terminator seeds threaten sustainable farming methods
One of the ways that companies that create genetically modified seeds protect their intellectual property is with terminator seeds, ensuring that farmers cannot save seeds from past harvests and need to buy new seeds every year. Because of this practice, terminator seeds threaten sustainable farming methods and make farmers reliant on the biotechnology companies producing the seeds.

What Is a Terminator Seed?

A terminator seed, also called a suicide seed, is a seed that is genetically modified so that any crops grown from it do not produce fertile seeds. Because the crops produce sterile seeds, farmers need to buy a new batch of seeds every year rather than using the traditional farming method of saving, reusing and sharing seeds.

Some biotechnology firms use seeds that require the farmers to use a special compound to activate the seed so that farmers that are using genetically modified seeds become dependent on the biotechnology firm if they want to plant the seeds from their crops.

Any technology that the biotechnology firms use to prevent the farmer from saving, sharing or reusing seeds and control the reuse of seeds threatens both biodiversity and sustainable farming methods in developing countries.

How Do Terminator Seeds Work?

Terminator seeds contain a repressor gene that kills the embryo in any seed that a genetically modified plant protected by terminator technology produces. Even though the seeds produced by the plants look normal, they are not viable and cannot be used to plant more crops, which forces the farmer to buy new seeds from the biotechnology firm selling the genetically modified plant.

Since saving and cross-breeding seeds is an integral part of traditional African practices, farmers in African countries are much less likely to use terminator seeds than farmers in other third world countries. In Africa, farmers use many varieties of seeds and are less likely to use biotechnology because the farming methods in Africa have been shown to be more sustainable than the solutions offered by biotechnology firms.

The Financial Impact of Terminator Seeds

Since biotechnology firms cannot use the law to stop farmers from reusing seeds, they are relying on science to stop farmers from reusing seeds. About 10 farmers a day commit suicide in India because the exorbitant prices of seeds produced by biotechnology companies are putting the farmers into a cycle of debt and despair that leads them to suicide.

Terminator seeds provide a viable way of protecting plants that cannot be protected by patent laws, and terminator technology is being used to ensure that farmers cannot reuse seeds that cannot be protected by other legal methods to regulate the use of new technologies that are sold by many of the world’s leading biotechnology firms. Technologies such as terminator seeds make it next to impossible for impoverished farmers to break out of the cycle of poverty.

Because terminator seeds threaten sustainable farming methods, many third-world farmers are starting to use organic and chemical-free methods to control pests and are starting to replace terminator seeds with seeds that are free to save and to share with other farmers. These practices can break the hold that terminator seeds terminator seeds have over farmers, while also helping them practice sustainable farming methods and become more self-sufficient.

– Michael Israel

Photo: Flickr

reducing poverty through agricultureA growing population and the increased demand for food are burning problems in the present day. Many scientists, organizations, individuals and political bodies are coming forward to find solutions to this problem. Feeding so many mouths is not a simple task, but research and hard work are making the impossible at least feasible.

These are some methodical and sustainable ways of reducing poverty through agriculture and farming, especially in places with unfavorable climates, degraded soil and poor socioeconomic conditions.


Reforestation Through Cash Crops in Guatemala

Although Guatemala’s name means “a land of endless trees,” 80 percent of them were destroyed within a decade due to cattle breeding, corn farming, illegal settlements and destructive logging practices.

In order to restore the land to its previous condition, an organization named Livelihoods Funds, along with the government of Guatemala, took the initiative in reforestation by planting four million trees of various species over an area of 4,000 hectares.

The trees are mostly cash crops like rubber, coffee, patchouli, cocoa, mahogany, laurel, cedar and citrus plants. This helps the local community with reducing poverty through agriculture, boosting economic development and prevents climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.


Reducing Hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa

Hunger, malnutrition and stunting prove detrimental to the economic advancement of any country. The Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) came up with the initiative of helping individual farm families of Africa through nutrition-sensitive agricultural development.

