Supporting Smallholder Coffee Farmers WorldwideWhat is there not to love about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee in the morning? But, what most java enthusiasts do not realize is that 44% of the world’s smallholder coffee farmers are currently living in poverty and 22% live in extreme poverty. The existing coffee trees are aging and changing climate conditions threaten farms’ productivity while the risk of crop diseases increases. An outbreak of coffee leaf rust, a fungus that cripples the trees’ productivity, struck many small family farms between 2012 and 2014. Coffee leaf rust caused more than $1 billion in crop losses in Central America, which led to 1.7 million jobs vanishing across Latin America.

Farmers Below the Poverty Line

Even in the best conditions, one-third of farmers earn less than $100 per year from growing coffee and 60% of the world’s coffee is produced by farmers with less than 12.35 acres of land. Challenges arising from inefficient production methods and profiteering coffee roasting companies make it difficult to earn a living. Of the 12.5 million smallholder coffee farmers worldwide, an estimated 5.5 million exist below the international poverty line.

Coffee farmers face many obstacles, including the low international price of coffee. According to Oxfam, some farmers have little to no power to negotiate with traders and must accept the low prices offered. If farmers process their coffee by removing its outer layer, they can demonstrate their beans’ quality and negotiate a higher price. But, if their coffee is sold in its original form, they must settle for a lower price. In Peru, even with semi-processed beans, farmers are still short-changed. And while traders make extra profits for themselves, coffee roaster companies in the United States and Europe make even larger margins.

Smallholder Coffee Farmers Need Support

In the Andean region and across Central America, approximately 750,000 smallholder farmers produce coffee and cacao. Often these farmers depend on limited water resources, which are barely enough to grow subsistence crops. Low incomes result in malnutrition, minimal educational opportunities and disease. Quechua-speaking communities as well as Amazonian Indigenous communities receive little support from the government, and therefore, lack agricultural technology. This dearth of opportunity perpetuates poverty.

Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) is working to help smallholder coffee farmers efficiently produce more coffee and cacao. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food for Progress Program, MOCCA is carried out by a consortium led by TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization operating in 29 countries. MOCCA also partners with World Coffee Research and Lutheran World Relief.

MOCCA’s Initiatives to Aid Smallholder Coffee Farmers

MOCCA works to improve the lives of more than 120,000 coffee farmers in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Peru. It enables farmers to make much-needed improvements while addressing the underlying problems that prevent their farms from becoming profitable.

MOCCA’s goals include:

  1. Training smallholder farmers to adopt agricultural and business practices that can increase quality, yield, sustainability and profitability. This includes pruning, stumping or replanting unproductive trees, which can dramatically improve a farm’s productivity without expanding its acreage into forest ecosystems.
  2. Augmenting research, bolstering the sustainability of research initiatives in the region and improving how research findings reach farmers. A regional coffee breeding hub offers a centralized resource to enhance varietal development, along with climate-smart solutions.
  3. Expanding farmers’ access to pure, healthy genetic planting material for planting, verifying large seed-producing nurseries and giving technical assistance in best production practices.
  4. Integrating farmers into higher value trading models by working with roasters, processors and private exporters to expand or capture greater market value. By addressing issues such as supply chain inefficiency, this plan allows farmers to obtain higher profits and reinvest in their farms, while boosting buyers’ local, sustainable supply of higher quality products.
  5. Mobilizing and collaborating with finance partners, value chain stakeholders and local governments to implement finance mechanisms for the farmers.
  6. Improving institutional capacity to deliver services that support renovation and rehabilitation. This involves collaborating with coffee and cacao institutions to expand their existing services, or introduce new ones, to support the farmers they serve.
  7. Strengthening platform support to the coffee and cacao sectors to promote knowledge and technology sharing among sector stakeholders.

In addition, MOCCA works to integrate young people and women into coffee and cacao market systems, so that these systems are more inclusive.

In February 2020, the National Coffee Association, the leading trade organization for the coffee industry in the United States, named TechnoServe the “Origin Charity of the Year.” This award recognizes the company’s work in supporting smallholder coffee farmers around the world.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr

Neglected zoonotic diseases

Zoonotic diseases disproportionally affect the poorest communities around the world. These diseases and infections, known as zoonoses, are transmitted between humans and animals. Except for large scale zoonoses like SARS and H5N1 (avian influenza), the majority of these diseases are not prioritized by national and international health systems and are considered neglected. Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZD) have the greatest negative impact on the economies and health services in developing countries where rural communities are dependent on livestock for transportation, food and farm labor. Tackling NZDs with education and vaccination is one way to alleviate poverty in developing countries.

