Zambia’s agriculture possesses the ideal makings of a strong farming community. They have arable land, water and abundant human resources. Small-scale farmers are instrumental in food production countrywide and contribute significantly to the national food basket. Ultimately, these agricultural workers help their country’s poor.

To aid small-holder farmers in gaining access to high-quality, disease-free seeds, Syngenta and USAID’s Feed the Future Program invests as much as $1.8 million to provide seedling production sites. These sites will be in 20 districts across Zambia.

Each of the above-mentioned sites will be owned and operated by one Entrepreneurial Young Plant Riser (YPR), who will provide business and technical training, as well as facilitate market linkages. This will benefit 12,000 smallholder farmers and give them access to seedling production sites.

These sites will primarily use cabbage and tomato seedlings, which allows the smallholder farmers in Zambia to potentially become commercially viable vegetable farmers. They will use the classes they receive from YPR at the seedling production sites to learn how to utilize their farm space and marketing linkages to succeed with what they have.

Zambia has a major problem with low levels of investment, lack of access to affordable credit and limited access to modern technology that helps with marketing trends. There exists a high number of small-holder farmers who store their money in their homes instead of investing in further land or more seeds. The investment of seedling production sites will not only help them gain marketing and fiscal knowledge, it will also help boost the country’s economy. This investment will then come to help the population as a whole.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr

Ella Gehrke, a junior at Iowa State University, hopes to make a difference in global health. Gehrke is studying Global Resource Systems and plans to attend medical school after graduating from ISU.

She has visited several developing countries, including El Salvador and India. She describes her trip to El Salvador as her first experience with severe poverty. She spent last summer in India working with women in rural villages.

“It was a remarkable experience because we had the opportunity to work in a very rural village with a lot of women. We had to go in and figure out what some of the problems we’re seeing [were] and how we could teach the people how they [could] make lifestyle changes to better their community and their families,” she says of her experience in India.

Her travels fostered her desire to help improve the lives of others.

Gehrke and four other ISU students competed in the Thought For Food challenge, which is a competition for students to create solutions for minimizing and ending world hunger.

She says, “We competed against around 250 teams and we made it to the top 10, so we were able to present our idea at Syngenta conference and we got to travel to Lisbon, Portugal for around two weeks.”

The team’s solution was called KinoSol, which is an inexpensive tool used to dehydrate fruits and vegetables using solar energy. By dehydrating the foods, market accessibility is increased, as is the accessibility to nutritional foods that do not waste as quickly. The dehydrator is a mobile and easy-to-use unit.

“Dehydrating extends the shelf life of the fruit and allows the nutrients to be consumed year-round,” says Gehrke.

The team won $40,000 in awards and is working on the fifth prototype this summer. They hope to increase the KinoSol’s efficiency. Currently, they have two units in Uganda and plan to expand to South Sudan and El Salvador in several months.

Gehrke says, “We had some feedback from some of the women who are saying that they’re excited to use our product and that they want to incorporate them in their own households. That validation is warming to the soul.”

In addition to helping through innovation, Gehrke has been selected to attend Oxfam Change Initiative, a training that aims to equip students with valuable tools and skills to involve their community and school with ways to fight poverty, hunger, and other injustices. Gehrke was one of 40 students selected nationwide.

After returning from the training in August, Gehrke plans to host several events at the ISU campus to get students involved in world issues.

“We actually can make a change,” she declares.

– Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Iowa State Daily, Iowa State University 1, Iowa State University 2
Photo: KinoSol

Microcredit, microfinance, micro-insurance… There is a microfinance revolution occurring around the world, and it is changing the perceptions of what can be done for those living in poverty.

Empowerment is an important focus of aid and development work. A family that, instead of being given rice and feed for a season, is educated and provided with tools to grow rice and feed themselves, can become self-sustaining. However, providing this kind of empowerment assistance can be difficult. How can organizations provide loans or credit to people who do not have bank accounts? How can they insure farmers when the value of their crops does not reach the minimum premiums? How can they make health insurance available to families living in poverty?

There is a market available for all of these services, but it is taking a revolutionary approach to provide it. Insurance has typically been the domain of the middle and upper classes. Insurance providers have always targeted those with significant investments to protect, as that is where the money lies. But for small-scale farmers, with fewer assets, the dependence on the success of their investments is greater than that of the wealthy. It is these people at the bottom of the economic scale who need insurance the most, as they are the ones without a safety net.

Recognizing this, the international foundation Syngenta has begun offering an insurance program for small farmers. The project originated in Kenya, and offers insurance for farms as small as half an acre, charging them a rate of $5.25 a season. The project is run remotely, with local supply stores acting as purchasing points for insurance and weather stations used to calculate damages due to climate effects, resulting in minimal overhead costs. Operating in Kenya and Rwanda, the scheme has already sold more than 64,000 insurance policies, largely to farmers who have never before had the option of buying insurance.

Similar programs are being developed around the world, with some focusing on micro-credit while others provide insurance at a fraction of the cost of traditional insurers. Furthermore, as the field develops, larger insurance companies are also embracing the model. In 2005, micro-insurance was offered by only 15% of the largest insurance companies. Today, two thirds of those companies are offering with micro-insurance. Some estimates place the potential market of micro-insurance to be between 2 and 3 billion potential policies.

Small-scale farmers with insurance are better able to provide for their families, even in the event of crop failure. This minimizes the potential for famine and also decreases the need for foreign assistance to provide for people in the event of crop failure.

– David M Wilson 

Sources: The New York Times, Syngenta
Photo: Dowser

USAID and Syngenta Sign Collaborative Agreement
To continue to advance U.S. efforts to fight hunger, USAID has signed an agreement with global company Syngenta International AG. The agreement will seek to increase food security and reduce hunger in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The agreement will go to support farmers.  According to USAID, each night, around 870 million people around the world go to bed hungry and Syngenta is joining the fight to reduce those numbers.  Their partnership in the fight will help to increase the adoption of innovative technologies and create mechanisms for crop insurance.

The USAID and Syngenta agreement will allow both groups to reach the impoverished and malnourished across three different continents in joint efforts to end global poverty.  USAID and Syngenta will work together in research and development and capacity building. They will work together and with scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and other donors. This commitment advances the goals set by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

As previously announced, Syngenta will invest over $500 million in Africa alone to help farmers adopt new technology to increase their yields. With 27,000 employees in 90 countries, Syngenta is truly a global company that is making a global impact. Part of their mission is to bring plant potential to life through science while protecting the environment and improving health and quality of life. Syngenta hopes to ignite change in farm productivity worldwide through the partnership.

Feed the Future is part of this global effort and supports countries as they develop their own agriculture sectors to increase economic growth and trade. In 2012, more than 7 million food producers were helped through Feed the Future. The USAID and Syngenta partnership will continue to grow agricultural development and promote the goals of Feed the Future.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: allAfrica
Photo: USAID