Stories tagged: farming

OCT172018
Borlaug Dialogue

17th – 19th October 2018

Iowa, USA

The Norman E. Borlaug Inetrnational Symposium, known informally as the “Borlaug Dialogue,” each year brings together over 1,200 people from more than 65 countries to address cutting-edge issues related to global food security and nutrition. The three-day conference convenes a wide array of scientific experts, policy leaders, business executives and farmers. Through the Borlaug Dialogue, the World Food Prize Foundation helps build alliances in the struggle against world hunger and malnutrition. The theme for 2018 is “Rise to the Challenge”.

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Hashtags: #FoodPrize18

CNFA & Partners Announce New Steps to Cultivate Quality Cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire

By Sheryl Cowan, Vice President of Programs, CNFA and Marc Steen, CNFA’s Chief of Party of the Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity (MOCA)

Cote d’Ivoire is the largest cacao-producing country in the world, and earnings from the cultivation and sale of cocoa support 3.5 million Ivorians, including many smallholder farmers and their families. Yet, the cocoa industry in the country has been primarily geared towards production and less on quality, preventing farmers from supplying to and reaping the benefits from the growing fine chocolate industry.

From seedling to tree, the status of successful cultivation mirrors the financial health of the communities that depend on cocoa cultivation. However, smallholder Ivorian cocoa farmers have limited capacity to increase the amount of quality beans they can sell, and often lack access to competitive markets, which would otherwise be a viable means of increasing their income and improving their livelihoods.

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international agricultural development organization, announced that the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and the Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity (MOCA) project, implemented by CNFA, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at FCIA’s Elevate Chocolate Summer 2018 meeting to address this challenge.

CNFA’s Alex Brandes shares information on USAID’s Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity during FCIA’s Elevate Chocolate Summit on June 30 in New York City.

MOCA, a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food for Progress program provides capacity-building, training and other support services to cocoa producers, cooperatives and exporters in Côte d’Ivoire with the aim of improving the supply of high-quality cacao beans and increasing farm incomes. Activities to improve and expand the trade of cocoa and cocoa products focus on improving the quality of the crop, the processing and post-harvest handling techniques, and strengthening the market linkages and organization of groups towards more adequately meeting existing market demand.

FCIA, whose members focus on the production of premium chocolate and encourage utilizing the best practices in cocoa production and processing, will collaborate with MOCA to support the project through its membership activities.

“This collaboration enhances the individual efforts of MOCA and FCIA to improve the efficiency of the cocoa value chain in Côte d’Ivoire,” said CNFA President and Chief Executive Officer Sylvain Roy. “FCIA’s counsel will help farmers and businesses refine their production to meet the needs of the fine chocolate market—and MOCA’s training and guidance will improve the crop quality, processing, post-harvest handling and market linkages necessary to produce those high-quality products and get them to market.”

“This memorandum of understanding establishes a strong mutual bond between two parties who share a keen interest in cultivating the finest, high-quality cocoa,” said FCIA President Clark Guittard. “Through our new relationship with MOCA, our organization gains an informed, on-the-ground presence in the world’s leading cocoa-producing region.

The main thrust of the three-year MOCA program is to increase the productivity and efficiency of stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa value chain to boost the quality of crops, expand cocoa trade and ultimately improve the incomes and livelihoods of cocoa farmers.

This partnership will provide added impetus to the most important goal of the MOCA initiative—generating increased incomes for the 600,000 smallholder farmers and families in Côte d’Ivoire who produce more than a third of the world’s cocoa supply, but live on less than $2 a day.

Featured image credits: CNFA, Nestlé

World Refugee Day: Building Resilience Through Farming in Kenya

On World Refugee Day, Allan Ochieng Odera, Resilience Coordinator for Danish Refugee Council (DRC), tells Farming First about DRC’s farming initiative in Kakuma camp, Kenya.

In north-west Kenya, 48-year-old Mariam from Somalia proudly tends her vegetable plot. Thanks to farming opportunities provided by an initiative at Kakuma refugee camp, she can now provide her family with fresh meals every day, as well as get money from the sales of vegetables to buy other household goods.