Their aim is to provide technical assistance and a knowledge base for increasing food security with improved nutrition. Currently, their work is concentrated in sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.


Alternative Food Production in Kenya

Kenya suffers from inadequate rainfall, which affects the production of maize, the primary staple crop of most smallholder farmers. The result is that a vast population suffers from hunger and starvation.

One Acre Fund is helping the Kenyan government with reducing poverty through agriculture by planting drought-resistant crops like millet and sorghum, which act as a source of food and income during times of inadequate rainfall. The organization also trains farmers in sustainable planting techniques and fertilizer usage.


Integrated Pest Management Techniques in Honduras

CropLife International, along with the United States Agency for International Development, is helping the people of Honduras with integrated pest management techniques. With the help of field officials, they train the farmers in good agricultural practices.

The pest management helps protect the crops and increases their quality and productivity, fetching better incomes for the farmers while improving their livelihoods. It is a powerful example of fighting extreme poverty.


Bio-fortification in Rwanda

In Rwanda, an organization named HarvestPlus has introduced a nutritious variety of beans through bio-fortification, a process of increasing vitamins and minerals in plants through biotechnology. The beans are rich in iron and also have the capacity to resist viruses. They are suitable for extreme climates, producing a higher yield and thus increasing the incomes of farmers.


Fish Farming in Cambodia

The Feed the Future project in Cambodia is helping hatcheries raise good quality young fish known as fingerlings. The project provides cost-effective and simple technology to manage the clarity, nutrients and water quality of ponds. As a result of this technology, the growth rate and average weight of fingerlings have increased. helping individual hatcheries thrive.

The above methodologies are mainly applied in sub-Saharan and Latin American countries where there are extreme temperatures, drought and unsuitable soil. But these models can also be implemented in other parts of the world to increase the productivity of crops and meet the growing demand for food and simultaneously reducing the poverty of farmers.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Pixabay

food security in EthiopiaAccording to USAID, Ethiopia’s economy is dependent on agriculture, which is 43 percent of the GDP and 90 percent of Ethiopia’s exports. With such a significant economic reliance on a single sector, the community must section a large amount of dedicated time and resources towards agriculture’s viability for food security in Ethiopia.


Barriers to Food Security in Ethiopia

Access to weather-resistant seeds, fertilizers and pesticides is limited in Ethiopia. On top of that, only a small percentage of the land is actually irrigated. All of these combine to threaten agricultural output. The livelihoods of farmers are at risk if they do not have high enough crop yields to support themselves and sell in the market.

Since its discovery in 1939, there is one crop that has continued to contribute towards food security in Ethiopia. It is a crop that farmers do not worry about and it is a source of nutritional value for all consumers. This crop is commonly referred to as the “false banana.”


The Importance of the “False Banana”

Its scientific name is Ensete ventricosum; it is a perennial crop indigenous to Ethiopia. Enset is called the “false banana” because of its similarity in appearance. However, it is usually taller and fatter, with no edible fruits.

Over time, it has ranked as the most important cultivated staple food crop in the highlands of central, south and southwestern Ethiopia. It has been discovered to be weather resistant, which earned enset another title: “the tree against hunger”.

This weather resistance happens because the bulk of this plant is composed of air, then water and then fiber. The cells in the leaves hold an incredible amount of water for years. Therefore, even if Ethiopia faces a drought, this incredible plant can survive up to seven years without rain.

The main product of enset is the starchy pit from its “pseudo-stem,” which is pulped and then fermented for a few months before producing kocho, which is a solid staple that is eaten with bread, milk, cheese, cabbage, meat or coffee. Its diversity in usage makes it an excellent crop to bring food security to Ethiopia. According to an article published by Kyoto University, over 15 million people depend on enset to supplement their diets.


Bacterial Wilt and Solutions

Recently, a bacterial wilt caused by Xanthomnas campestris has ravaged enset, putting many enset farming systems at risk. As of 2017, according to a publication on Agriculture and Life Security, “up to 80 percent of enset farms in Ethiopia are currently infected with enset Xanthomonas wilt.” This disease has forced many farmers to abandon their crop production and threatens their survival.