Human and Animal Relationships

In the developing world, not only do animals and humans live close together, but humans are reliant on animals for everything from clothing and food to fertilizer and power. These animals represent financial security for smallholder farmers (SHFs) and marginalized populations (MPs). Globally, there are 191 million people categorized as rural poor. Of those, 411 million are livestock keepers. With animals directly contributing to the livelihoods of over 70 percent of rural poor communities, it’s crucial to keep livestock healthy for a sustainable existence. Healthy animals can be used for both base income or sold to supplement household income, therefore keeping livestock is recognized as one of the leading routes to alleviating poverty.

NZDs keep animals from achieving their full economic potential—either by dying from disease or transmitting the disease to humans. Despite existing vaccines that could be effective in the prevention and control of these diseases, many SHFs and MPs reside in low resource settings without access to health care services. Other reasons for a lack of knowledge and solutions include the irregular lifestyles of mobile pastoralists, religious and cultural beliefs, and small community numbers. One of the largest problems to consider when tackling NZDs is the fact that there is little incentive for the vaccination of livestock because the animals show no signs of the disease and their economic value does not increase after vaccination.

Sustainable Solutions

NZDs are neglected because the global demand for these vaccines is low. So, one of the first steps to creating sustainable solutions is to support regional manufacturers in developing countries. This would forge a path for stockpiles or antigen banks to be created in these small communities. Aside from the manufacturing aspect, community and social engagement are needed to incentivize SHFs to vaccinate their animals. If human health care initiatives can be integrated with animal health care initiatives, pastoral farming areas could simultaneously vaccinate both their human and animal populations. In order to improve the prevention and control of NZDs, there needs to be a multidisciplinary effort by agriculture, health and environment sectors at a national level.


Because these diseases are not considered major public health burdens like tuberculosis, malaria or HIV/AIDS, neglected zoonotic diseases do not garner the same media attention or monetary contributions from the public or private sectors. But, it’s important to look at the numbers—at least 61 percent of all human pathogens are zoonotic, representing 75 percent of all emerging pathogens in the last decade. These neglected zoonotic diseases that disproportionally affect the poorest communities globally have some of the largest impacts. One vaccine shot could be the difference in a life of poverty or a life of prosperity.

– Trey Ross
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea

Agrarian-minded agents have shared farming methods online that enable sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea for traditional tribespeople who grow Tabernanthe iboga, a shrub that has many uses in traditional tribal medicinal practices.

One important use of Tabernanthe iboga is to provide hunters and fisherman with stamina and a reduced need to eat and drink as they are hunting and fishing. Iboga also has a lot of other medicinal properties that make its cultivation and use important to the people who live in Equatorial Guinea and surrounding areas. Tabernanthe iboga has been shown to help with diarrhea and various disorders of the mind, and some traditional healers even claim that it helps lessen pain in people who have AIDS.

The Internet Helps Iboga Growers

Before learning new farming methods that encouraged sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea, some of the farmers growing Tabernanthe iboga employed more environmentally destructive slash and burn methods to harvest the plant. Through self-agency by using information about farming available online, the farmers learned about the importance of not removing the whole plant so that the crop can continue to grow in the future, and the need to replace the soil so that the nutrients required to grow the plants do not get destroyed.

The farming methods that were shared online by agrarian-minded agents and used by Iboga growers provide a beacon of light that promotes and supports sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea. However, companies that are not agrarian-minded have passed laws that restrict farmers in Equatorial Guinea from sharing their seeds with other farmers. Such laws, which are designed to protect the profits of biotechnology firms that have created new seeds, hurt farmers in developing countries.

Seed Sovereignty Addressing Restrictions

A political movement called Seed Sovereignty is attempting to repeal the legislation that makes it a crime to save and share seeds. This movement is attempting to restore the right to use seeds to the farmer so that sustainable agriculture in Equatorial Guinea and other areas of the world is possible without needing to buy new seeds each year.

