Stories tagged: farming

10 Ways Agriculture is Improving Lives in Asia

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In this latest instalment of our “Supporter Spotlight” series, we take a trip to Asia to learn about the innovative projects Farming First supporters are working on all over the continent to improve food security and farmers’ lives.

1. Fintrac: Beating Drought with Smart Water Management in Cambodia

When the rains did not come in 2015, one group of farmers in the northeastern province of Pursat not only survived, but thrived. They had banded together to form a Water User Group, that managed farmer access to the Polyum Canal. By maximising efficiency and eliminating conflict around water use, and using good agricultural practices taught by the Cambodia HARVEST program, group members have increased their productivity from an average of 2,500 kilograms per hectare to more than 4,000. As a result, their household incomes have increased by 536 percent! Read more >>

2. GAIN: Meet the Wheatamix Women in India

Through funding from the Bestseller Foundation, GAIN is working in the states of Karnataka and Bihar in India to improve the nutrition and lives of groups of semi-literate women. These women are trained to run their own factories producing a quality blended complementary food product called ”Wheatamix” in Bihar and “Shakhti Vita” in Karnataka. This complementary food product, fortified with vitamins and minerals, has the potential to reach thousands of women, adolescents and children in the region. Read more >>

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3. CropLife: An Indian Farmer Perspective on Biotechnology

In this interview with CropLife International, Balwinder Singh shares his experience of planting an insect-resistant strain of cotton. “I was lucky to be part of the trial when Bt cotton came to India, and when I saw the benefits of this technology; I was the first person to say, this is what is going to save us,” he said. “I took a gamble, and took an additional 50 hectares of land on lease to sow Bt cotton.  It has paid off and my family is enjoying a decent living.” Read more >>

4. IPNI: Healthier Soils Make Indian Farmers More Maize

Access to water has created a challenge for many Indian farmers, increasing interest in alternative crops to flooded rice. Working in West Bengal, research staff at the International Plant Nutrition Institute have focused on developing a rice-maize rotation as an alternative to rice to address the water challenge. Research showed that adding potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc in order to grow maize effectively added US$80 – $290/ha to the farmer’s income. Not only was the maize yield increased, but similar responses were recorded in the rice in these on-farm trials. Read more >>

5. CNFA: Building a Network for Agro-Input Services in Bangladesh 

CNFA implements the USAID-funded Agro-Inputs Project (AIP) to improve the knowledge of and access to quality agricultural inputs for farmers in Bangladesh. CNFA provides trainings and technical assistance on business management and ethics, basic agronomics, safe use and handling of pesticides and other related topics to 3,000 agro-input retailers. Of this, 300 women-retailers are specifically targeted. These agro-input retailers are expected to serve 1 million smallholder farmers, impacting more than 5 million individuals across 20 southern districts of Bangladesh, generating more than $100 million in sales. Read more >>

6. Livelihoods: Mangroves Restore Agricultural Land in Indonesia 

In 1987, Northern Sumatra had 200,000 hectares of mangroves. Today, less than half of that amount remains, with only 83,000 hectares standing. This Livelihoods project has restored mangrove forests, and as a result, increases the safety of the local population. Replanting coastal mangroves significantly buffers coastal communities from future tsunamis akin to that of the 2004 tsunami. Mangrove forests also help to restore vital agricultural land. Additionally, this project generates new sources of economic income. Local villagers are able to increase their revenues by selling the by-products of the mangroves such as fish, mollusks, batik dye and honey. Read more >>

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7. HarvestPlus: Iron Pearl Millet Enriches Diets in India

Iron deficiency is rampant in India, affecting 7 out of 10 children. It impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying during childbirth. HarvestPlus is working with partners to promote varieties of pearl millet rich in iron, to help combat malnutrition. Read more >>

8. iDE: Saving Time and Earning Money Through Water Access in Nepal 

Rural villages in Nepal lack several basic services, but the primary issue for many is access to water. Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are an improved approach to water resource management, which taps and stores water and distributes it to households in small communities to meet both domestic and household agricultural needs. In addition to dramatically decreasing the workload of women and girls, MUSs provide benefits in health and sanitation, as well as enabling communities to improve their decisions on the allocation of water resources. “After we got the water it was easy to grow vegetables,” says Kamala Pariyar, a rural farmer in Dikurpokhari. “I used to ask my husband for money to buy basic things. Now, by selling the vegetables, I can earn 600 rupees a day. I have enough money.” Read more >>

9. World Vision: Mangrove Planting Revitalizes Philippine Fishing Community

When a fishing village in the western part of Leyte in the Philippines was struggling to catch enough to feed their families, World Vision helped to implement a mangrove planting initiative. Each family was provided with an average of 1,000 mangrove stalks to plant in the area near their house, to provide a safe habitat of various species of fish, where they can lay their eggs without being disturbed by double net fishing. There is now abundant fish for catching once more, and the community is protected from the risk of typhoons. Read more >>

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10. IFA: Combatting Iodine Deficiencies Through Fertigation

Globally it is estimated that 2.2 billion people in the world are at a risk of iodine deficiency, which causes a wide range of physiological abnormalities, mainly related to defective mental development and brain damage. The content of iodine in food depends on the iodine content of the soils in which crops are grown. In Xinjiang Province, in the North West of China, the soil is particularly poor in iodine with an associated high infant-mortality rate. A project was put in place to supply the water irrigation system with iodine using an iodine fertilizer dripping technique, called fertigation. With this technique, the iodine from the treated water is absorbed by the soil and progresses through plants, animals and humans that eat the iodine-rich plants. Thanks to this project, rates of infant mortality halved and local livestock production increased by 40% in the first year! Read more >>

Do you have an inspiring story about Asian agriculture? Tweet @FarmingFirst and tell us about it!

My Farm Life: Kasey Bamberger

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Agriculture is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of, writes Kasey Bamberger, third generation owner of Bryant Agricultural Enterprise. 

I grew up on my family’s home farm located in South West Ohio.  I always took an interest in agriculture and grew up in an environment in which the majority of our conversations around the dinner table were talking about the weather or how the corn crop looked.  Production farming was a huge part of who we were and how we were raised. Being one of four girls, it was not as common to come home to the family farm but as I entered my high school years, I knew that there had to be a place for me.

After graduating high school, I went on to study business management at Wright State University. My passion for business quickly grew and I could not wait to return back to the family farm and begin my career.  Today, I am third generation farmer and the first female to join our family operation. I farm alongside my father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, and 19 hardworking employees.  Our annual commodities consist of corn, soybeans, and soft red winter wheat.  Today we farm in seven different counties, but our home farm still lies on the same property that I grew up on. The original 200-acre farm property has witnessed a lot of history, hard work, and change over the past 65 years.

Just like all other businesses

From the outside looking in, the everyday consumer views a farm as planting and harvesting a crop. Yes, that is a HUGE part of what we do but what the average consumer doesn’t see is the remaining parts of the year that don’t take place in the field. That is where my job lies. Although we are a family farm, we operate just like all other businesses across America.  We have budgets to generate, inventory to control, inputs to purchase, a crop to store, market, and deliver, business relationships to cultivate, and data to manage.  A lot of what I do on a day to day basis is to utilize the technology available to us in order to evaluate our operation. We want to make sure we are always being the most efficient operation in all areas to make sure we are sustainable and here for many more generations to come. We do this by striving to always take care of the land. We lease a lot of the ground that we farm, but tend to it as if each acre was our own.

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Turning to digital tech

Production agriculture has adapted and became part of a technological world like many other sectors in our world today. Before driverless cars there were GPS operated tractors. Today our operation, Bryant Agricultural Enterprise, uses Granular Ag, a software management company to help us better manage and digest data about our operation. All employees work off an app from their IPhone where they are able to record inputs and time spent on each field. This allows me to be able to oversee production at the field level (rather than at an enterprise level) and track financials back to each field. We are also able to monitor weather, growth stages of the crop, and tap in to the software in our equipment to store equipment information. In the off-seasons we utilize this data to help us prepare for the next growing season and analyze our operation and the inputs we are using.

We also test the  normally do a three-year test plot in order to see how new seed varieties compete against varieties we have grown in the past. The technology allows us to compare different weather patterns, planting dates, soil types and help with our decision to grow those varieties across more acres.

A dynamic career

I found that as the industry changes, we too must adapt to what it offers. There are so many opportunities for young professionals to enter the world of production agriculture and so much knowledge to be gained from the growers that are already part of the industry.

What advice would I give you young agriculture enthusiasts? Take time to reach out to those already in the industry and research the jobs available in agriculture. There are SO many knowledgeable people that are involved in agriculture. Take time to listen to them and utilize their experience. From sales, to marketing, banking, to ag research, information technology, and physically working for a farm–there is a market for all different types of interests and specialties. As the population of the world continues to increase, we need to be able to continue to produce more food. It is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of.