Control of this bacterial disease is challenging, but sanitation and reducing the bacteria’s transmission rates are key. The same study from Agriculture and Life Security wrote that “Management practices recommended for EXW and BXW include uprooting and discarding infected plants, planting healthy, disease-free plants from less susceptible varieties, disinfecting farm tools after every use, crop rotation, avoiding overflow of water from infected to uninfected fields, removing alternate hosts around plants…”

The government must focus on educational programs to teach farmers how to manage all of the above steps towards reducing bacterial wilt in their enset plants.

Another method is currently in process, led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, which has partnered with the National Agricultural Research Organization and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation in order to develop transgenetic enset that are resistant to the bacterial wilt disease.

This project, if a success, will reduce the losses of small-scale farmers strongly relying on enset as a staple food. It would distribute the necessary resources and infrastructure to farmers to plant this new, bacterial-resistant enset. Thanks to dedication and scientific advancements, a project such as this one will help contribute to food security in Ethiopia.

– Caysi Simpson

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in afghanistanSustainable agriculture in Afghanistan is hindered by the nation’s reliance on opium. Thirty years ago, prior to decades of conflict, Afghanistan was renowned for its raisins, pomegranates, almonds, apricots and pistachios. Now, it’s the world’s leading exporter of opium. Radical cartels reap the profits of the opium trade, exposing farmers to violence. The opium industry involves risky loans, protection rackets and financial insecurity.

The lack of basic necessities impedes the reestablishment of legal and well-regulated agriculture in Afghanistan. This deficit includes physical security and infrastructure such as roads, electricity and packaging centers. Since the future of Afghanistan can’t be separated from its agriculture industry, agricultural reform is a targeted focus of international aid organizations. The majority of Afghans rely on agriculture as their only source of income, and agriculture is the country’s primary engine of economic growth.

One approach to the development of sustainable agriculture in Afghanistan is through the revival of previously successful cash crops. High value, high volume orchard crops can be up to five times more profitable than opium. The problem lies with startup time; establishing a grape vineyard takes 3-5 years, which is a hard sell compared to annually harvested poppies. Saffron is equally valuable, netting $2000-$3000 per kilogram, compared to $90 for poppies. Unfortunately, issues such as processing and gaining entrance to the international market hinder the industry.

Many experts believe that progress on the road to sustainable agriculture in Afghanistan relies on helping farmers to improve growing the crops to which they’re already accustomed, rather than convincing them to try something new. In August 2012, The World Food Program (WFP) and Act in Change Invest in Potential (ACTED) united under the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative to help farmers and cooperatives increase food production and marketing efforts. A project evaluation in July 2015 showed impressive improvements.

P4P irrigation schemes increased wheat production and reduced the impact of droughts. By saving women and children from having to endure long walks for water, irrigation systems contributed to home vegetable farming and increased school attendance. They also stimulated crop diversification, with farmers branching into corn, sesame and soya.

At the same time, the provision of tractors, threshers, seed, fertilizer and agricultural training boosted production capacity. New storage facilities decreased post-harvest losses and prevented farmers from being forced to sell in the low period immediately following harvest time. Improved access to markets led to higher sales in wheat. Overall, in targeted areas, wheat sales increased by 40 percent and losses decreased by 53 percent.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided assistance focused on both old and new markets. It has supported Afghan farmers through loans, canals and vouchers for seed, fertilizer, tools and tech. USAID helped 52,000 farmers grow more and higher quality wheat, but also facilitated the international export of fruit, nuts and cashmere valued at more than $66 million. USAID helped 1.1 million households by planting fruit saplings and grape cuttings, by establishing fruit orchards and vineyards and by constructing raisin drying facilities and cold storage rooms.

Slowly, sustainable agriculture in Afghanistan is gaining ground on the opium poppy industry. With international support, Afghanistan is reestablishing its place in the global agricultural market.