Farmers who violate the law and decide to share the seeds from their harvest with other people can go to prison. In some areas of Africa, the farmer who defies the law by sharing his seeds can spend up to 12 years in prison. Agrarian-minded agents take the opposite approach and empower farmers in places like Equatorial Guinea to protect the plants they grow by sharing their seeds and environmentally-safe farming techniques with others rather than putting them in prison for sharing their knowledge with other people.

An Online Repository of Sustainable Agriculture in Equatorial Guinea

The promotion of methods that support sustainable agriculture practices is needed to help preserve biodiversity and empower farmers in impoverished areas of the world. They offer this help by sharing the knowledge required to farm without destroying the environment so that farmers can produce without worrying about destroying the natural resources that they depend on for food and medicine.

Farmers in Equatorial Guinea have access to new methods to sustainably grow Tabernanthe iboga because of the information shared online by agrarian-minded agents. Tabernanthe iboga is an important plant in Equatorial Guinea, it is a part of their rich culture, and farmers can ensure that Tabernanthe iboga will always be there by growing it using sustainable farming methods.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Google

poverty and conservation in Kenya
In Kenya, Bidco Land O’Lakes is developing an encouraging partnership with farmers to assist in producing quality animal feed. Commercializing Kenyan farms with the assistance of quality feed would provide economic gain, and the partnership’s goals work to address poverty and conservation in Kenya.

Bidco Land O’Lakes and African Farmers

The partnership began in 2016 when Bidco Africa and Land O’Lakes combined the organizations’ strengths. Bidco Africa is the largest consumer goods company in East Africa with more than 35 years of market knowledge and customer insights. Land O’Lakes, Inc. is a big producer in feed technology and formulation, supporting a commitment to quality. Combining the two groups collective knowledge, the partnership implements the goal to increase farmer productivity and well-being.

Land O’Lakes International Development

Another organization affiliated with Land O’Lakes, Inc. is the Land O’Lakes International Development nonprofit, which has developed the base for dairy industry growth in Kenya for about two decades. This nonprofit assists societies in building local economies through agriculture and business development, and connecting farmers to markets. The organization “collaborates locally to create lasting inclusive economic growth.”

In many developing countries, agriculture, the basis of feed product, and other natural resources are the foundation of economic growth; however, around 11 percent of the world’s surface is suitable for agriculture and of that percentage, around 38 percent has been degraded by inadequate natural resource management.

The Land O’Lakes International Development nonprofit addresses inadequate natural resource management through the importance of sustainable agricultural practices. The organization promotes conservation and efficiency in natural resource usage through flexible sustainable strategies that strengthen agricultural production, such as quality livestock feed.

Poverty and Conservation in Kenya

Kenya’s economy and people’s livelihoods are extremely contingent on natural resources. Addressing poverty and conservation in Kenya could start with sustainable practices of agricultural and natural resources.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) made most of the Land O’Lakes International Development work achievable. However, the Land O’Lakes International Development Fund (IDF) develops additional financial earnings through non-U.S. government donors that increase the efficiency and success of the programs.

USAID’s Work

USAID promotes good farming conventions and effective land management so as to increase agricultural productivity. Sustainable agricultural production promotes conservation and preservation of farming lands while also increasing agricultural productivity.

In Kenya, USAID assists in laying a foundation for long-term economic growth through sustainable agriculture. The organization promotes community-based natural resource management so as to effectively eliminate conservation challenges associated with development.

Kenya’s new constitution ratified in 2010 bids “community land” to any group composed on the basis of ethnicity, culture or mutual interest. The group can then have free, community usage of the land and development of the selected area of land.

Historically, there has a been a collision of the right of people to use traditional, community lands for their own development needs and the need to conserve natural resources. Community ownership usually chooses to develop the land for economic growth or chooses to conserve the land.

However, in an article by Janet Ranganathan of the World Resources Institute, she describes that the “current mindset of society is to put economic development and nature in separate boxes,” but in reality, “development and ecosystem services are intertwined.” She promotes the idea that development organizations can assist developing countries in advancing economically while conserving the environment by evaluating ecosystems and natural resources as assets that generate benefits.

Increased Productivity

The feed partnership with Bidco Land O’Lakes and Kenyan farmers promotes the two goals of conserving natural resources and promoting economic development. Both groups provide hands-on trainings to the farmers to increase sustainable agricultural productivity in addition to quality feed production.

