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Global Food Problems
The globalization of agricultural markets has played an important role in virtually every country’s economy. Even though the farming sector has been declining, it still makes up 27% of worldwide employment and about 75% of the world’s poorest people. With how important the agricultural sector is to many of the world’s impoverished, many of these people find their economic prosperity and success stymied by a lack of food security and access to agricultural technologies. Thankfully, there are several technologies and programs working to solve many of these global food problems.

The Importance of Food Security

Global food security today is shaky at best. About 30% of the global population is susceptible to food insecurity due to issues such as COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and pre-existing economic security in many of the world’s poorest countries. These problems contributed to between 720 and 811 million people around the world suffering from chronic hunger in 2020. The numbers are not much better today, with more than 2 billion people still suffering from general malnutrition.

A significant factor causing these global food dilemmas is poverty that exists in the agricultural sector. Estimates suggest 60% more food production is necessary by 2050 to keep pace with the increasing global population, but that is a tall order considering that 700 million agricultural workers live in poverty. This makes it difficult for them to have access to technologies and resources to help them effectively connect with the ever-growing (and ever-digitizing) global agricultural markets. Thankfully, even with these steep hurdles, several technologies and programs are working today to help raise the world’s poorest agricultural workers and solve global food problems.

myAgro

Founded in 2011, myAgro knows that a vital component of boosting the productivity of poor farmers is connecting them to financial resources and platforms that allow them to afford the tools and technologies needed to farm. By developing a mobile layaway platform allowing poor farmers to pay for agricultural items like seeds and fertilizers in advance (and in smaller increments), myAgro has helped over 115,000 farmers grow 78% more food. This has translated into more than a million additional people being fed in 2021. myAgro continues to work in raising the world’s poorest farmers through its innovative financial technology.

TechnoServe

A nonprofit organization based out of Virginia, TechnoServe has been active for more than 50 years in the fight against global poverty. TechnoServe understands that a lack of access to many technologies we take for granted has stunted the economic growth of the world’s poorest farmers. TechnoServe has built digital training courses that help farmers otherwise locked out of global data and agricultural knowledge learn the skills needed to successfully run a farm. For example, it created the Maximizing Opportunities in Coffee and Cacao in the Americas (MOCCA) program which uses digital technologies to teach cacao farmers in Central America how to farm efficiently and sustainably. The provision of these digital avenues of agricultural learning has made a positive impact in reducing many global food problems.

Aerobotics

One technology that has made an impact is the drone. One company helping make this technology more accessible to poor farmers is Aerobotics, a South African company that Cape Town native James Patterson created. By developing drones that help farmers gain invaluable data on crop health, Aerobotics has helped boost their farming clients’ yields by as much as 10%. As drone prices continue to drop, they are becoming an ever-more-important tool for poor farmers to boost their agricultural efficiency.

Making Progress

Thanks to innovative programs and technologies from organizations like myAgro, TechnoServe and Aerobotics, great progress has occurred in raising the world’s poorest farmers. As these technologies develop and become more efficient and accessible, progress in solving global food problems will only continue.

– Elijah Beglyakov
Photo: Flickr

TechnoServe Bolsters India’s Economy with CoffeeThe coffee industry continues to flourish as the product dominates markets in most parts of the world. Due to its popularity, coffee holds its economic value well, providing sustainable income to those in the industry. India produces a portion of this commodity. However, some regions lack the infrastructure necessary for the industry to prosper. One nonprofit called TechnoServe bolsters India’s economy with coffee.

Andhra Pradesh

TechnoServe provides an avenue through which the farmers of Andhra Pradesh, a town in India, can grow coffee more efficiently. This region of India is a nontraditional growing region. Coffee production in India originated from a desire to prevent further felling of trees for cultivation. The coffee industry provided a means of employment for the locals who live in the region. While this region has viable production capabilities, small land sizes and poor agricultural practices limit the yield potential. TechnoServe works alongside these farmers to solve these problems and assist in expanding the market potential.

Coffee was introduced to Andhra Pradesh, India, in the ’60s by the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department (APFD) to end the slash and burn agriculture that dominated the region. Ideally, by introducing a new type of cultivation, fewer trees would be cut and burned. The APFD hopes this will protect the forest and encourage sustainable communities within the region. This area specializes in Araku Coffee — globally recognized for its high quality and popularity. The Specialty Coffee Association rated Araku Coffee as a world-renowned coffee with an 88-90 out of 100. Even with the coffee’s success in the global market, many farmers still struggle to experience individual economic stability.