– Anna Parker

Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in MadagascarMadagascar is one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas, but only 10 percent of its original rainforests are intact. These remaining pockets of vegetation are highly fragmented due to local and small-scale destruction. Conservation must be combined with sustainable agriculture in Madagascar.

The Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group (MFG) has joined forces with Dr. Christof den Biggelaar, Associate Professor at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, to develop the MFG Ecoagriculture Project. The program works by teaching farmers agricultural techniques that encourage sustainable development and food security while conserving biodiversity. For instance, composting is an easy and effective method for combating the universal issue of soil infertility in Madagascar. Other MFG activities include research and the creation of new markets.

Human population growth in Madagascar has led to severe deforestation, largely due to the implementation of tavy, or slash-and-burn agriculture. Tavy is used primarily in the clearing of land for rice paddies and cattle grazing. It leads to erosion and productivity losses by exposing fragile soil. Runoff into the ocean is bad for fish health, which harms the local fishing industry. Deforestation also contributes to planet-wide climate change. Farmers understand the problem, but in their daily struggle for survival feel powerless to stop it.

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), or the Madagascar Method, has contributed to sustainable agriculture in Madagascar by increasing food security while decreasing environmental damage. For the last 25 years, Malagasy farmers have grown rice using intermittent wetting and drying of paddies rather than continuous flooding. Irrigating rice by flooding paddies suppresses weed growth, but at the expense of huge quantities of water. SRI uses less water, less land preparation and less fertilizer. With this method, young seedlings are planted individually with nutrients into wide rows of healthy, aerated soil. SRI results in rice with deeper roots that do not suffocate. These stronger roots create larger plants with heavier grains, thereby producing more grain per hectare while conserving water and reducing the environmental impact.

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, accounting for 80 percent of world production. Haagen-Dazs has partnered with General Mills to invest $125,000 over two years to encourage sustainable agriculture in Madagascar. General Mills buys most of the vanilla that goes into Haagen-Dazs ice cream from the Sava region. It has prioritized vanilla as one of the ten most important ingredients to source sustainably. Smallholder vanilla farmers have benefited from education and training aimed at the production of a more sustainable and higher quality crop. The resulting improvements in yield quantity and vanilla curing have increased the incomes of local farmers, which in turn has had a positive effect on entire communities.

The problems facing Madagascar are daunting, but the Malagasy people are becoming better equipped to tackle them. People around the world can contribute to sustainable agriculture in Madagascar by enjoying the nation’s famous shade-grown chocolate and vanilla.

– Anna Parker

Photo: Flickr

development projects in nepalIn April 2016, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) signed an agreement with NGOs to provide five new development projects in Nepal, totaling $121 million in aid. Here is an overview of those projects:

Suaahara II – $63 million

This five-year (2016-2021) program is “dedicated to improving the health and nutrition status of women and children”. It will build on existing improvements in maternal, infant and young child nutrition practices through various mediums such as activities, media programs and mobile technology. This program aims to reduce stunting produced by malnutrition during critical developmental stages (conception to 24 months) and improve maternal and child health services. In addition, the integrated strategies will work with government development projects in Nepal to expand services for adolescents and social attitudes towards delayed marriages and family planning.

Feed the Future Seed and Fertilizer Project- $15 million

This five-year project will bring targeted aid to promote sustainable increases in crop productivity in the agricultural sector and provide food security to common Nepalese families. The program plans to achieve this using improved seeds and “Integrated Soil Fertility Management technologies.” It hopes to equip local farmers and national partners with the technology and information needed to sustain and grow crop productivity.

Sustainable, Just and Productive Water Resources Development in Western Nepal – $2.5 million

This three-year project was created to promote sustainable water resource development in an area particularly vulnerable to climate change. It hopes to provide accurate information and base knowledge for policymakers and companies to use in their decision making regarding water ecosystems. They will focus their efforts in the Karnali and Mahakali river basins of Nepal.