Combining the need for economic development and conservation of natural resources, the Bidco Land O’Lakes partnership increases productivity of agricultural feed, and addresses poverty and conservation in Kenya.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Flickr

livestock production in ghana
With adequate rainfall, plentiful vegetation and a low pest population, Ghana’s Northern Savannah Ecological Zone is an optimal environment for cattle production. Despite this prime landscape, livestock production in Ghana has remained low. Insufficient or otherwise absent livestock policies, uninformed ranching practices and lack of funding are among the many factors responsible for underperforming livestock production in Ghana.

Limitations of Meat Access

Over the years, the domestic meat industry has become so problematic that it became cheaper for Ghana to import its meat from South America and Europe. Furthermore, poor cattle production has contributed to nationwide nutrition issues. According to USAID, about 1.2 million Ghanains face food insecurity, and anemia and iron deficiency afflict much of the population.

Recognizing meat access limitations, nutrition deficiencies and cattle mortality in the country, Kamal-Deen Yakub, Damian Brennan and Luis Grolez came together to find an innovative solution to such a persisting problem. In 2013, the trio launched Farmable, a “crowdfarming” platform that connects investors to smallholder cattle farmers in the country.

Crowdsourced funding enables farmers to take better care of their cattle, receive education in agricultural best practices and business development and sell in the domestic market, ultimately improving livestock production in Ghana over time.

Here’s How it Works:

  1. Investors visit Farmable to select a farm in Ghana and start a new cow, which they can name and give certain attributes. Popular funded cows include Borat Cow, Moochacho and Moominator. Alternatively, crowdfunders can invest in a cow that’s already on it’s way to becoming fully funded.
  2. Once a cow has 20 investors, it is linked to a real cow on the farm of the investor’s initial choosing.
  3. Farmhands tag the cow, and investors can track the cow’s health and progress online through preparation for sale in the domestic meat market.
  4. After the meat sells, the investor can reap profits. Investments help continue farmer education, production and marketing efforts.

Since launching, Farmable has helped to revolutionize the cattle ranching industry for participating farmers. “The company has succeeded in bringing together 7,500 cows owned by 600 smallholder farmers. We have sold about 1100 cows through the platform direct from the farms,” cofounder Kamal-Deen Yakub told The Borgen Project.

Education and Optimization

In light of these successes, Farmable has had to put the crowdfarming platform on a temporary hold as it gears up for its next phase. The company is focusing on educating farmers and optimizing production in the interim: “We engage farmers through partnership with existing incubators working to build capacities of smallholder farmers,” Yakub explained.

Farmable recruits subject-matter experts from the University of Ghana, local veterinary officers and experienced farmers to provide training for participants.

Livestock Production in Ghana

Over the next few years, Farmable plans to establish renewable energy cattle ranches in Ghana to promote sustainable practices and cut down on costs. The company will use dung and agricultural waste to produce manure and biogas respectively to sustain these renewable energy ranches for free. Yakub encourages potential donors to stay tuned for this important next step.

The crowdfunding platform will go live again in the coming future, and Yakub hopes investors “are ready to participate in the crowdfarming and become cow backers.”

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr

Timor-Leste is a small, agrarian country that largely depends on its struggling agriculture sector for financial and economic security. Nearly 80 percent of Timor-Leste’s population is smallholder, local farmers who depend on the annual crop yields for their subsistence. Unfortunately, crop yields are often low or lost post-harvest, leaving many areas of the country below the poverty line.

In some districts, like Manufahi, approximately 85 percent of the population survives on $0.88 a day. Developing sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste has been a focal point for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries since 2003, but still requires significant financial backing and guidance from other government agencies and global aid societies.

Multiple projects have been proposed and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the government of Timor-Leste in conjunction with the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The sole purpose of these projects is to give Timor-Leste’s agriculture sector the chance to successfully become a competitor in burgeoning world markets via modernizing farming techniques and educating the smallholder farmers.

Here are a few of the projects implemented for the development of sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste:


The Timor-Leste Agricultural Rehabilitation, Economic Growth and Sustainable Natural Resource Management Project

The sole purpose of this project, instituted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in 2003, was to increase farm and crop productivity. To accomplish this, farmers were taught new and advanced techniques for increasing crop yields and reducing the number of crops lost after harvest. This, in turn, would raise the annual income of the farmers and create more jobs. This project saw moderate success, but Timor-Leste still faces the same challenges.