Impact of TechnoServe

One aspect of coffee cultivation TechnoServe hopes to address is the picking of coffee cherries. Unlike a typical harvest, coffee cherries ripen at different rates, making it imperative for farmers to pick only the individual ripe fruit. This labor-intensive task requires focused knowledge of coffee ripening and the skills to recognize when the coffee is ready to be harvested. When farmers pick underripe fruit, it lessens the overall quality of the coffee produced. Because this is a nontraditional growing region, many farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India, do not have access to the knowledge necessary to improve these practices. TechnoServe’s assistance has provided these farmers with training and knowledge to bolster economic potential.

One result of TechnoServe’s influence is that farmers no longer need to rely on village middlemen for economic stability. Due to a lack of consistent income, some farmers ended up indebted to middlemen who were sought out to help families do things such as send their children to school. This debt trap limited the potential of many who found themselves incapable of digging themselves out.

Another aspect of TechnoServe’s training program is the involvement of the whole family. Palika, a farmer from Andhra Pradesh, India, explains how — when he wanted to expand his business and learn new coffee cultivation techniques — his wife also learned. Learning together built a partnership between the two with a common goal as they moved up the value chain.

Importance of TechnoServe

India’s coffee market, historically, remains export-oriented. However, with the increasing popularity and usage of small-scale farmers, facilitating these exports prevents farmers from maintaining a decent profit. Some farmers lose at least 10% of the production potential to local traders. TechnoServe hopes to end these losses by utilizing farmer producer organizations (FPOs) to take the product to market.

Utilizing the FPO market for coffee sales will improve the economic potential for farmers like Palika who hope to make their businesses profitable. Through the transformation of cultivation practices in Andhra Pradesh, India, Technoserve bolsters India’s economy and continues to instill hope for the future of Araku’s coffee industry.

– Kate Lucht
Photo: Flickr

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

TechnoServe is Alleviating PovertyNearly two-thirds of developing countries rely heavily on the economic profit of agriculture to support local financial infrastructure. The industry holds high profitability but farmers rarely have the means to create a profitable business. TechnoServe works closely in agricultural advancements, creating capitalizing markets for countries to grow upon. Technoserve is alleviating poverty through its initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Training Skills for Farmers

Kenya, Haiti and Zambia are some of the many developing countries rich in natural resources that are in high consumer demand, such as mangos and cashews. The support and training skills implemented by TechnoServe work to profit on the supply and demand. These natural resources could provide significant economic growth if farmers are given the skills to create a profitable business. Technoserve has partnered with nearly 4,000 businesses and upwards of 300,000 farmers each year.

TechnoServe’s mission is to implement training methods that these regions lack, such as skills in management training, finance and secure markets that are needed to create profitable enterprises. The implementation of training skills and knowledge allows individuals and communities to continue to carry the skills for a lifetime.

TechnoServe has made a lasting impact for millions of individuals and in 2019 it was rated the number one nonprofit fighting poverty by ImpactMatters.

Focusing on Women’s Empowerment

The annual report from 2019 reveals an increase in entrepreneurship for farmers and women, highlighting specific countries, and more specifically, women’s impact. In 2019, 38% of beneficiaries were women or women-owned businesses. Overall, 317,493 individuals and companies, as a result of Technoserve’s help, display increased profitability and financial benefits of $200,579.

In developing countries, women face gender barriers that are disproportionally more likely to affect them. Women’s economic empowerment is vital for alleviating poverty and creating employment opportunities. Investing specifically in women’s economic opportunities, such as access to training, knowledge and resources, could impact farm production up to 30%, allowing for increased employment opportunities. Studies estimate that this change could impact the global GPD by 26%, or $28 trillion.

Women in Business (WIN)

Working closely with businesses and organizations, Technoserve is alleviating poverty by proactively working to create social equity within communities. Breaking the barrier of gender inequality to empower women-run institutions through funding and support, improves the quality of life and financial status. For instance, Technoserves five year program designed for women, called Women in Business (WIN), focuses on female entrepreneurs in Mozambique. Similar training is also provided for men through Technoserve, to create complete gender balance.

More than three-quarters of economically active Mozambicans are involved in small and informal businesses, 60% of whom are women.” Despite most business owners being women, their businesses are less likely to employ as many people and are relatively smaller than their male counterparts. Highlighting gender barriers, women face higher demands at home due to families and are not likely to receive the same networks, information and opportunity. The WIN program utilizes a market systems approach to produce partnerships with private sector companies, associates and service providers, to create an inclusive market for women. WIN is able to provide these women resources through the partnership established with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Sida assists TechnoServe’s initiative through funding, providing resources such as creating employment opportunities, equipment, financial services and products needed.

Overall, TechnoServe is alleviating poverty with initiatives in the agricultural industry and acknowledges the important role of women in this endeavor.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Coffee Production
Partnering with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) TechnoServe, Swiss coffee company Nespresso has worked in East Africa since 2015. It works to boost sustainability in coffee production and power small coffee farmers. The company also looks to increase sustainability by working with the Rainforest Alliance, another NGO. In 2018, Nespresso launched its AAA Sustainability Program in Zimbabwe. It focuses on training farmers and providing technical expertise and agronomic advice. Although it has found multiple programs worldwide, Zimbabwe was chosen explicitly after droughts and economic instability destroyed its capabilities to cultivate the cash crop.

The Economy of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy saw a 231 million percent inflation in July 2008 after a land reform program passed, causing its economy to crash. According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s GDP fell by 8.1% in 2019 and has continued to fall due to COVID-19. In 2019, 6.6 million of Zimbabwe’s residents were extremely poor and food poverty was prevalent.

However, around 17% of Zimbabwe’s GDP is agricultural, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Coffee is a vital crop to the GDP. At peak production in 1989, Zimbabwe produced 15,000 tons of coffee. It sunk to 500 tons in 2017, according to the Telegraph. The loss of this significant part of the economy pushed millions into poverty and took away many jobs.

Understanding the Country’s Environment

Zimbabwe’s environment is ideal for cultivating coffee. It has cold temperatures, lots of rainfall and fertile lands. Coffee production has fallen mostly due to a lack of knowledge about growing the plant and droughts brought on by global warming. Coffee is a delicate tree, taking between two and three years to start flowering and nine months following this to have harvestable cherries. This is why Nespresso’s programs work to educate on sustainability and provide raw funds for farmers to use amongst economic instability.

In training, the main points of contention are drilling holes to plant trees, shading the trees properly and pruning branches. They also include eliminating bugs and disease, watching soil deficiencies and crop hygiene, according to National Geographic. The temperamental nature of coffee makes it essential to know exactly how to sustain it in the best way using efficient machinery and methods.

The Benefits of Nespresso

Nespresso plans to invest 1.3 million euros. It pays farmers in U.S. dollars instead of the Bond Notes that many use instead of currency. This allows them to buy better products and services globally. This will not only work to revitalize the economy through spending, but it will increase agricultural exports. The program currently works with over 2,000 farmers, training them on how to grow and paying them above-market rates for the coffee.

Since Nespresso has started working with these farmers, there was a 7% increase in production. Also, quality has risen by 51%. According to the Telegraph, Zimbabwe could soon double its coffee production, reaching 10,000 tons of coffee shortly. Furthermore, AAA programs have specifically targeted female farmers to provide equal opportunities, with 47% of the farmers being female.

In the long term, increased coffee production could help the country in multiple ways. Along with a GDP boost and increased jobs, the stimulation of coffee products helps put more children in school, provide healthcare access, increase efficiency and equipment and preserve biodiversity.

Overall, for those living in poverty in Zimbabwe, the rise of the crop that once drove the economy will provide immense relief. By bringing stability, jobs and globalization, the door to better opportunities starts with coffee. Nespresso’s program has opened that door to many small farmers in Zimbabwe.

– Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

Sustainable Guar InitiativeGuar is a bean that South Asian farmers have cultivated for centuries. The grain is the source of guar gum, a key ingredient in many products, ranging from condiments to cosmetics. The Sustainable Guar Initiative was launched in 2015 with the goal of improving the livelihoods and incomes of smallholder guar farmers in the Bikaner region, India.

The Sustainable Guar Initiative

The NGO TechnoServe leads the initiative’s on-the-ground implementation. Solvay, L’Oreal, Henkel and HiChem serve as partners of the program.

The initiative benefits more than 7,000 guar-farming households in Bikaner and operates across 36 villages. TechnoServe has facilitated the launch of a farmer producer company, which helps connect guar farmers with potential buyers. The initiative has built a traceable supply chain, which ensures that everyone from the farmers to their crops’ consumers benefits from the exchange.

