Stories tagged: farming

Plotting New Ways to Encourage Youth into Farming through Television

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Vanessa Mukhebi of Mediae Company, reports for Farming First on the latest TV series from the production company that created Shamba Shape Up.

We’ve all seen it before. The archetypal symbol of agriculture in Africa is more often than not an elderly African woman spending back-breaking hours in the sweltering sub-Saharan heat tending to her crop fields with a hoe in hand.

The problem with this imagery is not necessarily in its ubiquity, but that it is representative of an underlying issue in the sector: there is a lacklustre perception of agriculture amongst young people. Whilst there are several push factors such as limited access to capital and land, for majority of the world’s youth, agriculture isn’t considered as a viable or ‘cool’ career venture. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the average age of farmers in Africa is about 60, despite the fact that 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under 24 years of age.

With an ageing population of farmers, the uptake of agriculture by this demographic is critical in ensuring food security in the years to come. So what can be done to make farming attractive to this cohort?

Well, imagine this. Four young farmers, from Kenya and Tanzania, are each given one acre plots to farm side-by-side for a growing season, competing to win an agricultural investment worth US $10,000.

Credit: Mediae

Credit: Mediae

This is the premise of Don’t Lose the Plot, a new reality television show which began airing in May on Citizen TV in Kenya and ITV in Tanzania. Produced by The Mediae Company and supported by several development organizations, the show aims to encourage youth into agribusiness.

There is sassy Leah and book-smart Ken from Kenya, and from Tanzania, the ever timid Winrose and go-getter Issah  –  each striving to be the most profitable, business minded and resilient farmer in the group, in order to win the coveted prize.

Credit: Mediae

Credit: Mediae

The contestants were required to do research and choose which crops to grow and livestock to rear, and then pitch their ideas and budgets to the judges before receiving loans for their farm inputs.

Throughout the nine month period, the four have learnt to get their hands dirty under the guidance of various experts in the agriculture sector, advising them along the way on best farming practices, financial management, niche marketing and value-addition.

Still, the journey to success has been marked with a set of challenges.  From overly ambitious budgets to disease-stricken crops, but as Ken, one of the contestants put it, “success is not an instant coffee affair.”

Credit: Mediae

Credit: Mediae

Watched by three million viewers in Kenya and Tanzania, the producer of the show, Patricia Gichinga, says that it has given “audiences the opportunity to learn from the contestants mistakes and triumphs, emulate them, and be inspired to own, lease and run agribusinesses of their own.”

 

This learning experience has largely been aided by Budget Mkononi, the show’s web-based agricultural budgeting tool that helps aspiring and inexperienced farmers view estimated costs and revenues of various commodities. They are then able to edit costs to reflect their specific circumstances, so that their budgets are realistic and personalized. Thus, allowing viewers at home the opportunity to become farming heroes of their own.

Though the show has just concluded, it’s plausible to state that agriculture is making a comeback.

Transforming the image of agriculture amongst youth might be a gradual process, but by showing them the myriad of opportunities at their disposal to enter into and to grow agricultural economic activity, Don’t Lose the Plot is cultivating a new breed of farmers.

To learn more about the show, visit the Don’t Lose the Plot website, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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

Video: The Value Chain Approach to Boosting Rural Economies

Richard Pluke

In the latest episode of Farming First TV, we talk to Dr. Richard Pluke, Senior Agricultural Advisor at Fintrac, about the organisation’s “value chain approach”.

“People complain about problems with markets,” Dr. Pluke comments. “The truth is, the markets are out there, you just need to produce for them and become a dependable supplier.” If smallholders are able to plug into markets and become successful, he argues, the entire rural economy can be boosted as a result.

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Video: Feeding India with Finite Resources

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“You can’t cook a cuisine with just one ingredient,” Indian farmer Balwinder Singh Kang tells Farming First TV. Farming, he explains is the same. “I don’t say you can only use one technology, I say use the best of everything.”

Mr. Kang has been farming for the past 30 years on a small farm at Hanumangarh in the state of Rajasthan. He grows GM cotton as well as conventional varieties of wheat, mustard, beans, and some vegetables. Not all technologies, however, are reaching him and his fellow farmers. Continue reading

Dennis Odera: Providing Information, The Cornerstone of Agribusiness

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In this guest post, Dennis Odera, Africa Business Coordinator for WeFarm, outlines the importance of getting agricultural information to rural entrepreneurs and how WeFarm delivers on this.

At face value, food security and unemployment are words that have very little in common. If you look at the words through an agricultural lens, however, similarities start to pop up.