Crops are constantly lost due to inefficient farming practices, which in turn creates harsh and unsustainable environments for future crops. Educating farmers on appropriate farming techniques crop survival in the country’s environment remains one of the main objectives of most projects geared for sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste.


The Developing Agricultural Communities (DAC) Project

This project aims to connect smallholder farmers with large-scale retailers and train them in the technologies and horticultural practices necessary for expanding into vast markets. In conjunction with ConocoPhillips, an American energy company, and K’manek and Dilimart, two of the largest local supermarkets in Timor-Leste, USAID hope to connect local farmers with the farm-to-market chain to improve their economic and social positions.


The Sustainable Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (SAPIP)

This six-year project, agreed upon by the World Bank and the government of Timor-Leste in 2016, received $21 million from the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund. It aims to revitalize and improve the productivity of crops in selected areas so as to boost their status in the world market. Timor-Leste has dealt with malnutrition as a result of the loss of staple foods and the insecurity of food production caused by poor soil and water management.

This project aims to create secure food production through smallholder farmers by improving multiple watersheds in different geographical locations. These watersheds will prevent contaminants from entering the crop soil while simultaneously increasing the amount of water that reaches the crops. The sheds will be monitored and evaluated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the continued support of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Trust Fund.


Future Steps for Timor-Leste

Sustainable agriculture in Timor-Leste is well on its way, but still requires additional funding for the vast number of projects planned for continued success in their agriculture sector. Timor-Leste still needs to establish a reliable and stable economy through their marketability, and through continued support from its government and global aid campaigns, the nation can achieve that goal.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

Sao Tome
Sao Tome and Principe is a small island nation in Africa, close to the equator. It has a population of less than 200,000, and extreme poverty is widespread in the country, particularly in rural areas.

Sao Tome and Principe is Africa’s smallest country geographically and relies heavily on agriculture, specifically the production of cocoa. Approximately 95 percent of the country’s exports are in cocoa; however, due to recent droughts and a lack of sustainable agriculture in Sao Tome and Principe, production has steadily decreased.


Current State of the Economy

Roughly 60 percent of the nation’s employment is in the rural sector and as of 2016, the unemployment rate was just under 14 percent. Since the nation is so small, the economy doesn’t have much room to grow — it increases approximately four percent per year. This growth is not enough for the country to sustain itself, and due to the lack of sustainable agriculture in Sao Tome and Principe, the economy cannot flourish or grow any more than it currently is.

With a sustainable agriculture system, the country will be able to decrease poverty, increase employment, and by extension, better the economy.


Efforts Towards Sustainable Agriculture

Since the late 1980s, the World Bank introduced and implemented projects in Sao Tome and Principe to help strengthen the country’s agriculture and production. Though most of these projects have been met with limited success, the World Bank has invested over 20 million in Sao Tome and Principe’s agriculture over the years.

Most projects still being implemented by the World Bank are now dedicated towards financials and budgeting; however, the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has taken over improving and developing agriculture within the nation.

In November 2010, AfDB introduced the Infrastructure Rehabilitation for Food Security Support Project (PRIASA). The aims of this project are to increase appropriate infrastructure and support rural communities in creating sustainable agriculture in Sao Tome and Principe. These efforts will increase crop production in these areas as well as create more jobs thus decreasing unemployment.


Improvements Already Underway

Sao Tome and Principe has already reaped benefits from the project in the last seven years. The nation has integrated gravity-fed irrigation systems, built greenhouses and created and installed solar dryers. All of these improvements can hopefully lead to the continued presence of sustainable agriculture in Sao Tome and Principe.

The project also helps support the infrastructure development needed to create sustainable agriculture. AfDB has roads, offices and modernized technology in Sao Tome and Principe, and so far, the project has reached over 10 thousand beneficiaries.


Training and Continued Development

Training is also a part of the initiative. Over 100 technicians and officials of the Ministry of Rural Development in Sao Tome and Principe have been specifically trained in how to sustain the developments made to the country’s agricultural system.

While improvements still have to be made before the nation can state complete sustainable agriculture, Sao Tome and Principe is definitely making significant headway. With the groundwork laid, Sao Tome and Principe has a strong chance of making themselves a prosperous and fortified country.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

credit access in MaliFor many of the poor in developing nations, securing loans is often an unfeasible task. Reforms to credit access in Mali, however, are providing much-needed relief to smallholder farmers endeavoring to improve conditions for themselves and their families.