 

Putting the Answers to Successful Farming at Young People’s Fingertips

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In this guest blog post, Vanessa Mukhebi of Mediae – the production company behind agricultural reality TV shows Shamba Shape Up and Don’t Lose the Plot – discusses the digital innovations helping farmers with agronomic and budgeting challenges. By harnessing the digital boom, she argues that more African youth can be enticed into agricultural careers.

It is often said that youth carry the potential to transform agricultural productivity and contribute to global food security for a booming population that is set to increase by two billion by 2050. However, debating the future of farming and rural development is pointless without the willingness of the youth themselves to engage in the sector. This potential can only be realised through an image overhaul of farming.

Yet several solutions to this challenge exist right in their back pockets.

The drawback of farming-related careers in preference for white collared employment in urban areas, is partly on account of the societal prejudices and misconceptions held about such careers, as well as the limited knowledge about the opportunities available in agricultural industry that are economically prosperous.

Fortunately, through rapid advancement in information and communication technologies, and increased access to the internet through mobile devices, agriculture in the developing world has become a vibrant field full of effective and creative innovations.

And with young people already predisposed to this digital revolution, these solutions provide unparalleled access to information to help them take advantage of the exciting opportunities within the industry.

In countries like Kenya, where overstretched extension services are unable to adequately support producers, mobile solutions such as iShamba, offer the ability to disseminate timely and relevant information regarding production, input supplies, weather updates and market price information.

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Additionally, the farmer information and advisory service is equipped with a call centre staffed with agricultural experts, where farmers can SMS or call to get instant advice seven days a week.

Farming communities can also exchange information with each other through the service’s location-based WhatsApp groups and get advice from iShamba’s agricultural experts on best farming practices. Simon Mwangi, a young farmer from Nyeri, Kenya, says that the platform helped him venture into farming.“Thanks to iShamba’s agronomic advice, I managed to grow tomatoes for the first time. I have already started harvesting my tomatoes and they are doing well.” 

Though the platform is highly interactive, the challenge remains on how best to engage youth.

The appeal of farming to young people hinges on its ability to be recast and marketed as a profitable enterprise; agribusiness has to be promoted in favour of agriculture.

Our newest reality television show called Don’t Lose the Plot is aiming to do just that – stem the exodus of rural youth to urban areas and encourage them into agribusiness.

Set on a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, the show follows four young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania, who are given one acre plots to farm side-by-side for nine months. At the end, the farmer with the most profitable and sustainable business wins an agricultural investment worth US$10,000.

Each young farmer had access to a panel of advisors that critiqued their ideas and approach while encouraging them to use modern, labour saving techniques to make the most of their land. After developing a business plan for their farm, they got access to financing, set up their farms, managed them and marketed their produce profitably.

Ken, one of the contestants from Kenya, lauded the show for exposing him to the opportunities that young people such as himself have at their disposal to improve their livelihoods. “I see this competition as an eye opener, to the resources that we have in our country. To increase food security, and to try to solve the unemployment issue amongst youth. I think I’m doing something great here.”

Nevertheless, what was evident right from the start is that young farmers need assistance in creating realistic budgets and managing their finances.

Enter Budget Mkononi, the web-based agricultural budgeting tool initiated by the producers of Don’t Lose the Plot, The Mediae Company, and Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate.

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The tool allows young aspiring and inexperienced farmers to view estimated costs and profits from various commodities that are high-value and short-term such as broilers and onions.

Through Budget Mkononi, hopeful entrepreneurs can explore the relative merits of each and visualise their cash flow requirements for the duration of the farming cycle, showing young farmers how to farm in a productive and sustainable manner.

Developed by Regulus Ltd, the tool is designed specifically for use on mobile devices and went through several stages of user-testing to ensure that it met the needs of its target audience.  The interactive functionality also allows farmers to customise their budgets based on their specific circumstances.

What’s apparent is that with such solutions at hand, the days that farming was the domain of the uneducated are gone.

Connectivity through ICTs enables solutions such as iShamba and Budget Mkononi to shape a new frontier of farming that is young, vibrant and innovative. All youth need to know, is that success is within their reach – right under their fingertips.

A longer version of this article first appeared in the World Farmers’ Organisation Farmletter.

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. Continue reading

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

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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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