Stories tagged: agriculture

14 Ways Agriculture is Contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals

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For the past five weeks, Farming First and its supporters have been sharing stories on how agriculture is helping us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in our #SDG2countdown campaign. We explored each target of SDG2 in detail, sharing quizzes, videos, infographics and stories of success. As well as being central to achieving hunger, these stories revealed that agriculture has a key part to play in meeting many other goals, such as gender equality, combatting climate change and water management. Read some top picks from the stories submitted below in this latest “Supporter Spotlight” blog. For more stories, search #Ag4SDGs on Twitter.

SDG2.5 – Protecting Genetic Diversity

1. HarvestPlus: It’s in the Genes

HarvestPlus has championed the development of iron-rich and other biofortified crops, which have been shown to improve nutrition and public health by reducing micronutrient deficiencies. Such deficiencies affect two billion people, causing long-term physical and cognitive impairment, and even death. This agricultural intervention will not only combat hunger, but contribute to goals on improved health and wellbeing for all. In order to breed new varieties of staple crops with nutrient-rich traits, it is necessary to protect the genes that have these traits to begin with. Read more >>

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2. CropLife International: Breeding Better Crops to Save on Carbon

Improved breeds of crops that make the most of diverse genetic traits have helped increase yields by 22 per cent in the last 20 years. This has also meant an estimated 132 million hectares of land have been saved from cultivation, thus drastically lowering agriculture’s carbon footprint, and contributing to goals on combatting climate change. Read more >>

SDG2.4 – Building Resilience

3. QuickFarm: An Information Exchange for Getting Climate-Smart

QuickFarm has developed the Agroecological Intensification Exchange, a free, online resource for farmers to access advice on sustainable farming practices. Meanwhile, it is also promoting climate-smart practices through a Farmers Field School in Nigeria. Given that farmers are at the forefront of climate issues, having yields affected by extreme weather, agriculture interventions such as farmer field schools can not only help them adapt to new weather patterns, but also ensure they lower their own carbon footprint, thus contributing to goals on combatting climate change. Read more >>

4. Chemonics: Greenhouses Offer Haitian Farmers Year-Round Bounty

Haiti has suffered several dramatic weather events in recent years, from deadly droughts to hurricanes. Climate-smart agriculture techniques are being implemented to lessen the negative impacts of climate-related shocks. The USAID-funded Haiti Chanje Lavi Plantè (CLP) program, implemented by Chemonics, strives to protect hillsides from erosion through terracing and by setting up greenhouses to allow farmers to produce crops all year round. Read more >>

Women work inside a WINNER greenhouse where they are growing lettuce and peppers.

Chemonics: A greenhouse growing lettuce and peppers.

5. DigitalGlobe: An Eye on Productivity in Mali

By using DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery to track the health of agriculture systems in Mali, ICRISAT were able to evidence adoption of good agricultural practices. Analyzing crop health at the plot level provided an important insight as to whether or not those farmers were applying the recommended amounts of fertilizer.  With this imagery, farmers that are adopting practices such as optimal fertilizer use are now able to prove they follow best practice, thus making them more credit worthy. Read more >>

SDG2.3 – Doubling Smallholder Productivity & Incomes

6. Shaping Up Shambas Boosts Profits in Kenya

Shamba Shape Up:  Shamba Shape Up is East Africa’s favourite farming television show, watched by 5 million viewers, aiming to not only entertain, but to educate and improve the livelihoods of farmers across the region. The TV show effectively gives farmers a source of sound agricultural information. In 2014, Reading University, estimated that the total net increase in the value of milk produced in Kenya, as a direct result of Shamba Shape Up, was US$24 million.

7. Feeding the Soil to Feed Farmer Incomes

IPNI:  Indian farmers have been looking for less water-intensive crops to farms than rice, but balanced nutrient supply and improving soil health has proved to be a big challenge for those attempting to grow maize and other grains. In West Bengal, IPNI discovered that while nitrogen is the most limiting nutrient, addition of potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc were found to add US$80 – $290/ha to the income of farmers growing maize. Similar responses were also recorded in the rice in these on-farm trials. By boosting productivity and incomes, goals to reduce poverty are also tackled.  Read more >>

8. Farm Africa: Bumper Harvest for New Crop of Farmers

A private-public collaboration between supermarket chain Aldi and Farm Africa has established 21 demonstration plots, where young farmers have learnt practical skills for growing mangetouts, French beans, cabbages, kale and chilli peppers. Almost 400 young farmers, from Kitale in western Kenya, are now benefiting from the fundamental agricultural skills and practices learnt including: crop rotation, irrigation, planting, harvesting and pest management. The first harvests this year have seen bumper yields, with 96,500kg of cabbages and 37,200kg of French beans grown by the first group of 118 farmers to have completed a growing cycle so far. The first vegetables to have been sold achieved impressive profit margins of 62 per cent for cabbages and 50 per cent for French beans. Read more >>

Farm Africa: Joseph with his family

Farm Africa: Joseph with his family

SDG2.2 – Ending Malnutrition

9. IFDC: Getting Nutrition “Just Right” in Ethiopia

IFDC’s Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship (2SCALE) project partnered with Ethiopian food processing company GUTS Agro to create a marketing strategy for Super Mom, a high-protein corn-soy food product for young children and pregnant and nursing mothers. To make this product affordable for low-income consumers, 2SCALE assisted in developing the “Likie” distribution model. The Likie model (which means “just the right size” in Amharic) engages women in micro-franchisees to deliver the product door-to-door on branded tricycles and provide education on nutrition and other topics. After an investment as low as $5, these women typically net $47 within the first few months, and some have reported sales as high as $500 per month, contributing to goals on nutrition and employment.

10. Technoserve: Growing Gardens for Gender Goals

Encouraging women in Rajasthan, India, to start kitchen gardens has improved their families’ nutrition by adding fresh produce that was previously out of reach because of a lack of refrigeration. It has also help redefine women’s role in their households, thereby not only contributing to goals on nutrition, but gender equality too. Read more >>

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11.  One Acre Fund: Helping Achieve Double Win of Beating Drought and Malnutrition

One Acre Fund is working with farmers to enable them to feed their families, despite the onslaught of climate change. OAF trainings stress the importance of crop diversity and soil health. They advise farmers to rotate crops, compost, and use intercropping planting techniques that benefit soils. If farmers plant many different types of crops, they’re better protected in extreme weather if one crop fails, meaning they and their families won’t face a hunger season. Read more >>

SDG2.1 – Ending Hunger

12. Fintrac  / CropLife International: Sweet Success for Strawberry Farmers

The USAID/ACCESO project in Honduras has helped farmers learn sustainable agricultural practices, give them access to inputs, such as seeds and crop protection, and link them to secure markets. Between 2011 and 2015 more than 6,000 smallholder farmers were lifted out of poverty and the prevalence of underweight children under two-years-old decreased by 50 percent as their diet improved. Read more >>

13. Self Help Africa: Two Village Project Transforms Lives

In Zambia, SHA’s three year project based in two remote villages in the Northern Province, saw a rise in access to sufficient food – from 57% at the start of the project, to 67% currently. Furthermore, 28% of children in the area are now receiving at least the minimum food diversity in their diets, compared to 17% before. The key foundations of the project were access to saving and credit groups, access to training as well as equal support for women. Read more >>

14. CNFA: One Stop Shops for Ending Hunger

In Ethiopia, six privately-owned input supply stores created under the USAID-funded Commercial Farm Service Center Program and supported by CNFA have now served more than 24,800 farmer customers, generated $1.3 million in private sector investment, and sold more than $2.7 million worth of seeds, feed, fertilizer, farm implements, veterinary medicines, and plant protection products. These “one stop shops” are equipping farmers with all they need to boost their productivity and incomes, and thereby helping to lift communities out of poverty. Read more >>

Featured image: One Acre Fund

“Growing Together” to Support Smallholders in Meeting SDG2.3

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Doubling smallholder productivity & incomes – the theme of the #SDG2countdown this week – is at the core of Sygenta’s “Good Growth Plan“. Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability at Syngenta tell us more. 

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming and roughly 70% of the land is used for agriculture. Smallholder farmers are critical to food security, but crop yields and family incomes are staggeringly low – roughly 40% of the country’s population lives on less than $1.25 a day and 41% of children under five are chronically undernourished. But without access to training, technology and markets, smallholders struggle to meet the demands of the country`s fast-growing population.

