Stories tagged: agriculture

Yvette Ondachi: Helping Women Play A Pivotal Role in the Food Value Chain

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Yvette Ondachi is the founder of Ojay Greene, a Kenyan agribusiness that connects rural farmers to urban markets. Ahead of International Women’s Day, she shares stories of the female farmers she works with, and offers her own advice to female entrepreneurs.

Sub Saharan Africa imports food worth $30billion annually, yet the continent has enough land to grow food that will feed itself and still have more to export to other parts of the world. Kenya is not exempt from this equation. The big question is why the mismatch?

The majority of the Kenyan population depends on agriculture for a living – 26 million people are smallholder farmers and close to 70% of these live below the poverty line – earning $700 annually or less. The underlying cause of these miserable statistics is that these smallholder farmers have an over-reliance on rain fed farming – this is despite the changing climate patterns. They find themselves unable to meet the rising demand for fruits and vegetables in urban areas brought about by increasing populations and a rapidly growing middle class.

Ojay Greene is an innovative agribusiness with a social mission: to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers. The enterprise does this by working with smallholder farmers to help them tap into the growing demand of fresh fruits and vegetables in urban markets. By interacting with farmers, Ojay Greene strives to change their behaviours from subsistence farming to commercial farming using an approach that involves tackling their immediate and potential risks; the main one being climate change.

So how do we do this? Ojay Greene uses a mobile platform to offer smallholder farmers advisory services, agronomic extension services, access to farm inputs and market linkage. Farmers get weekly instructions on their mobile phones enabling them to follow the exact steps when planting. This enables them to produce a standardized product, that complies with market specifications. In addition, they can ask questions through the platform when they are in doubt. They can also alert our team about any unusual pests or diseases they encounter during production. Ojay Greene sees to it that farmers are visited monthly by their agronomists to ensure that they get the technical support they require and that they are following the right steps to produce high quality and competitive products. These measures ensure that smallholder farmers have a consistent revenue stream.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to share with you a story about Mary, a female farmer who embodies a true picture of resilience. Mary lost her home and became internally displaced person during the post election violence that occurred in 2007. She was fortunate enough to lease a piece of land from the government to enable her cultivate crops to sell in the local market. Despite this opportunity, she had to contend with herdsmen from the neighbouring pastoral community who would let their cattle feed on her hard-earned crops. She would consider herself very fortunate if she managed to make $500 annually. Ojay Greene was introduced to Mary’s farmer group in September 2016. Mary grows leafy green vegetables – (both conventional and indigenous African varieties) which happen to be in very high demand in urban areas. By working with Mary, we have helped her access quality seed, harvest a bountiful crop and access a profitable urban market. If she continues with this trend she will be able to increase her annual income to US$ 1,000 by September 2017.

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From our work with smallholder farmers, we have observed that female farmers have immense potential to play a pivotal role in the food value chain in Kenya and Africa. This is because they tend to be more organized in regards to conforming to our model which requires smallholder farmers to work together as a farming community in groups. Our model fosters team work; farmers agree to plant on the same day, visit each others farms, give each other developmental feedback and have a sense of healthy competition amongst themselves. Most of the ones we’ve worked with are beginning to realize the benefits of working together. Together they have collective bargaining power that spurs them on to generate enough income to educate their children. This said, women need more access to financing – stronger links to market and continuous knowledge transfer to make them more productive.

As a female entrepreneur, my biggest barrier being the barrier to financing – I faced broken promises from potential financiers and investors, as well as delayed payments from clients. I observed that an underfinanced company fails to realize its potential and the growth is hampered. I have learnt that laser focus is a critical attribute when all else fails. I remember the initial reason that drove me to start Ojay Greene and realize that quitting is not an option. I lift myself up and encourage myself to hold on because the road to success is filled with setbacks and roadblocks, but those who endure to the end leave a legacy that surpasses their generation.

My advise to other female entrepreneurs: “Don’t wait to be validated. Follow your aspirations no matter what barriers come your way. Focus on what’s working and seek to replicate it. I look forward to seeing you at the top.”

Can We Turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

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This week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is exploring the issue of youth as the future of agriculture – a key topic at their upcoming Global Food Security Symposium in March. Farming First Co-Chairs Robert Hunter and Yvonne Harz-Pitre have penned an article for this blog series asking: “Can we turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

As the author of Generation Yum, Eve Turow, explains in her book – young people in the developed world care much more about the quality, nutritional value, and provenance of their food than previous generations. This wave of interest comes at a critical moment, this article argues. Our food system faces the colossal challenge of doubling production to feed a growing global population as natural resources dwindle and a changing climate takes its toll. So can the agricultural community encourage this powerful cohort not only to care about food, but to actually shape its future by taking up careers in agriculture? Continue reading

2016 in Ag Hashtags!

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As 2016 draws to a close, Farming First asks: what have been the major milestones for sustainable agriculture this year? And how has Farming First and its supporters engaged with them? Join us for a unique round up of the year – in ag #tags!

January: #LovePulses Celebrating the International Year of Pulses

On January 1st, the International Year of Pulses officially kicked off. From “Pulse Feasts” hosted across the world, to a global competition looking for the next generation of pulse-based products, the International Year of Pulses has shed a spotlight on this nutritious and sustainable superfood.

February: #Sci4Dev Celebrating Science & Innovation in Agriculture

In February, Farming First teamed up with CGIAR to tell 28 stories of how science and innovation is lifting smallholder farmers from poverty, to prosperity. The online case study collection demonstrated how investments in science can go beyond simply meeting food security needs, but contribute to broader interlinked goals such as natural resource management, improved nutrition and resilient rural livelihoods. Click the image to explore the stories.

Explore 28 ways science is transforming rural lives, co-produced with CGIAR

Explore 28 ways science is transforming rural lives, co-produced with CGIAR

 

March: #IWD2016 Hearing Women Farmers Speak on International Women’s Day

Ever since Farming First launched its “Female Face of Farming” infographic in 2012, we have championed rural women’s role in sustainable agriculture and global food security. This year, we compiled a round up our Farming First TV interviews with female farmers, and published a guest blog by the World Food Program’s Purchase for Progress team, which has been working with female pulse producers to diversify their income. Click the image to read our #IWD2016 newsletter.

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April: #GCARD3Meeting the Young Agripreneurs at GCARD3

All through 2016, our eyes have been on the next generation of sustainable agriculture advocates. During the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, we profiled the young “agripreneurs” who had won a start-up grant for their innovative agriculture business ideas. From cultivating herbs for beauty products in Barbados to revolutionising dairy farming in India – the stories were both impressive and inspiring!

 

May: #WFOGA2016 Onsite at the WFO’s General Assembly

This year we joined hundreds of farmers from all over the world at the World Farmers’ Organisation’s annual General Assembly, which was held in Victoria Falls, Zambia. As well as blogging about the event, we captured interviews with the farmers on how they are coping with climate change, to feature in our “CSA in Action campaign”.

June: #FoodPrize16 Biofortification Pioneers Scoop World Food Prize

Our media partnership with the World Food Prize continued this year, and we had the pleasure of working with the Foundation to promote the 2016 winners of the World Food Prize to the press in June. Drs. Maria Andrade, Jan Low and Robert Mwanga of the International Potato Center, and Dr. Howarth Bouis of HarvestPlus were awarded the accolade for their work on biofortification, and in particular the vitamin-A rich orange flesh sweet potato. The news was covered all over the world and even featured in TIME magazine’s “25 best inventions of 2016”!

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July: #WYSDEmpowering Youth in Agriculture

July 15th was World Youth Skills Day, and Farming First supporter YPARD partnered with the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands, to obtain youth perspectives on the realities, challenges and aspirations of life in drylands and opportunities for making a living from agriculture. For a full round up of their findings, visit the YPARD blog.

 

August: #WWWeekExploring water efficiencies in agriculture for World Water Week

Agriculture is the biggest user of freshwater on the planet – using up to 70% of global supplies. Many Farming First supporters are working to make water use in agriculture more efficient. Take a look at this study from Fintrac and partners, that has studied lessons learned from groups commercialising drip irrigation in smallholder markets. And check out this blog from iDE, that tells the story of plantain farmers in Honduras that have improved their incomes and productivity through the same innovation.

September: #CSAinActionExplaining Climate Smart Agriculture during Climate Week

Back in June 2016, we partnered with the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture to explain the concept and also showcase how it is being put into action by farmers worldwide. We sourced 28 stories from Farming First supporters and GACSA members, and produced an animated video that has now been viewed more than 5,000 times!

 

October: #IamAgInspiring a New Generation in Agricultural Careers

In October, we launched a unique campaign to show young people the range of exciting careers that are available in agriculture, beyond the farm! We had a series of youth bloggers telling us about their careers from finance to TV production, as well as 17 video interviews with experts, who told the stories behind their success. Hundreds of you told your stories online using the hashtag #IamAg and used our “I am Ag” badge on your Twitter and Facebook profiles. Farming First supporter Sir Gordon Conway wrote an opinion article for The Telegraph on getting young people into agriculture too. Catch up on the whole campaign here.

 

November: #CCawards Double Win for Farming First at CorpComms Awards

Our 2015 campaign “The Story of Agriculture and the Sustainable Development Goals” received two accolades at the CorpComms Awards in London in November. We won “best communication for a non-profit” and came highly commended in the “best international campaign” category. “The Story of Agriculture and the SDGs” was a year-long campaign that sought to ensure agriculture and sustainable farming issues were well represented in the text of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Farming First supporters went on three missions to the United Nations in New York, to meet with and present to Post-2015 negotiators, as well as taking part in side events to demonstrate how agriculture can be considered “a common thread” throughout the SDGs. An interactive toolkit was also launched, to explain the impact that investing in agriculture can have on a range of goals beyond Goal Two to end hunger, such as health, economic growth, gender equality and combatting climate change. Visit the portal here.

December: #WorldSoilDay How improving our soils will improve food supplies

We can’t feed the world without feeding our soil first. This is the message we helped Farming First supporters convey on World Soil Day, 5th December. Leading soil scientist Patrick Heffer blogged for Farm Journal, and Chair of the International Fertilizer Association’s agriculture committee Kapil Mehan wrote for Business Fights Poverty on the latest breakthroughs that can reverse the trend of soil degradation across the world.

Did we miss an important ag #tag of 2016? Tweet us @FarmingFirst to share the important sustainable agriculture issues you’ve been promoting this year!

Julian Wolfson: The iDEal Way to Expand Drip Irrigation

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In this guest post, the Chief Executive of iDE Europe details how technical assistance through a social enterprise is ensuring that drip irrigation is successful.

Without the right knowledge or necessary tools, poor farmers in Nicaragua have been unable to undertake a second growing season during the dry season. However, with micro-irrigation equipment and techniques, these farmers have the potential of doubling their annual production and incomes. Until 2010, their needs were ignored by the commercial sector, who failed to see these farmers as a large enough market for their products. This is the market gap that can be filled by a social enterprise, which exists not simply to make a profit, but to ensure that community and societal objectives can be met. In Nicaragua, that gap is being met by iDEal Tecnologías. Continue reading

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Webinar: Climate services for smallholder farmers and pastoralists in Africa

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23rd November 2016

Online

Farming and pastoralist communities have survived by mastering the ability to adapt to widely varying weather and climatic conditions. Increasingly variable climate and the rapid pace of other drivers of change are, however, overwhelming local knowledge and traditional practices for coping with climate related risks. It is increasingly becoming evident that climate services—climate and weather information and advisories—can help farmers and pastoralists better manage risks and adapt to the changing climate. Continue reading

Bruce Campbell: What Does the Paris Agreement Mean for Food & Agriculture?

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The Paris Climate Agreement entered into force last week, heralding a major milestone in international action on climate change, and an ambitious target to contain global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, in this century. Over 100 countries, which account for nearly 70% of global emissions, have ratified the Agreement, and are now obliged to deliver on their commitments and convert their plans into action. But unless countries act decisively and meaningfully, and increase their ambitions over time, this will not be enough to safeguard food and farming.

Figure 1. Gap between the current collective ambition of national climate plans (known as NDCs) and the global 2°C goal. Source: Adapted from Rogelj et al. 2016 in Vermeulen 2016.

Figure 1. Gap between the current collective ambition of national climate plans (known as NDCs) and the global 2°C goal. Source: Adapted from Rogelj et al. 2016 in Vermeulen 2016.

Future food security in a changing climate
The Paris Agreement is made up of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which are climate action plans developed by countries, outlining their priorities and measures. The INDCs of countries overwhelmingly put agriculture the top of the list for climate action; over 60% of submitted INDCs included mitigation in agriculture. And of the countries which included adaptation, over 90% included adaptation in agriculture. African countries in particular have expressed a clear desire to tackle these issues: 98% of African countries included adaptation actions in agriculture and 68% included mitigation actions in agriculture.

Figure 2. Inclusion of agriculture in climate pledges (INDCs). Source: Richards et al 2016 in Vermeulen et al 2016.

Figure 2. Inclusion of agriculture in climate pledges (INDCs). Source: Richards et al 2016 in Vermeulen et al 2016.

However, effective implementation will depend on the availability of financial, technological and capacity support. In fact, some countries have made several commitments conditional upon the provision of support.

Mobilizing support for climate actions

Fortunately, the Paris Agreement has set out robust frameworks to provide much-needed support and the UNFCCC’s finance mechanism, particularly the Green Climate Fund, will play a key role: US$10.3 billion have been pledged to the Fund, and the Fund has committed US$ 1.2 billion to 27 projects. But this still falls short of the ambition to mobilize US$ 100 billion per year by 2020.

In addition to financial support, the Paris Agreement will put in place new frameworks for providing technological support and enhancing capacity, which are the crucial building blocks for successful implementation of climate actions.

Science-based ambitions

The Paris Agreement obliges countries to become more ambitious in their commitments over time, with follow up Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) due in 2020 and 2025. With just 4 years left to the next NDC deadline, scientific organisations like CGIAR and its partners have an important role to play in providing technical support help countries put climate adaptation and mitigation into practice in the agriculture sector, and to distill lessons from implementation. These actions include helping countries set up early warning systems; improve water management in agricultural systems; adopt lower-emissions livestock practices; apply fertilizers more efficiently; and improve soil carbon sequestration. Decades of agriculture research can support these efforts.

To help countries stay on track and inform their future commitments, the UNFCCC will take stock of progress every 5 years starting in 2023. These ‘global stocktakes’ would measure collective progress towards global targets, looking at the whole spectrum of actions including mitigation, adaptation, financing, and technology development and transfer. The stocktakes will also be informed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), thus ensuring that the latest climate science provides inputs into future commitments.

Measuring progress is a huge and underplayed challenge. Countries are required to regularly report on their emissions and implementation efforts, and the Agreement is developing an enhanced transparency and accountability framework which would harmonize reporting and verification requirements. The global science community can facilitate this. For example, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has developed a Climate-Smart Agriculture programming and indicator tool, building on the wealth of approaches used by major development agencies in monitoring projects. The tool helps measure outcomes related to increased productivity, food security, adaptation, resilience, and mitigation, and could be instrumental in helping countries measure progress towards established targets.

Reality check

While the Paris Agreement represents a huge opportunity for climate action, and the early ratification offers much promise, success should not be viewed as a given. We have already reached the crucial threshold of globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide of 400 parts per million, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In fact, 2016 has turned out to be the warmest year since modern records began, according to NASA. Currently, country plans under the Paris Agreement fall short of keeping the world within the 2°C warming limit [see figure 1].

All this means that action is needed now in all sectors, including the agriculture sector. To meet the 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement, researchers estimate that agriculture emissions must be reduced by 1 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2030. Current interventions can only contribute 21-40% of this goal.

We cannot afford to rest on the success of Paris. Climate negotiators in Marrakech must be alert to the urgent need for meaningful action and countries must immediately get to work on implementing the Paris Agreement. A focus on agriculture, with accompanying funds and support, will help the sector transition to support global food security in a sustainable manner. Over 550 million smallholder farmers depend on it.

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post. Featured image photo credit: Neil Palmer CCAFS/CIAT