Africa currently has two resources that are available in abundance – land and people. With the rise in world population, there is a steady high demand for a certain commodity – food. How then can Africa make the most out of its abundant resources to fulfil a world need? Continue reading

Hudson Shiraku: Farming in the Wake of Water Scarcity in Kenya

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This World Water Week, young Kenyan Environmental Scientist Hudson Shiraku tells Farming First how farmers in Kenya are overcoming water scarcity in a variety of ways. This article is part of our ongoing partnership with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD)

My hometown Kakamega, is endowed with predictable rains and ever-flowing rivers supplying water all year round. Many people have therefore taken this availability of water for granted and are shocked when they hear of other people suffering for lack of it in other places. One such place is Machakos in Eastern Kenya.

Machakos is one of the areas susceptible to frequent and prolonged droughts. Lack of irrigation facilities, inadequate policies and abject poverty have all subjected residents of some areas in the region to a complete dependency on food assistance. This problem has been further exacerbated by climate variability and climate change, causing more or less precipitation in different regions and more extreme weather events. Cognizant of this challenge, the Biovision Farmer Communication Programme (FCP) has been training farmers on sustainable and effective use of water resources to make farming possible in the face of water scarcity. It promotes different technologies to make this happen. Through the field-based workers, FCP conducts farmer training and demonstrations on how to use certain technologies such as;

Mulching: Mulching uses plant remains such as leaves or grass to cover the soil between rows of cultivated crops. Mulching compliments irrigation by reducing the impact of water on the soil – reducing soil erosion and allowing longer retention of moisture. Mulch improves the condition of the soil since this mulch slowly decomposes, becoming part of the soil organic matter. Mrs. Mutisya, one of the farmers practicing mulching, says that since she started mulching, she now uses a mere quarter of the water she previously used on her kale plantation.

Mulching

Mulching

Drip irrigation: Another technology being promoted in the region is a watering system that delivers a slow moving supply of water at a gradual rate directly to the soil at the base of crops (drip irrigation). Also referred to as micro-irrigation or trickle irrigation, it consists of a network of pipes, tubing valves, and emitters. Bottles are also filled with water, a small hole pierced at the top and then inverted and buried at the base of a plant to allow water to seep to its roots gradually. This is an economical use of water, as there is reduced evaporation and deep drainage compared to other types of irrigation such as flood or overhead sprinklers, since water can be more precisely applied to the plant roots. Farmers have also reduced disease prevalence due to this technology.

Drip irrigation technology

Drip irrigation technology

Water harvesting: Besides teaching our farmers how to sustainably use their water, we also train them on water harvesting technologies, to avoid water flowing to waste when it rains. We teach farmers the importance of capturing water runoff from the road for agricultural use. Fixing gutters on iron roofs is also important for water harvesting. The benefit of water harvesting is not only to secure and increase crop production in these regions, but also to stop soil erosion and recharge aquifers tapped for irrigation. It also improves soil fertility due to deposition of humus, silt, manure and other organic matter together with harvested water.

Agroforestry: Trees also play a vital role in agriculture. Practicing agroforestry using drought resistant trees species has helped to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems. Besides providing shade to the crops, these trees are important sources of fruitsnuts and edible oils which counter global warming and the risk of hunger in the region. Trees in agroforestry practices catch, store and release water. Trees break the force of falling rain – preventing soil erosion and allowing percolation into the ground where it is stored as groundwater.

A multi story garden

A multi story garden

Multi-storey gardens: One of our farmers discovered that it is easier to water and maintain plants in a sack. She fills a sack with soil and then uses it as her land. It is easier to water it and accommodates more crops. This technology not only saves on water but also on other resources like fertilizer.

This and other technologies that we promote have since spread to other farmers through our farmer to farmer sharing systems. Farming has been made possible in the wake of water scarcity, and many people are adopting agriculture in the rural areas of Machakos. Thanks to these water saving technologies, farmers have increased crop production and a steady supply of agricultural products all year round. This has in turn cushioned them against the pangs of hunger.

Thanks to a steady supply of water, they have also been able to produce in surplus for the market earning some income. Generally, enabling people to farm has improved the food security situation in the region as there are more farmers than before. Trees have been incorporated in the crop production lots changing the entire picture of a dry area with scorching sun to a better environment.

There are more areas affected by water scarcity and struggling with agriculture. There is need to spread the benefits by these water saving technologies to them. We need to learn from these FCP experiences and replicate them in such areas. Having a database of all these technologies in ready to access and understand formats would help in sharing their benefits.