Developing thriving rural communities is critical if we aim to double agricultural productivity of smallholders, a major aim of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger by 2030. It’s also one of the six targets of Syngenta`s Good Growth Plan. Our commitment is to reach 20 million smallholders by 2020 and enable them to increase agricultural productivity by 50%.

It’s in this context that we co-created a smallholder outreach program called Growing Together with Voluntary Services Organization (VSO), a leading international development NGO. The program brings together Syngenta`s global agriculture expertise with local know-how to help improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and support their communities. Our partnership with VSO is proving to be very successful with measurable benefits for rural communities and our volunteering employees.

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming. Photo courtesy of VSO & Syngenta.

In Bangladesh, nearly half the population works in farming. Photo courtesy of VSO & Syngenta.

The Growing Together program has already delivered impressive results. Since 2014, we`ve helped triple the net income of 10,000 smallholder farmers. We`ve done this by establishing 230 farmer groups where smallholder farmers and landless labourers meet monthly to discuss the social and agricultural issues, and input some of their profits into saving accounts, which to date have accrued over US$180,000. These farmer groups have also made progress on shared social issues in areas such as child marriage, water and sanitation and access to education.

An aspect of the program is the placement of Syngenta employees from across the world into the heart of poor rural Bangladeshi communities. They share modern agricultural techniques with smallholders and help them gain access to financial services such as savings accounts and loans as well as sell their crops in national and international markets. In return, volunteers gain valuable insights into the needs, challenges and aspirations of smallholder farming communities.

The project framework is based on the following three pillars:
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Pillar one: Community development

The formation of community groups plays an important role for developing smallholder capabilities. Members share a common vision, meet regularly, own a group savings account for collective investments and resilience and have defined roles and responsibilities.

The most marginalized people in the groups are ultra-poor farmers, many of whom are women and do not own land. Specific grants for the ultra-poor are provided to support and include them alongside ongoing group activities. Each group has at least 30% female membership.

Community groups meet monthly to discuss the social and agronomic issues that are affecting them. This year groups have shared social issues in areas such as child marriage, water and sanitation and access to education. The groups discuss these challenges and work together to find solutions.

Achievements to date:

  • 230 farmer groups and 45 youth groups have been formed
  • Combined, the savings of all groups within the program now totals $181,250 USD
  • 91% meeting attendance rate throughout the year
  • 91% of participating women have higher confidence in modern farming practices
  • 32% of participating women say they have increased decision making power and influence within their families.

Pillar two: Farmer training on good agriculture practice

At the beginning of the program, only 7% of farmers in the target communities had access to agricultural advice services. So we developed a training framework that includes ‘learning from peers’ approach achieved through demonstration plots in which nominated lead farmers share new farming techniques learned from agronomic experts.

Demonstration plots allowed farmers to test new techniques in a risk free environment and directly compare progress with their own fields.

Achievements to date:

  • 230 demonstration plots had been set up by January 2017
  • 7,000 farmers (2,240 female) have received agronomy training in rice, vegetable and potato cultivation since the start of the project
    • 96% of farmers report that they are now proactively practicing the new farming techniques, including correct and safe use of agro-inputs
  • Farmers from the Mithapukur region now cropping a mix of rice, potato and vegetable recorded an average increase in net income of 50% from 2015 (average US$912 in 2016 versus US$613 in 2015) and a tripling of net income since 2014

Pillar three: Value chain development and Farmer Centers

The third pillar of the project is to ensure that market systems are conducive to smallholders earning a sustainable income from their crops. Six Farmer Centers have now been established providing a physical space for farmer groups to aggregate their crops. The centers provide access to a broad range of services including rental of machinery, access to inputs (such as seeds) and finance, trading support and access to affordable storage so that farmers can sell their crops when the price is best.

The Farmer Centers also offer support and training on how best to engage with agricultural supply chains and negotiate mutually favorable terms.

Achievements to date:

  • 100% of participating farmers are now using services provided by the Farmer Centers
  • 65% of project farmers are engaged in national and international contract farming through the Farmer Centre aggregation service
  • In 2016 Growing Together rice farmers in Birampur district increased net incomes by an average close to 20%, while potato farmers in Mithapukur more than doubled their average net incomes.

Growing Together has proved to be a successful development model and the program now aims to scale the approach to reach over 100,000 smallholder farmers by mid-2018. More information about the program can be found at: http://story.vsointernational.org/Growing-Together/

Visit www.farmingfirst.org/SDGs for quizzes, videos, infographics & more on SDG 2.3. Share your stories on doubling productivity & incomes using #Ag4SDGs and join the campaign!

SDG2.4 in 2 Minutes: Steven Were Omamo, World Food Programme

The spectre of almost 800 million hungry people globally suggests that food systems do not meet the needs of a large part of society. Food systems are disrupted by shocks linked to climate change and globalization, broken by conflict and even in stable contexts, they often have major flaws. In this interview with Farming First, World Food Programme notes three deep systemic problems that need to be tackled: the “last mile” the “bad year” and the “good year”.

What WFP calls “Systemic food assistance” is food assistance that improves the performance of food systems by addressing their problems at the root. Systemic food assistance is happening through use of WFP’s supply chain expertise and capacity to strengthen markets; support of Home Grown School Meals programmes that connect local farmers to the supply chain; and reform of the structure and functioning of public food reserves.

For example, in Kenya’s Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps, WFP is leveraging its purchasing power and consumer demand created through its cash-based transfers to address inefficiencies along the supply chain and achieve lower prices for both refugees and host communities.

Filmed as part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.4 on resilient food systems.

Music: Ben Sounds

SDG2.5 in 2 Minutes: Debisi Araba, CIAT Africa

There’s a unique type of grass that when fed to livestock, it not only makes the animals more productive, but it lowers the greenhouse gases they emit. Because this grass was preserved in CIAT’s genebank, scientists have been able to transform the lives of farmers in Latin America, and hope to bring the innovation to Africa as well.

Filmed as part of Farming First’s #SDG2countdown campaign, exploring SDG2.5 on protecting genetic diversity.

Music: Ben Sounds

Information Services Grow Resilient Agriculture

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In this guest blog, John Corbett, Gabe Stalcup and Leila Al-Hamoodah of big data company aWhere, Inc. discuss the need for “information agile” agriculture that can help smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate.

Increased weather variability and weather disasters are a manifestation of our warming atmosphere.  This variability includes shifting rainfall and temperature patterns, as well as a significant increase in extreme weather events.  Of course, these events and weather variability are rarely positive for agriculture.  Crops are vulnerable to extreme events, like droughts and floods, and extreme temperatures, both too hot and too cold.

With weather variability increasing the risk of poor harvests, farmers seek more information to guide their decisions.  This new information is balanced against the farmer’s local knowledge as they plan their farming practices, and includes anticipation of “normal” weather.

To build resilience and adapt to these changing weather conditions and possible weather disasters, farmers must leverage environmental information and translate it into actionable signals.  This type of adaptive farming is already the norm in the much of the United States and Europe. Wet spring? Farmers can swap long-season seeds for shorter-maturity seeds to account for the later planting.  Conditions suitable for a foliar disease in the forecast?  Farmers can spray the appropriate protection. This type of agile, information-driven farming continues to leverage more and more data to the point where variable-rate seeding, crop protection, fertilization and irrigation are all adopted, commercially viable, agricultural technologies.

The Need & the Opportunity

Agronomic weather information is one key element to dampening the impact of weather variability.  Big Data methods and analytics combine to create agricultural intelligence, which is useful to farmers adapting to a changing climate.  And getting the message to farmers across the planet is helped enormously by modern technology, such as the ubiquitous cell phone.  The expanding presence of cellular systems provides the communication infrastructure to close the loop on the “final mile”, as millions of farmers have recently become reachable this way.  It is estimated that there are more than 570 million farmers on the planet – most of whom are only now being connected, and, thus, are accessible to information services.

However, throughout most of the world’s smallholder farming areas, there is a distinct lack of truly “information agile” farming. Traditional practices often rule, and with weather variably increasing, the likelihood of crop failure due to extreme weather events also increases.  The newfound access to farmers via ICT is both an incredible opportunity as well as a tremendous challenge.  The current lack of information services provides an opportunity for ICT to assist in improving agricultural productivity, and innovation is rapidly coming to the agricultural value chain in smallholder farming areas. At the same time, millions of these farmers have never previously had access to a localized, short-term weather forecast, thus necessitating education and training surrounding the value and use of such forecasts.  Early assessments of the impact of information services to small holder farmers often note 30-50 percent increases in productivity – the upside is solid. Notably, the overarching impact of connecting smallholder farmers to information services extends well beyond agriculture, and includes the opportunity for improved human health, child nutrition, social movements, and, of course, general education.

Delivering localized, relevant agricultural information to smallholder farmers is perhaps the only way to mitigate the impacts of weather variability, but more importantly, the connection to the farmer enables a whole host of possibilities across the spectrum of needs. Leo Tobias, Director, Technology and Product at the Grameen Foundation, noted: “If an individual is plugged into the information system, they are in a position to adopt good agricultural practices.”   Good agricultural practices will help agriculture and address climate adaptation and resilience, or “climate smart agriculture”.  These practices, from information on when to plant, as rainfall onset has become more variable in many areas, to what crop or variety to plant, to crop protection and fertilizer timing advice, address the challenges of changing weather, agricultural resilience, and smallholder farmer adaptation.

Agriculture sits at the core of the development process: “If the history of development has taught us anything, it’s that a strong agricultural sector is a cornerstone of inclusive and sustainable growth, broad-based development progress, and long-term stability,” a report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs noted recentlySupporting agriculture delivers real returns, and innovation in information services is needed to achieve food security in the coming decades.  Across the agricultural value chain, information services serve to connect and optimize the food chain and make it more resilient.

The Information Solution

aWhere provides a range of timely agronomic and weather information to smallholder farmers, through NGO and on-the ground partners.  With more than 600,000 farmers globally, and over two-thirds of those in sub-Saharan Africa, we continue to learn how localized, up-to-date information impacts farming.  What we also have learned is that this connection to the farmer is a conduit that inspires innovation.

Localized and personal, trusted communication channels are viable and attractive to entrepreneurs.  Startups and emerging companies specializing in agriculturally relevant information vie for attention across the agricultural value chain.  The provision of information, and inputs, is a complex challenge with so many small businesses and the multitude of smallholder farmers. This complex challenge is risky and “paying down the risk” is where the blending of public and donor efforts with private, commercial endeavours can be quite enabling.  Timely information across the agricultural value chain is needed and necessary, but the introduction of new services is difficult in resource constrained areas.  As proof of viability becomes more pronounced, capacity building to encourage innovation is needed.  Communication channels along with public and donor support can be leveraged to create sustainable businesses supporting resilient agriculture.

For example, to encourage innovation in data-driven agriculture, aWhere hosts hackathons and data jams through its Hack4Farming series.  With events in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia, these capacity-building efforts enable agricultural businesses, often with little information services, to meet-up with software developers for the express purpose of connecting big data methods to local business needs and challenges.  These events build a growing community in this ag-tech space, where startups can emerge and become sustainable, while commercial businesses work to make a more resilient agricultural value chain.  Meanwhile, on-the-ground startups like Esoko, iShamba, and FarmerLink lead the way in providing innovative and timely information to smallholder farmers, using aWhere’s agronomic real-time information.  With these final-mile connections, food security is greatly improved as existing information services can and will help with on-going adaptation and disaster mitigation.

Localized and timely agronomic information is a key piece of the puzzle to developing a sustainable and resilient agricultural system.  While more variable weather is here to stay, existing and yet to be developed agricultural information services can serve to dampen the impact of both long and short-term weather-based agricultural stress.  Given our changing climate, farmers need information to help them thrive with what the environment provides, as do input providers, markets, and actors all across the value chain.  While agricultural production shortfalls due to weather disasters and variability leave us vulnerable to food insecurity, building local capacity to connect data-driven science to smallholder farmers will reap dividends and build resilience.  Wherever trusted communication channels are in place, our risk is reduced.

This article appears in the May edition of WFO’s F@rmletter. Featured photo credit: V. Meadu (CCAFS)

Global Food Security Symposium 2017: Making Food Security the Focus in Uncertain Times

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Amid recent turbulent political shifts around the world, a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs puts food security at the heart of global peace and prosperity. Launched at the Council’s two-day Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, the report – Stability in the 21st Century – calls on political leaders to make food security a pillar of national security policies.

The authors highlighted links between high food prices and unrest, and said commitments to end hunger and malnutrition were more important than ever to address the challenges of instability, climate change and a growing young population.

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