. NSL provides seeds for more than 50,000 retailers. Over the years, NSL has become extremely focused on increasing crop yields, due to the water scarcity in India. The company has introduced a new concept that reduces the space between crops, which leads to an increase in overall production. This process has enabled farmers to use their time more effectively, and more than 35 percent of the farming community has started using this innovation.

Because of companies such as DuPont India and NSL, agriculture in India is able to continue to grow and be one of the largest farming contributors in the world. The entirety of India’s population is reliant on having a cohesive system of agriculture, whether it is their source of income or not. In fact, the whole world benefits from the advancements in agriculture in India; therefore, being educated in innovative, new technologies and changes in the field is incredibly important.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr