Skip to Content

News: Climate, Environment, Food Security & Nutrition

14 Ways Agriculture is Reducing Poverty

Farming First Farming First

“Only by putting the poorest in charge of their own lives and destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the earth.”

These words came from Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, 2015 winner of the prestigious World Food Prize, which was announced this summer. To celebrate the prize giving in Des Moines this October at the Borlaug Dialogue, we are delving into the ways our supporters around the world are using agriculture as a means to empower the poorest in the latest instalment in our “content mash-up” series.

Read on to find out how farmers are being helped to graduate to more sustainable livelihoods…

1. Fintrac: Fishing for Success in Cambodia

Thai Meng from Cambodia was ready to give up on his fish farm, until a Fintrac/Feed the Future project intervened with some life changing technologies. Thai was introduced to Secchi disks ($6 each) which helped him monitor and manage water clarity and nutrients in ponds, resulting in better fingerlings (small fish that serve almost like seeds in a fish farm). Low-cost, locally available water-quality test strips also helped him to monitor and manage water quality and nutrient content, as well as detect and respond to diseases early in order to maximize fingerling survival. Click the image below to read the 2015 Feed the Future report that features Thai’s story:

Thai Meng, Cambodia Fish Farmer

Thai Meng, Cambodia Fish Farmer

Thai is glad he did not give up – he has now increased his annual income by a staggering 1,577 per cent, from $125 to $2,096. In addition, he is supplying local fish farmers with fingerlings, strengthening food security in his community. Read more >> 

2. Livelihoods Fund: Restoring the “Land of Endless Trees”

Guatemala, in the Kekchi Mayan language, means “land of endless trees”. But during the 70s and 80s, 60 per cent of the land was destroyed, leaving the neighbouring communities impoverished. While extreme poverty in Latin America has declined by half, more than 80 million people still live on $4 a day and more than 200 million are at risk of being pulled back into poverty by economic instability and climate change.

Now, the Livelihoods Fund is now working in the community to plant 5 million trees and crops over 20 years, which will not only improve the livelihoods of the local rural people, but also sequester an impressive 2 million tons of CO2.

This project also seeks to generate new economic activity for the farmers, as they can earn extra income by selling the cash crops that will be planted by this project (rubber, coffee, patchouli, etc.). In addition to reforesting the area, Livelihoods offers training sessions to the local communities on productive agricultural practices and how to best market and process their products. Read more >>

3. Acumen: Investing in Finance Models for Small Businesses in East Africa

In East Africa, only 22 per cent of the population has access to formal financial services, and make their money informally in any way they can – many through agricultural activities. Access to finance can be the biggest stumbling block small businesses face, as without credit, they are unable to purchase the tools and technologies their businesses require to grow and help them out of poverty.

This year, Acumen announced it is investing $500k in the data analytics company First Access that provides financial services for low-income communities in East Africa.

Using a combination of financial and mobile data, First Access has created a platform that can predict credit risk, segment customers, and automate credit decisions to helping financial services reach more people at a lower cost while reducing the risk of lending and borrowing in informal markets.

“This investment is a first for Acumen within the financial services sector and highlights the importance access to credit plays in empowering individuals as they work towards raising their incomes and living standards,” said Acumen East Africa Director Duncan Onyango. Read more >>

4. FANRPAN: Making Agriculture Do for Nutrition

Widespread malnutrition is undermining the health and limiting the opportunities of almost one in four people in Africa. Malnutrition can impact a society as a whole, it is estimated that malnutrition can reduce a country’s economic advancement by 8 per cent or more.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is spearheading a new project that will align the agendas of the agriculture and health community, to ensure that agricultural development initiatives in Africa fulfill their potential for reducing poverty and hunger, by incorporating nutrition-sensitive interventions. Read more >>

5. Agriculture for Impact: Sustainable Intensification Database

What is Sustainable Intensification? How is it helping boost incomes across su-Saharan Africa? Agriculture for Impact has compiled an evidence-based overview and case studies of key approaches to Sustainable Intensification.


The online resource offers policy makers and researchers a balanced and evidence-based breakdown of many agricultural approaches in African agriculture, for example the role of organic agriculture, water conservation, biotechnology, and participatory agricultural research. Case studies and technical briefs for each approach are also covered. Read more >> 

6. AFAP: African Fertilizer Volunteers Program

Over the past two years, the African Fertilizer Volunteer’s Program (AFVP) has called on global fertilizer industry experts willing to volunteer their time and knowledge towards strengthening the African fertilizer value chain. The ultimate goal of the program is to increase fertilizer users and usage in the continent. The program is run jointly by the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA).

Improved access to fertilizer is key for improving yields, and subsequently boosting incomes in Africa, as 75% of sub-Saharan Africa’s soils are degraded. However, sub-Saharan Africa represents 10% of the total global population yet only 0.8% of total fertilizer use. Read more >>

7. Shamba Shape Up: Business Booms for Chilli Farmer in Kenya 

Over the past five series, the Shamba Shape Up team has been visiting farms across the East African region to meet farmers who are in need of practical agricultural advice.

Shamba Shape Up visited Lydia’s shamba in Nakuru in Series Two. They found she was to having problems with her cows that are not producing much milk. Also, although Lydia had had a good harvest of chillies that season, she was finding it hard to sell at a profit. Her chillies were ready to pick and sell at the same time as everyone else in the area, resulting in a lower price. However, during the shape-up the team discussed with her the idea of drying her chillies and then keeping them until prices had risen.   They introduced her to a handmade solar drier, which allowed the chillies (as well as other vegetables like sukuma wiki, amaranth and cabbages) to be dried using the heat of the sun.

When the team returned to see Lydia’s progress later in the series, they found business was booming. Watch the revisit episode here:

8. One Acre Fund: “Millet is my bank”

In early 2014, the Kenyan government announced an impending drought. Maize, the primary staple crop grown by many Kenyan smallholder farmers, requires adequate rainfall in order to thrive. Facing insufficient rainfall, an estimated 1.6 million people were facing prolonged periods of hunger and meal-skipping.  With rainfall becoming less and less consistent, One Acre Fund is encouraging farmers to plant drought-resistant crops, including millet and sorghum.

Beatrice, a smallholder farmer in Nakhwana village in western Kenya,enrolled with One Acre Fund, and by mid-February her millet seed and fertilizer had been delivered to a spot in her village only 50 meters from her home. Beatrice attended One Acre Fund trainings, using the planting techniques she learned when she planted her half-acre of millet later that month.


One Acre Fund: Hailey Tucker

“I enjoyed the trainings because I learned new farming techniques. I also learned how to use fertilizer for the first time,” Beatrice recalls. Thank to the training, in June, Beatrice harvested a massive 793 pounds of millet. Not only was the size of the harvest amazing, but harvesting this early was a huge help as well. When she plants maize she has to wait until late July or August for it to mature. Millet is not only a source of food for Beatrice; it also provides a constant supply of cash. When she needs money, she can sell some of it. A two-kilogram tin fetches $1.84 USD at the market. Read more >> 

9. Croplife International: Fighting Poverty in Honduras

For a small-scale farmer in Honduras a healthy crop can be the difference between a life of prosperity and a life in poverty. Watch this video about how a public-private partnership between CropLife Latin America and USAID has trained farmers in good agricultural practices to keep pests and diseases at bay and ensure a successful crop. By working together we can address hunger and poverty in rural Honduras. 


10. Chemonics and USAID: Scaling up Agricultural Technology to Meet Market Demand

In Nigeria, 68% of the population lives in poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 per day. By using a market-led approach of “produce what you can sell,” not “sell what you can produce,” the Nigeria Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS II) project is improving smallholder farmers’ productivity, incomes, resilience, and access to diverse quality food.


As USAID/Nigeria’s flagship program under Feed the Future, the project works in five value chains and two sub-value chains: cocoa, cassava, rice, sorghum, aquaculture, soybean, and maize. By putting low-cost technologies and best practices in the hands of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers, the Chemonics-implemented project has achieved a 60 percent increase in soybean yields and added 231,823MT of cassava to the domestic food supply since FY2012, among other results. Read more >>

11. IFDC: Hazera’s Money Making Machine

IFDC is empowering women farmers in Bangladesh by introducing them to crop-boosting technologies, such as urea deep placement (UDP). Farmers insert 1 to 3 gram urea briquettes 5 to 7 centimetres below the soil surface. The practice increases yields by 15 per cent while reducing fertilizer use by one-third. Agricultural entrepreneur Hazera Begum purchased a urea briquetting machine through IFDC’s Accelerating Agriculture Productivity Improvement (AAPI) project (funded by USAID).

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 16.43.21

She now produces and sells fertilizer briquettes in her shop and is a well-respected entrepreneur in her community. The story will be published in the next IFDC Magazine out in late September. Read more >>

12. Digital Globe: Satellite Imagery Boosts Farming in Philippines 

Agriculture, livestock and fishing employs more than 40 per cent of the Philippine’s 98 million residents and represents 20 per cent of its GDP. The Department of Agriculture wants to empower the farming and fishing communities to produce accessible and affordable food for every Filipino and provide a sufficient level of income for those families. DigitalGlobe’s imagery is being used to monitor changes in the environment over time, analyze the health of crops and fisheries as well as determine vulnerabilities to climate change.

Digital Globe

This data feeds into important decision-support systems in the Phillippines for agricultural extension and fisheries officers. Government officers at then trained to maximize the value out of this information. Read more >>

13. HarvestPlus: Iron Beans Mean Higher Yields

The land of a thousand hills is turning into the land of impressive yields, thanks to a nutritious variety of beans. Since 2012, farmers in Rwanda have been planting and feeding their families on beans that are rich in iron. These beans, conventionally bred in a process called biofortification, can provide up to half of a consumer’s daily iron needs. They also come with other benefits over regular beans, such as resistance to viruses and tolerance to drought and heat. Farmers are especially excited that these beans also give them higher yields, and therefore, higher incomes.

To date, nearly one million Rwandan farmers are growing iron beans. HarvestPlus, which introduced the crop to Rwanda, has committed to scaling up the delivery of such biofortified nutritious crops to reach even more farmers. And it’s turning to creative ways to achieve this goal. Read more  >>

And finally… we take a look at the organisation that inspired this topic, and won this year’s World Food Prize because of it.

 14. BRAC: Making agriculture benefit the working poor 

BRAC is responsible for extraordinary advancements in the poultry, seed, and dairy industries in Bangladesh. Affordable vaccines and inexpensive feed for poultry provided by BRAC transformed the sector in the 1980s, and today 40,000 Bangladeshi farmers are protected from price volatility, as 102,559 litres of milk are collected daily.

Through interventions like this, BRAC has helped raise nearly 150 million people out of poverty. It is the world’s largest NGO, present in on three continents: Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Read more >>


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.