Civil Society: Mutual Accountability Project – $15 million

This five-year program aims to “foster a more legitimate, accountable, and resilient Nepali civil society” through effective policy advocacy, media use and government engagement. The program will incorporate gender equality as a common thread throughout all project activities.

Programme for Aquatic Natural Resources Improvement – $25 million

Lastly, this five-year program’s goals include reducing threats to Nepalese biodiversity and increase human and ecological resilience to climate change through improved water management. It will provide critical support to areas strained by overuse, increased populations and climate change. This program hopes to incentivize water conservation engagement at all levels of society, from fisherman to politicians, through political engagements, informational activities, and academic research.

According to Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz, these USAID-funded development projects in Nepal “address both the continuing needs of the Nepali people post-earthquake, and at the same time build sustainable communities that support Nepal’s long-term development goals.”

– Belén Loza

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in serbia
As a major economic contributor to food, incomes, public goods and services in rural areas, agriculture infrastructure in Serbia plays a large role in the livelihood of its people. With over two-thirds of Serbia’s land being agricultural, farming is an important aspect of economic success. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management (MAFWM) is continually trying to find ways to improve the agriculture sector in terms of efficiency and competitiveness.

Agriculture made up 11.9 percent of Serbia’s GDP in 2016, the large figure due mostly to better weather conditions. Crops were able to grow to an abundance and support the rural area residents. Currently, there are 680,000 people employed in agriculture, which makes up 21 percent of Serbia’s labor force. With such a high percentage of people working in agriculture, the sector became of more importance to infrastructure in Serbia.

The Rural Development Program for Serbia is designed to increase food-safety and competitiveness of the agri-food sector. With the $200 million investment from the European Commission, the program will take six years and the investments will be distributed as grants. These grants will be given to:

  1. Farmers producing milk, meat, fruits and vegetables and other crops
  2. Micro-, small- and medium-sized milk, meat, fruits and vegetable processing farms
  3. Organic production
  4. Development of private rural tourism facilities

By having an agriculture sector that focuses on competitiveness, there then exists a way to find balance between farm viability, environmental protection and the social development of rural areas. In order to improve competitiveness, Serbia is:

  1. Reducing production costs
  2. Increasing economic size of holdings
  3. Promoting innovation and orientation towards the specific market
  4. Trying to create better measurements for agricultural investments pertaining to physical investments and human capital investments
  5. Emphasize the importance of selling quality products

From 2016 to 2017, the Serbian Parliament increased its agriculture budget by 8 percent. This increase in investment will help in positively changing the social and economic conditions in rural areas. These rural areas will benefit greatly from assistance and cause the agriculture infrastructure in Serbia to be able to produce more crops. The continuing emphasis put on agriculture in Serbia creates a positive outlook on the development of better communities.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

development projects in panama

There are a number of global organizations that have worked on development projects in Panama, and many continue to this day. Partly due to the positive impact of these projects, the poverty level in Panama dropped from 39.9 percent in 2007 to 26.2 percent in 2012.

Here are five development projects in Panama that are making a positive impact.

  1. The Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) project is working to improve food security among indigenous groups and other marginalized communities in rural Panama. The project exchanges knowledge and skills with farmers in the area to help them succeed in agriculture. SAS provides training in many areas including soil quality improvement, pest control and post-harvest storage techniques.
  2. The Teaching English, Leadership and Lifeskills (TELLS) program teaches Panamanians the language and leadership skills they need to thrive in their professional careers and become community leaders. Volunteers with the TELLS program work in primary and secondary schools to train teachers, teach workshops and organize after-school activities. They also coach students in important skills like writing resumes or cover letters and preparing for job interviews.
  3. The Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) Project works in Panama’s watersheds and protected areas. CEC empowers local communities to address their most pressing environmental concerns. Those involved with the project work with schools and local groups to train community members in areas such as resource conservation, waste management and reforestation.
  4. Another development project in Panama focused on environmental conservation is the Burunga Wastewater Management Project for Panama. The project’s objectives are to improve access to sewage services and strengthen wastewater pollution management. The World Bank has committed $65 million to this project through 2021.
  5. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been working in Panama since 1982. Their most recent project was the Participative Development and Rural Modernization Project. The project has improved access to financial services among poorer communities in Panama, an important step in reducing inequality and lifting people out of poverty.