The Importance of Microfinance in Development

The practice of providing access to financial resources and small loans to those in developing nations, known as microfinance, has become the latest instrument in the effort to alleviate poverty. Too often, the world’s poor are denied access to loans, making it exceedingly difficult to start businesses or make capital investments that would enable them to improve productivity and elevate their incomes. Although microfinance across developing economies has yielded mixed results previously, the capacity remains for well-structured and pragmatically targeted initiatives to succeed.

Credit Access in Mali Denied

When these programs are successful, the implications can be powerful, especially for women and smallholder farmers. In developing economies, women reinvest 90 cents of each dollar they earn into “human resources” like healthcare, nutrition and education, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review. This is substantially more than men and illustrates the impact small investment opportunities can have for the well-being of women and their families.

Despite this, securing loans is harder for women because most do not have property in their names to offer as collateral, typically make lending to them impractical. Furthermore, in Mali, 70 percent of loan applications sought by farmers are rejected because they are deemed risk-prohibitive. Because farmers’ incomes typically fluctuate with seasonal variance in agricultural output, banks are usually hesitant to provide financial backing.

Securing loans is also rare for farmers in Mali because banks focus primarily on commercial lending and often refuse the longer term loans many Malian farmers in the young mango, papaya and cashew nut industries need to get their businesses off the ground. Unstable political institutions in the country, like inconsistent enforcement of contracts, and poorly defined property rights further exacerbate these challenges.

Credit Where Credit is Due

An initiative which began in 2013 is addressing these issues and attempting to increase credit access in Mali. The Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project by the World Bank seeks to “reduce the risk of investing in agricultural endeavors through technical assistance, new technology and greater knowledge of the supply chain and key actors,” according to World Bank Agribusiness Specialist Yeyande Kasse Sangho.

To provide loans, the program relies on the Innovation and Investment Fund (IIF) and the Guarantee Fund. The IIF offers a three-tiered lending system with each tier providing different levels of subsidies based on the size of the enterprise, with smaller enterprises receiving a greater subsidy. The Guarantee Fund, also financed by the World Bank, offers up to 50 percent of the loan guarantee, giving a needed cushion to the two commercial banks in Mali receiving the deposits.

In addition to this World Bank initiative, Mali sought in 2016 to improve access to credit by improving its credit information system regarding the regulations of credit bureaus in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. In 2017, it established another credit bureau, doubling-down on its resolve to ensure its citizens have access to capital.

With initiatives like these, Mali is demonstrating its commitment to making accessible credit the new normal for its people. Further improvement to credit access in Mali will only serve to assist in lifting more people out of poverty.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Plans to Improve Sustainable Agriculture in Turkmenistan Sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan has been difficult to implement due to a lack of resources and an effective way of maintaining agricultural plans. Improvements to the country’s agricultural systems are currently being discussed by activists and governments across the globe.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cites lack of management and effective irrigation systems as barriers to the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices. To address these barriers, aid organizations will not only need an effective irrigation plan in a country where, according to USAID, 80 percent of land is classified as desert, but will need to outline a sound managerial plan for maintaining it.

According to Support for Further Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Turkmenistan (SARD III), the European Union has drawn plans for a four-year project. This complex initiative to improve sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan required presentations in addition to a lengthy outline. In addition to government plans, aid organizations have chosen to address the issue through education and new technology.

Last fall, a partnership between The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Global Environment Facility and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Economy of Turkmenistan resolved to construct a water pipeline to assist with the issue of sustainable agriculture. According to UNDP, a seminar was given in Ashgabat to outline the plan for the pipeline, explain its success in the past and discuss the importance of daily water conservation practices.

Education about effective agricultural methods has been adopted by other agencies as well. In a statement on the USAID Turkmenistan website, the organization claims to “…prioritize greenhouse horticulture, helping high-value fruit and vegetable growers, processors and marketing specialists connect with local and international markets.” Although the actions and projects by aid organizations as well as plans for improvement are important, aid organizations also emphasize education and explain ways people can make a difference in their everyday lives.

Although activists are doing what they can to address their concerns about sustainable agriculture in Turkmenistan, citizens also consider agriculture a priority and referenced agriculture in a 2015 UNICEF report about goals for the future. Aid organizations and volunteers aim to make sustainability projects a priority and to make sustainability plans a reality.

– Gabriella Evans

Photo: Flickr