Additionally, the initiative features social programs aimed at improving the well-being of farming households. One way the initiative achieves this is by educating the families on growing kitchen gardens.

The Impact of COVID-19

As of July 30, India has seen over 1,600,000 people tested positive for COVID-19. Over 40,000 people have tested positive in the state of Rajasthan and, just in the city of Bikaner, over 1,900 contracted the disease.

The Indian government declared a national lockdown on March 25 given the complexity of the situation. Since then, life has changed significantly for smallholder guar farmers in Bikaner and for the people working to support them through the Sustainable Guar Initiative.

TechnoServe’s team in India told The Borgen Project that guar farmers now face various challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many farmers can no longer sell their crops, disrupting the incomes they rely on. Lockdown measures also prevent farmers from finding daily wage labor to supplement their incomes. These farmers face a shortage of resources necessary to continue growing guar, like tractors, seeds, laborers and working capital.

These challenges could pose a real threat to Bikaner’s farmers. Though Rajasthan, the state where Bikaner is located, has made progress toward reducing poverty compared to India’s other low-income states, 15% of Rajasthan’s population still lived below the poverty line in 2012. With their incomes stagnating, guar farmers and others throughout the state could fall into (or deeper into) poverty as the COVID-19 crisis drags on.

Virtual Engagement

TechnoServe and their partners are working to keep smallholder guar farmers from this unpleasant fate. To do so without spreading the virus, TechnoServe has been engaging virtually with farming households since March 2020.

As the TechnoServe team in India told The Borgen Project, the virtual engagement strategy involves multiple communication methods. The team uses text messages, audio calls, video calls and conference audiovisual calls to communicate with households. Local personnel delivers training through digital platforms. Guar farmers who have both good communication skills and access to smartphones are then tasked with disseminating the training information throughout the villages.

Since May 2020, the TechnoServe team has reached approximately 4,959 male farmers and 1,238 female farmers through phone calls alone. The team reported technical difficulties in the switch to virtual engagement but they have been able to work around these challenges and develop closer ties with the farmers through one-on-one virtual interactions.

The TechnoServe team said that after six months, they will review the efficacy and efficiency of these virtual engagement strategies and their impact. The team will also evaluate the state of the COVID-19 outbreak. Based on these two areas of concern, the team will decide whether to continue with virtual engagement through the end of the fiscal year (ending April 2021) or to adjust training methods.

Supporting Farmers

TechnoServe and its partners are also taking larger steps to further the goals of the Sustainable Guar Initiative amid the pandemic. Here are five ways that the initiative is supporting the farmers in the longer term:

  1. Kitchen Gardens: Solvay and L’Oreal established a COVID-19 relief fund. TechnoServe identified over 534 farming families whom the COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerable. Tapping into the relief fund, the TechnoServe team has facilitated the distribution of seeds to these families. The families can plant these seeds in kitchen gardens, which provide them with more diverse food options and give them a potential second source of income. Growing food at home also allows women to avoid shopping in crowded markets, where they could become infected with COVID-19.
  2. Farming Equipment: TechnoServe is providing 534 vulnerable farming families with weeding, plowing and hoeing equipment for the approaching monsoon season. This equipment will enable the families to continue growing guar once the season starts.
  3. Protection Against COVID-19: TechnoServe is raising awareness about social distancing and safety protocols while providing the smallholder farmers with ways to protect themselves against the virus. The TechnoServe team said they plan to provide Sanitary Protection Equipment to the 534 vulnerable farming households.
  4. Guar Sales: To help farmers who cannot sell their crops during the pandemic, the partners of the Sustainable Guar Initiative have worked together to help peasants sell their guar above the local market price. This allows farmers to pay for daily expenses and invest in another year of crop cultivation.
  5. Price Floor Implementation: Solvay and L’Oreal proposed implementing a price floor for guar. This means that farmers would be guaranteed a reasonable price for their crops. While the initiative’s partners work out the arrangement’s details, Solvay has been offering a price for the farmers’ guar above the market rate.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so do challenges for the smallholder guar farmers of Bikaner. But thanks to TechnoServe and their partners, the Sustainable Guar Initiative persevered through the crisis. The initiative provides needed support for a vulnerable population during unstable times.

Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

John Deere Foundation Helps FarmersJohn Deere is recognized worldwide for its agricultural and construction equipment and machinery. From tractors in the countryside to lawnmowers in the suburbs, most people are familiar with the brand and recognize their logo. What many might not realize, however, is the global presence and philanthropy of the brand through their efforts with their charitable division, The John Deere Foundation (JDF). In 2017 alone, the John Deere Foundation made $33.4 million in charitable contributions and recorded 160,688 employee volunteer hours. The John Deere Foundation has made tremendous strides in combating world hunger, developing communities and increasing access to education in developing countries through their grants, sponsorships and volunteerism.

What They Do

A primary focus of the John Deere Foundation is addressing world hunger by helping smallholder farmers in developing countries build profitable businesses. They offer agricultural training, teach entrepreneurial and financial skills and introduce mechanized farming. Their grants invest in partnerships with rent-to-own contractors who provide the machines needed to take smallholder farmers beyond a hand-to-mouth business.

The John Deere Foundation also focuses on helping at-risk youth and adults receive an education, particularly in agriculture, and offers scholarship opportunities, improvement of school infrastructure and teacher training. They also help develop communities by contributing to the development of their business environments and providing such things as sanitation facilities, health awareness and access to more jobs.

The John Deere Foundation Helps Farmers in Africa

The John Deere Foundation has had a powerful global impact, especially in Africa and Asia. They have contributed millions in grant money to NGOs that fight global hunger in Africa. Since 2013, the John Deere Foundation has partnered with the nonprofit TechnoServe to assist farmers in Kenya and Ghana. The partnership with TechnoServe greatly increased the impact of the John Deere Foundation in these countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers traditionally own only a few acres of land and produce barely enough to make a living. TechnoServe’s Mobile Training Unit offers videos on the sides of box trucks that travel across rural communities in Kenya and Ghana to help dairy and grain farmers. They visit these communities several times throughout the year in accordance with their growing cycles. TechnoServe creates videos to help farmers learn new skills and encourage good agricultural and conservation practices. They have exceeded their expectations and helped more than 47,000 farmers develop their businesses through their mobile training unit and demonstration plots.

The John Deere Foundation Helps Farmers in Asia

In 2014, the John Deere Foundation partnered with Mercy Corps to create the POWER (Promoting Organizations that Work to Empower Rice Farmers) program in Indonesia to help rice farmers connect with resources to grow their businesses and earn more profit. The John Deere Foundation believes Indonesia’s rice farmers are vital players in addressing world hunger. Residents in the country consume an estimated 300 pounds of rice per person annually, and the population is projected to increase by 360 million by 2050. As the smallholder farmers struggled to meet the increasing demands of the population, the POWER program was implemented to help them increase their productivity without increasing their workload. POWER assessed the specific needs of Indonesian rice farmers, such as a lack of access to high-quality seeds and fertilizer and market opportunities. They developed a three-year program to train local farmers to become entrepreneurs. It has helped more than 8,310 smallholder rice farmers and increased the average household income by 13 percent.

The impact of the John Deere Foundation was recognized in 2017 when it received the Best Community Improvement Award for its work with the JIVA (Joint Initiative for Global Advancement) program in India. Developed in partnership with PYXERA Global, the John Deere Foundation volunteers worked side-by-side with local farmers and helped introduce new farming techniques, such as line sowing and vermicomposting, a practice of using various species of worms to create more healthy soil for crops.

JIVA also played a major role in improving education. Their community-first approach recognized a need to address the integral relationship between education and prosperity at large in these communities. Their work resulted in a 90 percent pass rate for 10th grade students and an increase in overall household income by nearly 1.5 million dollars across the communities they served. In addition, JIVA developed infrastructure projects that gave farmers such things as drip irrigation and supplied toilets in local schools. As farmers began to profit from their labor, they invested more in education as well.

These are only a few examples that highlight the significant impact of the John Deere Foundation. Their grants and partnership with organizations across the globe have made an immeasurable difference in the lives of farmers and at-risk communities in developing countries. By 2020, the John Deere Foundation hopes to have one million recorded volunteer hours. The combination of expert knowledge and altruism has resulted in a foundation that has made great strides to combat world hunger and will continue to do so more and more each year.

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Among Workers in the Cashew IndustryWithin the past few decades, diet culture has no doubt become a fad in the United States. From weight loss pills and body slimmers to obsessive calorie counting, diet fads are everywhere. For many, dieting means consuming foods that are high in protein and low in cholesterol and saturated fats. A popular type of food that fits this category is cashews. Convenient when it comes to on-the-go snacks, these moon-shaped nuts are full of protein and healthy monounsaturated fats that make them an ideal snack for dieters.

The top importer of cashews for the past decade, the U.S. imported over 147,000 tons of cashews in 2016, a 32 percent increase from the past four years. Of these imports, 92 percent came from Brazil, India and Vietnam. While the high demand for cashews makes them easily accessible to first-world consumers, these tasty treats come with a price: the poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Problem: Hazardous & Unethical Working Conditions

Tamil Nadu, a state in India, is home to a vast amount of cashew farms. Around 500,000 Indian citizens work on these farms, the majority of whom are women, some as young as 13. Because these employees are hired without contracts, their employers have no obligation to provide steady incomes, pensions or holiday pay. On top of that, cashew harvesting is physically dangerous.

When harvesting cashews, one must break through two layers of shells to get to the nut. In between those two layers of shells are two chemicals, known as cardol and anacardic acid. Upon coming into contact with the skin, these chemicals leave painful burns. While a simple pair of gloves could protect the hands and flesh of cashew harvesters, employers refuse to permit or provide gloves because they slow down the harvesting process.

The average cashew harvester in India earns around 160 rupees per 10-hour day. This equates to $1.90 per 10-hour day. This amount is not just below the poverty line but below the extreme poverty line. In 2015, around 70,000 cashew harvesters in India went on strike, demanding an increase of 70 cents per day. However, with or without this raise, this wage remains below the poverty line.

Multiple supermarkets that import cashews from Tamil Nadu have voluntarily signed up to be members of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). However, they have not taken action to prevent the unethical conditions of the cashew plantations contributing to the overall poverty among workers in the cashew industry.

The Solution: Combating Unethicality

In 2013, upon acknowledging the poverty among workers in the cashew industry, a company in India called Acceso Cashew Enterprise Private Limited (ACE) was formed. Partnering with U.S. nonprofit Technoserve, ACE works to address inefficiencies in farming practices and conditions of the cashew industry. ACE created an agriculture program to increase the number of cashew crops grown in India utilizing the least amount of resources. This program also improves farmers’ incomes by teaching them sustainability techniques and strengthening their market linkages. In 2014, over 1,000 farmers participated in the program.

Aatmaram Yashvant Agre, a farmer who participated in ACE’s agricultural program, successfully implemented the sustainability techniques to improve his farming. As a result, Agre’s overall cashew production grew by 30 percent. ACE, which works to end global poverty through business solutions, encourages advocacy on the issue of poverty and always accepts donations. By ensuring cashew harvesters are utilizing more efficient farming practices, their profits increase. Thus, poverty among workers in the cashew industry decreases. More efficient farming practices also ensure cashew harvesters avoid practices that cause them physical harm. And ultimately, this enables cashew harvesters to live humanely and lead healthier lives.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ZimbabweThe Republic of Zimbabwe, a landlocked nation in southern Africa, was once known as one of the best in health and education on the continent.

However, between 1990 and 2003 the political and economic climate began to decline, causing the rates of poverty in Zimbabwe to more than double from 25 percent to 63 percent.

While urban areas of Zimbabwe face the threat of unemployment, it is rural Zimbabweans that feel the presence of poverty and food scarcity the most acutely. More specifically it is Zimbabwe’s rural farmers that need reinforcement to start back on the path towards development.

In some areas rates of poverty in Zimbabwe have grown to exceed 90 percent. These include Lupane, Gokwe South and Mudzi. The cause of this can be traced back to the many problems plaguing the agricultural industry.

Food shortages are an on-going threat for both rural and urban populations. Even those with access to food are not always able to afford it; around 96 percent of those living in rural farming areas are forced to get by on less than one dollar per day.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is most easily explained by dividing it into the two main subsets of large-scale production and smaller local farms. Large-scale farms produce many cash crops such as tobacco and grain, which at one point were being harvested in enough excess to export around the world. The more scattered, rural farms grow mostly maize, as it is an important crop to feed people in towns and villages across the country.

Government sanctioned land reform jeopardized the employment of more than 400,000 people in these rural farming areas, affecting the economy by preventing new investment and in turn discouraging budding enterprises from flourishing.

Scorching temperatures in an area already prone to drought has made a difficult situation even more of a challenge for the farmers of Zimbabwe.

With such an amalgam of obstacles for rural farmers, it is estimated that almost 20 percent of the population has fled the country since the 1990s. Many others are afflicted with HIV/AIDs and unable to work, further contributing to the slowed production of food.

UNICEF estimates that one-third of Zimbabwe’s children suffer from malnutrition as a direct result of these issues. Many organizations and relief groups have come together to impact the lives of Zimbabweans. Most notably, the United Nations and World Food Program were at one point feeding over half of the country.

While the risk of recessing further is always a possibility, aid such as this provides Zimbabweans the opportunity to put effort into other aspects of life besides basic survival.

A group called TechnoServe put together Agro Initiative Zimbabwe in 2011 with funding from the Department of International Development. This initiative provides innovative solutions for the agricultural industry impacting 40 businesses and 54,000 smallholder farms.

This program and efforts like it have the potential to get Zimbabwe on a brighter path so long as it receives the necessary support. Donations and volunteers matter at all levels, from home and overseas in order to keep lawmakers and leaders focused on what is important.

The cycle of poverty in Zimbabwe can be reversed and Zimbabwe has many great organizations on its side as well as hardworking and passionate citizens striving to do what they can for the good of their nation. Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) and many other strategic programs are hard at work to make Zimbabwe and the rest of the world a better place.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

TechnoServe
TechnoServe works in places that are low in conflict and high in potential.

To be on TechnoServe’s radar, local market systems must have a specific unmet demand for a product or service, a potential for inclusive growth that promotes positive development for poor populations and a potential for significant impact.

Since TechnoServe works in high-potential places, it avoids regions prone to conflict, where market systems are at a point of nonexistence and, subsequently, of little promise for change.

The international nonprofit is a “catalyst” for improving competitive markets beyond current capacities.

In partnership with local entrepreneurs and businesses, TechnoServe identifies poor market behaviors both internally and externally. More specifically, it addresses weaknesses in “skills, technologies, availability of information, market linkages, access to finance, infrastructure and governance or policies.”

Furthermore, its target goals are to develop capacity, strengthen market connections and improve the business environment of self-sustaining economic progress. This three-piece system leads to a “cycle of development that helps people lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.”

In order to create a successful market system, there needs to be a network of mutually cooperative buyers and sellers. The TechnoServe website lists the participants needed: direct market plays like producers, buyers and consumers; suppliers that provide the tradable goods and services; and entities that mold the business environment, such as regulatory agencies, infrastructure providers and business associations.

In 2014 alone, TechnoServe reached 1.7 million people across 29 countries. Projects aimed at improving farms, businesses and industries.

To be more precise, 325,200 farmers were helped by TechnoServe, amounting to a $37.9 million increase in farmer revenues. Likewise, 3,000 businesses were reached, amounting to a $16.5 million increase in business revenues. TechnoServe also created 5,610 new jobs, leading to a $7 million increase in wages paid. TechnoServe impacted approximately 1.7 million total men, women and children with its good work.

By 2017, TechnoServe hopes to double its impact. To achieve this goal, it set goals to be accomplished within five years. Staring in 2013, TechnoServe began to reach one million people with an entrepreneurial drive to improve their surroundings. Of these one million, approximately 35% will be women.

Goal two is to generate $500 million in net financial worth by adopting efficient farming and business practices. The expected results are widespread and significant wage increases as well as lasting economic growth.

With its partners, TechnoServe develops projects around the globe. In Nicaragua, the Ganadería Empresarial Project supports livestock production by reinforcing producer organizations and introducing local agri-markets to higher-value markets.

Similarly, the cotton trade in Uganda, dairy trade in East Africa and coffee trade in Eastern Guatemala receive developmental assistance from TechnoServe.

The Haiti Hope Project alone enrolled 27,000 new farmers into the agricultural sector, 47% of which were women. It also produced a market where 43% of business advisers were women, and of the 269 new producer business groups made, 31% of the leadership roles were held by women. Of the $2.3 million in loans disbursed, a majority 52% of loans issued were given to women.

TechnoServe promotes self-sufficient business development in places of greatest impact. The company’s training programs cover how to create and compete in planning businesses and how to become a successful entrepreneur. In the developing world, these skills are often overlooked, so TechnoServe develops responsible business environments that, in effect, help other developing regions rise out of poverty too.

Lin Sabones

Sources: Technoserve 1, Technoserve 2, Technoserve 3, Technoserve 4, Bloomberg
Photo: Technoserve