Mariam is not alone. On June 20, World Refugee Day will bring awareness around the world to themillions of people fleeing from conflict and suffering. The Kakuma refugee camp is just one of thousands of camps around the world that try and provide refugees with a new start after being uprooted from their homes.

Kakuma will mark its 26th birthday this year, and the beginning of its establishment as an important shelter for the south Sudanese fleeing from civil war. It has since become a base for hundreds from various parts of sub-Saharan Africa, currently hosting at least 185,589 refugees, providing shelter, food, medication and protection.

Before the Danish Refugee Council’s Community Floods Resilience Programme (COFREP) was started in Kakuma, Mariam had to wait for a monthly ration which rarely provided the required amount needed to feed her whole family. The DRC-led initiative, is run in partnership with LOKADO and Norwegian Refugee Council, and has received funding from the Global Resilience Partnership.

Responding to the challenge

Kakuma is situated in Turkana, which as one of Kenya’s largest counties, home to around 855,399 residents over a land mass of 77,000 km2. The entire country ranges in condition from semi-arid to very arid, and due to a combination of recurrent bouts of flooding and droughts, coupled with a weak economy, many living in Turkana live in acute poverty and hunger. In Kakuma, food shortage is a regular worry and funding levels for food distribution have been reduced over the years. The Kenyan government’s attempts at resolving food insecurity through piecemeal food distribution is only successful as a temporary patch to a large-scale challenge.

Given Turkana’s minimal rainfall, techniques to harvest and conserve water for farming are essential, and this has been one of the major focuses of DRC’s work. DRC uses techniques which can be scaled out, such as the use of earth dams, earth works, and other unique designs that can harvest water and nutrients for plant growth, whilst also minimizing excess water absorption.

These technologies mean that flood water can be harvested for micro-irrigation during the dry season to grow high-value crops such as tomatoes and onions, increasing the incomes of refugees and host farmers. Appropriate farming methods are also taught to the farmers and refugees in order to maximise their yields. Drought-tolerant crops are prioritized, such as sorghum, cowpeas, pumpkins and watermelons.

Trees have also been planted to improve the nitrogen balance of the crops and provide shade. This has also helped to control soil erosion through breaking wind and keeping the soil firm. Farmers are also trained to manage pests through applying an integrated approach to their farming; growing different crops together to create interdependence, trapping and repelling pests that cause harm to the crops.

Measuring the impact

The life-changing COFREP initiative involves 400 farmers, 120 refugees, and 280 hosts, who are trained through a combination of on-site demonstrations and trial-by-error, learning from our mistakes and streamlining the project for the future. COFREP uses farmer-to-farmer training in groups of 30, and the skills learned through these training sessions can prove to be vital for creating longer-term job prospects for the farmers.

Aside from the professional aspects, the project has also helped diversify nutrition sources for the refugees and the farmers. In addition to the staple diet of meat, all the participants now have greater access to vegetables.

DRC has learned that there is huge potential for the refugees and the host community to be self-reliant in food if appropriate technologies of water harvesting and improved farming techniques are adapted and taught as everyday skills. The farming activities are also of an invaluable social benefit, creating peaceful co-existence between the host and the refugees. Not only does this improve their livelihoods, it will help them overturn the challenge of devastating drought and flash floods that cause disasters in to a food production opportunity, and build resilience to future uncertainty.

 

Learn more about DRC’s project in Kenya by visiting their website.

 

Yaouza’s Story: How Forest Conservation Can Boost Incomes in Niger

Barrett Alexander, Program Manager for Food Security and Livelihoods at World Vision, explains how Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration can help empower farmers and boost crop yields in the Sahel.

In Niger, the encroaching Sahel is a daily constraint for farmers – the wind, sand, dust, soil degradation, water scarcity, and recurring drought make it hard for farmers to provide for their families.

In the northeastern part of Niger, in the Maradi Region, World Vision works with local farmers on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) to combat the encroaching Sahel. FMNR is part agro-forestry, part environmental conservation, part Disaster Risk Reduction, and part economic driver. It works by finding indigenous tree species, once abundant in Niger but decimated by drought and human population pressure in the 1970s and 80s, and teaching farmers about pruning methodologies to allow those trees to regrow. The regrowth of the trees has shown to reduce surface wind speeds, increase soil fertility, increase ground water availability, increase yields, and reduce surface temperatures.

Since the inception of FMNR in the 1980s, its growth throughout the country cannot be understated. Currently, there is roughly 5 million hectares of land re-greened through FMNR, with approximately 200 million indigenous trees. In some of World Vision’s project sites, there is a 250 percent increase in tree/shrub density on FMNR sites and the average tree density increased from 35.57 trees per hectare in 2014 to 123 trees per hectare in 2017. This increase in density is helping farmers increase their staple crop production, primarily millet, by 58 percent due to soil revitalization, increased ground water availability, reduced wind speeds that take top soil away, and reduced surface temperatures in this very arid environment.

Champion Farmer Model

One farmer stands out among the rest – Yaouza Harouna. After incorporating FMNR on his 4.5-hectare rain-fed and 0.5-hectare irrigated land in 2013, he now can fully provide for his family. Yaouza has re-grown roughly 310 new trees, including 60 Sahel apple trees. By implementing FMNR, Yaouza increased the productive capacity of his land and became a sustainable farmer. In the Guidan-Roumdji district where he lives, the average millet yield is 547 kg/hectare,—he produced 937 kg/hectare by planting nearest the bases of his trees. He also produced 450 kgs of peanuts, 250 kgs of cowpeas, 375 kgs of sorghum, 2,000 watermelons, and 833 kgs of Sahel apples from his new trees.

Yahouza Harouna showing his millet stock at his house in the village of Tambara-Sofoua Yahaya

All of this production provided Yaouza and his family with approximately $2,534 in income generation on the staple crops and $943 in income for the Sahel apples. Furthermore, roughly 70 percent of the millet and sorghum were used for direct consumption and to provide food for his extended family. With all this income, Yaouza has provided his household with sustainable food and firewood provision, put his children in private school, supported relatives, branched out into more income generating activities (small trading, sheep fattening), purchased a motorbike, extended his land by two hectares, and employed a local man to help watch the land and tend the crops. In effect, our Champion Farmer, based on initial interest in FMNR, has rightfully gained his moniker.

Recommendations for FMNR Implementation

Based on the current trend of FMNR as a sustainable agriculture model and the usage of World Vision’s Champion Farmer Model, there are several recommendations for agriculture implementers.

The first, is engaging the community at the start. A deep explanation of FMNR, the requirements (including community by-laws and enforcement mechanisms), economic benefits, and social cohesion should be the first actions for new implementers

Next, it is important to identify key community actors that will take on promoting FMNR in the community and use their skills, land, and leadership in the community to become “Champion Farmers” like Yaouza. Farmers learn best and incorporate new practices when they see and learn it from other farmers – use this to your advantage and encourage the free exchange of information and site visits between your Champion Farmers and new, doubtful farmers

For more information on how to implement FMNR initiatives, you can visit World Vision’s FMNR Hub for training resources, research, and technical guidance: http://fmnrhub.com.au/

Agroecology in Action: Harnessing the Power of Orphan Crops

Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer of Mars, writes on Farming First about how orphan crops can benefit African farmers and the wider world.

Africa has thus far missed out on having its own ‘green revolution’. One reason for this is that it has no large, homogenous ecosystem, such as India’s Deccan Plateau. Any approach to boost productivity and food security must fit Africa’s myriad, small and distinct ecosystems.

The term agroecology refers to using ecological processes in agriculture, and maintaining balanced and healthy ecosystems. Pursuing an agricultural revolution that makes use of African crops that are already adapted, already grown and eaten by local farmers, would therefore be a good place to start.

At the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) our goal is to improve these varieties –  “orphan” in that they have received very little scientific attention – so that they are more nutritious, higher yielding and hardier in the face of weeds, pests and the changing climate that is already altering Africa’s smallholder cropping systems. We do this by working to sequence the genomes of 101 of these important African orphan food crops and making the data publicly available, and training African scientists to make rapid improvements to them, benefitting smallholder farmers and consumers across the continent.

This plan was hatched back in 2011 by myself at Mars, Incorporated, Ibrahim Mayaki at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). It quickly won the backing of the African Heads of State meeting at the African Union Assembly. Today the consortium contains 15 government organisations, scientific and agricultural bodies, universities, companies, regional organisations and NGOs, along with a network of 20 agricultural and horticultural organisations.

The AOCC’s African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA), based at ICRAF in Nairobi, will have trained 84 of its target 250 African plant scientists to work on the genome ‘maps’ by the end of 2018.

This approach could benefit the 600 million who constitute Africa’s rural population, most of whom grow much of their own food.

How does this relate to agroecology?

First, more than a quarter of the chosen species are trees, such as the baobab, the leaves of which contain twice as much calcium as spinach, three times the vitamin C of oranges and four times more potassium than a banana. Many of these tree crops are native to their ecosystems and provide other benefits, such as shade, water management and food for wildlife. Our work serves to preserve and improve these species, so they can continue to perform these important natural functions.

Second, many of the crops being sequenced have been in their given regions for a few centuries, are non-invasive and do not harm the local ecosystems. A cornerstone of agroecology is to maintain balance in ecosystems. Protecting and improving native crops will lead to increased diversity on farms, which will contribute to this goal.

Finally, using genetic interventions to make these crops more resilient and adaptable to a changing environment often means farmers need to apply fewer additional inputs to them in order to harvest a bumper crop.

Africa seems unable to get enough of the orphan crops approach. Two members of the 2017 class have started a continuing education program for MS-level scientists in their home country of Ethiopia.  Four graduates from West Africa are collaborating to raise funding for training more than 70 graduate students on breeding of orphan crops. Members of the 2017 class are establishing an African Plant Breeders Association to cover the whole continent.

The benefits of orphan crops

The AfPBA and its lab have some of the best sequencing equipment in the world, certainly the best in Africa. Students – and these students are already among the best plant scientists in their countries – can use the equipment, but graduates also continue to have access to it.

One great benefit of this approach to education is that it is either done locally by AfPBA graduates or in Nairobi. The plant scientists are not taken to Europe or the United States, only to stay and contribute to Africa’s brain drain.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) decided recently to join the consortium. This has led to an ambitious letter of intent between the two organizations. It calls upon the two to work together to assist FAO member countries to develop and implement appropriate policies, regulations and laws that facilitate the genetic improvement of orphan crops; to strengthen institutional and human capacities of FAO member countries activities for research and development, especially in molecular genetics, plant breeding and seed delivery systems, and to advocate for enhanced crop diversification, crop rotations, associations and crop sequencing in a way that orphan crops are integrated and can become part and parcel of sustainable cropping systems.

We believe this could help spread the benefits of orphan crops throughout the planet. Already there has been talk of a Chinese Orphan Crop Consortium and an Indian Orphan Crop Consortium.  

As The Economist’s science editor commented after a visit to our facility last year:

“Bananas, mangoes, pineapples and pawpaws are all tropical fruit that have gone global. If some of Africa’s orphan crops, suitably improved by genetic knowledge, were to follow suit, the benefits to African farmers would be huge.”

This future is within grasp, and can be done by harnessing the power of what nature already has to offer.

 

Why Increasing Smallholder Resilience Starts with Soils

By Julian Galindo, Senior Project Manager; Jean-Pierre Rennaud, General Delegate & Cofounder and Nishal Ramdoo, Director of Communications at Livelihoods Fund. 

When we talk about natural disasters, we immediately think of cyclones, floods and droughts. Without a doubt, climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of these hazards. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Farmers are already suffering from the insidious effects of climate change on a daily basis: longer dry seasons, degraded soils, and a loss of biodiversity. In addition to these natural disasters, farmers also contend with disasters directly triggered by human activities like deforestation, loss of soil fertility and soil erosion. Soil degradation is a silent disaster jeopardizing our future, but the good news is that efficient solutions do exist. Continue reading