These development projects as well as others have played a part in Panama becoming the fastest growing economy in Latin America. The country averaged 7.2 percent growth from 2001-2013. Overall poverty levels have declined significantly, but some marginalized communities have been left behind in the process.

Indigenous groups, in particular, suffer from higher poverty levels than the country as a whole. As development projects in Panama continue, the organizations involved should continue these successful programs while looking for new ways to address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

development projects in sudan
Sudan has been rife with conflict for most of its existence. The country is dealing with economic challenges, health concerns, a large population living below the poverty line and the ever-present threat of violent conflict. Many organizations are working in Sudan to help improve conditions for those living there, and progress is being made. As an example, the life expectancy in Sudan has risen from 58.4 in 2000 to 64.2 in 2015. Ahead are five development projects that are making a difference in Sudan.

  1. Earlier this year, the Sudanese government and the African Development Bank launched the ENABLE Youth Program. This project helps youth in the country get involved in agriculture and learn business skills that will help them make a living. This is an important step in diversifying Sudan’s economy and decreasing its reliance on oil.
  1. The Strengthening Sub-National Fiscal Policy Management project is seeking to promote greater equity in Sudan’s public resource use and increase government transparency. There is a large disparity in resource allocation between different regions within Sudan and this project is working to level the playing field.
  1. The second phase of the Sustainable Livelihoods for Displaced and Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Sudan project (SLDP2) is continuing to help people living in Sudan’s poorest region identify labor needs and find workers to complete these tasks. This creates new jobs that do not require a great deal of training and work toward the betterment of the community.
  1. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has made development projects in Sudan a priority since 1979. Today the organization focuses its programs on agriculture and livestock. It is working to enhance crop productivity and increase access to financial services in Sudan’s rural farming communities.
  1. The United Nations Development Project (UNDP) is confronting many key issues in Sudan. UNDP projects in Sudan focus on poverty reduction, establishing and stabilizing democratic institutions and fighting HIV, malaria and other diseases.

Development projects in Sudan have played an important role in improving the quality of life for those living in the country. With continued investment from the global community and regular evaluation of projects’ effectiveness, there is hope for a more stable and peaceful Sudan.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Howard Buffet

Farmer and philanthropist, Howard Buffet, made it his mission in life to help end global hunger. He was recently interviewed by PBS on his current work in Africa helping farmers to generate sustainable agricultural solutions.

Buffet told PBS that his foundation, The Howard G. Buffet Foundation, invests in global food security while currently working on a few different projects. Primarily, they are building three hydro plants in the Eastern Congo. Hydro plants produce impressive amounts of electricity for communities.

Harvard University professor, Juma Calestous, told PBS news how the willingness Buffet shows to go hands-on and visit the Democratic Republic of Congo has brought him respect across the continent.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where not many donors are interested in operating,” Calestous said in a PBS news video. “He’s taking very high risks in going to those areas.”

Howard Buffet said in the video that areas of conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are where impoverished people need the most help because they have devastated infrastructure and no governance. However, his other project is taking place in the peaceful nation of Rwanda, focused on training young Rwandan farmers.

“I also think we [the U.S.] have a huge responsibility internationally, because we are a leader,” Buffet said in a PBS news video. “And we need to maintain that leadership.”

Buffet’s work in Africa is critical because although the continent has vast agricultural potential, its per capita food production has drastically declined. The Howard G. Buffet Foundation seeks to invest where others have not and it fills critical gaps that lead to sustainable change.

“We’re not going to end world hunger,” Howard Buffet said in the PBS video. “But, you know, I think every step we can take in that direction is something positive.”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr